To Become A Queen

by LJ Maas

Part II

Gabrielle had been lying on her bed for nearly a candlemark before she heard the familiar scuff of boots at the door. They stopped and stood there for the longest time until finally the door slowly opened and a raven-haired warrior peered tentatively inside.

Smiling, Gabrielle lifted herself up onto one elbow and looked at a very contrite warrior. "You didn't kill her, did you?"

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle...I had no right to--"

"It's, okay...just a misunderstanding, I'm sure." Gabrielle rubbed her temples.

"I guess I gave you that headache, huh? Want me to fix you something for it?"

"No, thanks," she smiled at the warrior. "I promised Adia I'd see her today...I'm sure a walk will clear it right up."

"I guess I'll go soak in a hot bath, then." Xena said. "I really am sorry, Gabrielle...I don't know what came over me."

"Trying to protect me maybe?" The bard said sweetly.

"Yea, I guess that's it." Xena answered, turning away before Gabrielle could see the truth in her eyes.

"Tori said this was a favorite spot of yours," Adia motioned for Gabrielle to sit down. They had walked down to the pond that Gabrielle found so much peace at.

"The first step is to be completely honest, Gabrielle. Not only with me, but also yourself. I know you've told me the gist of your nightmare, but I don't ask you to tell me about your dreams...I'd rather enter your dreamscape and see them for myself." The Healer said taking Gabrielle's hand. "You look a little nervous."

"I guess I am. It's one thing to tell someone about a nightmare and leave out the parts you find too embarrassing...or terrible to mention, it's another to know someone's there watching you." Gabrielle rubbed her sweat soaked palms on her skirt apprehensively.

"It won't be as bad as you think. This time when you enter your dreamscape, I'll be there, but you won't have to experience it as a victim. I want you to stand outside yourself and watch it with me. When you do this the only emotions you feel will be the ones you manufacture from watching someone you feel like you can do that?"

The young queen nodded her head.

"Now I want you to lay back, concentrate your mind on the clouds. I want you to think about the person in your dreamscape...think about Xena."

It was easier to think of Xena without the violent images coming to mind, when the warrior wasn't in the same room with her. Gabrielle found herself smiling. Had Xena actually been jealous? Why else would she have gone ballistic on Eponin? Gods, Xena, how I love you!

Gabrielle tried to remember how long ago it had been. When had she fallen in love with the stoic warrior? For the life of her, she simply couldn't remember when it began. No momentous, earth shattering event or moment in time. It was as if she had always loved the dark warrior. It seemed so natural and right to the young bard. She had convinced herself that her feelings of love and desire, the unrequited love that burned in her, wouldn't matter, and she could just be happy having Xena love her as a friend. That's why the ache in her heart grew stronger everyday. She had once entertained the notion that maybe...just maybe, with a little help from the Gods, she could make Xena her own. Now, the images that Morpheus brought to her had effectively brainwashed her psyche into fearing the very thing she craved.

Adia felt Gabrielle begin to slip away from the mortal realm. Swiftly, before the bard could be claimed completely by Morpheus, the Healer gently grasped her hand, and closed her own eyes. Gabrielle's dreamscape had begun.


Xena lay back in one of the smaller pools in the bathhouse, steam rising around her long figure stretched across the length of the carved basin. I can't even believe I did about Gabrielle "losing" it. What could I have been thinking?!

I'm not even sure what it is about you anymore, Gabrielle. You feel like an obsession, but one that I want to go on forever. I find every damn thing you do or say absolutely captivating. If I could keep my hormones under control when I'm around you I'd be content to do nothing more than hold you and enjoy simply being with you for the rest of our lives. Gods, Gabrielle, how I love you!

For some time Adia lay on the outcrop of rocks next to Gabrielle, her hands clasped behind her head. The Healer looked over at the sleeping Queen. It had been so long since she slept without the nightmares that Adia didn't have the heart to wake her too soon. Xena would be the difficult one, though. If the warrior did indeed dream of Gabrielle, as Tori said, then she might be unwilling to allow the Queen to visit her dreamscape.

Gabrielle stretched and woke to a feeling she hadn't known in so long...contentment. She rubbed her eyes sleepily, turning toward the Healer.

"That was the most incredible experience," she said, shaking her head. "I don't even know how to describe it, but I feel don't know, but it's better than I've felt in a long time."

Adia smiled and pulled Gabrielle up so they were sitting facing one another.

"I'm glad it wasn't too painful for you. I need to warn you right now that you may experience a more intense feeling when you dream tonight because of it, though. It seems that when we prolong the pain of a nightmare, it seems to double up on us later. I just wanted to let you know it's only temporary"

Gabrielle nodded at the Healers words.

Now, comes the hard part. "Gabrielle, would you like to ask Xena for her help or shall I?"

"Xena? I'm not sure I understand, help for what?"

"Gabrielle, when people suffer from unexplainable dreams or are plagued by images of strangers, then I can enter their dreamscape as their champion. Your dreams are filled with someone you love, even more, someone who is already your Champion. Xena will have to be the one to enter your dreamscape and help you. Consequently, you'll enter her dreamscape as part of the healing process." Adia finished quietly.

Gabrielle sat staring into her lap. "I can't let Xena see what's in my wouldn't be fair, she's done nothing to cause this," the young woman hung her head in defeat. I was so close. "Besides, Xena would never let me see into her nightmares."

"Our dreams aren't always nightmares. They don't always have to be unpleasant." Adia said hopefully.

"With the Warrior Princess they are." Gabrielle said softly.

"Let me talk with her," Adia tried.

"No, please, Adia. Promise me you won't say anything to her about this. I'll talk to her."

"No, sounds like playing with fire!" Xena paced the room that was becoming smaller to the warrior as the moments went by. "You don't know what you're asking me!"

Gabrielle had not intended to even bring the dreamscape healing up. She had pretty much decided she would have to live with the way things were, but something in her kept remembering the feeling she had wakened with earlier. It was a peace in her heart that she hadn't had in so long. Just the memory of it caused her very soul to ache. Xena was a strong woman, an understanding friend. She acted as if she loved the bard. She would understand the images in Gabrielle's dreams weren't the bard's doing, just the aftermath of her attack. The young woman approached the subject and Xena had immediately gone on the defensive.

Xena couldn't believe what was transpiring. After all the pain the two women had already endured, the walking on eggshells, the sleepless nights...after almost having her damn jaw broke! Now, the Gods threw one more irony in the Warrior Princess' face. The only way to heal Gabrielle will be to expose her to thoughts and images Xena herself couldn't control.

They had been discussing, which sounded a lot more like arguing to passerby's, this subject for the better part of the evening. Gabrielle was growing tired and Xena just became more agitated, the pacing continuing. If Xena allowed Gabrielle to enter her dreamscape, the bard would be privy to the desirous images that met Xena when she closed her eyes. There would be no way to explain them away and Xena knew their friendship would never be the same, provided the young woman didn't simply send her packing first.

Gabrielle had watched the warrior pace back and forth till she was dizzy. She knew what Xena feared. The Destroyer of Nations had ten years worth of nightmares, brutality and horrors that Gabrielle's mind couldn't even begin to conjure up, buried in her dreamscape. She knew Xena did everything she could to keep that past away from the bard. That's why Gabrielle knew what Xena was going to say before the warrior spoke.

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle...I just can't." Xena said without looking at her. The warrior turned and walked out into the warm evening air.

It was nearly dawn before Xena returned to the hut the two women shared. Gabrielle lay whimpering in her sleep as Xena came closer and realized the young woman was dreaming. The warrior winced when the bard cried out. Lighting a candle, Xena watched Gabrielle's face in the dim light. Usually her bard scarcely made a sound, so accustomed to the nightmares she had become, but tonight the bard thrashed and cried like the three-headed hound of Tartaurus was nipping at her heels. Xena hesitated to wake the young woman, but after half a candlemark of the tortured cries the warrior's heart felt as if it were being ripped from her chest.

"Gabrielle," Xena called over and over, not touching the bard for fear of frightening the young woman.

Gabrielle groaned as she pulled herself from the nightmare's embrace. "Gods..." she panted, looking up at Xena. Her eyes pulled back, but Xena had become used to that.

The early morning had a chill that accentuated the goose flesh on Gabrielle's sweat drenched figure. Xena pulled a blanket around the young woman's shoulders and moved to start a fire. The bard wrapped the blanket around her and noticed Xena was completely dressed. She must not have even been to bed yet! Shortly the warrior had two mugs of steaming tea in her hand and she motioned for Gabrielle to follow her. Xena sat on the top step of the porch, Gabrielle arranging herself on the next step, between the warrior's legs. Closeness with Xena came with a price for Gabrielle, but the young woman's nightmare fatigued body was too tired to respond. She settled her back against the warrior's chest and Xena tucked the blanket tightly around her.

Apollo's chariot rose into the sky, trailing great streaks of magenta and blue. The trees of the forest looked black, providing a stark foreground to the morning sky's brilliant color.

"Beautiful," Gabrielle softly breathed.

Yes...beautiful," Xena echoed, seeing only Gabrielle, craning her neck to watch the sunrise reflected in the bard's eyes.

Xena took advantage of the bard's drowsy state, wrapping her arms tightly around the young woman and kissing the top of her head. Once Gabrielle was sleeping soundly in the warrior's arms, she returned the Queen to her bed, the warrior heading off to find Adia's hut.


Now that Xena was sitting in front of the outspoken Healer, she didn't quite know what to say. Pounding on their door at sunrise wasn't the kindest thing to do, but once Xena had decided upon a course of action, she was unstoppable. It had taken seeing Gabrielle this morning, and the pain the young woman suffered with silently, to convince Xena she would do anything to heal her bard. Even if it meant losing her.

"Tell me what I need to do," she asked, her clear gaze resting on Adia.

"In theory, it's very simple. You and Gabrielle will enter the dreamscape at the same time. I can't say who will cross over into the other's first. The reoccurring dreams will be visited. When the dreamscape has ended, you both return to the mortal realm. You won't be changing the past...only your perception of it. The reality will still be that Gabrielle was raped. Her perception, the way she feels about it, may be as if she heard about it second-hand...or a very old memory."

"In theory," Xena repeated. "What about in reality?"

"It will be the hardest thing you've ever done, and neither one of you will be the same after. You can change anything about the outcome of the dream, just as if you were actually there. You have to want to though. If some part of the dream appeals to you, on any level, you will be unable to undo its existence. It's a hard thing to face your demons, warrior. It's an even harder one to allow someone you love to face them with you in a realm where you have no ability to hide your most personal desires and fears. I can't be Gabrielle's Champion that will fall to you. We'll start by entering your dreamscape, just as I did yesterday with Gabrielle."

