Love plans

Fanfic cover by Silvermoonlight.

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Seasonal Passion series, Vol. 4:

Love plans

written by maggielassie

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Genre: Xena Warrior Princess alternative fan-fiction; Xena/Gabrielle femslash.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the Xena Warrior Princess characters. Universal/Renaissance does.

Timeline: This story takes place just after the Season Four episode If the Shoe Fits (but before Paradise Found).

Warning: This story contains sexually explicit erotic moments between two consenting adult women. If this offends you, please refrain from reading. If you are under 18 years of age, please do not read this and come back later when you’re older and you can read it. If lesbian romantic/sexual relationships are illegal in your country or state, please advocate a change in laws.

Author’s note: (1) This is not a first time story. I think there are enough first time stories out there. I’m more interested in exploring the evolution of Xena and Gabrielle’s intimate relationship as it must be taking place beyond the screen. Also, I believe that the warrior and the bard can still be intimately passionate with each other after their first time. (2) My femslash stories sometimes remotely follow each other; my first three were called Closer than blood bonds, Circle in the sand and What matters most. This is a seasonal X/G femslash series, which means there will be two more stories to come in the future.

Many Thanks to: Norsebard for the proofreading and feedback; Donar (from TX) for the pre-release reading & feedback; other people in the Xenaverse and lesbian culture for their encouragements.

Feedback: see feedback page.

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Once she, her taller lover and the young man had finished eating, Gabrielle took the dirty pan, plates and spoons. She went to kneel by the river and proceeded to wash all those dirty dishes in the water, scrubbing them with a cloth. The bard had been happy to come back to her Warrior Princess, but she was now frustrated that, once again, she had had to do all the cooking and was now doing all the cleaning. She sighed, annoyed, as she continued her task. Sunset was only one candlemark away and she would be able to go to sleep soon.

Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer had come to this little grass-covered area, which spread by a river, after they had been walking into the woods while they were on their way back from the castle where they had said goodbye to Alesia, her father and her stepmother. The warrior had wanted to go to the place where she had sent Argo in order to get her horse back. She had told her Palomino mare to head for the river as a way to create diversion for Zantar’s men earlier in the day.

The three friends had put down their gear there. There was large cluster of the woods’ trees and some bushes at the back of this wide and flat riverbank. Xena had whistled for Argo and the animal had trotted back towards her, whinnying. The smart horse had been hiding behind some dense foliage. The Warrior Princess and the bard had taken care of their usual evening routine of getting fire, food and supper ready while Joxer had simply sat there quietly.

Gabrielle now cleaned the last bit of dirt on the dishes, gathered them into her arms and stood back up. She was still wearing the sack she had cut in a particular way to use as a makeshift top. Her green shirt had been tattered to pieces by Xena when the dark-haired woman had used it to gag and tie up Zantar.

Joxer had already fallen asleep on a blanket he had been given. He was presently snoring. The storyteller went to tidy up the cookware she had just washed, not saying a word. Her warrior woman was now crouched down on the ground, spreading out two small bedrolls very close to each other on the other side of the fire, away from the noisy male sleeper. When the blankets were ready, Xena stood up.

The warrior then quickly went to check on Argo. She saw the mare peacefully sleeping on the grass somewhere close by. The tall woman walked back towards the bedrolls she’d just made. She removed every bit of her armour and weapons, her thigh-high boots and placed all those items on the ground near her as she went to lie down under her blanket. She looked up at Gabrielle as she patted the empty space beside her that was meant for her younger lover to sleep on.

“Coming to bed, love?” the older woman asked in a low voice.

“Yeah, I’m coming, Xena,” the blonde woman simply replied. She took off her dark red boots and quickly slipped herself into bed too, next to Xena. She covered herself with a blanket. The two lovers occasionally slept on separate –though very close– bedrolls, especially when someone else was around.

The Warrior Princess kissed the bard’s lips. She instantly noticed that her partner was not in a good mood when she saw her lack of responsiveness.

“Anything wrong, sweetheart?” she inquired.

“You let me do all the cooking and cleaning again. Maybe I’m the fairy gods-sister of dishes after all.” Gabrielle lay supine, looking unhappy, while Xena lay on her side, keeping her eyes on her younger lover.

“Gabrielle… I’m sorry. I will help you more tomorrow.”

The bard sighed in frustration. “That’s what you always say, Xena…” She turned her head to stare at her best friend. “And my shirt, today, I can’t believe you damaged it so that you could use it as a gag rag for that smelly warlord,” she said in a slightly angry way. Both women were trying to keep their voices down because of Joxer sleeping nearby.

“Oh, Gabrielle, I’m so sorry,” the warrior repeated, in an apologetic tone. “I’ll buy you another one in town.”

“Yeah, right… I don’t think you’ll ever find the same one.” Gabrielle huffed. “You shouldn’t have stolen my favourite top.”

“Gabrielle, I had to use it because we ran out of rope,” Xena protested. “Remember, last night? I had already been planning on catching Zantar that I had left a big coil of rope near our bedrolls. However, when I woke up this morning I found that most of the rope had been cut off and only a little bit of it was left. So that’s why I had to use your shirt.”

“Well, sorry, Xena, but I had to cut a great length of that rope you were keeping. I needed some rope to hang that showering pot from the side of that tree I’d found in the woods. There was no lake nearby and I had to get washed,” the bard explained, sounding peeved. “I thought you would still have enough rope left to bind his wrists. So you didn’t have to use my shirt.”

“No, Gabrielle, I couldn’t use that ridiculous bit I had left. I had to use something else. I’d seen that you’d used my rope to hang your water pot. Thank you very much.” The dark-haired woman spoke in an irritated way. “You hadn’t even bothered waking me up to ask me if you could do that. I had also been so anxious to catch Zantar that I’d overslept this morning. I’d asked to wake me up in case that happened and you didn’t even do that.”

The blonde diverted the subject of this conversation: “Xena, you overslept because you’d been so preoccupied with catching that warlord that you kept tossing and turning in your bedroll and you couldn’t get to sleep last night.”

“Well, Gabrielle, it’s true that I was being nervous about that and other things. It had taken me a while to fall asleep.” Xena’s tone sounded somehow quieter.

Gabrielle shook her head. She now had something else to argue about. “Why didn’t we make love last night?” she asked, in a voice kept low enough to avoid waking Joxer. “We haven’t made much love these last few days… Are you that nervous? Is it your time of the moons, Xena, or what? It can’t be…”

“No, Gabrielle, you know it’s not,” the warrior denied. “You’ve already noticed, countless times, that I usually get it pretty much at the same time as you do, which often is a natural occurrence when two women live together… Anyway,” she continued, “our ‘time of the moons’ has hardly ever stopped us from doing stuff, my bard… so long as we bathed in water to momentarily stop the flow.” The older woman winked and lightly smiled at her companion. She was trying to be funny with this womanly talk. She used it as an attempt to ease the boiling tension between her and her lover. It worked, if only temporarily.

“True.” The storyteller briefly chuckled, thinking about how their lovemaking had occasionally been the best kind of painkiller when she and her partner had had belly cramps. She still felt somehow irritated by the way her taller lover had been behaving recently, in general. “Xena… as I said earlier on when I came back, I realise that we are like a family and that we have problems of our own, but we still need to work things out, okay?” The blonde spoke in a tad friendlier way for now.

“Of course, Gabrielle,” the warrior woman simply said.

“So, why didn’t we make love last night, Xena?” The bard asked again.

“Gabrielle, we couldn’t have done much last night anyway, with Joxer sleeping near us,” Xena remarked.

“Yep,” Gabrielle agreed. “And he’s here tonight too, because you did not tell him to go sleep elsewhere so we could get some privacy.” The younger woman’s tone was angry again.

“Oh… you always put that responsibility on me. And we can’t tell him to go away all the time. It’s not nice, Gabrielle.”

“Perhaps… but, anyway Xena, I kinda already figured that you seemed too nervous for us to make love these last few days, Joxer being around or not. What’s making you so agitated that you have trouble falling asleep at night? It can’t only be catching warlords, is it?” The bard had turned towards her partner and propped her head up on an elbow. She was gazing into the eyes of the woman lying next to her.

Xena gave her a seriously sad look. “Gabrielle, I’ve already spoken to you about that vision I had, haven’t I?” she asked, talking about the fact that she had seen herself and her lover getting crucified together on a snowy mountain.

“This is bothering you again?” Gabrielle scowled. “Xena, I thought I had made myself clear before; I do not fear your vision. I don’t even believe in it.” Gabrielle moved to lay her back onto the bedroll again, wanting to go to sleep soon. “I’m glad you told me though. I understand that it’s still what’s making you so nervous.” She reached beside her, took the Warrior Princess’ hand in her own and gently rubbed it. “I’m also glad you’d told me about that vision, especially because I don’t like it when you hide things from me, like for instance you’d never told me you had a stepfather…” The blonde woman still sounded upset.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think it was important.” The dark-haired woman shifted to place her back onto the bedroll as well. “It just never came up, not before I told Alesia, anyway.” Both frustrated lovers were now looking at the night sky above while holding hands under their joined blankets.

Gabrielle changed the subject, to go back to what she had initially been talking about. “Well, I still don’t like the fact that you expected me to do all the cooking and the cleaning once again…” She removed her hand from Xena’s and swiftly kissed her partner on the mouth. “Now sleep well, warrior.” The younger woman shifted to go lie onto her side. She turned her back to her lover.

“I’m sorry, Gabrielle. And I’m also sorry I ruined your shirt.” Xena did not even bother moving at that moment. She just lay there, still partially thinking about the vision Alti had shown her. That terrified her inside.

“You know, Xena, I was thinking earlier on today…” The bard spoke over her shoulder. “Lately, when you got angry at me, it might have been a convenient way for you to avoid your deeper emotions. That’s like when you mistreat my belongings, like what you did to my green top today. That’s your way of avoiding intimacy.” Gabrielle put her head back down on the bedroll and shut her eyes, frustrated and not wanting to talk for much longer.

“Oh, Gabrielle…” Xena’s tone was cheerless as she turned herself to wrap an arm around her girlfriend. “I’m sorry. I’m gonna make it up to you. I’ll make things better for us, you’ll see.”

“You always say that,” the storyteller grumbled, unconvinced. She shrugged a shoulder as she kept her eyes closed. “You don’t know how useful I am to you… Goodnight, Xena,” she finally said, flatly.

“No, sweetheart, of course I do…” Xena objected, in a low and unhappy voice. She still understood that her blonde lover wanted to go to sleep now. “Goodnight, Gabrielle.” A few minutes after hearing this, the younger woman entered the Land of Morpheus.

Xena needed to dispel the disturbing vision from her mind at least for a while. She thought about the argument she had just been having with her lover. That troubled her so much seeing her Gabrielle being so bad-tempered. The Warrior Princess realised that she needed to figure out some exciting plans for the next day, so that her bard would be able to forgive her for the edgy mood she had been having lately. She needed to show Gabrielle, once again, how much she loved her. She would also have to try to rekindle the flame of their passion. She had her own ideas for that. After one candlemark or so, Xena fell asleep too, knowing she would have to get up early the next day. She was very exhausted as well, after having spent quite a few late nights agitated and worrying on her bedroll.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The fire had burned out a long time ago when the dark-haired woman took a very early morning bath in the river. Gabrielle and Joxer were still asleep when she got fully dressed and led Argo to drink. Xena then walked to where the young man was lying. She crouched down and lightly shook his shoulder. He jumped up, wide awake.

“What’s happening?” he asked.

“Shhhh… Joxer. Gabrielle is still asleep,” the warrior murmured. “Didn’t you ask me, last night, to wake you up early in the morning?”

Joxer glanced at his surroundings. He then looked at the tall woman and lowered his voice as he spoke. “Huh… yes, I did. It’s my dad’s birthday today, and I have to get to my home village before midday.” He sat up and started putting his clumsy warrior outfit back on, starting with the boots. “Thanks for waking me up, Xena.”

“No problem. Won’t you even stay for breakfast?”

“Mmm…” He placed his round silver shield in front of his chest. “I would love to, Xena, but I’ve really got to go. I’ll get something on my way.” He then put his weird hat back on his head. “Can I still kiss Gabrielle goodbye while she’s sleeping?”

“Sure, go ahead.” Xena got up and went to get her fishing line.

Joxer rose from his bedroll and went to Gabrielle. As he approached the sleeping woman, he lowered himself down and kissed her cheek. “Bye, Gabby. I’ll see you later… hopefully.” The bard emitted a small whimper as she unconsciously turned the other way while keeping her eyes shut.

The young man sighed. He still thought about Gabrielle as he stood up and began walking away. “Goodbye, Xena.”

“Bye, Joxer.” After he left, Xena walked to the river. She fished, for her and her lover’s breakfast.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The smell of frying fish slowly woke the blonde woman up. It was still very early in the morning. She rubbed her eyes and moaned lightly as she sat up on her bedroll. She blinked and saw her older lover making breakfast.

“Hey sweetheart, you’re awake,” the warrior woman observed, while she kept tossing the fish in the pan.

The bard yawned. “Uh… I guess I am.”

“Come sit near me. Breakfast’s almost ready.”

Xena put two portions of sliced fish on the wooden plates once it was fully cooked. Gabrielle got up, went to sit next to the taller woman and was handed her food and a spoon so she could eat it. The Warrior Princess started to munch her own portion.

“See, Gabrielle,” she said, between two mouthfuls, “I’ve made breakfast for you.” She smiled.

“Thank you.” The first bite made the storyteller feel even more awake.

After they finished eating, they were still seated on the riverbank when Xena gave Gabrielle a small bouquet of daisies. “Look, I went to pick them early this morning for you.” She grinned at the bard.

“Oh, Xena…” The younger woman began to smile as she took the little bunch of flowers into her hand. “This is so nice.” She gazed at her lover with her cheerful sea-green eyes. “Thank you so much, Xena.”

“Anything for you, my bard.” The warrior leaned down to quickly kiss the bard. “I’m going to go clean the dishes now.” The taller woman then took the dirty frying pan, plates and spoons and stood up. She also seized a cloth and walked to the edge of the very close river as she carried on talking. “I’ve got some very exciting plans for you and me today,” she said, her back turned as she knelt to wash the dishes in the water.

“Oh, really?” Gabrielle was astonished. Xena was being so kind and considerate this morning, in deciding to do all the cooking and the cleaning for once. No doubt the Warrior Princess felt she had things to make up for, the bard thought.

“Yes,” the dark-haired woman answered as she began scrubbing the plates, “we’re riding to Athens, very soon.”

“Athens? Xena, it sounds exciting. We’ve not gone there for a while… By the gods,” the storyteller realised, “this is going to take us a few hours.” She got up and started taking her clothes off. “I’d better take a bath now, before we go.”

“Yes, get ready, sweetheart. We’re gonna be going soon.” The brunette was careful not to drop one dish while she was cleaning, as the continuous stream of the water kept moving from right to left before her.

A naked Gabrielle approached Xena and kissed her deeply before going into the river to bathe. “Thanks for doing the dishes, my love… for once.”

“No problem. I’ll do them a little more often if you like.” The warrior relished the view of her nude girlfriend swimming while she washed the rest of the cookware. Once everything got scrubbed clean, she went to tidy up their gear, pack the bags and prepare Argo.

Meanwhile, the bard soaped and rinsed herself, before climbing out of the river and drying herself with a towel. She got dressed with the same sack she now used as a top.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the early candlemarks of the afternoon, the two women, on horseback, approached one of the city’s gates. They had been travelling through the Attica region for a while in order to get to Athens. They were happy to have finally gotten there. Xena slowed Argo to a slow trot while Gabrielle, sitting behind her on the saddle, tightly clung onto her waist with her encircling arms. Both lovers were hungry, as they had not had lunch yet.

The guards carefully looked at the women who were nearing the gate. “Good afternoon, ladies. Please state who you are and your purpose in visiting Athens,” one of them asked.

The warrior brought her horse to a halt and looked down at the guard. “I’m Xena of Amphipolis, and I’m bringing my best friend, Gabrielle of Poteidaia, to visit the City Market. It’s on today, I believe?”

“Yes,” he replied, “it’s on. We’ve heard of you, Xena, and the good deeds you’ve been doing in some villages these last few years.”

“We don’t believe you’d be looking for trouble,” a second guard remarked.

“No, that’s right,” the first man who had spoken confirmed, respectfully smiling up at the dark-haired woman. “Have a good day visiting the market. You’ll find stables for your horse somewhere on the right after crossing the entrance to the city. You can’t miss them.” He ordered the rest of the guards to open the gate.

“Thank you,” Xena simply said as she made her Palomino mare resume her trot. Gabrielle kept holding onto her partner as they rode forward.

They got into the city, found a stable and paid a few dinars to the horse-keeper to take good care of Argo for the afternoon. Both women then strolled together further inside Athens. They found a nice tavern to eat a quick, affordable and good lunch in before going to visit the vast City Market, which was meant to be on until the evening.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The two women leisurely wandered through Athens’ huge and magnificent market. Merchants, coming from different parts of Greece and beyond, were selling a variety of diverse things: food, drinks, clothes, jewellery, soaps, perfumes, oils, candles, incenses, firewood, valuable goods, etc. The stalls extended up to several yards around and ahead of them. From where they were walking, Xena and Gabrielle could see the city’s Acropolis if they looked up somewhere on the right. That high, flat-topped rocky hill, on which stood the temple called the Parthenon, felt so pleasant to their eyes.

“The Acropolis is so beautiful, Xena,” the blonde woman said, holding her staff in one hand, as they both walked in between a steady flow of drifting people.

“Yep, the Temple of Athena looks splendid, viewed from down here.” The warrior and her bard strolled by stand after stand of colourful textiles and clothing for sale.

“Have you got any money left?” Gabrielle stopped to look through a large display of shawls with intricate patterns on them.

“Yes, I’ve got a few dinars left. Just ask me if you need anything.” Xena stayed by her lover’s side for now.

“I’m alright just now.” The storyteller kept browsing the stall she had stopped at. “I’ve got a bit of money too.”

The taller woman spotted something further ahead. “Excuse-me, Gabrielle. I just need to go look at something. I think I may have found what I’m looking for.”

“Sure. Go ahead.”

As the bard remained where she was, the Warrior Princess walked to another stand that was only a few feet ahead on the left. The merchant there was selling various kinds of ladies’ halter tops. The garments were made of the exact same fabric Gabrielle’s green shirt had been. Xena carefully searched through the colourful displays.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” the clothes-seller asked. He was a short man in his mid-forties with a moustache on his face.

“Yes… perhaps,” the warrior replied. “Do you, by any chance, have something green and nice that could go on a petite woman?” She had the strange intuition that this merchandise came from the same weavers as her partner’s shirt had.

“Sure, ma’am.” The merchant proceeded to show her everything he sold that was green, until the dark-haired woman’s eyes came upon the exact same green halter top that Gabrielle used to wear.

“Here.” She pointed. “This one, can I have it? How much do you want for it?”

“Four dinars, please.”

Xena gave the man the four dinars he wanted and was handed the top. Gabrielle, who had finished looking at the shawls, walked towards her lover. The bard could not believe what she was seeing as she approached the warrior.

“My top, Xena… You found the same?” Gabrielle’s jaw dropped.

“Yes.” The Warrior Princess grinned as she turned to her younger lover and showed her the garment. “Isn’t this wonderful?”

“It is.” The blonde took the green shirt. She could not stop staring at it. “I never thought you’d be able to find a similar one.”

“Gabrielle, this was one of the reasons I wanted to come here today. We find everything in Athens.”

“Well, thank you, Xena. Where can I put it on?”

Xena turned to the clothes-seller. “Do you have a secluded booth somewhere? My friend wants to get rid of the sack she’s wearing and put this on instead.”

“Yes, ma’am. Just back there, at the back of my stand.”

Gabrielle walked towards the booth at the back. She went behind the large curtain that hid it and quickly changed her upper garment. She came out a few seconds later, criss-crossing the laces of her green top to fasten it shut.

“Thank you so much, Xena.” She repeated as she went towards her taller lover. She kissed her only on the cheek, since there were people around them. The bard was happy. She beamed at the warrior as they both resumed their walk around the market.

“No problem, Gabrielle. So much better than wearing that sack, huh?”

“Oh, I am so incredibly glad you’ve managed to find my favourite shirt in this market.” They kept wandering forward. The blonde woman was still holding her staff vertically as they strolled.

“Yes, so am I. I’d told you I would be getting you another one.” Xena gave Gabrielle her familiar slight half smile.

“This is so kind of you, Xena.”

As the two lovers turned around a corner, they heard a slur being hurled at them. “Harlots!” a male voice shouted. The warrior and her bard spun around to see a couple of old men sneering at them.

“Silly old fools!” The dark-haired woman retorted, with scorn. She saw the rude men shake their heads and walk away. She turned back to her girlfriend. “Don’t pay attention, sweetheart.” She gently placed a hand onto her shoulder, encouraging her to walk the other way, which they did. “Some Athenians are very conservative. Whenever they see women who don’t seem to have husbands or slave-owners, they call them ‘harlots.’ They simply don’t like to see free women.”

“Yes, I’ve heard about that, Xena.” Gabrielle shrugged. “It’s unfortunate.”

“It is. Gabrielle, we’re in a big city-state that’s not exactly egalitarian. Even the Athenian government owns some slaves.” The two women strolled across a square that bordered the City Market.

“Speaking of slaves…” Ahead of them, the storyteller and her older lover saw a bunch of male and female slaves being held in shackles and forced to advance as their traders whipped any trailing one. One of the masters kept yelling at them to move. It felt depressing for Xena and Gabrielle to see this.

“Gabrielle, I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do for them, not within a city that’s got a powerful government on the side of the bad guys.”

“I know, Xena. I know… Let’s go back into the market.” Both women turned away and made their way back in between the stands. They were now wandering through the large section where vendors were selling fruits, vegetables and other food items.

“All that slave trading is so heartbreaking. That’s not one of the things I wanted you to see today.” The warrior’s tone was cheerless.

“It’s all right, Xena. I’m very grateful you saved me from such a horrible fate when we first met.” The bard briefly stroked the taller woman’s upper arm as they kept walking.

“Well, I’m glad I did.” Xena gave her a small, fleeting grin as she lightly patted her shoulder.

“I’m glad you did.” Gabrielle spotted stalls that sold empty scrolls a few feet ahead, just outside the food section of the market. “Xena, I need to go buy some more blank scrolls. I ran out and I’ve not been able to write about yesterday’s events yet.”

“Okay. You go ahead. I’m gonna look at the fruits. I’ll come find you later… soon.” They separated for a few moments.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Warrior Princess came near a berry stand. All kinds of berries were being sold there. With a dinar or two, she purchased one pound of strawberries and one pound of raspberries. She had kind of an idea of what to do with those items tonight.

“Do you have a bag I could put them in?” she asked the female vendor.

“Sure,” the woman answered. She wrapped the fruits in some cloth and placed them in a cream-coloured sack, which she then handed to Xena.

“Thank you.” The warrior carried the bag over her shoulder as she continued strolling until she had moved past the food stalls. A stand sold flowers, candles and essential oils. This gave her more ideas for the evening that was to come. She bought a bunch of white candles, some red roses and a bottle of almond oil from the merchant there. She put those things in her sack and began walking towards where Gabrielle was. The dark-haired woman felt a little peeved that she now barely had any money left. She would have to find a way of making some more dinars before tonight if she wanted to be able to take her girlfriend to an inn.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The blonde woman had just purchased five new blank scrolls and some more ink for her quill when Xena arrived. The bard felt satisfied that she would have a bit of a writing supply for a while, but the fact that she presently had only two dinars left annoyed her.

“Okay, Gabrielle? Having fun?” the warrior woman inquired as she approached.

“Yep.” Gabrielle looked at the little bundle her older lover was carrying. “What did you buy?”

“I’ll show you later on.” The taller woman winked.

“Fair enough.” The storyteller shrugged with a smile on her face. It somehow intrigued her that the Warrior Princess sounded so cryptic. She knew Xena so well that she had already surmised that her partner had some plans, though she had no idea what they were.

“Gabrielle, we have to leave this market to go somewhere else in this city. I have no money left, and I think I’ve got an idea on how I could make some more if you follow me, please. Is that okay?”

“Sure. I don’t have much money left either.” The bard carried her blank scrolls and the little pot of ink in one hand and her staff in the other as they started strolling away from the big market.

“It’s all right. You’ll have an opportunity to make some more, too.” Xena peacefully led the way as she and Gabrielle left the City Market.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the later candlemarks of the afternoon, the Warrior Princess and the bard arrived near what looked like an area for outdoor performances, enclosed by wooden barriers. There were various rows of benches with many people sitting on them; they were watching the current performers. On the stage, a man and a woman were telling a love story. Twenty feet from there, Xena and Gabrielle stopped walking in order to talk to each other before coming any closer.

“Gabrielle, this is a place for free performances, one of the few places in Athens where anyone can speak freely.” The warrior woman gazed down into her shorter lover’s eyes. “However, as you can see, they only have two guards to watch over the area; so whenever the occasional controversial view comes up on stage, it’s bound to cause a stir. I was thinking that, maybe, you could volunteer to tell them a story that would be against slavery. I know you’ve got some in your repertoire, right?”

“I do, Xena, but telling a story like that in Athens… This is not like in the small village taverns where I’d been doing some anti-slavery storytelling. We’re in a big city here. My audience would definitely be more agitated. Why would you want cause such a stir?” Gabrielle wondered. “Plus, I’d be the only one making money if my story worked.”

“No, Gabrielle. I would too,” Xena explained, “Anti-slavery views tend to come off as contentious to the more conservative Athenians, but they would be the only ones to protest. Some more open-minded and progressive people here would listen to your views on slavery, especially the ones who do not happen to own slaves… I was thinking that, perhaps, I could be making quite a few dinars in helping the guards maintain security and making sure that no one manages to interrupt your performance. I’m a warrior after all, and I could use some of my skills to help keep the peace around here. The people organising artistic events also tend to be enlightened. I’m pretty sure they would let me protect that kind of free speech. What do you think? Is it not a good idea?”

“Well… we’re broke, Xena. We don’t have much choice if we want to make money anyway.” The bard resigned.

“Thank you, sweetheart. Think about some of the people here. You could open their minds with a compassionate story.”

“Sure,” the storyteller agreed. “Let’s try it.”

The two women walked towards the small entrance to the outdoor performance area. The guards gave them slightly weird looks but then opened a corner of the barriers for them to go in. Xena and Gabrielle immediately went to sit on an empty bench at the back and waited until the current performance ended.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Who wants to go next?” the male organiser asked the audience, from where he was standing on the stage. He was short, overweight, grey-haired and beardy. His outfit was a white toga.

The blonde bard rose from her seat. “I do, sir,” she answered.

“Then come forward, little missy.” He smiled at Gabrielle as she began to approach while staring up at him. “My name is Apollinaris. What is yours, young lady?”

“I’m Gabrielle of Poteidaia.” She grinned back at him as she climbed the small steps that led to the top of the platform. She had her staff in one hand.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Apollinaris announced, making his voice heard to all the people watching, “Gabrielle of Poteidaia is going to tell you a story. Please consider rewarding her well if it turns out to be a good one.” He left the stage to the storyteller, who went to stand in the centre of it.

Xena remained seated behind the rest of the audience. She had put her bag of purchased goods down somewhere onto the stony ground in front of the bench she was sitting on. Her partner’s new scrolls and ink-pot lay next to it. The warrior’s eyes gingerly scanned around the place as her lover was just about to start telling a story.

From where she was standing, Gabrielle put her staff down on the floor and gazed around at the audience who was facing her. She could tell it included mostly married men and women. Athenian husbands had been taking their wives to come watch outdoor performances. Having performed a few times elsewhere, including in this city’s academy, the bard did not have any stage fright. She felt confident as she saw people smiling at her, and decided to tell a slave girl’s story she knew well.

“Once upon a time,” Gabrielle began, grinning at her audience, “there was a young girl. Her name was Timothea. She had been abducted by slave-traders when she was only sixteen. She still missed her parents and her big sister years after she’d been taken away from them.” Her facial expression became gloomier as she continued telling the story.

Among the Athenians watching, a few pro-slavery conservative people started to stir in their seats. They already did not like the idea of the story being about the misery of some slave girl. Other spectators, who did not happen to own slaves, looked very interested in the tale the blonde woman was telling. At the back, the Warrior Princess kept an eye on all the people watching.

“Every day, Timothea had to carry barrels and barrels of wine for her owner, who was a tavern-keeper.” Gabrielle carried on. “She was totally exhausted. She also had to clean the whole bar and main room in the tavern every night. Her master would then check that everything was ‘spotless,’ and if it wasn’t, he would whip and batter Timothea…” The bard mimicked gestures of physical violence. “… until she got so many bruises that her injuries made it even harder for her to work for him the next day…”

Some people in the audience were horrified by what the blond performer was describing. They could not imagine how bad the pain of slavery was. The young woman kept telling the story: “… but she still had to. So Timothea worked in slavery with a painful back and sore legs. Plus, she was underweight and in terrible health as she was being poorly fed by her owner. Every night before bed, she cried huge tears, praying the gods that her torment would soon be over.” Gabrielle kept displaying sad features and speaking in a morose tone as she told the unhappy tale.

A pro-slavery man stood up and started protesting against the performance. He interrupted the storyteller and bawled in an angry voice: “This sort of story is the exception rather than the rule. Many slave-owners treat their slaves respectfully and feed them well.”

