The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal. The story is all mine and contains a graphic depiction of lesbian sex. If you are under 18 or this type of material offends you, then please find something else to do.

Greatest acknowledgement for "The Bigger The Love" goes to Kris McKay from the cd entitled "What Love Endures."

This story starts from 'The Prodigal' when Gabrielle is leaving Xena to head home to Potiedia.


By: Zealander

Darkbard Fantasies


Xena, staring in disbelief at Gabrielle - "I can't help you with this." Gabrielle, who is getting some food from one of the saddlebags on Argo, lightly shakes her head.

Xena, very confused - "You're gonna have to figure it out yourself." Gabrielle, purposely not looking at Xena, still getting provisions -

"I know."

Xena - "Where will you go?" her voice with a slight condescending tone - maybe she won't leave if she has no options?

Gabrielle - "The only place I know," finally turning towards Xena - "home." She puts the bag of food over her shoulder - "Things are simpler there. My sister Lila is there. I can talk to her about this." she turns away from Xena again, obviously not wanting to make eye contact.

"What? You can't talk to me?" - her voice betraying the hurt inside. Gabrielle, turns back towards Xena - "Of course I can." a very small forced smile - "I just... sometimes you need your family to help solve things." shakes her head to convince herself.

Xena nods, not believing her ears, pain written all over her face, isn't she family?

Gabrielle, "I'm sorry." - looks away from Xena's gaze. Xena, shakes her head as if to say 'it's ok, stomp on my heart', her face say's it's not. She says softly - "no" - this time it's her forcing a brave smile.

Gabrielle - "Ah, a, I have to find out what's going on with me and I, I have to do that at home."

Xena - "But you are coming back...right?" - hope in her mind, but her heart is breaking; she feels the pieces fall to the ground.

Gabrielle - "I guess that depends on what I learn." picks up her staff, turns and walks a few steps away, stops and turns around to gaze at Xena one more time before leaving.

Xena manages a small, bewildered wave. Gabrielle doesn't see it. Or the sadness in Xena's eyes.

One tiny tear falls down Xena's face as she manages to stand there and watch Gabrielle walk out of her life. Her bright blue eyes are replaced by a dull gray; her skin has turned pale. A pounding has arisen in her heart. She puts her hand back down by her side. It has turned numb. The air is replaced by an emptiness so heavy she feels as if she is suffocating. She has no concept of time or how long she has been standing there. Her mouth opens to scream Gabrielle's name, if only to break the silence that has enchained her. Nothing comes out. She slowly crouches down and buries her face in her hands.



Xena jumps up, dazed and wild eyed. Turns her head to see Gabrielle running towards her. She has dropped the staff and the bag of food. Xena's eyes light up and a huge smile covers her face. "GABRIELLE!" They fall into each other's arms, Gabrielle knocking Xena back down on the hard ground. It is a huge embrace, powerful in its need. They cover each others face in wet kisses, their lips growing hotter with each touch. Their hands are exploring each other as though it were the first time. Their legs are locked together; they rock back and forth.

Xena takes Gabrielle's hand and pulls her to her feet, her other arm still around her waist. She is madly looking around to see if they are being watched; Gabrielle stares at Xena.

"Not here."

"Xena, anywhere is fine." She tries to pull her back down, kissing her just above the left breast.

"Come on." Xena drags Gabrielle insistently. "There's a hollow in these rocks just beyond that tree over there." she is pointing east. Gabrielle grabs her harder. Xena quickly bends down to kiss her young lover; reaching both arms around her she embraces her tightly, picks Gabrielle up, and carries her to the makeshift cave. Gabrielle never stops kissing Xena, her arms wrapped around Xena's neck. Xena is empowered by their love and could hold her like this for all eternity: her only thoughts are of passion and never wanting the bard out of her sight again.

In just a few steps, they are inside the hollow of rock. Gabrielle clumsily takes off Xena's armor and detaches her weapons. She tosses them aside and rips open her own shirt. Xena is unlacing her leather dress and trying to help undress Gabrielle at the same time, pulling on her skirt. They act as if time is their enemy and he is coming to capture them. Their lips become sloppy kisses, their hands reaching out so intense in their fervor to release each other. A deep hunger has struck them both and nothing they have ever tasted before can satisfy the craving. Gabrielle is lying on her back - Xena still has her boots on.

There is no blanket on the ground this time; neither of them wanted to part for a moment to get one - they roll unknowingly in the dirt. There is no fire to keep them warm or cast soft shadows across their faces - they use each other for heat. Argo is outside somewhere untethered - she can fend for herself. Their thoughts are as one - no separation of time and space.

They move over each other wildly. Never wanting to be even an inch apart. Xena's one hand is wrapped in Gabrielle's red hair, the other intensely stroking between her legs. Gabrielle's face is buried in Xena's breasts, her hands kneading her hard nipples. Xena moans her approval of the little nips and kisses she is receiving. Gabrielle's right leg is between Xena's, pressing harder. Gabrielle shows her appreciation - becoming even more wet - Xena's fingers sliding in and out of her easily. She gasps as Xena moves more forcefully. Her breathe is becoming more labored and her concentration is lapsing. A salty sweat has broken out on both of them - the moisture intermingling. Xena can feel Gabrielle's throbs and lays her on the rough ground. Lying on top of her she continues the thrusts with her fingers, her other hand now on Gabrielle's breast, her hot tongue exploring Gabrielle's mouth. Gabrielle is almost out of control and barely manages to keep one arm wrapped around Xena's back, not wanting to let go. However, in her passion to feel Xena explode as well, she runs her other hand down between them to Xena's wet mound. She lets her fingers explore the swollen reaches within. Xena throws her head back and groans, not wanting to go first, though she could. Not wanting to wait any longer, she musters more strength than she knew she had and she continues to caress Gabrielle until she rocks and explodes with more fever than ever before - Xena exploding with her. They collapse together, their hearts pounding against one another, their sweat, and breath as one.

They lay there, arms and legs intertwined, all night. In the dirt, in the hollow of the rocks, oblivious to the cool chill of the evening air. They refuse to arise for food or to build a fire or put on their clothes. This is their nirvana; their paradise. Xena, always the one to stay up afterwards and simply watch Gabrielle in blissful slumber, is the first one asleep. Her slow breathing is matched perfectly with the smile she left on her face. Her arms still wrapped around Gabrielle's waist.

As the blue light of dawn arises outside, Gabrielle, facing Xena, softly brushes Xena's hair and lightly touches her lips and face. One finger traces a line down to her breast - Xena stirs slightly. Gabrielle ever so softly whispers - "I love you, my princess." as she bends to lightly kiss her lips. Xena barely responds even in the comfort of her dreams. Gabrielle slowly pulls herself from Xena's embrace and stands looking down on her lover. She finds her clothes and quietly dresses. She steps outside of the little cave.

She goes down towards a nearby stream, though barely enough light has arisen to make out a path. She washes her face and runs water on her arms and legs. She looks up to see Argo only a few feet away, her reins hanging down. She's eating grass and raises her head in acknowledgement with a soft whinny. Gabrielle goes over to her, takes an apple out of one of the saddlebags, and gives it to her while gently scratching between her ears. She replies with a rub of her nose on her hand. Gabrielle takes the reins and leads her back towards the rocks, stopping on the way to pick a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers growing in a crevice. She goes back onto the path where she and Xena were attacked yesterday and finds her pack and staff still lying on the ground where she dropped them. Walking only a short way, she ties Argo to a nearby tree and very quietly re-enters the cave.

Xena is still fast asleep. Her hair has fallen partly over her face and Gabrielle bends down to brush it away. She gazes lovingly at Xena as her eyes cloud up and her hand starts to shake. She lays the flowers down next to her. She manages to kiss Xena on the cheek before the tears start flowing and she runs out of the cave, stopping only to pick up her bag from yesterday.

The sun comes streaming into the cave, falling roughly on Xena's face, and causing her to awaken. She turns and opens her eyes away from the bright light.

"Gabrielle." - she reaches out for her. Nothing but emptiness is in her grasp.

"Gabrielle?" - sitting up she looks all around the cave. Her keen warrior's eyes notice first that Gabrielle's clothes are gone. Then she notices the bouquet of flowers lying next to her. She picks them up and brings them to her nose. She closes her eyes.

"Oh, Gabrielle...Gabrielle...."

Even after their passionate lovemaking yesterday, Xena realizes the young woman must find her own answers, but that doesn't make it any easier for her to accept. And what if Gabrielle doesn't come back? How will she ever free her soul? Gabrielle has become her whole life, her reason for being. Will she simply fall back into ways more familiar with her nature? Can she continue her crusade alone to free her demons with goodness? But Gabrielle was her light that shown the way. Everything now is growing dark! Damn Gabrielle for being so insensitive!

Xena stands and puts on her leather and heavy armor, pausing while buckling on the brass breastplate. Gabrielle's sweet scent is still hanging in the air. She forces the thought aside and straps on her sword. Her chakram hangs off her waist. She pushes back a strand of hair and re-adjusts her boots. Her mind still racing, she realizes she can spend part of the day searching for Argo - which will help pass some of the empty time. She walks out into the daylight.

There stands Argo tied to the tree where Gabrielle left her. Xena turns her head, looks towards the sky and her Gods. "WHY?"


part 2

"WHAT DID I DO WRONG THIS TIME?" - Xena screams skyward, shaking one fist at the clouds. "ARES, I fought your battles like you asked! PROMETHEOUS I freed you from Hera's chains! HADES, I returned your helmet and lost the only man I will ever love! ZEUS I've survived your temper and fury many a night alone on the road!"

Xena lowers her fist and places it near her heart and says softly - "Artemis, I've prayed to you for guidance most of my life." Xena casts her eyes to the ground - "Why do you all forsake me now in MY hour of need?" - a slow, steady stream of tears falling from Xena's eyes. - "And surely you, Aphrodite, you alone know how I feel about Gabrielle; after all, wasn't it you who gave me such a gift?"

