Disclaimer: These aren't my characters - MCA/Renaissance gets the credit there, but it is my story. There are sex scenes between consenting adult women but if that bugs you, don't read any further. There's not much in the violence department - Xena was otherwise distracted at the time. Enjoy.

If you would like to send feedback to Froggles - please send it to kira@zip.com.au and MaryD will forward it on.

Turning Point



Xena had that dark mysterious warlord look on her face again. The look that said if you wanted to die, *now* was the time to interrupt her thoughts. The look that said “Shut up Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle knew that look. And she had shut up about an hour ago. She was kinda fond of living.

Argo picked his way through the forest, the track widening before the horse’s hooves, his golden haunches shining in the late evening sun.

Gabrielle, who trotted along behind him, was now puffing to keep up - not that the raven-haired warlord towering above her in the saddle would have noticed. For about the fifth time that hour Gabrielle wondered if Xena would notice her collapsing to the ground dead from heat exhaustion. She decided it wouldn’t be worth the risk testing it. Warriors got forgetful sometimes. Chances are Xena’d be taking that left into Athens before she noticed she was missing a certain bard. And only then because Gabrielle had their dinars.

They rounded a bend and below them a village stretched out at the base of a valley. It was enchanting, in the way all villages look when one is dying of heat exhaustion and travelling with forgetful warriors prone to leaving one behind. Gabrielle looked upon it lovingly, her green eyes alight.

Xena swung her eyes down. “We’re here,” she said redundantly in a grunt that only Gabrielle’s trained ear was able to transform into human speech patterns. Her trained ear didn’t always work of course. There was that little incident with the three-headed minotaur where Xena had grunted: “Gabrielle, MORE FIRE” and the bard had heard: “Gabrielle, MAUVE FWAARREW”.

Fortunately, Xena had good reflexes. Although that did turn out to be a little *un*fortunate for Gabrielle later on when Xena finally turned to her with that unimpressed, dangerous look in her eye and began rubbing her shapely long index finger along the edge of her chakram...

Gabrielle shivered involuntarily at the memory. Her hair still hadn’t grown back properly.

“Where are we?” the bard asked. Any conversation was better than none. Xena slid effortlessly off the saddle but ignored her. She never had much time for small talk, even if it did seem, well, actually, a relatively reasonable question. She tossed her long hair back and gathered Argo’s reins in her hand, leading the horse towards the stables.

She turned back and looked at Gabrielle. “Find an inn.”

Gabrielle stared back indignantly. ‘Gabrielle, find an inn’ she muttered to herself. She continued along the square, looking wildly about her, talking to herself and flapping her hands about as she went. Villagers who saw the strange, mumbling, wild eyed woman gathered up small children and ushered them quickly inside. The sun was almost down and Gabrielle couldn’t see any dumb old inns. It was taking forever. She was tired and her feet hurt. And she did have other things on her mind.  ‘Gabrielle stay. Gabrielle heel. Why don’t I just tattoo Property of Warrior Princess on my forehead and...ooomph...’

A dark shadow suddenly appeared from nowhere, dead in front of her. Gabrielle thudded into its solid form. She didn’t need to look up. She knew that seductive tone that accompanied it anywhere.

“Problem?” The voice was sardonic, too. Gabrielle hated that - she knew without looking that Xena’s beautiful eyebrow would be raised at an impossibly annoying angle right about now, ever so amused at the bard’s conversation to no one in particular.

“N-no,” Gabrielle sighed. “I hate it when you do that. Why can’t you just make an entrance like a normal human being?”

Xena looked back, darkly mysterious and saying nothing. They walked for a few moments more and Gabrielle at last spied an inn.

“There,” she said to Xena triumphantly. “Let’s try there.” Her eyes danced in delight at finally having something useful to do. She hadn’t been feeling too valuable since the morning three sunups ago when Xena had managed to whop 10 bandits with her left foot while still cleaning her teeth. Gabrielle had been held at knife point no less than three times throughout the encounter, not that Xena had looked concerned - even pausing to do her back molars during one torturous moment. All the while Gabrielle had been screaming “Xena, help, help” and flailing her arms about dramtically.  Dang, that woman could be infuriating.

Gabrielle entered the inn ahead of Xena and went straight to the front counter. The man behind it looked up and said: “May I help you... oh, oh it’s you again.” Gabrielle squinted at him, wrinkling her nose girlishly, in a bid to ascertain where on earth the man could know her from. She could not say she had ever seen him before. Perhaps he had caught one of her scroll readings. She was getting quite the reputation in... Suddenly she realised his gaze was a little higher... she turned. Xena was smirking directly behind her. The man laid out two keys and said to Xena:

“As we arranged a moment ago, your room is on the south wing, and your friend’s is on the west. Enjoy your stay.”

Xena turned to Gabrielle. “You’ll trip over your tongue if you don’t tuck it in.” She wheeled away again, missing the sight of the bard clamping her open mouth shut in a grim line. “Riiiight,” the bard scowled, staring at Xena’s back. Playing games, was she? Before she could get too furious a thought suddenly struck her. Two rooms. TWO rooms? But they always slept together - sure, it was for necessity - it could get darned cold out in the wild with nothing but a raging fire, a horse, ten blankets and two sets of clothes to keep them warm. Naturally they needed to conserve their heat by being side by side. But it was now a habit. A habit that is, until Xena had chosen to break it. Gabrielle stared after Xena, more than slightly hurt. Suddenly the Warrior Princess stopped dead and turned round to face the bard. ‘Finally,’ Gabrielle thought. ‘Some answers.’

“Gabrielle?” the deep, impossibly timbred voice rumbled. The bard nodded mutely, still getting a slight thrill whenever she heard it. “Pay the man,” Xena barked, nodding her head towards the innkeeper still waiting patiently at the counter, and who was watching with not a little interest the grand drama being played out before him. For the second time in minutes, Gabrielle’s mouth dropped open. But Xena simply smiled sweetly and turned on heel, striding towards her room in the south wing. Gabrielle turned back to the man, pausing only to flinch when she heard a door slam in the distance.