"When do we start?" Xena said, telling herself she was doing this for Gabrielle.

"Right now," Adia answered.

The Healer instructed Xena to relax and lie back against the cushions and keep her eyes on the beam of sunlight that came sparkling through a stone crystal hanging in the window. Adia's soothing tones relaxed the warrior until her eyelids felt heavy and began to close.

"Now, tell me what you dream of, warrior..." Adia said softly.

"Gabrielle..." Xena whispered.

"Do these two ever get any sleep on their own," Adia mumbled to herself. As with Gabrielle, she had continued to let the warrior sleep after their session. I think I actually blushed! The tall healer mused, lingering on Xena's dreams. Gaia, will these two ever figure it out?

Xena said she had wanted to take care of this today, she didn't want Gabrielle to suffer through one more nightmare. So, by the time Xena woke, Adia was done mixing together the potent combination of herbs needed for their dreamscape session.

Xena sat up, watching the Healer move around the large hut. She avoided looking into Adia's eyes when the healer came and sat across from her.

"Would it help if I told you I'd seen racier dreams than yours?" But not many.

Xena simply shook her head. "Where do you come up with the things you say?" the warrior smiled sheepishly.

"It's late," Xena suddenly looked worried, "I didn't tell Gabrielle where I was going."

"It's allright. I sent word letting her know you were here...I hope you don't mind."

"No, thank you. Well..." Xena rose, "When should I return with Gabrielle?"

"Have your noon meal, then don't eat or drink anything after that. Come back here late this afternoon. And, won't matter if you're wearing your armor or not. In the dreamscape whatever you need will be there." Adia watched the warrior walk away. Gabrielle was a lucky woman.

"Xena, are you sure about this?" Gabrielle asked tentatively.

"Absolutely," Xena looked back at the young woman.

The two sat on the floor of the Healer's hut, surrounded by cushions and furs, sipping the warm drink Adia had made for them. The Healer had given them all the instruction she could and revealed as much to each woman as she dared, before excusing herself from the hut. She explained that she would be back once they were asleep.

"It tastes like the tea you make for me when my cycle is so bad." Gabrielle commented.

"Raspberries..." Xena answered. "That's what the taste is," she explained in answer to the bard's puzzled look.



"I'm scared... Xena, I want you to know, whatever happens...whatever we see...I need to know that--" the bard said faltering.

" too," Xena said tenderly. "Hey, you getting sleepy?"

Gabrielle slowly nodded her head, realizing it was getting hard just to keep her eyes open.

"Come here..." Xena said, opening her arms, the familiar warmth of Gabrielle's body settling against her as the bard snuggled into the warrior's embrace.

Xena felt Gabrielle's breathing deepen, her own eyelids becoming leaden. Running her fingers through the already sleeping bard's hair, she whispered, "Know one thing, Gabrielle. No matter what you see, I do this because I love you."

Xena stood in a tent that reminded her a lot of her Warlord days. Near the center of the tent two women writhed on a pallet that threatened to collapse at any moment. A fully clothed warrior had begun ripping the garments from the smaller figure under her.

" doesn't have to be this way," the bard pleaded.

Gabrielle's pleading voice resounded in Xena's ears. Gabrielle?

"Don't pretend, Gabrielle...Isn't this what you wanted?"

"No, it's not what she wants!" Xena hissed grabbing the woman on top of her bard by her hair and tossing her off the prone figure underneath.

Xena grabbed the neck of the kneeling warrior's tunic, drawing her muscular arm back for a blow to the face. Gathering momentum for what she hoped would be a single bone-crunching blow.

The prostrate warrior flung her head back, shaking a wild mane of hair from her face with an evil grin. "What could you have possibly been thinking?" she drawled slowly.

Xena froze. She simply hadn't been prepared for this. It seemed as if candlemarks were rushing by, while the blood of rage dissipated from her body. Gabrielle's nightmare stood toe to toe with her. Her dreamscape attacker...was Xena!

In actuality it had only taken a heartbeat for the Warlord Xena to stand and reach out, quick as lightening, and wrap her fingers around her dreamscape twin's throat. Xena clutched at the fingers that held her in death's grip, unable to stop the crushing of her larynx.

"Xena!" Gabrielle cried out.

Both women's eyes turned in the bard's direction.

"Is she the best you could come up with, my pet?" Warlord Xena growled. "You'll have to do better than that. Gods, she's not even the best parts of me. She's simply what was left of me...a whimpering, weak, lovesick fool!" she finished, drawing back with her freehand and landing a blow that broke Xena's nose with it's force. The Warlord continued to rain blows on Xena, never releasing the hold she had around the warrior's throat.

"Please...No!" Gabrielle pleaded.

The Warlord released Xena, kicking out at her right leg and crushing her kneecap, just before the warrior slumped to the floor. "You know if she dies in here, she dies out there! They didn't tell you that did they?" she directed her comment toward Gabrielle.

"Come here!" The Warlord ordered Gabrielle to her.

Gabrielle hesitated and the Warlord pulled a dagger from her boot. Moving behind Xena's slumped, kneeling figure she jerked her head back and placed the blade to the warrior's throat.

Gabrielle moved towards the two figures, a blanket held up to cover her body.

"You get to decide, my pet. I keep you, and she lives. You resist me...this pathetic excuse for a warrior dies."

"Gab...rielle..." Xena tried to rise, but the Warlord struck the hilt of the dagger across her temple, opening a fresh cut, causing more blood to flow into the one eye that wasn't already swollen shut. Grabbing Xena's wrist, the Warlord pulled back sharply and the sound of snapping bones filled the air.

"Please! Please...don't hurt her anymore," Gabrielle tearfully begged. "I won't...I won't fight you." The bard hung her head, unable to look into Xena's face.

The Warlord unceremoniously dumped Xena's limp body on the floor. Roughly grabbing the bard, she pulled the blanket away from the young woman's naked body. Standing behind the bard, she turned the young woman toward Xena leading her by the hair.

"I'll tell you've been so much fun, warrior...I'll let you watch me fuck her." The Warlord finished by jerking Gabrielle's face toward her, taking her mouth in a rough kiss, and biting her lower lip until a thin trickle of blood ran from the bard's mouth.

A sound like a tortured growl emanated from the back of Xena's throat as the Warlord threw the bard back onto the cot, propelling the weight of her body on top of her.

Xena crawled with what seemed like agonizing slowness to where she could see Gabrielle's face. Tears streamed from the bard's face.

I'm sorry, Gabrielle. Forgive me. I failed you...I couldn't even defeat myself. If I can't face you with the truth, how can I possibly face myself? The truth...the truth!

"Gabrielle," Xena whispered through blinding pain. "Gabrielle..."

The bard turned glazed eyes toward the sound of Xena's voice.

"Gabrielle...that's not me. You know I'd never do anything like that to you...that's not me. I'd never touch you that way...that's not me." Xena kept repeating the words over and over, her voice growing stronger in her mantra as she spoke the truth in her heart.

"That's not me... that's not me... that's not me... that's not me... I love you, Gabrielle."

The Warlord Xena howled in frustration as she felt her control of the bard's dreamscape start to slip. Then Gabrielle's mind was filled with the echoes of shrieking rage as the lies of her dreamscape were overcome by the warrior's truth.

Suddenly Xena found herself at the campsite where she had found Gabrielle that day...

Argo left the path before Xena even had to pull on her reins. "You know she's close too, don't you girl?" Xena dismounted and pulled the reins over the horse's head, leading the mare toward the campsite. Xena slowed her pace as she neared the camp. It seemed quiet, but since it was midmorning she assumed Gabrielle had only recently climbed out of her bedroll. The warrior allowed herself a smile, remembering the imaginative ways she had come up with to wake a sleepy bard. She's probably down by the stream she thought to herself as she entered the camp.

Xena pulled up as 3 roadmen were confronting Gabrielle, just on the edge of the campsite. The bard held her staff menacingly in front of her. Xena let loose of Argo's reins and made her way up behind the bard.

The young bard was anxious to be rid of these goons. Maybe she could talk her way out of this. "Look, I know you guys don't want trouble, and my friend will be back any might have heard of her...Xena?"

"Yesss," Xena practically purred in answer to her name.

Gabrielle whipped her body around to see the most wonderful sight on earth. "Xena!" She ran and wrapped her arms around the taller woman's waist. "You don't know how glad I am to see you!"

Xena's heart nearly exploded out of her chest at the sweet agony of the dreamscape encounter. "And you, my bard, don't know how very happy I am to see you." Rewarding the bard with one of her sparkling smiles.

"Now, boys...what can I do for you?" The Warrior Princess drawled at the roadmen. It was like watching a comedy act as the men ran into each other in their haste to put as much distance between the warrior and themselves.

"Yea!" Gabrielle nodded her head, shouting after the would-be attackers. "Guess we showed them, huh?" she said turning toward her companion.

"Yea...I guess WE did." Xena smiled, then grabbed the bard in a tight bear hug.

"I missed you, Gabrielle." She whispered to the bard

It's over, isn't it? Xena saved me...I know she saved me because I don't have all those pictures in my mind anymore. Okay, so where in Tartaurus am I? I guess if I have no idea where I am, this must be Xena's dreamscape.

The woods looked familiar. It was dark, but the area looked like the same small lake Xena had found trying to look for a shortcut once. It was just a few leagues or so outside of Ambracia. Gabrielle slowly approached the same campsite she and Xena had used. There was a roaring fire going, but Gabrielle was immediately hit by the sounds of, two someone's, moaning and gasping for air.

Gabrielle would be able to place Xena's sounds anywhere, especially the distinct sounds of the warrior being pleasured. More than once she had almost embarrassed both Xena and herself by walking upon the warrior "taking matters into her own hands" so to speak.

Gabrielle peered into the campsite and sure enough the warrior lay entwined with another woman on a bedroll not too far from the campfire. It was hard for the bard to tell where one woman ended and the other began, their flesh being so entangled. Xena lay across the figure below her, her raven hair enshrouding the other's face and torso. The warrior straddled the smaller woman's thigh, rocking her hips forward in a slow, sensual grind.

A small gasp was drawn from the bard as she backed up into the shadows, not able to remove her eyes from the vision of Xena's flesh, slick with sweat and flushed with desire.

Gabrielle found her back against a large tree and she tilted her head up to the stars, pressing her crown into the rough wood. Shutting her eyes tight, she tried to push down the ache that began to develop in the pit of her stomach. It was the same feeling she'd had on the ship, on the way to Ithaca, while she lay in a hammock listening to the sounds of Xena sharing her passion with another. It was as if someone had reached in and pulled her heart from her chest, leaving nothing but a raw emptiness in its place. Her chest throbbed with the anguish of it.