Gathering an inner strength she thought now lost from her soul, she again screams to her Gods - "WHY?"

She receives no reply and the forest seems unusually quiet and still. Xena turns and angrily stomps back inside the small cave and gathers up the flowers Gabrielle left behind. Back outside she puts them in the empty saddlebag and takes up Argo's reins. She turns toward the morning sun one last time and spits contemptuously on the ground in front of her. Leading Argo back towards the main road she declares - "C'mon, girl, I guess it's just you and me again - just like old times."

Gabrielle is several hours away from Xena. The sun is high in the sky but from far off, there are dark clouds approaching. She has taken the southern route towards Potiedia. Not much traffic on the road, cart or horse and rider. She continues on foot, her staff to lean on. Her stomach growls and tells her a noonday snack would bode well about now. She goes over to a nearby tree and sits down cross-legged in the cool grass. She pulls out a pear and bites into it. She absently wonders how Xena is doing and where she is. 'I wonder if she will follow me?' She takes another bite of the fruit. 'Oh, Gods, what have I done?' she puts the pear down and puts her face in her hands, elbows on her knees. 'Oh, Xena, I never meant to hurt you. But that's my whole problem; the reason I left. I really can't become a liability to you or endanger your life - I love you too much to lose you that way.' - tears well up in Gabrielle's eyes - 'It's not your fault I froze up in that fight yesterday. You've taught me well but... but something isn't right. You always keep your wits - you never allow yourself to fail. Me, I'm still so unsure of myself and now that we have become so close... Gods, listen to me, I'm talking to myself - Xena's not even here!' She raises her head up and wipes the tears away - 'I need more help than my sister can give me. But who? If I go back to Xena... and I don't even know where she is now, so forget that. There must be someone...'

Gabrielle jumps up, the pear falling on the ground. She spies her staff lying only a couple of feet away. 'The Amazons! They are my sisters as well as Lila and they certainly should have more experience in this type of thing. Maybe Epinon or even Ephiny can help me. After all, I'm still their Princess!' With that thought Gabrielle picks up her supplies and heads off towards the west. She should be in Amazon territory in 3 days if the weather holds.

Xena, astride Argo, has ridden all day and ended up no-where. She has passed no villages, no people. It is dark now and a light rain is starting to fall. She shrugs her shoulders thinking she ought to get Argo undercover in case the rains get stronger. She herself just wishes the ground would flood and swallow her up, putting her out of her misery. She feels a bitterness rise in her throat but her heart reminds her of how much she still loves the young bard. She pulls out a small flask from one of the saddlebags and takes a hard swallow. The liquid burns down her chest. It's the best thing she has felt all day. A roll of thunder is heard far off in the distance. She wonders where Gabrielle is and if she is safe from the impending storm. Argo whinnies and shakes her head, throwing Xena's thoughts back to the present. She dismounts and leads her off the path into the thick woods. Argo isn't especially fond of Zeus's tantrums so Xena searches for a safe, dry place to spend the night.

They move up to higher ground, finding a dirt cove entrapped in the hills. The tall foliage is perfect cover for Argo and dense enough to hide even the brightest of lightning. Xena takes off the bedrolls and packs and sets them on the ground. She takes off her breastplate and armaments and next removes Argo's saddle, then lays out the blankets, doubled up - Gabrielle's on top, her sweet perfume punctuating the air. Xena smiles sadly and lays down on them, knees bent - pulling out the flask again. She takes another long draw, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Her blue eyes still gray.

The storm is fast approaching - the wind has picked up and the rain is falling harder. Loud thunder crashes just over the next ridge and lightning causes the sky to erupt in momentary flashes.

'Perfect.' - thinks Xena, frowning. She takes yet another drink from the flask letting the alcohol flow slowly to her stomach. At least this she can feel. She has no dry wood for a fire, which is just as well - the cold air surrounding her doesn't faze her skin. She continues taking swigs from the leather bottle.

Within only a few minutes, Zeus's fury is all around her - the rain rolls in sheets outside, with a small amount of water puddling in front of her makeshift home. Lightening is shattering the forest only a few feet away. The thunder is so loud she can hardly think - even if she wanted to; though the thick ale is helping to ease that pain. Remembering she hasn't eaten all day, she searches one of the bags for some bread. She pulls off a large piece and places the rest back in the pouch, her hand running across a piece of parchment and a quill. She takes the paper out of the bag and looks at it. Gabrielle was starting to write of their recent adventure with the 'King of Thieves'. A depressed look crosses Xena's face - will the story ever be finished now? She gently caresses the written words with her rough fingers. She runs the other hand through her thick, dark hair. She starts to cry.

As the rain pours, with her own thunder and lightning bursting inside her, Xena takes up the quill in an attempt to unleash the fury inside her heart:

There goes my love walking out the door
now, I never cried a bigger tear before.
You don't know til it breaks
how much a heart can take.

No, you don't know pain
until it burns inside.
Now I should've picked a home
and loved my own side.

So, how can a love so strong
turn out to be so wrong?

The bigger the love
the harder the fall.
I lost your sweet love
I lost it all,

I never hit the ground
til you shot me down!

Oh, If I had known
just what you do to me,
I would have kept you on my fantasy.

To keep you off my mind
it's gonna take some precious time.

Yeah, the bigger the love
the harder the fall...


Xena puts the quill aside, the paper still in her grasp. She takes two more long drinks from the near empty flask and lies back on the blankets. Her face still wet from the raging tears. The storm outside has passed and Xena eventually falls into a fitful sleep - dreams of Gabrielle's sweet lips and tender touch punctuated with long ago battles not won.

Gabrielle had made her way to the city of Tirnys before nightfall. Having befriended a young handicapped man being harassed by some drunken boys, she landed herself a hot meal and some wine for dinner - a virtual feast! Afterwards she told the man and his family, including two small girls, several stories of her travels with Xena - the Warrior Princess. They had heard of Xena and how she was turning her life towards goodness. Afterwards, Gabrielle was rewarded with a place to sleep for the night - a clean, dry barn with fresh hay and a pony for company.

Gabrielle spent a few moments brushing the pony, whose name was Apollo. Since it was quite late, she settled into her soft bed of hay. She lay there for a while listening to the far off thunder of a storm. She wondered where Xena was. What did she do today - what battles did she fight and who did she save from injustice? Was she ok? Turning over on her side and covering herself with a blanket, she felt lonely not having Xena's arms wrapped tightly around her as she'd had so many previous nights. She missed not kissing her goodnight. Her thoughts eventually shifted to their first time together; it was after a heavy battle near Corinth - Xena had suffered a bad cut on her leg. But with help from Gabrielle she stitched it up herself and vowed she would rest a few days to let it heal properly. Late that same night, while sitting by the fire, Xena feeling her own mortality, she took Gabrielle by the hand and told her how she felt. They kissed and later made love. They had done so every night since. Tonight was their first night spent apart. Growing sad and weary, Gabrielle whispered 'Goodnight, I love you, Xena' into the cool night air and fell asleep. She had no dreams.


Dawn arose in a cool, blue-gray light. The remnants of Zeus's fury were all around - tree limbs were strewn in twisted patterns upon dark foliage; large puddles littered the road.

"C'mon Argo - it's just mud." - Xena astride, gently kicked at the mares flanks, trying to get her past a particularly large pool of water and muck. "C'mon."

Argo stood steadfast. She never flinched at the prodding.


Nothing. Disgusted, Xena jumped off her trusty friend and landed right in the middle of the puddle, splashing mud all over herself and the horse. Her boots sunk into the soft earth a good 4 inches.


Xena took the reins and slowly lead Argo through the water. Once on the other side, Xena took out a rag and did her best to wipe off the mire. It didn't help much - she was still filthy. She cursed Argo under her breath and they continued walking for several hours, Xena taking time and care to kick away fallen branches from their path. 'Not a good time to lose a shoe, Argo.' Xena thought.

They were headed for Potiedia.

Xena had awoke that morning shivering and cold, with a tremendous headache. Her makeshift bed was wet from the rain and her clothes were soaked through. Apparently, she hadn't noticed the night before, thanks to her drunken splendor. She rolled over on her stomach and reached for the flask - a drink of the liquid would warm her inside. But her grasp was wasted - the pouch was empty. She tossed it aside and felt her head sway. She put one hand on it to steady herself. Her other hand found the half-eaten chunk of bread - now soggy.


She attempted to stand only to find that it made her head feel worse. She sat back down. Argo whinnied at her from just outside the cove. "Argo, not so loud." She whispered. Argo neighed again.

"Yeah, I know. And for this I have no cure." Xena tried again to stand. Wavering, she managed to stay upright. Her head pounded and her eyesight was blurry, causing her to stumble when she tried to walk. Her hair was disheveled and her stomach was a bit queasy yet somewhere between the suffering and the packing-up she decided she'd had enough of life without Gabrielle. She valiantly saddled Argo and put on her own armor; gently touching the brass plates. "Gabrielle always did this for me - from the very first night we met," she replied to no one. She observed all the nicks and breaks in the ornate pattern then reshieved her sword. She rolled the wet blankets and put them behind Argo's saddle. When Xena noticed the rain had washed away Gabrielle's sweet scent, sorrow crossed her eyes. The tiniest of a tear welled up in one of them. Roughly, she took the back of her hand and wiped it away.

"NO!" gathering strength, she pushed her shoulders straight and stood tall. "I will not let myself act this way! I am no coward! She is mine and I'm going back for her."

With that thought and the determination of her life, she climbed into the saddle and rode off---

Gabrielle had awoken to the same blue-gray sky. Only a slight rain had fallen overnight and the air still smelled of dew. Her first thoughts were of Xena. She missed waking up to find the warrior staring at her with a gentle smile upon her lips; she missed reaching out and having her join her under the blankets for a memorable sunrise; she missed her sweet breath and warm hands; she missed those blue eyes that shown like stars in the day. She stood and tried to push the thoughts from her mind and went out to thank the young family for their overnight hospitality. Instead, she was treated to a hot morning bath and a sack full of fresh provisions given as a gift of her storytelling the night before. During breakfast, she managed to squeeze in one more tale of her heroic Princess. When finished, she bid them good-bye and headed off towards Amazon territory. She calculated she would be there by tomorrow's nightfall.