Gabrielle had now managed to count 125 ants and one cockroach co-habitating with her in her room. She had counted 17 chips of flaking paint and knew that the man down the hall should really be dead if his 143, make that 144, coughing spasms were anything to go by. She had lain down on the bed. She had gotten up again. She had tried to write a scroll, but other than the words: “Damn you to Tartarus, Xena” nothing creative seemed to be forthcoming. After counting indigenous insectoid life forms for the second time (one had to be sure of accuracy) Gabrielle was certain she was going stir crazy. She had decided against confronting Xena about her behavior - the former warlord had been using far too many evil looks in the space of too short a time period for her to not consider this a risky exercise. But it didn’t stop her from wondering what she was up to. ‘Damn it all Gabrielle,’ she thought in frustration. “You’re not joined at the hip - get a grip, you’ll be with her again tomorrow and you can ask her. You can say, ‘Xena, you’re being really annoying and inconsiderate and, ow, ow, I think you should let me down from here and, ow, stop, ow, talk to me...’ Yeah that’d really work.’ Gabrielle sighed.

Suddenly she heard a door, far in the distance click open and then shut. A lesser mortal would not have even noticed. But Gabrielle, whose whole body was a lean, mean tuning fork at that moment, sprang bolt upright. “Xena” she breathed, her heart pounding. ‘Well, it can’t hurt to peek...’

Xena moved quickly, slipping out her door, heading directly into the bar. Her eyes scanned the room efficiently. Drunks, ruffians, thieves and... a man swung around at the precise moment and his eyes locked with Xena’s. She sized him up quickly. A strong young warrior, muscular arms, clean, tall and proud. He’d do. She raised her eyebrow and gave a hint of a smile. Instinctually he raised a questioning finger to his chest not quite believing what he thought he was seeing. Xena, the most incredible of all warriors, choosing him for... She gave a nod and turned towards her room.

From behind a pillar at the end of the hall, Gabrielle was rooted to the floor in shock. She had heard the old stories of Xena the warlord, whose sexual appetites once approached those of her bloodlust. Gabrielle knew she would use her powerful young lieutenants as mere sex objects and then cast them aside again when they bored her or no longer served her purposes. And she had heard some humdingers about how young blonde slave girls would be brought blushing furiously into her tent at night only to leave exhausted with half dazed, half giddy looks the next morning. Oh bards heard many things.

But in the four moons Gabrielle had been travelling with the warrior princess, Xena had given no signs of a sexual appetite at all. Okay, sure, there were those times when she suddenly decreed that she needed to sharpen her chakram deep in the woods, alone, because it was a “secret, scared ritual”. And while it was true the chakram never seemed to look much sharper half a candlemark later, and Xena always seemed to look more rumpled and with a relaxed dopey grin, that didn’t mean a thing. Gabrielle presumed the sharpening of weapons gave many warriors a calmer countenance. Made them feel prepared in case of a battle or some such thing. Although it did seem odd she had also watched Xena sharpening her chakram right there in the middle of camp in front of her on occasion as well. Gabrielle shrugged. Warriors.

The bard watched with rising annoyance as the strong, strapping young man followed the warrior back to her room. She tried to tell herself that maybe Xena only wanted to discuss battle strategies or safest routes to the next town but when the warrior woman turned back to look at him, Gabrielle gasped at the sight of raw, unappeased hunger in her eyes. How had she not seen it before? The door clicked shut and, with it, so too did Gabrielle’s hold on her legs. She slumped to the floor and shut her eyes tight. A feeling rose in her chest that she couldn’t quite name, but she didn’t like its bitterness one bit. She heard a sound from within the room and decided she had had enough.

Gabrielle rose unsteadily to her feet and made her way back to her room. Once there, she slowly slid her boots off, and then her underwear and lay back on her bed. As she watched ants making slow circles above her on the ceiling, she allowed her hands to also make slow, sad circles in the fine blonde hairs between her legs. She was surprised to discover a small wetness. She increased her motions and thought back to Xena - the first time she had seen her, locked eyes with those incredible blue diamonds. The first time she had thrown her arms about her in fear, and later in need of comfort. The first time Xena had reached out to her and held her close. That had made her heart pound and wish she could remain locked in those arms forever. It was a need she knew was one-sided and so Gabrielle had hugged it close to her and allowed herself only small secret fantasies here and there. Fantasies of kissing every inch of her lean muscular body and falling into those incredible eyes.

Tears came to Gabrielle and she blinked them quickly back. Her arm was now exhausted and she was no closer to giving herself a climax. She felt hollow and miserable and let her hand collapse limply into her curls as she sighed. She tried to imagine what Xena was thinking. Gabrielle knew Xena had had a certain method to dealing with her sexual frustrations as a warlord. She’d told her as much one day. She’d said: “I had a certain method to dealing with my sexual frustrations as a warlord.” Being Xena she hadn’t elaborated. That’s when Gabrielle had started listening for the stories. Gabrielle had simply assumed, based on four moons of travelling, that Xena had altered *every* part of her life when she had changed, including putting an end to her sexual exploits. But perhaps Xena hadn’t quite seen the need to do everything differently, Gabrielle thought, realisation slowly dawning.

‘How dumb I was,’ the bard thought miserably. ‘All this time, here I was traipsing around after her thinking that maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t interested in all that any more, and maybe she’d ... ,’ Gabrielle couldn’t finish that thought. Tears welled up again. ‘And, and, and all she’s thinking is I’m some annoying kid sister, in the way whenever she wants to get her release with some muscly warrior meathead ... How stupid I am. Stupid, stupid, stupid ....ARGGGGGGGH...’

From the depths of her room one and a half corridors away, Xena heard a dim cry of frustration. If she had been concentrating she might have recognised it as being her bard’s. But right at that moment concentration was one of the warrior’s more pressing shortcomings.

The man cleared his throat again. He was sitting, naked, in front of the most beautiful creature he had ever had the fortune to be sitting naked in front of - and she kept forgetting he was there.  “Huh?” she said. “Oh, sorry. Get your gear off,” she ordered.