Why couldn't it ever be me, Xena? Gabrielle's gaze was once again drawn to the women within the fire's gentle shadows.

"Oh, yesss," Xena moaned, throwing her head back.

Gabrielle felt the sharp intake of breath betray her. Xena's head thrown back in carnal rapture revealed the figure writhing in ecstasy beneath the warrior. The bard beheld her own image, wrapped in Xena's strong embrace.

A hiss of breath alerted Xena to the fact the two lovers were not alone. She raised her head and stared hard into the black shadows surrounding them. She knew who observed her, unseen, from the shadows. It was the woman she held in her arms. Not really this one. This woman that fulfilled her every whim and desire wasn't really her bard. Just as Gabrielle had created the dreamscape Warlord Xena, so had the warrior fabricated the bard she shared her passionate evenings with. You know all my secrets now, don't you Gabrielle? Will you still think I'm you're Champion when you wake?

Pressing herself further into the darkness, Gabrielle felt sure Xena was looking straight at her.

"Gabrielle?" Xena whispered into the dark.

"Yes, my love," the bard lying underneath Xena reached up to pull the warrior into a forceful kiss. Pushing the warrior backward, the bard ended up on top of the strong woman's body, her fingers drawing delicate circles around the warriors aching nipples. Finally, the bard let her fingertips brush softly across the erect nubs.

"Gods, yesss...Gabrielle." Xena knew she should stop this. She felt Gabrielle watching her from the shadows, but here, too, was Gabrielle and Xena became lost in the physical sensations. The warrior began to feel her blood run hot, drowning in the excitement, not only of the woman making love to her, but also of the knowledge that the real Gabrielle was only several feet away, unable to turn away.

Gabrielle had pulled back as far as she could go into the darkness of the forest, but she couldn't take her eyes off her warrior. She watched as the dreamscape Gabrielle brought the warrior's body to a fevered pitch of excitement, the bard's own nipples hardening in response to what she saw. She watched Xena breath deeply, closing her eyes. The dreamscape bard began pinching and pulling Xena's nipples, the warrior gasping, arching her body into the rough touch.

By the Gods, Xena! Am I the one...the one you dream of in passion? Is this what you want? Am I what you want?

"I'm going to take you." The twin said, looking down at the warrior, green eyes filled with burning desire.

"Yes...please," Xena moaned.

Gabrielle felt her own undergarments become thoroughly soaked as she saw her twin push three fingers deep inside Xena.

Gabrielle stayed there, hidden and covered in the darkness of the trees while the dreamscape bard took the warrior in such forceful and commanding ways such as the genuine bard had been afraid to do in her own fantasies. Gabrielle watched Xena's face intently as the warrior's last orgasm ripped through her satiated body. The real Gabrielle would never forget the look of absolute bliss on her warrior's face at that moment, trying to memorize it, as if she could burn it into her soul to keep forever.

They were love's eyes, weren't they, Xena? Oh, but why, my love, wouldn't you ever tell me?

Finally Adia's herbs began to lose their effectiveness and the dreams ended for both women. Their physical bodies continued to sleep in a dreamless state into the night, their minds at rest. The warrior continued to hold the bard until Apollo's chariot again made his way heavenward.

The healer's words to Xena had been true.

"It will be the hardest thing you've ever done, and neither one of you will be the same after.


Xena had been sitting there staring at Gabrielle for quite some time. The bard looked so peaceful, Xena knew her dreamscape must have been healed. The young woman, dark eyelashes fluttering slightly, had the corners of her mouth curled up in a slight smile. The warrior forced herself to turn away, wondering how she would explain, what she could say to account for her actions to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle woke lying on her side, wrapped in a soft fur. She didn't have to look long to find the warrior. Xena sat cross-legged next to the bard, absently biting her lip, staring down at her hands clasped loosely in her lap. The warrior raised her eyes when she heard Gabrielle stir.

Gabrielle saw faint vestiges of pain in the haunted blue gaze of her friend. Oh, Xena, your dream wasn't an expression of love for me at all, was it? You had no more control over in Morpheus' realm than I did, that's why you look as if your heart is breaking.

A hurt so intense she could scarcely keep it from showing passed through the bard. I was so close. Still, she loved this woman with all her heart, and desperately wanted to ease the warrior's fears. Holding in tears that threatened to burst through, Gabrielle got to her knees and threw her arms around Xena's neck.

"Thank you, Xena...I knew you'd save me."

Xena's stomach flipped over at the touch of Gabrielle's arms around her. For a brief moment she thought Gabrielle was about to kiss her. The bard's eyes took on the soft gaze of love and Xena could have sworn she saw her own reflection in the green depths. When Gabrielle spoke and thanked her, the warrior knew the truth. What about my dream, Gabrielle? I guess I have my answer, don't I? Guess you think if we don't mention it, it never happened.

Gabrielle could do nothing but cling to Xena and pray that she was getting her message across to the warrior. No matter what, they would always be there for each other. I love you Xena, and I'll take whatever you have to offer. If it's only as your friend, so be it.

Xena felt the bard's hold grow stronger and she silently thanked whatever Gods would listen for giving her Gabrielle back, whole and healthy, so the warrior wrapped her arms tightly around the smaller woman. I love you Gabrielle, and I'll take whatever you have to offer. If it's only as your friend, so be it.

The bard showed no signs of being averse to Xena's touch any longer so the warrior enfolded Gabrielle into her arms, holding the younger woman tightly against her chest. She rested her chin on the top of Gabrielle's head; rocking her and letting her purge the past dream images and feelings from her mind.

The two women took pleasure in the innocent touches the other gave. Inside, each of their hearts broke from the wanting of more. It was unexplainable, though, this love they had for one another. It gave them the ability to push down their own wants and desires just to be a part of the other's life.

And so the third barrier fell.

The change in the young Queen was immediate. Gabrielle's smile lit up the room when she entered, her gift for open communication, a benefit at the treaty table, but Xena reaped the largest harvest. The two women smiled and laughed and talked, never tiring of teasing the other. The love they shared was utterly obvious to all those around them. Older joined Amazon couples would shake their heads and look at one another, as if to say, "were we ever that young?"

Gabrielle continued to watch Xena's morning drill and sparring sessions, even joining in for some staff practice with the young recruits. It was one such morning that Ephiny decided this had gone on long enough. She thought if she was subtle enough, she could have the two women in bed before the week was up.

Xena walked over to where Ephiny lay in the grass and sprawled out next to the Regent. A line had started to form on the practice field of those warriors confident enough to test their strength and ability in a staff contest with the Queen. Gabrielle had taken to wearing her leathers while staying in the village and most of the Amazons agreed she was a sight to behold. Gabrielle began warming up, then competing in earnest with the first challenger.

"She is incredible!" Ephiny remarked, truly awed by the young woman,

"That she is," Xena agreed proudly.

"Look at that body! You're a lucky warrior."

"Eph, Gabrielle and I aren't--" Xena started to say, but was waved off by the Regent. "We're just friends." Xena finished.

"Yea, right... when you're not watching, the way she looks at you? Well, let's just say she looks like she's got a lot more than friendship on her mind, that's all I can say."

It seemed that everyday Ephiny found an opportunity to relate to Xena exactly how exciting this bard was and how absolutely desirable a woman she was. Ephiny could see she was getting underneath Xena's skin and the Regent was enjoying it.

Xena on the other hand was becoming more uncomfortable as the week went by. Is it just my imagination or are women openly beginning to stare at Gabrielle? Xena had been halfway successful at pushing down these desires after she and the bard had gone through the dreamscape healing. Now, she was finding it hard to stand next to Gabrielle without shivering. As far as the bard touching her, she simply turned into a six-foot puddle.

Evenings seemed to be the worst. The two now shared the same bed much as they'd done everywhere they'd gone before Gabrielle's attack. The night of their dreamscape adventure Gabrielle quietly asked Xena if she would hold her through the night, the warrior was only too happy to comply. If either one of them wanted to change the sleeping arrangement after that, they didn't mention it. If Xena felt her desires ready to burst through, she would use some of her meditative techniques to hide those feelings deep inside. If this was all the warrior could have, she intended to relish in the love and friendship her bard was offering. Even though by morning's arrival Gabrielle seemed to be using most of Xena's body as a pillow. If there had ever been a time the warrior had not found this thoroughly enjoyable, she couldn't think of it now.

Of course, now it was agony! It was the height of summer and the nights remained warm. Combined with the heat radiating from Xena's body, the warrior was practically suffocating. To top it off, complaining that she was too hot, two nights ago Gabrielle had gone to bed nude, only pulling up a thin sheet to cover herself. All Xena could do was to sleep on top of the covers with her shift on, praying she would die in her sleep. It would be the only way to effectively end her torture.

Ephiny knew another way to end the warrior's torture and as soon as she had walked away from the practice field that day, she headed toward the council chamber to await Gabrielle's arrival. Once Gabrielle had bathed and redressed, she arrived to find Ephiny waiting to begin their day with more than an amused look on her face. Soon the Regent began to work on her Queen.

While appealing to the physical side of their relationship was rather easy to drive Xena to the brink, another tactic was needed for Gabrielle. Ephiny knew that Gabrielle was young, inexperienced, and a hopeless romantic. Getting her Queen hot and bothered for the Warrior Princess was going to be some game of words. Where as Xena would probably bolt before acting on her feelings, Ephiny had a feeling there was more to the bard than met the eye, and if pushed far enough, for long enough, she would make the move on a very bewildered warrior.

"You looked pretty sharp out there today, my Queen." Ephiny flattered.

"Thanks what are we up to today?"

"Nothing much," the Regent said. "Mostly getting ready for the Harvest Festival, it's at the end of the week."

"Ah, yea...I'm kind of nervous. You know presiding over my first festival as 'official' Queen." Gabrielle answered nervously.

"You'll do fine, besides it's the kind of party where not a lot is required of you. You do have to wear Queen's garb, though."

"Can't I wear the leathers I usually do?"

"'s tradition." Ephiny lied. "I'm having the seamstress work on your outfit now...she'll bring it by for you later this week." Like two heartbeats before the party so you don't back out!

Ephiny did agonize over this next part for quite a while. She really didn't see any way around it so she was just going to have to go ahead and ask Gabrielle to forgive her for lying later. Ephiny tried to put a preoccupied, worried look on her face.

"Eph, is something bothering you?" Gabrielle asked.

"Actually, yea. I've got a problem and it's kind of embarrassing. You're the only person I can think of to talk to who wouldn't laugh at me."