Late in the day, Xena crossed into the northeast regions and finally emerged on to dry land. The sun was bright and hot. A light sweat had broken out on her body. She was now astride Argo and they were traveling at a slow, comfortable gallop. They had stopped only twice on their journey - once for water and food in Thebes, the second, to stay at a cheap inn overnight in the village of Clios. She reasoned Argo deserved to spend the night in a dry barn for a change and Xena wanted a bath for herself before meeting up with Gabrielle tomorrow afternoon. Potiedia was less than a half days ride ahead.

Dusk was closing in when Xena left Argo at the stables, saddle, and trappings removed. Xena carried the packs over her shoulder and headed down the dirt street to the innkeepers. She paid two dinars for the room, including the bath. The old man said his daughters were busy drawing another one but assured her they'd be finished in a couple of hours. Xena went to her room and set down the packs. The room was sparse yet comfortable - just to her liking. The bed sat touching one wall, a chest, and small chair off to the other side. There were shelves holding various sized candles, mounted on three of the walls and there were no windows. The empty tub sat against the remaining wall across from the door. Clean linens were placed on the end of the bed. A small vase of dried flowers was atop the chest. With nothing to do except wait for her bath, Xena set off to the local tavern for supper and a drink of ale.

The tavern was typical of all the others she'd ever been in - dark, smelly and crowded. Her first step through the door brought her a potential 'suitor' hanging on her broad shoulders. One glance and a quick punch in the ribs had him scurrying for someone else. The noise was very loud but she did manage to put in her demand for some hot stew and a large container of ale. She tossed the owner a dinar. He mumbled his approval and Xena found an unoccupied seat against the far wall. She threw one heavily booted leg across the tabletop. That 'don't bother me' motion usually kept her free from interruption. The sword on her back was her insurance. The barkeep brought her the drink and told her the food would be another few minutes. Xena nodded and turned her eyes towards her fellow patrons. She always kept a keen eye out for trouble. Before the first swallow of ale, another drunk had his arms around her.

"C'mon baby - let's you and me go somewhere quiet." he slobbered in her ear.

Without one word Xena reached up her leg and kicked him square in the jaw. She then turned and picked him up and tossed him out the door. Brushing off her hands, she sat back down and took another long drink. Her mind was on tomorrow and of seeing Gabrielle again. Inside she felt excited, yet fearful. She wondered if Gabrielle would be happy to see her. What if Gabrielle wasn't ready to see her? What if she had already decided she wasn't coming back? What if her heart had moved on? Xena's blue eyes turned dark and a scowl crossed her face. Her mood turned foul. She ordered another drink.

This one arrived with the bowl of steaming stew and she asked for a bottle of something stronger - roughly throwing the man another dinar. He brought her the bottle immediately. A dirty, scum of a man in the corner with a large sword strapped to his belt eyed Xena closely when she reached inside the top of her tunic to extract the money. Out the corner of her eye, Xena noticed him watching her. She took large bites of the stew and washed them down with a swig from the bottle. The man was slowly approaching; Xena's muscles were tense and her senses were alive. She thought out her plan - that if he approached from the left, she would use her sword. If from the right, then her breast dagger should do the trick. His right hand was on his sword and he quickly moved to grab Xena around the neck. His gait was a step too short though, for Xena easily stabbed him in the chest with her dagger. Upon landing on her table and spilling her drink, she reached inside his pocket and withdrew several dinars, tucking them safely in her breast. "This is for my spilled drink."- she spat.

She then kicked him away from her table and bent down to the floor and extracted her dagger, wiping the blood off on his clothes. She lay the deadly weapon next to her bowl. The inn grew quiet watching the woman warrior. She sat back down and took another bite of her stew. Her eyebrows furrowed from the momentary fury; her thoughts turned to why Gabrielle liked these kinds of places. She always said she liked the 'color'. Xena thought them disgusting places full of disgusting men. Tonight was simply typical and did nothing to change her mind. Before her night was over she'd been in a nasty fight, killed a man with her bare hands, and wounded another with her sword.

Xena half-staggered out of the tavern and back towards the inn and her impending bath. She didn't really care if the water was hot anymore or if she ever got a bath at all. She was dirty for sure, but she was also weary from the day's ride and bruised from her recent battles. Her mind was trapped in limbo over Gabrielle. Mostly she was tired and just wanted some sleep.

When she got back to her room, she found a young woman waiting there. She was not more than 17, with long, curly, light brown hair and wearing a white robe. The girl introduced herself as Selene. She was there to help Xena with her bath. The room was dimly lit, with candles and steam rolling from the tub. The sweet scent of soap filled the air. The bed was made with the fresh linens and two large towels were on the chair. Xena's packs were still on the floor where she had left them. She eyed the girl curiously. "I don't need any help," said Xena walking towards the tub and peering in. "I am sure you don't, but my services are included in the price - if you like."

"I'll be fine." Xena stated gruffly.

"As you wish, but before I leave shall I help you off with your armor?" Xena spied her carefully. The girl looked harmless enough but then Xena knew her senses weren't that keen from the alcohol. Still the whole scene looked inviting.

"Yeah, that'd be fine." Xena knew alone and in her condition she probably end up asleep with it on.

The girl came over slowly and stood in front of Xena. She reached around and unhitched the sheaf for her sword. She handed it to Xena who held it in one hand. The girl then reached around and unbuckled Xena's armor from about her waist. From such close proximity, Xena noticed the girl was wearing perfume. The scent was intoxicating. It reminded her of Gabrielle. Xena closed her eyes for just a moment - a sudden longing crept up inside her. The girl moved around behind her and removed the back plate, setting it on the ground. With a short turn she was again standing in front of Xena - Selene almost nearly as tall - and unhooked the front plate. She slowly removed it, touching her fingers to Xena's breast as she moved. A shiver went up Xena's spine; her nipples immediately went hard. A familiar feeling arose deep inside. "Shall I unlace your dress?" the girl asked softly.

"Um, uh, sure." replied Xena, half dazed. What was she feeling, she wondered? "Turn around." said Selene, gently guiding her with her hands around Xena's tight waist. Her long fingers slowly untied the leather laces, letting the dress fall forward.

"Sit down on the bed and I will remove your boots." Xena complied, and felt another chill arise as the long boots were pulled off. She'd had them on for three days now. She looked down and noticed some of this morning's mud was caked around her ankles. Her legs were dirty, too. Xena realized she really did need a bath!

"Stand and I will remove your dress."

Xena stood at the girl's command. Selene gently pulled the tunic over Xena's head. She slowly pulled back and gazed wide-eyed at the warrior's naked body. It was beautiful - so firm and well toned but it had many battle scars. There was a large one on her left thigh, another one on her stomach and yet another on her right side - long like from a sword. A coin shaped one was just below her navel. Xena noticed the woman staring.

"That one's from an arrow." Xena said softly.

"I see." Selene reached out and touched it with a soft hand like a feather.

"What about this?"

Xena's eyes cast downward. The girl was asking about the streaks across her left breast.

"Those are from a whip - scars left me by my own army."

"You are Xena - the Warrior Princess, aren't you?" Selene's fingers were on her breast touching, feeling...

Xena looked up. Apprehension covered her face. "Yes. You've heard of me?"

"Oh, yes. There are many legends told of you and your conquests. Come, get in your bath."

They walked over to the tub and taking Xena's hand, Selene helped steady Xena as she stepped into the warm water. Xena laid down letting the heat envelop her body. Selene poured in some oil. She put her hands on Xena's shoulders and slowly started massaging them.

"Perfect...," said Xena, luxuriating between the smooth warm water, the hands touching her and the alcohol in her blood. She put her head back and closed her eyes.

Selene rinsed out a clean rag and rubbed it with the soap. Sitting next to the side of the tub, she started at Xena's neck and slowly moved the cloth over the warrior's body. She moved down to her shoulders and taking Xena's hand pulled one arm out, then the other, washing each one at a leisurely pace. She then ran the cloth down over her breasts, Xena's nipples still hard. Reaching under the water, she washed her stomach, moving down further. Xena's eyes opened with a start when the cloth was rubbed gently between her legs.

"Um, I can do that." Xena stammered; a slight blush gave her face color. Her body was hot.

"As you wish." Selene replied, a wry smile on her lips, her eyes ever staring. She handed Xena the rag, took out another cloth, and soaped it. Bending down she pulled out one of Xena's feet, started washing her ankle, and moved up her leg. She repeated the process with the other one. This time when she reached the top of Xena's thigh she continued upwards. Not complaining, Xena let her finish. A fire was rising inside she couldn't control and Xena closed her eyes again to feel the woman's hands roam over her most private parts. Selene bent forward, her lips only inches from Xena's. Feeling the young woman's hot breath on her face, Xena opened her eyes and pulled away.

"No." replied Xena, barely audible.

"Why not?" Selene whispered in her ear. She kissed her neck. Her hands still roaming. "I can feel you want me." Her other hand was on her breast.

"Please, no." Xena said half-heartedly. She closed her eyes again, hoping (?) this was not real.

"But, Xena...let yourself relax, I won't hurt you." Selene ran her fingers slowly down the wet body.

"It's not that..." Xena tried to sit up. "I can't."

"Oh, Xena." Selene reached out to kiss her again. Their lips met for the briefest of moments.

Xena turned her head away. Selene took her hands. "There is someone else. I won't betray them." with that Xena stood and stepped naked out of the tub and reached for one of the towels to cover herself. Selene moved towards her, taking the towel. Moving to Xena's back, Selene started drying her off, neither of them saying a word. When Selene was finished, she gestured for the warrior princess to sit down on the bed. Going outside the door for just a second, Selene came back in carrying a mug. She handed it to Xena.

"Drink this." She asked.

"What is it? I've had plenty to..." Xena started to say. Selene laughed sweetly.

