Disclaimers: The words are mine. Characters that you do not recognize also belong to me. The characters of Xena & Gabrielle belong to themselves.

This story mentions sexual violence. Some readers may be disturbed by this type of depiction and anyone who is sensitive to this particular issue may wish to read something other than this story.

TIP: If dropped into the series timeline, this would take place sometime late in the second season, when our favorite bard was a little less worldly than she is currently.

This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.


by Zzelami

posted 9-98



She lay quietly, staring blankly at the stars and listening to the crack and hiss of the slowly dying fire. A sudden muffled groan from Gabrielle brought her to acute alertness. Without thought, her hand grabbed the chakram she kept at her side during the night, ready to kill any marauder attempting to harm Gabrielle. She stayed rooted, needing to know exactly where the danger came from before she moved and gave away the element of surprise. Listening intently, her breath caught in her throat as she realized there was no danger near. Gabrielle's groan was one of pleasure, self induced.

In all the many nights they slept sharing the same fire, Xena had overheard the bard on scant few occasions. And, as it did each time before, it almost drove her mad. Freezing in place, Xena didn't move, fearing Gabrielle would hear and stop her activities. It is what almost happened the first time she overheard her. Xena had been so transfixed and aroused, she had mirrored Gabrielle's activities. Listening to her beloved bard reach the heights of passion sent her over the edge also. And although Xena had always been a 'strong & silent type,' she tended to be quite vocal in her passion, even when she tried to suppress it. At that point all movement and noise from Gabrielle had ceased and Xena knew Gabrielle had heard her. She began to purposefully toss, turn and moan, pretending to be having a bad dream. After a minute or two of this performance, she bolted to her feet, sword in hand, yelling "Where? Where?" She hoped to the gods Gabrielle would think it was a nightmare which was certainly nothing unusual for her. And it seemed to work. Gabrielle called to her tenderly, 'Xena, its just a dream. Everything's OK.' But she would never be satisfied that Gabrielle was not just playing along and did indeed know what had happened.

One other occasion found her lucky enough not only to hear Gabrielle but watch her as well. Again, it had been in the middle of the night, like now, and Xena had awoken to the bard's soft moans. This time, Xena had been lying on her side, facing Gabrielle who lay across from her, but on an angle, close enough for Xena to study yet far enough away to not be obvious. Looking through half closed eyes so as not to be caught, she observed Gabrielle as she pleasured herself. She stared as the bard's hands moved under the covers, down along her body. Saw her knees rise as her breathing became heavier. Watched the droplets of sweat form then roll down Gabrielle's face and neck. Heard the choked and muffled cries of impending gratification. Her body rocked rhythmically, her face contorted in attempted silence. Her mouth opened and her breath came harder as that glorious tension began to soar. Xena witnessed the bard's neck begin to arch and her back follow suit. Her naked leg kicked out from under the light blanket and her jaw clenched in an attempt to muffle her own moans. A spasm slammed her back into the ground then curled her shoulders upwards. Throwing her free hand across her chest she grabbed her own shoulder, bringing the crook of her arm over her mouth in an effort to mute her cries as her body shook with release.

Xena played on the borders of lunacy that night. And she could not look Gabrielle in the eye for days, fearing her longing would show boldly and clearly on her face.

It was a fear she carried with her always. But tonight she was protected by the fire that obstructed her view. She listened to her friend shift under her blanket, trying to choke back the sighs of pleasure. Gabrielle's breath became irregular and her slight movements quickened. Her grunts seemed to fan the fire raging between them as it did to the fire in Xena's soul. She knew Gabrielle was approaching fast. Each moan, each breath seared itself into Xena's brain, causing her own breath to quicken with need. Each of Gabrielle's movements, each sweet murmur from that divine mouth, wrenched a reaction from Xena's body. As if the bard was moaning into her ear, exhaling hot breath onto her neck. As if it was Xena's hand bestowing the pleasure, not Gabrielle's. A sweat broke over Xena as she tried to keep still and keep her sanity. Her body jerked to Gabrielle's rhythmic sighs. Thankfully, the fire blocked the view of her friend, for if she could see her, Xena knew it would push her over the edge of madness and desire. A sharp muted cry from Gabrielle carried above the sudden roar of the collapsing fire and provoked a stifled groan from Xena, her own untouched body contracting involuntarily, pulsing in synchronized time with the bard and crying for a release of its own.

Gabrielle's breathing slowed and grew softer, becoming enveloped by the crackling of the now dying fire. Xena listened intently but could no longer make out the soft sounds of the bard's breath. Again staring blankly at the stars she let her mind form the thoughts her voice could not speak.

If only it was me she had been thinking of. If only she would call out my name in her passion. If only she would call my name.


It took her more than a moment to realize it really was Gabrielle's voice and not her imagination that she heard.

"Xena? Xena, wake up," Gabrielle called again.

"Gabrielle? Is something wrong?"

"No, no. Everything's fine. Well, actually, um, I'm cold."

Xena tossed off her blanket and started to stand. "I'll find some more wood. You stay under your blanket."

"NO! No, Xena. Don't do that."

Plopping back down, she asked, "Well what is it you want me to do?"

And as she said that, Xena realized exactly what the bard wanted. She had done it once before after Xena had overheard her.

Gabrielle wanted to cuddle.

"Ummm, would it be all right....?" The young bard hesitated, not wanting to be forward.

Xena smiled to herself and waited, her body beginning to tingle with the anticipated contact of Gabrielle's skin.

"Could I.....? Ummmm, well... Would it be all right if I got under your blanket with you? You know, body heat is the best way to get warm...."

Crawling back under the cover, Xena held up a corner. "Well, come on."

Gabrielle was there in a flash.

She snuggled into Xena, her back against the warrior's chest, murmuring a thank you as the warrior wrapped her arms around her and she immediately began to drift into sleep.

But Xena was unwilling to let her sleep just yet. With no armor or thick leather, just a cotton nightshirt to protect her breasts from Gabrielle's soft body, Xena was sure the bard could feel her heart pounding like Amazon drums against her back. Not to mention the electrical shock shooting right to her groin that the contact her breasts and Gabrielle's back produced.

And she couldn't let her get away with that feeble 'I'm cold' excuse. (Which, by the way, she would be eternally grateful for.)

"Gabrielle? Your skin is flushed. You feel quite warm," she said, rubbing the bard's arm, then pressing her palm to Gabrielle's face. "Are you feeling sick? Perhaps you have a fever."

"No, I'm not sick. I just have a deep in the bones kind of chill," she mumbled as she nestled deeper into the warrior's embrace.

"Then stay as close as you can," Xena replied wrapping her arms tighter around Gabrielle and pulling her as close as she could. "I'll make sure you stay warm."

Hey, it was as good an excuse as any.



Xena huddled over Gabrielle, delicately laying her hand on the sleeping bard's shoulder. Touching her so very gently, she waited for the first sign of consciousness. With Gabrielle's initial stirring, Xena whispered tenderly, "Gabrielle, defend yourself," then pounced on her.

It was another one of Xena's training methods, to wake Gabrielle from a sound sleep and force her into action. And the bard got better every time Xena tried it.

Gabrielle immediately attempted to roll out of Xena's reach when she realized what was happening, but Xena had already grabbed one arm, yanking her backwards. "You're not going anywhere." Taking advantage of this backward momentum Gabrielle continued the roll into Xena who had been getting up on one knee and knocked her down. She then grabbed at the blanket lying next to her and tossed it over Xena. "Oh, good move Gabrielle!" But part of it was still underneath the bard and as Xena attempted to pull it off, it tangled itself around the both of them. Still grappling and grunting, Xena tried to pin the bard's hands behind her but found her own arm caught in the cloth and could not work it loose.

"This time, I win!" Gabrielle snorted as she flipped Xena onto her back.

Being on her back in a fight was not a position of comfort for Xena and they soon began to roll around and over each other, struggling for the upper hand. They grunted, groaned, taunted and laughed. And the blanket continued to work itself like a mummy's wrapping, tighter and tighter around them. Finally, Xena thought she had Gabrielle pinned but the quick thinking bard slipped her thigh between Xena's legs and pushed up. Xena's nerve endings jumped at Gabrielle's bold move and she pulled back a little, giving the bard the opportunity she needed to flip Xena onto her back again and roll on top of her.

"I've got you now," Gabrielle growled in triumph, her arms wrapped tightly around her warrior and her thigh pressed firmly between Xena's legs.

"Think so?" Xena smirked.

But when Xena tried to flip the bard back over, she found she had been pinned. Not by Gabrielle but by the blanket. And that thigh. Yet she continued to struggle, causing herself some very pleasurable sensations in the process.

Gabrielle countered Xena's wriggling, trying to keep her pinned but only accomplished working the blanket so tightly around them neither could move their arms. But neither would give up or concede defeat. They continued struggling, battling with each other and with the real victor of this confrontation, the blanket.

Play fighting with Gabrielle always sexually aroused Xena and she knew it. It was, in fact, one of the motivations for doing it, although she would never admit it, even to herself. But being hopelessly entangled with Gabrielle's thigh pressing harder and harder against her, was driving her to distraction. And she realized that in their struggle, Gabrielle was also feeling the pressure of Xena's thigh between her legs and was pushing her hips into Xena as they grappled.

Xena tried lifting her shoulders off the ground, but Gabrielle pushed them back down with her head. They struggled against each other and the blanket, trying to work free of the fabric that bound them breast to breast, arms wrapped round each other yet immobile. The bard was now lying completely on top of the warrior, her head on her shoulder and working her hips against the warrior's thigh as she tried to free her legs. Gabrielle's breathing began to match her rocking motions and Xena could feel heat and a spreading dampness on her leg. In the tangle of cloth and limbs, she pushed her thigh back against her friend and heard the sharp intake of air that movement caused.

Xena felt hot breath on her neck as Gabrielle's upper body relaxed and her lower body tensed in arousal, rubbing harder and harder, drawing Xena into a living fantasy. Her own body reacted to Gabrielle, as she knew it would and she began to shudder. She strained against the confines of the blankets, desperately wanting to hold Gabrielle, to run her hands over the bard's body. She savored the exquisite pressure of Gabrielle's breasts crushed into her own and watched as sweat broke and glistened on the bard's forehead.

Gabrielle began to lose herself in the overwhelming intensity her struggle produced. She had stopped attempting to free herself and instead, ground harder into Xena. Her half lidded eyes betrayed her willing decent into physical pleasure. More and more rhythmically, Gabrielle rode Xena, her breath coming harder and faster.

A deep, sexual moan escaped from Gabrielle's chest startling them both. Gabrielle lifted her head to look at Xena, eyes wide with surprise and froze with the realization of what was happening.

An eternity of seconds passed before Xena saw the look in Gabrielle's eyes change from passion and shock to fear. Then from fear to horror and panic.

"Gabrielle," Xena whispered tenderly. "Its all right."

But the bard wasn't listening. She began writhing desperately, trying to free herself from the blanket and Xena's forced embrace. Frantically she squirmed but each movement produced new waves of friction and, apparently for Gabrielle, unwanted pleasure.

Xena spoke softly, reassuringly. "Gabrielle! Gabrielle! Shhh, shhhhh. Relax. Stop fighting, you're only making it worse. Come on, its OK. Its OK."

The bard quieted and stilled her movements but kept her face buried, hiding from Xena's eyes.

"Just get us out of this," she whispered in a barely controlled panic.

"Gabrielle, you don't have to...."

"Please Xena. Don't... just don't say anything," she begged.

"Alright, alright," Xena soothed as began to try to work one leg free. "Hold still, OK?" She rolled them half over then back, trying to work the blanket loose, all the while speaking softly to the bard who still seemed on the verge of panic. A series of rolls, turns, pushes and pulls finally worked free a leg, a hand, an arm. With one more roll, the cloth finally surrendered, releasing its grip on the pair.

As soon as she could, Gabrielle flung the blanket off and in one motion, jumped up and ran from the camp.

"Gabrielle! There's nothing..." Xena yelled as she ran, but the bard did not stop or even slow down. She finished quietly, only speaking to herself. "...to be upset about."

Xena stood at the edge of the circle of light. Her bard had been gone for almost an hour and Xena decided that was quite long enough.

"Gabrielle? If you don't come back, I'm going to have to come look for you," she called, the slight tremor in her voice betraying her growing concern.

"I'm here, Xena," came the bard's voice softly as she walked into the light, not far to the south of where Xena stood.


"Please Xena. Let me explain."

"There's nothing to explain, Gabrielle."

"Then why do I feel so stupid?"

Xena calmly and gently spoke. "Gabrielle, it was a normal physical response. It doesn't... mean anything. That's all..."

"Norm...?" She stared at the warrior, shocked. Taking a quick breath, she clenched her jaw and her fists and looked away. "I apologize anyway. For my normal response," she spat.