The man looked down at his muscled, pale and very naked skin and wondered what exactly it was she thought he had forgotten to do. He shook his mane of dark hair and looked back up at her again, blinking uncertainly. “I did.” he said simply.

She glanced at him and grunted distractedly. “That was fast...” Her tone was growing distant again so the man felt he had to be decisive. He stood quickly and strode to Xena, his arms reaching out to her. She stood and made a move to undress. He smiled to himself. Now this was more like it.

Clang. Down went Xena’s sword. She stopped again. And sat. The man paused as he reached her side and sighed inwardly. He grabbed her by the shoulders intent on impelling down flat on the bed. Except she didn’t budge. Not even an inch. He’d have had more impact on a solid cliff face.

Xena then seemed to remember he was there. She was suddenly staring at him in a most disconcerting way. He decided to try another tack and moved his hands towards her breasts, roughly outlining their shape. Hands like lightening wrenched them off her breastplate. The pain crossed his face moments later.  “Ow” he said in a wounded voice. “What did you do that for? I thought...” “I didn’t invite you here to think,” Xena drawled coolly. “I call the shots. Got it?” The man swallowed and nodded and Xena released his hands. She turned and lay back on the bed and gestured for him to follow suit. He did so, rubbing his reddened wrists.

They lay side by side. Xena was still staring at him and made no move to touch him. For a moment, he considered sliding on top of her but remembered what had happened last time. Finally he cleared his throat, feeling decidedly self-conscious under her half-lidded scrutiny. “Have I done something wrong?” he asked. Xena said nothing for a moment and then finally sighed and very slowly stood up again. “Yes. No. I don’t know. Just get out.” The man, who’s libido had dropped dramatically under her withering stare decided it was possibly the best option for all and grabbed his clothes before scurrying out, slamming ferociously the door on the way out.

Gabrielle’s in-built sonar flung her up to the seated position. How much time had passed? She looked to the candle and was surprised to see it had not burned far at all. Odd. From the stories she had heard, Xena was renowned for going for hours. Even factoring in for exaggeration, multiplied 10-fold if it was a bard telling the story, Gabrielle knew something was not quite right. She adjusted her clothes and slid to the door, padding out to the corridor. She could dimly make out a man’s shape way ahead of her. He was hopping. First one foot. Then the other. He was putting on his boots. Then his pants. Now he was taking off his pants. Now he was taking off his boots. And hopping. And putting on his pants. And his boots. Now his shirt. Curiouser and curiouser, Gabrielle mused.

Xena sat up on the bed, her leather skirt casually trussed up across her hips, chest heaving. She was oblivious to how darkly powerful and intoxicating she looked. She leaned on her knees with her elbows placing her head in her hands. What had gone wrong? It had always worked before. A quick fix and it was all fine. But she had taken one look at him and realised she felt absolutely no interest whatsoever. Nothing. Now she felt both disappointed and still frustrated. She thought hard for a moment, trying to work out what could have possibly happened to her.

A thought brightened her. Maybe it was just *that* particular man. That had to be it. He had been too... Xena couldn’t put her finger on what “it” was. An image filled her mind momentarily of a laughing face, full of life and looking up at her with such adoration. She smiled at it, then wondered why Gabrielle’s face had entered her mind. *Again.* In fact it was a face that was popping up at the damnedest moments. Every other moment in fact from the second she had closed the door, she could see her bard’s eyes, following Xena’s movements, watching her, smiling.

It had been very...distracting...for Xena when she had company and a powerful itch that she had been desperate to scratch for several months. She hadn’t been able to take care of her pressing needs when Gabrielle was there, and now that the bard wasn’t, Xena was confounded by the fact she seemed to be there anyway.

It hadn’t been easy for Xena over these past months. Her drives weren’t just a something to be turned on and off at whim. They were powerful emotions that rippled through her, some times like an army in full battlecry. She was always controlling them. Keeping them at bay, watching they never got out of control. Stamping on them. But lately they had been starting to fight back. It was getting so she couldn’t help but drift into fantasies about appeasing her urges. Sometimes all it took was for Gabrielle - of all people, she snorted - to look at her a certain way while the bard was getting undressed, the sun glancing off her hardening nipples, her eyelids fluttering, chest rising and falling, and Xena would find herself becoming aroused. ‘I’m losing it’ she’d mutter to herself. But it still led to yet another chakram sharpening excursion. Xena was glad Gabrielle hadn’t wised up to the true nature of her “sacred secret ritual”. But she couldn’t very well say: “Excuse me while I hoist up my leathers, thrust my fingers inside myself and visualise someone who looks eerily like you as I orgasm.”  Xena stopped for a moment, musing on the effect of such a statement before giving a sardonic smile. “Well that’d be the last I saw of Gabrielle of Potodeia.” she muttered sadly a vision of the bard sprinting away from her as fast as her legs would carry her.

Xena thought back to earlier that day, when everything within her had given up this fight. She had finally had enough. She could not control it any more.

It had become too hard that morning. Something about the way Gabrielle needed to roll on top of her when she was about to get up, to reach her staff. Although what Gabrielle wanted with her staff at the time of day was beyond her. Still Xena understood a warrior wanting to have their weapons at hand. Yet Gabrielle was a bard, not a warrior...

And when Gabrielle had stood, using her staff to do so, she had leaned forward and the neck of her shift had gaped open in front of her, exposing two beautiful creamy mounds, topped with pink nipples that were just so perfect Xena had wanted to reach down and cup them in her hands, burying her lips into her neck and take her right there. Instead she had growled at Gabrielle to get off her; growled at Gabrielle that they didn’t have all day and then growled at Gabrielle all day long. It was taking every ounce of control she had left to maintain a barely civil discourse with the bard at all.

Finally, she knew she couldn’t take it any more and decided she had to do something. And the best way she knew was a method she had always used successfully in the past. It had gotten her through years as a warlord without problems. Until now.