"It's tea - my own recipe. It will help you sleep. Go ahead." Xena took a sip. It was very soothing.

"It's very good. Thank you." Xena smiled at the girl.

"Your welcome. Is there anything else I can do for you?" Selene winked.

"No. I feel much better now." Xena blushed again.

"You're very beautiful, Xena. Whoever you are protecting is very lucky." said Selene.

"No." Xena declared. "I am." She smiled at Selene, who moved towards the door.

"Goodnight and pleasant dreams, brave Warrior." and with that, she walked out and closed the door behind her.

Xena sat on the edge of the bed and finished her tea. Exhausted, she managed to get up and place her sword near her bed then, extinguish the candles. Next, she crawled into the soft, warm bed, still naked. She pulled the blanket over her body and silently said goodnight to Gabrielle, wherever she was, and fell fast asleep.


Gabrielle spent the night in a tent, inside Amazon country. Earlier in the day, she had been lucky enough to get a ride all the way to Parcaenous, a friendly little village that was only a short day's walk from the women's territory. Since it was still early, she decided to keep walking and planned to spend the night in the forest, arriving to meet with Queen Melosa in the afternoon. After nearly an hour of pushing her way through the heavy brush, she came across a hooded warrior on horseback. Realizing the warrior may not recognize her; she immediately dropped her staff and raised her hands over her head in a tight clasp, sending the familiar sign of peace. With her sword raised, the woman cautiously removed her mask and slid off her horse. "Princess Gabrielle?" the woman was gazing all around her, ready for any attack.

"Ephiny? Is that you?" asked Gabrielle, slowing putting down her hands and moving towards her.

"Yes - you aren't alone; where's Xena?" still searching, her sword at the ready.

"Xena's not with me." Gabrielle softly replied, her eyes lowered.

"What?" said Ephiny, her voice sounding confused. "She is okay?" concern mounting. Ephiny always found the stunning Warrior Princess intriguing. And sexy.

"When I left her, she was fine." Gabrielle shaking her head as if to convince herself this to be true. She bent down and picked up her staff. Ephiny resheaved her sword.

"Epinon! It's safe. You and Judea can come out!" Ephiny shouted to the trees.

Epinon emerged from out of the brush - on horseback, another Amazon with her.

Epinon was holding her staff.

"Princess Gabrielle?" Epinon rode up to stand next to her. "Hello Epinon." Gabrielle smiled up at her. She never liked her weapons instructor much when they first met, but a friendship, originally borne out of respect, soon developed.

"How are you? Still practicing your routines I hope." Epinon smiled back.

"Oh, yes." Gabrielle replied proudly. "I'll have to show you some of my moves."

"I'd like that! I have some new ones myself. Are you coming back to camp?" she asked.

"Yes. I want to talk with Queen Melosa. That's the reason for this trip." Gabrielle readjusted the sack over her shoulder - purposely avoiding eye contact with them.

"Oh?" Ephiny joined in.

"Yeah." Gabrielle answered. Trying to change the subject, she raised her hand for the warrior handshake to the unknown woman.

"Hi. I'm Gabrielle." they grasped each other's forearms firmly. The woman was younger than Ephiny or Epinon, but was typical Amazon - very fit and strong. A sword on her back. The usual semi-revealing clothes made from suede and leather. She had short dark hair and brown eyes.

"That's 'Princess' Gabrielle to you. She is the one we have been telling you about. The one that took Tereaus's right of cast. My Princess, this is Judea - she's still in training." Ephiny remarked.

"You are the one that travels with Xena, the mighty Warrior Princess?" the young woman asked in awe. She had heard many tales over the years of the Warrior who was not an Amazon.

"Yes." Gabrielle turned her head away. She was obviously trying to hide something and not doing a very good job of it. Epinon was the first to notice.

"Gabrielle - would you like to ride back with me to the village?" queried Epinon, reaching out a hand.

"Judea, you can ride with me." stated Ephiny, who smiled slyly at Epinon. Judea jumped off the horse and walked over towards her. She re-mounted. When she walked by, Gabrielle noticed the girl was about her height and weight. "Yeah, a ride would be great." Gabrielle attached her staff, reached out, and took hold of Epinon's hand who guided her to sit in front. She reached her strong arms around Gabrielle and grasped hold of the reins. Their bodies tightly pressed together.

"Let's go!" Ephiny cried out and gently spurring the horse to a gallop, Judea against her back.

"Hold on tight, my Princess!" Epinon smiled, showing perfect white teeth.

Gabrielle grabbed the saddlehorn and they took off just behind the others.

Falling a little back from the other two, Epinon put her face up close to Gabrielle's. Before asking her a question, she took in the young princess' sweet scent. She exhaled.

"Why aren't you with Xena?" she wondered. And hoped. Gabrielle turned her head in an attempt to meet her gaze. She tried to put on a brave face but her eyes went cloudy at every mention of her lover. She knew she would have to explain herself eventually, though.

"It's nothing, really. I just had to leave for a while." Gabrielle had always found her teacher easy to talk to. Epinon, though sometimes quiet like Xena, always seemed sincere and caring.

"Are you two still together?" Epinon wanted to know. She had secretly always wanted to steal the young princess away from Xena. Her innocence and bravery made for an interesting combination. She liked her easy-going style and sense of humor, too. Her cute smile completed the package.

"Yes. Well, no, maybe not.. but, I guess so, though..." Gabrielle really didn't know anymore. She was racked with indecision and guilt over leaving her partner. She couldn't believe she was gone and yet she watched for her around every corner hoping she'd just be there at the next turn. She was starting to wish she'd gone to visit her sister in Potiedia. She still felt unsure of herself - nothing had happened to change that, but being with the Amazons was beginning to feel like a bad idea.

"You can talk to me about it later. We're here." and with that, Epinon rode up into the center of the massive camp.

It was dark now and only a few flames continued to burn. Not many women were out; the few that were appeared to be sentries guarding the perimeter. Ephiny, who had arrived a few moments earlier, walked over to them and took the horses reins from Epinon who was helping Gabrielle dismount. "Are you hungry, Princess? I can have some food brought out to you." Ephiny asked.

"No. I'm fine." Gabrielle had eaten a good portion of the provisions last nights guests gave her.

"Let me go tell Queen Melosa you are here. I need to know where she wants you to sleep."

"She can share my tent if nothing is available." Epinon had turned away from Gabrielle and winked at Ephiny, a large grin on her face. Gabrielle was looking around the camp, oblivious to the conversation.

"Princess Gabrielle! How nice it is to see you again! I hope you are well. Are you hungry?"

Melosa reached out towards her and they shared the same familiar handshake. "It's nice to see you again, my Queen. I'm fine, thank you. Ephiny already offered me dinner." They walked towards the large bonfire set in the center of camp.

"I understand Xena is not with you. Is everything okay?" Melosa was inquiring, an understanding tone to her voice. She motioned for Gabrielle to sit down on a log near the fire.

"That's why I'm here, Melosa. I need to talk to you." Gabrielle spoke quietly. "Something has gone wrong and I think I need some help." As Gabrielle was about to tell Melosa all about her freezing up in the fight a couple of days ago, Epinon interrupted them by handing them each a hot drink. Melosa glared and silently warned her warrior not to interrupt them again. Gabrielle took a sip of the steaming liquid. It was strong yet soothing. She liked it. Epinon winked at Gabrielle as she left them alone. "Is this tea? I've never had anything quite like it before." Gabrielle took another swallow.

"It's made with the root of the kauri tree. It will help you sleep after a hard journey." Melosa took a long drink herself.

"I doubt I'll have trouble sleeping. I left Tirnys this morning." Gabrielle yawned at the thought.

"My, you have traveled far for one day! Would you rather talk tomorrow, after you've rested?"

"That'd be great. I'm exhausted." And she was. Besides, now that she was actually here she wanted some time to sort out her thoughts before presenting herself to the Queen.

"Ephiny!" Queen Melosa stood and motioned for her first lieutenant. "Show Gabrielle to her tent."

"I'll meet with you in my quarters after breakfast. Until then, relax and get some rest. If you need anything just ask - the guards will be up all night. Sleep well." With that Melosa left and Ephiny walked with Gabrielle to her tent. It was on the opposite end of the camp from Melosa's.

"We had this put up after you left. It always is here for you. This is your home, you know." Ephiny smiled and pulled back the cloth doorway. Gabrielle stepped in.

Her home was beautiful. There was a large bed with colorful soft woolen blankets and goose down pillows. There was a huge chest with a mirror and two chairs set at opposite ends. A small table was next to the bed. There were feather wall hangings and paintings attached to the thick canvas of the tent. Large wooden poles were securely fastened into the ground for support. On one end was an open closet that already had clothes in it. Gabrielle noticed the outfit she was wearing when she first met the Amazons was hanging there. She had to laugh - she had forgot all about the dowdy blue peasant blouse and long earthen toned skirt. No wonder Xena never paid any attention to her back then - she was dressed like some old woman! Xena seemed quite fond of the new shorter skirts these days. "Oh, Xena..." Gabrielle thought to herself. "Gorgeous Xena..."

Gabrielle had to shake herself out of the daydream she was falling in to and come back to the reality of where she was.

"Ephiny, this is so nice. But why? You knew I would never come back here to stay."

"An Amazon Princess always has a place to come home to - even you." Ephiny conceded.

"Thank you. I must admit this is more than I've ever imagined..." Gabrielle still looked amazed.

"Feel free to personalize it while you are here. These are just the basics. It will remain as you leave it. If there is anything else you desire, just ask." Ephiny turned to leave, leaning against the doorway. "I'll have Epinon wake you for breakfast. Until then goodnight." With that, she left.

Gabrielle went over and stared at one of the paintings - it was of a tall Amazon warrior on horseback, a sunset in the backdrop. She, herself, had always wanted to be a warrior like Xena.