"Let's drop it and go back to sleep." she snapped, spinning on her heels towards her rumpled bedroll.



"I said," the warrior responded calmly, "no."

Clenching her jaw, the bard fairly growled in exasperation. "OK. What? What do you need to know?"

"I'd like to know why you're so angry," Xena said softly.

"Because I feel like an idiot!"


"WHY? Because I... I..."

Grinning, Xena chided gently, "You what? Got excited?"

The bard turned, embarrassed, taking a step away.

Xena walked up behind Gabrielle and placed her hand tenderly on the bard's shoulder, urging her to turn around.

Softly, Xena admitted, "So did I."

Gabrielle looked up into blue eyes sparkling with reflected gold firelight. "Really?" she whispered.

"Yeah, really," she smiled. "So there's no reason to be embarrassed. It was just a normal response to stimulation. Doesn't mean anything." And she added to herself, 'Of course, the fact that it was you is what made a difference to me.'

"Normal," the bard repeated flatly. Looking into the twinkling eyes of her friend, she smiled slightly and crinkled her nose as she dropped down onto her tousled blanket. "Xena, there is absolutely nothing about you I would call normal."



Xena crouched by the tiny fire, stoking it, encouraging its growth with small twigs leading to bigger pieces of wood. It pleased her that Gabrielle had run off to the river to catch dinner, claiming that she would bring back the best tasting fish Xena had ever had!

She finished setting up camp and had the fire blazing. Absent mindedly, she picked up her sword and whetstone. At the first contact of rock to metal, she heard a scream from the river that sent a burning shiver through her body and one thought to her mind. Gabrielle.

She flew over the short path that brought her to the edge of the tree line. Spotting Gabrielle lying flat on the muddy embankment, Xena screamed her battle cry and flipped into the air landing with her back to the river and her feet on either side of the prone bard. Sword at the ready, her head whipped from side to side, searching for the attackers, protecting her bard from any more danger.

Seeing nothing, she dropped to her knees next to Gabrielle.

Partially curled on the ground, the bard rocked and held her head, blood pouring between her fingers.

"Gabrielle?" she said cautiously, stroking the bard's arm, head up, still watching for danger. "Are you OK? Where are they?"

"No, Xena," she moaned. "Not people..."

"Animal?" she questioned, still searching for the danger.

"No," she moaned.

"What happened?" she asked but Gabrielle just groaned in pain.

Satisfied that whatever immediate danger there had been had passed, Xena turned her complete concentration to Gabrielle. "Let me see where you're hurt." Tenderly she began to roll the bard over, speaking calmly and soothingly and keeping an eye out for any threat, just in case. Gently, she tugged on the bard's wrist to expose the wound.

"Xena," she moaned. "Not my head..."


"My foot..."

Xena looked down and saw the outline of a monstrous metal trap, three quarters buried in the mud, clamped tightly around the bard's ankle. Gingerly, she touched Gabrielle's ankle where the trap held her.

The bard stiffened and stifled a cry of pain.

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle," she said gently, "But I have to see."

In some places, the sharp teeth of the trap bit through the leather boot and into Gabrielle's soft skin. In others, the teeth did not get through. At first inspection, it didn't look to be critical but she wouldn't know how bad it actually was until she removed the trap and examined the ankle.

"I take it you hit your head when you fell?" she asked tenderly.

"Yeah," the bard mumbled. "On this nice rock here."

"OK, Gabrielle. Let's take a look at your head. Come on, let me see, OK?"

Xena gently rolled Gabrielle over, careful of her ankle and was stunned by the quantity of blood pouring from her head. Continuing to speak calmly, she removed the bard's hands from the wound but because of the vast amount of blood and mud, she could not see the injury clearly.

Quietly, she told Gabrielle, "I have to get some supplies. Stay still and hold your hand tightly against the wound. I'll be right back."

She returned in mere moments with the water skin and all the blankets.

While wrapping blankets around and under the bard to ward off the possible effects of shock, Xena said, "Gabrielle? I'm going to have to rinse off your head, OK? I need to see how bad it is. But its going to sting a little."

"Xena, it already stings a little," she said, trying to sound light hearted.

Xena grinned somberly at Gabrielle's bravery. "Well, then its going to sting a lot. Ready?"

She gently pulled the bard's hand away from the wound and poured a generous stream of water on it. Blood continued to flow quickly, staining the blankets, their clothing and already mixing with the mud, making it look like red clay in the late day sun.

Swallowed groans of pain came from the bard and each sound threatened to rip Xena's heart into pieces. The wound itself was less than a small finger in length and the edges were jagged but it was just the skin, nothing serious unless she did not quickly stop the tremendous outpouring of blood.

Balling up a corner of the dry blanket, she pressed it firmly to Gabrielle's head. "Hold this as tight as you can," she told the bard. "Understand? As tight as you can. OK? I'll be back."

She flew back to camp and grabbed the saddlebags dumping the contents on the ground, searching for her stash of herbs. Finding the three she needed, a cup to mix them in and a few other needed supplies, she stuffed them back into the saddlebag and flew back to Gabrielle's side. She spoke soothingly, although she was almost in a panic at the sight of her friend in pain. Scooping the bard into her arms, she stroked and comforted her with one hand and mixed the herbs in a cup of water with the other, all the while telling Gabrielle everything would be just fine.

"Xena, I feel kind of dizzy."

"You're bleeding. It makes you feel that way. Now drink this."

"What is it?"

"Just some herbs to take the pain away. And to make you sleep." She helped the bard take a gulp. "Gabrielle? I'm going to have to sew that up."

"I figured that," she mumbled. "And this stuff tastes terrible!"

The warrior chuckled. "Keep drinking."

When Xena lifted Gabrielle's body to help her sit up a little, the bard twitched in pain from the trap.

Reaching down, Xena quickly jabbed at a spot on the bard's leg. "Better?"

Gabrielle looked up at her friend and smiled weakly. "Yeah. My ankle doesn't hurt anymore."

"I can't leave it like that for very long, so keep drinking this."

"But it tastes awful," she moaned.

"Gabrielle, the sooner you finish this, the sooner I can get that trap off your foot."

She frowned at Xena and took another small sip.

As much as Xena worried about the long term damage being done to the bard's ankle, her immediate concern was the prodigious amounts of blood pouring from her head. "Gabrielle? I don't like seeing you in pain. And I can't do anything about it unless you drink this." She smiled gently at her friend and put on her warrior voice. "So don't make me get tough with you."

Gabrielle studied Xena's face intently, looking past the warrior's mask. "I don't like the look on your face. Is it that serious?"

"Well," Xena drawled, smiling, "With my superior healing skills, you should be able to pull through."

"OK. As long as I don't die. If I die it might tick me off a little." She tried to smile as she finished. "But I'll get over it."

Looking directly into Gabrielle's eyes, Xena responded, "I won't. Now drink the rest of this."

After Gabrielle had finished the liquid, Xena dipped two fingers into the cup, scooping out the herbs that had settled at the bottom, then held them to the bard's mouth.

"Come on, eat this."

Gabrielle sucked the herbs from Xena's fingers, her face screwing up as if she had bitten into a lemon.

Under different circumstances, Xena knew she would have relished the feel of the bard's mouth on her fingers, her warm tongue wrapping around them and the gentle suction it produced. So she registered the sensations then tucked them away in her mind to relive at a more appropriate time.

"Oh, that was good," Gabrielle mumbled sarcastically.

Xena smiled. "Yeah, I know. Its a little sour when you take it like this. But it will work faster."

Xena fed her the remainder of the herbs and made her drink a little more water, all the while trying to sop up the blood that persisted in streaming from Gabrielle's head. She continued speaking in soothing tones, babbling really, waiting for the bard to pass out so she could do something about the wounds. She came to the conclusion that if Gabrielle didn't fall asleep within the next few minutes, she would have to do the stitching while she was awake. It was not a prospect she enjoyed for it would be quite painful, but she couldn't afford to let Gabrielle lose much more blood. And using pressure points on the forehead to block pain was just too dangerous.

"So how much before this stuff am I gonna feel when I go now?" Gabrielle mumbled. Then, looking up at Xena, she asked, "What did I just say?"

Xena smiled with a little relief. "If you are trying to ask how long it is before the herbs take effect, I think they have already started."

A silly grin popped onto Gabrielle's face. "Oh," she giggled. Then looking at her friend she asked seriously, "Xena? Be honest with me. Is it really that bad? Am I going to die?"

"Head wounds tend to bleed a lot, Gabrielle, even when they aren't life threatening and you're bleeding a lot. I have to make it stop and I need to get that trap off your ankle. And I can't do any of that until you fall asleep. So if you go to sleep now, you won't die. OK?"


"Yeah. I promise."

"Good. Cause I'm real tired and I don't want to die," Gabrielle mumbled, holding tightly to her friend.

"Don't fight it, Gabrielle. Go to sleep. I promise you'll be fine."


As soon as Gabrielle had passed out, Xena set to work stopping the outpouring of blood and stitching sliced skin. She settled Gabrielle into a comfortable position before taking on the next task, removing that metal beast from the bard's ankle.

She examined the trap closely before moving anything. It seemed to be a standard animal leg trap. A horrid piece of work with not a shred of humaneness in design. Luckily, whoever created this monster didn't seem to have had great tools. The teeth were fairly dull and most did not penetrate the leather of Gabrielle's boot. But where they did, Xena could see dots of blood seeping through.

Grabbing the jaws of the metal monster, she braced herself and pulled. Slowly, the trap opened, relinquishing its hold on the bard's ankle. She tossed it aside, vowing to destroy it later and let it spring shut, its jaws empty. Gently removing Gabrielle's boot, she examined the wounds.

"Good boots," Xena muttered, pleased.

The teeth of the beast had only pierced the leather in three places. And those wounds were small enough to not require stitches. Gabrielle would have a horrible bruise but the punctures, which could have been severe, were inconsequential.

Gently, she cleaned the wounds and made a poultice from moss growing on the shore, some herbs and the cool lake water,.

"That should keep the swelling down."

Still, the injury would require complete rest to heal.

"Well," she said aloud, "our campsite is in a good location. It's secluded, it's safe and there is water nearby. Looks like we're on vacation for a few days." Xena stood and looked around. "It's like a battle took place here." Blood was everywhere, on everything. And where there wasn't blood, there was mud. "I guess it's time to do the wash."

She brought everything to the river and piece by piece washed it all, hanging the blankets from the trees, laying out the saddlebags and various items in the grass to dry. Then she went back for Gabrielle. She carried the sedated bard into the shallow water and setting her down, slowly stripped her of her blood and mud soaked clothing, speaking gently to her the entire time, even though she knew Gabrielle did not hear. She removed her own equally soaked clothing as well, tossing it all on a grassy section of the bank. Gently she washed the drying residue from Gabrielle's face and hair then lay her down, letting the running water wash away the remaining evidence of this nightmare from Gabrielle's body as her own tears cleansed the blood from her face.

She wrapped the bard in Argo's saddle blanket, the only unbloodied cloth she had and brought her back to camp. Laying her down carefully, she stoked the fire before going back to the river to wash the clothes.

As she washed her leathers, she realized that after this, there was nothing left to do except wait for Gabrielle to wake up tomorrow.

And talk to herself some more.

"I hate when you're so quiet," she said to the sleeping bard.

* - * - * - *

Xena opened her eyes to darkness when she heard a sound coming from Gabrielle and was surprised to find the naked bard on her hands and knees crawling directly towards the fire.

"Gabrielle? What are you doing?"

Turning her head, the bard looked at Xena wide eyed then let a silly smile creep onto her face. "I'm going for a crawl," she slurred.

"A what?"

"A crawl," the bard responded, pronouncing each word carefully. "I wanted to take a walk, but I can't seem to stand. So I'm crawling."

"Ooohhh. I understand. But you look so tired," she said as if to a child. "Why don't you crawl back this way and take a nap?"

"Actually, I am tired, but I don't think I'd make it back there. I'll just nap here," she mumbled, collapsing to the ground.

But she was much too close to the fire to be safe. So Xena got up and carried Gabrielle back to where she had been sleeping. She cuddled up next to the bard and put her arm around her. To keep her from wandering again, to keep her safe, she told herself. And even she didn't completely believe it.

*- * - * - *

"Have I missed something?" Gabrielle murmured softly into Xena's chest.

Xena opened her eyes. It was still dark. "You're awake. How do you feel?"

"I feel fine," she mumbled. "I just want to know what I missed."

"What do you mean, 'missed'?"

"Well the last thing I remember is drinking your lousy tasting herb concoction," she yawned. "Now I'm laying here with my head on your shoulder, my arms around you and we're both naked."

"There is an explanation for this."

"Well I'd like to hear it," she muttered, a cockeyed grin on her face.

"I woke up a little while ago to find you crawling directly towards the fire. You said you wanted to take a walk but couldn't stand up so you were talking a crawl. Do you remember that?"