Xena shook her head and focussed. She would correct her earlier problem by being more selective this time. She’d be less of a warrior, more of a... Xena tried to remember what she was when she wasn’t being a warrior. What was the word? Woman. That was it. She nodded to herself and steeled her shoulders. Be more womanly, she told herself a few times. Xena stood, stretched and headed back towards the bar.

Little did she know she looked even more awe inspiring with that look of grim determination on her face. The inn keeper who saw her saunter in a second time immediately began locking away his breakables, mopping his white, sweating brow anxiously. At least three men took their last gulps and dived out into the cold night air. By the gods she looked stunning, her glossy black hair framing her set face. And powerful. And very *very* dangerous.

This time Xena scrutinised the men more closely, trying to see which one might give her what she needed. But all she saw were rows of drunken bloated faces. Ruffians the lot of them. Some leered at her as she walked past. The arrogance. She was so roiled with unspent energies that she gave one of the more lecherous men a backhander as she passed to teach him a lesson in manners in dealing with a... she paused, what was that word again? Woman, yeah.  She barely noticed the man’s crumpled form hit the floor behind her inflexible wrist, a beautiful Greek armband pattern now embossed in red on his face.

Xena was thinking. She needed... something different. Yes, that was it. Damn though. Nothing.

Xena was about to turn away when a young man at the bar caught her eye. He smiled, eyes wide with innocence, clearly having little inkling for who - or what - she was. Or, surprisingly, what she wanted. Quite in spite of herself she smiled slightly back at his naivete. His longish reddish blonde hair suited him and she noted he carried a worn, tan satchel. She sauntered over to him, ignoring an oddly familiar man at the bar with red wrists who was now burying himself in drink and carefully avoiding her gaze. She wondered abstractly where she had seen him from, but shrugged it off after a moment’s pause.

“What’s in the satchel?” she asked the young man softly. Her voice was almost a purr. She was on fire. Every pore in her skin seemed to ripple sexuality. The bear-like impassive bartender, who turned at the moment, caught sight of her for the first time and simply froze on the spot, swallowing back an awestruck gulp.  “My transcripts,” the man said cheerfully, patting his leather pouch. “I’m a bard,” he added proudly.

“A bard, eh,” Xena said with a slight crooked smile, eyeing him up and down once more. He was handsome in an understated way. “I’d believe it. You have a look about you.”

The man gave her a puzzled look. “Clean cut. Wrinkled nose.” She paused and added with an explanatory shrug: “ I have a friend who is a bard.’’

Images of Gabrielle filled her mind once more and she smiled in spite of herself. There they were, camped together, side by side, trying to keep warm because the raging fire, horse, 10 blankets and two layers of clothing just weren’t doing the trick. And, for some reason, after a few moments nestled together, it seemed hotter than Tartarus. And then there was Gabrielle deciding she was too hot and needed to start taking all her clothes off to prevent overheating and suggested Xena do the same.  That dear innocent bard. Always thinking of everyone else’s interests. Although Xena hadn’t been too sure how Gabrielle sleeping with her soft peachfuzzed cheek on Xena’s naked breast was going to prevent either of them from catching a chill later in the night - but Xena had remembered that bards were very well read and knew many things. Xena smiled proudly.

A wetness working its way down between her legs suddenly reminded Xena why she was there. She stood straighter and squared her shoulders. Unexpectedly, she leaned forward and whispered something in the young man’s ear. He reddened immediately but nodded in delight.

This time Xena, dropped her armor, weapons and breastplate and made straight for the bed, laying back on it. “Undress,” she barked. The man complied after a moment of thought then joined her. His skin was very pale and now that he was closer, Xena could see the young man’s beautiful eyes were darkest green. He reminded her of someone familiar but, for the life of her, at that moment, she could not place it... but she did note something had just leapt between her legs. A good sign. She smiled in relief. This would work out afterall.

The man, who called himself Atrius, leaned over to kiss her but Xena stopped him with an icy stare. “No,” she barked. He reached out to tenderly stroke her face. “No,” she said again in her sternest tone.

He looked slightly disappointed but she could see it had not dampened his ardour any. That was a good sign. She had long since grown weary of the ones who got limp in her mere presence. She couldn’t figure out why that was or why it happened so often. All she ever did was look at them for heaven’s sakes. Oh sure, maybe a growl or two, a few somersaults over their head to land with her thighs on either side of their head, pinning them to the bed with a thwack, or that thing with the whip and her warcry...but nothing *too* awful. And still.... ‘Spare me’, she sighed at the memory.

But now this was something she was experiencing for the first time. Even as she stared at the naked bard she felt whatever had moved within her was now starting to recede. Damn. This was not happening in the order it should have. Then a thought struck her.

“You’re a bard, Atrius? Why don’t you read me something?” Well it had always given her a thrill to hear Gabrielle’s sonnets.

Atrius struggled to keep the confusion from his face, but he had just had a glimpse of the incredibly powerful muscles in this woman’s arms and realised he didn’t want to see what happened when she got angry. Or even slightly agitated. He cleared his throat. “Ah, okay, this is from the fall of Troy.”

“Yes,” Xena said. “Gabrielle, my friend, the bard, was writing a story on that also. I know this one. Tell it.”

Suddenly desire flickered between Xena’s legs once more and she closed her eyes to enjoy it. The man’s voice was lyrical and light and in Xena’s mind she found it easier to imagine it was now Gabrielle reading to her. Gabrielle, her hair shining, her voice laughing, touching her hand to a heaving bardic chest for dramatic effect. She shook her head trying to find another image that didn’t involve her best friend. But it kept returning. That heaving chest... Xena’s mind’s eye lowered its gaze to her cleavage and imagined loosening gently the laces that held her green bodice together. Her breathing became harder - a fact not lost on Atrius.

“Xena,” he asked, pausing his reading. But she did not seem to hear him. Instead that infernal smile was now playing on her lips. She spread her legs and Atrius was shocked to see she was wearing no undergarments and a wetness that lay between them where he had been sure she had been anything but interested in him moments before.