Another man, who was rather burly and whose stylish clothes suggested that he was wealthy enough to own slaves, also stood up. Looking at the first man who had spoken, he added loudly: “Yes, that’s right. We should stop all this hate speech against slave-owners! We aren’t all bad people.” Ironically, just after saying this, he got a dagger out of his vest and advanced towards the stage. He got past the front row of benches and stood in the empty space in front of the platform when the two male guards and Apollinaris walked towards him, trying to stop him. However, the burly man started punching the guards, who were not as sturdy as he was.

“Ayiayiayiayiayi!” Xena ran to the front and kicked the attacker’s weapon out of his hand. On the stage, Gabrielle was silent as she was seeing her lover fight the burly man. The warrior managed to punch him several times, making him growl in pain, while occasionally ducking herself to avoid his blows.

The first slave-owner who had spoken wanted to attack too, but he was not as muscular. He rushed towards the stage, got past the guards, and managed to climb on top of the platform while Xena was still busy fighting against the other man. “Take care of this one, Gabrielle!” the Warrior Princess shouted as she kept kicking the burly slave-master. Meanwhile, Apollinaris and the guards were attempting to keep some of the audience calm. Many people just sat and watched what was going on at the front as they really felt impressed by Xena’s heroics.

The man approaching Gabrielle on the stage was unarmed. He was still very menacing though, as he looked like he wanted to attack her with his bare hands. The bard swiftly seized her staff, held it horizontally with both her hands and hit him hard in the chest with a couple of sweeping movements.  She kept striking him with her fighting stick until she made him fall off the platform, knocking him out as his body hit the floor.

The Warrior Princess had severely weakened the burly man she had been fighting. With several kicks to his stomach, she managed to push him back towards the exit. One of the guards opened the barrier and let Xena kick him some more, until he got fully sent outside the outdoor performance area. The dark-haired woman then ran rapidly towards the other man, whom the storyteller had knocked off from the stage. She grabbed him by the shirt and, with all her mighty warrior strength, she lifted him and threw him over the surrounding fence.

Once the first two protesting slave-owners were away, their wives rushed towards the exit of the enclosed area to join them and help them get back up and go home. Xena walked towards Apollinaris while Gabrielle was still standing on the stage, waiting to find out if she would be allowed to go on.

“My name is Xena,” the warrior woman said to the beardy organiser. “I’m here to keep the peace while my best friend is telling a story. Can you please let her go on with it?”

“Certainly.” Apollinaris joyfully grinned at the tall woman. He seemed to be a light-hearted man who was not ready to give up on views that were challenging the unfair status quo in Athens. “Thank you so much, Xena. I’m one of the people who oppose slavery, and I would love to hear the rest of your friend’s story.”

“Thanks, sir.” Xena gave him a slight half smile.

“It’s alright, Xena. If I had known I was to get a free performance of storytelling against slavery today, I would have hired some more guards, but since you’re here and you seem strong enough to beat those guys, I’ll pay you good money.”

“Thanks.” The Warrior Princess was glad. Her plan worked and, with enough luck, people from the audience would also offer her dinars for keeping the peace. Apollinaris looked up at the stage and spoke loudly to Gabrielle: “Please continue, young lady. Many people in the audience would like to hear the remainder of your story.”

“Yes!” Some progressive people amongst the spectators cheered at Gabrielle, raising their hands. “We want to hear the rest,” someone’s voice exclaimed. Xena now stood near the stage. She was surveying the audience and watching out for potential further trouble.

On top of the platform, the bard quickly placed her staff back onto the floor and briefly smiled at the audience. She then carried on with the story while speaking in a solemn tone: “One afternoon, Timothea’s sister, Eugenia, who had kept looking for her ever since the abduction that had taken place a few years back, walked into the tavern where the young slave girl was working. She recognised her sister but was horrified at seeing her looking so thin, so battered…” Gabrielle frowned. “… The slave-owner saw Timothea talking to who he felt was ‘a stranger’ and he slapped her right in front of her sister. Eugenia tried to get her little sister out of all this. The two women figured out an escape plan as they continued communicating through exchanging notes via slipping them under doors and windows…”

As Gabrielle kept telling the tale, Xena saw a man rising from his seat, brandishing a sword and coming to fight her. “Anti-slavery extremists!” he yelled. The warrior got her own sword out of the scabbard on her back and wielded it at him. Their weapons clashed a few times and the fight interrupted the bard anew. The blonde woman, the guards, Apollinaris and the rest of the audience simply watched what was going on in front of the stage.

As her blade kept clunking against the attacking man’s, the dark-haired woman replied to his slur. “Is that what you call extremists? People who just want to speak out on the suffering of the enslaved? You’re a bastard.”

“Why would people listen to harlots like you anyway?” he angrily retorted, while continuing the sword fight.

Xena succeeded in making a small cut on the back of his wrist. He bellowed and dropped his sword to the ground. She put her weapon away and gave him a shove with her boot, which made him fall. “Because women can be right too,” she simply replied.

The two guards picked him up and dragged him outside the barriers. His wife walked out to take him home. The Warrior Princess had to fight and kick out a few more pro-slavery folks before Gabrielle was allowed to continue her story.

Finally, the bard resumed her tale on the stage: “So Eugenia was able to get a key made for Timothea to unlock the chain on the collar that she was being forced to wear. One night, the slave girl managed to rid her neck of the heavy thing. Without her collar, no one would ever be able to identify her as a slave and take her back to her master. The escape plan nearly worked. Eugenia was waiting for her sister outside the place where she was being kept…” The storyteller loved the way her partner had fought those bad guys that had tried to stop her performance. She felt secure to tell the ending now.

“… Unfortunately,” Gabrielle bemoaned, knowing this particular story did not have a happy ending, “Timothea had just gone out the door when her owner ran out and stabbed her in the back, inflicting a deadly wound on her. He had somehow heard her footsteps when she was trying to flee his place. ‘That’s the price to pay for an escaping slave!’ he yelled, and turned to go back inside. Timothea died in her sister’s arms as Eugenia ran towards her as soon as she saw her collapse…” The bard shed a couple of tears while finishing the story. Many people in the audience were crying. Some did not own slaves and felt utterly aghast while thinking about the cruelty of slavery. “Timothea said, just before holding her last breath, ‘Please, Eugenia, don’t let the story of my life be forgotten…’”

The blonde woman dried her tears with the back of her hand and told the last part while keeping an earnest facial expression. “So a few months later, Eugenia went on to tell her late sister’s story all around Greece as she kept advocating for the emancipation of the enslaved. I’d like to add that what happened to Timothea is not an odd or unusual case. Although there may be some masters who are much less abusive towards their slaves than Timothea’s owner was, the story of her life represents the experience of many slaves and the potential threat for every person living nowadays under slavery: the experience of mistreatment, malnutrition, battering and even the threat of death. No one deserves this. People deserve real freedom.”

Most people in the audience applauded to Gabrielle’s story about a slave girl and, more importantly, to the political statement it conveyed. The bard thanked the audience for listening and climbed down the platform to join her lover.

Many spectators approached Gabrielle and Xena. They gave both women generous amounts of money. “With some friends that were with me and my husband tonight, I’m going to try to develop an anti-slavery movement right here in Athens,” said one woman as she shook the storyteller’s hand. The blonde woman replied to her something in encouragement for such a plan. Apollinaris and other people also gave lots of dinars to the Warrior Princess for protecting free speech and beating slave-owners while she had stopped them from interrupting Gabrielle’s performance.

Once they had said goodbye to all the open-minded people there and gathered their belongings, the two lovers left the outdoor performance area. It was now the evening and dusk had fallen as they both decided to make their way back towards the public stables where Argo was being kept. They smiled at each other, and Xena kindly encircled an arm around Gabrielle’s shoulders as they kept walking.

“I’d told you this was a good idea, Gabrielle,” the warrior woman warmly stated. “Each of us made some money and, at the same time, we’ve managed to speak out against slavery to those compassionate people through the real story you told. It’s sad that most people out there still don’t know what is really going on in slaves’ lives, but maybe a stronger anti-slavery movement which they would support could help bring more of the truth into light.”

“Yep,” the bard agreed, “we’ve opened their hearts, Xena. I’m glad they intend to do something useful with the awareness they now have.”

They arrived at the public stables when Xena said, “Let’s go to a relaxing place for tonight.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Xena and Gabrielle had just gotten out of the city’s gates on horseback. The Warrior Princess had placed her bard in front of her on the saddle this time. She had her arms around her younger lover’s bare midriff as she was manipulating the reins. This close contact thrilled the blonde woman as she strongly held onto her taller partner’s arms and leaned into her embrace while they were moving forward. The travellers rode to an inn that was situated in a small village somewhere just outside Athens.

As the two women neared the large public house with well-lit windows, Xena stopped Argo, climbed off the mare and helped Gabrielle dismount as well. The warrior tied the Palomino horse’s bridle to a wooden barrier that was located close to the entrance to the inn.

Gabrielle took the saddlebags off from the mare. One contained Xena’s sack of purchased market goods, and the bard handed it to her older partner. The lovers were gently holding hands as they walked towards the place’s front door. They then released each other’s hands as they got inside.

“It seems to be a very nice place, Xena,” said the blonde woman as she looked around the reception and into the main dining room, which she could see through the doorway that led to it.

“Yeah, it does,” the dark-haired woman answered. She walked to the front desk as she saw a woman who looked about fifty years old standing behind it, greeting them both. “Hello, lady. Can my friend and I have a meal and a room for tonight?” Xena got some of the dinars she had earned out of a small leather purse she had and put the money down onto the innkeeper’s wooden table.

“Certainly,” the lady at the front desk answered, grinning at both women.

“I can help with the cost, Xena, if you’d like me to,” proposed Gabrielle.

The warrior woman turned to her and refused the offer. “No, Gabrielle. I intend to pay for us both tonight.” The taller woman had really planned on paying for the inn with only her own money and let her younger lover keep her own part of tonight’s earnings to herself. “Please keep your own money, sweetheart,” she whispered in her ear.

“Okay,” the bard accepted and kindly shrugged. “Thank you, Xena.”

“No problem.” She gave her the familiar slight half smile, and then turned back towards the innkeeper. “Will this be enough?”

“Yes, sure,” the woman replied, and took the dinars Xena had put on the desk. “Make yourselves at home. You can go have dinner now if you want. Your bedroom will be the first one on the left after you go up the stairs.”

“Thank you. I will add a few more dinars for my horse to be taken to your stables. Her name is Argo and I left her just outside at the front.”

“All right. I will arrange for someone to take your mare to our stables at the back.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The soup and main course meal in the inn’s dining room had both been deliciously excellent. The two lovers were now savouring honey-covered dates that had been served to them for dessert. They were sitting at a table for two, lovingly exchanging little warm glances towards one another.

After they finished, the innkeeper took all the plates and cutlery away, and Gabrielle decided to place one of the blank scrolls she had purchased from the City Market earlier in the day on the table. She took her quill out of the saddlebag, which she had placed near her feet while sitting at the dining chair, and spread the empty parchment on the table. The bard looked at her partner in front of her.

“Sorry, Xena,” she said in a very friendly way, “but I’m still due to write yesterday’s events on a scroll.”

Xena smiled. “Sure. Go ahead. I’ve got to go upstairs and get our room fully prepared for tonight.” She winked, and then got up from the table, leaving the blonde storyteller alone to write. “Join me when you’re finished. See you soon.”

“Yes, see you soon, Xena.” Gabrielle was happy to notice that the Warrior Princess probably had something in mind for the two of them to spend a good night together, after their recent lack of intimacy.

First, her taller lover had made breakfast and done the dishes, for once. Xena had also given her a small bouquet of flowers that she had handpicked. Then, she had taken her on an unexpected trip to Athens. They had been wandering through the busy City Market and her older lover had bought her another green shirt, the exact same as the one that had been damaged. Sometime after that, Xena had found a brilliant, useful and interesting way for both of them to make money at a ‘free performance’ show. Finally, now that her dark-haired partner had taken her to an inn just outside the city, the warrior wanted to get the bedroom she had paid for ‘fully prepared’ for them tonight.

Something suggested to Gabrielle that perhaps Xena had some plans in mind, some love plans, to rekindle their intimacy. She knew Xena so well that she already figured that out. The bard had some of her own exciting love plans too. She smirked and kept writing about yesterday’s events, deciding to concentrate on her scroll for now. She was a quick writer and, in a candlemark or so, she would be happily joining Xena into their bedroom upstairs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The warrior woman walked up towards the room that had been reserved for Gabrielle and her for the night. When she got in, she found a female servant still in the room, finishing preparing the bed. She was a woman in her thirties, with brown hair, and dressed in a rather plain chiffon outfit. “Is there anything I can do for you?” the servant asked.

“Yes, I think so.” Xena looked around the room. It was gorgeous and big enough. There was a large copper basin placed not far from the fireplace. She turned back towards the servant. “Can you please prepare a hot tub for me and my friend tonight?”

“Sure,” the innkeeper’s maid replied.

“Thank you.” The Warrior Princess went to put the saddlebag she was carrying on the floor near the bed. She got the cream-coloured sack of purchased market goods out of it and placed it on top of the bedside table.

As the servant came in and out of the room at regular intervals, bringing more and more buckets of very warm water to fill the copper tub with, Xena took off her scabbard and breastplate. She put her weapons and armour down near the saddlebag on the floor by the bed.

Once the hot tub was full and the servant had left, the warrior knew that Gabrielle would probably be up here in less than half a candlemark now. She wanted everything to go as planned. She took the fruits she had purchased earlier out of the sack of goods that was on the little table. She also got a couple of wooden bowls out of her saddlebag and poured the strawberries and raspberries into two different receptacles.

Xena found the almond oil she had bought earlier. She went to hide the two fruit bowls and the small bottle of essential oil somewhere on the other side of the bed, in a corner her partner would not see unless she really looked.

The warrior walked back to the bedside table and grabbed the sack that only had the red roses and candles left in it. She approached the hot tub, moved a hand into the bag she carried to pluck at the flowers and threw all the roses’ petals into the bath. The little red bits floated on the surface of the hot water.

With the help of the fireplace, Xena lit all the candles she had purchased earlier on and placed them wherever she could, all around the room. The place looked so romantic when she suddenly heard footsteps coming from the hall and nearing the bedroom door.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gabrielle had just finished writing when she had put away her scroll and quill, left the dining room and climbed up the stairs with her own saddlebag in hand. She opened the door to their reserved bedroom and saw Xena standing, looking at her in a charming way. “I’ve just had the hot tub prepared for both of us, Gabrielle.”

“Thank you.” The bard walked further inside to go put her belongings near the warrior’s on the floor. Her eyes wandered around. It was a very nice place. The bed seemed comfortable. The tub was full. The room was well-lit, with candles scattered here and there.

Xena walked towards Gabrielle, hugged her and then kissed her. They exchanged a deep, warm, passionate and tongue-mingling kiss. When it ended, the bard spoke.

“This is such a nice place you found for us tonight, Xena. Very romantic.” She gazed up at her taller lover with her sweet sea-green eyes. “I’m suspecting…” she said in a gentle tone, “that the candles and the rose petals were your ideas, right?” The Warrior Princess kept holding her close and caressing her beautiful long blond hair, which started to excite her.

“Yes. Of course the innkeeper’s maid wouldn’t have thought of that.” The taller woman chuckled. “Those were my ideas.” She playfully grinned. “And I’ve got a few more ideas for the two of us tonight.” She immediately leaned down to reclaim her younger lover’s lips, tenderly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Both lovers got near the hot tub once they had removed all their clothes. Gabrielle had taken two wooden hair sticks out of a bag. She handed one to Xena. Both of them had already washed their hair in the morning and did not want to wet it again. So they each lifted and rolled their hairstyles into buns on the back of their heads, before they climbed into the bath.

Xena got into the water and sat in the hot tub. So did Gabrielle who sat in between her lover’s legs, her back to her. The smell of roses felt very pleasant to the bard, as the bright red petals rested on the surface around them. The warrior had a bar of soap in her hand and started lathering her younger partner’s back with the creamy, frothy substance.

Gabrielle relaxed under the influence of Xena’s tender strokes. Underwater, both of her taller lover’s legs touched each side of her thighs. She placed her hands on the warrior woman’s knees while Xena kept rubbing her back.

The Warrior Princess also cleaned the storyteller’s shoulders and arms before asking her to turn around. Once the bard faced her in the bath, the dark-haired woman moved her body forward, kissed her younger lover and began running the soap along the blonde’s neck, collar bones and breasts. “So how do you like our romantic evening so far, Gabrielle?” she asked in an alluring tone while she kept washing the rest of her younger lover’s body. Xena’s azure blue eyes always mesmerised Gabrielle.

“Well,” The bard briefly chuckled, “it clearly feels like a bit of a change from the last few nights…” She kissed the older woman again as she snatched the soap from her hands. She lathered it all over the beautiful bronzed body, loving the feel of her taller lover’s curvy shapes. “Let me do your back now.” Once she managed to move her body around the warrior in this large tub, Gabrielle got behind Xena and washed her back. She put down the soap on the side of the tub and used her palms and fingers to massage her taller lover’s shoulders, back, spine and ribs.

“Hmm…” The warrior woman loved how the blonde’s touch made her feel at ease. Once the delightful backrub was over, she moved herself around in the tub and gathered the smaller woman into her arms. They both lay snuggled up to each other in the warm water of the bath, keeping their heads above the surface.

On top of Xena in the tub, Gabrielle felt the warrior’s wet hands move around her back. The Warrior Princess was seductively moving her fingertips across the younger woman’s spine. The blonde woman covered her older partner’s mouth with hers and their tongues intermingled as they both closed their eyes. When the kiss ended, the two women just rested in the large copper basin for a magic, quiet moment.

They were being absorbed in the absolute serenity that enveloped their senses in the peaceful Inn room. The scent of the bath, perfumed with soap and roses, smeared, immersed their skin and made them cuddle up to one another some more. Each woman revelled in feeling the other’s body pressed tightly against her own.

Once they felt they were clean enough and fully relaxed, they decided to climb out of the tub. Gabrielle got out first, seizing a towel that lay somewhere near and quickly drying her body with it. Xena followed a short while after. The bard had just finished drying herself when she covered the warrior’s skin with the towel and began rubbing it onto her. She stared up into Xena’s eyes.

“I love you, Gabrielle,” asserted the warrior. She claimed the bard’s mouth again, for a short but intense kiss. While kissing her, the older woman reached around Gabrielle’s head and removed the stick that held the storyteller’s hairstyle together. The younger woman’s dry blond hair fell onto her back. She spoke as her dark-haired partner’s lips then travelled to the corner of her face.

“Hmmm… I love you too, Xena.” Gabrielle replied as she felt her taller lover’s sweet little kisses moisten her cheek with love. Still holding the towel, she reached up and also undid Xena’s bun by removing the wooden stick from the dark hair, which then cascaded down the warrior’s back. Both women chucked the hair accessories aside.

“You know… I’ve also got some ideas of my own for tonight, Xena.” the bard gazed up at the Warrior Princess with passionately libidinous eyes as she said this. “Please… Let me finish drying you, my love.”

“Sure.” Standing in front of her shorter lover, Xena let Gabrielle dry her.

The blonde used the towel to brush away the humidity that trickled down her lover’s body. She first wiped the semi-damp cloth onto Xena’s shoulders and back. She then moved the towel across the front of the warrior’s body. Her strokes caressed the warrior’s ample breasts. Once the two gorgeous mounds were dry, she could not restrain some deeply erotic desire to bring her mouth to them.

Interrupting her drying motions, Gabrielle placed the towel over her shoulder and leaned down to wrap her lips around one of Xena’s nipples. At the same time, the storyteller grabbed and squeezed the taller woman’s breasts.

“Gabrielle… Hmm…” The dark-haired woman had not imagined that Gabrielle would be taking control of her body so quickly. She had thought she would be the one to make the first lovemaking move on this romantic night at the Inn. As she felt the bard’s delicious mouth switch to her other breast, the warrior woman uttered another moan of delight and forwent some of her initial plans. Now she could not wait to feel the blonde woman’s skilled sweet little tongue touch her where she wanted it the most. “Gabrielle… Please…” Still standing, Xena  slightly spread her legs in front of her younger lover. She gently caressed the back of the blonde’s head.

Gabrielle noticed the hint her partner was giving her. After she had relished taking as much of each of the warrior’s breasts into her mouth during a few more moments, she dropped to her knees and kissed the brunette’s lower belly. She then took the towel and began to tease Xena by rubbing the large cloth onto one of the taller woman’s legs, then the other. The bard noticed her older lover shudder as she caressed her inner thighs with the towel. She could feel that the Warrior Princess was becoming even more impatient. Gabrielle blew some hot breath onto the dark curls and the magnificent glistening folds before her.

“Please… Gabrielle…” Xena groaned in excitement. She put her hands onto the blonde’s hair, delicately stroking the back of her head. “Your mouth on me, please… Lick me, my love…”

Unable to resist her strong sexual hunger any longer, Gabrielle dropped the towel onto the floor and nudged her lover’s thighs a little further apart. Putting her hands on Xena’s hips, she pressed her lips onto the warrior woman’s soaking wet centre and thrust her tongue into the heavenly wild taste of her partner’s sex.

“Oh… Gabrielle… Gods…” The Warrior Princess closed her eyes and tightened her grip on the storyteller’s head. She gently drove the eager mouth and tongue deeper into the burning need between her thighs. “Gabrielle… Oh… Yes… That’s right… Lick all of it, my bard…” Having her beloved little girlfriend pleasuring her like this, Xena let more sounds of enjoyment escape her mouth when she felt the incredibly skilled sweet bardic tongue glide its way around her engorged clit.

Kneeling in front of her lover’s parted legs, Gabrielle had her face buried into the essence of her older lover’s exotic heat while she flicked the tip of her tongue around the bundle of nerves for a moment. The warrior’s wetness coated the bard’s nose, mouth, cheeks and chin as she eagerly licked the tender hot folds, savouring every corner, every crevice of the dark-haired woman’s intimate flesh.

“Gods… Gabrielle… Yes…” Xena lovingly ran her fingers through Gabrielle’s hair. She loved the way her bard always knew how to sexually gratify her with her amazing oral abilities.

The blonde woman carried on tonguing her partner’s centre with fervour. She continued to bask in the scrumptious scent and taste of her Warrior Princess. Simultaneously, Gabrielle was humming her joy against Xena’s sensitive textures as she performed this oral activity she always loved so much. As the bard moved a hand to her partner’s sex to tease the clit with her thumb, her tongue entered the warrior’s sodden opening and she plunged it back and forth inside it, eliciting more pleasure exclamations from her taller lover. After a little while, Gabrielle’s tongue made its way out and travelled back up towards Xena’s swollen bud, which she lovingly sucked and licked until her warrior reached orgasm.

“Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” The Warrior Princess screamed the bard’s name. Her hands pressed the blonde’s head even deeper into the juicy heat between her legs as she came. As she breathed heavily and loosened her grip on Gabrielle, she gently caressed the smaller woman’s hair.

“Hmmm… You taste so good… Xena…” The bard licked and drank every last drop of her lover’s passion before affectionately kissing her centre. She stood back up and looked into her taller partner’s eyes.

Xena instantly bent her head down to kiss Gabrielle. She delighted in the feel of her own taste onto the younger woman’s lips. The two naked women kissed deeply, their tongues dancing around one another. The room was still being lit by the bright candlelight. The warrior could no longer wait for the rest, and she knew the bard needed some lovemaking tonight. The tall brunette reached down to the back of her blonde lover’s thighs and suddenly scooped the smaller woman’s legs up to wrap them around her waist. She started carrying her towards the bed.

The way Xena lifted her somewhat surprised Gabrielle, but she kept kissing her older partner as she tightly enveloped her arms around the warrior’s neck. The dark-haired woman could feel the warm dampness of her lover’s centre pressing against her belly as she firmly held onto the younger woman’s thighs while walking towards the mattress. She carefully deposited Gabrielle onto the bed. “Hang on, Gabrielle… I also have a couple of surprises for you tonight.” Xena walked around the other corner of the bed to get the things she had hidden there earlier.

The blonde woman lay on top of the blanket, hoping her beloved warrior woman’s surprises would be good ones.

Xena placed the small bottle of almond oil and the two fruit bowls somewhere on top of the bed. She then climbed up towards Gabrielle. The bard spread her legs as she saw the Warrior Princess approach her on the bed.

“What are these for?” Gabrielle asked with a gleeful sparkle in her sea-green eyes.

“You’ll see,” was the warrior’s cryptic response. She went to lie on top of the younger woman and pressed her lips onto hers.

As both lovers shared another blazingly passionate and deep tongue-searching kiss, they hugged each other in bed. Gabrielle constantly enjoyed how soft the dark-haired woman’s well-toned skin felt. Xena could not get enough of touching her blonde lover. She realised how much she had been missing the silkiness of her skin these last few nights.

The warrior caressed the bard’s mouth with her own a few more times before she began descending on her younger partner’s body. She nibbled at Gabrielle’s neck and placed a few little fiery kisses on her way down to her breasts.

“Oh… Xena…” The smaller woman shivered in bliss as Xena cupped and kneaded her breasts. She felt incredibly happy and aroused that her older lover was touching her again, after quite a few nights without lovemaking. “Gods… Xena…” Gabrielle exclaimed when the warrior woman’s mouth closed itself around one of her nipples, making it stiffen in response. She moved her hands back to grasp at the pillow that supported her head.

The Warrior Princess greedily drew the bard’s breast into her mouth. She took joy in sucking it, flicking her tongue around it, before she switched to the other breast and gave it the same loving treatment, which made her younger lover moan pleasurably again. After this, Xena lifted her head and was glad to see Gabrielle’s nipples had become all sensitised by what she had done. She touched them with her thumbs before moving downwards and kissing Gabrielle’s abdomen.

“Oh… Yes, Xena… Please.” The blonde woman was becoming even more excited. She had been missing her older lover’s lovemaking so much.

Before doing what she would usually do, however, the warrior raised herself to a kneeling position between the younger woman’s legs, which made the bard whimper in disappointment. “Hold on, sweetheart. This is when my surprises begin,” Xena said as she smilingly stared down at Gabrielle while running her strong hands over her lover’s thighs.

The bard continued to wonder what the warrior woman was up to. The feeling of her partner stroking her thighs kept her excited, as she looked up at her.

Still kneeling between Gabrielle’s legs, Xena grabbed a strawberry from one of the fruit bowls and held it by its green tail. She could see the beautiful blonde curls of her younger lover’s centre before her. She lowered the red fruit to her girlfriend’s sex.

Gabrielle held softly onto the cushiony fabric behind her head. “What are you doing?” she asked with astonishment, as she felt Xena gently running the strawberry between her nether lips.

The warrior gave the bard a radiant, wicked smile. She still had one hand placed onto one of the bard’s thighs. “Just lay back and relax, my love. I’m just having a bit of delicious fun,” she answered as she brought the fruit up to her mouth, after it had been well-coated with the blonde woman’s nectar. Xena bit on the strawberry, savouring it, and especially the appetising juice that was on it. “Hmmm…” She lowered it to the storyteller’s labia again and took another bite, eating the whole fruit. She discarded the tail and took another strawberry, which she, once again, positioned against Gabrielle’s centre.

“Oh… Xena…” The storyteller moaned as she felt her partner, once again, touching her sex with the red fruit. “Why are you teasing me like this?” She was becoming impatient.

“Because it spices things up.” Xena winked down at the bard and smirked. She slightly dunked the strawberry into Gabrielle’s juicy entrance, turned it on the spot –covering it with the bard’s essence– and took it to her own mouth to taste her lover’s luscious nectar again. After she finished eating that strawberry, she took another one, dipped it in the younger woman’s folds and then brought it to her supine partner’s mouth. “Taste yourself, Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle opened her lips and ate the strawberry Xena was giving her, tasting her own excitement on it. “I taste good.” She grinned up at her older lover, who then discarded the fruit’s tail.

“You do.” The warrior used another strawberry to tease the bard’s labia. She also tickled her clit with it, before smearing it with more juices and eating it. Xena even used one strawberry to dip it in her own wet centre. She immediately moved the fruit to her younger lover’s mouth. “Taste me again, now.”

Gabrielle instantly bit on the strawberry Xena was giving her, loving the taste of her lover’s passion on it. She eagerly ate the whole fruit minus the green tail, which her taller partner chucked aside.

“And now I’m wanting some more of your precious cream for my strawberries, my love.” The dark-haired woman smirked again before she coated a few more red fruits with the blonde’s taste and hungrily ate them. “Too delicious.” She put the strawberry bowl on the bedside table.

Gabrielle was becoming very aroused. “Uh… Xena… Please.” She moved her hips slightly up a couple of times, to give her partner a hint of what she wanted.

“Hmmm…” The Warrior Princess smiled down at her younger lover, with her charming azure blue eyes. “You want me to put my mouth on you again, don’t you?”

“Yes… Oh… Xena… Please.” Gabrielle squirmed in over-excitement. Xena had been teasing her too much. She wanted more.

“Please, what, Gabrielle? Come on. Say it, my bard. Tell me you want me to lick you.” The warrior woman, still knelt in front of companion, stroked the younger woman’s legs.

“Lick me, Xena, please…” the blonde woman begged with impatience, briefly raising her hips again. “I want you to lick all of it.” She wanted her lover to stop teasing her.

“Very good, Gabrielle… Whatever you want from me, you get, my love.” Xena immediately moved back, lay on her stomach and positioned her head between Gabrielle’s spread legs. She placed her hands around the younger woman’s thighs and blew some warm air on the glistening blond curls, making her girlfriend tremble in delight. The warrior then placed Gabrielle’s legs over her shoulders and buried her face in the bard’s heat.