"No. Did I really?" she asked sleepily.

"Yes, you did. So I brought you back here and decided the best way to keep you from wandering off again was to hold on to you."

"That makes sense. But what about the clothes? Or lack of clothes."

"You bled a lot, Gabrielle. And you had been lying on a muddy river bank. Everything was covered with mud and blood. Our clothes, the blankets, everything. I washed us both off and washed out our clothes in the river. It's all hanging to dry now."

"So that's what that smell is. This blanket, it's Argo's saddle blanket, isn't it?"

"Yeah," she smiled weakly. "It was the only blanket we had left that didn't have blood all over it. Aren't you glad I washed it just last week?"

Gabrielle giggled sleepily. "You're so sweet, Xena. You are my protector," she muttered, slowly stroking Xena's shoulder and chest.

Xena tensed her body and gritted her teeth, attempting to not react to Gabrielle's burning touch on her naked skin. She knew the bard was still heavily in the grip of the herbs and did not realize the effect her caresses had on the warrior. So it surprised Xena when Gabrielle found the strength to push herself up onto one elbow and stare at her.

"You always take care of me. You keep me safe and protected." The bard ran her fingers along Xena's cheek, down her neck, stopping between her breasts. "I know you would give your life for me. Do you realize I would do the same? You mean so much to me."

Leaning down, she placed a light kiss on Xena's lips. She pulled away slightly then leaned in again, this time her lips lingered on the warrior's. Her mouth parted slightly and she took Xena's lip between her own, her tongue timidly tasting the sweetness there. Then becoming bolder, more demanding, she began searching out the warrior's tongue and teasing it with her own.

Unprepared, Xena gasped at the taste of the bard's lips. In all the times and many ways she imagined that first kiss, it was nothing like the tender hesitant kiss she envisioned. The intensity of the bard's passion left Xena thunderstruck. Gabrielle took charge, her mouth insistent, her skin craving a response. Rolling on top of the warrior, she pushed herself into Xena, creating a burning heat between their naked flesh as her kisses continued getting deeper, hotter, her passion rising. Xena could do nothing but respond. Nor was there anything else she would rather do.

Their tongues searched, explored with no hesitation. Breath became ragged as their bodies pushed against each other, skin to skin, demanding even more contact. Xena felt the bard's hand run down her bare side, grazing her breast, a trail of fire following every move that hand made. She wrapped her arms around Gabrielle, pulling her even closer, kneading her shoulder blades, drawing moans of pleasure from the bard.

Her hands journeyed over Gabrielle's body, letting her fingers glide through silky tresses, caressing her cheek then gently crossing the bandage on her head. And Xena immediately realized what she was doing was terribly wrong.

It was the herbs making Gabrielle act this way. Nothing else. She had witnessed it before in other patients. That particular combination of herbs sometimes made the patient extremely amorous and she had completely forgotten that fact. Pulling Gabrielle close, she knew she must stop because going any further would be taking advantage of her.

'Just one more kiss to last me the rest of my life,' she thought. 'One more sweet memory to live on.'

Her hand caressed Gabrielle's cheek, her thumb running over her lips. The bard turned her head and began to kiss Xena's palm as she let the weight of her body drop fully onto the warrior.

Xena guided Gabrielle's head back around and looked deeply into her clear green eyes. Then she created her memory. Reaching up to Gabrielle's lips, she put every thing she had into that kiss. All the love she felt, all the desire, all the tenderness, passion, every emotion she had went into that kiss. Everything she had ever wanted to say to Gabrielle but couldn't, she said with that kiss.

And she felt Gabrielle respond in kind. The bard's body willingly melted into hers and returned the kiss with all the passion and love with which it had been delivered.

Xena pulled away, but Gabrielle was not about to stop doing what her body wanted to do. The bard began weaving a string of kisses down Xena's neck and shoulders that threatened to disintegrate the warrior's resolve.

Xena needed to create a distraction.

"Gabrielle? Did you hear that?" she whispered.

"No," she murmured while continuing her way down Xena's neck.

Fighting the urge to give in, Xena said pointedly, "Listen! Can't you hear that?"

The bard froze, listening intently. "No. I can't...."

"Ssssssshhhhhhhhhhhh! Listen! Listen." She waited a beat. "There it is again! Did you hear it?"

"No, what was it?"

"Be very still. Listen closely."

Gabrielle lay still, at first listening but after a minute she closed her eyes and began to relax as Xena hoped she would. Five minutes later, she was once again sleeping soundly and deeply, under the influence of the herbs.

Xena repositioned the bard, putting her head on her own shoulder and keeping her injured foot protected. After checking to make sure Gabrielle seemed comfortable and was sleeping, she settled in and began to relive the past minutes and again drown in Gabrielle's kiss. It did not surprise her when she realized her hand, which had been at her side, had already begun to move down her stomach toward the ache that came with unfulfilled arousal. She needed the physical release her actions had sparked. But Gabrielle was lying with her head on Xena's shoulder, her arm around her waist.

But Gabrielle was also drugged. And sleeping soundly.


No response. Just deep, even breathing.

"Gabrielle!" she called louder and shook the bard's shoulder.

Still no response.

Xena allowed her hand to slide lower, reaching for her ache and finding her own wetness. She moaned involuntarily at her touch then quickly looked to see if the bard woke at the sound.

Gabrielle's eyes remained tranquilly closed, her breathing still deep and regular.

Xena stared at that peaceful face that filled her dreams so many nights and filled her thoughts during the day. That face that caused her heart to swell at its sight and to ache with longing. That face that caused her body to tremble with desire and grow weak from a smile.

She shook the bard's shoulder and called her name.

Still no response, just deep even breathing.

Her hand moved again and she tightened her jaw, controlling and not allowing a noise to escape her throat. With Gabrielle's body curled against her and the lingering taste of the bard's mouth on her lips, Xena's body began to burn and it was a fire that she needed to feed. Her hand began moving slowly as she closed her eyes and held the bard imperceptibly tighter. Leaning her cheek on the bard's soft hair, Xena gave in to her need and her movements increased.

Consciously trying to remain still and quiet, she allowed herself to feel the bard's naked body touching hers and to surrender to the lingering feel of the kiss they had just shared. It did not take long before her climax washed over her while she silently breathed the bard's name.

She pulled her hand away from herself and pulled Gabrielle closer. Releasing a long breath she almost choked when she felt a squeeze from the hand on her shoulder. Terrified, she turned her head slowly and looked at Gabrielle.

The bard's eyes were open and staring back at her. A heavenly sweet smile played on her face. Terrified that Gabrielle had been awake, Xena stared back at her, mouth agape. But the bard just looked at her and smiled. And Xena felt warmth radiating from that smile and love from those eyes.

Reaching up, Gabrielle brushed a fingertip down Xena's face and then moved to her lips. She slowly, gently, traced the outline of Xena's lips, sighed, then cuddled closer to the warrior, closed her eyes and fell back into a deep sleep.

Xena could only pray the bard would remember nothing.

They stayed at the campsite for more than a quarter phase of the moon while Gabrielle's ankle healed. On a few occasions, Xena nonchalantly questioned the bard about what she remembered of that night. To her relief, eventually the warrior came to believe Gabrielle had no recollection of her indiscretion. It wasn't so much from her verbal responses, but from the way the bard blushed crimson when discussing her naked crawl, yet was able to look, unflinching, into Xena's eyes when they spoke about the sleeping arrangements or any other part of the night.

So the bard did not remember what the warrior would never forget.


Night 18

"Nothing. Nothing is wrong. Can we please just drop this, Xena?" Standing, she took a deep breath, clenched her jaw and said, "I really am OK. I'm just going to go down to the creek and take a bath."

Xena jumped up and grabbed at Gabrielle's shoulder, stopping her from walking away. "That's it! You can't tell me nothing's wrong. You took a bath right before we ate. Talk to me."

Gabrielle sighed heavily and just stared at the ground.

Xena squeezed her shoulder gently. "I know I'm not the most sensitive person around, but I... Gabrielle, have I done something?" She stopped and took a fearful breath. "Is it your ankle? Because I forced you to ride Argo and it's my fault you fell off?" Xena whispered.

Groaning in exasperation, Gabrielle spoke pointedly. "I am going to say this for the last time. I do not blame you for what happened. You did not push me off Argo. I fell. I wasn't paying attention and when she jumped that log, I wasn't ready. I fell and it was my fault. I did not get hurt, I did not re-injure my ankle, I am fine. And the next time I have to ride, I will make sure Argo is in a good mood and that I pay attention, OK? Now stop blaming yourself and don't ask me about it again."

"Then what have I done?" she asked despondently.

Looking up into those troubled blue eyes, Gabrielle's heart melted. "Xena, you haven't done anything," she said softly. "Honest. It has nothing to do with you."

"Then there is something wrong."


Xena exploded. "Then why have you been telling me..." but she cut off her tirade and softened her tone when she saw the hurt look on Gabrielle's face. "I'm sorry. Tell me what's wrong. Talk to me Gabrielle. Please?"

Sitting down heavily on the stump, Gabrielle rubbed the back of her neck and looked up at Xena. "There's a switch. You asking me to talk," she chuckled. "OK. I'll talk. You sit. Remember in the tavern this afternoon, that guy? The one I thought was cute? You called him Pretty Boy? Well, I ran into him when I was off shopping and well..."

"Well what?"

"We did it."

Both eyebrows went up. "You did it."

"Yeah!" she said, a touch of defiance in her voice.

"OK, you did it." The warrior shrugged her shoulders, trying to look indifferent as the words twisted in her heart like a blade. "I don't understand."

"I had sex with him! What don't you understand? Or is it that you didn't think I would do it with a stranger?"

Xena rolled her eyes and answered patiently. "Gabrielle, I know what you meant. And I'm not naive, I understand... sex. And strangers. What I don't understand is why you're so upset about it."

But then a thought struck Xena like a blow from Ares sword. Her throat tightened and her voice cracked as she asked gently, "Did he force you?"

Gabrielle reached over to touch Xena's arm. "No, Xena. It was my idea. I'm the one who pushed for it to happen. I was... in need... and he was cute. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And now I just want to wash him off of me."

"Was he... too rough? Did he physically hurt you?"

"No, no. It just wasn't what I hoped for. Or even what I expected it to be. It was wholly unsatisfying."

Xena's forehead furrowed. Not being accustomed to discussing sex with anyone, least of all the person she most wanted to have it with, she found the whole conversation quite maddening. But Gabrielle needed to talk and Xena would never consider doing anything that might let her friend down. Gritting her teeth she knew she would give this her best shot.

"OK, unsatisfying, meaning it was an empty experience because you didn't love him? Or he was not ... attentive to your needs?"

"Attentive to my needs? I don't even think he knew I was there after the first minute. Attentive. I wish!" Sighing, Gabrielle continued. "I grew up always hearing about this idea of love and romance, finding the man of my dreams and the steamy passion that would follow. And when I got a little older, I heard the love and romance part wasn't even a requirement to get the steamy passion. Was that all a myth made up by men just to get us in the sack?" She smiled an impish smile. "Because I have yet to be with someone who can do things for me even half as good as what I can do for myself!"

Shocked and amused that Gabrielle would say that, Xena laughed and asked, "Are you saying you've never had an orgasm?"

"Of course I have," she stated. Then smiling devilishly, she added, "Just not when anyone else was there."

Xena's eyes popped wide open and she stared in disbelief at the bard. Then burst into laughter which Gabrielle joined whole heartedly.

Gabrielle wiped the tears from her eyes and continued. "I even made a deal with him so I thought for sure it would happen this time."

"What kind of deal?"

"I told him I would... umm... I would.... You know, this is embarrassing."

"Oh come on Gabrielle, it's only me. Just spit it out."

"OK. I told him I would... umm..."

Xena joyfully watched Gabrielle struggle for words, a big smile on her face. "Come on, I've never seen you speechless! Spit it out," she laughed.

"I told him... he could put it in my mouth if he would do the same for me."

"And that didn't... help you?" she asked, trying to hold in her laughter.

"I tend to think it would have if it had happened. But he backed out AFTER I did it for him. That's really a big part of the reason I'm so mad. At least it wasn't too bad, he was pretty tiny." An evil grin broke onto Gabrielle's face. "And I did spit it out."

"Gabrielle!" Xena howled with laughter

"And I thank the Gods he was fast!" she laughed. "But seriously Xena, are all men like this? Do any of them care how their partner feels? Even Perdicus was the same way in the end. He started out good. It felt wonderful when he touched me. It was exiting... arousing... it felt better than I had ever imagined it would. And he really did care, but once he was inside.... All he needed were those few certain inches of my anatomy. The rest of me could have been in another town."

"What about when Perdicus... You're right, this is embarrassing."

The bard's eyes twinkled. "Just spit it out."

