Disclaimers: Xena(Warrior Princess), Gabrielle and other "Xena" characters are the sole property MCA/ Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement was intended in writing this story. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyrights.

Love/Sex Warning/Disclaimer: This story depicts a loving relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age, if this type of material is illegal in the state or country you live or if you find this type of material offensive please do not continue.

Comments: I can be reached at jcoker@idir.net  for comments or suggestions. This story depicts moments from the series first season. This story is set shortly after the episode "Is There A Doctor In The House".

Poem entitled 'Thrice Blessed' is an original by ajcoker.

Thrice Blessed

by ajcoker

It has been almost a year since they started traveling together. One started with a reluctant

warrior and a very enthusiastic young bard. At first, Xena was sure that this young woman would be a liability on her road to redemption. There were times when she would be frustrated by her friend's enthusiasm and talkativeness. But Gabrielle displayed a wisdom and courage that was beyond her youth or experience. And Xena could not help but be drawn to her, but she did try to resist.

Xena often had to rescue her friend who would bravely step into the middle of a fight to

protect an innocent with no thought of her own welfare. Such was the case on their recent trip

through Thessally on their way to Athens. They were faced with yet another war where many innocents were made to suffer. Before they got far they stumbled upon Ephiny who had been

traveling with her husband Phantes to Athens to have their first child. Ephiny explained that her

husband was killed trying to protect her. This enraged Xena, who immediately decided they would first get Ephiny somewhere safe to have her baby. Then she was going to stop the war. She did not realize at the time how much she stood to lose by this decision. But that day she almost lost the most important person in her life. Her best friend Gabrielle.

It is now one week later and Xena and Gabrielle are sitting around the campfire settling in for the night. They are forced to travel only short distances, as Gabrielle is still recovering from a near fatal injury. They decide to forgo their trip to Athens for now. Gabrielle is sitting on her bedroll and resting against a log as she busily writes on her scroll. Xena is sitting across the fire carefully checking and sharpening her sword. Gabrielle pauses in her writing to look up and smile at her friend.

Xena notices the movement and looks over to see the bard watching her. She raises an eyebrow questioningly. "What?"

Gabrielle's smile brightens, lighting her eyes with amusement. "Nothing."

Xena puts her sharpening stone and sword away and moves over to sit by Gabrielle on her own

bedroll. "Gabrielle, I know you better than that. What's on your mind?"

"You." She turns to put her scroll and quill away, then turns back to find the warrior's intense

blue eyes searching her face for answers.

"And?" Xena asks.

"I was thinking about how lucky I have been this past year since you came into my life." Gabrielle notices the look of surprise on her friend's face.

"Excuse me?" Xena's eyebrow arches beneath her hair. "How in Zeus's name can you say that? You almost died a week ago because of following me. Actually you did die!"

Gabrielle reaches over taking Xena's hand in her own before answering. "Yes but if not for you I

would have stayed dead."

Xena clears her throat, as she feels her chest and throat begin to tighten with the guilt and fear she felt that day. "Yes but my stubborn pride almost ended your life for good."

Gabrielle pulls her friend's hand into her lap to hold it gently in both of hers. "But it was your

stubbornness and determination that brought me back." She begins to rub her fingers over the

back of the warrior's hand.

"Gabrielle it was your choice to come back, your passion for life that gave you the strength." Xena looks down at the hand caressing her own.

"Xena, it was you." Gabrielle waits for her friend to answer. "Xena?"

"Hmmm?" she asks without raising her eyes.

"Look at me." Gabrielle says. Xena reluctantly lifts her eyes to meet Gabrielle's. Seeing the

vulnerability in her friend's eyes, she squeezes her hand reassuringly. "Xena it was you that brought me back. Your words. Your thoughts."

"What do you mean?" Xena asks.

Gabrielle takes a deep breath and slowly releases it before she begins. "I heard you talking to me while I was between sleep and the other side. I heard the pain and regret in your voice, when you were talking to me and then again, as you were talking to Marmax. I wanted to reach out to comfort you but I couldn't. I wanted to tell you it was not your fault, it was mine."

Before she could continue Xena asks, "What do you mean your fault? You would not have been

there if we would have just taken the southern route."

"All right, but then what would have happened to Ephiny? Besides if I had done as you had

taught me I still would have been safe. But instead I went blindly out into the middle of a war to rescue a little boy without telling you first. If I had come to you or at least taken someone with me things would have been different. I just did not want to disappoint you again." Gabrielle looks away, blinking away tears.

"Gabrielle you have never disappointed me. Frustrated me sometimes, but never disappointed me." Xena adds, "And you're right about Ephiny. If we had not come along she and her son would most likely have died."

Gabrielle turns back, "You know the funny thing is I have never been sure of how you felt about

me. I have always been afraid you would get tired of me and all the trouble I cause you. I was

afraid that one day you would leave me someplace and not come back. Or maybe even send me

back home like you said you would that first night at the campfire." Not being able to stop her

tears, the bard turns away.

"Gabrielle come here." Xena gently pulls her friend into her waiting arms. "Gabrielle I would never leave you. You are too much a part of my life. Our friendship has made us closer than

blood ever could. You are my family. Do you understand?"

Gabrielle straightens to look into Xena's eyes. "Do you remember telling me that the dead can

hear our thoughts?"

"Yesss." Xena looks into her friends inquiring eyes.

"I heard your thoughts when I was on the other side." Gabrielle stops to let Xena think about

this a bit. "I heard you say to me 'Come on Gabrielle wake up'. I heard 'Come on wake up

you're scaring me'. I tried to respond but I couldn't. I knew you were fighting to bring me back,

and I couldn't help. I seemed to be somewhere in between by then. But when I heard you yelling for me saying, 'Don't leave me. Don't you leave me! Don't leave me! Don't leave me! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!' I heard you crying and I knew I had to come back. Then I fought with everything I had in me to come back to you. I had to come back, you needed me. I could hear it in your voice, your heart calling out to me. Then all of the sudden I gasped for air and I felt you hug me close and look at me with tears running down your face. I felt your hand stroking my face and your lips on my forehead and I knew."

Xena is looking intently into her friend's eyes trying to hold back her own tears. The memory

of that day still so fresh and painful. She takes a deep breath before asking, "You knew what?"

"I knew I had to come back because you needed me." Gabrielle reaches up to softly brush the

tears away, as they begin to fall from her best friend's eyes. " I knew you loved me as much as

I do you.

"Yes Gabrielle, I do need you. I do love you, you're my best friend, my family." Xena pulls her friend to her, tucking Gabrielle's head in under her own chin. "I can't follow this path I started on

alone. Because of you I can fight my dark past and defeat it. You give me the strength." Xena

kisses the top of Gabrielle's head before continuing. "I am not as good with words as you are and

I forget to tell you how important you are to me. I'm sorry." She hugs her friend a little tighter.

Gabrielle sighs against Xena's shoulder as she reaches to brush the tears from her eyes. "Xena?"

"Hmmm?" Savoring the feel of Gabrielle's warm embrace, Xena realizes this conversation is far

from over.

"What did you think of me, when we first met and started traveling together?" Gabrielleleans back to be able to see the warrior's face.

Xena chuckles. "Well do you want the long or short version?"

"Xena I need to hear the version that tells me how you felt." The bard answers frankly.