And she had learned alot since she'd joined with her. She could ride a horse, fish, track and even practiced with Xena's sword a few times. Xena taught her wisdom and strength, too. She learned fighting skills and use of the staff from Epinon. Mostly she'd learned when to do battle and when to talk or shut up. What was it Xena always told her? Focus. Three days ago Gabrielle lost her nerve. She had frozen; not having a clue what to do in the situation. Her deep love for Xena told her she simply could not let herself become a liability as a partner. A deadly mistake was a risk she could not bear. She would rather walk away than bury Xena - her best friend and now, lover. Nevertheless, the letting go was killing her inside. Her heart ached and burned...

The next morning Xena awoke refreshed and eager to resume her journey. Her dark mood from last night was erased with the bath and soothing drink before she'd fallen asleep. She dressed in her typical armor and weaponry and laced up her boots. In no time, she was outside and on her way to the stables to get Argo. When she walked into the barn, she found her equine friend was eating fresh hay and being brushed by a young girl. "Hey." said Xena, walking over to wear Argo's saddle and trappings lay.

"Good morning." the girl, about eight, continued the grooming. "That's my horse you're combing." Xena's firm, deep voice ended with a big smile. She blanketed Argo and set the saddle on her back.

"She's a fine horse, too. Someday I hope to have one just like her." the girl smiled back. "What's her name?" she stepped back so Xena could buckle the straps underneath.

"Her name's Argo. Can you ride?" Xena fixed the saddlebags.

"No, my father says I'm too little. But someday, I'll be the greatest horsewoman ever - you'll see!"

Xena smiled down at the small girl's spunk. She had been just like that herself when she was a child - full of ambition. "You want to go for a little ride? I need to go to the market for provisions - you can come along."

"YES!" The girl cried and jumped up and down. "Please!"

Xena picked the girl up and set her in the saddle. Xena climbed in behind her. Argo whinnied her approval. Two sets of hands on the reins, they trotted out of the barn. The girl giggled and laughed the whole way. She sat tall in the saddle and beamed at the other villagers as they walked past. Xena laughed inside, remembering.

"Tara! What on earth are you doing up there? I'm sorry, miss, I hope she wasn't pestering you to death." A young man met them at the market. He reached up and took the girl down off Argo.

"She's fine. I offered her the ride. The least I could do considering her grooming skills." Xena answered, dismounting herself. A puff of dust arose from under her boots.

"Tara loves horses. She goes to the stables everyday. She would sleep there if I let her. I am Pherenon, her father. I run the market. Can I get you anything?" he asked.

"I just need a few things; fresh bread and cheese if you have it. Do I need to fill my flask at the inn or can you do that?" Xena gazed and picked at the vegetables and fruit. She picked up an apple and gave it to Argo.

'I can take care of all of it."

Xena handed him the flask off her belt. After all, she needed it full for her flamethrowing trick, should the occasion arise. "Thanks, how much?" she wanted to know.

"2 dinars. I'll be back in a moment. Come Tara." Tara waved back at Xena. "Thank you. And, thank you, Argo." the girl, still grinning ear to ear, ran after her father.

As promised he returned in just a moment, a sack of warm, fresh bread and cheese in one hand, the small flask in the other. Xena handed him the coins. "Thank you." she put the sack in one of the empty saddlebags. "And could you tell me how far I am from Potiedia?"

"Just over that ridge. Not more than 3 hours ride." Xena climbed on Argo, taking the reins.

"Thanks." She turned Argo around and headed for Gabrielle's hometown at a full run.

As promised, Epinon came in to wake Gabrielle at dawn. A gentle shake of her shoulder and a soft caress on her forearm aroused her from a dreamladen slumber. Gabrielle jumped and grabbed her blanket. The bed had looked so inviting last night; she'd slept without her clothes. A bright blush crossed her face. She turned her head from Epinon's amused gaze. "Hey, don't be embarrassed. Lots of us Amazon's sleep in the nude!" she chided the princess.

"Well, I don't make a habit of it." she clutched the blanket closer. Epinon, bemused by the sight, turned to leave. She picked up Gabrielle's clothes and tossed them towards her - just short of her grasp. When Gabrielle reached for them, one white breast was exposed to Epinon's delight. "Sorry. Here." Epinon handed her the skirt and top. She bent close to Gabrielle who could feel the Amazon's hot breath and sweet scent of her skin. A chill ran up inside her. Many times, she had taken notice of her teacher's tan, taut skin and hard muscles. At first, she'd thought Epinon too ridged and manly but eventually, she found her warm and friendly. Somewhat sexy, too. Like Xena.

"Thanks." Gabrielle noticed that Epinon was staring at her. A familiar stare. Intrigued, she casually rose and stood naked in front of the warrior and dressed, letting Epinon tie her skirt in the back. Epinon's soft hands touching her stomach.

"It appears you've been keeping in shape. Your muscles are developing nicely." She caressed them again, moving closer to Gabrielle's face. A slow rush built in the princess's chest. Gabrielle put one hand on Epinon's arm.

"Gabrielle? Epinon? Are you in there." It was Ephiny. The two women stopped suddenly and moved apart. The door-curtain was pulled back.

"Yes, we're both here." replied Gabrielle, a little too quickly. Ephiny looked at Epinon. A knowing look in her eye. Ephiny was going to pay for the intrusion later it said!

"Breakfast is ready. First, we are having a small ceremony to welcome the Princess back. Come, both of you." Gabrielle quickly slid on her boots and walked outside, brushing back her hair. Epinon strode past Ephiny, glaring at her. She lightly whispered 'damn, you' as she walked past. Ephiny slapped her friend casually on the rear, laughing as she walked outside.

As the Amazons celebrate the return of their Princess, Xena rides into Potiedia. Her eyes start searching for her companion even on the outskirts of the village. She spots some farmers and many sheep on the hillsides, but not Gabrielle. Her heart beats faster at the anticipation of meeting up with her in town. She realizes she will have to contain her elation in front of her neighbors and relatives but if all goes as planned, Xena will have her alone very soon.

By the time she galloped up to the fountain in the town square she still hadn't found her Gabrielle. Many of the Potiedians had stopped their chores momentarily and stared at the great Warrior descending on their village. A few women pulled back their children from the street and some of the men held up their pitchforks in defense of an impending attack. An elderman walked in front of Argo and demanded Xena to stop.

"We remember you Xena - we have nothing to give you. Draco returned and made sure of that. What business do you have here?" he continued to eye her suspiciously. A few of the young men gathered behind him. "I'm not here to fight you or rape your village. I just want to see Gabrielle." confusion was masked by the warriors firm, confident glance to the growing crowd.

"Gabrielle? Haven't you caused she and her family enough pain?" one man yelled. Xena's faced flinched at the remark. What had she told them? "I'm not here to hurt her, just talk to her!" she retorted, sitting tall in Argo's saddle.

"But, I thought she was with you?" came the question from a young girl in the rear of the crowd.

Xena strained to peer over some of the taller men's shoulders.

"Lila?" Xena cried.

"Yes. I am Gabrielle's sister. You remember me?" she was slowly approaching Xena. A heavy rake in her hand. A few of the men walked with her.

"Of course, I remember. Gabrielle said she was coming here to talk to you."

Xena eyes scanned the crowd for her friend. Nothing. "Where is she?"

"But, she's not here, Xena. I haven't seen her since she left to follow you almost a year ago." Lila was equally confused.

"What? But..." Xena's voice wavered as concern mounted in her rapidly beating heart.

"Xena, where is my sister?" Lila demanded, her own concern taking over.

"Lila, Gabrielle left me 3 days ago. She told me she was coming home to talk to you." Xena turned Argo around in circles in front of the square and its townsfolk; still searching and hoping her partner was hidden in the shadows somewhere. Her fear was showing and her face turned pale. Was this a cruel joke? The clouds overhead covered the sun and turned dark.

"She never arrived here, Xena and I've had no word from her in over a month. Is she okay?"

Xena's mind was spinning. Where was Gabrielle? Gods, if anything happened to her...

"She's fine, Lila. I'm sure of it." Xena announced bravely, turning Argo and facing the road she'd just come in on. She had to get out of here and go find her. Now.

"Perhaps I missed her on the road somewhere. If you see her before I do, tell her I was here and that I'll be back for her." she tightened her grip on the reins, kicking Argo hard in the shanks.

Xena didn't wait for a response and took off at full speed in a desperate search for her other half.

After the ceremony and her breakfast, Gabrielle met with Queen Melosa in her tent. Upon entering she stood and gazed at the surroundings. Melsoa's quarters were three times as big as her own and much more ornate. There was a large oval table at one end with maps and charts spread across the top. Many deep cushioned chairs were around it. A large fireplace with a metalwork chimney was in the center of the room. There were staffs and swords sitting in all four corners. A shelf full of scrolls was over the war table. She recognized Tereaus's sword mounted over the bed. Melosa motioned her to sit on a pillow by the fireplace. Melosa sat next to her.

"Gabrielle. Tell me why you are here." Melosa spoke softly, deep concern in her eyes.

"I... I don't know why really. I.. I just don't know where else to go. I was originally headed back home to Potiedia to be with my sister but I thought maybe you and the other Amazons could help me more." Gabrielle kept her eyes downward. She nervously wrung her hands in her lap. "Gabrielle. Tell me what happened. Did Xena do something..." Melosa inquired.

"NO!" Gabrielle raised her eyes to meet her Queens's gaze. "Xena, uh, um... Xena's great. Really" her eyes lowered again, her voice near a whisper. She mustered courage to speak louder.

"Xena and I... well, we've become closer the last few months." she raised her eyes and looked directly at Melosa. She had to tell her the truth if she was to accept her help.

"Ah. I understand. You and Xena are in love, right? But, I thought that the first time you two were here." she smiled thoughtfully at Gabrielle. Gabrielle let out a huge sigh of relief.