"Eph, you've suffered through all my problems with me...what are friends for? So what's this thing you can't tell anyone else," Gabrielle asked understandingly.

"I'm in love...with a warrior. Except I don't know if she feels the same."

"Why don't you just ask her? You've never seemed to be shy in that regard. Is it someone I know?" Gabrielle questioned.

Well, that's the pot calling the kettle black! "I don't want to say who it is yet...till I know for sure how she feels. It could jinx it or something and I don't want to look like an idiot. It's just that she's really special to me, Gabrielle, and I'd kind of like to know she feels at least something for me before I make a fool out of myself. You're the bard...what can you come up that's subtle and won't give me away to soon."

Ephiny swore to Artemis she would go to the temple and make two offerings a day if she would forgive her for such shameful lies to her Chosen. Ephiny knew that being the bard and the romantic she was, Gabrielle could think up a barrel full of little ways to encourage a reluctant warrior's heart.

Gabrielle sat pursing her lips, deep in thought. Suddenly she brightened.

"Okay, Eph...this one's sure-fire. When you're talking, at some point place your hand on top of her thigh. Low enough so she won't suspect anything, but high enough so that it definitely gets her thinking. If she thinks of you only as a friend she won't blink an eye, just a friendly gesture, you know? If she interested in you it should be enough to definitely get her juices going." Gabrielle finished, with a satisfied smile.

"I never knew you were so devious, My Queen," the Regent smiled devilishly. Xena why do I suddenly feel sorry for you?

Of course the more Gabrielle thought of the advice she had given her friend, the more she wondered if it would actually work. What she read in scrolls was so different from real life sometimes. Of course, when Gabrielle thought about trying her own advice out on somebody the only person around was a certain Warrior Princess. This could still work. At least I'll get to see the negative reaction and Ephiny can tell me how it worked on someone interested in her.

Xena was at the table in their hut, scrolls containing maps spread out in front of her. She was taking note of some new acquisitions the Amazons had made recently. Gabrielle pulled up a seat next to her and began asking the warrior questions about Greece's city-states. Xena loved to teach and seemed thrilled the bard was finally taking an interest in the country around her. Gabrielle launched into a story about their last trip to Athens and Xena suddenly felt the bard's hand on her thigh. The warrior nearly leapt straight up into the air, knocking her chair over, as her body became airborne. Gabrielle just sat there with her mouth open.

"Your...your h-hand," Xena stammered. Sweet Mother of Zeus! Think of something, warrior and do it quick! "It was ice cold," Xena said with a lopsided grin.

Gabrielle crossed to where Xena stood, shivering slightly and gently rubbed the warriors upper arms, which caused Xena to shiver all the more.

"Are you sure you're not coming down with something? You feel awfully warm." Gabrielle asked with concern.

Six-foot puddle time, Xena thought to herself.

"I'm okay, really. Um, Gabrielle...I forgot...I better go check on Argo, she wasn't exactly herself today. I'll be back in a bit."

"Do you want me to go with you?" Gabrielle asked, moving toward the warrior.

"No!" Xena said a little more forcefully than she intended. "I mean, there's no sense in both of us smelling like the stable is there?" she smiled at the bard before practically running through the door.

All Gabrielle could do was stare at Xena's hastily retreating figure, wondering what had just happened.

Of course, the Regent knew Gabrielle would try out her theory on Xena. Being a bard, Gabrielle couldn't help but totally immerse herself in the action of her stories. The Regent also knew what would happen once the Queen tried out her little ploy on the warrior...she wasn't disappointed. The next day Gabrielle could barely manage to get village business out of the way before she and Ephiny started talking.

"It worked," was all the Regent would say.

"How do you know?" Gabrielle tried not to appear too inquisitive.

"I put my hand on her thigh, you know...talking, totally casual. I swear, the woman almost leapt into the lake! Her whole body felt like it was on fire."

The whole time Ephiny was talking, Gabrielle's eyes were getting wider and wider.

And so the week started. Everyday Gabrielle would give advice to Ephiny and every night she would drive her warrior into near fits. Ephiny nearly lost her composure completely when she saw Xena, grumpily headed to the practice field before dawn one morning, heavy black circles under the warrior's eyes. The night before had been when Gabrielle had suggested gauging her potential partner's reaction to Ephiny's nude body in the baths. Since nothing Gabrielle said could entice Xena into the baths with her, she thought up the sleeping nude bit.

Gabrielle smiled to herself that night as she rolled away from Xena to sleep. She was beginning to find it a little more than exciting driving Xena to distraction. A game no longer, the bard became more certain with each day that her warrior indeed had feelings for her. She just couldn't figure out why Xena wouldn't say anything. The bard had pulled the sheet over her shoulder, feigning sleep, successfully exposing her backside to Xena's eyes. She smiled slightly upon hearing the warrior's groan.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you, your new outfit is at Artemis' temple. I figured since that's where the ceremony starts you may as well get dressed there." Ephiny couldn't wait to see the Warrior Princess' face when Gabrielle made her walk from the temple to the village entrance.

"I'm going for it tonight, Gabrielle." Ephiny stated emphatically.

"You sure it's not too soon," Gabrielle asked nervously.

"Gabrielle, I think if I wait any longer it just may kill her!"

Ephiny grinned over at her friend. The days work had been completed and they sat in the council chambers sharing a cup of wine. Tonight was the Festival and with Amazon wine being what it was and Gabrielle's costume looking like it did, Ephiny figured if the warrior and her bard didn't connect tonight, they never would.

"Ephiny..." Gabrielle over at the Regent seriously. "What if she tells you that she doesn't feel the same way?"

Ephiny smiled at her young friend who was preparing to answer her heart's call. "Gabrielle, I'd bet my life she won't say that, but there is always that chance."

"Could you still be friends? I mean, if she rejected you." The Queen asked with trepidation.

"I guess it depends on how strong our friendship is in the first place." The Regent answered.

"And if she tries to hide her true feelings from you?"

"Gabrielle, did you know that to become a great leader you have to be able to read between the scroll lines?" The Regent said.

"Like being able to tell if someone is lying," Gabrielle added.

"In a way...but then again it's more than that. You happen to be a great negotiator, have I ever told you that? Remember those treaties you hammered out with Therasia last season? I mean, you've got a few things going for you right off. Your youth and size tend to lull others into a false sense of security. They don't think a girl as sweet and charming as you would ever try to pull one over on them. Mostly,'s because you seem to know when you have them over a barrel and when you don't. It's always seemed as if you knew exactly how to get just one more concession out of them without driving them from the bargaining table." Ephiny paused to sip from her cup of wine.

"Gabrielle, you have the gift of being able to read people in situations like those. When it comes to people you don't know, you seem to have an innate ability for knowing when they're trying to hide something from you. And that gift, just might turn you into the Queen that you are by right of caste," Ephiny finished, swallowing the remaining wine in one gulp.

"Might--make me a Queen?" Gabrielle asked quietly.

"My dear sister," Ephiny smiled as she used the Amazon term of endearment, "When you are able to read your friends thoughts as easily as your enemies...then you will become a Queen."

"I guess the naïve farm girl in me doesn't think my friends would lie to me," Gabrielle responded with a half-hearted grin.

"Not all lies are bad," Ephiny smiled at the young woman who had come to mean so much to her. "Remember when Eponin traded for those atrocious red boots...then she asked you what you thought of them?"

Gabrielle tried to stifle a laugh without success. "Well...she really seemed like she liked them...and. Well...I, uhm...I didn't want to hurt her feelings--"

"So you lied to her."

"Okay, okay...I get your point. There are times when friends don't tell you the whole truth to spare your feelings."

"There are all kinds of reasons for it, Gabrielle. We want to spare the people we care about from hurt and pain, or we have some idea about misplaced honor, or we simply do it out of love."

Ephiny watched Gabrielle's face and wondered if the young Queen grasped the notion of what she was really trying to say. The Regent was trying hard not to be obvious, better to have the young woman realize the truth in the words for herself. If she could just get Gabrielle to not only hear Xena speak, but to listen to what the warrior was telling her.

" Mostly we do it out of love, but for whatever reason we do it, we tend to take away their freedom of choice. We don't give them all the information and trust them to make their own decisions. That's the unfair part. Gabrielle, sometimes what people are not saying to you is every bit as important as what they are."

Well, I've gone as far as I dare. You're a smart girl, Gabrielle, you figure out the rest.

The Queen Regent stood and squeezed her friend's shoulder before she walked from the hut, leaving Gabrielle to ponder the immensity, and the double meaning, of the Regent's words.

Xena soaked for a good long time in a steaming bath. Of course, the same warm water that soothed her aching muscles was the same warm wetness that started her thinking of Gabrielle. Then again, just about everything made her think of Gabrielle that way lately. If she didn't know Gabrielle so well she would have sworn the bard was playing games with her.

Gabrielle went to the temple earlier for the ritual part of the festival. The young Queen would have to make a sacrifice of thanks to Artemis, and then also to Persephone and Demeter in thanks for a good Harvest. Ceremonial bathing, dressing. Gods...why did I have to think about those!

Xena left the baths and returned to their hut. She cleaned and polished her leathers, adjusting the unfamiliar cloak on her shoulder armor. More like a cape, it was the same blue as Xena's eyes with white trim. Its color indicated Xena's status as the Queen's Champion.

Damn hot out for leathers and a cloak! She dressed in her full attire for Gabrielle. This was her bard's first official ceremony as Queen and the young woman was taking it quite seriously.

"Ephiny, are you insane! I can't wear this...I mean, look at it!" Gabrielle was beside herself, pacing the length of the room wrapped in a towel.

"Gabrielle, it's a tradition. Besides, we're all women here," Ephiny said with a smile.

"AMAZON WOMEN!" the Queen shouted.

"What will Xena think when she sees me?" Gabrielle looked horrified.

I can tell you exactly what she'll think. Ephiny could barely restrain herself from uttering this last thought aloud.

Suddenly Gabrielle had the exact same thought as her Regent.

Xena was on her third cup of ale when the drums sounded the approach of the Queen, her Regent, and the Royal Guard as they made their way from the Temple of Artemis to the center of the village. Gabrielle would carry in a flame, a gift from Artemis, light the bonfire, and make the first toast. That's when the ale would go by the wayside in exchange for the legendary Amazon wine. Even Xena could never resist the brew. Seeing as it would be a quarter of a candlemark before the Queen's group arrived, Eponin and Xena decided to enjoy another ale.

Figuring they still had time for one more quick drink, the two warriors grabbed a full pitcher and Xena prepared to fill their mugs.