"I know you do Gabrielle. I was just trying to lighten the mood a little." Xena pulls away and stands walking back over to where she left her sword picking it up to move it next to her bedroll. "You know this is hard for me." Xena comments honestly.

"Xena it's all right. I don't really need to know tonight." Gabrielle watches as Xena struggles to find the right words. "It's getting late and we need to get an early start in the morning. Good

night." Gabrielle turns to her bedroll and lays on her side away from her friend. She knows it's difficult for Xena to talk about her feelings and decides not to push her.

Xena removes her armor and sits on her bedroll. "All right Gabrielle. Good night."

Gabrielle wonders, as tears form in her eyes and roll silently down her cheeks. *Why can't she

just say what's in her heart?* It hurts her; after almost a year together, that her best friend can't

find a way to share herself.

Xena finds herself thinking, *Gods why am I finding it so hard to just say the words? They are there in my heart just waiting for the chance to be heard.* She glances over at the best friend she has ever known and the wall around her heart crumbles. She hears Gabrielle's irregular breathing and reaches instinctively for her. "Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle tries to take in an even breath to keep the tears from sounding in her voice. "Hmmm."

"Gabrielle are you all right?" Xena knows something is wrong.

The bard takes a moment to reply. "Would you mind, if we don't go on to Athens? I don't feel much like being in a big city."

"Gabrielle look at me." Xena gently pulls on her shoulder but her friend resists.

"Xena I'm really tired, we can talk more in the morning." Gabrielle doesn't want Xena to see the

tears she can't stop from flowing from her eyes.

"Please Gabrielle. I need to tell you something now, it can't wait until morning." Moving closer

she whispers close to her ear, "Please Gabrielle. Don't turn away from me, I couldn't bear it."

Gabrielle turns quickly into the waiting arms of her best friend. "Xena I'm sorry, I wasn't turning

away from you." She wraps her arm around Xena snuggling into a warm embrace.

Xena tucks the bard's head into her shoulder and places her cheek against the top of her head

"Gabrielle listen to me." Xena pauses to take a deep breath. "I came so close to losing you....I just need a chance to gather my thoughts to tell you what your traveling with me has meant."

Gabrielle snuggles in a little closer, as Xena pulls the blankets over the both of them. "The day

you walked into my life, you saved me from the darkness and loneliness that had overtaken my life. You brought your light and love into my world that was left shattered by a pain filled past

and made me feel whole."

"Gabrielle from the first; when you stepped up to that slaver, you captured my heart. Your

bravery and love for others overshadowed your fear, and I saw the fire of rebellion in your eyes. And later when you asked to travel with me, I saw the longing in your eyes and it touched me. I wondered, *Who is this sensitive young woman and why would should want to be with me.* So

I pushed you away." Xena gently runs her fingers over her friends red-gold hair.

"Then when you turned up to rescue me in Amphipolis I thought, *Why does she care what happens to me?* But I knew that you did. I remember how you stood up to me when I started

to ride off. Refusing to be simply turned away, Gods I admired that." Xena chuckles lightly and

feels Gabrielle smile against her shoulder.

"I'll never forget the feeling that came over me the first time you rode with me. Slipping your arms around my waist and pressing against my back. It felt like you belonged there and it scared

me. Then at my brother's tomb when I felt so alone you brought me hope. I felt so alone and you

reminded me I wasn't. Your warmth reached out to me and warmed my heart that had been cold

for so long. Still I rode away from you."

"When you walked into my camp that night, I tried to tell myself it didn't matter. But when you smiled at me across the campfire, you put your light in a heart that had known only darkness

for a very long time. I couldn't believe it, what had I ever done to be given such a gift. Right

then I felt the strings of love begin to twine around my heart."

"The next day when I tried to convince you it was dangerous to travel with me. Do you remember what you said?" Xena pulls away to look into the smiling face of her best friend.

Gabrielle's eyes danced in the firelight. "Yes. I told you that's what friends do. They look out for each other." Smiling she lays her head back onto Xena's shoulder.

"Yes you did my friend. And no one has ever touched my heart the way you have. Not before or since." Once again Xena felt the strings of love twine a little tighter.

Gabrielle hugged her best friend close kissing her cheek softly. "Thank you. Xena?"

"Yes Gabrielle." Xena smiles at her friend.

"Would you like for me to tell you what I wrote about our early days together?" the bards asks.

"You know I would." The warrior replies.

"I entitled it 'Thrice Blessed'." Gabrielle begins reciting it from memory.

The day our paths crossed I found myself thrice blessed,

By a warlord, ruthless slavers, and one Warrior Princess.

I couldn't believe my eyes when you stepped forward that day.

Who is this amazing woman? What made her pass this way?

A strong and fearless warrior who is confident and smart.

My savior. My protector. And a hero in my heart.

When I asked to go with you to learn your warrior's way,

You gave a look of warning and said, "No you have to stay".

I knew I had to follow so I slipped off into the night.

Leaving home and hearth behind to follow quietly out of sight.

I wanted so much to be like you. Strong, wild and free.

A self-made woman instead of the child I used to be.

As we traveled these roads together I hope you never feel regret.

For the day you stopped the slavers, on the day when we first met.

I knew we would share a special bond. I felt it from the start,

The day one Warrior Princess became the champion of my heart."

Xena blinks aways the tears, as she listens. "That is the most wonderful thing anyone has

ever said or wrote to me. What did I ever do to deserve you." She places her hand alongside Gabrielle head and hugs her close. "Thank you."

"I love you Xena. Good night." Gabrielle places her arm across her best friend and hugs

her in return.

Pressing her lips to the top of Gabrielle's head, "I love you too little one. Good night."

With that they both drift off into the land of dreams safe in the knowledge that each is there

for the other.


The following morning, Xena wakes to find Gabrielle snuggled warmly against her side, with an arm thrown over her possesively. She smiles, looking down at her sleeping there so peacefully.

She thinks, *Only she has the power to bend me to her will, not with greater strength, but with words spoken from her heart. I have no defense against this. With a look or a glance from her I find myself doing whatever she asks, and happy for the chance to do so. Gods! The Destroyer

Of Nations, being ruled by one small woman.* This makes Xena's smile take on a look of amusement, as she watches her best friend. *It's been almost a year that we've been traveling together. I want to do something nice for her to celebrate.* She leans down and rests her cheek against Gabrielle's head.

Gabrielle moans softly, then blinks open her eyes. Realizing she is still nestled close to her best friend, *Hmmm. Xena hasn't gotten up yet. I don't want her to know I'm awake just yet. Let

me enjoy this closeness for a while longer.* Just then she feels Xena rest her cheek on top of

her head.

The bard understands what her best friend is going through. The day she died has scared Xena. Gabrielle knows from experience, what it is like to have someone there one moment, and gone the next. She knows Xena needs to have her close, to reassure her that her best friend is indeed alive. It feels good to be so close, it is a rare event and Gabrielle doesn't wish to end. She begins

to wonder where they will go next. *Hey, our one year together is almost upon us. I have to think of a special way to celebrate it. Xena is so hard to buy for, she's so practical, not that I think that is a bad thing.* Just then Xena moves to stretch and Gabrielle looks up reflexly.

Xena looks down into her friends emerald green eyes with amusement. "Good morning. Did you

sleep well?"

"Yes I did, thank you. I had a very comfortable place to rest my head." Gabrielle replies with a smirk.