"OK. What about when Perdicus..." Xena cleared her throat then let the rest of the words out in a rush. "...used his mouth? Did that help you at all?"

"He never did. That's why I made that deal with Harry."


"Pretty Boy's name was Haronulos. He said every one called him Harry. Anyway, I've never had the joy of that particular experience. But it certainly is something I'd like to try."

They sat quietly for a few minutes, each deep in their own thoughts. Xena knew the conversation was affecting her. Talking about sex with Gabrielle was causing a growing wetness and throbbing in her groin. More than anything, she wanted to give Gabrielle the 'joy of that particular experience' and help solve her problem.

Gabrielle broke the silence by asking, "Am I just picking the wrong men? Am I wrong to want the whole fairy tale to come true? I want to be swept away. I want the music and the fire and the frenzy." She crinkled her forehead and her eyes sparkled. "I want good sex. But I certainly don't want some guy hanging around afterwards. He'd just get in our way!"

Xena chuckled. "So what you're saying is you want a man in your bed, you just don't want one in your life."

"Yeah. Sort of. I want someone in my bed," she chuckled. "But is it unreal for me to expect someone to hold me, caress me, take their time? To pay attention to what I might need or want?"

"No, it's not unreal. You've just been unlucky. You gotta figure most of the guys we come across, well, they're just not like women. It's different for them. They're in it for the conquest or just to get off. A lot of them don't really care about who they do it with because they aren't looking for anything permanent." Xena smiled. "Now it sounds like I hate men. I don't really. And there are good ones out there. Ones who will care about how you feel and what you want. There is someone out there who will take their time. And do things for you only because they want to please you. I know there is."

"I hope so. And I hope I find them soon or I'm gonna lose my mind. And as long as we're having this discussion, can I ask you a personal question?"

"You mean this conversation hasn't been personal up to now," Xena chided. "Go ahead. What would you like to know?"

"Do you ever have a problem with, umm..." She sighed deeply. "Why is this subject so hard to discuss?"

"Because it is so personal. Just remember, it's only me. You can tell me anything," Xena offered tenderly. "So just spit it out," she grinned.

"Wait, I have an idea. It's almost time to sleep anyway, so let's get out the bedrolls and lay down. Both of us on our backs. That way I don't have to look in your face while I try to say these things and it will be easier to talk. OK?"

"OK," Xena laughed. "If that makes it easier."

They pulled out their bedrolls, lay them down side by side and stretched out next to one another, staring up at the stars.

Xena turned her head slightly toward Gabrielle. "Well?"

"OK. OK. This should be better. But you have to look at the sky, not at me." She took a deep breath and continued. "Do you ever have the problem of not being, umm... moist enough?"

Xena thought for a minute before responding. "It's not something that has ever been mentioned to me before. Is it a problem for you?"

"Both Perdicus & Harry complained that it was."

Xena stared intently at the stars directly above her. "Let me ask this. When you are... alone. Do you think you have sufficient mmm-mmm-moisture?"

"Yes," Gabrielle said timidly. "And I'm awfully glad we are star gazing right now."

Xena laughed and looked over at her friend. Even in the red/orange glow of the fire which would normally hide such things, she could tell Gabrielle was blushing to the tips of her toes. "Hey! You're giving off more heat than the fire," she teased.

"Awww, Xena," she laughed as she rolled away, leaving her back to the warrior. "Let's just drop this whole conversation," she mumbled.

"No, no, no! I was just teasing Gabrielle! Come on, roll over! This is important."

When she got no response, she turned and put her hand gently on the bard's shoulder. "Please?"

Gabrielle rolled back and looked at her, smirking. "I'm so embarrassed!"

"Don't be. It's only me Gabrielle. You can tell me anything," she said tenderly. "Now let's figure this out. Considering what you've told me about the sexual skills of both Perdicus and Harry, I'd guess it was more their fault than any problem with you."

"What do you mean?"

"You didn't have an orgasm with either of them, right? They obviously weren't, umm... stimulating you properly. And if you don't get the proper stimulation, your body does not respond. Therefore, no moisture."

Gabrielle thought about this for a minute. "Do you really think that's what it is?"

She had been about to say she wouldn't know, but her mind flashed back to Gabrielle riding her thigh the night they were tangled in the blanket. And there had been no lack of moisture. In fact, her thigh had been generously coated.

"Yeah, I think that must be it," was all she could manage to reply as she mercilessly obliterated the image from her mind.

"They were both so... so... harsh. Their hands, so rough. The way they pawed at me, it just made me feel so unimportant as a person. I was only a body to be used for their enjoyment. I could have been anyone." She stole a peek at Xena before continuing. "If you promise not to laugh, I'll tell you something."

"Oh, I promise," Xena replied seriously.

"Remember that night not too long ago? When you jumped me and we got tangled in the blanket? That was actually the most stimulated I have ever been with another person," she stated quietly.

Xena squeezed her eyes closed and tensed her body, trying to keep it from reacting to the bard's words. Her throat dried and she found her ability to speak had vanished. Her mind became a whirlwind of memories and feelings. She had fought off these visions before but not this time. The emotions she battled to keep so tightly reined ambushed her. She remembered and relived the exquisite pressure of Gabrielle's body pressed against her chest, Gabrielle's hot breath on her neck, the slick, abundant moisture coating her thigh as the bard's hips ground against her. And the sweetness of the stolen passionate kiss nights later.

"Xena? Are you trying not to laugh?" Gabrielle questioned, fearful of her friend's absolute silence.

"N... no, Gabrielle," she stammered. "Why would you even think I would laugh at that? It's actually kind of a compliment."



"Uhh, yeah. It just means.... you were comfortable enough with me to relax. And... and... and you need to be relaxed before you can be comfortable.... and.... and... when you're comfortable... and relaxed... it's, uhh,... it's easier to become stimulated." Whew!

"Yeah, right" she laughed.

But at least she's laughing....

"So tell me Gabrielle," Xena said, deftly changing the subject, "Were you really running around having sex all those times you told me you were going shopping and came back empty handed?"

"NO! I most certainly was not! This is only the second time. And I don't think having sex twice in a year and a half makes me a floozy!"

Xena raised an eyebrow. "Twice?" she asked, feeling the imaginary blade go deeper into her heart.

The bard scowled and smiled at the same time. "The first was this guy shortly after Perdicus. After all, I wasn't a virgin anymore and I still felt like one. I wanted some experience."


"And he was worse than Harry or Perdicus. He was finished before I got started. Even before he got started," she grinned.

"You mean he was done..."

"Yeah. Before he even got inside me."

Xena chuckled. "You really have been unlucky."

"And what about you, my warrior friend? How's your luck been lately?"

"I haven't tried my luck lately," Xena replied stiffly.

"And why not?"

"Haven't felt the need."

"You've got to be kidding! Don't you ever get that...? There are days I feel like I'm going to attack the next thing that comes along. Sometimes I look at Argo's saddlehorn and just feel like jumping on it!"


"Come on, Xena. You can't tell me you don't have urges."

"They pass," she stated flatly.

"Don't you ever want to do anything about them?"

"Of course I do. But I control it."

"Control? You? You control your emotions? What a surprise," Gabrielle teased. "Well I have an idea. Don't control it for once. Let's break loose. How about the next town we come to, we each pick someone out for the other. Then we go and have a good time with 'em! What would be the harm?"

"No. No way. Absolutely not."

"What's wrong?" Gabrielle smirked. "Don't trust my taste?"

"No. Absolutely not. Look at what you picked out for yourself so far!"

The smirk abruptly fell from her face. "You got a point there." she stated glumly.

Then again, Xena thought, I could always pick myself for her. At least I know she'd be satisfied...

"You know," Gabrielle mused, "I think what you said before is pretty accurate for me. About having a man in my bed, but not in my life. It's a purely physical thing. I don't really want a man around. All the other feelings I have... all my emotional needs... they are all satisfied by you." She turned, looking Xena in the eye. "Know what I mean? Is it OK to say that?"

And there it was. Gabrielle had just given Xena the moment she had been waiting for. The moment she could admit how she really felt. And how much in love she was.

Pulling herself up onto one elbow and leaning over, the trust she saw in Gabrielle's eyes turned her heart to liquid silver. Reaching to the bard's face, she brushed back a wisp of strawberry hair and let her fingers trail slowly down that soft cheek.

"Gabrielle, I... I feel the same way. I don't need anyone else in my life." She swallowed hard before continuing. "I guess that's why I haven't wanted to find a.... partner. Being with you, having you next to me..." She took a deep breath for courage then looked directly into Gabrielle's eyes.

But the trust she had seen had disappeared. In its place was a new look in Gabrielle's eyes. And it was fear. Gabrielle was afraid of her.

Xena cursed herself for touching the bard. And she knew she needed to back off or risk losing her all together. She needed to lighten the seriousness.

"Having you here next to me, well, I know I'll never get bored." She ruffled the bard's hair and chuckled. "Until you stop getting yourself held at knife point!"

But Gabrielle didn't seem to find anything funny. Ever so quietly, and very seriously she asked, "Is that what I am to you? Something to keep you from getting bored?"

Xena's heart dropped to her stomach. "No, Gabrielle. No. I was just... trying to be funny." She sighed. "You are so much more to me than I could ever possibly explain. It's your strength, your belief in me that keeps me going. Your light that keeps away my dark. And more than that, you are my friend. My family. I know I'm not alone in this world anymore. Because of you."

Gabrielle smiled gently, "Hey!" she said, punching Xena's shoulder softly. "I thought I was the bard here."

A self-conscious grin played on the warrior's face.

"Thank you, Xena," she said seriously. "You make it so that I don't feel alone, either."

"That's because you're not alone, Gabrielle. You never will be. I'm here."

Smiling, Gabrielle turned on her side, leaned over, placed a light kiss on Xena's forehead then stretching out, cuddled up to her side.

"You might as well get comfortable," Xena smirked, lifting her arm so Gabrielle could place her head on the warrior's shoulder.

Not being one to miss an opportunity to be comfortable, Gabrielle took advantage of Xena's offer. She put her head on Xena's shoulder and threw her arm across her chest, the heel of her hand coming to rest on the edge of Xena's nipple.

Taking a slow, deep breath, Xena felt her nipple tightening and a jolt of desire course through her body, setting fires in intimate places.

Moments passed as the warrior tried to slow her racing heart and calm her fired nerve endings. She tried taking deep, even breaths and thinking about something non-arousing. Like standing in icy cold waters. Fishing. For slimy eels. Like the one Gabrielle asked for that time. And she had caught one. For Gabrielle. She would do anything for Gabrielle. Gabrielle. Who was lying in her arms. Whose skin was pressed up against her, igniting fires. Whose hand was touching her nipple.

An aroused shudder passed through her body.

'Well that certainly didn't help,' she thought.

"Do you want me to get another blanket?" Gabrielle asked sleepily.

"No, I'm fine," she replied tightly, breaking into a sweat.

"You're not cold? Are you sure?"

"Yes. I'm sure."

"Hmmm. Well, your uh..." She moved the heel of her hand slightly causing the nipple to become even stiffer.

Xena pursed her lips and exhaled.

"Could it be possible that our recent conversation concerning matters of a sexual nature has affected you, Miss 'I Control My Urges'?" Gabrielle teased.

In response, Xena grabbed the wrist of the not so offensive hand and moved it off her breast and onto her shoulder. "Go to sleep," she growled.

Chuckling, Gabrielle closed her eyes. And then returned her hand to where it had been.



Finding the small town's only tavern after nightfall posed no problem. But it was a surprise to find such a cheery place, warm & lively, filled with an assortment of townsfolk and soldiers. Funny though. All the men seemed to be soldiers and all the townsfolk were women.

Xena wondered just what kind of town this was.

"I'll get us something to drink, you find a table," Xena said as she turned towards the bar.

Leaning her staff against the chair, Gabrielle sat down at a small table in the middle of the round room, watching as Xena attempted to get close to the crowded bar.

A voice from behind her, rich with a slight foreign accent stated, "There's a drinking contest going on up there, cara mia. It may take your friend a few minutes to get back with your drinks."

Gabrielle turned to look up into the softest brown eyes she had ever seen. So deep, so gentle and yet so strong she felt captured by them. The woman, older than Xena, had olive colored skin, short wavy dark hair, a captivating accent and an impish smile that played seductively on her face.

"My name is Regesta. I keep the peace inside this room."

Gabrielle boldly looked her over. Regesta was short, not very much taller than herself yet carried herself with an obvious confidence and poise. 'Like a leader. Like Xena,' Gabrielle thought. And even though she was stout, the woman gave the appearance of tremendous strength and power. She carried an imposing looking club, thicker at the top than the handle, creamy in color and about an arm and a half in length.

Gabrielle smiled her best friendly smile. "Peace keeper? That's usually a mans job, but you look like you can handle yourself."