“Oh… Yes… Xena.” Gabrielle felt absolute bliss when Xena’s tongue touched her clit. She had been waiting for this for quite a few nights. She had missed her dark-haired partner loving her with her tongue.

The older woman used the tip of her tongue to stimulate the area around the storyteller’s sensitive nub, licking it in slow circles.

“By the gods… Xena…” The bard kept her hands onto the pillow. She curled her hands into fists as she grasped more strongly onto the soft material while raising her hips up towards the warrior’s face, encouraging her to dive deeper into her intimate parts.

Xena groaned pleasurably against the excited flesh as she slid her tongue all over Gabrielle’s centre. She sucked each of her younger partner’s outer folds into her mouth, and then slowly licked the delicate pinkish textures of the blonde’s inner labia. As she kept tasting and savouring her bard’s succulent hot sex, the Warrior Princess glided her tongue into every crevice and every bit of the warm flesh, making Gabrielle utter more sounds of pleasure. Xena’s tongue, lips, chin, nose and cheeks were now completely covered by her companion’s ambrosial love juices, and the warrior hungrily carried on licking the bard’s precious flower.

“Xena… Oh… Yes!” Gabrielle moved her hands down to tenderly caress her lover’s dark-hair.

The warrior’s tongue got inside the bard’s wet entrance and the older woman moved it back and forth inside the blonde’s love tunnel.

“Uh… Oh… Yes… Xena…” The younger woman enjoyed every moment of the sweet and loving activity her partner was performing on her, as she pushed the taller woman’s head closer onto the area between her legs. She voiced her delight, once again, when she felt Xena use her thumb to rub her clit as the warrior continued making love to her orally and skilfully.

After a while, the dark-haired woman’s tongue got out of its comfortable haven and moved upwards to touch Gabrielle’s engorged bundle of nerves again. This time, she drew the node into her mouth, sucking it and tonguing it to bring her younger lover closer to climax.

After thrusting her hips up to press her centre more closely onto Xena’s mouth, the bard moved her hands back towards the pillow behind her head, gripping it firmly as she orgasmed. “Xeeenaaa!” Her body fell back onto the mattress as she attempted to catch her breath again.

The Warrior Princess licked away at every trickle of Gabrielle’s intimate essence. She loved drinking her bard’s honeydewed liquid. It had such a deliciously unique taste. Xena gently kissed her younger lover’s sex and lifted her body up. She raised herself to crawl back up the storyteller’s body and fervently kiss her on the mouth.

The bard revelled in the taste of herself on her taller lover’s lips. “I love you,” she said, following the kiss’ end.

“I love you too,” Xena replied, gazing into Gabrielle’s eyes. “What an amazingly tasty little treat you are, my bard.” She claimed her lips again, and their tongues intertwined as they both hugged on the bed. The warrior softly ran her fingers along the bard’s skin as the two of them rested for a few moments. “I have a few more plans for us tonight,” she murmured sweetly in the storyteller’s ear.

“What are they?” the blonde woman asked quietly.

Xena raised herself back up to a kneeling position on the bed. “Turn around and lie on your stomach, my love. I’m going to give you a massage.”

“Oh, great idea.” Gabrielle rolled over and moved her long hair away from the skin of her back. She dragged down her pillow to place it under her upper chest, keeping her arms around it. She closed her eyes as she lay prone onto the bed, anticipating her taller lover’s skilled touch.

After quite a few years of being Gabrielle’s lover, the Warrior Princess obviously knew by heart all the sensitive areas of her beloved companion’s body. The dark-haired woman grabbed the little bottle of almond oil, opened it and went to straddle the bard’s hips. She poured some of the sticky liquid onto one of her hands and rubbed her palms together to make it warm after she had put down the open bottle of essential oil on the bedside table. She first massaged the back of the smaller woman’s neck with firm but delicate, skilful hands.

“Xena…” Gabrielle felt Xena’s long fingers make contact with her skin while applying a pleasantly warm and oily substance onto it.

“Just relax, Gabrielle.” The older woman kindly ordered as she worked her slippery hands onto her partner’s shoulders for a little while. She then moved her fingers down towards the blonde’s shoulder blades and started to rub them. With gentle pressure, she worked her slippery palms and fingers into the skin at the top of the storyteller’s back.

“Hmmm…” The blonde woman purred, enjoying every moment of this delicious massage.

As Xena moved her hands further downwards in continuous, and sometimes circular, motions, she felt Gabrielle’s muscles relax under her every stroke. She also used her thumbs and index fingers to work her smooth touch along the sides of bard’s spine.  The warrior got some more oil to massage her younger lover’s lower back.

“Hmmm… Xena…” The younger woman just lay there, breathing calmly, with her hands around her pillow. Feeling her partner’s oily touch slide further down her back sent thrilling shivers down her spine.

The warrior moved to straddle the bard’s thighs. She intensely rubbed the small of Gabrielle’s back with unhurried movements, eliciting a few more, occasional, happy low moans from the smaller woman. After this, Xena grabbed the small bottle again and poured some more almond oil onto her hands. She then kneaded her younger lover’s firm, round buttocks. “You’ve got such a gorgeous butt, my love,” the taller woman softly said.

Gabrielle chuckled briefly. She clung onto her pillow when she felt the Warrior Princess’ oily hands massage her butt cheeks. The bard moaned quietly, feeling mild titillation when her partner softly brushed the back of a finger across the cleft of her rear. She experienced a very warm and pleasant sensation when her older lover lightly stimulated her little puckered opening with the tip of a thumb. The storyteller sometimes craved and loved the warrior’s touch all over the sensitive parts of her body, like in this evening’s gentle massage for instance.

After she had finished massaging the younger woman’s buttocks, Xena glided her hands over the back of Gabrielle’s thighs, moving herself on the bed accordingly as she kept slowly rubbing the touch further down the bard’s body. Her fingers could still sense some taut muscles at the back of the blonde woman’s legs, but this tension swiftly yielded under a few firm, but careful, tactile strokes. “Keep relaxing, sweetheart.”

Gabrielle gasped when she felt Xena’s fingers touch the back of her knees. She was particularly sensitive right there. The warrior worked her way further down her legs, and the storyteller enjoyed the way her older lover deeply massaged her skin there. She also loved how Xena took special and tender care of her feet.

After she had was done with massaging Gabrielle’s soles and toes, the Warrior Princess went to lie closer to the younger woman on the bed. She spoke again. “So you loved the massage, Gabrielle, didn’t you?”

“Hmmm…” the bard cooed, rolling herself back over to a supine position. “Xena,” she grinned, “you know I always love massages from you, and I give you some as well sometimes.”

“It’s true.” Xena smiled back and went to lie on top of the blonde woman’s body. She passionately kissed her and ran her fingers through her hair.

Gabrielle touched her dark-haired partner too. They both loved the scent and the feel of each other’s skin and hair. They shared a strong hug, loving the contact of their bodies pressing against one another. “Thank you so much, my warrior. I had been missing your touch these last few nights.”

“Well, I really wanted to make up for it, my bard.” Xena was caressing Gabrielle’s skin. They were both gazing intently into each other’s eyes.

“Have you got any more plans for tonight?”

“Well…” Xena sat up on the bed and took the bowl of raspberries, “I do have another little surprise.” She grabbed a fistful of the dark pink fruits and placed the small bowl on the bedside table, beside the strawberries.

The bard wondered once again what the warrior was up to as she saw her holding a handful of raspberries while staring down at her. “What are you going to do with those?” Gabrielle asked.

“I’m just gonna be having a little fun.” The Warrior Princess smirked. “Spread your legs, Gabrielle.”

“You’re not going to…” The blonde woman gave her partner an astonished look.

“Please, spread your legs, my love,” Xena kindly requested.

Gabrielle could not resist and complied. The dark-haired woman pressed the raspberries against her lover’s centre and gently squashed them. The pink fruits’ juice spread all over the bard’s centre. Droplets trickled on the blanket beneath.

“Hey, Xena,” Gabrielle jumped slightly from feeling the raspberry nectar on her labia, “you are staining the bed. The innkeepers are going to charge us for this.”

“It’s all right, Gabrielle.” Xena brought her fingers to her mouth to suck the raspberry juice off them. “I’ll pay for it. It’ll be all on me.” She looked at Gabrielle’s sex again; the raspberry liquid was all over it. “Hmmm… I’m gonna have to lick all this off now.” The warrior began to lower her head towards the bard’s centre.

“Xena, wait!”

“What?” The dark-haired woman stopped her motions to look into the storyteller’s eyes.

“If you’re going to do this to me again, I would like to be able to do it to you at the same time. Is that okay?”

“Sure…” Xena gave her a slight half smile. “I’ll also give you some of that fruity taste too.” She grasped another handful of raspberries and smeared her own sex with them, spreading the pink juice all over her nether lips.

After her blonde partner got her pillow out of the way and moved her body slightly further down towards the middle of the bed, the Warrior Princess turned her body around so her hips were positioned above the bard’s head. Unable to wait any longer, Xena moved her face down to Gabrielle’s centre. She started licking all the fruity nectar off from the gorgeous pinkish folds, intensely appreciating the taste of her younger lover mixed with the raspberry liquid. Her tongue got into every warm and wet recess of Gabrielle’s sex.

A few little drops of juice and bits of fruit fell onto the blonde woman’s face. She immediately reached up and lowered Xena’s hips until her hungry mouth made contact with the taller woman’s centre. The bard greedily tasted her partner’s sexual textures and enjoyed the juicy mixture of her lover’s passion and the raspberries.

The two women carried on orally pleasuring each other simultaneously. When there was no more fruit juice to lick off each other’s sex, they continued to eagerly savour one another. Xena took great joy in running her tongue all over Gabrielle’s precious flower while feeling her blonde girlfriend do the same thing to her. Similarly, it was intense rapture for the bard to be able to tongue her older lover’s intimate area while the warrior was performing the same ministrations on her. They both stimulated each other’s clit at the same time.

As they were closer to climax, Xena interrupted while they both remained in this position. “Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle stopped her oral task for a few seconds. “What is it, Xena?”

“When I come, please keep some of my juices in your mouth. I’ll do the same thing. I have an idea. You’ll see.” The warrior returned her mouth to her younger partner’s centre.

“Okay.” The bard also resumed her own activities. They both licked deeply and intensely into each other’s sex. Once again, each woman sought out the engorged nub of the other. After a while, they orgasmed and kept one another’s wetness into their mouths. Then Xena turned her body back around on the bed and took Gabrielle into her arms.

They both shared the most heated kiss they had ever experienced together, mingling their own intimate tastes into each other’s mouths. They searched each other’s tongues, and together they drank each other’s mixed love essence as they kissed deeply.

“I love you, Gabrielle.” Xena said as the kiss ended.

“I love you, Xena,” responded Gabrielle. “We’re so clearly made for each other.”

“Yup.” The Warrior Princess went to lie on her back onto the comfortable mattress and pillows.

The bard moved to lie next to her taller lover, placing her head on the dark-haired woman’s shoulder, her hand on her belly and wrapping a leg over one of her thighs. Xena encircled an arm around her beloved companion. They rested, experiencing the agreeable post-orgasmic effects.

After a few moments, Gabrielle lifted her head. “Xena?”

“What?”

“I want us to make love again… in a truly soul-connecting way. Do you know what I mean?”

“Umm… I think I do… Come here.” The warrior woman sat up, pulled the bard up and encouraged her to do the same. They faced each other, sitting up on the bed. “I’ve got an idea for a soul-connecting position,” said the taller woman as she parted her younger lover’s thighs. “Do you want to try it, Gabrielle?”

“Yes, absolutely, Xena.”

Xena scissored her legs around Gabrielle’s and tightened them around her partner’s hips, causing both their warm centres to tightly press against one another. The storyteller shivered at the very warm and blissful contact, as she also encircled her legs around the dark-haired woman. With their legs interlocking like this, they firmly held onto each other’s arms. They exchanged a very intimate and direct gaze into each other’s eyes as Xena began grinding her sex against her companion’s. “Follow my movements. Move against me, Gabrielle.”

“All right.” Gabrielle strongly clung onto Xena as she rubbed her own clit against the warrior’s.

The two lovers embraced each other as they found the right rhythm for this intense, tribadic lovemaking. Xena leaned down to bring her mouth to Gabrielle’s and kissed her for a short instant, grinding herself harder against her. The strong sensation they were mutually sharing swiftly rippled through both their beings. It would not take them long to find release again. The dynamic moves they were doing so marvellously connected their bodies and minds. Azure blue eyes and sea-green ones met again as both women brought themselves over the edge while screaming each other’s names. The utter rapture of this moment filled their minds. They ground their mounds together again, one more time, mustering another strong climax within their groins.

Exhausted and sweaty, they quickly unlocked their legs and collapsed onto the bed, their damp and hot bodies snuggled up to one another. They had the odd feeling of a trillion of multicoloured stars having just exploded inside their minds. They both breathed heavily in the aftershocks of this interesting kind of lovemaking.

“Wow!” Gabrielle lay into Xena’s arms, tired but so happily fulfilled. “I’ll forever love you, Xena.” She kissed the older woman’s neck.

“Me too, Gabrielle.” The warrior delicately stroked the bard’s back. “I’ll love you forever, my bard.”

“You know, what, Xena?”Gabrielle asked quietly.

“What, Gabrielle?”

“I really believe that you and I share a soul-uniting connection of some kind. I feel we are destined for one another. You’re part of me, Xena, and I have an idea.” The blonde woman briefly lifted her head, just to look at the Warrior Princess. “I think we should go on a spiritual quest together. I think our next trip should be to India. That way we could perhaps find out more about our soulmate link.”

“India, really?”

“Yes, Xena. I would love so much to go there with you, to find the answers that I need.”

“All right. India, it will be then.”

“Thank you, Xena.” Their lips joined and their tongues danced again with one another. After this kiss, Gabrielle spoke again. “Of course, we could always stop by some holy mountains on our way.”

“Anything you want, sweetheart.” The warrior briefly kissed the bard’s temple. “So, have I made it up to you today, with all the things I did for you? No more frustration, huh, Gabrielle?”

“No,” the younger woman beamed, “absolutely not… Xena, you’ve made me feel so glad today.” Gabrielle admitted sincerely. “First you made our breakfast and did the dishes. You also gave me flowers. Then you took me to Athens and found me another green shirt at the City Market. Then you found us an interesting and politically productive way to make money at the outdoor theatre.” She continued speaking about this wonderful day with an enthusiastic voice: “And you brought me to this pleasant inn and paid for the room and dinner. You found some exciting things to do in bed, with some fruits, and then you gave me a massage. Finally, we made love so wonderfully it felt even more intense than ever…” The blonde woman kept smiling. “I am so proud of you, Xena. Forget about the arguments we’ve had recently. None of them count anymore.”

“Good. I’m so happy too… I love you, sweetheart.” Xena gave Gabrielle a goodnight kiss.

“I love you too, warrior. I’m glad I’m so important to you.”

“You are more important to me than anything, Gabrielle.”

“It feels the same to me.”

They both got under the blanket on the bed. The bard fell asleep in The Warrior Princess’ embrace. Xena lay awake for a few more moments, listening to Gabrielle’s peaceful breathing. As she softly caressed her lover’s blond hair, she stared at the ceiling and thought about how happy she was about the fact that all her love plans had succeeded beyond expectation. She was satisfied she had so brilliantly managed to rekindle the flame of their passion.

Then a darker thought suddenly came over her: the haunting vision of them being crucified by Romans on a snowy mountain. The images in her head felt so cold, so frightening. Gabrielle had just been bringing up the possibility that they may be soulmates. If so, would they really have to die together in such a cruel and painful way? The warrior felt sad. If the vision was to come true, she would be dragging the bard to her death. She would do anything to stop such an awful thing from happening, even if it meant that she would herself die alone, sacrificing herself for Gabrielle.

Xena strove to dispel the abhorrent thoughts from her mind. She managed to join her bard into the Land of Morpheus. The next day she would pay for breakfast and the raspberry stains on the bed. Then they would both leave the inn, travelling together towards more adventures.

THE END

What matters most

Fanfic cover by Silvermoonlight.

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Seasonal Passionseries, Vol. 3:

What matters most

written by maggielassie

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Genre: Xena Warrior Princess alternative fan-fiction; Xena/Gabrielle femslash; hurt/comfort.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the Xena: Warrior Princess characters. Universal/Renaissance does.

Timeline: This story takes place just after the Season Three episode Forget Me Not (but before Fins, Femmes and Gems).

Warning #1: This story contains sexually explicit erotic moments between two consenting adult women. If this offends you, please refrain from reading. If you are under 18 years of age, please do not read this and come back later when you’re older and you can read it. If lesbian romantic/sexual relationships are illegal in your country or state, please advocate a change in laws.

Warning #2: This story contains a male-on-female attempted rape and some violence. It also contains some references to the infamous “Gab-drag” and to Gabrielle’s rape by Dahak. It contains some post-rift angst and it is somehow part of the ‘hurt/comfort’ genre too. However, all this was necessary to the small plot of this story.

Author’s note: (1) I felt there were still some problems left unresolved regarding the rift arc, hence one of the reasons why I wrote this. (2) This is not a first time story. I think there are enough first time stories out there. Also, I believe that Xena and Gabrielle can still be intimately passionate with each other after their first time. My femslash stories sometimes remotely follow each other; my first two were called Closer than blood bonds and Circle in the sand.

Many Thanks to: Norsebard for the proofreading and feedback; Donar, Ninja & RJcreek (from TX) for the pre-release reading & feedback; other people in the Xenaverse and lesbian culture for their encouragements.

Feedback: see feedback page.

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There were two or three candlemarks left to go before sunset. Xena had already set up camp a while ago. She had built a fire and prepared a bedroll for the night that was to come. The three friends were sitting on a tree trunk in the middle of the woods. Argo was grazing nearby. Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer were eating the warm stew the bard had just made, right after she had finished writing the last day’s events on a scroll.

The Warrior Princess finished her portion of food. She immediately grabbed her sword to sharpen it. She often did this after supper. She was sitting beside her blonde companion. Joxer was seated on the other side of the log, consuming the last bit of his meal. He turned to the bard who was next to him.

“You’ve always been such a marvellous cook, Gabrielle,” he said, smiling.

“Thanks, Joxer.” Gabrielle grinned back at him.

After finishing his food, Joxer suddenly belched. “Excuse-me,” he said, looking sheepish, while glancing at the two women beside him. “I’m sorry.” He could not help himself and felt very embarrassed for behaving so rudely in front of Gabrielle.

“It’s okay, Joxer.” Gabrielle sighed. She turned towards her dark-haired lover and whispered something in her ear. Xena stopped whetting her blade to hear what the bard had to say. “Xena, can you please tell Joxer to leave?” The shorter woman quietly murmured. “I don’t wanna be nasty to him, but we’re gonna need a bit of privacy.” The taller woman simply put her weapon down and stood up. She spoke to the young man.

“Joxer,” the Warrior Princess said, trying to keep a kind expression on her face.

“Yes, Xena?” Joxer looked up at the tall brunette, wondering.

“I really would not like to sound rude,” Xena smiled at him in a somewhat condescending way, “but would you mind going to find someplace to sleep in the next village and leave us a bit of privacy for the night?” She knew the young man was used to hearing that. She had asked him to go quite a few times so that she and her lover could be alone at night, or for a couple of days.

“Er… Sure, Xena. As usual, I don’t mean to bother you two, you know?” Joxer rose from his seat and looked at the two women with a timid expression on his face.

“Yes, we know that, Joxer.” Gabrielle nodded, politely grinning, while eating. She was glad to get a bit of her appetite back. “Don’t worry… Goodnight, Joxer! And thank you for bringing me back from the temple of Mnemosyne.”

“It’s all right. Goodnight, Gabrielle,” he said, glancing at her with enamoured eyes before turning and starting to walk away from the warrior and her bard.

“ ’Night, Joxer. Thanks.” The Warrior Princess sighed and went to sit back down to resume the sharpening of her weapon.

Joxer trudged away into the woods, aiming at reaching the next village. He thought about Gabrielle. He really wished it had been his name the bard had written on her scrolls when talking about the love of her life, instead of Xena’s. The young man exhaled, feeling a little sad, and walked further away.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Thank you, Xena.”

“No problem, Gabrielle.”

When they were alone, the two lovers felt more tranquil. Gabrielle was consuming an apple after she did not manage to finish her stew while Xena was nearly done with the whetting of her blade.

“You still haven’t gotten your full appetite back yet?”

“No, not quite, Xena.” Gabrielle slightly shrugged, giving her lover a brief small smile. “I’ll be all right though.”

“I hope so.” Xena went to put the whetstone down. She stood and unfastened the scabbard that was on her back, along with the chakram on her waist. She went to place her weapons near their gear that was lying in a small pile on the forest ground. She sat back down next to Gabrielle on the log. The younger woman looked pensive while chewing on her fruit. Xena studied her younger lover’s face with concern. After a few moments, Gabrielle turned to her and started to speak.

“Xena.” She tossed her unfinished apple onto the ground as her sea-green eyes stared into blue ones.

“Yes, Gabrielle.”

“Are you really sure this is all over?”

“Yes, Gabrielle. We don’t really need to talk about any of this anymore. I forgave you for what happened in Chin, didn’t I?” Xena kept gazing at Gabrielle as she felt a pang of anxiety unsettle her.

“I know, even though I’d almost got you killed… Sorry, Xena, I still need to talk about this. I chose to keep my memories today after all…” Gabrielle looked sad and depressed.

“Come here, sweetheart.” The Warrior Princess wrapped an arm around the bard as she used her other hand to caress her blond hair while they were still sitting beside one another. “I’ve already forgiven you. You know, as I said earlier on, I’ve heard you when you talk in your sleep…” She paused. “… I know you were jealous of my former lover and teacher Lao Ma, but it’s all right, Gabrielle. I understand now that you were so unhappy I’d left you behind so I could go to Chin because I owed something to someone I used to love.”

“Yes, I was jealous, Xena.” The blonde woman gently rubbed her lover’s upper arm as the other woman was hugging her in a half-embrace. “I’m sorry.”

“I understand you for being jealous, my love. Lao Ma was my first female lover after all, but you are my best.” Xena kissed the top of the younger woman’s head. “And I’m so sorry I lied to you about Ming Tien.”

“It’s all right, Xena. I don’t care about Ming Tien anymore.” Gabrielle raised her head to look up at the warrior. “I’ve done so many terrible things these past months. I don’t just mean what happened in Chin. I know you forgave me for that now. I’m also talking about the rest. I’m so sorry I’ve lied to you, Xena. And all those painful memories…” Tears started escaping the bard’s eyes. She would never dare mention Hope or Solan. She knew the dark-haired woman was not ready to hear those names yet, as her lover was still recovering from her son’s death.

Gabrielle uttered unhappy moans. “Uhh… When I was in the temple of the Goddess of Memory and while I was still combating the shadows in my mind, I still couldn’t decide to get rid of everything, because that would have meant I wouldn’t have remembered you and all the wonderful things we’ve shared together; I wouldn’t even have remembered myself.” She sniffed, as her older lover kept trying to comfort her. “It’s just those painful memories, you know…”

“Do you wish you had gotten rid of them, Gabrielle?” The warrior was worried. She had wanted Gabrielle to go to the temple of Mnemosyne by herself for a reason. She had wanted the bard to deal with her own pain and decide for herself if she wanted to erase all this from her mind, including what they had together. Xena was glad Gabrielle had chosen to remember her, but the blonde woman’s pain still made her uncomfortable. She gently cradled her lover’s head in one arm while stroking her back with her other hand.

“In a way, yes, Xena, though I had no real choice but to keep them if I wanted to remember other things.” The bard sighed and reached around to place her hands on the top of Xena’s back while the taller woman was still trying to console her. She could feel the warrior’s breastplate near her cheek and ear as she closed her eyes and kept speaking. “I just wish I hadn’t lost my blood innocence. I also wish Dahak hadn’t raped me.” She moved slightly back from her lover’s half-embrace to be able to stare up into Xena’s eyes. “That’s when it all started, my love. Sorry, I’ve not talked much about this before but I really have to now.”

“Gabrielle…” The Warrior Princess’ tone sounded compassionate.

“When I killed Meridian… when I opened up the gate to release Dahak into the world…” Gabrielle was still crying as she continued: “… that’s when all those horrible things that happened between us started. Xena, when Dahak raped me above that altar, when he thrust into me, I thought I was going to die. And maybe I actually wanted to die, because it hurt so much inside…” More teardrops ran down the bard’s cheeks as she whimpered in anguish. “I knew from that day on that everything had changed… everything.”

Xena quickly stood and went to get a piece of cloth from one of their saddlebags. She sat back down next to the blonde woman on the log, delicately lifted Gabrielle’s chin and dried her tears with the soft material. “Here, my bard… Don’t cry, my love.” She hugged her and as she gently stroked her back, she said: “You know, Gabrielle, I’ve been thinking. What happened in Britannia was my fault,” Xena finally admitted as she moved back to gaze into the younger woman’s eyes. “I shouldn’t have left you behind as I was going into battle. If I hadn’t left you in that temple, you wouldn’t have killed Meridian… You wouldn’t have been raped. I’m so sorry, Gabrielle.” The warrior shook her head in sorrow. She was tenderly holding her girlfriend’s upper arms as the other woman placed her hands on her own to reciprocate the affectionate gesture. At the same time, they were looking deeply into each other’s eyes.

“It’s alright, Xena. I shouldn’t have killed Meridian. I shouldn’t have trusted Khrafstar.” The bard still looked quite dismal.

“Gabrielle, how could you have known who he really was? Oh, sweetheart, none of this was your fault! You killed Meridian because you were trying to save someone.” Xena softly rubbed the side of her younger lover’s face with the back of one hand as her other one resumed caressing the long blond hair. At the same time, she stared intensely into Gabrielle’s eyes. “As for what happened after that, you should not feel responsible for your own rape. By the gods, I would have killed him for raping you if he’d only been a mortal.”

“I know you would have, Xena… Gods, it hurt so much inside… I had never had anyone forcing anything into me before that happened… but when I was being suspended above that altar, in the midst of Dahak’s flames…” Gabrielle sniffed again. “… it felt so horrible. I wanted to die at that moment.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you made it, Gabrielle. I’m so glad you’re alive. I’m sorry you had to go through so much pain when he raped you. Come here.” She hugged her closely again. “It’s all going to be all right now. Everything’s going to be all right.”

The bard gently broke the hug to look at Xena again. “No, Xena, nothing is ever going to be the same and we have to live with it now… I’m just glad that we made our way back towards one another. I love you so much, warrior.” She stopped crying.

“I love you too, my sweet little bard. I’m glad too. I’d nearly lost you and I’m so glad you decided to make your way back home after you went to the temple of Mnemosyne today.”

Their mouths instantly joined as they kissed tenderly for a while. The kiss became slightly more heated as their tongues touched and entwined. Gabrielle started to moan against Xena’s lips and tongue.

“What is it, Gabrielle?” the Warrior Princess asked as she broke the kiss.

“I want you to love me, Xena, right now. Is that okay?” The blonde woman claimed her lover’s mouth again. She wanted to dispel the thought of Dahak penetrating her as far away from her memory as possible. She knew she could not completely do that but she wanted something else to keep her mind occupied right now. Her warrior making sweet love to her would be the right thing.

“Are you sure?” Xena asked, while alternatively brushing her lips to her younger lover’s and tasting her mouth.

“Yes, Xena. I don’t want to think about my rape anymore. I just want to be loved by you right now… I need your touch.”

“All right, my love… Come with me.”

The warrior took the bard’s hand into her own and stood up. Gabrielle rose with her. She gave Xena a small smile as the warrior led her to their bedroll. It had been placed in front of a tree not far away from the campfire, which was in the middle of that little clearing they had found at the heart of the woods earlier on as they had been walking together with Joxer after Xena had arrived.

“Lie down, sweetheart.” The smaller woman complied. Her taller lover took her gauntlets, armour plate and boots off before she went to lie down beside her on the blanket. Gabrielle just lay there, looking at the other woman.

Xena first took her younger lover’s boots off and chucked them aside. She then pulled at the laces of the blonde’s green top, opened it and revealed the familiar gorgeous breasts to her lustful gaze. The warrior then reached underneath the bard’s skirt, slid her hands up the smooth thighs and slowly removed the petite woman’s breeches. She pulled them down to Gabrielle’s ankles and then lifted her lover’s legs to fully take them off. Xena tossed her girlfriend’s undergarment to the side of the bedroll. She went to cover her younger lover’s body with her own as she intensely kissed her again while running a hand along one of the bard’s thighs.

They sometimes made love with some of their clothes still on, in case of an impending attack. They thus would be quickly prepared if they ever had to fight someone off. Still, the feeling of partially keeping their clothes on occasionally heightened their lovemaking. Gabrielle loved this and so did Xena. The bard would be able to feel the sleekness of the warrior’s dark outfit and the cold brass of her arm bands pressing against her skin as her older lover would be making love to her. Remaining partially dressed was a blissful way of spicing things up for both of them. The Warrior Princess simply kept the storyteller’s green upper garment open and had the younger woman’s breeches off so that she could have easy access to all the intimate parts of her smaller lover.