Xena raises an eyebrow, "You're lucky you aren't finished healing, or I'd throw you in the stream

for that smart remark."

The bard took on her most innocent expression. "Xena, I don't know what you mean. I was being sincere." Gabrielle gets up on her elbow to get a better look at her friend's expression.

With this Xena begins to reconcider. *Maybe I was wrong.* Then she notices the smile on her friend's face and narrows her eyes. "Gabrielle. You won't be in this condition forever. I can be patient."

This made Gabrielle laugh out loud. "Yes I know you can. And I shouldn't tease you but how

can I resist?" She pats Xena's shoulder before laying down on her back.

This made the warrior laugh at her impish friend. She then shifts to her side facing her friend. "One important thing to remember. Never start something you can't finish."

"Oh, I'll find a way to surprise you one day." Gabrielle laughs, turning to look at her surprised friend. "Xena, would you mind if we head back towards home instead of Athens?"

Well this panics Xena. "Gabrielle is something wrong? Do you want me to take you back to Potaideia?"

"NO!" The bard answers quickly, then realizes she practically shouted her answer. She continues more softly. "No, nothing is wrong. I don't want to go to my home, I want to go to yours."

Well this puzzles the warrior even more. "Gabrielle I don't have a home. I live on the road, you

know that."

Knowing she started this all wrong Gabrielle starts over. "Xena, I thought it might be nice to go back to Amphipolis, where our journey started."

Xena states, "Actually our journey started in Potaideia."

*Gods sometimes she can be so frustrating.* Gabrielle sighs. "What I mean is, we can go there, maybe spend a few days at your Mom's Inn and relax. It will give you a chance to get closer to your family again, and we'll have a safe comfortable place to stay. After all Toris said he was heading that way, maybe you'll get to see him again too." *Then maybe I can ask your mom about a gift for you.* The bard adds to herself.

Xena pauses before answering, "Are you sure? Isn't there someplace special you would like to go?"

"No, I just want to be with you." Gabrielle answers with no hesitation.

Always amazed at the depth of her best friend's love and concern for her, Xena smiles. "Then it's

on to Amphipolis." *Maybe mom can help me find something special for you.* She then rises, turning to help Gabrielle up.

Gabrielle accepts the help happily and they break camp to head out.


Toris arrives at Cyrene's Inn, finding his mom working away in the kitchen. He stops at the doorway to watch for a moment. "You know, I'd forgotten how good you look."

Cyrene looks up at the sound of his voice, instantly tears well in her eyes. "By the Gods.

Toris, is it really you?"

"Yes mom. It's me." He answers, walking quickly into her welcoming embrace.

"How have you been? Where have you been? What have you been doing, and how long can

you stay?" She questions.

Toris laughs as he pulls her over to the table to sit. Finding a chair for himself, he begins. " I'm

well. I've been busy helping Xena catch the criminal that attacked our village."

Cyrene interupts. "You saw Xena? How is she?"

"She's changed. She's not the vicious warlord she used to be. My guess is, Gabrielle has a lot to

do with that."

Cyrene frowns, "Gabrielle?"

"Yes. It seems Xena stopped some slavers in Gabrielle's village about a year ago. Afterward Gabrielle tried to convince sis to let her travel with her, but you know how much of a loner Xena had become. Well Gabrielle followed her here anyway, and has been traveling with her ever since. To say that she has made a difference in Xena, well that is an understatement. The young woman is amazing."

"Oh? How so?" Now he has made his mom curious.

"At first I thought Xena had influenced her like she once did here with the villagers. But I quickly found out how wrong I was. Gabrielle is the one who changed Xena. She reminds me of the sister I knew before Cortese, who by the way we stopped and captured." Toris did not go on to explain how he had been following him to have his revenge. He doesn't want his mom to know

how close he came to acting out his revenge.

"So you like this Gabrielle?" Cyrene notices the way her son's eyes light as he talks about her and

his sister.

"Yes mom I do. But not the way you may hope." He adds teasingly, "Besides I didn't get the feeling that she was interested." Toris adds. "She seems pretty focused on her and Xena, and her being a bard."

"She's a bard?" Cyrene asks, "Now what help would a bard be, in the kind of trouble Xena is

always getting into?"

"I wondered that myself, at first. But after I got to know her a bit better, I realized the young woman has a lot of heart. She's even an Amazon Princess, some kind of right passed on to her by a dying Amazon Princess. And mom you should have seen her stand up to Xena." Toris chuckles. "It was priceless to see."

"What happened?" She asks.

"We were getting ready to go find out about Cortese and Xena had suggested that Gabrielle stay behind where she would be safe. Picture this woman, who is probably a foot shorter than sis,

looking up to her and telling her that she wasn't being left behind. She further informed Xena that

they might just need her help and she was going. She then turns to me and apologizes for me having to be a party to this, and starts walking away."

Both of them start laughing, picturing anyone telling Xena off and living to tell about it. Then seeing that someone being a smaller woman, has Cyrene in tears. Toris continues, "It was amazing to see, I didn't know what to think. The emotions I saw in Xena surprised face, the

whole time she was being told off, was something to see. At first I saw surprise, and then I

saw amusement dancing in her eyes. She took on a tender expression, I haven't seen on her

face since before Cotese's attack. She used to get about the same look on her face when Lyceus used to stand up to her."

*So our Xena has met her match.* Cyrene asks, "Where were they headed when you left them?"

"Xena said something about going on to Athens." Toris pauses before continuing. "You know mom, I've been thinking about settling back down around here. You don't know where a guy could find a bed, a bath and a meal do you?"

Cyrene throws him a quick look. "Well I'd be glad to have you back. But you know if you stay with me, I'll put you to work." She chuckles.

Toris laughs. "Yea, it figures there would be a catch to coming back home."

They both laugh, feeling the love and warmth of being together once again.


Xena and Gabrielle are riding into Amphipolis, heading toward the back of Cyrene's Inn. Xena has convinced her friend, that at least for now, she should ride more than walk. Gabrielle understands this is only part of the reason. She knows Xena needs to have her close, and

is wise enough not to point it out.

When they reach the Inn, Xena slides off first, then turns to help Gabrielle down. The bard's wounds are healing well, but she's still very protective of her. "Shall we go see if I'm still


"Xena, your family will be very happy to see you." Gabrielle reaches out to squeeze her arm, "I know I would be."

Xena looks down at her best friend and smiles. "You have a much more forgiving heart than most."

About this time Toris steps out the door, "Xena! I thought you were on your way to Athens." Her brother walks over to embrace her, then he reaches over to greet Gabrielle, albeit a bit to roughly. When he sees her frown and the tightening around her eyes, he realizes she's been injured. "Gabrielle, I'm sorry. Are you all right."

Gabrielle reassures him, "I'll be fine. Just a little run in with the sharp end of a dagger." She hears Xena clear her throat, and turns to look up at her. "Now don't start with me, I'm fine."

This amuses Toris, and he can't help but chuckle as he watches the two of them. Deciding to come to Gabrielle's rescue. "Gabrielle why don't you come inside while Xena puts Argo in the stable. I'll take your things and put them in Xena's room, and then you can meet our mom."

Toris picks up their things and reaches for her hand.

Gabrielle smiles at Toris, knowing that he just saved her from being scolded by her best friend. She looks over at Xena first though before taking his hand to be led inside. "I'll met you inside?"