Regesta laughed, a deep, throaty, robust sound that secured Gabrielle's attention. "Myself and anyone else," she paused, assessing the bard, then continued, alluringly. "That is, anyone who needs handling."

Gabrielle turned her head away as a surprised smile ran across her face and a mysterious fluttering occurred in her stomach. The implication did not escape her. Taking a deep breath, she countered, "Do you regularly embarrass the guests of this tavern with your boldness?"

"I most certainly do not," Regesta smiled. "And I apologize for my... boldness. But you and your big friend make a striking couple. You caught my attention. Are you here on business?"

"No, just passing though." She extending her hand. "I'm Gabrielle and my friend's name is Xena."

Regesta took the offered hand, turned it palm up and kissed the center. "The Gabriella? Amazon Queen, Bard extrordinaire and traveling companion to the Warrior Princess?" she asked in awe. "That Gabriella, si?"

Gabrielle smiled, pleased and embarrassed at the recognition. And she just loved the way her named rolled off this woman's tongue. Ga-ba-ree-EL-la. Yup. She liked it. "Well yes, that's me, but...."

But before Gabrielle could finish her sentence a loud crash at the bar stole their attention. They looked over to see one man sliding, unconscious, to the ground and Xena drawing her sword as three other men pulled their weapons.

Regesta began to move but Gabrielle jumped up to stop her. "Xena can handle them," she said with a proud smile.

"Really? Good! Then perhaps I can learn something," Regesta laughed.

The helmet of a soldier flew across the tavern followed closely by the soldier himself, causing all in the room to dive for cover. All except Regesta and Gabrielle who stood their ground.

Regesta watched intently as Xena quickly dispatched the other ruffians then turned to face five more who jumped up to defend the honor of their friends. They attempted to surround her, taunting her with words like 'you're about to get what's coming to you girlie' and 'daddy's gonna give you a spanking.'

A grand smile rolled across Xena's face. "Oh goody," she said dropping into a slight crouch, her arm stretched out in front of her, sword twirling above her head. "Come on boys, lets play."

The five moved in at once, weapons swinging, but Xena jumped up and backflipped to land behind them, poking one in the rump with her sword then whacking him in the head with the flat side to put him out of the action.

Regesta's mouth dropped open. "How did she do that? She jumped right over them!"

Laughing, Gabrielle said, "I've seen her do it a thousand times and I still don't know how."

Regesta chuckled, then reaching out her hand, called, "Gabriella, quickly! May I borrow your staff!"

Gabrielle passed her staff to Regesta. In one fluid motion and without taking a step, the peace keeper grabbed it, whipped it far out to her left knocking out a soldier who was about to throw a knife at Xena's back.

She handed it back to the bard. "Thank you. My club would not have reached him. That's a fairly hefty staff. If you're any good with it you must be very strong."

"Well, I do OK."

"May I borrow it again?" Regesta asked as she took the staff and twirled it over her head, striking a soldier coming up behind her.

"How did you see him coming?" Gabrielle asked incredulously.

Regesta chuckled. "I have more than two eyes."


"Dio! What was that awful sound? Has she been hurt?"

"No, no, no. That's just her battle cry."

"Battle cry?"

"Yeah. Don't ask."

Xena had noticed the tough looking woman next to Gabrielle and had seen her use the bard's staff to take out the knife thrower. She wondered who this woman could be. But she would have to consider that later. She had some ruffians to deal with first.

One of the soldiers drew her immediate attention by throwing himself at her. She used his momentum to lift him over her head, twirl him around and toss him back on top of his compatriots.

Xena's back was to Regesta and Gabrielle as she did this and Regesta's jaw dropped, watching the warrior's muscles ripple.

"By the gods," she exhaled. "Look at the shoulders on that woman! They are magnificent!"

Sighing, Gabrielle agreed. "Yes, they are quite lovely."

"What I would give to be doing with those shoulders... well, with what I'm imagining right now, I think they would kill me."

A confused look crossed Gabrielle's face. "What are you talking about?"

"Hmmm. How do I explain this to a Queen without seeming crude? OK. Imagine being carried, sitting upon those exquisitely muscled broad shoulders. Now imagine you are facing the opposite direction while she carries you. And then that you are both laying down, you on your back with your legs still draped over those majestic shoulders...."

Gabrielle's eyes grew wide with understanding as she drew a very deep sharp breath.

"I see your imagination has caught up to mine," Regesta laughed. "But then again, you don't need your imagination for that, do you, cara mia? You can just use your memory, si?"

Gabrielle didn't seem to be able to speak. And she blushed furiously.

"Uh.... umm ... It's not... Xena and I... ummm..."

"It is all right, Gabriella. You are among similar souls in this town."

"That's not it. Xena and I don't... aren't... umm... together."

"Really? You look like you are, or should be. Scuzzi Seniorina," Regesta said with a slight bow. "And I apologize for making you turn such a lovely shade of crimson. Although it does look enchanting on you."

Suddenly Regesta grabbed Gabrielle's shoulder with one hand and pushed her hard, forcing her to the ground just as a knife flew by the spot where she had been standing. Regesta raised her club looking for the perpetrator but instead used it as protection against something she saw flying towards her head.

From the corner of her eye, Xena had seen the tough looking woman push Gabrielle to the floor then raise a club to strike. She had grabbed and flung her chakram at the woman as she dropped the last of the soldiers with a hard kick to the groin, then turned to catch the weapon on its return.

But the chakram did not return to her. It had buried itself in the white club the woman had been wielding and was now staring at in anger. She must have seen it coming and used the club to block it. But that was still strange. The chakram should have either bounced off the club or sliced it in half. However, Xena had no time to consider that mystery. Nor could she think about the fact that the woman had actually saved Gabrielle from that errant flying knife she noticed after throwing her chakram. She needed to concentrate on this woman who was striding towards her furiously.

"YOU! BRUTE!" Regesta bellowed. "Look what your toy has done to my club!"


"Yes, toy!"

Still heated by battle Xena raised her sword to the woman and before Gabrielle could yell out for her to stop, Regesta swung her club, chakram still imbedded in its shank, toward Xena.

Xena flipped easily over the smaller woman's head and landed behind her, but Regesta was prepared and continued her swing in a roundhouse, just missing knocking Xena off her feet as she came about.

Gabrielle tried to stop them, yelling 'everything's OK, we are all on the same side' but the two did not seem to want to stop.

A smile crept over Regesta's face. "I just love how you do that flippy thing."

Having heard Gabrielle, Xena smiled back, acknowledging the compliment and what looked to be a considerable opponent. And a cute one at that. "Then keep watching."

Leaping into the air, Xena tricked Regesta by not flipping and coming back down in her exact position. Regesta had started to turn and now had her back to the warrior. Xena swung the flat of her sword towards the woman's backside but Regesta quickly whipped her club around and hooked Xena's sword with the chakram. Xena tried to slide it back out but Regesta twisted and jerked the club forward, forcing Xena to step closer. Body to body, face to face, weapons grating against each other, they struggled for the upper hand.

Regesta leaned her head onto Xena's shoulder and while still grappling grunted, "Look at your sword poking through this round toy. It's a very sexual image, don't you think?"

Xena's stopped fighting, raising an eyebrow in amusement. "I can't believe you just said that."

Laughing as she relaxed, Regesta countered, "Well if I didn't have my face leaning on those magnificent shoulders of yours, it probably would not have even occurred to me!"

Grinning in embarrassment and shaking her head, Xena mumbled something unintelligible as she slowly slid her sword out of the chakram.

Regesta's eyes sparkled at the warrior. "Help me get this metal thing out of my club, brute."

Xena took hold of the chakram, Regesta gripped her club and they pulled. And pulled again, harder.

"It's in there very deep. What is that stick made out of anyway?" Xena asked as they struggled to pry the weapons apart.

"STICK?" Regesta's eyes flashed anger, then sparkled with mirth. "I'm not really sure. I found it on a mountainside. I think it is the bone of some ancient animal."

Regesta turned to Gabrielle, who had been watching and enjoying the exchange between the two warriors and yelled. "Gabriella, take care of them!"

She turned just in time to see four soldiers charging the two women. Stepping up, she whacked the first in the chest with the tip of her staff, knocking his breath out of him and dropping him in place. And it caused the other three to run into him and fall. When they stood, they had forgotten about the two women in the center of the room and turned their attention to Gabrielle.

Xena and Regesta continued to tug at their weapons trying to free one from the other as Gabrielle stood toe to toe with the soldiers, holding her own.

"Excuse me," WHAP! "Hey guys!" THUMP! "I don't mean to" huff puff, THWACK! "bother you or anything, but" CRACK! "I could use a little" WHACK! "help over here!" THUMP!

"You're doing fine," Regesta called. "And your broad shouldered friend is busy with me right now."

Xena stopped pulling on the chakram. "If she wants my help she will have it," she growled as she turned to Gabrielle.

"No, Xena, wait! She's got it under control. Look at her. She's very good with that staff."

Swelling a little with pride, Xena stood beside her new friend and agreed. "Yes, she is very good. Better than she thinks she is."

"Then let her defeat them," Regesta urged.

"But these aren't your typical everyday ruffians. They're highly trained soldiers. She's not used to fighting men like this. And she is a bard, not a warrior."

"It's OK. Just watch for a moment more. I promise you she'll be all right. And look, she's dropped another one."

They stood side by side, Xena coiled, sword in hand, ready to jump in if necessary, as Gabrielle spun and whacked and twirled her staff. She was getting in hits, but not good enough to take down either of the remaining soldiers.

Regesta waited until the soldiers were on opposite sides of Gabrielle, going in for the kill. "Left, Gabriella!" Regesta shouted as the soldier on the left began his attack first. As Gabrielle turned to her left, Regesta discreetly slid a tiny needle-thin knife from a pocket in her pants and using only her wrist, flicked it at the other soldier. It stuck into the side of his thigh like the sting of a giant bee, stopping him for the briefest of moments. But it was unnecessary. With the warning, the bard was able to deliver a knock out blow to the man on the left then continue with a roundhouse blow to put away the second man before he was even affected by the 'sting.'

She stood, breathing hard, victorious.

"Nice work, my Queen," Regesta smiled.

"I could have used some help," Gabrielle gulped.

Xena smiled at her. "Seems to me like you didn't need it." Then turning to Regesta she continued softly so Gabrielle would not hear. "That was a good throw considering you barely moved. Gabrielle has no idea you did that."

"She wasn't supposed to know. But it seems it was a wasted effort. Your friend did not need the help. She took care of them herself. Now get this thing out of my club!"

Xena grinned, grabbing hold of the chakram. "Ready?"


Both pulled as hard as they could and the weapons broke free of each other, but neither came away unscathed. A small chunk of the club fell to the floor and the chakram showed a scrape.

The reaction of the two warriors was the same.

"Your damn metal toy chipped my club!"

"Your damn bone stick scratched my chakram!"

And again both woman charged each other, weapons drawn. Metal sword met bone club as Xena and Regesta spun and danced around each other, attacking and defending.

They smiled at each other, enjoying their game, each knowing they would do no real damage, inflict no serious injury to the other.

Circling, watching for opportunities, they studied each other. Finally, Regesta said, "I am no fool, brute. You are younger, faster and stronger than me. I know you are more skilled." She dodged Xena's thrust and continued. "And I know that I will eventually lose this contest." Then a big smile brightened her face and lit up her dark eyes. "But know this, brute. I will get some good shots in before I go down."

And with that, Regesta lunged forward, straight at Xena. Xena began to side step when she realized too late that Regesta had slipped her club to the opposite hand and was delivering a blow from the side that she was stepping into rather than away from. The club caught her under the arm with a thud and sent her across the room.

Her eyes blazed with heat and excitement as she jumped up and flipped into the air. Damn, this was fun!


Regesta tried to roll out of the way, but Xena changed direction in mid air and came down on top of the smaller woman, knocking her to the ground and under a table.

She scrambled around, running under the tables, trying to hide.

Xena stood, head whipping around. Where did that woman get to?

Regesta appeared behind her and sprung onto Xena's back, throwing her legs around the warrior's stomach and arms around her neck.

As Xena reached around behind her to try to pry the woman off, Regesta nuzzled Xena's neck, murmured, "Oh baby!" and playfully nipped at the top of Xena's shoulder. Rolling her eyes in feigned ecstasy, she relaxed her grip and slid down the warrior's back, leaving her hands on Xena's waist.

Aghast, Xena spun around to face this enticing little woman and ended up standing in her embrace with the woman's face in her cleavage.

Regesta drew a deep breath, her mouth only inches from Xena's breasts. "Mamma mia," was all she could manage to utter, her eyes never deserting the impressive view.

The watching crowd, now only women, roared in laughter and even Xena chuckled self consciously.

Regesta took the opportunity to spring away from Xena. Smiling broadly, she egged Xena on. "Come get me, brute!" Damn, this was fun!

"Think you can handle me?" Xena responded.

