By Marion D Tuttle

Standard disclaimers: I don't own the rights to Xena, Gabrielle or any of the Gods of Olympus. I just invite them out to play every now and then.

Sex and Violence: Well yes there is a relationship here between two people that are very much in love, they just happen to both be women. There is a bit of violence, but it was was a necessary part of the story. Don't worry, nothing to terribly graphic.

The sounds of the busy village reached out to greet the two travelers that were heading down the path. Xena and Gabrielle normally opted to sleep out under the stars, but tonight they were both in the mood for a warm bath and bed. As well as a meal that they didn't have to catch, kill and cook over an open fire. Gabrielle knew that Xena had some plans for their stay here, what Xena didn't know was the bard had some definite plans of her own.

It was breaking Xena's heart but she had planned to leave her friend here in this village and never look back. The past few months had become a never ending torture for the warrior, and she knew she had to end it. Just when her feelings for Gabrielle had begun to change and move beyond those of friendship, she couldn't say. All she knew was it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to be anywhere near Gabrielle without wanting to touch her, to hold her and make love to her.

At first Xena had tried to convince herself that the feelings she was having were just frustration from having gone so long without physical contact. It wasn't the idea of being with a woman that had jolted her. The warrior had been with more than her fair share of lovers, both male and female. But this was Gabrielle, her friend...She shouldn't be thinking this way. Gabrielle was an innocent when it came to things like this. True she had grown a lot in the past years they had traveled together. She was no longer the wide eyed innocent little girl that had followed her from Potidiea. She had grown into a strong, competent woman. An equal partner in their travels, She was even the Queen of the Amazons. What had Xena quaking with fear was the thought of what would happen if Gabrielle did not feel the same way. If she revealed her true feelings to the bard and found out that Gabrielle could not return those feelings, or worse yet just out right rejected her it would crush her.

She was even more afraid of herself though. Every day she felt the iron control she had on her emotions slip just a little bit more. Gabrielle had already been through so much, Xena would never be able to live with herself if she gave into the urges she had and then found herself unable to stop if Gabrielle said no.

As they entered the Inn, Xena went first as was her practice to make sure it was safe. The thought hit her 'This is just one of the little things I am going to miss doing.' She led her friend over to a table by the fireplace and suggested. "Why don't you go ahead and see what's on the menu while I get Argo stabled." And left Gabrielle sitting there with a bemused look on her face.

Being left alone with her thoughts for the moment, Gabrielle let her mind wander back to a conversation she had overheard quite by accident. Last week they had been in Amphipolis seeing Xena's Mother. It had been clear to Gabrielle for some time that Xena was under some sort of strain and when the warrior had suggested they take the trip she had readily agreed. She thought maybe having some time to relax and visit with her Mother might help Xena to deal with whatever had been weighing on her mind.

They had been there for several days and Xena seemed to be becoming even more withdrawn and sullen. At a lose for what else she could do Gabrielle decided to go talk to Cyrenne to see if the older woman might have some ideas as to how to reach her daughter. She was about to rap on Cyrenne's door when she heard faint voices coming form the other side.

At first all she heard was Cyrenne telling the person she was talking to that they should take their time and not rush any judgements or make any hasty decisions. When she heard Xena's voice in response she thought her heart would stop beating when the answer was that she had already made up her mind, the only way to handel what was bothering her was to leave Gabrielle.

The bard made her way back to the room they shared and started to gather her belongings, tears stinging her eyes. Her first reaction when she had heard Xena's words were of shock and disbelief. Anger soon took over, how could Xena just make the decision that their relationship was over? And without even so much as consulting her. True the were only friends, but Gabrielle had come to think of Xena as more, even though she had not expressed this to the warrior. The time had never seemed right, but in her heart she had been sure that Xena felt the same love for her. She couldn't believe she had been so blind.

Her first plan had been to just leave without a word. But then it occurred to her if she just left not only would Xena be left wondering what had happened, not that she was particularly concerned with what the warrior might be feeling. But she didn't want to cause Cyrenne any undo worry, she had come to think of the older woman as a Mother and she would not inflict that kind of pain on her. She left her gear behind the bar where she could get to it with no problem and waited down stairs until Xena emerged from her Mother's room. She didn't have long to wait, shortly after she had gotten her bag out of sight she heard footsteps. To late to do anything about being seen she realized that Xena was coming downstairs and not returning to their room.

Seeing the bard in the shadows sent a feeling straight through Xena's heart that she had never believed she would feel again after Ceaser's betrayal, but she had been feeling all to often lately every time she looked at her friend. Fighting to mask the raging emotions coursing through her Xena searched for a bland comment. "Your up late."