"Really? Honest, back then...I...I didn't understand what I was feeling. And well, Xena, you know her." Gabrielle rolled eyes and let a small knowing smile crossed her lips. "Xena never showed me anything about how she felt. She was always so matter of fact and ridged. A no-nonsense kind of woman. I was in awe of her for so long. But something changed as time went by." Gabrielle was leaning back on the pillow and rambling like a schoolgirl in love for the first time. "I actually ended up seducing her! Now... now I miss her terribly. This is the first time we've been apart since we met. And it's all my fault." her voice slowed and her eyes welled with tears as she realized how hurt Xena must feel now. She desperately wished she could hold her in her arms and tell her how wrong she'd been to leave. To work the problem out together, somehow.

"Why did you leave?" Melosa searched for answers.

"I had to... We were in a fight. One of the men had a cart of logs set up as a trap along a rock path - over in the western province. Xena was battling three other men and I had just one to subdue. Both of us had staffs - he was way better than me! I defeated him but the guy in charge of the cart let the brake loose. I just stood there - waiting to become roadkill and crying out for Xena's help. I should have handled it myself. I was endangering her by pulling her away from her fight and putting her in position in front of the cart with me. By trying to save me, she could have been killed!" Gabrielle started to cry. "I can't lose her like that. I could never live with the guilt. I couldn't live without her..." the sobs grew stronger. "Gabrielle." Melosa moved to put her arm around the Princess's shoulders. "We all lose our nerve at some point. There is not always any easy explanation why. It just happens."

"But, I just froze!"

"All Amazons are taught to ask for help if they need it. That's why we rarely go out alone. There is strength in numbers. It's nothing to be ashamed of. We also believe we hold the key to our own destiny, too. That's why we preach 'act don't re-act.' It takes years of training for a warrior to grasp that fact and live it day to day. Our minds don't always want to stay focused - many distractions exist in this life." Melosa tried to sound comforting without preaching.

"Xena always said to 'focus'. And, that 'act-don't re-act' line? She told me afterwards that was the principle she lives by." Gabrielle dried her tears on her arm.

"Xena is very wise. You should listen to her." Melosa winked at her.

"But if anything happened to her..." Gabrielle's eyes turned away. "Gabrielle. This is a cruel world and only the Gods can truly predict the future. We can only try and do our best. But, if anything bad ever does happen, you will survive. We all do - somehow." Now it was Queen Melosa who cast her eyes aside.

"Tereaus?" Gabrielle softly asked. Her own eyes still red. "Yes, she was my only sister. All the family I had left in this world.' she glanced up at Gabrielle. "But, I survived, didn't I?" She paused an instance before continuing:

"That's one of the great things about being an Amazon - You are never alone and any one of your sisters would lay her life down for you. It's the ultimate in comfort, love, and understanding. It is here for you, too, Gabrielle." they shared a common glance - and bond. "Thank you, Melosa. Maybe I should just relax and trust Xena a little more, huh?"

"She may not have Amazon blood in her veins but she is a true Amazon in her heart. And ours. Yes, I would trust her if I were you! And, I've seen how she looks at you - she won't easily let you go."

Gabrielle's eyes brightened at this thought. How she loved the warrior in return! She felt a sudden urge to go find her lover, wrap her arms tightly around her, smother her lips in kisses...

Standing up, Gabrielle headed towards the door. About that time a huge clap of thunder raced across the sky. In a moment, a lightening bolt followed it. "It looks like we're in for a storm. Why don't you head back to your tent? Perhaps later you and Epinon can practice some of your staff work. I was watching her the other day - she has perfected some amazing new moves. Spend some time with your sisters, Gabrielle. Through them, you are bound to regain some lost confidence." The wind lapped at the canvas door. "You've been a big help, my Queen. I will not forget what you said. Thank you, again." She embraced Melosa with a warrior's handshake.

"You're welcome, my Princess. Now, hurry; Zeus's fury is fast approaching."

Gabrielle ran back to her tent, getting a bit wet from the rain just starting to fall. With nothing to do but wait out the storm, she decided to try to take a nap. She had only been asleep a short while when Epinon came in.

"Gabrielle. The storm has broken. Would you like to come out and practice your staff with me?"

"Uh... Give me a chance to wake up first. I'm a slow riser, you know."

Gabrielle rubbed her eyes.

"No, I didn't know." Epinon gave her a sly grin. Taking her by the hand she drug her out of the tent. "Or would you rather go for a ride with me? He's a gentle horse - I promise." still smiling.

"Sure. A ride would be okay. I'm not really awake enough yet to keep from hitting myself in the head with my staff." Gabrielle yawned. Epinon smiled and mounted her horse. She reached out and pulled Gabrielle up behind her. The Princess put her arms around the warrior's hard waist. Epinon gasped; a bolt of lightening shot through her body when Gabrielle's fingers tightened around her bare midriff. Gabrielle pressed herself close. Epinon's body was even leaner and more muscular than Xena's. She had always found herself attracted to it. Once Xena had caught her staring at Epinon during an Amazon competition. She didn't seem pleased.

"Hold on!" Epinon told her. With that, they sped off in to the lush forest ahead.



Xena, went back to the village of Clios. She'd decided she would go back there and see if Gabrielle had passed through either of the past two nights. If she hadn't, she surely would have came through Seacast, a few leagues to the west. Both towns were the only roads leading towards Potiedia. Just after mid-day, Xena rode back into the town she'd just left that morning. She checked at the inn and stables. No one had a seen a young girl of that description. She went back to the merchants, too. Nothing. She asked a few people on the street only to hear the same story repeated again and again. She rode off towards Seacast.

She got the same response there. And, this village was even smaller. A blond girl travelling on foot would surely be memorable to someone. With no word, Xena was near a panic. What had happened to her friend? What if she'd been attacked again and lay hurt somewhere? Or worse? Xena shuddered at the thought and drove Argo even harder. All she could do was retrace her steps back to their last night together and start over. Hope and fear burned deep inside her chest. She knew that Argo just couldn't keep up this pace all day and night but damned if she wouldn't try! Somewhere out there was her soul. The glue that held her heart together. She had to find her!

In mid stride Xena suddenly pulled up on the reins around Argo's neck. "Whoa!" she swung her legs around and jumped off her steed's back. Argo shook off some of the sweat that had built up during the ride. Xena reached for the pouch of water. She took a long drink. Then she wet a rag and wiped down her legs and arms - she, too was covered in a hot sweat. "DAMMIT, Gabrielle! You went to the Amazons, didn't you?" she said aloud. "I shoulda figured it, Argo. Damn, why didn't you tell me, girl?" she patted her horse. Argo whinnied a response. Xena smiled. Gabrielle would be safe with the Amazons. She didn't have to worry about her there. If that's where she was. The thought caused her face to frown and her eyes grow dark. Fear crept back inside her veins. She jumped back on Argo. Sensing her masters tight grip, Argo understood and gave all she had - they rode all day and night until they reached Amazon country. Neither of them had stopped to rest or eat - their only breaks came from a drink at an occasional stream. 'Gabrielle' was Xena's only care.

Epinon and Gabrielle returned for dinner after dusk. They had spent an eventful day together - Epinon taught Gabrielle a few riding tricks and showed her a few moves with her newly acquired sword. She told Gabrielle she wanted to master all the weapons available to her; revealing her secret desire to be one of the most famous of all Amazon warriors. During a stroll through the woods, Epinon asked her how things went with Queen Melosa.

"Good, actually. She helped me quite a bit." they had stopped and were sitting in the grass near a small brook. It was a very peaceful place.

"I'm glad. But, you know, you can always come to me, Gabrielle." Epinon moved in to bump shoulders with the bard turned Princess.

"Yeah, I know. And, you've been a big help to me today. I needed some time just to relax and regroup." Gabrielle turned her face towards her and smiled sweetly.

"Gabrielle?" Epinon was turning brave. Gabrielle met her gaze. "Yeah?" a wondering look in her eyes. Eyes that liked what the saw - a familiar look.

"I...I..." Epinon stopped her words and leaned in close and kissed Gabrielle gently on the lips. Her hands were softly touching her breasts. Gabrielle moved to open her mouth slightly. Epinon slowly entered her tongue and probed the moist reaches within. Gabrielle did the same. Her hands now on Epinon's shoulders. Her was mind was lost in the kiss. Gabrielle reached out lower to feel Epinon's firm breast and now hard nipples under her fingertips. Epinon groaned in delight. She was running quick kisses and tongue flickers up and down Gabrielle's neck. Her hands moving even lower. Gabrielle arched her back to take in more...

"Stop!" she whispered. Her lips again on Epinon's.

"But, Gabrielle, I've wanted to kiss you forever..." Epinon's breath was hot.

"Please?" Their tongues intertwined.

"Shh...." Epinon took Gabrielle by the hand and was pulling her to the ground.

"Epinon, no, I..." Gabrielle was on top of her, their hips tightly together.

"Gabrielle, you talk too much..." she said, kissing her passionately. "That's what Xena always says. I can't Epinon. I'm sorry." Gabrielle stood up, leaving her potential warrior/lover on the soft earth alone. She was dusting off her clothes.

"No. I'm sorry Gabrielle. I shouldn't have kissed you. I know you love Xena. It's just that I..." Both of them now standing face to face, Gabrielle took one finger and put it to Epinon's lips. She removed it and kissed the muscular Amazon one more time.

"No, don't say anything more. I understand." Gabrielle's blue eyes burned into Epinon's. The warrior lowered hers to the ground, unable to continue to meet those of the woman she had desired for so long. "I'd better get you back to camp; Melosa might start to wonder." Epinon whistled for her horse.

"She should." Gabrielle winked at her and held her hand. A soft sexy laugh completed the package. If she were not already madly in love with Xena, things might be different, she thought. Epinon pulled her up into the saddle. When Gabrielle's hands wrapped around her again, she couldn't help but shiver. Her body was still alive with excitement. Gabrielle again pressed close for the ride back. Her physical desire was not easily quenched, either. They rode back in silence.

After a late dinner of grilled fish and vegetables, Queen Melosa met Gabrielle near the large bonfire that never was to be extinguished. "How was your day, Gabrielle?" she asked, while adding a log to the flame. "Oh, It was great! I went for a ride with Epinon. We talked and she taught me some maneuvers with her new sword. We have plans for tomorrow to practice with my staff."