"Oh, I'd love a chance to handle you," Regesta laughed.

Then began a relentless attack that neither would back down from, with Xena, using the flat of her sword, getting in the best of the blows but Regesta still getting in a few good ones of her own.

The crowd in the tavern, still huddling against the walls, stayed out of the combatants way but cheered wildly for both of them. And Gabrielle watched with a huge mixture of emotions. She admired their skills, delighted in watching two strongly muscled bodies move gracefully in battle, enjoyed the fact that they were both enjoying themselves, hated the thought that either might get hurt and felt a strange twinge of jealousy that neither were paying attention to her.

Regesta had just landed a light blow to Xena's side when she suddenly spun facing Gabrielle and hurled her club at the bard.

Gabrielle ducked as the club sailed past her ear and struck its intended target: a soldier who had been creeping up on her.

Xena smiled at Regesta, sword twirling, still in battle stance. "You seem to have lost your stick."

"Yes, and it puts me at a bit of a disadvantage."

They circled each other again. "Give up?"

Laughing heartily, Regesta replied, "Oh absolutely not." Without taking her eyes off Xena, she called, "Gabriella, please! Toss me your staff!"

Gabrielle did not respond.

"Please, Gabriella? You wouldn't let this brute beat up on an unarmed woman, would you?"

Gabrielle laughed as the two continued their dance. "But that's my brute, umm, my friend you're talking about."

It was Xena's turn to laugh. "She's not going to give it to you. You'd better just give up."

"Ahh, but she will," Regesta smiled, eyes locked on Xena. "Gabriella," she called, "Please give me a chance! You know those magnificent shoulders by themselves would kill me! Let me at least defend myself from the rest of her!"

The staff sailed though the air as did the sound of Gabrielle's laughter.

Regesta grabbed the flying staff and using its momentum swung it low, towards Xena's legs. Xena flipped easily over it but Regesta changed the direction of the blow as she did, knocking Xena's sword from her hand and across the room.

"Now, you seem to have dropped your stick," Regesta smiled to Xena.

"Yes, and it puts me at a bit of a disadvantage."

They circled each other again. "Give up?" Regesta asked.

"Oh, absolutely not," the warrior laughed.

In the blink of an eye, Xena was airborne, cartwheeling herself over Regesta's head, swatting the staff away from the smaller woman, knocking her to the floor and somehow landing on top of her.

They rolled over each other, still wrestling. But Xena was so much bigger and stronger, she easily overpowered Regesta. Every time Regesta squirmed away, Xena grabbed her and flipped her back over.

Finally, Xena had Regesta's arms pinned over her head and her own body covered the smaller woman's, holding it in place.

Regesta couldn't move.

They lay there, bodies crushed together, breathing hard, faces only inches apart. Xena's hair hung down like a dark curtain of privacy, shielding their faces from the cheering onlookers.

"Give up?" Xena asked softly.

In response, Regesta strained upward and met Xena's mouth with her own. And Xena reacted by opening her mouth and capturing Regesta's lip, drawing it in and playing her tongue across it. Then she quickly pulled away, shocked at her own behavior.

Regesta used Xena's momentary confusion to flip her onto her back, but Xena was too strong and handily put Regesta right back to where she had been, helpless, with Xena's body covering her.

Xena's eyes blazed with passion and excitement. "Nice trick."

"No. No trick," Regesta murmured. "Just nice. Very, very nice."

Xena felt her face flush and her heart pound. "I'll ask again. Give up?"

Regesta pressed her hips up against Xena's causing Xena to inhale sharply and grind her own hips down into her adversary. Regesta stared into the blue fire of Xena's eyes. "I surrender," she whispered. "Do with me what you want."

* - * - * - *

"I do need to ask you what started this commotion," Regesta said as she poured wine into three goblets on the table where they sat.

An eyebrow rose. "One of those men grabbed a woman in a place he should not have touched. She tried to pull away but he wouldn't let go." Xena grinned diabolically. "I helped him do the right thing."

"You knocked him out."

"Yes. And he let go, didn't he?"

Regesta laughed heartily. "Si, cara, that he did!"

"Regesta?" Gabrielle asked. "Can you tell me about this town? The women here seem to be from all over the world. And why are, or should I say why were all the men here soldiers? Are there no male townsfolk?"

"There are a few. But this town was founded by woman who prefer the company of other women. And yes, they are from all over. The few men who live here prefer the company of other men. This of course, caused trouble for us when bands of highwaymen or other scum would pass through. They would come into the tavern and all they would see were women alone with no one to 'protect' them." Regesta's hand tightened around her mug and her jaw clenched, uselessly trying to hide the anger she felt. Her voice dropped slightly. "Some women lost their lives and worse to such predators. In a very short time, our village became legendary. A town of women to be taken in anyway a man could want. One that every degenerate male in Greece searched for. And many found.

"For the most part, we are not Amazons, although there are a few here. Most of us have only basic fighting skills. So the decision was made to accept the offer of help from the local kingdom, whose boundaries we are just outside. We struck a deal with King Paloneous. His men would be allowed to come to town and enjoy the tavern as long as they did not accost the women here."

"Why would he do that?" the bard asked.

"Paloneous does not allow spirits in his kingdom. But he allows his men to indulge when they are outside his boundaries and this place is the only tavern that is close by."

"Interesting. What did this agreement do for you."

"Just the presence of soldiers helps control the brigands and thieves who may be passing through. It makes them believe they have not yet found the legendary village of women. It was a tough decision, though. Some believed that in accepting the kings help, we admitted that we could not protect ourselves. I see it differently. If one woman is raped, one life lost, the price is too high. I know we can defend ourselves if need be, but fighting every night is exhausting. And the death of one of us is devastating to the rest. We were at a point when we were under constant attack, night after night, from one group or another. There was no peace, no safety and that is why we created this town in the first place." Regesta sighed. "Too many of us paid the price. But Paloneous is a good man. He trains his soldiers well and they are generally decent men. They don't come here looking for trouble. Or women. They know the deal. They just come here to relax. They also know that causing trouble will get them banished from here and none of them want that. The kind of ruckus we had tonight is extremely unusual. And the one who started it will be punished. Paloneous will see to that."

They watched as the last of the unconscious men were dragged from the tavern.

"What do you do with them?" Gabrielle asked.

"They are sent back to Paloneous with a letter explaining what happened. The rest we leave up to him."

"Tell me something," Xena asked. "Why is it that no one else in the room helped us?"

"If I needed it," Regesta smiled, "they would have. But they know better than to get involved before I say so. You see, I would banish them from here as quickly as I would banish a soldier, and they know it." She paused, looking deeply into Xena's eyes. "Besides, who would be foolish enough to interrupt the Warrior Princess while she is in her full glory?"

An eyebrow rose and Gabrielle smiled.

"To watch you is to watch magnificence in action. Your eyes blaze, your body sings, your raven hair flies about you as if it were lethal." Regesta took a sip of her wine and an amused smile crossed her face. "Your beauty is as deadly as your weapons, cara.

"And you my Queen," Regesta continued, turning her attention to the bard, "You could stop the charge of an army with just a smile."

The bard and the warrior looked at each other, the warrior crossing her arms over her chest and the bard raising both eyebrows.

"Oh, she's good," Gabrielle said to Xena who agreed with a chuckle.

"I only speak the truth," Regesta said innocently.

The bard laughed and pushed a stray hair from her face.

"Gabriella, your hair is beautiful. Where I'm from, the only way women could get their hair to look like that was to color it using the rind of tangerines."

"Tangerines? What's that?"

"A fruit that grows in mountainside orchards on the island where I was born, Sicily. A place that would steal your heart with its beauty. Little villages built into the mountainsides and panoramic vistas to take your breath away. You would love it Gabriella." She stopped, leaned very close to the bard and finished menacingly, "Just don't go into the orchards at night."

Captured, Gabrielle asked why.

"There are beasts," she whispered fiercely. "Lupinaria. I think you would call them 'wolfman.' Have you heard of them?"

"No, tell me more."

"They say that many years ago in the mountain side town of Sergentino, a man, Lorenzo Talboto, was traveling home through the tangerine groves late at night. It was a lovely warm night with a huge, glimmering full moon hanging peacefully in the sky, throwing silvery shadows through the trees.

"There had been talk in town of a mad wolf roaming the orchards at night, only when the moon was full. They say it was completely fearless of humans and would crash through the grove chasing anything or anyone it came across. But our friend had not heard this talk, having been away for so long.

"He whistled as he walked, happy to be so close to home. They say it was his whistling that prevented him from hearing the approach of the wolf. His first sight of the beast was its shining yellow eyes as it lunged straight at him. Talboto struggled valiantly, but was no match for the savage beast which tore at him with teeth and claw. He finally collapsed and lay bleeding, praying the end would come quickly. The beast stood over him, victorious, then casually drew his claw across the man's chest, ripping open the flesh, exposing bone and his beating heart. Leaning over the dying man, the wolf reached into the open wound and took his heart into its teeth. But it did not bite down. It stopped and stared at Talboto, its golden eyes blazing in the moonlight and the man would have sworn to all the gods that the wolf smiled at him as it slowly began to close its jaw."

Regesta sat back and took a long slow drink from her mug.

"Don't stop now," Gabrielle pleaded. "What happened?"

Regesta smiled, knowing her tale had pulled both bard and warrior in. She set down the mug and leaned forward, looking at one, then the other. Building the tension, she spoke slowly, deliberately. "The wolf began to bite down into Talboto's heart. And the poor peasant could do nothing but watch the beasts eyes and feel the first puncture of its sharp teeth into his heart." She paused, continuing slowly. "Then...very suddenly... there was a sound of an EXPLOSION," Regesta bellowed, pounding her fist on the table and causing Gabrielle and Xena to jump. "Blood splattered everywhere. To Talboto's shock, the wolf collapsed onto his body, blood running like rivers off its head, dripping into his open chest and mingling with his own. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was someone standing over them, swing a staff with a silver tip, again and again at the head... of the man lying on top of him."

"Man? What man?" the bard demanded.

"Ahhh, therein lies the mystery. Was he attacked by wolf or man? It was a man's body that was pulled off of him and brought back to town. It was wounds from a wolf Talboto carried."

"A wolfman," Gabrielle said in wonder.

"Si, cara. Lupinaria. A wolfman."

"What happened to Talboto?"

"He awoke days later, bandaged from head to toe, but alive. Talboto recovered from his wounds so quickly, some called it unholy. Some began to fear him. Whispers of 'Lupinaria' taunted him." She leaned in close to the bard. "The day of the first full moon after his attack, Talboto disappeared. And that night, when the moon reached its peak in the skies, the demonic howl of a wolf once again echoed over the mountainside."

"He became the wolfman?" she whispered.

"Oh, but no one could prove that, cara. Talboto returned to town days later, saying he had gone on a trip." Regesta grinned. "But every full moon... the howling of a wolf returns. Death comes to those foolish enough to venture out to the tangerine groves at night. And Talboto is never around."

"He is the wolfman!"

"Si," she winked. "I think so, too."

"Kind of like Bacchae," Gabrielle whispered.


"Yes. Creatures who can turn into wolves, but usually stay in human form." Her eyes sparkled. "They suck the blood from their victims."

"Suck the blood? Oh, Dio! Tell me more about these Bacchae."

And Gabrielle did. She was only minutes into the story of Xena's encounter with Bacchus before the crowd had quieted and all eyes were on her. She began relating the tale, using every bardic skill she could call upon. For some reason, she felt the need to do well before this crowd. To impress them. Someone brought her to the front of the tavern and helped her to sit on the bar so everyone could see. Someone else placed her goblet of wine by her side. She gave the tale everything she could.

And by the time she finished, the crowd was on its feet.

"Your reputation as a wonderful bard does not begin to do you justice, cara," Regesta said, helping Gabrielle off the bar.

"Thank you," she replied. But the sounds of applause and even the compliment from the peace keeper were not enough to let her know she had done well. For that, she looked to Xena. And when she saw a silly grin and proud eyes looking back at her, she knew.

They got back to their table just as Xena poured the last of the wine into Regesta's goblet.

"Ahh. Another bottle, yes?" She looked to the two.

"Sure!" The bard answered quickly, afraid Xena would realize just how late it was getting. The fact that they had not even set up a camp site would, alone, prompt Xena into leaving. But Gabrielle was enjoying herself much too much to leave yet.

"I'll go get it," she added, briskly heading back to the crowded bar.

Leaning against the bar waiting her turn, Gabrielle watched the two warriors over her shoulder. 'She's flirting with Xena just like she's flirting with me. Even more so,' Gabrielle thought.

Regesta touched Xena's arm and smiled a warm, inviting smile.

"Hi. Something interesting going on back there?"

Gabrielle turned to see a bartender standing in front of her with a warm, inviting smile of her own.

"My name is Selina," the bartender said, pushing a stray hair from her finely chiseled face.