Equally turbulent emotions were pouring through the bard but for much different reasons. Her voice belayed the pain her heart was feeling. "Just poking around looking for a snack...I couldn't sleep."

"Me either, I was thinking about taking Argo out for a ride and getting some fresh air." Without another comment the warrior was out the door.

A tear slipped down the bard's cheek. She was so lost in her own despair she didn't even realize that Cyrenne was standing behind her until she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. "Gabrielle what's wrong?"

A flood of emotion broke lose and Gabrielle poured her heart out, telling Cyrenne everything. Even what she had overheard outside her bedroom door. They talked about everything that Gabrielle had been feeling. Cyrenne asked Gabrielle to give her daughter some time she told the young woman that she felt Xena just needed some time to come to terms with her own feelings. OF course she did not betray her daughter's confidence by revealing anything the bard had not overheard...Like the true nature of her daughter's feelings and the reason that she felt like she had to leave Gabrielle.

Gabrielle could tell that there where some things that Cyrenne was not telling her, but she still felt as thought she had some insights into what might have been causing Xena's abnormal behavior. She resigned herself that she had to find out what was behind this.

That had been over a week ago and she was still no closer to answers then she had been before. She knew now what she had to do, she just wasn't sure how she should go about it. One thing was certain, she knew she didn't have much time. Her thoughts were interrupted by a light tap on her shoulder. Gabrielle turned to see Aphrodite standing behind her. "To what do I owe the privilege of getting a visit from the Goddess of love herself?" Gabrielle asked.

"Hey be mellow babe, I'm here to help."

"Help with what? I can't think of anything I would need your help with."

"As if, everyone on Olympus has been watching you make cow eyes at tall dark and dangerous out there when you don't think she's looking. And what's more, most of us, with just a few exceptions whom shall remain nameless want you to get together."

"Why?" Was the skeptical answer.

"Because believe it or not, most of the gods have a real soft spot for love. It's not very often we get to see two mortals that share the kind of bond you two do. Unfortunately you both have been too pigheaded to admit how you feel." She added with a sly wink "We're not all bad ya know."

Gabrielle took a moment to consider what Aphrodite was saying to her. She finally decided that the goddess was being straight with her. "Well whatever the reason I'm glad to have you on my side in this. I finally got Cyrenne to tell me some of what Xena had told her but not everything. From what I can piece together Xena does love me, but she is holding back for some reason. She is determined to leave me behind, and I can't let that happen."

"She is afraid you know...Afraid that if she tells you what she is feeling you will reject her or worse hate her for it."

"How could she think that? After everything we have been through she should know...." The words trailed off, for once in her life the bard feeling at a loss for words.

"She should know what Gabrielle? That you love her? How is she going to know if you don't tell her?"

"If that's all it would take I would go to her and tell her right now."

Aphrodite shook her head, "It's to late for that now. Anything you would say would seem like a ploy to her. She would just see it as pity, she knows that you suspect something is wrong and if you walk out there and make a declaration of love she is going to run the other way. She thinks she would be protecting you by doing that."

Gabrielle was feeling lost, if she couldn't tell Xena what she was feeling what was she supposed to do? It seemed like there was no way to solve this problem. The next question took Gabrielle completely by surprise. "Are you a good flirt?"


"It's a simple question. Are You a good flirt?"

"I...I don't know...I've never really tried."

"Well if your willing to try now I think I might have an idea that will bring our dear Warrior Princess out of her shell. If you to are going to get together Xena is going to have to be the one to make the first move, otherwise she is never going to truly accept that this is what you want."

"That seems a little backwards...After all if I made the first move I think that would show her that I want to be with her."

"No, no, no. See this is why you need me. Xena is going to think that anything you stay is a ploy. She is not going to accept that you truly want to be with her easily."

"But why?"

"Because, as much good Xena as done she is still hung up on her guilt about the things she did as a Warlord. Simply put she doesn't think she is good enough for you."

As much as she hated to admit it Gabrielle knew there was a lot of truth to what Aphrodite was saying. They had talked many times about Xena's feelings of guilt about her past crimes. The bard had tried everything she knew to try and convince the warrior that she had changed, and deserved to have a good life...and to be loved. But whenever they had started talking about things like this, the old familiar walls would come up again and Gabrielle could almost see Xena closing herself off. "Alright Aphrodite, I'll grant you make some valid points. But I still don't understand what my ability as a flirt is going to have to do with anything."

"Just follow my lead sweet cheeks." With that the Goddess of Love transformed into a tall beautiful brunette with heart stopping grey eyes. "The fastest way to get someone to admit that they love you is to make them think that someone else is interested in you." Aphrodite explained.