Xena nods and smiles. "Sure go ahead, I'll be in shortly." With that Gabrielle let herself be led inside. While Xena heads off to the stable with Argo.

Toris leads Gabrielle through the back door, into the kitchen, where Cyrene is resting between preparing meals. "Mom, guess who just appeared on our doorstep? This is Gabrielle. Gabrielle this is our mom Cyrene."

Cyrene looks up to see the young woman standing beside her son. She stands to greet the bard warmly. "I've heard a lot of good things about you."

Gabrielle reaches out with her uninjured arm to hug Cyrene. "I'm very happy to meet you. You

have such nice children."

Cyrene chuckles at this. "I've heard them described as many things, but I don't remember nice being one of them." They all laugh at this. Noticing how the young woman is favoring her left

shoulder Cyrene asks, "What happened to you young lady, you've been hurt haven't you?"

Gabrielle smiles. "You sound just like my mother, she says the same thing when I get hurt."

"Well, now you have two mothers looking after you." Cyrene adds with a smile.

"And she'll need them too." Xena says, as she walks in the back door.

"Xena, my daughter. I'm so glad that you're here." Cyrene wraps her daughter in a fierce hug.

"You look well. How are you?" She releases her daughter so she can take a better look at her.

"I'm fine, thanks. Gabrielle and I thought we'd come for a visit." Putting a protective arm around

her friend, to pull her closer. "And this one here.."

"Xena don't start. I'm fine." Gabrielle interupts hoping to deter Xena.

Xena looks into her friends pleading eyes. "Gabrielle I'm not starting, I never finished remember?

You escaped with Toris." She states, "You need to rest, and I mean to see that you do."

Toris figures this might be a good time to take his leave, before Xena starts in on him. "If you'll excuse me, I'll put your things in Xena's room, then go out after some fire wood."

"Thanks Toris." Xena answers, her eyes never leaving Gabrielle.

Cyrene watches the interplay, between her daughter and her friend, with fascination. She couldn't

believe the change in her once warlord daughter, now she was curious. "Someone want to clue me in on what happened."

Hoping to keep Xena from telling the whole story, Gabrielle tries to explain. "I had a run in with a

man and the sharp end of his dagger. It happened a short time back and I'm still recovering." She

turns to Xena to whisper, "Xena, we don't need to worry your family with this."

"Gabrielle, that's not all that happened." Xena warns, "You might as well tell Mom. She has her ways of finding out anyway." Looking over at her mom she smiles. "She'll probably torture me to find out if you don't tell her." Cyrene winks at her daughter and returns her smile. Xena turns back to Gabrielle and notices how tired her friend looks.

Gabrielle sighs. "I promise I'll tell all about it, if I can clean up and rest first."

"Mom would you mind putting on some water for tea? We're going to go clean up." With that said she ushers Gabrielle to their the room.

Cyrene turns to Toris, as he enters carrying an arm full of wood. "Well I'd say your sister has met her match. I'm sure there's more to this story than we've heard so far." She then moves to get a tray and begins preparing the tea.


After entering their room and shutting the door, she scolds the bard. "Gabrielle why didn't you tell me you were tired. We could have stopped to rest." She walks over to their bags to find clean clothes for each of them to change into.

"Don't be mad Xena. I only wanted us to get here quicker, so you could be with your family."

Realizing she has hurt her friends feelings, she walks back to Gabrielle to hug her close. "Listen,

you are my family too. Hey, why don't you get cleaned up, while I go get us some tea. Then you can rest."

Before Gabrielle has a chance to answer, there is a knock at the door. Cyrene says, "I brought

you some tea and fruit, thought maybe you might be hungry too."

Xena releases her friend to go open the door for her mom. "Thanks Mom. Here let me take that." As their eyes meet, Cyrene indicates with a look down to the tray, which cup has the added

medicinal herbs in it. Xena smiles and winks, taking the tray. "We'll be out later for that talk."

Cyrene smiles at her daughter, then looks over to Gabrielle. "Take some advice from a certain warrior's Mom. Don't argue with her, she's very stubborn." She reaches over to kiss Xena, then

walks back through the door, closing it behind her.

"While I finish preparing the tea, why don't you go ahead and change." Xena turns to pour the water. After a short time, Gabrielle walks over to the table and sits in a chair next to it. "Here drink this, it's my Mom's special blend."

Gabrielle takes the cup and sips it quietly, as Xena moves to clean up and change clothes. Xena comes back to her friend who has finished her tea, and reaches for her hand. "Come on, let's go over to the bed where you'll be more comfortable." The bard lets herself be moved to the bed without saying a word. Xena moves her over to the center and lays down beside her. Pulling

her into her shoulder.

Gabrielle starts to protest, "Xena I'm fine if you want to go visit."

"Gabrielle, we'll all visit later. Right now, I want to be here with you. All right?"

" Xena, of course it's all right. I just didn't want you to think you had to stay with me."

"You should know by now, no one makes me do anything I don't want to. You just relax and close your eyes." Xena begins to hum a soft melody, rubbing her hand along Gabrielle shoulder.

"Hmmm, that's nice." Gabrielle relaxes, draping her arm over Xena.

Xena smiles, continuing to hum, as Gabrielle falls to sleep in her arms. *Thank the Gods for bringing you back to me, my dear sweet Gabrielle.* Leaning over she rests her cheek against her friends head and drifts off to sleep.


Several candlemarks later, Xena wakes as she feels Gabrielle stir beside her. Looking over she notices her friend is still sleeping peacefully. She moves away quietly, deciding to go in search of

her mom and brother.

She arrives to find them at the kitchen table talking. Cyrene turns to her, "So you want to let your Mom know what happened to you and Gabrielle?"

Xena chuckles. "That's one of the things I've always loved about you Mom. You get right to the point."

Cyrene rises to get another cup of tea. "Don't get sassy with me, my daughter." She turns back seeing Xena's smile and softens. "There's a lot of things I love about you too." She pauses before continuing, "So sit down and tell us what happened."

Over the next candlemarks, she tells her family about the trip through Thessally. They listen as she descibes finding Ephiny, and the birth of her son. Then as she descibes the events revolving around Gabrielle, mother and son both, see the pain and guilt that Xena felt that day. When she explains how Gabrielle had quit breathing, and how she fought to bring her back, Cyrene watches

Xena closely.

*You might not admit it openly yet, but you my daughter have finally found love.* Cyrene smiles and watches Xena as she explains how Gabrielle did finally come back. She asks, "So how is she


"She still gets tired easily, but she's getting stronger everyday. I just wish she wasn't so stubborn, and didn't push herself so hard." Xena looks over at Toris when he tries to stifle a chuckle, narrowing her eyes. "And what, my dear brother, do you find so funny?"

"You of all people calling someone stubborn." Toris laughs out loud at the murderous look he receives from his sister. "I don't remember ever meeting anyone more willfull than you."

"No, and you probably won't either." Gabrielle says as she walks into the kitchen.

Xena gets to he feet immediately, to bring Gabrielle over to the table, to sit with them. "Hey, are you feeling any better?" She reaches around to bring up another chair.

"Yes I do, thanks. So I suppose you've brought everyone up to date?" Gabrielle asks.

"Yes she has." Cyrene smiles at the young woman. "You my dear, have been through a lot lately."