"Say when," Xena began to pour as the drums drew close. Xena had her back to the approaching ensemble, but the look on Eponin's face caused her to turn to watch the procession. The warrior opened her mouth as if to speak, but no sound came out.

"When...Xena, when, when!" Eponin was shouting, pulling her hand away from the overflowing mug.

Xena caught herself, but not before she had dumped half the contents of the pitcher onto the table. Xena simply couldn't believe it. She was awe struck not only by Gabrielle's obvious lack of modesty, but mostly from the Queen's beauty.

Gabrielle led the procession with Ephiny a step or two behind her. Six members of the Royal Guard surrounded the two women, the musicians trailing along. All of the women wore their traditional ceremonial masks, but Xena would know Gabrielle's body anywhere, especially since she's been taking long looks at it the last couple of nights. The young Queen had her hair braided back from her face and her Amazon finest adorned her neck and wrists, but it was the outfit, or rather lack of, that had hearts stopping within the village. Gabrielle's skirt consisted of nothing more than long, sweeping loincloths, held together with leather ties, fastened at each hip. The front and back loincloths reached the ground and were beautiful fawn leather. The undergarment was nothing more than thong, tied at each hip with the loincloth, giving the distinct appearance that the young woman was wearing nothing underneath. Gabrielle's top was little more than a wide strip of the same colored leather as the loincloth. It barely covered her breasts, tying in the back and leaving little to the imagination.

Oh, but Xena's imagination was working! She quickly felt herself working toward that puddle state again. Then of course she began to look at the other women looking at HER bard.

"Quit looking at her that way!" she hissed at Eponin.

"But... just look at her." The Amazon warrior stammered.

Xena realized she was on, but glared at Eponin as she made her way to where the procession had stopped in front of the bonfire. The warrior grabbed a bow and notched an arrow. Leaning toward Gabrielle she saw the bard's sparkling emerald eyes behind her Queen's mask. Gabrielle lit the arrow and Xena let it sail into the wood stacked high before them.

The warrior was barely conscious of the toast the Queen made or of holding out an arm to lead Gabrielle to the dais where she would have to sit at her throne, accepting greetings for at least a little while before mingling with the rest of the Amazons. Xena became acutely aware of her surroundings, however once Gabrielle placed her hand on Xena's arm. Unlike the last time the warrior had led her into the food hut this way, Gabrielle placed her hand, not on Xena's bracer, but around the warm skin of her upper arm. Yep, six-foot puddle time.

Gabrielle removed her mask once she was seated and profoundly enjoyed the effect she was having on her warrior. Although there was hardly a woman in the village that had not been similarly affected by the young Queen, Gabrielle took no notice of them. The young Queen sat, regal and beautiful, sipping a cup of wine.

Xena stood slightly behind and to the left of the Queen's throne as the Queen's Champion. It wasn't a formal occasion and Xena didn't exactly have to be in this traditional position, but by the looks Gabrielle was receiving from some of the warriors, Xena wouldn't have set foot off that dais if her life depended upon it. She stood straight and unmoving, her arms folded across her chest. More than a few women would have dearly loved the company of their Queen for the evening, but few were willing to defy the Warrior Princess to get it. One brave warrior got the closest, but even she yielded, looking behind the beautiful young Queen, at Xena, shooting a withering 'back off' glance in her direction.

The end of the evening couldn't come too soon for Xena, but it eventually did. The warrior couldn't have been prouder or more in love with Gabrielle as she had been this evening, but damn, if the bard wasn't turning her inside out, lately.

If Xena thought her troubles were over for the night, she was mistaken. If Gabrielle had anything to do with it, the warrior's problems were just beginning.

"Let me help you with that," Gabrielle pushed Xena's hands aside and began to remove the warrior's armor. The bard's fingers could have made quick work of the familiar task, but she chose to linger, occasionally resting her fingers on Xena's leathers. Gabrielle kept her touch innocent, but she could see a flush creeping up the tanned body of the warrior. When the bard reached up, she leaned into Xena to remove her upper arm protectors. Gabrielle thought she detected a faint gasp from the warrior as their breasts pressed into each other.

The truth of the matter was that Xena was having a hard time just remembering to breathe. By the time Gabrielle was finished with her gentle seduction of the warrior's senses, Xena knew if she didn't put some distance between her and the bard, she would ravish the young woman on the spot.

Gabrielle began to sense Xena spiraling toward the brink and as quickly as she had started, the young Queen turned away and began stripping off her own clothes, little as they were. By the time Xena's brain registered the fact that Gabrielle had moved away from her, the bard had removed the loincloth and turned her back toward Xena.

"Xena, can you untie this for me, I can't reach the knot," the bard motioned toward the cloth that was wrapped around her top.

Xena, however, had been caught up in the exquisite view she was being rewarded with. Gabrielle's undergarment had indeed been a thong. With only a small piece of leather covering the golden patch of hair between her legs, the thong completely exposing the bard's shapely backside.

The warrior came to her senses, or as close as she could under the circumstances, and raised trembling hands to untie the knot. Gabrielle had lifted her arms, holding her hair up out of the way. The sleek, firm muscles of the bard's back rippled as she raised her arms causing the taller woman to breath especially hard.

Gabrielle felt Xena's warm breath on her neck and it caused her to shiver, the sensation sending a definite jolt to her center. Gods, if the woman wants me, why doesn't she just take me!

Xena's somewhat shaky fingers worked slowly; desperately afraid the cloth would simply fall, exposing the treasures hidden beneath, while at the same time desperately afraid it wouldn't.

It did.

Gabrielle bent over to pick up the fallen leather, completely aware of the fact that Xena still stood inches behind her.

Xena's eyes nearly popped out of her skull, she backed up so fast she ran into the table. Gabrielle turned to see what had happened, the picture of innocence...naked innocence, Xena thought.

The warrior had continued to move backward until she fell over the nearest chair.

"Xena, are you allright?" Gabrielle asked with concern.

"I think I need some air..." and with that Xena bolted from the hut.

Gabrielle smiled at the closed door, knowing Xena would be back. The bard's actions this evening had guaranteed that, like a moth to a flame, the warrior would come back to their hut tonight. Gabrielle hoped she would be ready.

Xena ran to the other end of the village, picking up speed when she hit the woods. She pulled up when her lungs began to burn and leaned heavily into the nearest tree, her forehead resting on a forearm glistening with sweat. Listening for sentries, she slipped her hand inside her now soaked breeches, through the dampened curls, and began to stroke herself. She had barely begun to touch herself before her orgasm took her, standing there against the tree.

Sweet ever-loving Gods!

Scarcely heartbeats had gone by before she began moving her hand again. She thrust her hand against herself, her hips rocking against air, until another climax rolled through her body. The physical release was definitely that, but it did little to satiate her. As her breathing calmed she knew the truth of the matter. Pleasuring herself would give her temporary release, but it would do little to quench her thirst, only one thing could do that.

The warrior's need was Gabrielle...her total release would be Gabrielle, the only thing that could assuage her passions was the one thing she would never allow herself to have.

Xena silently moved closer to the Queen's hut and saw Gabrielle still awake. The young woman was seated at the table, sipping pensively on a cup of wine, a far away look in her eyes.

The warrior continued on toward the baths, perhaps if she had a good long bath, Gabrielle would be sound asleep by the time she got back.

Xena sat on the edge of the bed that she and Gabrielle shared. The bard lay on her back sleeping silently as the warrior brushed away a stray lock of honey colored hair from the young woman's face. The warrior sat with one foot on the floor and her other tucked underneath her, a linen shift had replaced her leathers, her hair still damp from her recent bath. The room became filled with the clean damp scent of the warrior; jasmine, leather, and Gabrielle's favorite...cinnamon. The bard could never figure that one out until Xena confided that it was in the thick, soapy liquid the warrior used to wash her hair. Xena also told Gabrielle the only reason the bard liked it so much was because it reminded her of food. Xena smiled slightly at the memory.

Oh, Gabrielle, I love you so much. I know you can never return it the way I dream of, but I also know you love me, my bard, even if it's only in friendship. After all you went through, having my touch cause you so much pain, you still wanted me near, still wanted my friendship.

Xena shook her head more in awe than sadness.

I'll never completely understand the light in you, but I thank any Gods who listen for the chance at being a part of your life's journey, for the love you are able to show me. I can't live without you, Gabrielle. No matter what it takes, my bard, I will never give into my desires...I'll never ruin what we have with my body's selfish lusts.

Tears brimmed in the warrior's eyes and she quickly pushed them back. She didn't want sadness over her decision. She wanted to be happy and revel in the love and affection her bard was able to give. She vowed to give up some of her gruff warrior ways to see to it that Gabrielle's happiness always came first. What the warrior didn't realize was that, in her heart, she had already been doing just that.

The warrior immediately lifted her head, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up. She tilted her head slightly, attempting to listen for any tell tale sounds from the intruder. Ares? He had been suspiciously absent as of late. No, Xena knew too well the prickling sensation than ran through her when the God of War was near. Definitely a God, but who? Does it matter?

"Thank You," the warrior whispered faintly. Xena, Warrior Princes, the woman who, at best, felt contempt for the petty Gods of Greece, knowing that they rarely did anything in the mortal realm that wasn't for their own personal amusement or satisfaction, was keeping her promise. She knew she would drop to her knees and prostrate herself before any God just to keep the woman beside her in her life. She would do anything.

Two shimmering spectral images stood side by side in the shadows of the Amazon Queen's hut. Artemis rolled her eyes when she looked over at her sister. The goddess Aphrodite had tears streaming from her eyes and a saccharine smile plastered to her face. Artemis turned to gaze at the warrior, who in turn gazed lovingly at the goddess' chosen, lying asleep on the bed. The patron goddess of the Amazon's felt tears in her eyes as well, watching two women so much in love, so willing to give up everything for the other. Her tears fell in earnest when she heard the warrior's whisper of thanks.

Aphrodite raised a hand and Artemis felt the energy increase around them.

"You mustn't interfere," she whispered.

"I'm not interfering...just waking up the Gabster. That girl of yours could sleep through the forces of Tartaurus storming Mt. Olympus!" The goddess of love exclaimed.

The two Gods disappeared without a sound.

Gabrielle felt as though she was being pulled from a dream that she couldn't seem to remember. She hadn't wanted to fall asleep, but a couple cups of wine had made for a hard time keeping vigil for her warrior. She quickly opened her eyes and was startled to see a figure sitting next to her. Realizing it was Xena, she became more concerned than frightened.

"Xena, are you allright?"