Xena leisurely ran her lips across Gabrielle’s neck. She kissed her way downwards and brushed her lips onto one of the bard’s nipples as she kneaded the doughy flesh of the other breast. The blonde woman closed her eyes, pleasantly moaned her dark-haired lover’s name several times as she totally surrendered to her touch. Xena’s long hair softly tickled her ribs as the warrior’s mouth took possession of each of her sensitive breasts –one at a time, suckling the nipples, licking around them, cupping the mounds with her hands, loving them, lavishing them with her tongue…

“Oh… Yes… Love me, Xena…”

It all felt so wonderful. They had slept together again quite a few times after the tragedies that had nearly separated them over the past year. They had made love intensely again especially after Xena had fought against a whole army of Persians and saved Gabrielle from a deadly poison. They both wanted to forget the misfortunes that had befallen them before that, by pretending they never happened. They both tried hard to compartmentalise their memories as much as possible inside their minds while making love. They wanted to remember only the good things that had gone on between them, not the bad ones, during those heated moments.

The Warrior Princess gently nipped at the bard’s silky skin as she moved her way down her lover’s body, savouring every inch of her lover’s abdomen and causing her girlfriend to utter more pleasure noises. When her mouth got near Gabrielle’s leather belt, she raised her head, lifted the younger woman’s skirt and put it on her belly. She delicately spread the blonde woman’s legs before placing them over her shoulders.

“Yes… Xena…”

Xena kissed the smoothness of each inner thigh, before softly nuzzling the golden curls of the bard’s triangle. She then used her fingers to spread the outer labia of Gabrielle’s sex and slowly glided the tip of her tongue on the area around the clitoris, which made her younger lover moan again in enjoyment.

“Gods… Xena… Yes… Love me…” The bard trembled in delight. She raised her hips to take more of her older lover’s oral ministrations. She also put her hands on the back of the dark-haired woman’s head, driving her closer to her need. Her warrior woman knew how to love her. That was for sure.

As Xena’s tongue unhurriedly carried on delving its way into the tender pinkish folds and delicate textures of Gabrielle’s centre, the warrior reached under her lover’s buttocks to give herself optimal access. She knew how much she loved it every time she tasted and savoured her younger lover’s precious flower. Its delicious scent and the sweet flavour of its nectar always felt so appetising to her. She sank her tongue inside the bard’s opening and moved it in and out of it for a while. The dark-haired woman then licked her way back up the blonde’s cleft and took the sensitive nub into her mouth. She alternatively sucked and stroked her tongue on the sensitive bundle of nerves.

Gabrielle’s vulva was now fully swollen with gratification as she kept arching her back off the bedroll. Feeling Xena vehemently pleasure her like this again, it did not take her long to reach climax and scream her lover’s name. “Ohh… Xeeenaaa!” She fell back onto the blanket beneath her, her body limp and spent.

The Warrior Princess licked the remainder of the bard’s honey-dewed essence before leaving a trail of loving kisses while on her way up her smaller lover’s body. She took her girlfriend’s mouth into a searing kiss. The storyteller felt the taste of her own excitement on Xena’s lips. The two lovers rested, kissing and cuddling for a quiet moment. After a while, the older woman started to speak.

“You are my beautiful little treasure, Gabrielle,” said the warrior, propped on one elbow and watching the supine woman next to her. At the same time, she leisurely caressed the curves of the bard’s voluptuous shape. She basked in the feel of her blonde lover’s satiny skin.

Gabrielle stared back at Xena, wanting to drown in the splendour of the dark-haired woman’s azure blue eyes. “And you are my magnificent warrior goddess.” She beamed and tenderly rubbed her taller woman’s shoulder and upper arm. “Xena, I want you to take me right now. Please do it like that time… just before you went to save Ulysses last year.”

“You mean like that day we did it in that barn?” Xena asked, remembering vividly the intimate moment they had both shared as she had made intense love to her bard up against a stable door.

“Exactly, Xena, that day before we headed for the sea. When we did it in that barn, it was so ardently spicy, my warrior. I’d totally loved it.” Gabrielle grinned.

“Are you sure this is what you want now, Gabrielle?” The warrior wondered. “I mean, this had happened some moons before…”

“Before all those awful things started,” the bard interrupted, “I know.” She gave her older lover a solemn look. “This is exactly why I want you to take me like that day, warrior. It was all so fiercely passionate between us. Also, apart from my wedding to Perdicus and the usual risks we took during our adventures, there had never been anything too serious or dreadful that had torn us apart from one another at that time.” Gabrielle sat up as she kept staring into the Warrior Princess’ eyes. “Oh, please take me, Xena… like that day, when you made love to me against that stable door.”

“Okay…” Xena warmly said, “if this is what you want, my bard.” She always gave her lover whatever the younger woman wanted in the bedroll. She rose to a kneeling position on the blanket. Gabrielle did the same. The dark-haired woman claimed the blonde’s mouth into a sizzling deep kiss. Their lips united and opened widely at the contact of each other as their tongues battled for control inside their mouths. The warrior then placed her hands onto the bard’s shoulders and gently turned her around. “Please go kneel in front of that tree there, my love,” the taller woman said, motioning to the large trunk that was just behind their bedroll as she tenderly kissed her lover’s neck.

Gabrielle went to kneel in front of the oak with her legs slightly apart and her thighs remaining in an upright position while she had her back to Xena, who had followed closely behind. The storyteller, with her skirt still encircling her hips and thighs, was still wearing her open green top. She fervently anticipated the sultry moment that was to come.

“You’re a bit overdressed, sweetheart,” Xena decided to merely remove her younger lover’s upper garment. She slid it down Gabrielle’s arms and tossed it aside. The Warrior Princess swiftly reached underneath her own battle skirt to take off her breeches, which she also chucked out of the way. Kneeling upright behind Gabrielle, she moved her lover’s long blond hair to the side of her neck and lovingly kissed the top of her back.

“Now, please, put your hands on the tree, Gabrielle,” the warrior softly commanded. “It will replace the barn door from that other time.”

The bard immediately placed both her hands on the tree before her. She felt an utterly thrilling shiver run down her spine as strong female hands reached around to knead her breasts. She could feel Xena’s leathers pressing against the skin of her back as the warrior softly nibbled her earlobe. “Xena… please… I crave your touch.”

Releasing one breast, Xena slid one of her hands down her lover’s belly. She then reached down to the front hem of Gabrielle’s skirt, pulled the garment up and put her hand into the heat of the blonde’s sex. “Hmmm… so wet, my bard.” Xena slid her fingers in between Gabrielle’s folds and started circling the area around the clit in a gentle way. With her free hand, she moved her fingers up to trace the bard’s lips and felt the storyteller passionately suck them into her mouth at once. They both groaned in arousal at the fierce intensity of this erotic moment.

“I’m going to take you now.”

“Oh… yes… Xena, please!” the bard groaned against the warrior’s fingertips, before sucking them again. She slightly bent forward while firmly holding the tree in front of her.

Her hand still on Gabrielle’s sex, Xena delicately pushed two fingers into the bard’s drenched entrance and stilled them in there for an instant. She removed her other hand from the blonde woman’s mouth and reached down to pull the back of her younger lover’s skirt over her hips, exposing Gabrielle’s sweet round cheeks. The warrior then lifted her battle skirt up, brought her fingers between her own sexual lips and parted them. She then stuck her soaked folds onto the bard’s plump rear. Her sodden centre’s contact to the silky skin of the bard’s butt cheek made her shudder in delight. She immediately began to move her fingers up and down inside Gabrielle while her free hand also reached around to cup one of the younger woman’s breasts again.

“Gods… yes… Xena!” The bard kept both her hands on the oak as she pushed herself back against the warm, wet flesh pressed against her backside. She tilted her head back into the warrior’s powerful, affectionate and seductive embrace –the feeling of her lover’s leather outfit near her back. Gabrielle freed one hand from the tree to reach around and grip her older lover’s firm ass, yanking her body closer to her own.

Xena rocked herself harder against Gabrielle’s cheek. She pushed further inside the blonde’s sex too, making her cry out her name again. The Warrior Princess came very quickly, from the rapturous friction of her clit against the bard’s delightful rear. “Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” Nevertheless, since her storyteller had not orgasmed yet, she carried on making love to her, thrusting deep inside her. She removed her other hand from Gabrielle’s breast to move it down towards her lover’s centre. She skilfully played with her little girlfriend’s clit as she suddenly changed her fingers’ motions inside the soaking wet cavity.

“By the gods… Xena…” Gabrielle had already put both hands back on the tree as she felt the warrior slow down and lightly curl the tips of her digits inside her. Xena’s fingers were now making careful but intense swirling movements against the hard spot within her while the taller woman’s other hand simultaneously massaged her sensitive button. The bard turned her head sideways and immediately felt the dark-haired woman lean down and briefly claim her lips. The warrior brought her over the edge in a few more heartbeats.

“Xeeenaaa!” Gabrielle then let Xena eagerly kiss the side of her neck as she dropped her hands onto her older lover’s forearms. She leaned back into the Warrior Princess’ strong embrace. They both stayed locked into this intensely intimate position. The torridly passionate connection lasted for another minute or so before the warrior withdrew her fingers, sucked them clean and gently carried the bard backwards until they both lay back down onto the bedroll.

Xena pulled a blanket over them both. She tenderly spooned in behind Gabrielle while stroking her sleek blond hair. The aftershocks of their glorious lovemaking were still rippling through both their bodies as they kept panting. After they rested for a short instant, the warrior woman softly spoke in her younger lover’s ear.

“I love you, my naughty little bard. You’re my beautiful little sunshine, Gabrielle.”

“I love you too, my warrior. Thanks for doing it in one of the ways we used to… before all that horrible stuff happened…” Gabrielle felt happy to have found a pleasant distraction that temporarily kept her mind off the fact that her bad memories were still there.

“No problem, my love. Now rest.” Xena kissed her younger lover’s cheekbone.

The Warrior Princess briefly got out of the bedroll to throw a few more chunks of wood in the nearby fire. Night was drawing near. She quickly checked on Argo and then went straight back to lie by the bard’s side between the blankets. They both entered the Land of Morpheus shortly afterwards, as soon as darkness fell over the woods.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the middle of the night, Gabrielle started growing more agitated in her sleep. The blonde woman lay on her back, a short little distance away from the warrior lying next to her. Xena lay curled up onto her side in a foetal position, facing her lover. The dark-haired woman was being absorbed into a deep, peaceful slumber and had her eyes tightly shut.

Tormented by a disturbing dream, the bard slowly turned her face from side to side as she was still asleep while one of her hands softly grasped at the cushiony material that supported her head. She started to emit barely audible whimpers of distress.

At the centre of the Amazon village, she was being carried in Joxer’s arms while she heard Xena looking for her while fighting a bunch of her Amazon sisters. The Warrior Princess suddenly arrived in front of her and Joxer. She called her lover’s name. Gabrielle could see the hateful, enraged look on Xena’s face staring at her. This was not her Xena, not the Xena who had always protected her and cared for her. Oh, no, this Xena was a completely different person. She hated her for having caused Solan’s death.

As Gabrielle jumped out of Joxer’s arms, she turned away and attempted to escape Xena’s fury. However, she abruptly felt the warrior’s harsh whip snag around her ankles, catching her and pulling her down. She fell onto the ground and briefly saw Xena quickly climb onto a horse. Then she felt herself being painfully dragged by the legs across some jarring ground which was painfully cutting her, battering her, tearing at her skin. She passed out…

“No, Xena… No… Don’t…” Gabrielle was uttering moans of scare and woe in her sleep.

Xena made her way out of the Land of Morpheus, as she subconsciously noticed that something was going on with her lover. The warrior’s sleep rapidly became shallower until she woke up to see the younger woman tossing and turning beside her. The storyteller kept stirring her body on the bedroll while having a nightmare.

“Gabrielle?” Xena, only half-awake, quietly said her girlfriend’s name. With one keen ear, she listened to the bard talk in her sleep.

“Xena, please… Don’t hurt me… No, don’t drag me behind that horse…” Gabrielle groaned, as she carried on having the haunting dream…

When she regained consciousness, Xena was trying to throw her off a cliff. She thwarted her by kicking her in the face. They both fell, and she stood up. She yelled her utter hatred at the Warrior Princess. She hated Xena for abusing her. She used to believe her older lover would never do such a thing. Wrath consumed her too. She hated Xena so much now. She angrily and violently ran towards her. She wanted to push her over the cliff…

“No, Xena… You shouldn’t hurt me… No…” As Gabrielle was now shaking her body from side to side, she sobbed in sorrow.

Xena, more awake now, immediately sat up and gently shook her lover to wake her up. “Hey, Gabrielle, wake up. Everything’s okay.” She tenderly caressed the side of her lover’s face. The bard opened her eyes and lightly jerked as she awoke at once.

“Huh!” The blonde woman gasped.

“Hey, hey, my bard!” Xena reached underneath Gabrielle and gingerly lifted her back to take her into her arms. “It’s okay, Gabrielle. Don’t worry. Everything’s alright.”

“Xena…” the bard murmured. As the Warrior Princess lovingly hugged her, Gabrielle affectionately put her hands on Xena’s shoulder blades. “I’m glad you’re here, my love.” Gabrielle did not want to tell the warrior about what she had just been dreaming of. It had felt all too real. It actually had really happened. Nonetheless, she did not want to think about this right now. It had felt so horrible, and she still loved Xena more than anything else.

Inside her mind at this precise moment, Gabrielle simply wanted to block out the hurtful memory of the abuse and attempted murder she had sustained at the hands of her lover. She wanted to blank this out as much as the other gruesome memories of, for instance, Xena holding her dead son in her arms or Gabrielle being herself responsible for Hope killing him. Moreover, the bard knew it had not been her true warrior lover harming her. Solan’s spirit had created Illusia, and that had sorted things out for both of them. Her cuts and bruises from being dragged behind a horse had disappeared, been washed off by the Waters of Illusia. Her Xena was not like that. Her Xena had fought against a whole army of Persians in her honour and had managed to prevent her death from a lethal poison. Her Xena was now cuddling and comforting her after this awful nightmare.

“Yes, I’m here, sweetheart.” The Warrior Princess kissed the top of the younger woman’s head and carefully laid her back down on the bedroll after she finished enfolding her into a warm, soothing embrace. She lay back down next to the bard and kindly placed an arm around her lover’s tummy. “Sleep now. You’ll be all right, Gabrielle. I’ll be watching over you. Even if I fall back into sleep, I’ll always keep an ear to perceive your every move.”

“Thank you, Xena.” Gabrielle closed her eyes.

Xena studied her blonde lover’s presently serene face as the younger woman drifted off to sleep again. She had not asked the storyteller what she had just been dreaming about because she knew exactly what it had been. Gabrielle had been dreaming about the day when the warrior had attacked her in a rage over the death of her son.

This was the first time the dark-haired woman had had to wake her girlfriend up from such a dream ever since they had come back from Illusia. Obviously, Xena had countless times listened to Gabrielle while her younger lover talked in her sleep. It was in this way that she was able to tell what her partner was dreaming of. She had also had to carefully wake her up from quite a few bad dreams lately, after all the dreadful events that had almost separated them. However, to the best of the warrior’s knowledge, the bard had not been having nightmares about the day Xena had dragged her behind a horse before tonight.

Judging from what she had heard the storyteller say in her sleep over the past moons, Gabrielle’s occasional bad dreams in the aftermath of their tragedies had mostly been about her first killing in the Temple of Dahak, the emotional conflicts that had ensued the birth of her daughter, Solan’s death and when she had had nearly committed suicide after poisoning Hope. Xena figured that Gabrielle probably had never had a nightmare about what the Warrior Princess had done to her three days after their children’s funerals before now.

The older woman let out a low sigh and shut her eyes. Gabrielle was bound to eventually dream about this after all. The warrior knew she would have never attacked her lover had she not been blinded by rage and hatred, even though her thoughts sometimes reminded her about the fact that she had done such a thing. But what counted now was that she and the bard had both returned safe and sound from the Land of Illusia. They had been reconciled by Solan’s love and concern for the two of them. Gabrielle’s injuries from the attack had miraculously vanished before she and Xena had gone back to reality. The warrior was thankful of Solan and Illusia for that.

What was important now to the Warrior Princess was that the bard apparently trusted her again. Keeping her eyes closed, Xena let the harmonious sound of crickets chirping in the woods gradually carry her back into the Land of Morpheus. Her mind was at rest, for now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As the first light of dawn appeared through the trees, Gabrielle showed more signs of unease and disturbance in her sleep. While another dream still replayed the same horrendous event as in her latest nightmare, she shook her head from side to side and whined in distress while still having her eyes closed. Her recurring agitation woke Xena up.

“Gabrielle?” Xena called out, as soon as she opened her eyes and saw the bard stir and moan.

“No, Xena… No… Please don’t hurt me… No… You shouldn’t drag me behind a horse, Xena…”

“Gabrielle, I’m here,” said Xena, as she delicately roused her lover anew by tenderly moving her more closely towards her on the bedroll. “Everything’s okay.”

Gabrielle jerked awake and looked into the warrior’s eyes. She slightly gasped. “Xena…” She wrapped an arm around her partner as she silently stared on at the face of the woman lying next to her.

“Everything’s okay, my love,” replied Xena.

The storyteller remained quiet for another moment or so before fatigue overcame her again and she fell back asleep, thinking about her Xena being nice, soft and protective of her –unlike in this same haunting dream she had just had.

The Warrior Princess watched as the bard moved to lie onto her back again and drifted back into the Land of Morpheus. Xena did not like this. This was the second time in the same night that her lover had been dreaming of being attacked by her.

The taller woman turned her head to gaze up at the early daylight. The morning birds were already making a lot of noise out here. Although her younger lover had had no difficulty going back to sleep, the warrior had been made too nervous by this second abrupt awakening to be able to return to the Land of Morpheus right away. She could not help but only stare up into the pink-blue dawn sky and listen to the birds’ early morning chants while thinking about her partner’s latest nocturnal disturbances.

Why did Gabrielle have the same bad dream again? Had the bard not really forgiven her for what had happened three days after Solan’s funeral? It certainly did not look like it. Gabrielle still loved being around Xena just as much as ever before. They were still having heated lovemaking sessions, and last night her younger lover had even asked her to do it in just one of the ways they used to before all the horrible things they had had to go through. Moreover, Gabrielle sounded a lot quicker at blaming herself than blaming Xena when talking about the awful things that had happened between them. The warrior did not understand. Her lover’s cuts and bruises from being dragged had all disappeared after visiting the Land of Illusia, so why was the bard now having these nightmares about that day Xena had hurt her?

Anyway, the taller woman kept thinking, Gabrielle had never talked about being attacked by her ever since they had both made their way back from Illusia, and this was not the time for the Warrior Princess to start talking about this now –not now that everything was going to be fine between them again, or at least she hoped.

After spending a couple of candlemarks awake and thoughtful, Xena turned herself onto her side, her back to Gabrielle, and started sleeping again. She was still too tired to get up yet.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Another couple of candlemarks went by. Bright sunlight shone through the trees. Xena awoke from her unusually late morning sleep. She sat up on the bedroll and looked around her. Gabrielle was no longer lying beside her. The bard had managed to get out of bed before her, which was rare, but the warrior thought this was probably because she had had a little difficulty going back to sleep in the early candlemarks of the day, while the blonde woman had not.

Xena looked at the empty space beside her on the bedroll. Where had Gabrielle gone? Knowing that she would find out where if she searched the vicinity, the Warrior Princess put her boots on and got up. She briefly looked at how Argo was doing. Then she started walking through the forest. She strolled amidst the beautiful trees and green foliage, looking around, until she walked down a slope, a small soil path with a few scattered pebbles. She found another clearing down this way, with a cascade at its centre.

It was a very splendid landscape. The little waterfall descended from a succession of huge rock steps before flowing inside the stream at the bottom of this small valley in the middle of the woods. Xena approached the fresh, green grass that surrounded the water. She saw that Gabrielle’s clothes and boots had been left on the ground by the water’s edge. She looked towards the other side of the stream, at the undercutting of the rock that was behind the cascade. There seemed to be a small cave formation behind this waterfall. The Warrior Princess knew that the bard would be in there. Gabrielle loved to wash herself under cascades. Xena took off all she was wearing and started walking into the stream before her. She walked to the bottom of the waterfall that spilled ahead.

She hoped the bard would not be mentioning the dream, as she was planning herself to avoid bringing that up. She would not tell Gabrielle she knew what the nightmare had been about, not now anyway. This had disturbed her enough last night and this morning.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gabrielle had made her way down here one candlemark after Xena had gone back to sleep. She was now inside the little hollow of the rock behind the waterfall, letting the water from the back of the cascade shower her. She had just finished pampering herself with the soap she still held in one hand. The last thing she currently wanted to think about was the horrible reminiscent nightmare she had experienced twice last night. She kept pushing that dream away from her mind until it no longer came up into her conscious thoughts, at least temporarily.

It was not too dark in this little cave thanks to the light coming from the other side of the waterfall. The rippling surface of the water that was surrounding her threw bright little caustic reflections against the rocky wall inside this undercutting. The bard nevertheless kept her eyes closed under the noisy flow from above. She was too preoccupied on rinsing her hair to see or hear Xena coming.

The Warrior Princess quickly made her way to the other side of the falling water. What she saw as she got in there was so appetising to her sight. Gabrielle, with the water from the stream reaching her somewhere above the knees, was completely naked. The cascade flowed on her blonde head and down her slender, shapely and dainty figure. The younger woman had her eyes shut as she lifted her face up towards the falling water. The liquid slid down the sublime contours of her body, immersing the voluptuous smoothness of her skin while the bard absentmindedly caressed her own rib with a bar of soap.

Xena breathed in deeply at seeing her lover like this. She knew, judging from the loud sound of the water, that Gabrielle had not noticed her presence yet. She wanted to surprise her. She quietly walked around the blonde woman, until she got behind her under the cascade and tenderly wrapped her arms around her.

The bard did not jump when she felt well-toned arms encircle themselves around her ribs and abdomen. She already knew who it was. Her older lover gently pulled her backwards, a little away from the flowing water.

“Came in here without me, didn’t you?” Xena kissed the blond head.

“I did not want to disturb a warrior’s peaceful sleep.” Gabrielle smiled while she felt Xena’s breasts pressing against her back. She slightly turned her head to be able to kiss the dark-haired woman and felt the warrior’s lips cover hers. As the strong hands moved up to cup her breasts, she arched herself into the loving touch. Then she delicately took the Warrior Princess’ hands into her own and turned to face her lover. She immediately wrapped her own hands around Xena’s neck. They kissed again, as the warrior reached behind Gabrielle and briefly grasped her rear.

“There’s hardly anything in this world that equals your beauty,” Xena said, as their mouths slowly separated and she had now moved her hands lightly up the shorter woman’s back.

Gabrielle stared up into the taller woman’s azure blue eyes. “Huh! Been watchin’ me, haven’t you?” She smirked.

“Only for a few seconds…” The warrior gave her bard a charming and playful look. She leisurely stroked her long fingers along her younger lover’s spine.

“Well, now let me wash you.” Gabrielle kissed Xena a few more times on the mouth, as she started running to soap onto her lover’s muscles. Gabrielle took great care in cleaning the well-sculptured, magnificent bronze body before her. She went on to wash the warrior’s hair. The brunette went to rinse herself under the cascade and the blonde relished in the sight of water falling down Xena’s well-toned, superb frame.

As the older woman stopped showering herself, she moved away from the waterfall and walked back towards the bard. Gabrielle’s attention focused on the droplets of water that were trickling down the Warrior Princess strong female shape, ample bust and sleek skin. Xena had a few battle scars but she surely always displayed a constantly enticing beauty.

A torrent of excitement suddenly rushed through the storyteller’s body. She gazed up into Xena’s eyes again and mischievously grinned. “Okay. Now I want you, warrior; but I want to be able to take you on dry grounds.” She instantly took her taller lover’s hand and led her out of this hollow space. They made their way back to the other side of the cascade, into the lake.

Xena chuckled at the boldness of her younger companion as she followed her in their way back across the stream. They swam a little. Their clothes still lay on the perimeter just outside the water. Gabrielle tossed the soap on the grass, turned towards Xena and kissed her again.

“Now lie down, my warrior… please,” the bard requested, in a self-assured tone. Her blue-green eyes twinkled with gleeful anticipation.

“All right.” Xena chortled. She gave the shorter woman the slight half-smile her lover loved so much. The warrior woman complied and went to lie on her back, onto the green ground. Gabrielle immediately pounced on top of her like a little tigress. The brunette suppressed a laugh, as the alluring petite blonde looked down at her in a very lustful way.

“I’m going to make love to you, Xena. I love you so much.”

“I love you too. Yes, Gabrielle. Make love to me, please.” The Warrior Princess submitted herself to this precious moment. She had allowed the bard to gain control over their lovemaking on a slightly greater number of occasions than before, ever since they had been reconciled. Xena could see that, following the past year’s tragedies, Gabrielle was somehow becoming a much more grown up person and thus she was willing to give her a bit more opportunity to take the lead in the bedroll these days. Furthermore, after the misfortunes that had almost broken their relationship to pieces, Xena felt she might be becoming a much softer warrior than ever before, someone who simply wanted to occasionally give her younger lover a little more leeway during their intimate moments.

The warrior parted her lips as the bard’s mouth vigorously covered hers. Their tongues mingled together in sensuous motions. Gabrielle’s kiss lingered until she began moving lower, running her lips along Xena’s neck and chest. She cupped the older woman’s breasts, loving the feel of kneading those two sublime mounds, and started taking as much as she could of one of them into her mouth.

“Oh… Gabrielle…”

As the Warrior Princess observed the bard suckling onto one of her breasts while fondling her other one, a few straying thoughts started wandering inside Xena’s mind. Gabrielle was such a lovely little blonde bard. Xena could not help but feel only love and respect for such an admirable younger person –one who always loved her, supported her, adored her and treated her right. Gabrielle was the dearest thing to her in the whole world and she would never want to lose her. Suddenly, a particularly dark thought crossed the Warrior Princess’ mind as she saw the bard move to her other breast and felt the sweet tongue flicking around her other nipple. As Xena’s body enjoyed her lover’s ministrations, her mind wandered away towards a terrible thing she had done.

To think that one day not so long ago I was so enraged that I furiously rode into that Amazon village in an attempt to destroy Gabrielle. How could I? What if it had worked? What if I had been controlled by hatred and rage to the point that I would have managed to kill Gabrielle? I’d probably be wanting to die right now, if I hadn’t killed myself already. None of my life would ever have meaning without Gabrielle by my side. She’s the only light there is inside the whole temple of darkness that represents my life.

She did not know why she was thinking about those things at such an inconvenient moment, right in the middle of sharing intimate acts with her lover, but she could not help it after what she had heard Gabrielle say in her sleep last night and early this morning.

After her enjoyment in suckling Xena’s breasts, the blonde woman planted a few kisses onto the warrior’s belly. This awoke Xena from her dark thoughts. All she wanted right now was to see Gabrielle while the bard would be making love to her.

“Gabrielle.” She quickly reached down and carefully lifted her younger lover’s chin.

“What is it, Xena?” The storyteller gazed into the warrior woman’s face, surprised. “I thought you liked it when I…”

“I do, Gabrielle,” the warrior woman interrupted. “I love it very much… but right now I just want to be able to see you, sweetheart. Please.” She gave her a small, tender smile.

“Okay.” Gabrielle moved back up the taller woman’s body and looked down deeply into her eyes. Maybe something was perturbing her dark-haired partner, but she could not guess what it might be and thought the older woman was not going to tell her, not now anyway. “What do you want now, Xena?” she calmly asked, wanting to know what would pleasure her lover the most at this precise moment.

“I want you, Gabrielle… inside me, and I want to be able to see your face, to look into your eyes as you pleasure me. I need to see you make love to me right now.”

Xena’s seductive tone felt so pleasant to the bard’s ears. She pressed her breasts against the warrior’s as she lay on top of her lover, kissing her deeply again. The Warrior Princess revelled in the exquisite sensation of their nipples touching. She then felt Gabrielle move her body to straddle her strong thigh.

“Hmmm…” The smaller woman basked in feeling her drenched centre’s contact to her strong lover’s firm muscled leg. The bard rested one arm on the grass, by the side of Xena’s shoulder, as she brought her other hand to her older lover’s warm sex and began teasing the dark curls with the back of her knuckles.

“Oh, yes, Gabrielle… Please… Take me…” Xena parted her legs wider, pushing the muscles of her thigh more tightly against the blonde woman’s centre in the process.

“Oh… Xena…” Gabrielle raised her upper body by shifting her forearm upwards while leaving the palm of her hand against the smooth verdure underneath. She looked into the brunette’s piercing blue eyes. Meanwhile, the fingertips of her other hand slid in between Xena’s folds to find some heated wetness there. Gabrielle pleasingly tickled the warrior’s clit before sliding her fingers further down between the tender lips and slipping two digits inside the soaking wet cavern. Its sleek walls squeezed tightly around her fingers as she moved them back and forth inside her older lover.

The bard simultaneously rubbed herself energetically against Xena’s muscular thigh. She kept invading the Warrior Princess’ hot and welcoming depths while gazing down at the magnificent creature she was making love to. She loved mounting Xena.  To Gabrielle, it always felt so delightful to see when the warrior was being conquered by her touch. As Xena was now willingly opening herself again to her deep thrusts, the blonde woman felt even more excited.

“Gabrielle… By the gods… I love feeling you inside me… Oh… Yes… Make love to me, my bard…” Xena had one of her hands gripping at the small of Gabrielle’s back while the bard continued making love to her at a rhythm she found pleasurable. The warrior curled her other hand into a fist as her fingers pulled at a bunch of grass from the green ground next to her. She let out moans of ecstasy as her younger lover’s thumb started pushing against her engorged nub and one more finger entered her. She kept staring up into the sea-green eyes as Gabrielle kept penetrating her with all her love.