"Xena? What exactly did you tell them?" Gabrielle looks at her friend accusingly.

"The truth, Gabrielle." Xena smirks at her friend confindently. "After all, isn't it you that's always telling me to tell the truth."

"Yes it is! But that doesn't mean you have to tell everything you know!" Gabrielle rolls her eyes at her.

Well this is more than Toris can take and be quiet about, he can't help but laugh. "Xena I never thought I'd see the day, when someone would be brave enough to argue with you."

Gabrielle turns to him. "She's not as tough as she let's on."

Xena's eyebrows raise as she looks at Gabrielle in surprise. "Is that so?"

Gabrielle turns back and smiles sweetly. "Well at least most of the time." She loves teasing her best friend, and just can't resist. "But if it makes you feel better, your secret is safe with me. I

promise from now on, to tell people you're just as tough as you've always been.

"Gabrielle." Xena warns narrowing her eyes. "Soon you'll be well. Then you will pay for teasing me."

They all laugh at the lighthearted banter between the two friends. The rest of the afternoon was spent talking over their adventures, and laughing over some of the funnier mishaps. Later when

Xena went to check on Argo, and Toris went out to check on the livestock, Gabrielle got a chance

to talk to Xena's Mom alone.

"Cyrene can I ask you something?" Gabrielle asks.

"Sure Gabrielle. What is it?"

"Is there someplace here where I could find something for Xena? I'd like to get her something to celebrate our one year anniversary of traveling together."

"Gabrielle that's very sweet of you. What did you have in mind?" Cyrene smiles.

"I'm not sure really. Xena is a very practical person, but I don't want to get her something practical."

"How about a tunic? Something she could wear, when you're not on the road?" Cyrene pauses.

"There a shop, just inside the village, that should have practically anything you could want. If you'd like, we could go over there right now and see."

"That would be great!" Gabrielle jumps up excitedly and hugs Cyrene. "Let me go get something from the room, and I'll be right back."

Cyrene smiles at Gabrielle's youth and excitement. *This is a very special woman, I just hope Xena realizes it.

Soon after entering the store, Gabrielle finds exactly what she's looking for. A soft azure blue tunic that will fit Xena perfectly. Beside it she finds a matching emerald green one. She runs her hand over it lovingly. She picks up the blue tunic and moves to the merchant to bargain with him over the price. She and Cyrene are soon on their way back to the Inn, with Xena's gift safely tucked beneath her arm.

As Gabrielle was in their room, putting the gift away, Xena walks in the back door. "Mom, where's Gabrielle?"

"Oh she went to your room, she should be back soon."

"Mom, do you think you could help me find a gift for Gabrielle. We've been traveling together for almost a year and I want to get her something special."

"Yes, it just so happens I know exactly were you can find something. Xena, she's a very special young woman, I'm glad you found each other." Cyrene takes her daughter hand and squeezes it.

"Come on, if we go now, we can get there before the shop closes."

They walk into the shop and Xena walks right over to the green tunic. She holds it up, "What do you think Mom? Think she'll like it?"

Cyrene smiles like the cat that ate the canary. "Yes dear, I'm sure she will."


Later that evening, after the Inn had quieted down, they're sitting around the table talking. Toris reaches over to touch Gabrielle's arm, to yet her attension. "So Gabrielle, I understand the two of

you have been together for a year. You must have some interesting stories you could tell us."

Gabrielle smiles at Xena's brother. "Yes, it will be a year tommorrow when she came through Potaideia. And yes, I can tell you a lot about our travels." She laughs adding, "And most of the time, Xena ends up getting me out of one kind of mess or another." She looks at Xena next to her

with laughter in her eyes. "Remember that day, when I was captured by the priests of the temple of Morpheus? How you told me the rules for survival?"

"Yes, I remember I caught you using my sword to attack a tree." Xena smiles, as she teases her friend.

Gabrielle blushes. "Xena! You didn't have to tell them about that part of the story!"

Xena shrugs. "I actually thought it was very brave of you, to go into the woods alone. But then when I heard you talking to someone, I thought maybe I'd better see who you were talking to."

Xena turns to her mom and brother to wink, before turning back to tease Gabrielle. "Well, when I saw you standing there arguing with that huge stump, holding my sword, I could hardly wait to see who would win."

This only makes Gabrielle blush even brighter. "Xena! Please!"

"What, Gabrielle? That is what happened." Cyrene and Toris are bearly able to contain their laughter at this point, as Xena continues. "As I recall you did manage to slay that vicious stump, course you were lucky, it was unarmed." Gabrielle moaned, in her embarrassment, but then

laughed goodnaturedly. The others followed suit and laughed along with her.

"Xena? Are you through?" Gabrielle asks.

Xena smiles. "For now." This causes the laughter to start all over again. "You can go ahead and tell the story now. But I can't promise to sit here quietly, if you leave something out."

Gabrielle looks over at her and narrows her eyes with warning, this only causes Xena's smile to brighten. Gabrielle leans over to bump Xena's shoulder with her own. "You are a troublemaker

if I ever saw one." Xena just chuckles and bumps her back. Gabrielle then turns back to Toris and Cyrene. "I asked Xena to teach me to use a sword and she flat refused. She said that having a sword would only make me a target, and of course she was right. She did further explain the rules of survival, which mainly involves outsmarting your opponent, and I lot of running."

Toris asks, "A lot of running?"

"Yes. This was before our trip through Amazon territory, I hadn't gotten my staff yet, so this left me basically unprotected. Xena's advice was for me to stay out of a fight, as much as possible. Sometimes this might involve running. She also told me to talk my way out of a fight, whenever possible, she said she knew I could do that. Course now that I think about it, that may have just been a nice way to tell me I talk a lot." She looks back at Xena.

"Well, I meant it mostly as a compliment." Xena tells her chuckling.

"That's what I thought." Gabrielle turns back to a smiling Toris and Cyrene, who have been watching the two friends tease each other. "So we went into town to buy some supplies, not knowing the danger of my being there. It seems that every year at that time, the priests would come down from the temple to find a young woman, to sacrafice to the Dream God Morpheus."

"Don't forget to tell them about your buying a breast dagger." Xena reminds her friend.

"Xena that's really not necessary to the story." Seeing the look on Xena's face, the bard decides it might be safer if she told about it. "Okay, okay! So I went into a store that had every kind of weapon I could imagine. I had this grand idea of finding the perfect weapon for myself. So I found this cute little breast dagger, but my mistake was not wearing the right clothes, to keep it in place. So I come back out to meet up with Xena.....well, let's just say she found out that I had bought the dagger, and kept it."

Xena put her arm over Gabrielle's shoulder to give her a hug, as she chuckled. "Yes, well it was like I said, 'Wisdom before Weapons'. But that little dagger has been very handy since then, thanks."

"Yes, well I'm happy I could help. So anyway, I get captured and drug into the temple, where I'm forced to go through these trials. These, made for the soul purpose of making me lose my blood innocence. After I do, I'm to be sacraficed to the Dream God. Course if I don't manage to survive, they still have their sacrafice. Not many options there."

Cyrene asks, "So how did you manage to get away?"