Xena was taken off guard with the speed with which Gabrielle awoke. One moment she was listening to the sounds of her bard dreaming, the next heartbeat Gabrielle was sitting up facing her. Only one drawback to this situation. When Gabrielle sat up, the sheet fell away from her nude body, exposing the Warrior Princess to what she had been fighting against all evening. Xena's blue eyes widen instinctively at the sight.

"Xena...are you okay? Are you ill?" Gabrielle questioned, worry in her voice. The Queen thought she saw a flush rise to Xena's cheeks, the moonlight bathing the hut in it's light. As soon as Gabrielle felt the cool night air on her body she realized what had caused the reaction in her beautiful warrior.

Gabrielle felt small flames of desire slowly begin to burn their way through her body. She knew she couldn't wait any longer. If Xena truly wanted her and was simply fighting against the feeling to protect the bard, Gabrielle had no intention of letting it go on a minute longer. She had visited her warrior's dreamscape. She knew what Xena wanted, even if the warrior wouldn't admit it, even to herself.

Tenderly Gabrielle reached out a hand and touched Xena's cheek with soft fingers, pushing to one side the damp locks of ebony hair that clung to the warrior's face.

"I didn't mean to scare you..." the warrior drifted off.

"It's allright. I'm just a little worried. Are you sure you feel okay?" Gabrielle never stopped stroking the warrior's face. Tender but innocent touches that couldn't be misconstrued as anything else.

"Sure, I feel fine," Xena said with a catch in her voice. She tried to make the crack in her voice sound like she had meant to clear her throat. Gabrielle's touch was so soft, so refreshingly innocent, but the warrior was becoming unnerved and the resolve she had sworn to moments ago began to fade.

"Gabrielle, you should stop..." the warrior whispered huskily.

Gabrielle began to speak and all Xena could do was watch the young woman's sensuous lips move, the warrior's hands rigidly clenched at her sides. She could hear the words the bard spoke, but all Xena could really concentrate on was the feeling of Gabrielle's fingers on her skin. It was pleasure combined with pain, the bard's touch. Xena's skin tingled in delight and yet burned like fire wherever Gabrielle caressed her.

"I'm not sure why you want me to stop...are you protecting me again?"

Xena could not answer the bard to save her own life and Gabrielle never stopped her assault on the warrior's heated skin. The bard felt her own body betray her as a warm trickle of wetness made it's way between her legs. She kept her touches innocuous and feather-light, knowing the sensation was causing explosions of desire within the warrior. Gabrielle's hand floated delicately across the warrior's jaw and across her chin, fingers rising up to brush lightly across Xena lips. She ran her hand through the still damp raven locks and brought her index finger down along the length of the warrior's ear and across her earlobe.

"Ephiny and I had a very interesting talk this afternoon, shall I tell you about it?" Gabrielle continued.

Xena parted her lips to speak and realized her voice would only betray her. Caught in the spell of Gabrielle's voice and her exquisite touch, the warrior could only nod her head in assent.

"We talked about why the people who care about us keep secrets from us; why they hide their true feelings and emotions. Ephiny said it was either from their trying to protect us, misplaced honor...or love."

Gabrielle's hand had continued its journey. She rested it momentarily on Xena's jaw, cupping the flesh lovingly. Once more those fingers moved across the warrior's jaw line, to her chin and started their descent down her neck, resting inside the cleavage where the cloth of the warrior's shift began.

Xena's whole body began to tremble slightly, warring against her body's passions. Gabrielle slid her whole hand up and ran her index finger back and forth across the taller woman's collarbone. Moving toward the warrior's shoulder, she deftly slid the strap of Xena's shift off her shoulder, the material falling away from the warrior's body, exposing most of her breast.

Xena was breathing hard by now, the coolness of the night air having little to do with the uncovered nipple that stood at attention begging for the bard's fiery touch. Her hands clenched and unclenched into the sheet as she begged her body to fight the effects of Gabrielle's caress.

"I guess I want to know what your reason is, Xena," Gabrielle whispered the warrior's name. "What do you hide from me...and why?" Gabrielle finished by lightly touching the uppermost swell of Xena's exposed breast, but nothing more than would have been available had the shift not fallen.

Xena dropped her head, no longer able to watch Gabrielle's lips as she spoke, or look into the sparkling green eyes that held sparks of something Xena had never seen there before.

"Gods, don't even know what you're doing to me." Xena muttered in what sounded like utter defeat.

Gabrielle saw her chance as she steeled her nerves for what she would do next. The bard moved her hand under Xena's chin and tilted it upward; the bard's eyes locking on the blue of Xena's. Gabrielle had intended to kiss the warrior, but again her own body betrayed her by demanding more. The young woman moved her body closer to Xena's and straddled the warrior's thigh, the one that had a leg tucked underneath. Gabrielle's arms encircled the warrior's neck and she pulled herself toward the other woman, her desire coating Xena's thigh as she slid closer to the warrior. She moved her lips to Xena's ear and whispered.

"Oh, but I do know what I'm doing to you, my love...I do," she said as her tongue ran the length of Xena's ear, taking the earlobe in her mouth and sucking gently.

"Good Gods!" Xena moaned, pulling Gabrielle away, holding her at arms length. Xena was close to drowning in the depths of green in front of her. This woman, her bestfriend, the woman she would give her life for, do anything for. Xena saw something new in those eyes. She saw want...need...and, finally

"Gabrielle, is this what you really I what you really want?" Xena whispered falteringly, almost afraid to hear her bard's answer.

Gabrielle said the only words she knew would spur the warrior on...the words the dreamscape Gabrielle used night after night in the warrior's dreams.

"Please, Xena...don't stop."

Gabrielle was right about how it would affect the warrior.

Xena wrapped strong arms around the bard's waist and pulled the young woman to her, their bodies pressing tightly together. With one kiss, the warrior imparted the depth of her love to the young Queen. Their lips pressed together, soft flesh meeting soft flesh, until passion swept both women along on an immense wave. Xena's tongue slipped past lips parted quickly for her, feeling Gabrielle's intense heat rising as quickly as the warrior's own did. Xena lost herself in the bard's kiss just as she had all those times in her dreamscape

Gabrielle had her fingers buried in Xena's dark locks, pulling the woman to her with strength and a passion she hadn't even known she possessed. Her hips began a slow rocking motion against the warrior's thigh, moaning against Xena's mouth at the pleasing friction against her center. Xena's hands traveled down the bard's back and she urged Gabrielle on, grasping the young woman's hips, encouraging the motion.

Gabrielle pulled away from the kiss first, leaning her forehead on the warrior's chin, both of them gasping for breath. The bard's heart began pounding, and Gabrielle swore it was going to pound clear out of her chest. She had never experienced anything this intense...this raw before. All she could focus on were the incredible sensations Xena's body was eliciting from her own. That and the overwhelming desire to take Xena as the dreamscape Gabrielle had done.

"You have entirely too many clothes on," Gabrielle said in a commanding tone.

Xena looked slightly shocked at the inflection in the bard's voice, pulling back to gaze into her eyes. Xena recognized the need there, just as her own eyes must have reflected that same passionate glaze. Xena saw something else there too. Now she knew for certain Gabrielle had hidden in the shadows, watching the warrior's dreamscape unfold. Xena's greatest fantasy, her most heavily concealed desire, and now the bard knew it too. Gabrielle had the same feral look in her smoldering gaze that the dreamscape Gabrielle had. Xena wasn't sure if she could handle this in reality.

"Off." Gabrielle ordered, indicating the warrior's shift.

Xena could feel her body immediately respond to the command as a raging river began to flow from her aroused sex. Her body hummed like an over-taut bowstring as she lifted the shift over her head in one swift movement, exposing herself completely to the bard's hungry eyes. Whether the warrior was willing to admit it or not, Gabrielle's domination over her excited her beyond words.

Gabrielle pushed Xena back onto the bed; the warrior straightening out her leg which was now quite numb. Both women groaned at the feel of Gabrielle's weight on top of Xena's body. The bard's hand desperately exploring every inch of skin within her grasp, settling on Xena's breast, kneading the full flesh. Her fingers pulled on the warrior's nipple, eliciting a mild groan from Xena. Gabrielle soon found the harder she pulled the erect flesh, the louder the warrior's moans became.

Moving her lips to capture Xena's own, the bard thrust her tongue past the warrior's lips, moving the invading muscle in rhythm to the pulls of the warrior's tender nipples.

Xena had to pull her mouth away from the bard, but Gabrielle never stopped her assault on the warrior's breast. The bard's devouring eyes watched as Xena ran her tongue over her lips and then parted them, pulling much needed air into her lungs, panting.

Gabrielle moved to the warrior's neck, sucking and nipping at the soft flesh there. The bard bit the supple flesh of Xena's throat and began to suck harder. Xena's hands entwined in the bard's hair, pulling her closer.

"Yesss, Gabrielle...harder..." Xena groaned.

The warrior's request seemed to drive Gabrielle into a passionate frenzy. She lost awareness of the outside world. At that moment in time, there was only Xena, physical pleasure, and the bard's need to totally consume the dark warrior.

Gabrielle's thigh moved in between Xena's legs and pressed against her soaking mound.

"Oh, Gods..." Gabrielle moaned into the warrior's shoulder, feeling Xena's wetness against her. The bard's lips moved down the warrior's neck and across her shoulder each bite and caress of her tongue drawing gasps of pleasure from the writhing figure under her.

"Please..." Xena moaned as she arched her back, silently begging Gabrielle to her breast.

The bard's mouth moved closer to its prize, suddenly enclosing Xena's aching nipple in it's wet warmth. Gabrielle's tongue teased the hard flesh, flicking across it lightly, then sucking and grazing it through her teeth.

Xena felt the wet pulling of her nipple straight through to her center, her hips beginning to thrust against the bard's thigh. The warrior quickly realized that each time she voiced her pleasure with a moan, she was rewarded with a harder sucking motion to her already swollen nipple. The sounds coming from the warrior soon became constant.

Once again Gabrielle captured the warrior's lips in a kiss filled with seductive fire.

Moving her lips to Xena's ear she whispered, "Tell me what you want, Xena...I know, I saw into your, I want you to tell me." Gabrielle whispered enticingly.

Xena could barely breathe let alone speak. She should have known Gabrielle would be such a lover, yet as passionate as the young woman lived life, it was only a fraction of the passion she put into her lovemaking.

The warrior immediately panicked when she heard the bard whisper in her ear. God's this is Gabrielle! I know what I want her to do, but can I say her?

Gabrielle could feel the subtle change in the warrior's body as she warred within herself. The young Queen knew this would be hard for Xena. Can she do it? Can she let go enough to surrender it all?