"I don't want to use any tricks or spells to make Xena say she loves me."

"Chill babe, all we are going to do is let your tall dark and lethal warrior see what could happen if she does decide to leave you behind. Anything she says or does will come straight from her own heart I promise."

As if on cue, Xena entered the common room. It had taken her longer than usual to stable Argo, but she had been very distracted. Thoughts of Gabrielle kept breaking into her mind, the more she tried to fight it, the more they were there. She noticed the beautiful stranger sitting with Gabrielle and felt a shiver as the hair at they back of her neck perked up. She decided to stand back and watch for a while.

Aphrodite had seen Xena come in and step back into the shadows upon seeing that Gabrielle was not alone.. Casually she reached over and gave Gabrielle a little squeeze as she whispered in her ear. "Don't look now, but we have a very attentive audience of one. Just follow my lead and everything will work out."

"I don't know about this."

"Trust me."

Xena had a very clear view of the table, and while her eyes had never betrayed her before, she was sure she was seeing things now. The brunette sitting with Gabrielle seemed to be making some very steamy overtures. And it didn't look like Gabrielle had any objection to these actions. This couldn't be right her bard wouldn't act this way...her bard, Xena mentally shook herself. She would have to stop thinking of Gabrielle that way if her plan to leave the bard here was going to work. Walking over to the table Xena felt a rush of different emotions surge forward. They one at the forefront was jealousy, this both shocked and annoyed the warrior.

The bard looked up into eyes that bore a striking resemblance at that moment to blue ice. She tightened the grip she had on Aphrodite's hand. The Goddess sensed as well as felt the tension that was starting to take over Gabrielle's body. She knew that if this was going to work she would have to take the lead here. Extending her free hand to the warrior she said in a sweet voice. "You must be Xena,my name is Dana Gabrielle has been telling me all about you."

A dark brow crept up the warrior's forehead losing itself in the bangs above. "You and Gabrielle know each other?"

"Oh yes, we went to the Academy Of The Performing Bards together. We became friends almost immediately. It was rare enough for one woman to be there, but two? We really hit it off right away."

So they were old friends. Why didn't that make Xena feel any better? She clasped Dana's hand briefly before sitting down. she noticed that the woman's other hand never stopped touching Gabrielle.

"Dana is it? How long did you say you and Gabrielle have known each other? Funny I don't recall Gabrielle mentioning your name."

Gabrielle felt like she needed to step in and say something before Xena became too suspicious. "Dana and I met at the Academy about a week after I got there. Her brother was supposed to attend but had very little talent. No where near what Dana had. When the head master heard her speak at the tavern one night he offered her a scholarship to come and study."

The deity smiled at Gabrielle, she was gifted with a quick wit. This was going along better then she might have hoped. She could already see the embers of jealousy burning in the warrior's eyes. Deciding to take the next step and push Xena just a little closer to the edge she leaned over and kissed a startled bard full on the lips. After breaking contact she stood up to leave. "Well I'm a little pressed for time right now Gabrielle. Can we get together for a while tomorrow?"

"Sure I'd like that."

Raising the bard's hand to her lips she nearly purred. "Great, I'm looking forward to the chance to ...catch up." Turning to the warrior she said "Xena it was a pleasure to meet you."

The warrior briefly nodded her head, not taking the outstretched hand "Dana."

Seeing that Xena was very close to wanting to break her in half Aphrodite decided it was time to make her exit. She winked once at Gabrielle before turning to leave the tavern.

After she was out of ear shot Gabrielle turned to Xena. "Well that was rude."

Xena regarded Gabrielle's flushed features, not sure if the blush creeping up her cheeks was caused from excitement, embarrassment, or annoyance. Or a combination of all three. Fighting to keep the anger out of her own voice her answer came out sounding like an accusation. "Gabrielle I thought you said you had never been here. I would have assumed you didn't know anyone."

"I don't, or at least I didn't think I did." She was searching for a convincing way to cover her and Aphrodite's little deception. "I never knew Dana was from around here."

Although she tried she couldn't keep the sneer out of her voice at the next words. "Oh so it's just a coincidence that she showed up here in this tavern of all places today?"

"Xena! I don't think I like what your saying. You making it sound like we had some sort of secret meeting planned. I don't do things behind your back!" The last part had a little more sting to it than she had planned, but it was too late now, it was out there.

"Are you saying that I do?"

Gabrielle was visibly upset now and the words were out before she had a chance to think. "I accidentally overhead part of the conversation you had with your Mother before we left Amphipolis. I know exactly what your planning." With that she ran upstairs to their room. The tears were streaming down her eyes as she slammed the door behind her. The noise from the door seemed to shake to whole building but she was beyond caring. Her entire world had just caved in on her and she couldn't care less at this point whether she had caused a disturbance or not.