"Good! Does that mean you will be staying another day? After we talked I thought maybe you'd leave right away and look for Xena. I can send some hunters out to find her for you if you like. Being the Princess to an entire army does have its rewards." Melosa smiled warmly at her. "No, that's okay. I was intending on working with Epinon early in the morning and leaving mid-afternoon. I should be back in Parcaneous by nightfall." Gabrielle had her plans figured out. She handed Queen Melosa another small branch for the fire.

"Don't forget to see me before you leave." Melosa turned to leave.

"Goodnight, Gabrielle."

"Goodnight, Melosa."

Gabrielle walked back towards her tent, running into Ephiny. "Did you and Epinon have a nice ride?" she questioned. An all-knowing smile crossed her lips.

"Yes." Gabrielle immediately understood the two friends had a talk after they returned. She turned her head shyly. What else did Ephiny know?

"Good." was all she said and walked on. Gabrielle stood there - a semi-confused look on her face. Epinon came up from behind and startled her.

"Epinon!" she stood in front of the warrior. "Hey, can we meet in the morning and practice those staff moves? I still want to try and learn them."

"Sure!" Epinon was thrilled the young woman hadn't snubbed her after their little tryst this afternoon.

"Behind the stables. Before breakfast."

"Perfect. Uh, Epinon, I am planning on leaving tomorrow and I wanted to..." she fidgeted and shifted from foot to foot.

"I know. Ephiny told me. Are you planning on coming back any time soon?" her eyes pleaded.

Desire still lurked inside them.

"I don't know, Epinon. I need to see what happens next." She was torn with guilt over hurting the woman's feelings in front of her and wanting to be wrapped in Xena's equally strong arms for all eternity. Beautiful Xena... Passionate Xena... Caring Xena... Gabrielle tried to smile in vain.

"Yeah. Ok. But, I'll see you in the morning, right?" she asked; it sounded more like a statement.

"In the morning. Goodnight." Gabrielle turned quickly and walked back to her tent.

Just before the sun rose, Xena and Argo entered the Amazon hunting grounds. They had rode all night and finally their reward was at hand. Xena had to know if Gabrielle was there. If not... she would have to double back. She might even ask Queen Melosa and her warriors for help in finding Gabrielle. In the meantime, Xena remained hopeful. She had gathered strength for her long journey from her profound love for the young bard. Or, rather, it was Princess in this territory! She was ever grateful to Argo, too. For she could not have come this far without her. She silently promised her a bath, with oats and carrots as a reward. A slight movement in front of her caused her to stop. Her keen eyes scanned the dense forest. They came up blind. She and Argo moved on slowly.

Suddenly a woman was on top of her, throwing her to the ground with a thud. The masked warrior pulled and tugged at Xena, trying to wrap a rope around her hands. Xena was too quick though and lunged out of her reach. She pulled out her sword, circling.

"I don't know who you are but if you're an Amazon, as that mask predicts, then I'm no enemy. Show yourself!" Xena kept her sword raised, still waiting and watching.

"You are no Amazon - who are you?" the figure demanded; now holding her own sword aloft.

"I'm Xena - the Warrior Princess!" Her eyes were everywhere - in front, the sides, behind her...

"Xena? You're Xena? The one who has hurt my Princess? That alone makes you my enemy!"

The Amazon charged Xena, dropping to the ground to avoid a stab of her sword. Her left foot swung around and landed squarely on Xena's jaw, throwing her into the dirt. Xena jumped up, enraged that an Amazon would try to hurt her. And what was this about her hurting Gabrielle? Wasn't it she who left her? Xena crashed her sword against the other woman's. Xena stabbed at the warrior, knocking off her mask. The woman was young, with short dark hair. A mere girl, really. Rather than hurt her, she'd rather have information as to why she was trying to kill her!

"Is Gabrielle here?" Xena demanded - a kick to the warrior's midsection. "Yes." she dropped onto one leg and kicked Xena hard in the knee - causing her to fall. Xena was so elated to know her lover was there that she did not notice the pain at first. In just a split second lack of concentration, the girl had her by the throat, a rope going around her neck. Xena threw down her sword. Gabrielle was there - what did it matter?

"I demand to see Queen Melosa!" Xena cried out - still on the ground, unable to stand.

"Yes, I will take you to my Queen - she'll be very pleased with me and my capture." The warrior roughly pulled Xena up and held Argo's reins while she climbed in the saddle. She took Xena's sword and put it on her own horse and tied the reins together. Slowly they walked back to camp. The sun was starting to rise.

Gabrielle had arisen early and was already behind the barn with her staff when Epinon arrived for their practice. She smiled at the sight of her teacher and her determined gait.

"Good morning!" Gabrielle chirped.

"Good morning." Epinon was just glad to see she had shown up and not disappeared in the night. The sight of her in the early light made her all that more desirable. The sun shown on her hair, making it more reddish-blonde than ever. Her eyes cast off like diamonds. Gabrielle had been meditating - a light sweat already covered her skin. She was happy she hadn't forgotten what she taught her. Wielding a staff takes more than smooth, guided movement; you must feel it.

On the other side of the camp, Xena was brought in. Her hands were tied behind her back and her feet were also bound. Her chakram had been removed. "Queen Melosa! Look at what I have brought you!" the warrior jumped off her horse.

Melosa turned from her conversation with Ephiny and stared up in disbelief. "Untie her IMMEDIATELY, Judea!" Melosa ran over to Xena. Ephiny was right behind her.

"But my Queen?" Judea was confused.

"NOW!" Melosa screamed, taking out a small dagger and cutting the ropes on Xena's hands.

"This is Xena. She is a friend of the Amazons, you fool!" Ephiny was untying Argos reins. She handed Xena her sword. Judea looked up with great fear in her eyes.

"I won't hurt you." Xena hissed. "I told you - I'm no enemy of yours" Her legs now free, she jumped off Argo's back. She reshieved the sword. Melosa handed her the chakram.

"Xena, I am so sorry. You have my humblest apologies. I assure you this warrior will be dealt with according to our laws!" Melosa was still horrified by the sight of the great woman bound.

"I'm sure she will. But, Queen Melosa, is Gabrielle here?" her eyes were burning; searching.

"Yes, Xena, she is. But, please, I want to talk to you first." Melosa motioned for Xena to follow her towards her quarters. "Ephiny! Take Argo to the stables. Feed her and bed her down."

"Yes, my Queen." Ephiny obeyed taking Argo's reins. "And you, Judea." Contempt crept in Melosa's voice. "Go to your tent - I will summon you."

"Melosa with all due respect - please. I must see Gabrielle - now!" Xena begged. "I've come so far." Xena's eyes were welling up and Melosa pretended not to notice.

"Ephiny. Do you know where the Princess is this morning?" she demanded.

"No, my Queen. She's not in her tent." Ephiny answered. "Let me take Argo to your barn - I'll look for her on my way." Xena moved to take the reins.

"As you wish, Xena. Just remember, I still want to meet with you later." "Thank you, Melosa." Xena grabbed Argo and set off looking for her love. She was so close!

Having reached the barn, she unsaddled Argo and fed her fresh oats, as promised. A large tub of water was placed near her. Clean straw lined her bed. Xena petted her trusty friend and turned at the sound of a familiar voice. Gabrielle...? Xena flew out of the barn toward the sound.


"Stop, please."

"I told you - I can't..."

Xena turned the corner and stopped dead in her tracks.


There stood Gabrielle. Epinon's arms wrapped around her.

Xena fell into a blind rage, seeing her lover held against her will. She drew her sword and leapt out at Epinon - throwing a swift leg kick to her stomach. Epinon, caught off guard, fell backwards.

"Xena, STOP!" yelled Gabrielle.

Xena was oblivious to her pleas. She grabbed Epinon by the shoulders and backhanded her with her fist. Xena could feel the bones break under the pressure. Epinon stumbled away, grabbing her staff as she rolled. Seethed in pain she lashed out at Xena and hit her square in the back. Xena doubled over. Blood dripped from Epinon's mouth.


Xena recovered just in time to miss the staff coming down on her legs. She lifted one heavy boot and blocked Epinon's body. Xena then swung out with her sword, catching Epinon on the arm. Blood poured from the gash. Epinon managed to stand and kick Xena in the breast, but the armor plate softened the blow. Xena grabbed the staff, knocking Epinon down yet again. Xena spat, her sword raised to inflict the final blow.

"XENA - NO!!!!" Gabrielle did what she valiantly held off doing from the beginning. She hit Xena's arm with her staff, knocking the sword from her hands. She kept her staff at the ready.

"Get out Xena!" Gabrielle screamed at her friend. "GO!"

Xena fixed her gaze on her friend - her eyes looked at her in mass confusion.

"I thought...?"

"You thought wrong, Xena! Now, get out." Gabrielle seethed, she ran over to Epinon.


"I said GET OUT - Get out of my SIGHT!" She bent back down to Epinon.

Gabrielle ripped part of her skirt to bandage some of the wounds. Xena's eyes went black from the sight of her lover ministering to another woman. A woman she battled and won. Her blood boiled and a fury more massive than one she'd ever felt before grew in the pit of her stomach. She grabbed Gabrielle by the wrist and pulled her close.

"I'm not leaving here without you!" she hissed. She may have lost her lover but she would be damned if she would let her stay there. Gabrielle was wracked with fear - she'd never seen Xena like this before. At the same time she was knocked cold with courage to stand up to her; she raised her own staff again.

"Xena... please, you're hurting me!" Xena looked down to see her knuckles had turned white from her grasp. She quickly let go. Her face softened a bit. Gabrielle stepped back.


Xena moved to take a step forward. A groan came from the corner. Gabrielle put out her hand to stop her. Her eyes were an ugly gray. "No Xena..."


"Go." Gabrielle said softly. She looked into her lover's eyes and pleaded. Suddenly Xena realized the terrible mistake she'd made. Gabrielle hadn't betrayed her.