"Hi. I'm Gabrielle."

"Yes, I know. When an Amazon Queen comes to town, word spreads fast. I am your servant," she said with a slight bow and that same inviting smile.

Blushing, Gabrielle stammered, "Oh well, that's... umm, well..." and she wondered what it was about this dark eyed, chestnut haired woman that made her blush.

Selina laughed, a light joyful sound. "Well if that makes you uncomfortable, just remember, I'm the bartender too. So what can I do for you?"

Smiling, Gabrielle replied, "I have no idea what kind of wine we've been drinking but it's the best I've ever had and we need more...." Gabrielle's attention was stolen by the laughter she heard coming from her table. She turned to see both warriors laughing heartily and it occurred to her she rarely, if ever, heard Xena laugh like that. It sounded... richly flirting. Inviting. Seductive, even.

She watched as Regesta leaned over, ran her hand across Xena's shoulders and whispered something in Xena's ear. And she felt the heat rising in her face.

"I wouldn't be too concerned, my Queen."

Gabrielle turned to Selina, distracted. "What? Concerned about what? And call me Gabrielle."

"Them," she said, nodding towards the warriors.

"Concerned? What about them?"

"Regesta is very charming. And attractive. She regularly sweeps women off their feet. But she never carries them to her bed. Your warrior is safe with her."

Gabrielle looked boldly at Selina. "The warrior is not mine," she stated.

Raising an eyebrow Selina questioned, "Really? You are not together?"

"No," she responded brusquely.

"Then I apologize for making that assumption. You look like you are, or should be."

"Funny," Gabrielle said without mirth. "Regesta said the same thing."

"Regesta and I are very intelligent, observant women. With good taste," she said graciously, smiling that warm inviting smile again.

"And I would watch out for our lovely bartender," came Regesta's rich voice from behind Gabrielle as she approached the bar.

"Oh yes," Selina countered. "Just like the warrior needs to watch out for you?"

"Me?" Regesta laughed. "Why I am perfectly harmless!" She beamed at Gabrielle then turned back to Selina, conspiratorially. "Perhaps it is the Amazon Bard we both need to watch out for."

"Me!?" Gabrielle stammered.

"Yes you, my flame-haired Queen. You could easily break the heart of any woman in this room."

"Uh... thanks... I guess," she stuttered, once more feeling the heat rise in her face.

"Regesta!" Selina reprimanded jovially. "You've made the Queen blush!"

"Again?" Regesta bowed. "Please forgive me, my Queen." To Selina she added, "And doesn't she just look so damn cute when she does!"

"Hmmm. Is 'cute' the proper word to associate with a Queen?" Selina asked. "I would think 'radiant' is more Queen like. And more accurate."

An embarrassed smile stole across Gabrielle's face to compliment her blush. Regesta glanced at Selina and winked.

"Selina? Did you know that the tall, raven-haired warrior over there does not belong to our Queen?"

"Yes, I did discover that. Amazing, isn't it? Seems to me they would fit together perfectly. I can imagine them so clearly locked in a naked, passionate embrace, a kiss of such power consuming them both..."

Gabrielle's eyes grew wide as a wildfire tore across her body, turning her skin a deeper shade of crimson.

"Ahhh yes, looks like our Queen can imagine it too," Regesta added, chuckling. "So tell me, my Queen. If it is not the magnificently shouldered warrior you travel with, who is it that could possibly ignite your soul?"

The Queen stood silently flustered, her eyes wide, but Regesta was not ready to stop teasing her.

"Just look at her over there!" the peace keeper sighed. "That dazzling ebony hair framing a drop dead gorgeous face. Those eyes of fire that seem to see directly into your heart. Those long legs and rock hard thighs that could crack your skull like a peanut. Those arms that could crush the life out of you. Or hold you so tenderly during those... intimate moments. That incredible bosom which could cushion your dreams forever." She sighed again, then added, "And those magnificent shoulders..."

The three stood silent for a moment, staring wistfully at the warrior who casually chatted with someone in the crowd.

Regesta took a wakening breath, turned to the Queen and bowed her head slightly. "Her beauty comes close to rivaling your own, my Queen."

Gabrielle turned, her concentration broken. "Wh... What?"

"She said," Selina offered, "that the warrior is almost as beautiful as you."

And once again, the bard felt heat begin rising in her face.

A large smile broke over Regesta's face. "Seems we've done it again, Selina. The Queen is blushing."

"I don't think we should feel too bad, Regesta," Selina said. "I do believe she is enjoying it."

"OK, that's enough." Gabrielle grinned in embarrassment then paused a moment, for effect. "For now," she added wrinkling her nose with a smile.

"For now? Then you will let us know when we can continue, cara?"

"Continue what?" came Xena's voice from directly behind Gabrielle.

Caught off guard, the bard spun around a little too fast and having already consumed more than her limit of wine, began to lose her balance, ending up in Xena's arms, her face pressed against the warrior's chest.

As yet another blush began creeping up her throat, both Selina and Regesta erupted into fits of laughter.

At Xena's scowl and raised eyebrow of a question, Regesta lied, "It seems we've been making the Queen, ahh... uncomfortable. She had just threatened to call you to her rescue and suddenly, there you were."

"And you found that hysterically funny?"

Standing her ground and knowing the warrior did not believe her, Regesta answered, smirking, "Si, cara, we did."

With big grins, both Selina and Gabrielle nodded in agreement.

"Mmm-hmm," Xena replied skeptically.

"Come, cara," Regesta offered, running a hand across Xena's shoulder. "Let us go back and sit."

Turning to the bartender and out of the warrior's line of sight, Regesta patted her heart, let out a deep breath and rolled her eyes. "Selina? Another bottle of my wine." She turned to Gabrielle and winked. "I make it myself. And I always put a little love potion in it, so you'd better be careful."

"Oh? Is that why it tastes so good?" the bard teased.

"Si, bella." Regesta suddenly swept Gabrielle into a bear hug, picked her up and spun her in a circle, then dropped her delicately where she had been standing. "It also makes redheaded Amazon Queens blush uncontrollably from just a little kiss." And she leaned down, gently placing a soft kiss on the bard's lips.

Gabrielle's heart began to pound in her ears and once again, she felt a flush running wildly over her face.

"See? It must be working," she laughed as she turned and escorted Xena back to the table.

Gabrielle shook her head, trying to regain her composure, then looked to the bartender. "Selina? What does 'bella' mean?"

Smiling, Selina leaned towards Gabrielle and whispered, "It means beautiful. And she speaks the truth."

Elbow on the table, Regesta dropped her head into her hand and looked intently into Xena's eyes. A rich smile crept onto her face.

Xena looked back. Then the eyebrow rose, the question not needing words.

Seeming to be jarred back to reality by the look, Regesta sat up. "Forgive me for staring into your eyes. But I have only seen that particular color once before in my life. I had been traveling and came upon a strange place. It must have been created by the gods. The water in the streams ran so hot, it boiled. And fire spit from the ground. But it was no ordinary blaze. This flame was blue. The same blue as your eyes. It shot up in great plumes like giant fingers reaching angrily into the sky and then sliding back into the earth empty-handed only to shoot up again, moments later. Pure blue fire." She stared enticingly into Xena's eyes. "The fire of the gods is in your eyes, cara mia. Is it in your soul too? Do you release it in private moments?"

"Am I interrupting something?" Gabrielle asked as she approached the table.

Xena sat bolt upright. "No! No, not at all! Why would you think so?" she added, seeming guilty as she said it.

"I don't know. Your conversation seemed a little... intense."

Regesta laugh quietly. "We were just discussing gods... and fire."

"Don't know if I completely believe..." the bard stifled a yawn, "...that."

"How rude of me," Regesta said. "It is getting very late and you must be tired."

"Yes and we do still need to set up camp," Xena added.

"Camp? Oh, no, no, cara, bella. You must stay here."

Regesta noticed the 'do we have enough money' look that passed between them. "As my guests. You see, I'm not only the peace keeper here. I own the place."

"We couldn't..."

"Stata zita," she demanded, holding up her hand, palm out. "You will stay. There is no reason not to. You are not putting anyone out by doing so. And a night in a soft bed with crisp sheets and fluffy pillows will do both of you good." She turned and stroked Gabrielle's arm. "When was the last time you slept in a real bed, bella?"

"We really can't..." Xena started but Gabrielle cut her off.

"Speak for yourself! I'm staying whether you do or not!"

Laughing, Xena conceded. "Then I guess we stay."

"Good, give me a moment to talk to Selina and your room will be ready. You have a horse, yes?" she asked as she stood.

"Yes, a mare. She's right outside."

"She will be taken care of." Regesta leaned down, running her hand across Xena's shoulders. "As will you."

A short time later, all three stood at a doorway on the second floor landing, overlooking the tavern. Regesta opened the door and stepped back to allow them entrance. "Should you need anything, the door to my room is in the corner of the tavern. See?" she asked, pointing down into the far corner.

"Thank you, Regesta," Gabrielle said gratefully.

"It is my pleasure, my Queen," she replied, taking the bard's hand and kissing her palm. "Buono notte."

At the questioning look from both women, she laughed. "It only means 'have a beautiful night.'" And she left them in the room.

They entered and looked around at the small but comfortable room. A large bed took up most of the space and a blazing fire kept away the night chill. But most importantly, in the corner sat a small tub, filled with steaming water.

"Oh Xena. A real bath. A real hot bath," Gabrielle sighed, almost panting with desire. "Not some freezing cold stream, but an honest to goodness hot bath. Big enough for only one."

"You go ahead. I can wait," the warrior smiled.

"Oh, no. You have to go first. You're faster than I am and once I get into that tub, I'm not getting out until I look like a raisin and that water is ice cold."

"Deal," Xena said. "Help me with my armor?"

Gabrielle jumped up and quickly stripped Xena of the heavy plates, bracers and guards.

"Hey, it usually takes you a lot longer than that," Xena teased as she shed the rest of her clothing.

"Well, the sooner you get in that tub, the sooner you get out."

"This is the life of the gods," Xena murmured as she lowered herself into the tub.

"Yeah? Just don't take too long in there or you'll be meeting one of them up close tonight. Namely Hades!"

"I promise to be fast," she smiled at her friend.

Gabrielle threw herself onto the feathery bed. "Did you notice?" she asked, sinking into its comfort. "There's all this.... this... sexuality in the air. Can you feel it? I must have blushed fifteen times tonight. And sometimes from absolutely innocent comments."

"Oh? And what were the other comments? The one's that were not innocent?"

"It figures you didn't notice."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I'm just not surprised you don't notice when someone flirts with me. I certainly noticed Regesta flirting with you," Gabrielle teased. "Very heavily as a matter of fact!"

"Not just with me. She flirted with you, too. You should have seen your face when she told you her wolfman story! I thought you were going to melt right into that chair!"

"So you did notice."

"Yes I did, Gabrie-LLA," Xena said, raising both eyebrows.

The bard laughed. "I kind of like the way she says my name. Ga-ba-ree-EL-la," she imitated with a smile. "Like it has extra letters. Sounds sexy. But I'm glad you noticed."

"It was hard to miss."

"Yeah? About as hard to miss as her running her hand along your shoulders thirty times? And you acting so coy! I don't think I've ever seen you get swept away."

"I was not swept away. And she didn't rub my shoulders thirty times!" she smiled, embarrassed. "And what took you so long with the drinks? What were you doing, flirting with the bartender?"

Gabrielle stammered, but could not get any real words out of her mouth.

"You were!" Xena exclaimed. "You were flirting with the bartender!"

"I was not! She was flirting with me." Gabrielle giggled. "Oh, and how about when Regesta was talking about your eyes?" The bard began to imitate Regesta's slight accent. "The fire of the gods is in your eyes, cara mia. Is it in your soul too?" She eyed Xena suspiciously. "I thought you were going to swoon right in your chair."

"I didn't think you heard that," she said trying not to laugh. "And I... never... swoon. Now come wash my back."

"Oh you don't, huh?" Gabrielle asked as she jumped up, crossing to the tub. "You should have seen the look on your face when she said she'd take care of you!" she said, taking the sponge.

"When did she say that?" Xena asked as she leaned forward resting her arms and head on her knees.

"When she said Argo would be taken care of. 'As will you, cara mia,'" she imitated again, running her hand suggestively across Xena's naked back as Regesta had done so many times.

Trying to control the electric shiver running down her spine at Gabrielle's sexual touch, Xena attempted to chuckle, "Yeah, well. She surprised me."

Gabrielle softly stroked Xena's back with the sponge as she continued. "You know, Xena. Being flirted with, does wonders for you. You've smiled and laughed more tonight than you have in a long time." She paused, resting both hands on the warrior's shoulders. "And you have such a beautiful smile. It lights up your whole face. Maybe I'll just have to flirt with you, too. To keep you smiling."