With her back against the door she slid down to the floor, her heart was breaking but through the haze of the pain that was settling around her she had made a decision. She was going to leave, she should have left the first time she told herself. She should never have let Cyrenne talk her out of going, but she had so desperately wanted to believe what the older woman was telling her. Or more to the point what she thought she had been telling her. She had convinced herself when Cyrenne said that Xena needed her and was just having a hard time coming to terms with it that all the warrior really needed was more time. and then this stunt with Aphrodite had made things worse instead of better. She finally had to accept that Xena would never think of her as anything more than a friend. She knew she could never live with that, she could not go on this way, loving Xena and knowing that the love she felt would never be returned. Steeling her resolve she raised herself up of the floor to gather her belongings.

Down on the common room Xena was left staring at the space her friend had been standing moments before. 'Well way to go Xena. You've certainly made a lovely mess out of this' she thought to herself. Then another thought occurred to her, just how much of that conversation had Gabrielle overheard? Had she heard everything, or just heard the part about Xena leaving her behind and then left without knowing the reasons?

She sighed inwardly to herself. "Well not much point in putting it off any longer." Draining the last of her port she turned to climb the stairs headed towards the room she was supposed to share that night with the bard, thinking that she would rather be going just about anywhere else in the world right now. She expected to find a very agitated bard pacing around the room ready to take her head off. What she found was a very quite and subdued young woman gathering her belonging and preparing to leave. It was in that moment Xena realized she could no more let Gabrielle go then she could stop breathing. By the same token there was no way she would ever be able to leave Gabrielle, she had to tell her the truth.

"What are you doing?" Xena asked trying to keep her voice level.

"I can't go on like this Xena....I just can't do it. If you don't want me around anymore I'll make it easier on both of us and just leave." Gabrielle had all she could do to keep the warrior from seeing just how devastated she was. She had promised herself that she was going to get out of this with at least a scrap of dignity and not let Xena know how much she was hurting.

"Who ever said that I don't want you around?"

"You did!"

Xena had a sinking feeling that the bard may have heard just enough to give her a hugely wrong impression. She tried to cover though "When?"

"When you where talking to Cyrenne, I heard you Xena. You were telling her that having me around was just getting to be to hard. I was hurt when I heard that...and to tell you the truth I planned to leave that night, but your Mother stopped me. She told me that I needed to give you some time, even if you started to act strangely and do things like trying to push me away."

Xena looked at Gabrielle with narrowed eyes. "My Mother talked to you about our conversation? What exactly did she tell you?"

"Apparently not what I thought, at first she was reluctant to say anything at all until I told her I was leaving unless she could give me a reason not to. I did tell her if you wanted to be rid of me though I thought I at least deserved to know the reason why. That's when she told me the last thing in the world you wanted was to get rid of me. She said that you were dealing with some feelings that you didn't even fully understand yourself, and that I needed to give you some time."

Gabrielle sank down into the chair and let her shoulders slump forward "I guess I read more into what she was saying then there was, I wanted so much to believe....Well what I wanted to believe really doesn't matter. I saw what I wanted and ignored the reality. But I can't ignore it anymore, to use your own words it's just to hard. And when reality all but slaps you in the face then I guess I have no choice other than to accept it.

It was Xena's turn to be confused. "And what reality is that?"

"Don't make me say it Xena, it hurts to much...."

The last thing in the world Xena wanted to do was hurt Gabrielle. But her senses were telling her that there was something here that needed to get out in the open between them. "I think you had better Gabrielle, I think there are things we both need to say." Comprehension had started to dawn on Xena and she felt like she was holding her breath just waiting for her friend to speak.

"I can't..."

She tried to move past Xena and head for the door, but she found her path blocked by a very determined Warrior Princess. "You have to Gabrielle, unless I'm way off, we both have been holding back things that really need to be said. So let's get it all out on the table, no tricks, no secrets and afterwards if you still feel like you want to leave I promise I won't try to stop you."

Her mind was telling her to go and not open herself to more pain and heartbreak. But her heart was telling her to stay and see what Xena had to say. She decided that she may as well get the answers, as much as they might hurt at least she would know once and for all. "Alright Xena, but it has to go both ways. No holding back."

A nod from the warrior told Gabrielle that she had the agreement she was after. "Okay then, I know that you don't feel the same way I do. And after that little scene downstairs with Ap...Dana I know you never will. You just think of me as your friend. I want more than that...."

"What do you mean? Xena didn't know if she dared to hope that she was hearing what she thought she was hearing.