Suddenly, before he could say another word, Xena, eyes still fastened tight and by now mentally up to kissing Gabrielle’s cleavage, slid Atrius onto his back and threw a thigh across his torso. She then slid down to his thigh.

“Mnnnmh” she moaned softly. Now she could see Gabrielle’s clothing falling down to her waist, beautiful creamy white breasts with jutting pink nipples exposed. As she leaned in to kiss them in her mind, she lifted her pelvis off the bed and onto Atrius’s thigh once more, pushing her centre hard into his leg. The wetness pooled on his hairs giving him a sensuous shock.

Atrius gaped in surprise. His eyes widened more as she began to arch up and down on him like a sleek cat stretching in a warm afternoon sun, languid at first and then faster and faster, her powerful calf muscles contracting and relaxing, controlling her movements with perfect precision. She was a magnificent woman. But Atrius’s  excitement was completely ignored by the warrior princess. And if he was bothered by this, she seemed not to care.

In point of fact, Xena was not, for the moment, actually aware of very much except that she was moments away from finally releasing her pent up energies of so long, and enjoying a pleasure that was now tingling throughout her soul. It had a lot to do with the fact her tongue was now dipping into a young woman’s belly button, causing the woman to moan with pleasure and call out her name...


Xena’s eyes flew open in shock. “What the...” How long had this man been shouting at her?

She looked down and realised where she was. For a moment a guilty redness crept up her cheeks. She quickly shut her fantasy off. There was no way she wanted to think about what it had taken to get her excited, or where her mind had wandered. What it meant.

As her vision refocussed she realised the young man she had been on top of had slid out from under her and was now eyeing her with a mix of sadness and understanding.

“Why?” she whispered hoarsely, her body still tingling from sensations not resolved.

“You weren’t here.”

“What?!,” Xena couldn’t believe her ears and sat up. In her experience, the men she had fought with and beside seemed to care about little else but killing and possessing women’s bodies. And not necessarily in that order. Tartarus, she had been there, done that herself. So what, by the Gods, was this young, green-eyed bard even doing in her bed if not to... Suddenly a random thought hit her. He *did* look like someone she knew. Who was it? Ephiny, that feisty young Amazon who liked to hang from trees? No. She had a bad perm and considerably more cleavage.  Then who... Laughing eyes danced before her again. And Xena suddenly felt almost sick. Gabrielle. How she hadn’t noticed it before was beyond her.

Atrius shattered her thoughts: “Look, I’m sorry. But I can’t - and I won’t - compete with this Gabrielle woman.”

Xena’s eyes flashed angrily. He paled as, with barely controlled fury and guilt, she spat out her words: “I don’t know WHAT you’re talking about. We’re just friends.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Atrius said softly. “I guess that’s why you kept calling out her name. I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I hope you and your *friend* are very happy together. But I don’t step between love. There’s probably a bard rule about that somewhere,” he added attempting a wan smile. It soon disappeared and he shifted away from Xena and rose.

Xena watched silently, her cheeks burning hotly, as the man gathered up his clothing. She felt a sudden urge to throttle him for his impertinence, for humiliating her, leaving her now, for, for, for... speaking the truth. The rage left her. After a moment she spoke, in a voice so low that Atrius thought he misheard and she had not spoken at all.

“Sorry,’’ she whispered. She paused and dipped her head in what almost seemed like shame. “Things never used to be like this.”

Atrius gave a slight smile at the admission he suspected was tough for this woman to make. “Well, some things change. You’ll adapt. But you must follow your heart, not whatever you’re used to doing. You’ll only make yourself more unhappy.”

With that, he turned and left. Xena glanced down beside her bed and saw the man had left her behind a page from his fall of Troy story. She picked it up and read the first few lines. And for the first time in hours she smiled in understanding. It was entitled: “Adapt or Die: Troy’s path of truth and pain”.

She began to read, her brows knitted in deep thought. A candlemark later she put the page down. What had distracted her? Then something between her legs leapt again, intent on reminding her she still had some unfinished business. She almost laughed. It was business she now acknowledged she would probably never again be settling the way she used to.

She considered somberly the strange realisation things were very different for her these days. Perhaps she should have re-evaluated this particular side of her life when she gave up her warlord days, she mused. But it had always worked before - when she needed sex, she simply went out and took it. So she’d never had a reason to question these things. But, recalling the absurdity of her night so far, she wondered why she hadn’t.  With a sigh she slid her hand between her legs and began to stroke so very gently. But her heart was no longer in it. She pulled her fingers away and sat up. She knew what was wrong. It was just hard to admit.

“Oh Gabrielle,” she mused. “What have you done to me?”

An hour earlier, Gabrielle had been wondering the same thing about what Xena had done to a second man she watched attempting to clothe himself hastily in the passageway. Quite a convention. Whatever Xena was doing, she was certainly being consistent.

This was one was smaller than the first and much gentler looking. He looked familiar somehow but Gabrielle had no time to dwell on why. She was far too worked up. “By the Gods she’s been busy,” Gabrielle said in astonishment. ‘And all this time I’ve been in the way, preventing her from...’ Stupid dumb kid sister...

Gabrielle had just about had it. She decided she needed a drink. A real one this time. She was an adult after all, not some kid, despite what Xena may think. Some port maybe. Yes, that would do. She waited for the man to finish dressing and disappear before she headed quietly for the bar. She gave her order and the bartender scrutinised her for a moment as if deciding if she was joking. He paused almost rudely as he ran his eyes up and down her trying to assess her age.

“You heard the lady. Get her a port,” a man’s voice said coming up beside her. Gabrielle turned to thank him as the bartender nodded and reached under the bar. Her eyes locked with the greenest and kindest eyes she had ever seen. But she was far too shocked instead by the realisation she was eyeball to eyeball with Xena’s latest conquest.

She swallowed and tried again to thank him but could barely squeak out a greeting. He did not look at all like someone Xena would fancy. Now that first guy, he had that powerful panther like look about him that warriors seemed to share. But this one...