Xena turned her back to leave. But her torn soul wanted to gaze at Gabrielle one last time - no matter what the return emotion. What she saw was Gabrielle still standing in the same spot - tears streaming down her face. Xena dropped her heart on the floor and walked out.

Ephiny had heard the commotion and came running, nearly knocking Xena down as she walked past. She paid no attention to her. More Amazons were running in the same direction.

Xena wandered aimlessly towards the woods. She kept walking - for hours - until she fell to her knees. Her eyes were dry by now and burning - the tears all gone. Her face was pale and her left arm was broken though Xena never felt the pain. She was completely numb. She hadn't noticed she was on the ground until she tasted dirt in her mouth. She didn't care. Her mind was blank yet filled with so many thoughts it felt as if she would explode. She'd come so far to get Gabrielle back that she never really noticed her standing in front of her. All she could see was Epinon and her arms touching what was hers. Xena had never felt jealousy before. She never had reason to. She never cherished anyone as she did Gabrielle. "Xena?" it was Ephiny, sent out to find her. She was almost ashamed to find the great warrior lying on the ground like this, staring at nothing, a trickle of blood running from her head. Somewhere she'd cut herself. Or, fallen on a rock. One hand had blood on it, too.

"Xena? Can you hear me." Ephiny dismounted her horse and bent down. "Xena, stand up." Nothing. Ephiny reached out to help her. Xena's skin was cold and damp.

"Xena, come on. I need you to ride with me. Melosa wants to see you." Xena never hardly breathed., let alone moved.

"Let me help you." She felt no danger from the warrior, though she noticed a small breast dagger down her leather tunic. "Here." she tried to pull Xena to her feet. "C'mon, Xena. Gabrielle wants to see you, too" Ephiny noticed but a small flicker in the once blue eyes. "Yes, Xena, it's true."

After much coaxing Ephiny finally got Xena on to the horse, in front, and held onto her to keep her from falling out of the saddle. Xena was oblivious to the ride back. When they arrived it was near dark and the camp was quiet. Painfully quiet. Ephiny rode to Melosa's tent. Without getting down, Ephiny softly called for the Queen.

"Melosa. It's Ephiny. I have Xena with me."

Melosa strode out of her tent, surprised by the sight outside her door. "What's wrong with her?" She reached out for one of Xena's arms. "My Gods, she's in shock. Gabrielle wants her in her tent - take her there, immediately. Get her in a warm bath. When her skin color rises, wrap her in blankets and put her in bed. I'll tell Gabrielle she's back. Hurry!"

Ephiny did as she was told. She called on two other Amazons to help her. They undressed Xena and slipped her into the hot bath. About an hour later, they dried her off then laid her in Gabrielle's bed. Ephiny stayed and kept watch over her. She looked down at her and thought sadly how she had always admired this woman. What had happened? She knew Epinon had a crush on Gabrielle, but just what had Xena seen to put her in such a rage? She hadn't a chance to see her friend yet. She might have to wait for the answers, though - the broken jaw would keep Epinon quiet for some time to come. She hadn't seen Gabrielle yet, either. As her mind reeled and built unknown scenarios in her head, the night progressed and Xena never stirred.

At daybreak, Gabrielle softly entered her tent, being careful not to let too much sun lighten the room. Melosa had come to Epinon's tent, pulled Gabrielle aside the night before, and told her about Xena being found. When Gabrielle asked quietly how she was, Melosa lowered her head and spoke in a near whisper, being careful that her own warrior didn't hear the conversation. "She's not well, Gabrielle. Ephiny found her several leagues from camp." Melosa turned her head, embarrassed by the description herself, and yet still harboring some malevolence towards Xena for provoking an attack one of her Amazons. She continued.

"She's in shock. Ephiny said she found her lying in the dirt, blood on her hands, her skin cold as ice. Xena never responded to her. It appeared to her that she was semi-unconscious. Her left arm is broken - it appears several bones have been shattered. They put her in a warm bath and raised her body temperature then put her in your tent as requested. I saw her a moment ago - it ..."

"Stop, Melosa" Gabrielle begged. Tears were welling up again. "Please stop." she whispered.

Melosa set one hand on Gabrielle's shoulder; they both turned at the sound coming from Epinon.

It was a soft groan, her hand barely motioning for Gabrielle. Gabrielle bent down close to her bruised face, brushing back Epinon's hair. She told her to hush and smiled bravely at her friend and teacher. She took her hand.

Epinon's eyes pleaded and Gabrielle knew what they said:

"I want to stay here with you, Epinon." she told her softly. "Go back to sleep." She lightly squeezed the hand in hers. Epinon blinked her appreciation. Gabrielle stayed with her all night, but got reports on Xena's condition every few hours. There really was little change. Gabrielle desperately wanted to be by Xena's side, despite the earlier scene, but felt her loyalties lie here.

When she first saw Xena lying in her bed, she let out a soft cry. She looked worse than she had imagined. She was on her back, her face was broke out in a sweat, the blanket pulled up to her neck. She could see the Amazons had dressed her in a chemise - she could make out one of the straps on her shoulder where the blanket had fallen just a bit and she had bruise on her neck that appeared to go further down. Ephiny arose and came over to Gabrielle.

"How is she?" She asked, one hand over her nose and mouth, whispering. Her eyes becoming wet. The tears never seemed to end anymore. "She hasn't moved all night. I've tried talking to her but I still get no response. Moreover, don't be alarmed by the sweat - that's normal under the circumstances. We have her arm set; you can't see it under the blanket. Her back is badly bruised. Until she tries to move we won't know how bad it is. It could be broken, but I doubt it. She couldn't have walked as far as she did if it was."

"Can I be alone with her?" Gabrielle asked her.

"Of course. I'll be just outside if you need anything." Ephiny turned to walk out.

"Why don't you go see Epinon? I know you want to. I plan to stay here for a while." Gabrielle's eyes never left Xena the whole time. Ephiny nodded and left; grateful to go see her friend.

Gabrielle sat in the chair Ephiny was previously occupying. She pulled it close to the bed. She looked down on her lover. She pushed back a strand of loose hair from Xena's face and wiped the sweat from her brow with a cool cloth.

"Oh, Xena..." the tears came heavier. She broke out in a sweat herself. The sight of Xena like this made her feel sick all over. She hung her head; first taking Xena's right hand in her own.

"Xena, I never meant for things to end up like this." her voice could scarcely be heard. She didn't know if she was actually talking to herself or not. She just had to free her chained heart.

"This was my problem to begin with and now I ended up hurting you with my insecurities. You know how I feel about you. But, why? Why did you think that had changed? Don't you trust me?" Gabrielle wiped some of the tears from her eyes and went on. For an instance, she thought she saw an eye twitch. "I guess you don't and I can't blame you. I walked away from you with so little explanation. I never even gave you a chance. Then I didn't even go where I told you I was. I bet you went to Poteidia, didn't you? Oh, Xena, my beautiful Xena. My sweet lover..." the tears flowed again like never-ending rain. Her hand shook in Xena's.

Xena let out a faint sigh and slowly opened her eyes. Her first sight was blurry but she knew it was Gabrielle sitting next to her. The voice gave it away... a voice she never tired of hearing... She tried to speak. "Gabrielle?" She didn't hear her the first time, the sound less than a whisper. Xena tried harder.

"Gabrielle?" the bard raised her face to look in Xena's eyes. She tightened the grip on her hand.

"Xena! Oh, Xena!" Gabrielle reached for her, now crying tears of joy. Her chest exploded and her heart soared to the clouds. She kissed her hot forehead.

"It's nice to know you're still talking to me." Xena spoke softly. Her own heart was sailing.

"Hey, you, even my own death won't keep me quiet. I'll be haunting you forever." Gabrielle's blue eyes were shining through the wet lashes. She reached down and kissed Xena's forehead again.

"Oh, Xena - I'm so sorry. So very sorry." her tears fell on to Xena's face.

"Hey, it's me that's sorry. I... I just went crazy. I never felt anything..."

"You don't have to explain anything to me." Gabrielle kissed her hand.

"Bu..." Gabrielle interrupted her again.

"Quiet! Haven't I always told you, you talk too much?" Gabrielle laughed lightly and smiled mischievously: thrilled to hear her lover's deep voice again. "You need to rest. We can talk some other time."

"But, Gabrielle. I need to tell you..." Xena implored with her eyes.

"What? Make it short, okay?." Gabrielle was stroking her face.

"I thought I'd lost you. I never felt pain like that. Ever..."

"You haven't lost me, Xena. I'm right here. And I always will be. I promise. It was terrible. I felt so alone - like part of me had died. I knew I loved you but I guess I never really knew. You know?" "I know..." Xena coughed. Gabrielle got her a drink of water. "I love you Xena - now and forever." She bent down and kissed the warriors lips. Xena felt her soul melt into Gabrielle's. She never knew love could be this strong.

"I love you, Gabrielle. I love you." She kissed her back with all the passion she could muster.

Clutching Xena, Gabrielle crawled into the bed with her partner. She laid her head on Xena's soft shoulder, tears falling down the warrior's breast. Xena's own falling on Gabrielle's soft hair.

"I'll never let you go again, Xena. Never - I promise."

"Never is a long time, Gabrielle." the color rising in her deep blue eyes.

She smiled, all her pain nearly washed away.

Looking up at her lover, Gabrielle kissed her warm, sweet lips again, then spoke:

"I'm counting on it."


Zealander would like to put a few acknowledgements here, if you don't mind:

To Kris McKay, Jann Arden and Melissa Etheridge for providing musical inspiration/interludes.

To Rezbunnie - for getting me the last two Xena episodes to finish my collection. (The Reckoning is incredibly sexy, btw.) To Frisco, my 25 lb. kitten who didn't drop 'Stinky-Poo mouse' at my feet too often. (Sometimes I feel just like Rita Mae!)

And to my girlfriend, who patiently put up with my seemingly never-ending love affair with this keyboard in an attempt to finish this little story. <G> I love you, Caite.

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