"Down stairs Dana was all over me, but you couldn't have cared less. It was right there that I knew there was no way you would ever love me the way that I love you."

Xena had to remind herself to breath. She drew the crying woman into her arms berating herself for having been so blind. "You think that didn't effect me? It just about tore my heart out."

"Well you couldn't have proven it by the reaction I saw!" She answered pushing herself away from the warrior's comforting embrace.

"What in Tarterus did you want me to do? Challenge her to a duel to defend your honor? For Zeus sake Gabrielle it looked to me like you were enjoying yourself!" Trying to regain her composure she walked over to the fire place and gripped the mantel with both hands. Gabrielle recognized the signs and waited for her friend to speak. She didn't take long. "I don't know what to do anymore Gabrielle."

Walking back and forth in front of Gabrielle she finally sat down in the opposite chair. Reaching across the space that separated them she took Gabrielle's chin in her hand. Tilting her face up so that moist green eyes were forced to look into the deep blue eyes across from them. "Gabrielle, we need to clear the air here. First of all I never wanted to leave you..."

"But you told Cyrenne."

"I know what I said, but that doesn't mean it was what I wanted. You only heard part of what I told my Mother. I was afraid if I stayed with you the truth would come out some day and you would hate me for it. Or even worse that I would lose control and do something to hurt you, I would never have been able to live with that."

Gabrielle was growing more and more confused by the second "Hurt me? Hate you for the truth. That was what your Mother said. I didn't understand it then and I still don't. How could you think that?"

The pain she saw reflected in her friends eyes shot through here like a lightning bolt. True Gabrielle had just said she loved Xena and had implied through her reference to her actions downstairs and Xena's seeming lack of reaction that her love was of a romantic nature. But did she truly comprehend the impact of what she was saying. The next words out of her mouth nearly knocked the breath out of the bard. "What if I had lost control and let me desires take over? What would you have done if I had raped you Gabrielle? What would you have thought of me then?"

"Xena you could never..."

"Oh no? I almost did...on more than one occasion. That's why I felt like I had to get away from you. I never could have forgiven myself if I had..." Emotion choked off the rest of her words. She dropped her hand from Gabrielle's face, taken the look of shock in the bard's eyes at her admission as one of loathing. Thinking that her worst fears had been realized she said. "I can't do this anymore..." and was gone from the room before Gabrielle knew what was happening.

The bard was left standing in the open doorway, Gods why could things never be simple just once? The realization hit her. She loves me, but now she thinks that I hate her. At first Gabrielle felt irritation that Xena would once again just jump to a conclusion based on a gut reaction and not give her the chance to explain. Then it occurred to her that if the situation had been reversed she might well have done the exact same thing. In fact she had, she had reacted on instinct to what she had heard and not given Xena a chance to come to her by telling her what she had heard in the first place. The were both guilty of reacting to the misunderstandings that had been passing between them. She was brought out of her musings by a brilliant flash of light. Her tone was flat when she acknowledged the presence. "Aphrodite."

"Hey why the long face? Didn't Xena bring you up here and sweep you off your feet?"

"No she didn't, as a matter of fact she was furious over our little display."

"And that's a bad thing because? Didn't it make her declare her feelings for you?"

Gabrielle would have given anything if she could have put the blame on Aphrodite for everything that had happened. But the truth was she couldn't she had gone along with this far fetched plan of her own free will, when she should have just told the warrior the truth. Her feelings of despair overwhelmed her. "Aphrodite, I've made such a mess of things. Xena's gone and I don't know when she's coming back, or if she even is."

The Goddess of love looked at the young bard with tenderness, she could definitely see why Xena was so far gone on her, if things were different...Oh well, she was here to bring these two together. "She won't be back Gabrielle."

The bard could have sworn in that instant she could truly feel her heart breaking. "Then it's over." She whispered.

"I never said that, but if you want her you are going to have to go to her."

"I don't even know where to look! She could be anywhere."

"follow your heart little one, it will take you to where you need to be."

Xena had pushed Argo to her limits, she had saddled her trusty warhorse and left the stable on a dead run. She didn't even know where she was going, and more importantly she didn't care. It wouldn't have made a bit of difference in the world to her if she had fallen of the edge of the earth at this point. Her heart was in pieces and she knew that it could never be whole again now that she had lost the one person that had taught her again what love truly meant. Gabrielle had started out by saying she loved her and her heart had filled with joy. But in the next instant she saw the hatred and condemnation she had feared for so long when she had admitted just how close she had come to forcing the bard. She would have liked to think that it would have never happened, that she could have maintained control. But she knew that Gabrielle hated her now for even thinking of committing such a brutal act.