"First I tried to remember the rules of survival, that Xena had taught me. During the first trial there were two men, I tricked them into killing each other while I got away. Then I found out Xena was in the dream passage, trying to get to me, so I had to stall. She told me above all else,

I couldn't kill. She was just getting ready to tell me to use what I was good at to fight these guys, when I got pulled away and woke up. So the second trial involved three men trying to kill me. I was frantically trying to remember what I was good at......talking! I convince them to decide between the three of them, who the better fighter is. I'd fight him first and so on. Well they fight amongst themselves and two of them ended up dead. I only had the one to fight with one, who picked me up to throw me into this fire pit, when he got hit in the back by a knife. See one of them, had thrown a knife earlier that had missed and gotten wedged in this crevice. Lucky for me there were some underground steam pockets, one of which came up through this crevice, to force the knife out and into his back."

Gabrielle stops a moment to take a sip of tea. "Well the third trial didn't have any options. I either killed the man at the end of the walkway, or he killed me. I had to hope Xena would get there before I had to make the choice, and she did." Gabrielle reaches over to take her friend's hand and smiles.

"Yes I did." Xena adds, as she gently squeezes her hand. "But you forgot to tell them how you decked the head priest."

Cyrene asks, "Gabrielle hit the priest?"

"Yes she did." Xena adds proudly, "Knocked him out too, as I recall." She feels Gabrielle grip her hand tighter, and looks up to see her smiling.

Cyrene notices the looks passing between the two friends and wonders, *Do you suppose either

of them is aware of how deep their feeling run for one another.*

Toris glances over at his mom as she looks up, and winks at her. "Well I don't know about the

rest of you, but I'm going to call it a day. Thanks for the story Gabrielle, good night. Xena,

Mom, good night."

The three women decide likewise, to call it a day, and say good night.


The next morning, Xena wakes early and goes to the kitchen, where her mom is already preparing

breakfast. "Good morning Mom. You need some help?"

"Xena, good morning. Why don't you fix us some tea, to go with our breakfast, then we can sit and talk."

"All right." Xena gets the tea and brings it over to the table. "So what's on your mind mom?"

"Your friend Gabrielle, and you of course." Cyrene takes a sip of tea. "I like her very much, she is very sweet."

"Yes she is." Xena answers. "She's much more than I expected, when we first met. I still find it hard to believe she stays with me."

"She loves you." Cyrene replies frankly.

"Yes. She is the best friend I've ever had." Xena anwsers, not sure what her Mom is saying.

"Xena, that's not what I'm saying and you know it." Cyrene adds bluntly.

"Are you trying to say she is 'in love' with me?" Xena asks, afraid of the answer.

"That is exactly what I'm saying." Cyrene looks her eye to eye. "I guess the question is my daughter, how do you feel?"

"Mom, she's a young woman with no experience in love. What makes you think she's in love with me?" Xena shakes her head no, trying to deny what's in her heart. "Mom she can't be, not with me."

"My dear daughter, have you never seen the way she looks at you? Have you never noticed how her faces lights up when you're near? What about the way she always sits near you, always reaches to touch you? Why do you find it so hard to believe? What makes you think you can control love? Xena, no one controls love, not even you." Cyrene takes Xena's hand in hers.

Xena raises her Mom's hand to her lips, kissing the back softly and sliding it along the side of her face. "Mom what am I going to do? She deserves so much more than I can give her."

Cupping Xena's face in her hand, to turn it towards her. "First Xena how do you feel? What do you want? If you don't love her, you should tell her."

"Not love her? Hades...I could sooner stop breathing than not love Gabrielle."

"Then my dearest, you should tell her. Let her decide. Xena in case you haven't noticed, she is not a child. She may not be experienced in the ways of love, but she does have a great compacity to love. You should tell her. Love is very precious, don't waste a moment of it."

"But with me she has no chance at a normal life, a home, a family." Xena argues.

"Xena, isn't the life you just described what she ran away from? Besides who's to say what

normal is. What's right for some, is not for others." Cyrene can see the conflict inside her daughter, and only wants her to be happy. "Nothing has to be decided at this moment. But if I were you, I wouldn't wait too long. How about if we fix you a nice lunch to take out to the lake.

Today is your one year anniversary, you should spend it together." Cyrene kisses her daughter's

forehead, and rises to take the dishes to the sink. "Xena, go wake Gabrielle so she can eat before the two of you start out."

Xena nods and walks to their room, thinking about what her Mom has said. *Could she really love me after all I have done? I just don't know.* She opens the door to find Gabrielle hugging her pillow tightly to her. She sits down on the edge of the bed, to look down at her best friend, suddenly realizing two smiling emerald eyes are watching her in return. "Good morning."

Gabrielle's smile brightens, "Good morning Xena. Did you sleep well?" She reaches out for her friend's hand and squeezes it tightly. "Happy anniversary."

"Happy anniversary to you." Squeezing Gabrielle's hand in return. "Mom has breakfast made,

if you're hungry. I thought maybe after you eat, we might take a lunch out to the lake. We

could spend the day together, just you and I. Would you like that?"

Gabrielle raises up on her elbow. "I'll be ready in one candlemark. I'll grab our towels and blankets, so we can go swimming. Will that be soon enough?" She answers excitedly.

Xena chuckles, "Yes, that's quick enough." Squeezing her hand again before rising. "I'll go feed Argo and get her ready. I'll meet you in the kitchen."

Gabrielle dresses quickly. Getting all their things together, along with Xena's gift, she goes out to the kitchen. Cyrene looks up and smiles as she enters. "Good morning Warrior Mom. Did you sleep well?"

"Yes I did little daughter, and you?" Cyrene can't help thinking of Gabrielle as part of her family. And her calling her 'Warrior Mom', as a term of endearment, didn't get past her either.

Gabrielle brightens as Cyrene calls her 'Little Daughter', glad to be accepted as part of Xena's family. "I slept very well, thank you. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No, everything is ready, you just need to sit and eat. If you don't mind, I'll sit and kept you company." Cyrene figures this is the prefect time to talk to Gabrielle, while they are alone.

"Oh, please sit. I'd love the company." Gabrielle says, as she pulls out a chair for Cyrene.

As Gabrielle begins to eat, Cyrene decides to ease into the conversation. "So, Xena tells me the two of you are going to the lake. That should make your anniversay very special."

Gabrielle takes a sip of tea first then answers. "Yes, we're going to spend the day maybe go swimming. I'm taking her gift with us." Gabrielle can barely contain her excitement.

"Gabrielle? Could your Warrior Mom ask you a question?" Cyrene asks, trying not to make the young woman too nervous.

"Sure. What is it?" The bard asks a bit tentatively.

"How do you feel about Xena? I know you care very much for her and she you, but how do you feel?"

"I love her." Gabrielle answers openly. "She has such a good and tender heart. She is just so afraid of having it broken. But I want you to know Mom, I would never do anything intentionally to hurt her."

Cyrene reaches out to put her hand over Gabrielle's. "I'm sure you wouldn't sweetheart. What I am asking is, are you 'in love' with her?"

Gabrielle looks down at the hand covering her's, before raising her tear filled eyes to Cyrene. "Am I that transparent?"

"Come here sweetheart." Cyrene pulls the young woman into her warm embrace. "It's all right, shhh." She says soothingly, as she holds her close. "You just need to give Xena time. She's had a hard life and has trouble expressing what she feels for you." Wiping Gabrielle's tears gently away, before she continues. "She will come around, just give her time. Hey, why don't you wash your face and I'll reheat your breakfast for you."