Xena reached back and lay her hand over the bard's. Looking over her shoulder, she smiled gently. "I think you just did, Gabrielle."

"Oh! Uh, yeah. I guess I did," she muttered, blushing again.

She thought for a moment, delicately sponging Xena's back. "I bet I could flirt with the best of them. With a little practice, anyway," she said proudly. She rested her hands on Xena's shoulders again and asked, "Would it be all right if I practiced on you, Xena?"

But before Xena could choke out an answer, Gabrielle continued. "Then again, I may need more of a challenge. Anyone could flirt with you. One look into those delicious eyes that are bluer than the Aegean Sea, bluer than the skies over Mt. Olympus, and poetry would spill from lips that ordinarily only speak in grunts."

Xena sat unmoving, hugging her knees and clenching her jaw, the warmth of Gabrielle's words washing over her body like the strong spring sun after a cold winter night.


But she did not dare look at the bard because she knew she was blushing. "What," she mumbled.

Gabrielle recognized Xena's embarrassment at the compliment and laughed. "See? Easy. Now get out of the tub or I'll flirt with you some more!"

Xena stood behind the bard who sat in the tub hugging her knees. Slowly, she ran the sponge all over the strong, well defined muscles of Gabrielle's back.

"You know Xena, I feel so bad for Regesta."

"Bad? Why?"

"She's so broken hearted. Selina told me all about her."


"The bartender. Anyway, it really is a horrible story. Seems Regesta and her lover Messina were two of the settlers of this town. You know how she told us of the troubles they had with bandits and such? Well Selina said it was even worse than Regesta lets on. Gangs of men would come through and kidnap women to sell as slaves. Or rape and murder them. That's what happened to Messina. Some men broke into their home, beat and raped Messina in front of Regesta and then killed her." Pausing, she looked over at Xena. "Can you imagine? Having to watch someone you love..." She shivered at the thought. "It horrifies me just to think about it."

"The brutality some people are capable of can be astounding," Xena said quietly.

"Selina says Regesta is not over it yet. She lives across the road and says she often sees Regesta up in the middle of the night. And Regesta has even told Selina she still has nightmares. I can understand that."

"How long has it been?"

"Three winters."

"That's not a very long time. I can understand it, too."

"It's funny, but knowing that, I could see her sadness. It hides under her charm. Like yours, Xena."

Trying to brush off the seriousness of the conversation, Xena commented, "So you think I'm charming?"

Gabrielle smiled shyly. "Yes, I do. But only when you want to be." She thought for a moment. "Usually it's only with me. I've never seen you act that way with anyone else before but you certainly did tonight."

Xena's only thought was that she was glad she was washing the bard's back and not looking at her face.

Gabrielle continued. "Selina also said that even though Regesta is not interested, most of the single women would give anything to be with her."

"That's not surprising either. She seems to be an exceptional woman."

"I think Selina has a crush on her, too."

"Your back's done."

"And I think Regesta likes you."


The bard looked over her shoulder and smiled at the warrior.

Xena froze. Gabrielle looked so damn sexy! Hair slicked back, tiny rivers of water rushing down her naked, muscled back, and a smile that turned Xena into a puddle. It was too much for her to stand.

"What is it, Xena?"

The bard's voice broke her reverie. But she had no idea what they had been talking about. Looking down, she saw the towel. So she grabbed it. "Here!" she said, flinging it to Gabrielle.

Who had turned back around and wasn't looking.

Xena watched as the towel floated down, landing only partly on the bard's knee and mostly in the water.


"Oh, umm... sorry."

The bard leveled her gaze at the warrior.

"OK, OK. I'll go get you another towel," she said as she rushed out of the room.

But all she could think was, 'By the Gods, I'm glad I got out of there. I think I would have lost my mind if I looked at her again.'

Xena knew her body was only responding to the stimulus it had been receiving. From the night she 'overheard' Gabrielle, to the fight with the blanket, to the stolen kiss, to the discussion about sex, to the flirting and the sexuality heavy in the air this night, all she could think about was sex. And Gabrielle. And the combination of those two thoughts.

She crossed the dark, empty tavern, heading for the door in the corner. Regesta's room.

Regesta. That enticing woman who had been flirting with her all night. Whose touch strangely brought goose bumps to her arm. Whose hand felt hot running suggestively across her shoulders. Whose dark eyes sparkled with possibility.

Reaching up, she brought her fingers to her lips, feeling Regesta's passionate kiss from earlier that night. A flood of lust shot through her.

Her body tingled at the thought of taking Gab... Regesta into her arms. Into a passionate embrace. And if she did kiss Regesta again? As Gabrielle herself had said, what would be the harm?

'I don't have to pretend I'm a Hestian Virgin,' she thought. "And I don't have to pretend that I don't have these urges just because I'm in love with someone I can never have.'

She knocked on the door.

"Who is it?" came the response from inside the room.


"Come in," Regesta called, pulling the blanket up over her chest.

Xena entered as the peace keeper set down the scroll she had been reading. Xena noticed the woman's shoulders were bare, as most likely was the rest of her.

"I would get up," Regesta said, smiling, "but I think that would embarrass me tremendously."

Arching her eyebrow, Xena replied, "Perhaps. But isn't it your job to make sure your guests are happy?"

"Ahh, brute! You flatter me. The time is long past, when the look of my body would make a woman happy."

Xena raised an eyebrow in question.

Laughing, Regesta asked, "What pleasure could there be in the sight of a soft, ample old body like mine?"

Looking directly into Regesta's eyes, Xena offered quietly, "Soft and ample can be very appealing qualities in a woman."

"And old?"

"Age suggests experience. And who would not want to be... in the hands of someone with the benefit of such experience."

"Hmm," she smiled. "And might I say that young and strong does not necessarily imply innocence."

Xena's eyes sparkled as she laughed, acknowledging the truth of Regesta's words.

"So, to what do I owe this visit?" Regesta asked, laughing also.

"I... well, Gabrielle needs a towel. I tossed one to her when she wasn't looking and it fell into the tub. She let me know it was my fault and therefore my duty to get her another one."

"And I believe she is correct. The towels are in the corner here. Is she waiting?"

"No, she's just gotten into the tub. And plans on staying until she turns into a raisin."

"Good. Then you don't have to rush back. Come sit for a moment," Regesta said, patting a spot on the bed beside her.

As Xena sat, she peeked at the scroll, still partly open on the night stand and read what was visible. '...soft moan. She ran her tongue along Rosaria's naked side, stopping to savor the fullness of her breast, the sweetness...' A mischievous grin crept upon her face as she asked, "What is that you are reading?"

Regesta looked over and saw the scroll had unrolled a bit. She scrunched up her face in embarrassment before answering, "It's just a story someone wrote for me."

"An erotic story. And it was written for you? Is there a special someone after your attentions?" Xena asked playfully.

Taking a deep slow breath, Regesta smiled sadly. "No, cara. This was written by the woman I came here with, Messina. The love of my life. She is one of those who lost her life when we settled this village more than three winters ago. She died..." Regesta paused, then seemed to change her mind about what she would say and only added, "...a horrible death."

Xena reached out and lightly touched Regesta's arm. "I'm very sorry."

"Yes, so am I. I miss her everyday." Smiling slightly, she added, "She and Gabriella would have been fast friends. I know it. And then you and I would have had to keep on our toes!"

Xena smiled.

"She would have loved to hear Gabriella's stories about you. Would have enjoyed writing them all down."

"But Gabrielle does not have the details of stories such as this, concerning me," she remarked picking up the scroll on the night stand. Unrolling it, she began to read aloud. "She ran her tongue along Rosaria's naked side, stopping to savor the fullness of her breast, the sweetness of her nipple as she rolled her tongue over it. The lightning bolt of pleasure caused Rosaria's hips to grind harder against her teasing hand, driving her fingers deeper inside her." Xena looked up at Regesta. "Lucky Rosaria."

"Si, cara. Lucky indeed," Regesta breathed heavily locking eyes with the dark haired warrior.

A slow smile crept over Xena's face as she leaned forward slightly. "What is this from?" she asked, touching a scar that started at Regesta's neck, traveled across her collarbone and slid down her chest under the blanket, toward her breast.

Regesta twitched at Xena's touch, but replied nonchalantly. "That is just a little battle scar, cara mia."

Xena placed a finger at the start of scar, and gently followed its path across her collarbone and down her chest, stopping where it disappeared under the blanket. "How far down does it go?" she whispered.

"Do you really want to find out, brute?"

Her eyebrow shot up. "Do you really need to ask that?" she questioned, hooking her finger on the blanket and slowly pulling it lower.

Regesta seized Xena's hand, stopping it's progress and stared at the warrior, a challenge in her eyes. "You had better be sure about your next move, brute."

Xena paused, thinking, 'What would be the harm?'

A smile curled the corner of her mouth. "Oh, I'm very sure."

Taking the blanket in her hand, she slid it down exposing Regesta's breasts as she leaned in and claimed Regesta's mouth with her own. A slow soft kiss brought a whimper of hunger from the dark eyed woman.

"Mmmm. Douche', cuomo melle," she whispered.

Xena pulled back and looked at Regesta, a question in her eyes.

"Cuomo melle," she reiterated, bringing her lips back to the warrior's for another long, sweet, smoldering kiss. And before long, smoldering desire ripened into exploding passion as each warrior's mouth became demanding of the other.

Xena's hand released the blanket and began to travel over soft, supple skin. But as she cupped the soft roundness of a breast, she felt the woman beneath her tense in apprehension.

Looking into Regesta's eyes, Xena thought she saw fear. She pulled back and ran a finger down the woman's cheek.

Regesta read the question in her eyes. "It's been so long since I've touched someone, cara. Since I let someone touch me. Since Messina."

"Then you honor me," Xena whispered. "But if you want to stop all you need do is say so," she offered quietly.

"Ahh, but there is the dilemma. I do not want to stop, yet I am fearful of continuing."

"And why is that?" Xena asked as she ran a slow finger down Regesta's side.

"Sometimes it is best to let beasts that have long been sleeping, stay that way."

"And sometimes," Xena said softly, "It's better to be awake. And alive."

Regesta seemed to ponder this for a moment. Then entwining her legs with Xena's, she slid her hips over a touch. Suddenly Xena found herself on her back wrapped in the arms of the dark eyed woman who stared down at her.

"Just be gentle with me," she murmured softly, then attacked the warrior's mouth fiercely with her own. Her tongue demanded entrance and Xena did not hesitate to grant it, taking it in as a prisoner. Clashing, parrying, thrusting, their tongues continued the delicious dance their weapons had begun earlier that night.

When the kiss broke, Xena was back on top and both women were breathing hard, muscles taut in excitement.

A primitive smile stole across Xena's face. "Making love with you is going to be as much fun as fighting you."

"Si, cara," she growled. "But this time, I at least have a chance of winning!"

* - * - * - *

Continued - Part 2 (Conclusion)

Return to The Bard's Corner

nger from the dark eyed woman.

"Mmmm. Douche', cuomo melle," she whispered.

Xena pulled back and looked at Regesta, a question in her eyes.

"Cuomo melle," she reiterated, bringing her lips back to the warrior's for another long, sweet, smoldering kiss. And before long, smoldering desire ripened into exploding passion as each warrior's mouth became demanding of the other.

Xena's hand released the blanket and began to travel over soft, supple skin. But as she cupped the soft roundness of a breast, she felt the woman beneath her tense in apprehension.

Looking into Regesta's eyes, Xena thought she saw fear. She pulled back and ran a finger down the woman's cheek.

Regesta read the question in her eyes. "It's been so long since I've touched someone, cara. Since I let someone touch me. Since Messina."

"Then you honor me," Xena whispered. "But if you want to stop all you need do is say so," she offered quietly.

"Ahh, but there is the dilemma. I do not want to stop, yet I am fearful of continuing."

"And why is that?" Xena asked as she ran a slow finger down Regesta's side.

"Sometimes it is best to let beasts that have long been sleeping, stay that way."

"And sometimes," Xena said softly, "It's better to be awake. And alive."

Regesta seemed to ponder this for a moment. Then entwining her legs with Xena's, she slid her hips over a touch. Suddenly Xena found herself on her back wrapped in the arms of the dark eyed woman who stared down at her.

"Just be gentle with me," she murmured softly, then attacked the warrior's mouth fiercely with her own. Her tongue demanded entrance and Xena did not hesitate to grant it, taking it in as a prisoner. Clashing, parrying, thrusting, their tongues continued the delicious dance their weapons had begun earlier that night.

When the kiss broke, Xena was back on top and both women were breathing hard, muscles taut in excitement.

A primitive smile stole across Xena's face. "Making love with you is going to be as much fun as fighting you."

"Si, cara," she growled. "But this time, I at least have a chance of winning!"

* - * - * - *

Continued - Part 2 (Conclusion)

Return to The Bard's Corner