“Yes… Gabrielle…” The warrior’s eyes were completely absorbed in the glorious sight of the bard as they moved to follow the exquisite features, dangling damp strands of hair and creamy skin of the woman above her. The beauty of Gabrielle utterly fascinated her. While the lovemaking carried on pleasuring her physically, Xena’s mind drifted away again.

I can’t live without her. I couldn’t ever bear the thought of losing Gabrielle. I’ve always loved the feel of her skin pressing against mine, the sight of her gorgeous face, her wonderful ways of looking at me with her cheerful eyes, the touch from her hands while she makes love to me… Oh so many things… I also love the way she speaks to me, loves me, listens to me, tells me stories, supports me through hard times… She’s my only hope in this new, post-warlord life, my only hope. Have could have I ever wanted to destroy her? I’m supposed to protect her. Why did she have that dream last night? Does she wish she’d lost that particular memory at the Temple of Mnemosyne yesterday? Gods… She’s so beautiful, a precious gift that was given to me, really…

“Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” Xena abruptly screamed. An intense orgasm roused her from her wandering thoughts.

Gabrielle removed her fingers from Xena’s centre and eagerly sucked the wetness off from them. She then had both her hands positioned on either side of the warrior’s body as she resumed the grinding of her clit against the taller woman’s muscular thigh. “Oh… Gods… Uh… Xena…” She kept gazing down at her beautiful Warrior Princess.

Xena grabbed the bard’s rear with both hands as she helped with the friction by moving the muscles of her leg against Gabrielle’s wet folds. She always felt great joy at feeling up her younger lover’s backside. The luscious essence coming from the blonde’s sex trickled down the skin of her thigh.

“Xeeenaaa!” Gabrielle came and the weight of her body dropped onto Xena. The warrior moved her hands up to envelop the bard’s back, hugging her into a tight embrace. They kissed and exchanged words of love while the incredibly gratifying aftershocks of their lovemaking still reverberated wonderfully inside their heads. They always experienced the agreeable post-orgasmic feeling that came right after their soul-uniting intimacy in this way. It was as if a swarm of colourful butterflies had just been flying through their skulls.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

During the following three candlemarks, the two lovers had walked back up towards their current campsite, had both gotten themselves completely dressed, had brushed and dried their hair under the sunlight, had found something for their meal and had cooked their lunch. Gabrielle still was not particularly hungry so she only took a small portion of food in her plate.

They had nearly finished eating and were now chewing on some berries for dessert when, in the beginning of this sunny afternoon, a Greek Amazon approached their site in the middle of the woods. She stopped walking when she was only twenty feet away from where Xena and Gabrielle were sitting.

“Queen Gabrielle?” She made the Amazon peace sign, which was instantly reciprocated by Gabrielle. The Amazon had thick and straight red hair with some of its streaks styled in small braids and tied towards the back of her head. She was dressed in a brownish-red outfit that consisted of a short leather skirt and a sleeveless top that supported her bust. In one hand, she vertically held a long spear, which was her weapon in case of an impending attack.

“What is it, sister?” The bard quietly and respectfully asked. She could not remember that particular Amazon. “What is your name?”

“My name is Gaiane, my queen. I come from the village of Ephiny, who is being our queen during your absence, as you already know. She asked me to come find you in order to deliver you a message from her.” Gaiane smiled at the blonde woman. She kept talking: “Sweet Artemis, it took me weeks to find you, my queen! I’ve been looking all over quite a few areas in Greece before I came upon a nearby village where I met a male friend of yours who told me where to find you, and so here I am.”

“Was it Joxer who told you where to find me, Gaiane?” It would normally have felt a little odd to Gabrielle that the Amazon messenger had not even bothered greeting Xena or at least acknowledged her presence, but considering that the Warrior Princess had stormed on horseback into their village the last time they saw her, the storyteller understood why Gaiane had not. Xena just remained seated beside the bard, keeping silent.

“Yes, he said his name was Joxer, my queen.”

“All right.” Gabrielle got her mind prepared concerning whatever unpleasant thing the other Amazon might end up mentioning. “What is your message from Ephiny?”

“Can I please speak to you privately for a few moments, my queen?” The messenger felt somehow troubled by the Warrior Princess’ presence. After all, that was the woman who had violently ridden into their village, attacked them and attempted to murder their queen only a few moons ago. She wanted to talk solely to Gabrielle.

The bard turned towards her dark-haired companion. “Xena, it will take only a few minutes. Sorry, I will have to go speak to Gaiane alone,” she murmured.

“Sure, go ahead,” Xena replied, in barely a whisper. Her face was neutral, unsmiling.

Gabrielle stood up and walked towards Gaiane. The two Amazons walked further into the forest, some distance away from the campsite and Xena. They stopped by some bushes and trees and stared at each other.

“So… What is it, Gaiane? What message does Ephiny have for me?”

“I’ll tell you now, my queen. At the latest Amazon Council meeting in our village, the leaders of our tribe reached a decision…” The messenger paused. She cleared her throat. “…regarding what your partner, Xena, did…” She hesitated a few seconds. “… on the day we saw her dragging you behind a horse. Huh… How have your scars healed, my queen?” Gaiane wondered. “Was it difficult?” She looked up and down the blonde’s body and it felt very strange to her not being able to see even the remnant of a scar from a deep cut.

“Er…” The abhorrent thought of Xena assailing her abruptly crossed Gabrielle’s mind and she briefly shuddered. This particular event had never been mentioned directly to her before today. “It’s a long story, Gaiane. My scars got washed away in sacred waters, I think. Xena and I have made up since. Everything is all right now.” Gabrielle gave her a reassuring nod. “So, please, can you tell me now what the Council decided?”

“Xena is barred from entering Greek Amazon territory for one year. Should Xena ever attempt to enter any of our villages during that period of time, she would be brought to trial and could be executed. Ephiny said it really was the least harsh decision they could make, considering the letter you’d sent her to say you were doing fine.”

The bard remembered she had paid a professional messenger to carry a letter to her Amazon village not long after she had come back from Illusia with Xena. She had wanted Ephiny and her tribe to know that she was alive and well and that the Warrior Princess had not been her real self on the day of the attack. “So Xena is not allowed to visit any Amazon village for one year? Is that all?”

“Well, in Greece, at least. That’s right. It was the most considerate penalty, my queen. The council also took the fact that Xena had just lost her son into account.”

“Thank you, Gaiane. I’m truly sorry about what happened at the Amazon village the last time I was there.”

“You don’t have to be, my queen. It wasn’t your fault. This temporary ban on Xena is mainly because she attacked us and injured Ephiny’s arm before abducting you, wounding you. I’m just so glad to see you’re fine and you don’t even seem to have any scar, Queen Gabrielle.”

“I’m okay. How is Ephiny’s arm?” Gabrielle worried.

“It’s fully healed now. She’s fully recovered, my queen,” Gaiane assured her. “I’m gonna have to go soon now that I’ve delivered you her message. I’m sorry, my queen. It will take so many days of travel for me to get back home. And I miss my lover Charis, who had to stay in our village because of different Amazon duties that were assigned to her.”

“I understand, Gaiane.” The bard sympathetically grinned at her.

“Thank you, my queen.” The Amazon messenger bowed in respect. “I’d just like to say a few more things before I go.”

“Yes, what are they?”

“Queen Gabrielle, please remember that, while Xena is temporarily barred from entering the lands we own, you are not, and you never will be. We’ll welcome you anytime, my queen, if you decide to come and see us without the Warrior Princess.”

“Thank you very much, Gaiane, but I think I’d rather return there in a year’s time. I don’t usually go on a trip anywhere without Xena by my side. I’m sorry.” Gabrielle gave her a look of apology.

“Ephiny is not going to like this, my queen.” Gaiane’s expression displayed a tinge of sadness. “She kept wondering, after receiving your letter, how you can still remain with your partner after what she did to you.”

The storyteller sighed. Some degree of annoyance overtook her. “Gaiane… there is nothing that can separate Xena and I. We’re just simply meant to be together. Besides, all my physical wounds miraculously healed after that awful event.”

“But what about your mental wounds, my queen? Are they really gone too after what happened that day?”

The bard paused to think about the painful dream she had just experienced twice in the same night. It was a very unwelcome thought and she immediately tried to shake it off from her mind. “I know that she was not herself that day, Gaiane,” Gabrielle slightly raised her voice at the Amazon messenger. “She was being trapped in a state of rage over the death of her son!”

“I understand that, my queen.” Gaiane accepted that there would be no point in pressing the issue further. She already knew that Gabrielle loved Xena more than anyone else on earth. She simply gazed at the bard with some empathy and concern showing in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Queen Gabrielle. I just hope for you that such a thing will never happen again.”

“It won’t, Gaiane,” Gabrielle simply said. Her tone was now quieter.

“Goodbye, Queen Gabrielle. I hope that, someday, you’ll come and visit us again.” The Amazon messenger bowed anew.

“I will. Don’t worry. Goodbye, Gaiane. Tell Ephiny I will be glad to see her again, next year.” The blonde woman bowed her goodbye to the messenger.

“No problem, my queen.” Gaiane turned and started to walk away. Gabrielle watched her leave until she was no longer in sight. The storyteller then began making her way back to her campsite, towards her lover.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Xena was still sitting on the blanket after she’d eaten all the berries and could see Gabrielle walk back towards her. She figured the Amazon messenger must have left. She did not like the fact that she had come to disturb their peaceful day. The warrior had not needed to go spy on the conversation, even though she had been able to make out the sound of Gabrielle somewhat raising her voice back there.

Considering what she had done the last time she had gone to the Amazons’ village, the warrior had known exactly what Gaiane had been talking about. What she did not know was what the Amazons wanted to do about it, but she trusted that Gabrielle would tell her what Ephiny’s message had been. Xena felt a bit anxious inside, but she still kindly smiled at her younger lover as she saw her approaching.

The bard went to sit back down next to the warrior. Her long golden hair brightly shone under the afternoon sunlight. “You ate all the berries.”

Xena looked at the empty wooden fruit bowl she had put down on the grass and moved her eyes back up towards Gabrielle. “Yeah… Huh… I’m sorry, sweetheart. I was very hungry,” the Warrior Princess said, a little sheepishly. She regretted having consumed all the berries out of nervousness.

“It’s all right, Xena.” Gabrielle gave her a small grin and shrugged.

“So… What was the message Gaiane had to deliver you?” the dark-haired woman carefully asked.

“Do you really want to know, Xena?” The blonde woman stared solemnly into the silvery azure eyes of her taller lover. “’Cause if I tell you, I might bring some things up you may not want me to.”

“I don’t care, Gabrielle. Go ahead. Tell me what the Amazons have decided for my case?”

The storyteller softly breathed. “Well, after taking into account all of the facts that preceded and followed your attack, including the anger over the death of your child and the fact that I’m still alive, they agreed to only impose a temporary ban of your presence in all the Greek Amazon territory. You are not to enter any of their villages for a whole year. If you do, further actions will be taken under Amazon Law. That’s basically what Gaiane said.”

“Is that all?” The warrior woman could only blink.

“Yes, that’s all, Xena.”

“Fine, then.”  Xena calmly shrugged. “I’ll just avoid going into their lands for a year. Will you still go visit the Amazons since you’re their queen?”

Gabrielle shook her head. “I don’t think so, Xena. I always travel with you, and if you’re not welcome there, well… Ephiny will make a perfect queen in my absence. I’ll go and see them again in one year’s time, with you.” A brief smile showed itself across the bard’s features.

“Are you sure this is what you want? I don’t want to keep you away from your tribe, Gabrielle.”

“Xena, you’re not keeping me away from them. This is my choice, what I have decided. I don’t want us to get separated on our travels. I’m sure of it,” the storyteller asserted.

“All right.” Xena nodded.

There was a moment of silence. Gabrielle turned her head away from her partner to look down absentmindedly at the ground. She just sat there with a detached expression on her face. Some of the things Gaiane had just said to her had unexpectedly brought some disquiet within her mind, and talking with her lover about the Amazon decision over Xena’s terrible actions after their children’s funerals had not helped. It kept reminding her of the dreadful event she kept trying to rid her mind of.

Xena pouted her lips and lowered her head. She thought for a moment about the nightmare that she knew Gabrielle had. She still did not really want to bring that up but now, after the Amazon messenger had come out of the blue, she thought she could ask her lover a few questions. The warrior felt a bit worried about what the bard might be thinking now that a consequence of what she had done had suddenly emerged, especially because it was the first time such a thing was being brought up ever since they had come back from the Land of Illusia. She looked back up at the younger woman. “Gabrielle…”

“Yes, Xena?”

“Sweetheart… I know we got reconciled with the help of Solan’s spirit in Illusia. I also know you’ve been telling me many times that we’re meant to be together but…” The Warrior Princess hesitated. “I really need to know something right now, regarding what I did last time I was at the Amazon village.”

“What is it, Xena?” Gabrielle suddenly began jittering at the vivid memory of her abuse at the hands of her older lover, which had oddly come up in her dreams during the past night. The bard did not mean to feel so nervous but she just did.

“Well, Gabrielle, I’ve got to admit I’ve heard you talking in your sleep last night, again, and I was wondering…” This felt incredibly difficult for Xena to talk about these things, especially as she noticed the shorter woman shaking. She carried on anyway. “Are you sometimes scared of being with me after what I did to you? I mean, I know your cuts and bruises miraculously disappeared, but… I just need to know how you really feel, deep down, about remembering this.”

“Well…” The bard kept feeling tense. She was still not making eye contact. “I love you more than anything, Xena… It’s just that… I kept having this horrible dream last night.”

“That’s my point, Gabrielle. I know this. I heard what you said in your sleep,” the dark-haired woman stated in a mild and cautious tone. “Now I just need to know, why do you think you were having this nightmare? Do you wish you’d lost that particular memory at the Temple of Mnemosyne yesterday?” The brunette softly placed her hand onto the blonde’s upper arm, but Gabrielle instantly jumped at the touch. Xena removed her hand.

“Huh… I don’t know, Xena…” The younger woman’s heart was beating fast in her chest and her breathing accelerated. She did not want to feel like this but it just happened to be the case. She looked back towards the warrior, still trembling at unwelcome thoughts she had no control over. “Er… Would you just let me go for a walk just for a couple of hours, my love, please?” There seemed to be a smattering of apprehension in the storyteller’s voice. “I just need to go think on my own. I’ll get back to you on your questions later on, I promise.”

“Sure, my love,” the Warrior Princess resolved to let her go so that she could think about it. She did not want to lose Gabrielle but she also felt unsettled by the bard’s latest reaction to her touch. She wanted to give her younger lover what she needed, so that everything could then perhaps be all right again.

The shorter woman stood up and started walking into the woods. She fleetingly stopped when she heard Xena call from behind her: “Gabrielle?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry if I ever mentioned anything you didn’t want me to.” The warrior woman remained seated, looking up at the back of the blond head. “You know, Gabrielle… if you secretly wanted to leave me, because you somehow don’t feel safe around me, you know you could.” Xena gasped at the thought of Gabrielle leaving her, but she always cared about the bard’s well-being. “I love you, Gabrielle, and I don’t want you to feel like you haven’t got the freedom to just go.”

Gabrielle sighed. She still did not turn to look at the Warrior princess. “I am not leaving you, Xena. I just need to be alone for a while, so I can hope to find out what can possibly be going on in my head.”

“Okay,” Xena simply replied. She watched as her blonde lover peacefully resumed her stroll into the huge forest. She surely did not like to see Gabrielle walking away.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The bard wandered aimlessly among the trees and the bushes for one candlemark or so. She had traversed a great part of the woods and was now a long distance away from the campsite when she found a very small rock. It lay somewhere between a couple of large oaks. She decided to sit there, just to concentrate and think. Gabrielle started replaying today’s and other events in her mind. She felt more relaxed and could finally breathe now that she was alone. She realised there was something ugly she could no longer attempt to block out from her mind, not after Gaiane had mentioned it and certainly not after Xena had as well.

What is happening in my head? I love Xena. I want to be in this relationship with my best friend more than anything. We’ve even been making love in ardently passionate ways ever since we got back together again, even more so after she vanquished a whole army in my honour and saved me from that poison. I’m so incredibly in love with her. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I fully understood that she was not being herself during what she’d done to me after Solan’s death. The miracle of Illusia cleaned off my wounds. My physical injuries were no longer visible. So why exactly did I have the same nightmare twice last night? Why did I feel so anxious when Gaiane and, especially, Xena were trying to talk to me about it? What’s going on? Am I afraid of something?

Then, suddenly, it hit her. Something had been shattered to pieces on the day Xena had dragged her behind a horse. She had been so used to believing that Xena would never physically assault her prior to that. She had always known there was this ‘fine line’ that existed within Xena between her dark side and the better part of the Warrior Princess, but Gabrielle had always thought she was able to control the dark side of her lover, to tame the beast within. She had always felt secure in Xena’s arms before that murder attempt. Even during some of their heated lovemaking sessions, Gabrielle had pleasurably noticed that the warrior could use her wild side in a safe and positive way, one that did not hurt. After the abuse, the bard had been able to feel safe again in the taller woman’s arms only insofar as she had managed to mentally shut down this particular memory. It had been so painful that it had had to be dissociated from her conscious mind as much as it could be.

Gabrielle understood why she had been dreaming of what happened all over again last night. In the realm of Morpheus, the subconscious mind operated freely. Before the past night, most of her nightmares had been about Hope, the loss of her blood innocence or when she had wanted to take her own life after feeling responsible for Solan’s death. However, this new nightmare, about what Xena had done to her after three days following the funerals of their children, was bound to arise at some point while she was asleep. There had been no escaping it.

Yet the bard had still been able to keep that dream away from her thoughts this morning, when she had made love to her lover. Nonetheless, later, when Gaiane had come to see her and brought the same unwanted thought of Xena dragging her behind a horse up, some very unexpected feelings of underlying fear and unease had rushed through her. If only the Amazon messenger had not shown up.

… what about your mental wounds, my queen?

Now there was no more denying it: all the suffering, all the torment this particular event had caused. Her physical wounds might have vanished very fast and the Land of Illusia might have saved her loving relationship with Xena, but still… All the pain from this and other recent events was still present and it would probably take more than a little while for her to heal from this. Gabrielle already felt like a different person, a more mature one, one who knew that she could not take everything for granted.

Do you wish you’d lost that particular memory at the Temple of Mnemosyne yesterday?

She remembered the Temple of the Goddess of Memory. Yes, this had somehow been one of her underlying goals to lose that particular memory, along with the memories of her rape, Hope, Solan’s death and especially her guilt. She knew she had made the right choice in keeping her memories but some of the agony remained. Why did she have the terrible thought of her lover abusing her seep through her dreams? She knew the Warrior Princess had been overcome by a state of rage when she had attacked her. Xena had not been herself. She had forgiven her the hate while they had been in Illusia. It had not been her Xena doing this, so what was she afraid of?

Well, now since she knew that she was not able to keep Xena’s dark side completely under her control, what proof did she have that such a thing would not happen again if the warrior were to be overtaken by some wrath all over again? She had none, but she still wanted to be with Xena.

The Warrior Princess had almost always felt like a protector to her, not an abuser. She needed to get rid of this newly found psychological conflict within herself. Perhaps trying to have a good communication with her lover might help. She would never dare bring that up herself, but if Xena wanted to talk she should not shun the subject so maybe they could both attempt to work things out since the two of them really loved each other. Moreover, the storyteller did not want to be afraid of her partner, not even subconsciously.

Gabrielle rose from the rock she had been using as a seat. She looked around her. Then suddenly she realised that she had left her fighting staff at the campsite. She had been so overwhelmed with those troublesome thoughts that she had forgotten her only weapon. By the Gods, how could she have been so distracted? It was a real warlord jungle out here. Somebody evil could pop up anytime within a large forest like this one, and Xena had always told her, countless times, not to forget to take her staff whenever she was going somewhere. The bard started walking back towards the campsite. There was going to be quite a few moments that would pass before she would be able to reach it however, as she had wandered for such a large distance from where the Warrior Princess was in those woods.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Xena stood beside Argo. She was brushing the mare’s mane and body. The animal whinnied in approval. She always liked being brushed by her mistress. The warrior was still absorbed in thought. She was very unhappy Gabrielle had left the site the way she had, and she was surprised that her mere touch had startled the younger woman. Xena figured she should not have mentioned the fact that she knew about the dream. That had probably been a bad idea. She hoped her bard would come back soon. She deeply regretted everything she had done that had hurt her lover and best friend, particularly dragging her behind a horse.

How could have I ever attempted to kill my own guardian angel? She always keeps me on the right path. Ares… that bastard! I should have never listened to him.

The dark-haired woman gently patted on Argo and went to put the brush back into one of the saddlebags. She then walked nervously and without purpose around the spot where the burned out wood from today’s cooking fire was. As she absentmindedly looked around the campsite, her eyes happened to fall upon a nearby tree. She stopped instantly and focused her attention on the object that lay on the ground next to it. It was Gabrielle’s staff. Xena made her way towards it and grabbed her lover’s weapon. She stared at it, wide-eyed.

Gods… she forgot her staff! Oh no, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have annoyed her with all those questions and insecurities of mine. She would have remembered to take her weapon before she went for a walk. By the gods, I’ve got to go find her.

The Warrior Princess kept the staff in her hand as she ran away to go try to find the bard. She hoped that nobody had already attempted to cause trouble to her Gabrielle.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was almost a quarter of a candlemark after the blonde woman had began making the first steps back towards the campsite. She was trying to walk fast but the forest ground was sometimes treacherous with all its small mounds of earth and little heaps of plants with occasional broken branches lying around. She did not want to end up falling. She could not help feeling tense right now.

As she turned around a corner, Gabrielle knew that she was no longer alone. A man who looked like a lone marauder was walking in the opposite direction from her, fifty feet ahead. She began struggling to reassure herself inside her mind.

Relax, Gabrielle. You can handle it. Just try to act normal.

The bard said nothing. She just kept walking. If she were going to attempt to flee, she feared that might cause an unwanted reaction from the man who carried on approaching. He was dressed in dark brown leather clothes with a succession of small silvery metal plates covering each side of his upper garment. His somewhat unkempt dark hair fell by his shoulders. As he was sauntering across this path, he seemed to be gazing towards her in an eerie way.

Gabrielle did not know of another way to get back towards where her lover was. She did not want to get lost within those woods. However, she realised even more as he now was getting very close that she really did not want to risk an attack.

She suddenly changed her mind and chose to turn right. She found herself in the middle of another large bunch of trees. She undertook a few strides to see if she could get a little further away from the path she had just been on, away from that stranger. A few seconds later, she heard some quick footsteps drawing near where she was. She started running.

How in Hades could I forget that staff? Oh I really wish Xena was here.

As she continued to run, the blonde woman, all of a sudden, got one foot caught in one of the roots that rested at the bottom of a tree. She fell forward onto the ground and swiftly rolled herself over only to see the marauder now being too close for her to get the chance to leave. He held a dagger in his hand as he ran towards her. He was so athletic and muscular that it only took a few heartbeats for him to reach her position. For a mortal, that lone marauder had probably nearly as much strength as Xena.

As she was trying to stand back up, he abruptly pushed her back down. Scared, she screamed in alarm: “Xenaaaaaaaaa!” Her loud shriek echoed through the large forest. Gabrielle lay on the grass, her back onto the cool verdure beneath. The fall had not caused her much harm but she was terrified.

“Shut up and stay on the ground, little beauty.” The marauder cruelly sneered down at her in an incredibly chilling way, as he knelt down while pointing the sharp blade of his weapon at her. “I won’t hurt you if you cooperate. Open your legs!” He seized one of her wrists as he closely watched her.

The bard felt intensely frightened. She reluctantly started to do what he was asking her to. She wished she could figure out a way of kicking or hitting him. Without her staff, her chances of defending herself against such a strong man were scarce. He was such a big warlord, and she did not have Xena’s fighting skills.

But Xena is going to come and save me now, isn’t she? She must have heard my scream for help. Oh, how could I get myself into this mess?

The attacker spread Gabrielle’s legs wider and moved himself between them. Hovering above her, the man caught her other wrist and gathered both of them tightly into one of his hands. His other hand took the coil of a thin rope that had been hanging by his belt. He immediately unrolled it and tied both of the young woman’s hands with it. He placed them above her head. By tying her up, he was making her chances to fight him even scarcer.

“Please… No… Don’t do this,” Gabrielle agonisingly begged in a low voice. She sobbed. She was petrified. This moment reminded her so harrowingly of when she had been suspended above that altar in the Temple of Dahak, and the evil thing had abruptly thrust into her, except that this time this was going to be a human raping her. Her hands frantically shook within their bindings.

Oh no… Gods, please, tell me this is not happening again. Xena, come quickly, please.

“Be quiet, woman!” He lifted her skirt over her belly and cut the sides of her breeches with his dagger. He then removed the piece of fabric and threw it aside. He put the blade of the knife under the laces of her green top and ripped it open.

Gabrielle felt dreadfully exposed against her will. What she was experiencing was so ghastly and repulsive. Yet she did not know what to do. She cried and moaned in despair when he started touching one of her breasts. “No… Please… No.” Having her bosom kneaded by someone who was not her lover felt utterly horrible.

Xena, please come and save me.

“I told you to shut up, little bitch!” he growled and slapped her across the face, which hurt her and reddened her cheek. That man was now kneeling between her legs and holding his dagger a little higher above her supine body. He was just about to unbuckle his trousers with his free hand when a round, circular object suddenly struck his knife away from him.

“Ayiayiayiayiayi!” The familiar war cry made itself heard in the middle of the woods. Xena caught her chakram as it flew back around towards her while she was standing between two trees, thirty-three feet away. The Warrior Princess then performed a forward flip that brought her closer.

Still on the ground with her hands tied up, Gabrielle tried to get away from the marauder by shifting her legs. As he attempted to catch her again, the bard had one leg underneath him and raised her knee in a swift upward motion, hitting his crotch and making him yell. This was instantly followed by a violent kick from Xena onto his shoulder, which threw him backwards onto the grass. All this happened within the span of a few mere seconds.

“Get up, you bastard!” Xena roughly grabbed him by the vest.

“Xena! I’m so glad you came,” Gabrielle said in a grateful voice, still sweating from the recent fright while looking towards her beloved warrior. “Please, untie me.” She managed to get back upon her feet with difficulty, since she could not separate her hands.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” Still holding the marauder in one strong hand, the Warrior Princess made her way towards the bard and quickly used her chakram to carefully cut the rope that bound her lover’s hands.

“I am. Thank you, Xena.” Gabrielle, still breathing fast, shook the remnants of the bind away from her wrists. With one hand, she quickly proceeded to hold her green top shut. There would be some spare laces in one of the saddlebags back at the campsite. She went to pick her torn breeches up from the ground with her other hand. It was unfortunate she could not put them back on.

The bard watched as Xena firmly gripped the man and pushed him with force, slamming his back against a tree. He snarled in pain as the Warrior Princess stood in front of him. Xena rapidly jabbed her fingers at two pressure points on the marauder’s neck. He uttered a groan that got stifled by his immobilisation.

“You’ve got about thirty seconds to apologise to my friend. Tell her you’re sorry for trying to rape her.” She pulled him by the hair to make him look at Gabrielle.

“Argh… I’m sorry… for trying… to rape you,” he forced himself to say, between low growls.

The blonde woman watched with worry as her lover seemed to be taking great pleasure in hurting him. “It’s okay, Xena. Take the pinch off him, please.”

The dark-haired woman pressed the same points on the man’s throat to remove the pinch. He put a hand onto his neck as he tried to catch his breath. Xena pulled her sword out of its sheath and pointed it at him. “I should just kill bastards like you,” she said as she gazed at him with scorn. “How dare you try to rape my best friend, huh? You like treating women like pieces of meat, don’t you? Son of a Bacchae!”

Gabrielle could see her partner was very angry. “Xena, please don’t kill him. He did not get the chance to do anything,” she said, still holding her green top shut and clasping her ripped underwear in one hand.

Still keeping her weapon near the marauder, Xena looked at Gabrielle. “But what tells us that he’s not gonna try to do this again, to someone else?”

“I don’t know, Xena.” The bard had no idea of what to say. Her blue-green eyes were still wet with tears from her attack. Her cheeks were bright red and one had been slapped. She was firmly grasping onto her tattered breeches. It felt incredibly hurtful to the warrior seeing her like this.

While Xena was distracted staring at her girlfriend, the man kicked the sword out of her hand, a move that the Warrior Princess had not anticipated. He was a strong and quick bastard. He slapped the warrior with the back of his hand as she turned back towards him. Xena then roughly punched him in the jaw, making him bleed. He was then quick and strong enough to kick the tall woman’s abdomen in retaliation. This threw her onto the ground.

The marauder got another dagger out of his bootleg and angrily lunged towards Gabrielle. The blonde woman gasped and attempted to run. Xena swiftly got up, grabbed her sword, scampered towards the man and plunged her blade into his back, impaling him just as he was brandishing his knife and was about to stab her younger lover. He let out a loud cry as the long weapon rammed into his heart and the bloodied blade came out of his chest. A few drops of blood splattered onto Gabrielle’s clothes and skin. The man whimpered and died, dropping his dagger.

Xena removed her sword from the marauder’s body, and the weight of his corpse fell on the ground. The Warrior Princess replaced the blade into its scabbard on her back. She would have to clean her weapon tonight; that was for sure. She went to Gabrielle. Panting, she placed a hand onto the bard’s shoulder.

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah.” The storyteller breathed deeply.