Before Gabrielle stands, she places a kiss on Cyrene's cheek. "Thanks Mom." She goes over to the sink to wash her tear stained face, while her Warrior Mom reheats her breakfast. She quickly finishes it and takes the dishes over to the sink, as Xena walks in the back door.

"Well, that is what I call timing. Are you ready to go?" Xena asks as she enters.

"Everthing's ready and waiting just inside the bedroom. I'll grab everything, and Ill be ready to go." Gabrielle heads off to their room.

Cyrene hands Xena some food, a water skin, and a bottle of sweet wine, with a smile. "Have a good time dear."

Xena looks into the bag to find enough food for two meals at least. She raises an eyebrow questioningly at her Mom. "Are we having company?"

"No dear." Cyrene laughs. "Just in case you decide to stay late."

Xena looks at her in surprise, but never gets the chance to question her, as Gabrielle walks back

in with their supplies. "Well I guess we're all set. We'll see you later Mom." They head on out

to where Argo waits patiently.


The ride out to the lake was a quiet one, as each of them is lost in their own thoughts. After arriving they find a shady spot to lay out the blankets and supplies.

Xena can't help wondering about her talkative friend. "Hey are you all right, Gabrielle? You've been very quiet since we left the Inn. Are you sure you feel well?"

Realizing her silence has worried Xena, she smiles and teases her. "Nothing's wrong Xena, I feel fine. Even I am quiet sometimes." She laughs. "How cold do you suppose the water is?"

Xena relaxes and laughs then. "I guess there's only one way to find out." She then starts stripping to her shift, as Gabrielle does the same. "I'll race you."

Gabrielle laughs, knowing there's no way she can beat her. "Sure, I'll race you, if you give me a head start."

"How big a head start?" Xena laughs, as she plans to let Gabrielle win this one time. The one thing the bard is not aware of, is that this lake is spring feed. This makes it very cool even on the hottest day.

"Oh say 10 paces?" Gabrielle asks.

"All right. Step it off, and when you're ready say go." Bending over like she was getting ready for a serious race.

Gabrielle starts counting. "Okay. Ready, set, go!" She dashes off, thinking Xena is hot on her trail, and dives in as she reaches the water's edge.

Xena strolls up to the shore, knowing she won't have long to wait. Gabrielle should be shooting back up out of the water, gasping, about now.

Right on cue, Gabrielle comes shooting out yelling. "Ahhhh!!" She turns toward to shore, to find

Xena standing there with her arms crossed.

"So. How is it?" Xena asks with a smirk.

Still gasping for air, Gabrielle points her finger and shakes it at her. "You!! You knew it was cold!"

Xena can't help but laugh, as her friend stands there. "This lake is spring feed, it's always been good for an invigorating swim." Xena steps to the waters edge.

"I'll give you invigorating!" Gabrielle says as she starts towards the shore.

Narrowing her eyes, "Not if I get you first!" Xena cleanly dives into the water.

Gabrielle yells. "Xenaaa!!" She looks around frantically. "Xena?"

Xena comes up quietly out of the water behind her, barely rippling the surface. "Yesss."

Gabrielle screams and turns quickly. "Xena!" Seeing the feral look in her friends eyes, she starts trying to tread water backwards, "Xena? Can we talk about this? I was just kidding."

Xena keeps her eyes steadily on her friend. "Were you now?" She stalks her, anticipating her next move.

"Yes, really!" With that she runs her hand over the top of the water, sending a wave of water in her direction. She then tries to make a dive toward the shore.

Anticipating just such a move, Xena dove into the water at the same time Gabrielle sent it. Grasping her around the waist, before she has a chance to turn away.

Gabrielle yells, "Xena!" They laugh briefly as she finds herself wrapped in Xena's arms. Suddenly things change, as she looks into those azure blue eyes. She no longer notices the chill

of the water, as she is filled with an intense heat.

Xena watches the change of expression, as it crosses Gabrielle's face. With a will of iron she

holds herself in check, letting it be the bard's choice how far this goes. Each of them breathing

fast, from the effort it took to get through the water to this point, and the simmering passion they are both feeling.

Gabrielle slowly slides her hand along Xena's arm, from elbow to shoulder, then follows her shoulder on to caress her neck. She can see Xena trembling, and knows it has nothing to do with

the temperature of the water. "Xena." Her voice barely a whisper as pulls her into a kiss.

Xena's breath comes even faster, as she pauses, just a breath away from the lips she's only dreamt about. "Gabrielle, are you sure?" In answer, the bard stretches up to make contact, causing her to moan and melt into the kiss she has so longed for. She feels Gabrielle responding quickly to the rising desire between them. She hears the soft moans and gasps, as her tongue strokes her bard's lips, and invades her warm mouth. Then as their tongues dance and stroke she hears the sound of her own desparate pleas for release.

As they break away to try and catch their breaths, Xena finally manages to say, "By the Gods Gabrielle! If you don't really want this to happen, you better stop now. Much more, and I won't be able to stop."

Gabrielle looks up, with passion filled eyes that bore right into the warrior's heart. Her breath catches in her throat as she waits for her answer. "Please Xena, don't stop. I want you, only you."

Xena takes a deep breath, reaching below her bard's knees, lifting her to stride from the water. Setting her feet to the ground, on a spot next to the bankets, she leans down for another soul searing kiss. Her nimble fingers quickly work the laces of their wet shifts. Soon they are rid of the offending garments, and free to let their fingers roam where they most desire.

Gabrielle pulls Xena down to the blankets, to lay the length of her own body. She watches as Xena hesitates. "Xena please." Pulling her down, she begins to devour her with her lips and tongue. Starting with the warrior's own mouth and tongue, she moves along her jaw line and

neck, then on to her ear. She feels her lover's resistance leave as she becomes mindless with desire.

Soon Xena begins to take control of Gabrielle's body, running her hands and mouth over her possessively. The warrior's hand runs over her firm breast to find a nipple already hardened with desire. The lips trailing closely behind, pulling and tugging, finally encircling the nipple to suck on it ravenously.

Gabrielle arches her back, as her lover finds her heated center. "Ohhh, Xenaaa." The bard moans and reaches to pull the warrior's lips back to her own. As Xena's tongue begins to stroke in and out, she loses all thought, sensing only the feel of her passionate lover. When Xena quickly enters her heated center, Gabrielle crys out, then is filled with a heat and desire she is sure will set her afire. "Ohhh, Xenaa pleasee..." she moans as her lover begins to stroke in and out. Her own hands, with a will of their own, start their own intimate dance on Xena's body.

"Aahhh, Gabrielle." Xena arches into each stroke with Gabrielle, and soon they both peak, as wave after wave wash over them. They lay entwined in each other arms, as they gasp for air.

When their breathing once again returns to normal, Xena tilts Gabrielle's head so she could savor her lips. "Mmmm. Gabrielle, you're mine now." Looking into her lover's eyes. "My sweet Gabrielle, I won't share you with anyone." Xena leans over to take her lover's lips, gently brushing them with her tongue. She smiles as Gabrielle's body responds to her slightest touch. Hearing her bard moan her name only serves to fire her desire for her. "I want you. All of you, and only you", Xena whispers, as she slowly kisses her way to Gabrielle's ear.