Gabrielle continued to lick and kiss Xena's ear, while slowly moving her hand down across the warrior's stomach, along the top of a muscled thigh, bringing her fingers back up along the inside of the same leg. She let her hand rest lightly against the damp curls, feeling the heat radiating from Xena's center. The warrior raised her hips toward the bard's hand and Gabrielle slid her fingers across the slick folds, teasing, yet avoiding the hidden nub of flesh.

Xena groaned long and loud in frustration when the bard abruptly pulled her hand away, leaning in again to whisper in the warrior's ear.

"You know what I want...and you know that you want it too. Tell me, Xena...I want to hear you say it."

Xena growled in frustration over her inability to put a voice to her passion when it was obvious it meant so much to her bard. Gabrielle sensed the warrior's growing disappointment in herself, and quickly worked around the warrior's inhibition.

"Then show me..." the bard whispered enticingly.

Xena pulled Gabrielle to where she could look into the young woman's eyes, and captured her lips in a scorching kiss that very nearly stole the bard's resolve to have her way with the warrior. Gabrielle had never realized so much love and affection could be conveyed in one kiss.

"Show me, my love..." Gabrielle said breathlessly, pressing her hand against Xena's mound.

The warrior slid her hand down her own body, placing it over Gabrielle's smaller one. Wrapping her fingers within the bard's, she slid their hands into her wetness, positioning the bard's toward her opening. She moved Gabrielle's thumb across the swollen nub of flesh, crying out at the pleasure of the strokes. Xena raised her hips slightly, and Gabrielle felt herself being drawn inside the warrior.

Xena looked at the bard, expecting to see shock or disgust in her eyes. Instead, the young woman's eyes burned with unreleased need and an, as yet, unfulfilled desire. Xena's breath caught in her throat when in one fluid motion, Gabrielle pushed three fingers deep into Xena's opening. Xena splayed her knees and with one foot still firmly planted on the floor she pushed herself up to meet the thrusts of Gabrielle's hand.

"Like that?" Gabrielle whispered, with a knowing smile.

"Yes... like that...right there...Oh, Gods, Gabrielle" Xena then lost her voice, and she gave up on speech, languid moans of sheer pleasure the only sounds she seemed capable of making.

Gabrielle continued pushing hard into Xena, she felt time lose all meaning as her whole world became the sounds of Xena's passion and the warrior's velvet warmth surrounding her stroking fingers. Gabrielle followed the rhythm Xena's hips set, not even trying to suppress a groan when the warrior lifted her thigh up, and pressed it firmly against the bard's center.

Gabrielle propelled her hips toward the warrior's leg, her own wetness flowing down the sides of the warrior's thigh. Momentarily caught up in her own rapture, the bard opened her eyes to gaze down on her lover. Xena's hips continued to thrust harder and harder against Gabrielle's hand, the warrior's whole body beginning to tremble uncontrollably. Her eyes rolled back in her head just before her eyelids snapped shut.

"Xena, Look at me." Gabrielle managed to gasp, her own body begging for release.

Xena opened her eyes and lifted her head up slightly, cradling Gabrielle's face in her hands. The warrior could feel the tremors run through her body, she was teetering on the brink, but she found it impossible to convey to Gabrielle her terror at the complete control the bard demanded from her.

Gabrielle, however, knew this warrior all too well. In the fraction of a heartbeat it took for the bard to feel Xena's fear, to search the blue depths turned dark with desire, the bard knew what she had to do.

Gabrielle slowed the movement of her hand inside the warrior to deep, even strokes, never taking her eyes from her lover's. The bard too was breathing hard, but concentrated on the words Xena needed to hear.

"I don't want you to surrender to me...I want you to surrender for me. Not to my will, my love...surrender to my love." The bard said in a voice hoarse with her own desire. "I love you, Xena..."

The effect was immediate as Xena pulled the bard's lips to hers in a kiss filled with all of the warrior's feelings of freedom at surrendering to Gabrielle's love. The fire in the warrior's belly soon transferred itself into the bard's through that kiss. A growl of pure pleasure began to rumble from the warrior, deep in her chest. She could feel herself about to leap from the precipice, liquid fire rushing from her sex, washing over the bard's thrusting hand.

 "Gab...rielle..." Xena panted, a small groan the only sound the warrior made conveying her impending release to the bard.

Gabrielle wanted much more. The bard had begun to feel her own body being consumed by the intense heat of Xena's approaching orgasm, she felt as if she were literally on fire, flames spreading across her flesh slick with sweat.

Thrusting her own hips hard against Xena's thigh, the bard cried out, "Sweet mother of Zeus, woman...let me hear you!"

Xena's head slammed down into the bed at the sound of Gabrielle's command. The warrior's body convulsed and shook as wave after wave of intense pleasure swept through her. The growl that had started as a low rumble emerged from Xena's throat as an ear shattering sound that became part battle cry, and partly an incoherent scream of her lover's name.

The sound was enough for Gabrielle. At her lover's cry, she joined the warrior in release, feeling her body being engulfed in flames, and then the bard began to melt.

Before Xena's last orgasm had coursed through her body, another began as she felt Gabrielle's shuddering liberation from the exquisite torture. Xena smiled as Gabrielle's unintelligible cry echoed the warrior's in stamina.

Neither woman made any attempt to move as the bard lay atop Xena, the warrior's arms enfolding the spent woman. They both tried in vain to bring their breathing under control, too unsure of their voices to speak.

It is at this point when Eponin again joins our story. Actually we catch up with the Amazon warrior after she has only been asleep in her hut for a few candlemarks, enjoying a considerable amount of wine during the evenings festivities.

Her new recruit Tarazon had come to wake the older warrior for her shift at watch. Part of what was to follow, Eponin blamed solely on Tarazon. The older warrior swore that the recruit should have noticed that a warrior with a hangover is not the best person to have on watch and the young recruit should have volunteered to take the shift.

Since no such offer was forthcoming, Eponin sucked it up and made her way to relieve the first shift. Eponin's night was about to change, but she had no way of knowing at this point how much. Things were indeed looking up for the warrior when Solari happened along and took pity on her friend.

Solari could see the shape Eponin was in so she graciously offered to switch places with the warrior. Solari would take watch in the trees at the outskirts of the village for her friend, while Eponin would join the two members of the Royal Guard at the rather easy task of keeping watch on the Queen's hut. Eponin thanked her friend, leaving her a promise of owing her one, and thought to hard could it be?

This was definitely going to be easy work, and Eponin was already planning on how to catch a quick nap, leaving the young but capable Royal Guards in charge. She caught up with the pair lounging a little farther from the Queen's hut than usual and wondered what on earth the younger women had been talking about, seeing as they were both blushing furiously. That's when she heard it.

It was a blood-curdling yell that made the hairs on the back of her neck and arms stand up. On the battlefield it would not have phased her, but this came from the Queen's hut. Eponin may have been a little dense at times, but she was a warrior through and through, and a good one at that. Without thinking of her own safety, she rushed toward the door to the Queen's hut.

The two members of the Royal Guard were as shocked by the screams coming from their Queen's hut as the older warrior had been, they had an advantage however. Instead of charging behind Eponin, they just turned redder. They thought about letting the warrior in on the whole story, but members of the Royal Guard tend to be a rather aloof bunch, and these two immediately saw the makings of a great way to take a warrior down a peg.

Eponin stormed the hut, taking all six steps in two leaps. She pulled her sword as she kicked open the door, ready for anything.

Except for that.

It had only been heartbeats for the two lovers, Gabrielle still lying in the embrace of one completely satisfied warrior, both women still breathing heavily, when the door to their hut was kicked in. Xena cursed herself for her mental lapse; her weapons still on the table. The warrior rolled over pulling Gabrielle under her to shield the young woman from their attacker.

It was then that everything and everyone seemed to begin moving in slow motion.

The two women inside the hut realized the intruder was Eponin a full two or three heartbeats before the warrior could take in what was happening.

"Eponin!" Gabrielle shouted indignantly, pulling the sheet up in a feeble attempt to cover what the Amazon warrior was already staring at.

Eponin seemed to be getting into a lot of these situations lately. Ones where her brain was practically shaking her silly in an attempt to get her body moving in a backward direction, but damn, if the warrior could focus on anything but the sight of the two naked women in front of her. Of course, her roving eyes soon caught up to Xena's. Now, Eponin had swore, from her earlier incident with Xena, that six feet of Warrior Princess coming at you looked much larger when you were on your knees. She soon found she would have to amend that statement. Six feet of naked Warrior Princess looked immense.

Granted, the whole situation seemed unfortunate and if Eponin had turned around immediately things may have gotten better. Even if the Amazon had apologized a few heartbeats later, it would have gone down as a terribly embarrassing incident, and they could have all laughed about it later...much later, in Xena's opinion. The problem, as the warrior saw it, was that Eponin wasn't leaving. She stood there holding her sword, just staring at them. Not just them, more particularly, Gabrielle. Suddenly Xena was remembering the way Eponin had ogled the young Queen at the party earlier. Then with deliberate slowness, the warrior rose from the bed and moved toward the frozen Amazon.

Gabrielle was finally able to pull the sheet around her, effectively shaking Eponin out of her suspended state. That's when she first noticed the Warrior Princess coming at her.

"Xena," Gabrielle pleaded behind the warrior's back, "remember...don't kill her." She finished with a smirk toward the Amazon.

"Oh, I'm not gonna kill her," Xena began, "I'm just gonna hurt her real bad!" She hissed.

Eponin would also testify later that she thought she saw faint wisps of smoke coming from the warrior's ears. Looking over at Gabrielle, she said weakly, "I guess this is where I run, huh?"

"Too late!" Xena said grabbing the immobile Amazon by the neck of her tunic and dragging her outside. For the second time in as many weeks the Amazon warrior found herself being launched over the porch rail of the Queen's veranda.

Xena simply walked back into the hut and slammed the door shut.

Eponin lay on her back in the dirt next to the Queen's hut. Letting out a painful groan, she looked over to where the two members of the Royal Guard were bent over in laughter.

"If I ever get up two are dead." The warrior said flatly.

The laughter stopped at once and both women swallowed hard, looking at one another.

Gabrielle's body shook with laughter as Xena walked into the hut, shaking her head, and casting her bard a sheepish grin over the antics of their Amazon friend. Xena could never stay mad at Eponin for very long.

"You're going to break her back if you keep throwing her from the porch like that," Gabrielle said, brushing tears of laughter from her eyes.

"She's a warrior, she's tough. Besides, I didn't much care for the way she was looking at you. I do however enjoy the way you're looking at me...that look in your eyes, my Queen, is very flattering." Xena said, arching an eyebrow suggestively.