“I’m sorry, Gabrielle. I wasn’t sure if I was going to kill him, but then he came at you real fast.”

“It’s all right, Xena. That way we know for sure he won’t ever try to rape another woman again.” Gabrielle’s face was unsmiling.

“Come here, Gabrielle.” Xena hugged her for a short moment. “Let’s go home.” She then wrapped an arm around the bard’s shoulders and they both walked back towards the path the younger woman had tried to take earlier. “Here, I’ve got your staff.” The warrior picked up the long fighting stick she had left lying on the grass, as they both wandered away. “Sorry I didn’t have the chance to give it to you as I was being so busy taking care of that filthy man.”

“It’s okay, Xena.” Gabrielle rested her head against Xena as they walked. The Warrior Princess kissed the top of her blond hair.

“Everything’s going to be all right, Gabrielle. I’ll take good care of you, sweetheart.” The tone of the warrior’s voice sounded deeply comforting to the bard’s ears.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The two women had made their way down to the little lake by the water cascade right after they had returned to their current camp, in the later candlemarks of the afternoon. Xena had brought a bar of soap, a towel and a clean white shift for Gabrielle, along with a cloth for her sword, all of which she put down on the ground at the edge of the stream. The bard was now taking off her boots. Xena did the same. She also removed her breastplate and gauntlets. She dropped those armour items onto the grass. The warrior then moved closer to the bard, who still felt upset by what had happened to her.

“Hey…” The taller woman tenderly said. “You’re gonna be okay, sweetheart.” She hugged the blonde woman tightly.

“Yes, Xena,” A few tears rolled down Gabrielle’s eyes. “Please, help me remove my clothes.”

Xena helped her younger lover take her green top and her skirt off. She then grabbed the soap, gently took the storyteller’s hand and led her into the lake. They stopped walking in the water when it reached the top of Gabrielle’s thighs, because the warrior was still wearing her leather garb. Xena had the bottom of her battle skirt dipping underwater as she faced her nude lover. The younger woman took a little moment to immerse herself in the stream, to dampen her skin and her hair. She stood back up above water, in front of the Warrior Princess.

“Wash me, Xena, please,” Gabrielle said in a sad tone. “Even if he didn’t manage to rape me, I still feel awfully dirty after he touched me. I want you to clean my skin and hair, to help me forget.”

“Oh, Gabrielle…” Xena moaned compassionately. She proceeded to wash the blonde woman carefully. She ran the soap along every inch of Gabrielle’s skin. “You don’t seem to have many bruises, which is good.”

“Why did he wanna kill me?” the shorter woman asked in a dismal tone.

“I don’t know, Gabrielle. Frustration perhaps, from the fact that he couldn’t rape you… or maybe vengeance. Marauders can be degenerate people.” The Warrior Princess cleaned her lover’s face. “Turn around, love,” the dark-haired woman requested. She then cleaned the long golden hair.

Once the bard had been washed thoroughly, the warrior splashed herself a little and cleaned off her battle sweat. The smaller woman moved back under the surface to rinse the soap off from herself. She then got back up and twisted her blond hair between her hands, to squeeze water out of it.

When they both felt clean enough, they made their way back to shore. Xena dried the excessive liquid from Gabrielle’s skin and hair with the towel. She delicately stroked the large piece of cloth across her lover’s smooth frame while she looked at her with loving eyes. Xena then caught the clean shift from the ground. “Lift your arms, sweetheart.”

The bard did what she was told and the warrior put the thin nightdress onto her. The white garment fell down her body, up to the top of her knees. Both women solemnly stared at each other, and Gabrielle began to cry again. “Xena… I shouldn’t have forgotten my staff. You’d always told me to never forget it…”

“Gabrielle…” Xena took her into her arms, hugged her tightly and softly caressed her hair for a little while. “Please don’t cry, sweetheart. It wasn’t your fault.” She kissed the top of the blonde’s head. The brunette then brought one hand to her lover’s face. She slowly rubbed her palm onto the younger woman’s cheek. Xena then lightly cupped Gabrielle’s chin to gaze deeply into the sea-green eyes. “It is never your fault when someone tries to rape or kill you. It’s always is the attacker’s fault.”

“I know but…” The sound of Gabrielle’s low voice was rueful. She had both her hands placed onto the warrior woman’s strong shoulders as she kept weeping. “I’m sorry, Xena. I shouldn’t have left our camp like this.”

“It’s all right, my bard.” Xena kindly smiled and began to dry her younger lover’s tears with her fingers. “We’ll talk about this later, my love… Right now, I’m so happy you’re alive and that marauder didn’t get the chance to rape you. It’s very fortunate I was able to save you in time just after I’d heard you scream. I may not have been able to save you from what Dahak did to you, but I’m glad that, at least, I could save you from this.” Xena’s words felt incredibly true to Gabrielle’s ears, which helped the younger woman stop crying.

“Thank you so much for saving me, washing me and comforting me. You’re my true best friend, Xena.”

“No problem. I’d do anything for you.” Silvery blue eyes brimmed with the tiny sparkle of empathising tears. “I love you, Gabrielle.”

“I love you too.” Gabrielle and Xena hugged again and shared a brief kiss on the lips.

The Warrior Princess put her armour, boots and gauntlets back on while the bard bent down to take her dirty clothes that were still stained with the evil man’s blood. Gabrielle also picked up the bar of soap that had been tossed onto the grass and went to kneel by the edge of the lake. She submerged her green top in the water and scrubbed it with the soap, until two strong female hands suddenly stopped her movements. Xena was kneeling next to her.

“Let me help, my love. Let me take care of your laundry this time.” The dark-haired woman washed both of Gabrielle’s garments for the next moment or so, cleaning them completely. The soap they had bought from a town market was strong and did a wonderful job at washing anything. The warrior woman rinsed the clothes by drenching them. She wrung them out and handed them back to her lover. After that, she untied the scabbard from her back and pulled her sword out of it. She doused her weapon and the inside of her sheath in water. She then wet the little cloth she had brought and cleaned the dried blood off from her blade, using soap.

Once the warrior finished wiping the last traces of blood from her sword, they both stood up, gathered Gabrielle’s belongings and peacefully walked back up towards their camp, with Xena having an arm around her shorter lover’s shoulders.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Both women got back to where their camp was. Gabrielle hung her damp clothes onto the little branches of a bush close by. The heat from the campfire, once built, would then get her green top and skirt to dry. The bard picked up her torn breeches and went to open one of the saddlebags. She got a needle and thread out of it, along with another pair of breeches that were intact. She put them on, underneath her white shift.

Xena fed a couple of apples to Argo, went to re-fill the mare’s wooden bucket of water and went to chop some wood for a fire. After she came back with a small heap of firewood, the Warrior Princess started building the first flames. The campfire built up and burned steadily in the middle of the clearing.

Both women were sitting on the nearby log when Joxer arrived. Gabrielle was sewing her ripped breeches back on while Xena was sharpening her sword. They looked at the young man as he arrived. He was carrying a small cauldron.

“Hey, ladies.” He smiled.

“Hey, Joxer.” Xena grinned back at him. So did Gabrielle.

“Hello, Joxer,” the bard said.

“’Evening, Gabrielle… Listen, guys, you won’t have to hunt or cook tonight. With a few dinars, I was able to buy some stew from a tavern in the closest village. It’ll need warming up but there’s enough for three. Isn’t this wonderful?”

“This is very kind of you, Joxer,” Xena answered. The two women thanked him, and the Warrior Princess put her sword and whetstone down to go help the young man place the pot on top of the fire. Gabrielle kept sewing for another couple of minutes, until her torn breeches were repaired. She stood and went to put them in a saddlebag, within which she also put the needle and thread. She grabbed a large wooden spoon and walked towards the fire cooking dinner. The bard stirred the stew in the cauldron. The warrior went to get some plates and smaller spoons.

Once the meal was ready, the three friends went sitting on the tree trunk to eat. Gabrielle was now a little bit hungrier, which made both Xena and Joxer smile.

“Excellent stew,” The blonde woman said. “Really many thanks for buying it, Joxer.”

“No problem, Gabby.” He looked at her in a kind of dreamy way that reflected his crush on her.

Once they finished the stew, Gabrielle and Joxer were talking, while Xena resumed the sharpening of her weapon.

“So, Joxer, I’m quite surprised you didn’t come back and see us earlier on today,” the bard wondered.

“Well, I met a couple of childhood friends at the village and we spent the whole day chatting in the tavern. An Amazon came looking for you at some point, by the way. She seemed honest, so I told her where to find you. Did she come to see you?”

“Yes, she did, Joxer. It was Gaiane, a messenger. She delivered a message from Ephiny and left.”

Joxer changed the subject as he briefly looked at the shift that was on Gabrielle. “Gabby, I hope you won’t mind me asking but, why are you wearing a nightdress? It’s not time to go to bed…”

“Her clothes are still drying, Joxer,” Xena interrupted, while carrying on whetting her blade.

“That’s right, Xena,” confirmed the blonde woman, before gazing back at the young man. “They had to be washed. I was attacked this afternoon, by a lone marauder, and Xena had to kill him but a little bit of his blood spilled over my clothes.”

“Oh, sweet Aphrodite, Gabrielle!” Joxer’s eyes widened. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, Joxer, I’m all right.” She gave him a small, reassuring grin. “Xena arrived just in time to save me.”

“Oh, Gabby…” The young man opened his arms and Gabrielle accepted his hug, for a short while. He then stared back at her. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. If there’s anything I can do…”

“It’s okay, Joxer,” the bard cut him off. “You’re a good friend. I understand that.” She smiled at him.

“Yes, you are, Joxer,” Xena seconded. “Thanks again for buying the food. It was nice. If you want the money back, you just ask.”

“It’s all right, Xena,” Joxer objected. “The food is on me.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Moments passed as the three friends continued their evening conversation. Two candlemarks before sunset, the women needed some privacy and Joxer was very politely asked to leave again.

“Good night, ladies.”

“Goodnight, Joxer,” replied Xena.

“Goodnight.” Gabrielle kindly waved at him. “Bye, Joxer.”

“Bye, Gabrielle. Take good care of yourself.” He walked away from the campsite, carrying the empty cauldron on his way back towards the nearby village that was outside the forest. He would bring the cooking pot back to the tavern.

After he left, the two women were still sitting on the tree log. They turned towards each other, eyes meeting and silently staring. A minute passed and Xena took Gabrielle into her arms. She hugged her tightly. The younger woman felt very responsive to the warm embrace as she placed her hands onto her lover’s back, her head resting on the warrior’s chest.

Xena tenderly caressed the blond head. She then moved slightly back to look into her younger lover’s eyes again.

“Gabrielle… is there anything you want us to talk about right now? Anything I can do for you?”

“Yes, Xena.” Gabrielle gave her an earnest look. “We need to talk. Good communication is probably the best solution for us.”

“I believe you’re right. I’m sorry there were a few things I didn’t want to talk about after we came back from Illusia. I really thought that since we had forgiven each other, everything was okay but obviously not, because you kept having those nightmares about your guilt… I gave you the choice to do whatever you wanted with your memories at the Temple of Mnemosyne yesterday, but you still decided to come back and remember me. And then you had this other horrible dream last night about me attacking you. Is that right, Gabrielle?”

“Yes, Xena.” Gabrielle sighed. “Ever since we returned from Illusia, I kept shielding my conscious thoughts from this particular memory. It was enough of a miracle that my physical wounds were gone, so I believed I had to push what happened as far away from my mind as possible.” Small tears started running down her eyes. “Unfortunately, in my dreams, my subconscious mind roamed free, Xena. So that’s why I had that other nightmare last night. I had it twice, but I kept ignoring it this morning while we made love. Still, when Gaiane turned up and talked to me today about the last time you were at the Amazon village, she said something about my ‘mental wounds.’ It hit a nerve in me. Then it all came back to the surface…” She wept.

“Oh, Gabrielle…” The Warrior Princess softly stroked the side of her younger lover’s face. “I’m so sorry,” she finally said. “I shouldn’t have done this. I should have never treated you like this. I’m sorry I attacked you that day.” She began crying herself. “I was so heartbroken and angry after Solan died… I remember that, before I’d decided to abruptly storm into that Amazon village, Ares had come to me during a time when I was most vulnerable to manipulation, while I was deeply mourning Solan’s death. The God of War kept trying to tap into my dark side, implying that what had happened to my son was all your fault, and telling me that I should go back to my old warlord ways and kill you…” Xena whimpered and sobbed.

The bard’s eyes widened. “Ares had egged you on, Xena? Is that why you’d come at me like that? Oh, but that changes everything…”

“It changes nothing, Gabrielle,” Xena denied. “It was still me who did this to you.” She sniffed and pulled Gabrielle towards her, hugging her tightly again while caressing her back. “I’m so sorry about what happened that day, my love. I occasionally thought about it, sweetheart, and still felt some guilt. I think you might have forgiven me this while we were in Illusia, but still… you are the light in my life and the mere thought of hurting you makes me want to die inside.” She kissed the top of her younger lover’s shoulder. “That was one of the underlying reasons why I didn’t want to be forgiven when you went into that church with Tara that other time, remember?”

“I remember,” Gabrielle moved to rest her head into the crook of the warrior’s arm. “I’ve already forgiven you for what happened anyway. And now I know that Ares was trying to separate us again. He probably wanted you to kill me so that then he could take you back.”

“Oh, Gabrielle,” the dark-haired woman kept crying and gently running her hand along her partner’s back, “he did not succeed. Just like when he sent you to Chin ahead of me in an attempt to make us hate each other and separate us, he did not succeed. He can try all he wants. I promise you he will never manage to tear us apart. I should have never listened to him. I was overwhelmed with grief and anger, but I should never have mistreated you like I did that day. It was not you who killed Solan. It was Hope.”

“Oh, Xena!” The bard lifted her head and gazed at the Warrior Princess. “I still should have never sent Hope to the place where Solan was. I should even have known she was evil right from the start.” Gabrielle’s features were gloomy.

“Gabrielle, as painful as it is for me to admit, I understand that you were a mother and this was your first child. You were trying to protect her because you couldn’t help but love her. I’ve already forgiven you for that. I saw Solan in Illusia. It’s all over… but since you had that dream last night and Gaiane showed up to tell you that I was temporarily barred from the Greek Amazon territory for what I did, I simply wanted to tell you how sorry I am. I’m supposed to be your protector, not your abuser.” Xena shook her head. “Killing you would be like killing one part of me.”

“But you protected me today, when you fought that man.” The bard now looked more hopeful as she reminded herself of the present day’s events, and before. “And, sometime after we’d returned from Illusia, you’d also fought a whole Persian army for me before saving me from a poison… Xena,” she took her older lover’s hands into hers as they both kept staring into each other’s eyes, “let’s just try to forget about the bad times. I know it won’t be easy, but we’ve already forgiven each other. Now what matters most is that you genuinely love me and you will always want or try to keep me safe from harm, just as much as you want me to become a stronger fighter.”

“Yes, that’s true, Gabrielle, but… Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes, Xena. Go for it.”

“Are you sometimes scared that I might physically hurt you again? If I were to be overcome by wrath again?”

The blonde woman uttered a low gasp and remained silent. The warrior pondered her lover’s reaction and understood why the bard was not answering her question.

“Gabrielle,” Xena sincerely said, “I cannot promise that such a thing will never happen again, as it is something that I don’t know…” Her azure blue eyes still showed sadness and regret. “I can only tell you… that I will try my best to stop something so horrible from happening again.” Xena nodded. “I love you, Gabrielle, and I don’t want to harm you, ever.”

“I love you too, Xena. And I am not afraid of you. I believe what you’ve just said, and I want to be with you.” They kissed and hugged for a while. Then Gabrielle said, “What matters most is that we both want to treat each other right.”

“Yes, and we will strive to achieve this.”

“We will.”

They stood up and went to get some cloth from the saddlebags to dry their tears. As night was drawing near, they felt happier.

“I’m very glad we had this conversation,” the bard stated.

“I’m glad too,” the warrior woman confirmed.

“Now let’s just put all this behind us.”

“Yes. Now it’s really over.”

Gabrielle would no longer need to shut down her bad memories in her mind. They did not frighten her anymore. Good communication had just been established between Xena and her. Her older lover had also apologised for what had happened three days after their children’s deaths. The taller woman had said that she clearly would never want such a thing to occur ever again. The bard understood that this memory had been upsetting the warrior too, ever since the older woman had heard her talk in her sleep the night before. Gabrielle figured that this was probably such a thought that had perturbed Xena while they had been making love this morning.

The storyteller knew as well that the Warrior Princess had definitely forgiven her for her betrayal and her lies regarding Chin and Hope. Over time, both lovers’ mental wounds would hopefully heal completely as they were now putting all those horrible things behind them, once and for all.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was dusk when Gabrielle took her skirt and green top down from the bush they had been hanging on. Both garments were dry, thanks to the campfire which still lit the clearing. The bard went to the saddlebags, to get spare green laces for her top. She had bought those cords in town and always kept them just in case she would need to fix her top. She ran the laces into the fabric, to repair the garment. She then folded both her clothes and placed them on top of the saddlebags. She took a clean shift out of a bag, for her lover.

Meanwhile, Xena was getting ready for bed. She had checked on Argo, thrown some more wood in the fire and made sure the bedroll would be comfortable for her and Gabrielle. She took all her clothes off except her breeches. Her armour and weapons lay by her side of the sleeping blanket. She took the grey shift from the bard’s hands as her younger lover walked towards her. The Warrior Princess put her nightdress on.

Both women lay down onto the bedroll and covered themselves with a blanket, as the nearby campfire kept burning. Gabrielle lay on her back and Xena onto her side. The warrior was watching her. She gave her a goodnight kiss on the lips and settled down next to her.

“Goodnight, Gabrielle.” Considering the fact that someone had tried to rape her bard today, the warrior was being very mindful of the possibility that the younger woman might not be comfortable with any acts of intimacy yet. Therefore, Xena made no attempt to make love to Gabrielle. She just simply lay there and closed her eyes.

The blonde woman sighed. “What is it with the ‘goodnight,’ Xena? You’re not usually like this. You usually want to get very close.”

The dark-haired woman had re-opened her eyes as soon as she had heard her lover’s frustrated voice. She raised her head and gazed deeply into the supine woman’s eyes. “Well, Gabrielle, I thought you might not want us to do anything after someone just tried to…” She placed a gentle hand onto the bottom of the shorter woman’s belly.

“Xena,” Gabrielle gave her a serious look, “I’m okay. He didn’t even get the chance to do anything. And he’s dead now anyway. You killed him to save me. Now please… make love to me and make me forget all about what happened today. I want to lose myself in your touch and forget about that man. I crave you touching me just as much as ever, and especially now that we managed to sort everything out between us.”

“All right.” Xena got closer to Gabrielle on the bedroll and kissed her for a short moment. “Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Love me, Xena. That’s all I ever want.” The bard grinned at her lover and sat up. She pushed the top blanket away and made some movements to remove her shift. She chucked the garment aside and lay back down.

The warrior took her own nightdress off and climbed on top of her younger lover. She supported some of her weight onto her forearms as she stared down in the smaller woman’s sea-green eyes.

“I love you, Gabrielle.”

“I love you, Xena.”

Xena kissed Gabrielle. Her tongue gained entry into her mouth. Both their tongues touched and intermingled for a long while as their lips strongly pressed against each other. They moaned their desire into one another’s mouth.

The storyteller shuddered in delight at the feel of her older lover’s ample breasts making contact with her own. Their nipples touched and hardened. The Warrior Princess started moving her mouth down to the pulse point on the bard’s neck. She kissed her there and then licked her way down to Gabrielle’s bust.

“Oh… Love me, Xena… Yes.” The blonde woman felt the warrior tenderly kneading both her breasts while sliding her tongue around one sensitised nipple.

Xena basked in taking each of Gabrielle’s breasts in her mouth, one at a time. She groaned in hunger against each of the gorgeous mounds while sucking on them in turns. After the joy of orally stimulating her younger lover’s breasts, the warrior planted several kisses along the bard’s abdomen until she came upon the barrier of her breeches.

Xena raised herself and reached down to remove Gabrielle’s underwear. She pulled at it, making it slide down the younger woman’s legs. Then she threw it to the side. The Warrior Princess spread the bard’s thighs and moved her own body back down to settle her head between them. She blew warm breath onto the blonde’s centre, making the golden curls vibrate.

“Hmmm…” Gabrielle made soft, sensual sounds of erotic anticipation as she felt Xena tenderly kiss her sex. She loved all the different ways her warrior could pleasure her like this.

The dark-haired woman pushed her tongue back and forth inside her lover’s entrance as the younger woman’s legs hovered above her shoulders. She reached a hand around one of the blonde’s thighs and slowly massaged her clit with her fingertips while she continued to probe her with her tongue.

“Gods… Xena…”

Xena then licked and sucked her way further along the tender flesh of Gabrielle’s folds while she kept moving her mouth and tongue into the intoxicating heat for a moment. She felt overwhelmed by the familiar and scrumptiously tasty wetness of her younger lover.

“Yes… Gods… Xena…” The storyteller kept her hands on the bedroll. Her fingers curled into fists as she held handfuls of the blanket beneath.

Xena quickly found Gabrielle’s sensitive button and she slid the tip of her warm tongue in circular motions around it. She took the bundle of nerve endings into her mouth. The Warrior Princess lovingly kept sucking the bard’s clit while she moved her hand down and teased her lover’s dripping wet opening with two fingertips.

“Yes… Oh… Do it, Xena.” Gabrielle kept crying out in ecstasy. She moved her hips towards her partner’s fingers, to welcome the insertion.

Xena gently entered Gabrielle as she continued to orally please her swollen nub, while inhaling the delicious scent of her bard. She moved her fingers back and forth inside her blonde lover, picking up a rhythm. Sometimes, she briefly stopped, slowed down and twisted the tips of her digits inside Gabrielle to make love to her girlfriend in swirling motions, while her mouth and tongue kept working on the blonde’s engorged clit. She then resumed her back and forth movements inside the bard.

Gabrielle was driven closer and closer to the edge until she came, screaming her lover’s name. “Xeeenaaa!” She breathed heavily as she felt her older lover withdraw her fingers and lick away at every last drop of her love juices. She saw the taller woman climb her way back up on top of her. They shared a sizzling, deep and wet kiss, which tasted of bardic excitement. When they finished, the Warrior Princess spoke.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Gabrielle.” Xena softly glided her open lips across her lover’s smooth mouth. “I love you, my bard.”

“I love you too, my warrior.” Gabrielle beamed. “I want to stay with you forever.”

“Forever it will be then.” The dark-haired woman hugged and cuddled the blonde one. She still had the nectar of her lover’s arousal on her fingers. She raised her body to uncover the storyteller’s breasts and she spread the essence onto her nipples, circling them one at a time. She then went to suckle each of them in turns, to lick the wetness off from them.

“Hmmm…” Gabrielle enjoyed Xena’s lips on her breasts again.

When she ended the sweet activity, the Warrior Princess kissed the bard again and then went to lie down onto her back, beside her lover. Gabrielle shifted to go lie on top of Xena straight away. She placed a thigh between her lover’s legs. The brunette lovingly caressed the younger woman’s back.

“My turn to pleasure you now, warrior?” The blonde woman smiled down at her.

“Gabrielle… You know, you don’t necessarily have to. I’ve decided, for tonight, to care more about your pleasure than mine.”

“Xena, oh, don’t be silly.” Gabrielle chuckled. “I really want to please you. I want to make you come, my love.”

Xena laughed. “All right.” Feeling her lover’s thigh pressed against her underwear was already driving her mad with desire. So was the feel of her girlfriend straddling her leg.

The bard hungrily took the warrior’s lips. They kissed vigorously and eagerly. Then, no longer able to wait, Gabrielle seized Xena’s breasts, wrapped her hands around them and firmly squeezed them as she brought her mouth down to one of them. The blonde woman ran the tip of her tongue around the taut nipple before sucking on the gorgeous mound for a while. She did the same when she switched to the other breast.

“Oh, Gabrielle… Yes!” The Warrior Princess began voicing her pleasure. She was glad that, this time, she could fully concentrate on what her younger lover was doing to her. “Make love to me, my bard…”

Gabrielle continued to delight in her loving stimulation of Xena’s superb breasts for a moment. She was suckling them, licking them, lightly biting them and playing with them with her fingers. Then she started to move herself lower onto the warrior woman’s body. She stuck her tongue into the navel and softly licked and bit at the skin around it. Knowing that her taller lover was still wearing breeches, the bard sat up and instantly proceeded to take them off, pulling the undergarment down the older woman’s legs and tossing it aside once she got it out the way.

“Gabrielle… Please…” The Warrior Princess spread her legs.

Gabrielle lowered herself back down and tenderly kissed each of the inner parts of Xena’s thighs. She kissed and smelled the luscious scent of the dark curls before opening her partner’s folds with two fingers and delving into the warrior’s centre. Once her mouth and tongue were in position on her lover’s sex, the bard’s hands reached up to grab her lover’s breasts as she carried on licking her swollen labia.

“By the gods… Gabrielle… Yes!” Xena immediately covered Gabrielle’s hands with her own and made her knead her bust in a harder way. She moaned in ever- increasing rapture from each stroke of the storyteller’s tongue on her sex.

The bard dipped her tongue several times inside the warrior’s hot, dripping cave. She kept relishing the wonderful taste of her lover’s juices as she licked her way up and down the warrior woman’s appetising centre for a while, revelling in all the succulent textures her mouth made contact with.

“Gabrielle… Oh… Uh…” The Warrior Princess put her hands on the bedroll, which she roughly gripped onto while throwing her head backwards, taking intense pleasure in her little girlfriend’s oral ministrations.

Gabrielle carried on cupping Xena’s breasts as she tongued the area around her lover’s engorged bundle of nerves. The bard noticed that the warrior was very wet and completely aroused. She drew the clit into her mouth and slipped a hand down to place three fingertips just outside the older woman’s soaking wet cavity.

“Oh… Yes, Gabrielle!” Xena raised her hips in invitation. She trembled in satisfaction when Gabrielle entered her.

The bard thrust her digits hard inside the warrior as she carried on stimulating her nub with her mouth and tongue. As her movements picked a rhythm that Xena loved, it only took a short moment for Gabrielle to drive her lover further up the road to climax.

“Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” The Warrior Princess’ body tensed and fell limp on the bedroll.

The storyteller removed her fingers from her partner’s warmth and licked them clean. She also licked away at her warrior’s last juices before kissing the dark patch of hair and crawl her way back up Xena’s body to kiss her, making her taste herself.

“I love you warrior.”

“I love you too, bard.” She embraced her. “Hey, you won’t be having any more nightmares tonight?”

“I don’t think so. Not a chance.” The bard smiled.

“Good. I’ll always be watching over you.” Xena ran her fingers through Gabrielle’s hair in a gentle way.

They rested and fell asleep in each other’s arms, after tenderly kissing, cuddling and feeling the pleasant warmth that resulted from their lovemaking as their bodies were pressed against one another.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A few candlemarks went by into the night. The two lovers were still naked. They were sleeping in a spooning position on the bedroll, under their blanket. Lying onto her side, Gabrielle awoke and opened her eyes, feeling Xena’s familiar body behind her. She gently took the strong female hand that had wrapped itself around her and guided it down to the blond patch of hair that was between her legs. This roused the Warrior Princess right away.

“What are you doing, Gabrielle?” Xena asked in a low voice, blinking her eyes awake. She softly gasped when her fingers made contact with the fine golden fur.

“Hmmm…” Gabrielle moaned in a desirous tone. “Please, Xena… I want more… Touch me…”

The warrior sighed. The bard’s words and the feel of her lover’s warmth against her hand excited her anew. “You always want more, sweetheart…” She kissed and softly nipped at the blonde woman’s shoulder, always loving the taste of her silky skin. “All right, you win.” This clearly was not the first time the younger woman was waking her up for more, right in the middle of the night. Xena rubbed Gabrielle’s sex and gently tickled her clit.

“Oh, yes… Xena…” The storyteller felt a curling sensation at her centre and got even wetter from Xena’s touch. The sweet fondling lasted until Gabrielle could not take it anymore. She needed Xena to enter her. “Xena… Please…” She squirmed from the ache coming in her sexual core.

The Warrior Princess quickly understood her bard’s body language. She could feel the sticky pool between the other woman’s legs. She slipped her free arm underneath her younger lover’s body and reached around to cup one firm breast. She temporarily removed her hand from the smaller woman’s centre and grasped her hip, which caused a whimper from the bard.

“No… Don’t stop, Xena.”

“I’m not stopping.”

Xena slid her hand behind Gabrielle. She caressed the smooth buttocks and then the back of the blonde’s thighs. Her fingers inched closer towards her younger lover’s hot and dripping wet folds.

“Oh… Yes! Xena, please.” The bard arched herself a little forward and moved her hips to allow the warrior access.

“You want this, don’t you… hey, my love?” Xena teased Gabrielle’s sexual lips with her fingertips.

“Yes… Do it…”

The warrior pushed two fingers inside the bard’s drenched centre, taking joy in her partner’s inner walls squeezing around her. Gabrielle groaned her lover’s name in bliss when she felt Xena take her from behind. She seized her taller lover’s free hand that was on her breast, and hungrily sucked on two long fingers, making them wet.

The dark-haired woman kept thrusting hard inside as she removed her other hand from the blonde’s mouth and moved it down underneath her girlfriend’s body until she was able to find her clit at the front. She trapped Gabrielle’s sensitised node between two fingers as she continued to sink her digits deeper in her younger lover’s sex in backwards and forward movements.