“You’re not a warrior, are you?” Gabrielle blurted out. She hadn’t intended to speak the words. Instead of being offended, he merely threw his head back and laughed at her look of mortification. “No, I’m not. I’m Atrius - a bard,” he said eyeing her curiously. A thought occurred to him. Surely not... “And you are?” he asked. Gabrielle’s port was placed in front of her and she took a sip before answering. Would Xena have mentioned her to this man, she wondered? Nah. She would have just yanked his clothes off and... Gabrielle took another quick sip and then another. Funny, the mental picture of the two of them writhing naked in front of her wasn’t receding. In fact it was making her downright... “It’s not a hard question,” the man said slowly.  “Ohh, s-sorry,” Gabrielle laughed nervously. “I’m Gabrielle.”  The man nodded to himself. He almost laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole thing as he took in her green eyes, pale skin and hair almost identical to his own. Figures, he thought. “The bard?” he stated rather than asked. There really wasn’t much doubt in Atrius’s mind. “You’ve heard of me?” Gabrielle asked in astonishment. “We have a mutual friend who speaks often of you,” he said. And *loudly*, he mentally added, struggling to keep the corners of his mouth from curling up.

“Xena,” Gabrielle sighed darkly into her port. So she *had* mentioned her. She took another drink, a larger one this time. ‘Big sis remembers little sis. Great. Hope she had a good laugh,’ she thought. “Whooa there,” Atrius said in alarm at the severity with which she tackled her port. “It’s not that bad. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“I think you’ve already done enough,” Gabrielle retorted sharply, then paled at what she had again said aloud. “Oh, oh, I’m so sorry.” she gasped in mortification. ‘What has gotten into me tonight?’ she wondered. ‘Xena’s a big girl. It’s not like we’re anything, anything ... special to one another. She should be allowed to release her sexual tension when and how she wants. ’ Gabrielle paused and looked into the murky black depths of her port, seeing her reflection. ‘Then why do you feel so lousy?’ She had no answer for that one. She just knew she didn’t want to be seated next to Xena’s latest conquest for a minute longer. She struggled to her feet, almost tripping in her haste. Atrius grabbed her arm to steady her but Gabrielle tried to shrug him off intent only on turning to go back upstairs, and careful to avoid those intense, intelligent green eyes.

To her surprise he didn’t let go. A burst of anger rocked her and her eyes flashed dangerously. She turned on him: “Look, you might be able to have your way with my friend, but the same privileges don’t extend to me.” She hoped she’d hurt him. At least stung him a little. Why, she didn’t know. But he still hadn’t let go of her arm. This forced her to reluctantly drag her eyes up to his and look at him. He was gazing at her with such an understanding she almost gasped in surprise.

“Gabrielle the bard ... she does love you, you know.” It took a moment to sink in what he was talking about. And then she knew.

“Yeah, and I love her. We’re about as sisterly as we can possibly get,” Gabrielle bit back. Her anger was still bubbling and she couldn’t for the life of her work out what was fuelling it. Or why she was focusing it all on a stranger. She went to pull away but still the man’s hand stayed on her.

“That’s not what I meant, Gabrielle. I mean she loves you as a woman. She wants  you and only you - to the exclusion of anyone else.’’

“Yeah right,” Gabrielle said with a hard smile. “I noticed.” ‘What was it with this man? He enjoyed stabbing people to the heart and soul?’ Gabrielle could have wept at the cruelty of his joke at her expense. Now she felt really sick. She just wanted to get out of there. She jerked at her arm again.

“I don’t think you *do* understand, Gabrielle,” the man said patiently, maintaining his iron grip. “Because of you, she and I - we, er, couldn’t finish what we started tonight. It’s only a guess, but I imagine she’s been this way since she fell for you. She just didn’t know it.”

Every scrap of anger Gabrielle had been feeling simply evaporated. She felt weak. Atrius felt it leave and instantly let go of her arm. But she stayed rooted to the spot. Shock rippled through her body as she tried to absorb the words he’d said.

She knew it couldn’t be true but her mind was having a hard time stripping away the hope bursting ecstatically from her heart.  At least she had one fact she could hold onto. This man and Xena hadn’t done what she thought they had. And maybe it was the same for the first one? More hope.

Gabrielle sucked in a breath and made a patting motion at the air in front of her, trying to gather her thoughts. The fellow bard watched, amused.  ‘Maybe Xena had tried and failed before, too, and so she’d tried again... so that was it?’ Gabrielle could feel her pulse getting faster and faster with every passing minute. And then her brain felt ready to digest the next piece of information.

“Xena loves me as a woman?” Gabrielle spoke aloud the words she had repeated over and over in her mind. Suddenly images flitted by of previously unregistered moments with the Warrior Princess: The eye locks; the constant patting of her hand to Gabrielle’s thigh; her getting the bard’s attention by pulling on her top; her stroking her hair when she thought Gabrielle was asleep; her rolling around on top of her in bushes nine or 10 times a day on the off-chance a bandit might come by...

But what if Atrius was wrong? And Gabrielle blew everything with a look or a word that revealed everything she had kept hidden for so long? Her heart lurched with fear. Gabrielle looked intensely at her fellow bard.

“A-are you sure, Atrius? I mean there’s love and then there’s LOVE,” she whispered. She held her breath for his answer.

“You’re asking a bard if he knows love when he sees it?” Atrius gave a low chuckle and seemed amused until he realised Gabrielle was still looking at him sternly and giving no signs of breathing any time soon. Before her lips turned an even darker shade of blue, he answered.

“Gabrielle, from one bard to another, there is absolutely *no* doubt at all in my mind. And none in hers now either, I’d imagine.”

“What do you mean?” Gabrielle asked softly.

“I mean I told her what she was feeling for you. And she didn’t disagree. Or even beat me within an inch of my life, come to think of it.’’ he smiled for a moment, and continued. “And I absolutely know she was thinking about you when we, um, tried to be together.”

Gabrielle swallowed. She wasn’t sure she wanted the answer to this next question but she asked it any way. “H-how do you know that?”

Atrius smiled gently. What a bard. Always asking questions. He debated whether or not to tell her. In the end he decided if it would bring two people in love together it would be worth Xena’s embarrassment. And his.