Raining Argo in she practically threw herself from the saddle. Her legs folded under her and she landed on the ground flat on her back. She didn't even have the will to move. Her inward thoughts and self recriminations were interrupted by a familiar sneering voice. "I can't believe what I'm seeing! The mighty Warrior Princess reduced to tears over an insignificant little piece of fluff."

"Ares your not even fit to breath the same air as somebody like Gabrielle. Much less judge her worth." Some of the old fire had returned to her eyes in defense of the woman she loved.

"She doesn't want you Xena! Do you have to be struck by one of Zeus' lightning bolts to get the message?"

"I know that Ares, but that doesn't mean I am going to stand here and let you malign her character." The sadness settled over her again "Besides, none of this is her fault...It's all me."

A fury seemed to emanate from the God of War. "I can't stand to see you like this Xena! you were meant for so much more, why do you fight it? Your destiny is to conquer the world and rule at my side. You were meant to be a Goddess, my Goddess, accept it."

A voice came into Xena's head, she remembered the words from so long ago. The promise that Gabrielle had extracted from her after Perdicuis had died. 'If something happens to me, I want you to promise me that you will not become a monster...promise me!' the words repeated themselves over and over again. Nothing had happened to Gabrielle, at least nothing that she wouldn't recover from in time. And even though they were no longer together Xena knew that she couldn't go back to the way she had been before....could she? As a warlord she felt nothing outside of the thrill of victory and a driving bloodlust that blocked out everything else. Gabrielle had restored Xena's humanity and taught her once again how to love. But that love had been destroyed by Xena's own darkness, she saw again the last look in Gabrielle's eyes. Maybe Ares was offering her a way to lose that memory, to lose the pain. She looked up at her old mentor The God Of War, the coldness she saw there shocked her back to her senses, she could never go back.

Ares sensed the internal struggle Xena was waging with herself, he also sensed that he was going to come out on the losing end. He tried to stir her to fury so he could gain some measure of control. "Make a choice Xena. You know what you should do, what you have to do."

"Yes Ares, I do."

Gabrielle was trying desperately to follow Aphrodite's council, she tried to free her mind of all the distracting thoughts that were rampaging through it. And to just listen to what her heart was trying to tell her. Suddenly in one moment of vivid clarity she knew where Xena was. As much as she disliked riding she went to the stables to see about the use of a mount. Now that she knew where Xena was she had to get to her as quickly as possible.

She knew in her heart she would find Xena on the shores of the ocean, the same place they had woken up after their ordeal in Illusia. It had been there that they had reconnected after facing their inner demons. They had stayed there for several days, giving themselves the chance to get through everything. This had been the place where they had found their way back to each other. They had done it once, they could do it again.

Xena stared at the God Of War with a cold dispassionate appraisal, the blue in her eyes had turned to chips of ice. "You know Ares, I always wondered why you were so intent on getting me back into your fold. Especially when there are so many other warriors that would be more than willing to follow you and have the honor of being your favorite."

His voice was low and menacing "None of them can hold a candle to you Xena."

"I'm flattered." She sneered, her words dripping with sarcasm. "I finally did get it though. If the world ever stopped to think that the the fierce warlord Xena, Destroyer Of Nations and Ares' choosen. Cold heartless bitch that I was could be gentled by love, then you would lose a lot of control over people. wouldn't you? Well Ares I may have lost Gabrielle because I was to much of an idiot to just admit the truth to her. But I will not betray whatever feelings she may have once had for me by becoming you chief blood spiller again."

He looked at Xena, the hatred that burned in him was undisguised. "Oh your smart Xena, too smart for your own good I think." Drawing his sword from his scabbard he challenged her. "But if I can't have you then no one else is going to either."

Her sword met his, clanging together, metal against metal she fought him. But her heart wasn't really in it. The truth was she wasn't even sure she wanted to live anymore knowing that Gabrielle would no longer be a part of her life. She lowered her sword standing before the one God that she could say she felt true hatred and contempt for and told him. "I have no more fight left in me Ares. If you want my life then take it, just end it."

"I never thought I would say this to you Xena, but your a coward. You don't have the nerve to fight me anymore. You didn't even have the nerve to stick around long enough to hear your irritating little blonde say that she still loves you no matter what." It was the wrong thing for him to say The fire leapt back into Xena's eyes and the spirit returned to her heart.

Gabrielle charged onto the beach just in time to see Ares standing with his sword poised at Xena's heart. Rushing headlong towards them she screamed. "Get away from her Ares!"