Gabrielle moans. "Xenaa, ahhh." Her breathing quickens, as she feels the passionate warrior nibbling on, and breathing warm air into her ear. She arches toward her automatically. "Yesss

Xena, please. Take me, all of me. Ahhh, I'm all your's." She runs her hand over Xena's side to her back, then up to her neck and back down slowly. Sensually caressing her lover's firm behind, as Xena's hand slides down to find the wetness between her thighs."

"Gabrielle? Are you all right?" Xena asks, not wanting to hurt her young lover.

"Yes, I'm fine." She smiles, looking into the blue eyes she loves so much. "And if you don't let me make love to you soon, I swear I'll.....I'll go out of my mind." She pulls her warrior down to nibble on her neck, working her way down to her collarbone. Dragging her tongue and lips over the area, then blowing on it lightly, sending chills up and down Xena's spine.

"Ahhh, Gabri..elle." Xena's takes in a quick breath, as her bard moves her hands and lips to her fully erect nipples. "Ahhh, do you have any idea......" she gasps, as her lover lavishly attends to each breast. Her lips and tongue bathing each, with a warmth, that sends a fiery heat coursing through her. She moans "Ohhhh, Gabri.....elle.

Gabrielle looks up to see those azure blue eyes, now filled with desire. She pulls away briefly to ask, "What Xena? Do I have any idea of what?" She resumes her attention to Xena's body, running a trial of kisses and playful nips, down the warrior's stomach. She smiles as Xena arches her body in response.

Xena caresses her bard's head as she trembles with antiscipation. She gasps, as Gabrielle slides her hand down the outside of her thigh, then brings it up the inside slowly. As she feels the tips

of her lovers fingers, brush her impassioned center, see whispers "Ahhhh, what......you....do....to.....mmmmeeeee."

Gabrielle runs her other hand up, to caress the face she loves tenderly. With a seductive tone she replies, "My love, I've only just begun." With this she slides two fingers into the heated wetness of her warrior. She begins stroking slowly, as she moves to nibble and kiss along Xena's side and over her stomach to the other side.

"Ahhhh...." Xena moans and arches, as her lover moves down her body to the evidence of her passion.

Gabrielle moves closer to her goal. "Open yourself to me Xena. I want you, I need you." The bard moves to settle between her thighs, running her lips and tongue up the inside of one of the warrior's thighs. "I'm coming for you. Are you ready?"

Xena is trembling with the unrestrained desire her lover inspires. "Yesssss....." is all she can utter before her amorous lover takes her. Her lips and tongue, send her over the edge again and againuntil she can do nothing but surrender.

Gabrielle moves, kissing her way up her warrior's body. As she moves up beside Xena, she pulls her into her embrace. Running her warm hand up and down her lover's back. "Xena?"

Xena, with her head on her lover's chest, revels in the love and passion she has found with Gabrielle. "Hmmm." Still not able to think clearly.

"I love you Xena. I am, in love with you, I have been for a long time. You know that don't you?" Gabrielle kisses the top of Xena's head, feeling her nestle closer and wrap an arm over her to pull her tighter. "Xena?"

"Yes my sweet Gabrielle, I know." Xena anwsers although her throat is tightened with emotion. "I love and too, my sweet, I love you too."

They lay entwined and silent for a time, an occasional caress or soft kiss being their only movement. Xena's arm is laying over Gabrielle's stomach, so she not only hears it's hungry rumble, she feels it. She rises up to look into her bard's green eyes.

"Gabrielle? You wouldn't be hungry, would you?" Xena smiles as Gabrielle blushes. Reaching up she turns the bard's face so she can kiss her. "Well I think we should eat then." She smiles again at the face she loves.

Gabrielle returns her smile, her eyes lighting with mischief. "Well I did work up an appetite." She laughs then as Xena's eyebrows raise.

Xena's smile becomes seductive. "I worked up an appetite too, but maybe I should feed you first." She watches as Gabrielle's eyes darken with passion. Unfortunately her stomach picks this moment to be heard from, and rumbles noisily.

Gabrielle smiles than begins to laugh. "Sounds like to me we both better feed our stomachs first."

Xena joins in the laughter, nodding her head. "Allright. Let's eat." She rises and helps Gabrielle to her feet. They move together to the supplies and return with the bags Cyrene sent with them.

They bring everything back to the blankets and settle back down onto them. Xena finds the sweet wine her mom sent, but only one cup. She first thinks her mom forget to pack two, then realizes her mom thought it would be more intimate to drink from the same cup. She'd have to remember to thank her later.

They eat in relative quiet, sharing a bite occasionally, and enjoying the shared wine. After finishing the meal, Gabrielle rises to retrieve a package from one of the other bags. She returns and hands the package to Xena.

"Happy anniversary Xena." She smiles as she sits beside the warrior, waiting for her to open the gift. "Go ahead and open it."

"I will, but first..." Xena rises to retrieve Gabrielle's gift and hands it to her. "Happy anniversary

Gabrielle." She sits and watches as her bard smiles back at her. "Okay, are you ready?"

Gabrielle nods and they both unwrap their gifts. Gabrielle recognizes the tunic immediately as the one she admired, when she picked out Xena's. She smiles and runs her hand over the soft emerald green cloth. "Xena it's perfect, thank you." She then watches as Xena takes her matching blue tunic out. "I picked it out, because the color reminded me of your eyes."

Xena shifts, reaching over to pull Gabrielle closer, "You are so sweet." She kisses her bard tenderly, "My sweet Gabrielle, that's the same reason I picked the green tunic. It's color reminded me of your beautiful eyes." This made Gabrielle smile and move in for another kiss.

Xena pulls back for a moment, to look on her companion, her best friend and lover. "Gabrielle, I can't believe how lucky I am. You have given me so much." Xena places her finger tips against the bard's lips before she can speak. "The other gifts you've given me here today, are priceless to me too. Your love, your innocence, your trust and your passion. These I will always treasure and hold in my heart."

Gabrielle kisses the finger tips resting softly against her lips, then takes her hand to pull Xena's palm to her lips. Pressing soft kisses along the strong palm and along her warrior's wrist. She moves the hand to the side of her face, leaning into the strength and tenderness she finds there. "Xena." She states, smiling sedutively. "I've only just begun...." Before she can finish, her strong lover takes her lips passionately. Delving between her parted lips, to meet her tongue, with open abandon. Each breathing in the other's desire, with each gasp and moan, adding it to their own.

Pulling back briefly to catch her breath, Xena takes on her feral smile. "I believe it's now my turn, to statisfy my appetite for you..." Fueled by her desire for Gabrielle, she quickly lowers to meet parted lips and savor the heat of their mutual need.

She loses herself, in the woman she has come to love, beyond all others. Soon the warrior begins to touch and taste all that is her lover, reveling in the depth of passion she inspires. They rise to the apex of their need together, reaching fullfillment in wave after wave of sensation. They then float back to each other's arms, on a sea of contentment.

The sun sets and rises, before the two lovers return to Cyrene's Inn. It's early yet and everyone is still tucked away in their rooms. They quietly enter and move to their room, closing the door behind them.

Cyrene opens the door to her room, just down the hall, and smiles as she silently sends a prayer to the Gods. *I want to send my thanks, to whatever Gods or devine powers, are responsible for sending my children home to me. And for sending Gabrielle to us, to become a part of our family. We are truly thrice blessed.*



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