“Because,” he paused for effect, “the entire time we were together, it was *your* name she was calling out.”

Gabrielle’s mouth formed a perfect O as she digested what he had said. And then an enormous smile spread across her face. She reached towards Atrius and planted one hand on each of his cheeks and pulled him towards her, planting an impetuous kiss on his lips before saying joyously: “Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou.” She released the grinning bard just as suddenly then bolted towards the stairs when she turned and remembered her manners: “Ah, I’ve got to go,” she called out, a little redundantly, from across the room. The last sounds she heard were a genuinely kind throaty chuckle from the bar.

Xena had being trying to ignore the knocking - she’d had enough of a disastrous evening without needing visitors - until suddenly she realised she recognised the light rap as being Gabrielle’s.

“What is it Gabrielle?” she called out tiredly as she landed on the balls of her feet, readjusting her sweat-stained clothes. There was no reply. The knocking grew more insistent.  “Are you okay?” Xena asked. Her concern came through the door to Gabrielle.

Xena reached the door and flung it open. The bard just stood there for a moment as though trying to freeze that image of Xena in her mind. And Gabrielle had a look on her face that was - just - what? She was positively glowing.

“Gabrielle?” Xena asked hesitantly. What on earth?

The bard stepped in the room and turned, using both hands to firmly close the door. She turned back to Xena, rubbing the sweat from her palms nervously down her skirt. She swallowed.

“What is it?” Xena could barely hide her frustration. First the bard was cranky with her (and rightfully so), then she reappears with a look on her face as if she’s had a celestial vision. And Xena, still as sexually pent up as she’d ever been in her life, was not in the mood to try and figure it all out. Suddenly it occurred to her that Gabrielle, for a talkative bard, still hadn’t spoken. Or rather she was trying to - words were forming at her mouth but not being uttered.

A flicker of concern crossed Xena’s mind. What could it possibly be? Her bard had been struck mute? Was that it? Oh the gods be praised, Xena smiled at the idea for a monet. Then she guiltily stopped at her little joke.

Gabrielle had, for the tenth time, attempted to say all the things her heart was singing to her and had failed. She knew she had been wanting - from the first moment she had met this powerful exciting woman - to be closer to her. But how much closer, she hadn’t realised. Not until Atrius said the words that freed her from the restrictions of her limited experience and put into her mind the very thing she knew in her heart she had always wanted. Suddenly it had seemed so obvious. She loved Xena. Really loved her. And wanted her. As a woman.

In her exuberance she hadn’t stopped to think through what exactly she was going to say to Xena to, to... to what? What on earth was Gabrielle going to do after this? The thought struck a sudden terror through her, and Gabrielle began to panic. Struck mute, fixed to the spot and staring fixedly at Xena, she was quite the sight.

Xena had had enough and filled the distance between them. She placed her hands on Gabrielle’s shoulders and said more kindly: “So come on. What is it, Gabrielle?” Little did Xena realise that the smell of her own sex and sweat so thoroughly permeated her clothes, at that moment it was completely overwhelming for the bard. Gabrielle suddenly trembled in sheer anticipation.

Xena saw the tremble and thought it was coldness. Instinctually she wrapped her arms around Gabrielle. Unbidden, one of her earlier fantasies about the bard came rushing back as she felt her warmth. Xena stepped quickly back as though she’d been shot. Now was neither the time or place. She had to get her churning emotions under control. And quickly.

Gabrielle looked up at her in confusion. She had just about found the words and then Xena had held her and they had flown out of her mind again as she moulded her smaller body into that larger powerful one. And then Xena had stepped away again.

The trembling bard’s heart was in pieces and she had no way of saying the words that would put it back together. So Gabrielle panicked.  And ran.

Xena blinked in surprise at the departing form. For a moment there she could have sworn she’d seen... No... it couldn’t be...or could it?

Xena stared at her door for the longest time deciding. If she was mistaken about the fleeting look in Gabrielle’s eyes, everything would be ruined. No more sharing a bedroll with her affectionate bard. No more thigh rubs and tumbles in bushes. No more Gabrielle. She would be home in Potodea weeping to her sister about the sex crazed Xena; that weird dark-haired warrior princess who loved her. Xena gasped. Loved her?  Had she just thought that? Could it be true? But Xena knew the answer bare beats after she posed the question. Now her choice was even harder.

Gabrielle stared at the paint flaking off the door to her room, not quite believing what she had done. ‘Xena must think I’m stark raving mad. Carrying on like a silly child, not able to speak. She might just leave me right here rather than face my nonsense again.’ Feeling quite sorry for herself, Gabrielle flopped down on her bed and began to sob, face first into the pillow. It was a heartfelt weep, containing all her pent up love and need for the woman she realised she loved so much. She was crying so hard she never heard the door open or the soft but determined footsteps.

“Gabrielle?’’  That rumbling, sensuous voice came from just inches above her ear. Gabrielle gasped in surprise and tried to sit up but found that a musky body right behind her prevented her from doing so. She gulped back her tears. What must Xena think of her now? She knew the answer. “Silly crybaby” she said aloud and then clamped her hand to her mouth in horror. “Oh, no!”

Xena, for her part, had found from the first moment she had crept into Gabrielle’s room that her heart was melting. Her bard’s unbidden slip had now turned her to mush. Amused mush. ‘Some tough warrior I am,’ she thought. But she smiled gently, again leaning in to Gabrielle’s ear.

“Shush, love, it’s all right.”

‘Did she just say LOVE?’ Gabrielle tensed, stopping all movement instantly. ‘Did I just say LOVE?’ Xena tensed, stopping all movement instantly.

Gabrielle slowly, so very slowly turned her tear-stained face up to face Xena’s. Xena, for her part, was unsuccessfully trying to look away, so fearful was she that her every emotion was now lit up like firelight across her face.

She was right to be afraid. Gabrielle gasped at the sight of the warrior princess’s naked emotion. Xena immediately went to move away but for once the bard was faster than her, seizing her wrist in her small hand and saying slowly, deliberately: “Shush, love, it’s all right.”