The momentary distraction was all Xena needed to whirl away from Ares and take a defensive posture."Gabrielle stay back!" She neatly flipped out of the way as Ares charged her and landed on her feet behind him. Their swords rang together several times before she managed to level him with a round house kick to the head. He was back on his feet before she could press the advantage.

A wide arc of his sword connected with her upper arm, drawing blood. The emotional strain she had been under and the punishing pace of the fight combined were starting to take there toll on the warrior. She had to remain in control, if she started to lose her focus now she was done for. Using her deeply buried reserves of strength and will power she made one final attempt to push the God Of War back. One look towards Gabrielle gave her what she needed, she pressed forward with a series of quick sword thrust until she had knocked the sword from his hand. Sending her foot into the center of his chest she knocked him flat on his back. Looking down at him she felt the disgust well up inside of her, for what she once was, and for what he would always be. "I will never be a part of your world of destruction and domination again Ares. Leave me alone or I swear I will find a way to make you regret it."

Aphrodite appeared behind Xena's shoulder. "She's made her choice Bro. You know the rules, let it go, it's over."

Wiping the dust from his leathers , he begrudgingly sheathed his sword. "You are a meddlesome problem Sister dear."

"Maybe so Brother, but never forget I represent the one force that you and all your little war mongers can never defeat, no matter how much you try."

In that instant, witnessing this divine exchange both women gained a whole new respect for the Goddess Of Love. She wasn't quite the flake every body thought she was." Ares departed knowing that the warrior princess was forever out of his grasp now.. Silently, Aphrodite took Xena by the hand and lead her over to where Gabrielle was standing. Using her other hand she brought on of the bard's hands up and placed them together. "You two babes need to talk, more importantly you need to listen to each other. Try to get it right this time huh?" Kissing them both on the cheek she disappeared in a shower of light.

Still holding Xena's hand in her own Gabrielle began. "Maybe we should start from the beginning."

All Xena could manage was a mute nod, the bard felt a small smile start to tug at the corners of her mouth. "Okay, I'll go first, you always were the strong silent type." That at least got a smile from the warrior. "I've been thinking of everything that happened back at the Inn, everything you said and I want you to know something. First of all that display with Dana, it was a stupid mistake, I never should have done it." She saw a lingering shadow of doubt in Xena's features and she knew what was causing it. "And about the things you said in our room. Xena I know you could never hurt me that way. I know that, I don't fear you, the only thing that scares me is the thought of losing you...I couldn't stand that..."


"No let me finish, I love you Xena. You have become my entire world without you I have no reason to be. I will not let you leave me Especially now that I know you want the same thing."

Xena's heart was close to bursting with joy, but she still felt the need to protect her love from her violent nature. The fear that she would somehow bring harm to the bard was still there. "But what if..."

"I don't want to hear about your dark side Xena. You proved today that you can and have beaten it when you turned away from Ares. And don't say it was because I came back. I saw you, before you even knew I was here you were willing to die rather than go back to what you had been. Your stronger than he is, I Know that..you just need to know it."

"I do know it...now. To tell you the truth Gabrielle I wasn't sure before. No matter how much good I did it never seemed like enough. I always lived with the fear that some day something would happen to make me go back. There where so many times I wanted you... I thought back to when I just took what I wanted, from anyone with no thought of what it would do to them. It was almost like there was someone whispering in my ear to go ahead and take you...that it was my right..." She was sickened by what she was saying, but she knew that if she stood any chance of having the life she wanted with Gabrielle the whole truth had to come out. "I was afraid that I was going to give into that. I never thought that you would feel the same way I do. I thought you would want to settle down some day, raise a family...and I knew I could never give you those things."

Gabrielle moved closer to Xena using her hands to bring the warrior's face close to hers so that she could look directly into her eyes. "I do love you Xena, you know that don't you?"

Xena found herself looking deeply into the eyes of the one person in the world that had ever touched her this deeply. No one else could ever come close to making her feel the things Gabrielle had. Marcus had always held a special place in her heart. But what they shared had really been more of a strong friendship, a camaraderie between two people that had seen the worst aspects of life and had wanted something better.

Borias had been the Father of her son, but theirs had been more of a quest for power and domination than love.

With Hercules she had discovered that she could be so much more than just a ruthless warlord, and she would always feel a certain closeness to him for that. But they had never been in love, deep respect and admiration, but not love.

Gabrielle was the light in her life. The guiding force that had taught her the overpowering strength of what love could really do. The bard felt herself being drawn forward into an embrace. "Yes Gabrielle I do know it...now. And I am so in love with you that some times it feels like you have become a part of me, I was a fool to try and leave you behind instead of telling you how I feel. If I ever lost you I'm not sure I could go on. To tell you the truth, when I thought I had lost you I was ready to surrender myself to Ares' blade. I didn't feel like my life had any meaning left."