“Oh… Gods… Xena…  Uh… Oh… Yes…” Gabrielle bent her upper body a bit further forward on the bedroll as Xena kept filling her in this spooning position. She pushed her hips back towards the intensely thrilling pleasure the taller woman was giving her. The bard carried on uttering rapturous noises and moaning her lover’s name as the warrior continued to rub her swollen bud while adding one more finger inside and never stopping making love to her.

“Touch me too, Gabrielle,” the Warrior Princess kindly ordered.

The storyteller reached somewhere behind her, and her hand found her older lover’s sex and stimulated her clit. The lovers’ torrid love moves continued at a gratifying rhythm between them both, until Xena thrust harder and effectively inside Gabrielle, building pressure against the firm spot within. She made her girlfriend orgasm and felt the younger woman’s core clenching around her fingers in one final spasm.

“Xeeenaaa!” the bard screamed. She kept fondling her lover behind her, while relaxing her spent body. Multicoloured butterflies were flying inside her mind. As she felt Xena withdraw her digits from her, Gabrielle carried on playing with the warrior’s stiff bundle of nerves until she made her fall over the edge of ecstasy.

“Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” After she reached the peak, the dark-haired woman panted heavily and, as the blonde removed her hand, she pulled her younger lover’s back closer to her.

Gabrielle rested herself into Xena’s passionate embrace, before turning around to kiss her lover. The warrior covered the bard’s lips with her own and mingled her tongue with her lover’s. They kissed in a sultry way, deeply stroking inside each other’s mouth as their tongues danced around one another. When this ended, Xena whispered something in her lover’s ear.

“Gabrielle, what matters most is that I love you.”

“The fact that I love you, Xena, is what matters most to me too.”

“All right, let’s sleep now, my sweet bard.” The warrior woman grinned.

Gabrielle’s face was happy when she turned anew and Xena settled herself behind her again, in another warm, tender spooning embrace. The delicious aftershocks of their heated lovemaking still profoundly vibrated inside their heads. Their bodies were exhausted as the warrior held a strong, comforting hand around her bard and she swiftly kissed the sweet-smelling blond hair. The bard took the warrior’s hand in her own and briefly kissed it. She could pleasantly smell the scent of her own passion onto Xena’s fingers.

The two lovers rested and entered the Land of Morpheus a few minutes later. They had a peaceful sleep for the rest of the night, with no more bad dreams for anyone.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Morning broke through the woods. A couple of candlemarks after it did, the Warrior Princess woke up and kissed her bard to make her open her eyes.

“Good morning, my love. Please rise, my little sunshine.”

“’Morning, Xena. I’m… coming…” Gabrielle yawned herself awake and sat up on the bedroll as Xena got up to put on a shift. The brunette went to gather their clothes, some soap and a couple of towels. She also led Argo by the bridle.

The blonde put her nightdress back on too, and gradually stood up from the blankets to join Xena, as the warrior and her mare headed down towards the lake by the waterfall. Gabrielle lazily followed behind, carrying their boots and still feeling too tired to say a word.

Arriving at the stream, Xena took Argo to the perimeter of the water, and the animal instantly lowered her muzzle to drink. The warrior put her and her lover’s clothes down onto the grassy ground. She kept the bar of soap in her hand.

The two women removed their shifts, entered the lake and went to shower themselves together under the cascade. They soaped and washed each other’s bodies as they exchanged kisses and intimate words of everlasting love. After rinsing each other, they made their way back to shore, dried themselves and put on their day clothes.

Gabrielle criss-crossed the new green laces onto her top as she finished getting dressed. Xena got into her leather outfit. They both put their boots on, before walking back up towards the campsite with Argo.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As Gabrielle, Xena and Argo returned to the place where the rest of their gear was, they noticed that Joxer had gotten there. “Hello, ladies,” he warmly said.

Both women greeted him back and went to brush their hairs. After that, the warrior went to put her whole armour back on.

The young man helped the two lovers, as they got ready to break camp. While the three friends were walking away after gathering all their belongings, Gabrielle spoke to Xena, who held the slowly trotting mare by the bridle.

“What matters most is that we stick together, Xena.” The bard smiled at her lover, vertically carrying her staff in one hand.

“Yeah,” the Warrior Princess replied with a grin, “and that we strive to be respectful and loving towards one another. We already love each other and care a lot about one another anyway.”

“That’s right,” Gabrielle kept a small grin on her face.

Joxer pretended to be completely oblivious to their conversation as they all carried on strolling through the forest. “Right, ladies. Let’s go get some breakfast in the closest village.”

They all walked until they exited the woods. The nearby village they chose to enter was close to the Temple of the Heavens. It was there they would soon hear about a warlord named Maecanus who stole the Mystic Diamond of the North Star for Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.

THE END

Circle in the sand

Fanfic cover by Silvermoonlight.

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Seasonal Passion series, Vol. 2:

Circle in the sand

written by maggielassie

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Genre: Xena Warrior Princess alternative fan-fiction; Xena/Gabrielle femslash.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the Xena Warrior Princess characters. Universal/Renaissance does.

Timeline: This story takes place just after the Season Two episode Lost Mariner.

Warning: This story contains sexually explicit erotic moments between two consenting adult women. If this offends you, please refrain from reading. If you are under 18 years of age, please do not read this and come back later when you’re older and you can read it. If lesbian romantic/sexual relationships are illegal in your country or state, please advocate a change in laws.

Author’s note: (1) This is not a first time story. I think there are enough first time stories out there. Also, I believe that Xena and Gabrielle can still be intimately passionate with each other after their first time. This story can be somehow seen as a follow-up to Closer than blood bonds. (2) The title of this story partly refers to a song (of the same name) by Belinda Carlisle. No copyright infringement intended.

Many Thanks to: Norsebard for the proofreading and feedback; Donar, LucRen, Ninja & RJcreek (from TX) for the pre-release reading & feedback; other people in the Xenaverse and lesbian culture for their encouragements.

Feedback: see feedback page.

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Some candlemarks had passed since everyone got washed ashore after Cecrops’ ship had nearly gotten caught within a fierce whirlpool. Xena and
Gabrielle had been glad to find Cecrops alive. After a few hours of just sitting there remembering his beloved Terai, he left. The warrior and her bard figured that he probably was now walking further into land, towards one of the towns, to go find Hidsim’s daughter.

The rest of the ship’s crew and passengers walked away too, except the two women. All the others were happy to freely roam into the world at last. They had to go explore. They had to get away from that ship’s curse that had threatened their lives. Because Gabrielle was still weak and needed time before walking, the two lovers stayed near shore.

Gabrielle sat on the grass, still feeling a bit weak from her now receding seasickness. Xena told her to wait there. The Warrior Princess went to look around the remains from the wrecked ship and managed to find a few useful things in case they both were going to have to stick around any longer, as night was getting near.

From the disarray of goods cast ashore, Xena took a couple of blankets, three water skins, a big loaf of bread and a frying pan. She gathered those things into one of the blankets and rolled it all up in a bundle to carry on her back. Xena then walked back towards Gabrielle and stared down at the bard.

“Are you ready to get up and get going?” The Warrior Princess asked. “We could walk a bit further along the coast and see if we can find somewhere to rest.”

“Yeah, Xena… sure,” Gabrielle replied, looking up at the brunette, “I think I could try.”

Xena reached down and lifted the bard up. She offered her shoulder for Gabrielle to lean on while walking. The blonde woman felt glad as the warrior woman wrapped a strong, warm and helpful arm around her waist. They both started walking away, but they both knew that they would soon have to find a place to sleep as Gabrielle was still a little sick and could not walk well.

“Can we stay near the sea, Xena, while we’re walking?” the bard asked her strong and charming female companion.

“The sea? Why, Gabrielle? I thought the sea made you sick?” The Warrior Princess was somewhat amazed.

“Xena, travelling by sea makes me sick…” Gabrielle started smiling while keeping leaning on the warrior’s shoulder. “… but hearing the peaceful grandeur of the sea makes me happy. I quite like the idea of us staying near the sea tonight if we have to sleep in this area because of me.” She noticed Xena look back at her and smirk in a warm-hearted way while walking, and she continued: “Well, Xena, I hold no grudge against the sea…”

Xena laughed at the surprising, yet sweet, contradiction from the bard. She let Gabrielle carry on with her explanations.

“Xena, I can still appreciate the sense of peace this beautiful expression of nature will give me as I’ll lie down to sleep…” Gabrielle paused, smirking back. “… next to you.”

Xena briefly leaned down to kiss Gabrielle on the forehead, and they kept walking by the sea waves.

“You’re just so full of surprises, my bard.” Xena warmly tightened her grip around Gabrielle’s waist. “That’s one of the reasons why I love you.”

“I love you too, my beautiful warrior,” replied Gabrielle, leaning closer against Xena as they walked on along the coast.

“You’re right, Gabrielle. It’s also better to stay near the sea in case I need to catch fish tomorrow morning.” Xena kept encircling Gabrielle’s waist with her left arm while carrying the bundle of things they would need on her right shoulder. The Warrior Princess urged the bard to keep going as a crimson-hued sky was showing itself on the horizon while the sun was slowly setting.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Just before sunset, Xena and Gabrielle were walking near a large cluster of palm trees they could see on the left. No more grass was present in the place they were now moving through; there were just a few bulky rocks randomly scattered on a sandy ground near the edge of the sea. They reached a point where there were less rocks and Xena decided that they stop there, as Gabrielle was getting really tired of walking. The warrior and her bard quickly noticed that they were now on a beach.

Xena asked Gabrielle to stand for a minute while the warrior unwrapped the bundle she had been carrying on her back. The tall woman crouched down and spread one of the blankets on the sand, in front of a rock. She put down the other objects she had taken from the shipwreck onto the side of this makeshift bedroll. Then she stood back up and turned back towards Gabrielle.

“Xena, I’m still not feeling well,” the bard said. “I didn’t like walking.” Gabrielle indeed looked very weak and sounded exhausted.

“Come here.” Xena quickly scooped her up, lifted her with her powerful arms and immediately felt bardic hands around her neck while Gabrielle’s head went to rest just above her breastplate.

“Hmmm… Xena.” Gabrielle loved the wild scent of her warrior woman as well as being lifted and carried to bed by her.

“Here. Rest, my little bard.” The Warrior Princess carefully laid her down onto the spread blanket. She removed Gabrielle’s boots, chucked them to the side and then covered the bard’s body with the other blanket she had brought.

“Are you coming to bed too?” Gabrielle lay on her back, looking up at the woman she loved.

“Yes, I will be, Gabrielle, as soon as I’ve built us a fire.” Xena briefly kissed the blonde woman’s lips. She then went to walk towards the forest of palm trees at the back of the beach.

Gabrielle tried to make herself comfortable between the blankets Xena had prepared for her while she waited for her dark-haired lover to come back. The younger woman felt very tired, as she was still a bit ill from the last days’ events.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The tall woman came back a few moments later. The sun had set and it was dark. Xena used the moonlight to find her way back. She was carrying a little bundle of wood and some stones, which she put all down on the ground, somewhere in front of the makeshift bedroll.

“I was able to find a few shrubs in the woods at the back. I chopped them with my sword.” Xena looked at Gabrielle and saw that the little woman still had her eyes open and had not fallen asleep yet. The Warrior Princess proceeded to make a little fire. “This small amount of wood I’ve found might not last us long,” she continued, “maybe just a couple of hours, but it shouldn’t get too cold around here during the night, hopefully. I’ll try my best to keep you warm, otherwise.”

“I’m sure we’ll be okay, Xena.” Gabrielle yawned. “Are you coming to bed?”

“Yes, Gabrielle, I’m almost done.” Xena finished what she was doing until she saw little kindled flames dance, starting to make crackling noises over the wood. The warrior then quickly went to get ready for bed. She unbuckled her breastplate, removed her gauntlets and arm bands, took off her boots and placed all those things onto the right-hand side of the bedroll with the rest of their belongings. She also put her chakram and her sword in its scabbard down on the ground next to where she was going to sleep.

The Warrior Princess swiftly got herself inside the blankets beside Gabrielle, who was on the left-hand side. Xena always kept her weapons close to her while sleeping in case anyone turned up and tried to attack them during the night.

As soon as Xena was lying next to her, Gabrielle instantly turned towards her, laid an arm onto the warrior’s waist and placed her head on top of the dark-haired woman’s chest, above the leather-clad breasts. The warrior immediately encircled her strong arms around the bard and gave the younger woman a goodnight kiss.

Gabrielle enjoyed the kiss from her lover. She would have liked to do more with her warrior tonight, but she still felt weak. Xena understood that Gabrielle was still somewhat sick and that her bard just wanted to sleep. The blonde woman closed her eyes, let her mind be cradled by the sound of the sea and fell asleep. The sturdy brunette started drifting as well, joining her little lover into the land of Morpheus.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Two or three candlemarks later, the fire had burned out. Xena suddenly awoke as she felt Gabrielle start to stir in her sleep. The warrior woman thought the girl might be a bit cold. She gave her own half of the blanket to Gabrielle as she quickly folded the covering in two on top of the younger woman to keep her warm. She then held the bard more tightly into her arms. Xena was happy to notice that a moment later Gabrielle seemed to feel the heat the warrior was making for her as the bard now looked quieter in her sleep. She snuggled up to her warrior. Xena hugged her bard close to her heart, and then she went back to sleep.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gabrielle woke up as soon as she felt an intense warmth on her skin. She could also hear the sound of sea waves. She turned around on the blanket she was on and immediately covered her eyes from a bright late morning sun.

‘At least there’s going to be a nice weather today,’ the bard thought. She felt around the bedroll with her other hand and noticed that Xena was not there.

Gabrielle sat up and, once she adjusted her vision to the daylight, she looked around her. She was alone on a beautiful sandy and sunny beach. She had not fully realised last night what a magnificent place it was because it had been too dark and she had not been feeling too good. There were a few rocks scattered unevenly along the beach, leaving large spaces of sand between them. There was mostly sand on the seashore –neat and clean sand, with some of the grains twinkling in the sunlight.

The bard looked at the sea in front of her. Its waves were splendid. Neither too high nor too low, waves were pushing sublime blue shimmering water to beat against the shore, recede and so on –maintaining the sea’s natural rhythm. Gabrielle believed she had hardly seen anything as beautiful as the sea in her whole lifetime. Although there were nice waves, the water was not too agitated today, which the bard thought was a good sign. She kept looking around but could not find the warrior woman anywhere in sight.

However, she knew that Xena would not have gone very far away as she could notice that the warrior had left her boots, gauntlets and breastplate by the bedroll. Gabrielle remembered that, the day before, Xena had talked about ‘catching fish’ so the young woman figured this was probably what the warrior was doing right now. Gabrielle grabbed one of the water skins that were lying by the bedroll. As she had just awakened in the sun, she was very thirsty and needed to drink some of the water that was in it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Xena came back towards shore a candlemark later. She had been swimming very far in order to be able to catch something for their lunch. She was carrying two fishes in the one hand and a bunch of seaweed in the other. As she reached the edge of the water, she walked towards Gabrielle. The warrior felt slightly exhausted from the hard work of swimming underwater to go and get food. She also needed to eat. She was glad to see that her lover was awake, looking up at her as she approached.

“Feeling better, Gabrielle?” Xena asked as she arrived near Gabrielle.

“Yes, I’m feeling a lot better,” Gabrielle replied, smiling. “I think my seasickness has passed now, Xena.” Gabrielle looked at what Xena had in her hands. “What did you get us for lunch?”

“Two fresh salmons and some edible seaweed,” Xena answered. “We’ve also got a loaf of bread here,” the warrior remarked.

“Seaweed? We’re gonna be eating seaweed, Xena?”

“That’s right, we are. It’s very nutritious, Gabrielle.”

“Hmmm… well, if you say so. Let’s eat then, Xena. I’m hungry.”

The bard got up and the Warrior Princess handed her the food so she could start preparing it. Xena gave her a quick kiss. The taller woman immediately went to the palm tree forest to collect some more wood from shrubs she could get from there.

The warrior walked back towards the place where they had set up camp on the beach a little while later and started building a little fire so they could cook the fish. Because the sun was strong during this midday, the bard quickly went to dampen her skin and the top of her head with seawater.

Gabrielle walked back towards Xena. Once the fire was ready, she started cooking the fish in the frying pan while the warrior woman was cutting the seaweed and some bread with a dagger. Both women sat and proceeded to eat when their lunch was ready. The bard enjoyed her first taste of seaweed.

“Hmmm… delicious!” The younger woman savoured the sea green vegetable.

“I knew you’d like it.” Xena fleetingly grinned. “Always better than eating raw squid, I guess?”

“Xena, please don’t talk about that now,” Gabrielle mildly grumbled. She started eating her fish too. “Xena?” The bard looked at her partner.

“Yes, Gabrielle.” The warrior was heartily eating her meal. She was so hungry.

“Can we stay on the beach a little longer? Like until tomorrow?” Gabrielle besought. “I quite like it here. It’s so nice and romantic for the both of us. This place is completely stunning!” the bard exclaimed. “It’s a gift from the gods, Xena. Please, can’t we just both spend a peaceful day appreciating the absolute beauty of this exquisite marine landscape here?”

“Maybe…” Xena hesitated. “Are you sure, Gabrielle?”

“Please?” The blonde woman displayed an attractively pleading look with her sweet little blue-green eyes.

“All right.” Xena warmly sighed. “We won’t start heading back until tomorrow morning. I’ll have to go pick up Argo in town by tomorrow evening though.”

“Thank you, Xena,” said Gabrielle, beaming, while she was finishing eating the rest of her food.

“It’s fine, Gabrielle. I think it’s actually a good idea you’ve got here.” The Warrior Princess looked happy. She briefly scanned the area around them before directing her beautiful piercing blue eyes back towards her younger lover. “I have to reluctantly admit that I really love how you often make me stop and think about the beautiful qualities that can be found in natural things.” Xena uttered a small chuckle. “I think I actually like the beach too, now that I think about it. And it’s a very warm and pleasant day today.” The dark-haired woman blushed. She devoured what was left of her lunch.

“Well, when you soften a little bit, you’re not so soulless, Xena.” Gabrielle smirked. “I love it when you show your emotions. It makes me feel so alive when I notice you being so warm.”

Xena said nothing. She just felt mesmerised by the delightful charisma emanating from this little blonde bard who meant so much to her. ‘Anything for you, little one,’ the warrior thought.

Their lunch over, both women rose and went to wash their hands and faces in the sea. Standing up in the water at knee height, they splashed themselves with a few drops and walked back across the sand, towards their bedroll.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Xena?” The young blonde stood on the splayed blanket in front of her lover.

“What is it, Gabrielle?” The Warrior Princess was leaning back against the rock that was behind their bedroll as she shook the sand off from her feet. She was wearing her arm bands, which she had put back on in the morning, but decided not to put her boots, breastplate or gauntlets back on yet. Those items were still lying by the blanket.

“I thought about what Cecrops said yesterday on the ship. . . You know, when he explained how he discovered the love that saved him from his curse partly through observing us and understanding the love you have for me.”

Xena just grinned. She stood upright to face her little girlfriend.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it, Xena? The love we share, and the way it helped redeem someone.” Gabrielle smiled radiantly.

“It is.” The Warrior Princess then gave her lover an intensely serious look when she said, “I love you, Gabrielle.” Xena immediately inclined herself to cover the bard’s mouth with her own before the younger woman ever had the chance to reply to her love declaration.

Gabrielle swiftly placed her hands on the back of the warrior’s neck and returned the kiss. She parted her sweet little lips, allowing Xena to deepen this precious moment. The taller woman put her strong hands onto the small of Gabrielle’s back, feeling the blonde’s soft skin with her palms and fingers, and then she moved her tongue inside the shorter woman’s mouth. She felt the bard’s tongue instantly entwine with hers as the two women were now kissing each other more deeply.

Both lovers continued tasting each other’s tongues and lips for a while, before gently ending the moment with a few little tender, warm and wet kisses on each other’s mouths.

“Xena, I’ll never forget the way you jumped on that ship to join me, without even caring if it was cursed.” Gabrielle stared up into the warrior woman’s eyes, feeling grateful.

“Cursed or not, Gabrielle, all I cared about was you.” Xena stared back at her lover with a pleasant expression on her face. “I would have never let you travel on this cursed ship without me. I’d even go get you in Tartarus if you were there. I just can’t lose you, Gabrielle. You matter too much to me.”

The bard felt so glad she had fully managed to conquer the warrior’s heart. Xena loved her so much that she didn’t seem to be able to live without her now. The blonde woman wanted to show her older lover, once again, how much she mattered to her too. The younger woman could not stop thinking about all the times the Warrior Princess had saved her life. She also thought about all the times her taller lover had pleasured her.

While kissing Xena again, Gabrielle reached around and fumbled for the laces that held the warrior’s tunic at the back.  She pulled them loose. She then brought her hands up to the top of Xena’s shoulders, grabbed the straps of the warrior’s leathers and gently pulled them down until she slid the top of the garment down and exposed the taller woman’s ample breasts to her lustful gaze. She licked her lips at the appetising sight before her and immediately moved her hands to cup Xena’s breasts. She so much loved the feel of those two beautiful mounds in her hands.

Xena felt excited at her young lover’s sudden bold move. She gasped as soon as she felt Gabrielle’s tongue flick around one of her nipples while one of the shorter woman’s hands enveloped and rubbed her other breast. The Warrior Princess already knew what her sweet little bard had in mind. She felt a sudden wetness start flowing between her legs at the idea of just letting Gabrielle do what she wanted to do, so long as it genuinely reflected the younger woman’s intimate desires.

“Gabrielle, do you really want to do this right now?” She asked, and briefly bit her bottom lip at the thought of her little girlfriend pleasuring her.

“Yes… Hmmm…  I do.” Gabrielle stopped tasting her lover’s nipple for a minute, just to look up into the warrior woman’s eyes. “I want to show you, once again, how much I love you, Xena. Please let me.”

The bard felt the dark-haired woman surrender to her touch as soon as she resumed her ministrations. Gabrielle suckled onto one of Xena’s breasts, then moved her mouth towards the other mound to take it between her lips too. She spent quite a few moments enjoying the taste of Xena’s breasts before trying to fully remove her lover’s leather garb.

“Xena, please… take off your clothes,” Gabrielle requested. “I want to see you.”

“All right,” Xena replied as she started undressing, “but you take yours off too.” She grinned.

“Absolutely.” Gabrielle smirked. She moved slightly backwards, to give Xena space. Then she untied the laces of her green top. After that, she started removing her skirt.

Once the two lovers were completely nude, Gabrielle ordered Xena to lie down, which the warrior did. The bard immediately went to cover the warrior’s body with her own and fiercely kissed her. While their mouths and tongues mingled, the Warrior Princess tried to move her hands up to grab the younger woman’s back, but Gabrielle instantly seized her hands and pinned them down onto the bedroll –just behind Xena’s head.

They had already made love many times, the bard recalled as she kept kissing her warrior passionately. During their past lovemaking, Xena had been taking the lead a lot more often. Gabrielle absolutely loved it when Xena was taking control of their intimate moments, but the blonde woman also loved the fact that her experienced partner had been teaching her how to take the lead herself. So she did that sometimes. The bard released her lover’s hands from her grasp, knowing the Warrior Princess understood that she wanted to be the one in control right now.

Xena kept her hands behind her head for the moment, succumbing to the sweet sensations her Gabrielle was bringing to the core of her being. She could feel the warmth between her thighs intensify at every one of Gabrielle’s audacious moves. The warrior realised that she felt this cute little bard should definitely take over now. She was glad she had been teaching her well, but also she knew this bright and imaginative young girl had been learning her own moves by herself. The warrior Princess had merely given her small hints and tips on how to make love to her.

Gabrielle gave a quick kiss to each of Xena’s breasts before moving herself lower down the warrior woman’s magnificently muscled body. She kissed her way down to the older woman’s belly and briefly licked inside her lover’s navel before scooting down to softly kiss each of the brunette’s inner thighs. She then kissed the dark hair between her lover’s legs and parted Xena’s thighs to grant herself better access to her lover’s sex.

The warrior spread her legs wider and uttered a moan of pleasure as soon as she felt the tip of the bard’s tongue lightly tease her clit. She also felt Gabrielle’s fingers spread her sexual lips as the girl’s tongue delved deeper into her centre. Xena could not resist. She had to touch her younger lover now. She knew that Gabrielle would not mind too much if she moved her hands a little.  The dark-haired woman immediately placed her hands on the blonde’s head, driving her closer to her need.

Gabrielle did not mind Xena putting her strong hands on the back of her head while she was doing this. She loved feeling those hands there so long as it remained gentle, as had been agreed upon between them. She felt the warrior gently push her head down as she lowered her mouth further down into Xena’s heat and tasted more of her beautiful lover’s juices, which soon smeared her tongue, lips, cheeks and chin as she licked her way into the familiar territory.

“Oh… whoa… Gabrielle… oh… this feels so good!” This felt more than pleasant to Xena. This felt amazing. Her little bard she loved so much had become so wonderful at pleasuring her. She admired the fact that Gabrielle had been so eager to acquire such oral skills.

The blonde woman relished in the exotic taste of her warrior as she kept running her tongue all along her dark-haired lover’s sensitive folds. She then twirled her tongue around the Warrior Princess’ clit before moving downwards to her lover’s entrance.

“Uh… Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” Xena cried out in ecstasy as she felt the bard’s tongue moving back and forth inside her. No doubt Gabrielle wanted to show her how much she loved her, which reminded the warrior woman of the intense passion she felt for her younger lover.

After a moment, Gabrielle’s tongue came out of Xena’s hot and slick cave as the bard drove it to the top of Xena’s folds again. Her mouth claimed the warrior’s sensitive nub and she sucked on it until her partner reached orgasm.

“Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” was all the Warrior Princess could scream as she came, her hands stroking the young girl’s hair.

The bard licked the remainder of her older lover’s wetness. She kissed Xena’s sex before bringing herself back up onto the taller woman’s body and kissing her, making her taste herself on her lips.

“Xena, your juices taste so good that we could cook with them!” Gabrielle said after they finished kissing. She gazed down into the dark-haired woman’s eyes with a satisfied grin on her face. She saw Xena chuckle at her witty remark. She felt happy when the warrior woman hugged her tightly. They both delighted in the feel of each other’s bodies, skin against skin as Gabrielle was still lying on top of her beloved friend.

“Thank you, my little bard, for all the wonderful pleasures you’re willing to give me,” Xena whispered into her ear, while they could both hear the sound of waves crashing against the nearby shore. They rested in each other’s arms for a little while, and then the insatiable Warrior Princess murmured something else into her young partner’s ear: “Gabrielle, I love it when you’re on top sometimes. I want you to take me right now.” She caressed the skin on the bard’s back as Gabrielle’s eyes looked into hers.

“You want me to make love to you, Xena? Now?” Gabrielle smirked. “If so, your wish is my command.” The younger woman felt enthralled by the great desire Xena had for her, how she was able to own the warrior’s heart to such an incredible extent. She proudly realised that her sublime older lover did not want to be sexually overpowered by anyone else but her in this new, post-warlord life the Warrior Princess was now leading.

“Gabrielle, you’ve heard me. Take me!” Xena’s eyes burned with sexual hunger as she stared up at her gorgeous bard. “I want you to make strong love to me, to thrust deep in me and make me moan. Please, do it.”

“All right, Xena.” Gabrielle moved to the side of sat up. She suddenly had a wicked idea cross her mind. “I will do it but patience, my warrior! I’d like to do something first.” The bard snickered.

“What?” Xena asked, wondering.

“Do you remember the Bacchae lair?” The younger woman wiggled her eyebrows and the brunette understood.

“Oh, Gabrielle!” Xena, still lying on the blanket looked up at her young girlfriend with wide eyes. “I’ve dreamed many times about you biting me again, maybe not as hard but just as passionately as that time when you were a Bacchae for one night.” The Warrior Princess gave her a wild smile. “Oh, yes, you can do that too, Gabrielle, before you take me.”

Gabrielle felt deeply aroused. “Come on then,” she reached out her hands to the supine warrior woman, “sit up!”

Xena took the storyteller’s hands and sat up. She couldn’t wait to feel her younger lover taste her neck again.

Gabrielle quickly crawled around to position herself behind Xena. The bard knelt behind the warrior and pushed her dark hair to the side, revealing the skin of the taller woman’s neck. The blonde woman brought her body close to the tall woman’s back, placing one knee beside each of Xena’s thighs. She reached down to spread the folds of her own sex and stuck her wet centre onto the small of her older lover’s back. She then reached around with both hands to knead both of the warrior woman’s large breasts, flicking her fingertips across the nipples. Finally, Gabrielle moved her mouth to her partner’s neck and started tasting the skin with her teeth and tongue.

“Ohhhhh, Gabrielle…” Xena moaned and closed her eyes. The whole feeling was exquisite. Her little companion was fondling her breasts. She was biting her neck with the same ardent passion as during that night in Bacchus’ cave. At the same time, the Warrior Princess could feel the bard’s breasts and sex pressed against her back.

Gabrielle kept biting and sucking passionately onto Xena’s neck as she rubbed herself against the warrior’s back. It was a very thrilling experience to her. She caused a pleasant friction to her own sensitive clit by grinding her centre against the warm skin of her older lover’s back while she kept massaging the other woman’s ample breasts and tasting her flesh.

The warrior covered the younger woman’s hands with her own as they were cupping her breasts, and she squirmed in delight at the feel of her little friend’s teeth on her neck. “Hmmm… Oh, yes, Gabrielle! I love it when you do this.” She urged her on. She knew Gabrielle was being careful not to hurt her too much.