In the past Gabrielle had only been able to steal glances at her warrior's body, now she was taking advantage of their newfound relationship to devour her lover's admirable qualities openly with her eyes.

Xena enjoyed the blush that found its way to Gabrielle's cheeks. The warrior leaned upon the bed on one knee, supporting herself with a strong arm, while reaching up to slowly pull down the sheet that covered Gabrielle.

"Allow me to return the favor," Xena drawled, taking full advantage as the bard had.

She stretched the length of her body out next to her bard and ran a hand up the entire measure of Gabrielle's figure, stopping to gently stroke the bard's face. Gabrielle leaned into the touch, turning her head to place a kiss on the warrior's sword callused palm.

"Where were we..." Xena smiled, reaching down to capture the bard's lips.

Gabrielle never knew Xena's touch could be that tender. The young woman moaned into Xena's mouth at the gentleness of the kiss that seemed to go on forever.

"Do you enjoy my kisses, my love?" The warrior asked, her lips moving along the young woman's jaw, down to her neck, and back up to her ear, where she suckled the bard's earlobe. "My touch?" She cupped the underside of the bard's breast and brushed her thumb across the nipple, the flesh hardening under her caress.

"Ohhhh..." was the only sound Gabrielle could make.

Hmmm...speechless, my bard?" Xena whispered, continuing to kiss and stroke the young woman beside her. "You put my body through such an exquisite torture, I thought I'd return the compliment. Oh, and I will make it a delicious sort of torture, Gabrielle."

The bard shivered at the sound of her name being drawn out in a seductive whisper, the warrior's warm breath licking against her ear.

Xena lowered her body down onto Gabrielle's, resting her weight on her arms. Gabrielle moaned in pleasure at the feel of the warrior's body. Xena lowered her head until she took Gabrielle's lips with her own, reveling in the taste of the young woman, the warrior's tongue running across the bard's bottom lip as a promise of the delights the warrior's tongue could bring her. When Xena went to move away, Gabrielle's hands reached up, wrapping themselves in the warrior's hair, drawing her into another passionate kiss.

Xena moved to nuzzle the bard's neck, using her lips, tongue, and teeth to lead her down the woman's throat. . The warrior smiled at the rapidly pounding pulse she found there. Gabrielle gasped when Xena pulled the flesh into her mouth and sucked long and hard.

"I'm marking're mine now, Gabrielle." Xena growled.

"Gods, yes!" Gabrielle cried.

Gabrielle's nipples tightened as Xena's flesh slid down the young woman's body.

"Please," Gabrielle whispered, arching her back, as Xena's fingers brushed across her erect nipples.

Xena slowly enclosed one of the hardened nubs into her mouth and sucked greedily. Gabrielle whimpered at the loss when Xena's mouth left her breast, the warrior ceasing the complaint by covering the bard's mouth with her own. Parting the bard's lips with her tongue the firm muscle began to explore the young woman's mouth with an intensity that soon made the bard dizzy. Allowing her fingertips to return to the bard's breasts, Xena circled around Gabrielle's nipples before taking them between her thumbs and forefingers and squeezing rhythmically.

Xena used her knee to gently spread Gabrielle's legs apart and moved her thigh in against the warm wetness. "Gods, Gabrielle..." she groaned into the bard's ear. "You're so wet."

Xena found her passions rising higher unable to stop her own wetness that began to soak the bard's leg. She ground her thigh against the bard's center, eliciting a gasp of delight, feeling Gabrielle begin to rock her hips against the warrior's thigh.

Xena couldn't believe how responsive the bard was. Everywhere she touched the young woman evoked a sound from Gabrielle's throat and every moan and gasp from the bard caused a flood of wetness to pour from the warrior's aroused sex.

Xena slowly moved downward, her mouth and tongue sliding across the firm muscles of the bard's stomach, Gabrielle's legs spreading further apart as the warrior settled her shoulders between them. Breathing deeply, Xena's mouth watered at the scent of Gabrielle's passion, then she teasingly ran her tongue up the inside of Gabrielle's thighs. Xena's body shivered in delicious anticipation at the thought of tasting the bard's sweet wetness.

In a display of pure seduction, the warrior reached her fingers up to slide her them between the bard's soaked folds.

"Yesss..." Gabrielle moaned, leaning up on one elbow to watch the warrior.

Xena locked her gaze with Gabrielle and the young woman watched through heavy-lidded eyes as the warrior pulled her fingers from Gabrielle and brought them to her mouth, licking the bard's juices from her hand.

"Sweet Artemis," the bard groaned, slamming her body back against the bed. The young woman felt she was dangerously close to simply exploding from need.

"Please, Xena...I need..." Gabrielle pleaded.

"I know what you need, Baby..." Xena purred, and Gabrielle thought she had died and gone to Ellysia simply at the sound of that voice.

Xena slipped her hands under the bard's hips, pulling her to the warrior's waiting mouth. She ran her tongue along the length of the bard's entire sex, feeling Gabrielle's body shiver in response. The bard spread her legs even further, encouraging the warrior, as Xena buried her tongue deep into the bard's sweetness. Xena allowed her tongue to roam and explore her lover, delighting in the moans of pleasure coming from the bard. She reveled in the textures and taste of her young lover, feeling Gabrielle's hips begin to thrust upward against her tongue.

Xena moved her tongue up and softly began stroking the hidden nub, now swollen with need. She slid a finger into the bard's opening, then two, sliding easily again and again into Gabrielle's soaking depths, never slowing the ministrations of her tongue on the bard's center.

Gabrielle could scarcely form rational thought, her focus on the outside world narrowed to the center of her being, that was being so lovingly ravished by her warrior. She wrapped her fingers tightly in the warrior's raven locks, pressing the warrior's tongue harder to her.

"Oh, God's, Xena...please...please, don't stop." Gabrielle cried out, her hips rising off the bed, thrusting harder against the tongue and fingers that promised her release.

Xena wrapped her arms around her lover's rocking hips, burying her face deeper, sucking hard while her tongue moved rapidly across the swollen nub.

Gabrielle cried out her lover's name again and again as waves of release washed through her, contracting against the warrior's fingers inside her, the young woman's body convulsing as a second and then a third orgasm exploded within her.

As Gabrielle lay spent, Xena crawled slowly up and kissed her tenderly, pulling the young woman into her strong embrace. The bard nuzzled Xena's neck, unable to speak.

"Xena," Gabrielle began once her breathing had returned to normal. "Do you mean to tell me...all these years together...and we could have been doing that?"

Xena chuckled and kissed the top of her bard's head. "Guess we've got some making up to do, huh?"

"Will it always be like this?" Gabrielle asked in awe.

"I don't know, love...I've never had this experience before."

"I've had many lovers, Gabrielle," Xena said seriously in answer to the bewildered look on her lover's face. "Even the ones I thought I loved...Marcus, Hercules...I don't think I even knew what love was as a Warlord. I don't think I was capable of love back then. I had to relearn emotions like that, and I think I started the day you walked into my life." Xena felt Gabrielle's silent tears splash on her neck as she continued.

"Gabrielle, I am so much in love with are my heart, the very thing that keeps me alive. I need you as much as I need air to breathe and water to drink. If you ceased to exist, I believe my heart would simply stop beating." The warrior whispered, pressing her lips gently to the bard's temple. "Thank you, my bard...thank you for saving me."

Gabrielle looked up at her warrior, tears streaming down her face.

"Xena, I've never heard you talk that way."

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I'm sorry that I don't always say the kind of things you need to hear, or that I'm not always the kind of person you'd like me to be. I may not always be successful, but I promise to try my damnedest not to disappoint you or embarrass you."

Gabrielle had never heard Xena speak so openly about her feelings before and the young bard was rather stunned.

"Oh, Xena...your love could never disappoint or embarrass me...did you mean it...when you said you were in love with me?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena turned so she was facing Gabrielle, wrapping her arms tighter, pulling the bard closer to her. Xena kissed Gabrielle's forehead, and brushed her lips across tear stained cheeks.

"With all my heart, my love...all my heart." Xena pulled back to look into Gabrielle's face, gently stroking it with the back of her fingers. "You deserve better, though, my love. I know, --" Xena placed a finger over the bard's lips to silence what she knew was coming. "You're a grown woman and you're free to choose to love whomever you wish. You've claimed me and my heart couldn't be happier, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what you see in a broken down old warrior like me."

"Oh, Xena...I wish you could see yourself through my eyes." Gabrielle said before slipping a hand around Xena's neck and kissing her as thoroughly as the warrior had ever been kissed. "You are so beautiful and I love you so much. I love all of you, Xena...the woman, the warrior, the light and the dark, and everything in-between." She said amid kisses.

It was Xena's turn for tears and although the warrior rarely let anyone see her cry, she enjoyed the bittersweet release, and savored the feel of being held, Gabrielle's fingers lightly stroking her hair.

Both women were very near to sleep, lying in each other's arms when Xena lazily opened one eye to look at the bard.


"Mmm hhm," Gabrielle replied drowsily.

"This week...the things you were doing, I mean when you--Gabrielle, were you seducing me?" Xena asked.

Gabrielle's eyes were wide open and she was definitely awake now. "Uhm...yes?"

"Are you asking me or telling me?" Xena too was now fully awake.

"Telling you?" Gods, that even sounds pathetic to me.

Xena turned from the bard's embrace and shifted her body more fully on top of the young woman. "Do you mean to tell me you were doing those things to me on purpose? And did you enjoy how crazy you were making me?"

" seemed like a good thing to do at the time...and I really didn't do it on first. But, I mean, by then I rather...well, enjoyed how it affected you." Gabrielle looked up at the warrior with her best innocent look.

"You, my love, are a tease." Xena said raising an eyebrow at the woman under her.

"Technically you can't call me a tease," the bard countered defiantly. "After all a tease is someone who acts suggestively, with no intention of following through on her promises...I, on the other hand, had every intention of making good on my promise."

Gabrielle finished with a smug grin, feeling as though she just talked her way out of something.

"Gab-ri-elle..." Xena drawled. "Do you know what warriors do to women who tease them...even ones they love with all their heart?" Xena said the words slowly, wrapping her arms around the young women and leaning in to nuzzle the bard's neck, nipping the soft flesh.

"Get even?" Gabrielle said weakly, the self-satisfied smile gone and her pulse beginning to race.

"Mmm hmmm," Xena murmured, biting down softly on an earlobe.

I have a feeling this 'getting even' may be quite enjoyable...if it doesn't kill me first, was Gabrielle's last coherent thought as Xena covered the bard's mouth with a burning kiss.

The End

Read the next story in the "Queen" series: "Quest For a Queen"

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