There was silence. It went for one heartbeat. Then two, then three. Both women absorbed the importance of what had just transpired and were now almost afraid to ruin the moment with words.

For Xena, words had never been her strength anyway. She decided the time had come to act. Gently, so very gently, she took Gabrielle’s chin in one hand and looked deeply into her eyes. She saw the love that she felt shining back at her. It was both a frightening and incredible sight. Xena’s heart lurched and, so achingly slowly, she lowered her mouth onto Gabrielle’s.

For a moment they just let their lips rest, as though not quite believing what had happened and then, together, they parted their lips and let their tongues touch. The kiss grew deeper and Gabrielle heard a deep moan come from far the back of the warrior’s throat.

A tear sprang to her eye. She realised now that it must be another dream. It couldn’t possibly be real. Sadly she pulled away.

Xena seemed to understand. “It *is* real Gabrielle,” she said softly. “I feel it too. Here.” She took the hand Gabrielle had been holding and placed both of their hands on her breast over her heart. “Feel that?”

The thumping beneath Gabrielle’s hand was so incredibly strong - and fast - the bard almost jumped in surprise. She looked up in wonder at Xena. And then without another thought or doubt, she pulled the beautiful women’s head down to hers and claimed her mouth hungrily.

“Gods, Gabrielle, where did you learn to kiss like that?” Xena panted when they broke apart for a breath.

“I have many skills,” the bard responded in her closest approximation of a Xena voice she could muster.

Xena smiled, trying to look mildly miffed at the impersonation but failing most miserably. A thought struck. She gazed into those green eyes which now reflected every shining emotion Gabrielle had ever had for Xena. The joy in them was simply breathtaking. Xena sucked in a breath of delight and tried to remember her question.

“How did you know I felt...” Xena tried to find the words.

Gabrielle grinned coyly. “Never underestimate a bard,” she said. Xena looked confused at Gabrielle for a moment. And then realisation struck. “Atrius?” she breathed hoarsely. “I’ll kill him!”

“Oh, I wouldn’t,” Gabrielle sighed happily. “At least not until later.”

Xena cocked an eyebrow. Just what exactly did this young woman have in mind? Hmmm. “We’ll just have to see what other skills you possess,” Xena whispered leaning in again, tracing Gabrielle’s face with the long fingers of her hand. Their mouths locked again and this time Xena felt, with a gasp, Gabrielle’s hand slide up onto her breast, circling it with her fingers. She felt her nipple harden and moaned into Gabrielle’s mouth.

In reply, the bard stood, pulled Xena up with her and lowered the straps of Xena’s clothing off her shoulder. She then stepped away from her so she could watch the material fall away from Xena’s body. The desire that burned in her eyes was suddenly so clear to the warrior princess. She stared at Gabrielle in a new light. ‘Why didn’t I see it before?’ she wondered.

It would be the last thing she would wonder for some time. The bard had dropped to her knees and was now resting her cheek into the dark thatch of hair at Xena’s most private parts. Xena’s eyes widened in astonishment. Where had the bard picked this up from?

Gabrielle now turned to face Xena’s mound and gently nuzzled it for a moment, before curling her fingers underneath. They came away drenched in Xena’s juices.  Gabrielle stared at her fingers for a moment, awestruck by the proof of Atrius’s words. The burning in her core was now more intense and she pushed it from her mind to consider her next step.

“Please, Gabrielle,” Xena moaned. “Touch me. There.” Xena, as always, provided the solution Gabrielle was looking for. She smiled to herself. And then brought both fingers up to rub Xena’s engorged pink folds. A throaty, animalistic groan resounded from above. Xena’s musky odor was now stronger than ever and Gabrielle suddenly had an urge to taste the source. Without a word, she hesitantly pushed her face right up to Xena’s sex and gave it a small kiss. And then another. And one more for luck. She was rewarded by Xena suddenly moving her legs wide apart and growling: “YES. PLEASE...” Now Xena’s legs were spread, Gabrielle could see the steaming juices at Xena’s dark entrance. Fixing her mouth to Xena’s swollen nub, Gabrielle slowly slid a finger between Xena’s legs. Encountering no resistance but a beautiful soft wall clamping and unclamping on her fingers, she added another. Xena gave a primal moan. Then another.

Gabrielle’s tongue continued to whirr and she could tell by Xena’s increasingly loud noises and erratic breathing that it wouldn’t be long. She decided to do something she had always thought would feel nice. She removed her fingers completely and thrust her tongue up past Xena’s folds into her wet slit. Xena almost howled in shocked delight. And within seconds the tremors began, rocketing through her body. She grabbed Gabrielle’s blonde head and hung on for all she was worth. After a final shudder, Xena exhaled deeply and let go. Her eyes were filled with unshed tears of joy and her knees buckled beneath her, as she fell forward. Gabrielle gathered her in her arms as she crashed to the floor.

Xena was stunned. She couldn’t help but think that when she had decided earlier that day that she had to have sexual release, the last thing she expected was Gabrielle, her bard, would be the one giving it to her.

Dear Gabrielle. Xena smiled lovingly at her. She captured her face in her hand and turned her towards it. When she had the grinning bard’s undivided attention she said the words she never dreamed she would ever say. In a strangled voice that said more than anything, she managed to croak: “Gods how I love you.”

In reply, Gabrielle nuzzled herself closer to her. “I know,” she said happily. “And I have always loved you. It just took us both long enough to work it out.”

“Yeah,” Xena said thoughtfully. “Maybe I won’t kill that bard afterall.” She looked down at Gabrielle and a wicked thought struck. “But I’m not adverse to torturing a few.”

Gabrielle saw a disturbing glint of bedevilment in Xena’s eye and a thrill surged through her. Oh, she was going to enjoy this new side to her warrior princess a great deal.  roviding she survived it, of course. But oh, what a way to go, Gabrielle mused happily as the Warrior Princess pinned her to the ground and then covered her small body completely.  What a way to go.


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