Tears had begun to form in Gabrielle's eyes as she looked at her beautiful warrior. She wound her arms around the taller woman's strong neck. "Please kiss me Xena." She whispered.

Xena was afraid if she tried to speak her voice would fail her, so she took the only other course of action available to her. She lowered her head and softly joined her lips with Gabrielle's in a kiss that left them both breathless. "I need to know this is real, I need to make love to you Xena... I need you."

Xena breathed a one word answer of "Yes" before sinking to the sand and taking Gabrielle with her. She laid back with the bard stretched out full length on top of her. They brought their lips together again in a searing kiss. Xena had the oddest sensation of her skin feeling like it was tingling from cold and burning with an intense heat all at the same time. She knew from the bard's flushed features that Gabrielle was feeling the same things.

For Gabrielle's part she her heart was pounding so hard that she actually had a moment of fear for her ribs. Gabrielle decided this would be as good a time as any to put to use some of the tips of seduction Aphrodite had told her about. She slowly pushed the straps of Xena's leathers as far down on her shoulders as she could. Following each one with a trail of kisses that started at Xena's ears, traveled down her neck, across her collar bones and came to settle in the valley between her breasts. "I want to touch you Xena, help me get this leather out of the way."

More than happy to comply Xena helped pull the leathers and armour she was wearing off. "What about you?" Xena laughed "I don't want to be the only one with sand in highly personal places."

Gabrielle tried unsuccessfully to hold back her own laugh. "I didn't think laughter was supposed to be a part of making love."

Tenderly holding the bard close Xena whispered to her. "It can be anything we want it to be Gabrielle."

Pushing Xena back down into the sand Gabrielle found a taunt nipple with her mouth sucking in hard she drew a ragged moan from her lover. "Yeees Gabrielle, oh that feels so good."

She could feel the heat spreading throughout her entire being. Xena's hands reached out to undo the ties that held the front of Gabrielle's shirt together. Exposing her breast to the cool air that were begging for a loving caress. Grazing the back of her knuckles lightly against the bard's highly sensitized flesh brought a shuddering response. "Xena I want..."

"Tell me Gabrielle."

"Lay back and let me love you...please?"

The love she felt for this woman was more powerful than anything she had ever felt in her life. "How could I possibly refuse such a lovely request? I'm all yours."

Gabrielle lowered her lips to blaze a trail of fire across Xena's body. Every where her young lover touched with her hands and mouth brought a melting sensation to her. Revelling in the feeling of naked flesh against naked flesh, she pushed down gently on Gabrielle's shoulders. Her breathing was ragged now. "Gabrielle...would you please... I need you.. oh Gods please love me with your tongue?"

A smile played across the bard's lips as she realized that she had the most fearsome warrior at her mercy, and she knew that she was the only one that Xena would let her defenses down so completely with and that sent yet another jolt of love to her heart for the gift they had both been given. "Whatever you want my love." She found her way down to the center of a very hot, wet and ready warrior. She decided to do a little teasing. Brushing her fingers lightly against the dark curls that covered Xena's opening she asked. "is this what you want Xena? Do you want to feel my tongue right here?"


Moving slightly inside she added. "What about this? Do you want to feel my fingers inside of you?"


"How about feeling my hand pushing you over the edge my love?"


"Do you want to feel me make you come?"

"Oh Gods please yes!!!"

Gabrielle knew that Xena was not going to be able to take much more of the sweet torture she was handing out. Her own desires were close to raging out of control just from touching her lover. She fastened her lips to Xena's clit and sucked for all she was worth, at the same time she plunged three finger into the warrior hard and fast. She felt tight muscles gripping her fingers and she kept the pressure up until she heard Xena screaming her release.

She moved back up the warrior's body and held her in her arms, gently kissing her, while the after shocks of her shattering climax quited. As Xena's breathing slowly returned to normal she rolled Gabrielle onto her back. She smiled down at her lover. "My turn."

They made love long into the night until they were both so exhausted neither one of them could move. "Xena, you do know that Dane was really..."

"Aphrodite? Yeah I kind of figured that one out."

"I never want to have another misunderstanding with you again."

Seeing the love that was shinning in Gabrielle's eyes Xena new that she had been truly blessed. "Well my bard we are just going to have to make sure from now on that we make ourselves clear to each other."

"No more holding back?"

"Never again my love."

They finally fell into a contented sleep, the Goddess Of Love looked down from Mount Olympus, a warm smile on her lips. "It's about time you two, it's about time."

The End

As always any questions or comments are more than welcome. mariontuttle@hotmail.com 


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