As soon as she felt the warrior’s hands onto hers and heard her lover encourage her, the bard pushed her mouth, teeth and tongue a little harder onto Xena’s neck while she took one final bite. Her lover’s skin was so delicious.

“Gabrielle… hmmm… That was excellent,” Xena said as she felt her younger lover tenderly kiss her neck and move back around to face her again. She opened her eyes again.

“You’re gonna have one of those hickeys now, my love.” Gabrielle pushed Xena back down against the blanket, covered her body with her own and vigorously kissed her. She felt the warrior deeply respond to the kiss as she was now lying on top of the older woman’s body. The sound of the waves on the beach felt so romantic to their ears while they ran their tongues into each other’s mouths and held each other close.

“I don’t care, sweetheart.” The Warrior Princess looked deeply into her little bard’s eyes, the soaking arousal getting ever more intense between her legs. “I want you to take me now. Come on. Do it! And make me scream, please.”

“Alright, Xena.” Gabrielle gave her lover a wicked grin and went to straddle the older woman’s thigh. She made Xena open her legs wider and instantly used three fingers to enter her. Her thumb found the clitoris amid the adorable textures and fur of the dark-haired woman’s sex. The bard steadied herself onto the warrior’s strong thigh. She started moving back and forth to create another friction against her own excited nub. As she pushed her fingers more deeply and rhythmically into the warrior woman’s centre, she kept rubbing Xena’s sensitive sexual node with her thumb.

“Oh!… Ah… oh, yes, Gabrielle!” The warrior kept staring up at her bard while the younger woman kept driving her towards the peak of erotic joy. Gabrielle was the only person who made her feel relaxed enough to just sometimes lie there and enjoy being a woman even more than she already did. “Come on, Gabrielle!” Xena commanded. “Yeah… Oh… That’s right… Thrust hard! Make hard love to me. You know your warrior likes it hard.” She reached around and grabbed the girl’s sweet little butt, trying to drive the bard deeper into her.

“Oh, Xena… You feel so good.” Gabrielle loved the feel of Xena’s hands grasping at the skin of her buttocks. She loved the warrior’s inner walls clenching around her digits as her beloved Warrior Princess’ slippery sweetness coated her fingers. It felt so incredibly warm inside of Xena. The bard knew she was still a bit of a sexual apprentice –and the warrior was still the one in charge of most of their lovemaking– but she prided herself on every time she was able to take her older lover skilfully enough, to fill Xena with such a fervour that would make the warrior scream her name in admiration. She was glad her dark-haired lover was so open to her and trusted her enough to let her make love to her like this.

“Yes… Oh… Gabrielle… Ah!” Xena was now near climax. She thought about last year, how Gabrielle had been so virginal and innocent. She felt so incredibly happy her bard had learned how to make love to her so wonderfully. The Warrior Princess did not always want to take the lead in the bedroll. She also needed a lover who could do it to her right, and her Gabrielle could do it just right. She adored this little woman for being able to give her so much.

Mastering the right techniques with her hands and fingers, Gabrielle made Xena come as she kept gazing deeply at the extraordinary beauty of her lover’s exquisite features and silvery blue eyes.

“Oh, yes… Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” the warrior screamed. She gasped for breath, relaxed and quickly gathered the bard into her arms.

“Xena,” Gabrielle lay on top of her lover when she whispered into her ear, “I’ve not come yet. I couldn’t rub myself against you hard enough, but it’s okay. I don’t mind. Don’t worry about it.” The blonde woman deeply and affectionately kissed her partner before rolling herself over. “I’m glad enough I could pleasure you, darling.” She sat on the blanket beside Xena, a little further to the front. She bent her knees up and wrapped her arms around her legs while observing the sea.

“Oh, Gabrielle.” Recovered from her orgasm, Xena was able to sense a tad bit of frustration in Gabrielle’s posture, though she knew her bard would be too kind to admit it. “Come here!” She sat up, held out her arms to touch the undersides of Gabrielle’s shoulders and dragged the bard backwards towards her –placing the younger woman between her legs. Xena was now sitting behind Gabrielle, enveloping her younger lover’s waist with her strong arms. They both had their knees bent. At the same time, the warrior woman was leaning her back against the rock behind them.

“Hmmm…” Gabrielle forgot any sort of frustration and groaned in euphoric anticipation as she could feel Xena’s hot breath on her skin while the older woman planted small kisses along her shoulder. “Xena… Yes, give me a cuddle!” She leaned back into the warrior, feeling Xena’s generous breasts pleasantly point their nipples against her back. She then felt the taller woman caress her long golden hair and gently push it to the side.

“I will give you much more than a cuddle, sweetheart.” The Warrior Princess tightened her grip around the bard’s waist. She delicately nibbled at the blonde woman’s earlobe. “You said you hadn’t come yet?”

“No… huh… I haven’t…” The younger woman felt a titillating shiver run down her spine at the feel of Xena’s warm breath and saliva on her ear. She covered her strong lover’s encircling hands with her own.

“What do you want me to do about this, my love?” Xena softly ran her tongue across the skin below Gabrielle’s ear. “Perhaps, I could help.” The warrior let go of her lover’s waist. Her hands cupped the bard’s sumptuous breasts and her thumbs played with the sensitised nipples.

“Oh… Yes, Xena!” The younger woman’s tone sounded completely enamoured. “Touch me, please.” She grasped one of the taller woman’s hands and slid it downwards, towards her throbbing centre.

“Hmm… You’re wet, my bard… Is this for me?” Xena tenderly stroked the golden curls and pinkish flesh between her younger lover’s thighs. She slowly rubbed a finger around the girl’s pulsating clit, eliciting another rapturous moan from Gabrielle. “Do you want me to take you? To make you come then?” The warrior licked her lover’s earlobe again.

“Uh… Oh… Yes, Xena, please… Do it!” Gabrielle half-closed her eyes to enjoy her older lover’s touch while alternatively catching a glimpse of the stunningly glamorous marine view before them. The weather was hot, the sand bright and the superb blue sea, at the edge of the beach, sparkled in the sunlight.

“All right, my love.” The warrior was happy to switch back to her dominant role to please her lover. She quickly placed the bard’s bent knees above her own and then went on to spread her lover’s legs wider by opening her own as extensively as she could. She then pushed two fingers inside Gabrielle. She instantly thrust them back and forth at a rhythm she knew her bard would find pleasurable. She brought her other hand down to play with her little girlfriend’s sensitive nub.

“Ah… Uh… Oh… Gods… Xena… Oh… Yes!” The blonde woman held strongly onto Xena as she threw her head back against the Warrior Princess’ shoulder. “Harder!”

Xena thrust harder, deeper and more thoroughly into the bard, feeling the spasmodic clenching inside the younger woman’s tight juicy centre. It did not take her long to make Gabrielle come as, a moment later, a loud scream of bliss escaped from the blonde woman’s throat.

“Xeeeeeeeeeenaaaaa!” She took a deep breath as she fell limply back into her older lover’s arms while the dark-haired woman slowly removed her fingers from her sex.

Xena tasted the sweet ambrosia on her fingers as she licked Gabrielle’s wetness off from them. The bard turned in the warrior’s arms, kissed her deeply for a moment, thanked her and then went to bury herself into the valley of her breasts. The older woman immediately hugged her bard affectionately and kissed the top of the blonde head. She eased both of their bodies downwards until she was flat on the blanket with the bard on top of her.

Gabrielle rested her head quietly near Xena’s big breasts while gently running her fingers along those splendid mounds and occasionally kissing them. She wanted to honour the woman who made love to her so amazingly. Her body lay on top of her warrior and her belly pressed against the warmth of Xena’s centre. She felt the Warrior Princess caress her back and wrap her strong legs around her waist.

As she enveloped her bard so cosily, Xena watched her little friend drift into an afternoon nap. The gorgeous little blonde looked so cute, cuddly and vulnerable with her head lying between her breasts and her body trapped between her legs. The warrior caressed Gabrielle’s long hair, observed as her chest heaved under the little woman’s head and cradled the sleepy bard into her protective arms. She could not help but feel ardent love for this girl who adored her so unconditionally and gave her everything she could.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Half a candlemark later, Gabrielle awoke from her short nap, moaning her lover’s name. She stirred and started getting herself back up.

“What is it, Gabrielle?”

“The sun is too hot… I need to go cool down in the water.”

“Okay. Don’t go too far.”

Gabrielle got another drink from one of the water skins, offered it to Xena and watched the warrior quench her thirst too. She then stood up and went for a swim in the sea.

The bard, still naked and barefoot, approached the edge of the water. She contemplated the waves hitting the seashore for an instant as they crashed against her legs and immersed her feet in foamy water before receding, and so on.

The waves did not seem too strong. She could still swim. Gabrielle walked further into the sea until the water reached her waist. The salty liquid was warm and agreeable, yet cooling enough for her. She dampened her hair and started swimming forward, a little further, until she heard a sudden loud shout coming from the beach.

“Gabrielle! Please don’t go too far!” The bard turned around in the water to see Xena. The Warrior Princess was standing on the beach, still naked and observing her from the distance. ‘Ugh. . . Xena is becoming all motherly again. . . She loves me so much that she’s so afraid to lose me.’ Gabrielle chuckled at this thought, spun back around and resumed her forward breaststrokes into the blue sea.

A few moments went by. As far as she had swum now, her feet could not touch the bottom any longer and the sea was deep. With a few swim strokes, she turned around again to try to see Xena. The warrior woman’s presence could no longer be seen from the distance and Gabrielle, getting exhausted, began swimming back towards shore.

Half-way through, she stopped as soon as she could touch the bottom. She still could not see her lover on the beach. She stood in the water, which now reached her at the height of her shoulders, and carefully looked around her. Xena liked to surprise her and Gabrielle knew it.

Suddenly, the bard felt two strong arms move underwater and wrap themselves around her waist. She did not panic because she knew who it was.

As Xena came up from behind, she caught the shorter woman’s abdomen. The warrior got her head out of the water, moved closer to Gabrielle’s back, wrapped her arms around her younger lover’s tummy and began to gently nibble her earlobe.

“I told you not to go too far, my love,” Xena mildly chided. “Gabrielle, I nearly lost you in the sea recently. I don’t want to risk it again.” After licking at the bard’s ear, she proceeded to plant passionate kisses along her neck.

“I was not going far, Xena. And you won’t lose me.” Gabrielle softly moaned as she could feel her warrior’s breasts in her back and her mouth on her skin. The strong, protective female arms tightened across her waist. She covered them with hers, until Xena moved her hands up underwater and firmly gripped her breasts.

“Gabrielle, I know you didn’t intend to go far…” Xena spoke in her ear. “… but you need to remember how treacherous the sea is. There could always be an undercurrent trying to drag you away from me.” Beneath the surface, the Warrior Princess was delicately kneading her younger lover’s breasts.

“Don’t worry. I’m fine.” The bard gently moved the dark-haired woman’s hands away and started turning into Xena’s arms. Now facing her lover, she repositioned the warrior’s hands onto her bosom. “I’m here, Xena.” She looked up at the taller woman. “The sea didn’t take me away.”

Xena leaned and fervently kissed Gabrielle. The blonde’s eager mouth and tongue sought her own. They melted in each other’s arms as they then embraced one another. After this short cuddle, they swam back towards the beach.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

They both walked back together, hand in hand, towards their bedroll. Having dampened their hair in the sea, they were less vulnerable to the sun’s heat now. They sat down together, very close to one another. Xena took the spare blanket they had to cover both their nude and drenched bodies.

“Xena, do you think we should put our clothes back on now? Or do you think it’s all right if we stay naked?”

“Don’t worry, Gabrielle. I think it’s rare when someone stops by this corner of the coast here.” The warrior smirked. “Besides, if anyone showed up and tried to bother us, you know I would deal with them, right?”

“Yeah, right.” The bard grinned.

There was a moment of silence between them as they relaxed while sitting next to one another, listening to the sea. Then the sun felt too warm on Gabrielle again.

“Xena, can we please move the blanket we’re on to the other side of that rock behind us? I want to go lie in the shade ‘cause I’m boiling…”

“Sure, my love.” Xena kissed Gabrielle’s cheek.

They quickly stood up, walked around the rock, moved the blanket to the other side and prepared another makeshift bedroll. Gabrielle lied down in the shade to protect herself from direct sunlight. Xena immediately went to rest beside her on the blanket.

They were still naked and lying down quietly next to each other. The warrior propped herself onto one elbow as she absentmindedly caressed the smooth skin of the supine bard’s abdomen.

“Xena?”

“Yes, Gabrielle?”

“During the time when we were on our way to Ithaca, I was so scared you would leave me for Ulysses.” Gabrielle still somehow felt sad about what had happened that time.

“Gabrielle,” Xena felt a little abashed the bard was mentioning this again, “we’ve talked about this before, haven’t we?”

“Yes, but you made me feel like I was not enough for you that time…” The blonde woman gave her older lover a pouty look. “Like you still needed a man in your life or something. . . I’d gotten used to being miserable anyway…”

“Honey, I was only attracted to him, and I cared about him, but I did not love him. It’s you I love, Gabrielle. You know it.” The dark-haired woman caressed her younger lover’s chin. “As for men, Gabrielle, I admit I still feel like I’m attracted to them sometimes. But you know, even if we’d stayed in Ithaca, I believe I would have gotten tired of Ulysses eventually and gone back to you. You taught me how to love and it’s you I’ll always love in the end.”

“But I would have been real mad if you’d left me for Ulysses and we’d have had to be ‘only good friends’ again.” Gabrielle wondered if the Warrior Princess was finally willing to take their relationship seriously.

“Well, we had stopped being together for a while after your wedding and what had happened to Perdicus…” Xena suddenly noticed that Gabrielle looked dismayed. She realised it had probably been a bad idea to refer to the tragedy that had befallen the bard with the loss of her husband. “Oh… I’m sorry I brought that up, Gabrielle.”

“No, Xena,” Gabrielle objected, “you don’t have to feel sorry for that. We can talk about my wedding if you like.” The bard gazed at the warrior with a solemn expression on her face. “It does not bother me. Although I felt terrible when I lost Perdicus, I feel a lot better now.”

“Did you love Perdicus, Gabrielle?” The warrior really wanted to know.

“Xena,” the blonde woman turned to face her lover more closely as they kept lying next to one another, “there are some things I need to tell you about what happened with Perdicus. I feel ready to discuss them now.” The steady rhythm of the sea could still be heard from behind the rock.

“Go on.” The warrior stared at her younger lover, glad that Gabrielle was finally ready to talk about all this. For so many moons, she had been waiting for this conversation.

“To answer your question, I loved you both, Xena: Perdicus and you, but not in the same way. . . I had been so glad to see him again in Troy. He was a childhood friend, and I’d grown to like him very much in a way. . .” The bard carried on with her explaining. “The first time I’d been engaged to him though, I did not really want to marry him. You’d come into my life, Xena. I’d left my village to join you. You were everything I wanted, Xena. You’ve always been. But…”

“But?” the warrior asked.

“When it finally happened between us one day, you did not really want me,” Gabrielle said, cheerlessly. “You kept saying that you did not deserve me.”

“I’m sorry, Gabrielle. I wanted you but…” Xena sighed. She knew what the bard was talking about. She let her lover continue what she had to say.

“I loved you more than anything. I’d even given my virginity to you,” The younger woman’s tone sounded somewhat morose. “but you kept saying that I should get on with my life and find another lover, one who would ‘deserve’ me.”

“Oh, Gabrielle, I’m so sorry sweetheart.” The taller woman moved closer on the blanket and affectionately stroked her little girlfriend’s arm. “I’ve been a fool, but I honestly did not believe you deserved a nasty ex-warlord like me, a woman with a dark past…”

“But that’s not all of it, Xena.” Gabrielle interrupted. “I did not care about your past. I never have. I’ve always loved you the way you are… As soon as Perdicus came to see us many moons after Troy and asked me to marry him, I glanced over my shoulder towards you. I was worried. I was thinking about you and I, and the intimacy we had started experiencing together not long after I’d come back from Potidaea last year.”

“I remember when you glanced at me over your shoulder. And you also went to talk with him privately that night?” The warrior kept gently running her hand along the silky skin of the younger woman’s arm. She was ready to listen attentively to what her young bard had to say.

“That’s right. He told me that, while he’d been involved in another war after Troy, he’d killed people. That had made him feel so bad that he’d pointed a dagger to his heart but something had stopped him, he’d said to me.”

“What had stopped him?” Xena frowned.

“He said that seeing my face in his mind stopped him. I thus concluded he meant that the thought of being with me again had stopped him from killing himself.”

“Really? Did he really say that, Gabrielle?” The Warrior Princess now fully realised that the bard must have felt pressured into marrying Perdicus. It made her feel slightly bitter. But Perdicus was dead now. So, ‘Let him rest in peace,’ Xena thought.

“Yes.” Gabrielle recalled the poignant memories of what had happened. “This is something I’d never told you, Xena. I felt afraid that because the thought of seeing me again had stopped him from killing himself, then he might commit suicide if I refused to marry him. I couldn’t stand this. I loved him as a childhood friend, Xena. I really cared about him. He was important in my heart.” Sparkling tears started brimming in the blonde woman’s eyes.

“Oh, Gabrielle!” the warrior woman said in a compassionate tone as she softly stroked her younger lover’s hair and cheek.

“And then the next day you told me not to worry about you… that seeing me happy would make you happy…” Small tears started rolling down Gabrielle’s face.

“I just did not believe I deserved you, sweetheart.” Xena dried some of the bard’s tears with her thumb. “When something started between us last year, I felt very anxious inside,” the warrior explained, regret showing in her eyes. “I thought I was unworthy of the love I was getting from such a young, beautiful and innocent woman like you, Gabrielle. I so much loved you that I couldn’t resist it every time you said you wanted to sleep with me… but I also really wanted what I believed would be the best for you: that you someday would find someone who would deserve you. That’s why I told you that I thought Perdicus was a good man. All I wanted at the time was that you settle down with someone who deserves you. I thought you’d be safer that way.”

“That’s right, Xena. You wanted me to go, and at the same time I so much loved Perdicus as a childhood companion that I really did not want him to kill himself.” The younger woman felt sorrowful. “But it turned out that I wasn’t safer when I was away from you, because Callisto came after us and Perdicus died anyway.” She sniffed.

“Oh please don’t cry, my bard.” The warrior held her lover closely for an instant. “You know, at the same time, I was very jealous when you finally chose to marry him. Although I did not believe you could stay with me because of my warlord past and I wanted to be happy for you at your wedding, I was so sad at the idea of losing you. I felt my heart sink in my chest as I watched you go with him.”

“I can imagine that, my love,” the bard replied, “Sometimes I believe that I should have stayed with you even though you’d wanted me to go… You were my first lover after all. It felt absolutely awful inside to leave you, Xena.” She stopped crying. “Anyway… you know, I had to make myself look happy on the day of my wedding. . . I loved Perdicus too in a way, though not as much as I loved you. But I saw how desolate he had become and I just could not let his despair overpower him.” She blinked. “I felt happy for him at our wedding. The fact that I was helping him, it made me smile throughout that day. I also thought I had a soft spot for him since I’d seen him in Troy.”

“I understand, Gabrielle.” Xena could see that her younger lover had somehow been pressured into a wedding. She could not blame her for that. “Can I ask you something personal?” She tenderly rubbed the shorter woman’s ear.

“Yes, anything you want, my darling.” Gabrielle sighed. “After all, it’s been a while all this is over. I feel better now, even though remembering all that happened makes me feel real sad.” She tried to cheer up a little. “But I really think I’m ready to tell you everything now, Xena, so go on.”

“Did you think about me during your wedding night?”

“All the time, Xena.” There was  a very sincere tone in the bard’s voice. “By the gods, I was so nervous. I’d never slept with a man before that and, to be honest, when it happened with Perdicus I did not really enjoy it.”

Xena felt sorry for Gabrielle. She imagined that her beloved companion must have had to put up with some sex she had not truly desired on her wedding night with Perdicus.

“Did you tell him you were not a virgin?”

“Of course not.”

“So what did you tell him?”

“I simply told him that I’d never been with a man before and then let him believe what he wanted…”

“Not bad… That way you didn’t lie… I just hope he didn’t hurt you.”

“No, he didn’t. But he wasn’t an excellent lover either. I guess, at the time, I was curious at the idea of what it would be like to sleep with a man. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. He was in no way as good as you in bed, Xena. I kept staring at the ceiling while he and I were doing it. And, to tell you the truth, I faked some moans while he was on top of me. I also faked my happiness the morning after that, to keep him happy.” Gabrielle remembered the utter emptiness she had felt on her wedding night, without Xena’s presence. Perdicus had been no match, for sure. She sighed. “It’s a real shame things had gotten that complicated between you and I last year. I would have rather stayed with you. I would have preferred it if Perdicus hadn’t come back and so forcefully asked me to marry him.” Sea-green eyes stared into blue ones.

“Gabrielle…” The Warrior Princess placed one arm around the waist of the woman lying next to her. “I’m sorry about what happened.”

“Oh, Xena, I’m so glad we got back together.” The bard kept lying onto her side, facing Xena, and propped herself on one elbow to gaze more intensely into the warrior’s eyes. She placed her other hand on her older lover’s shoulder and gently stroked her there. “When you kissed me again, while you were in Autolycus’ body, I was so glad. I wanted you back so much.” The blonde woman grinned. “I had already nearly lost you once last year after a poisoned arrow had hit you, and I just couldn’t bear losing you again. When I brought you back to life with the Ambrosia, I was so happy to finally have you back. I’d wanted you back not only to life. I also wanted you back in my bedroll.”

“I know, and I’m glad I went back there too.” Xena gave her younger lover the slight half smile that Gabrielle loved so much. “I had been missing that ever since the day you’d gotten married.”

“So you still don’t believe that you deserve me now after all we’ve been going through that showed us deeply in our hearts that we’re meant to be together?”

“No, sweetheart. Now I’m willing to give it a try.” The warrior nodded sheepishly. She wished she had been willing to give their relationship a more serious try from the day it had started, instead of continuing to think that Gabrielle would be safer without her. Callisto could have killed Gabrielle the morning after her wedding, had Xena not come to save her.

“Even though you don’t think our relationship is ‘the best for me’?”

“Gabrielle, I am seriously willing to make it the best for you. I love you and I want to make you happy in any way I possibly can.” The dark-haired woman’s hand softly brushed the side of the younger woman’s face. “I know I’ve done terrible things in my life, so terrible that sometimes I sincerely wonder how you can stay with me… but I’m now fully become aware that, although these sorts of feelings are still all new to me, I’m very deeply in love with you…” Xena tenderly kissed Gabrielle’s forehead. “… and I’d never felt anything for anyone else before I met you that meant as much as what I feel for you right now. You’re such a beautiful little bard.” Xena’s eyes briefly widened as they wandered down the blonde’s naked body before moving back up to look into Gabrielle’s gorgeous face. “You are like a real gift from the gods to me. I’m so lucky to have you, whether I deserve you or not. I’m now willing to take the chance, Gabrielle. I’ve now decided I really want to make it work for the both of us.”

“So, please Xena, promise me: no more Ulysses, no one else in your love life apart from me, huh?” The bard raised an eyebrow at the warrior after asking this new question, wanting to know how serious Xena was about making their relationship work.

“Gabrielle, I barely felt anything for Ulysses. Nothing compared to what I feel for you. And no, I promise, there will be no one else from now on.”

“Good.” The younger woman smirked and quickly kissed her lover’s lips. “’Cause I think the love you have for me must be part of your redemption somehow. I’ve been thinking. . . and I realised that if the Fates made us end up together again after all, that you even had to be brought back to life another time to be with me once again, well I believe us being together can only bring a positive experience to you in your quest to redeem yourself. I don’t believe it’s any coincidence the Fates sent me on your road, Xena.” The bard kept smiling at her lover. “I know you’ve done terrible things but love can redeem you too, I know it.” The two women kissed for a quiet moment, then stared into each other’s eyes again.

“You know, Gabrielle, I realised that I simply cannot live without you. Even if Perdicus hadn’t died, I’m somehow convinced that I would have at some point come to visit you at your new house while you were married.”

“And I think that, if my husband hadn’t died and you would have come to visit me like you say, then I would have ended up having you as a secret lover when Perdicus wouldn’t have been around.” Gabrielle chortled.

“Even though you would have known, in your heart, that it might not be right for Perdicus?” Xena wondered.

“He would have never known so it wouldn’t hurt him.” The bard shrugged. “Besides, I love you, Xena, and that’s all that would matter to me.” The young storyteller brushed a strand of dark hair off the side of the taller woman’s face and delicately brought it behind her ear. “That’s all that matters to me now. I’m so glad you’re now willing to make it all alright for both of us.”

Xena just kissed the younger woman again, for a long moment. Gabrielle enjoyed the contact of the Warrior Princess’ lips and tongue against her own. When the kiss was over, she looked at the beautiful warrior woman lying next to her once again.

“Xena, you know, regarding what happened between us last year… and that ‘virginity’ thing…”

“Yes, what about it?”

“Well, I’m very glad you were my first, although… I’ve got to ask you something.”

“What, Gabrielle?”

“Well, you know how some religious people we meet on the road are like, especially the Hestians… So what I want to ask is this: If anyone religious that we barely know ever tries to find out about how I lost my virginity, we’ll just let them believe I lost it on my wedding night, okay? What happened between us before my marriage is nobody’s business but ours, all right?”

“Oh Gabrielle…” The warrior woman stroked the beautiful blonde’s hair. “We already know that most people out there define the term ‘virgin’ only as ‘untouched by man’ anyway. They don’t really care about what women do together… not even amazons.” Xena chuckled and showed Gabrielle a slight smile. “So don’t worry about the Hestians or anyone else. It’s all right by me: We’ll tell nosy religious people whatever you like, and that wouldn’t even have to be a lie in their own vocabulary if you told them that you lost your virginity while you were married.”

“Thank you.” Gabrielle sighed in relief and appreciated Xena’s relaxed attitude about the subject. She knew how some Greek religious people were like, with their silly attitudes regarding virginity and ‘purity.’

Both women quietly rested in the shade behind the rock for a candlemark or so, as the sun reached the zenith. They peacefully listened to the harmonious noise sea waves were making a few feet away from the bedroll.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the later candlemarks of the afternoon, when the weather’s heat was less intense on the beach, Gabrielle got up and went to sit in the sand. She observed the waves crashing against the shore a few feet ahead. They had become a lot higher than earlier on when she had gone for a swim. She was still nude but did not care. It was still a nice and romantic day she was spending with the warrior in this magnificent deserted area.

Xena was done resting too. She got up from the bedroll and walked around the rock. She found the naked bard sitting alone on the beach. Still not wearing any clothes herself, she started walking towards her lover. Being naked in the sunlight did not bother her. It was a wonderful romantic day she had agreed with Gabrielle to spend on the beach. Tomorrow, they would be back on the road again.

“Gabrielle, what are you doing sitting there?”

Hearing the sound of the Warrior Princess’ voice, the blonde happily turned her head to look up at her.

“I was waiting for you to join me here, Xena… Can you bring your chakram, please?”

Xena stopped walking. “Sure. Why?”

“You’ll see,” Gabrielle said in a cryptic way, smiling.

The dark-haired woman turned back towards the bedroll, went to get her chakram and made her way back towards Gabrielle. She sat down on the sand next to the bard.

“Here, I’ve got it, sweetheart.” She kissed the top of her younger lover’s head. “What do you want with it?”

“Can I borrow it?”

“You don’t know how to use it.”

“I know, but I just want to be able to draw a circle in the sand. Its contours will be more accurate if I use your chakram to do it, Xena, please.”

“Okay.” The warrior handed her chakram to the bard, which the younger woman took into her delicate hands. “But why do you want to draw a circle in the sand, Gabrielle, anyway?”

“To make a point… You’ll see.” Gabrielle turned towards Xena and kissed the older woman on the lips. Then she kept grinning at her lover. “First of all, Xena, I’d like to let you know how happy I am we’ve finally managed to have this conversation about what’s happened between us over the past year or so. I’m glad we’ve finally managed to get all this out of ourselves so we can move on and think about the future… our future together.”

“So, no more weddings, Gabrielle?” Xena asked while raising an inquiring eyebrow at the young blonde.

“Xena, darling, please don’t look back. Look ahead. I’ll never walk away again. And you won’t want me to go anymore now, will you?”

“Well, sometimes I still wonder if you’d be safer without me in some ways, but you’re also giving me such a great strength of mind and heart every day during our travels together. . . I’ve decided that I’ve got to be with you, Gabrielle, no matter what. I’ll keep protecting you whenever you need it; and I’ll carry on teaching you how to fight whenever you want it.”

“That’s so great, Xena. So great you’re ready to go forward now.” The bard kindly patted the warrior woman on the shoulder. She then turned back to the sand in front of them. She shifted to a kneeling position as she ran the palm of her hand across the creamy-coloured granular ground to flatten it. She then put down the chakram onto the sand before her and turned to look at Xena again. “Can I tell you a story? I haven’t told you a story for a couple of days.”

“Sure.” Xena had learned to truly enjoy Gabrielle telling her stories, especially since they’d gone back to being lovers again.

“Once upon a time, there was a dark warrior princess. She was very unhappy about the things she’d done and thought her life only led to darkness and dead ends… until the day she saved a young village girl from being captured for slavery…” The blonde woman felt a bit nervous and blushed at the idea of telling the dark-haired woman about their own love story.

“Gabrielle, I already know our story, thank you. Why don’t you tell me another one?”

“No, Xena, wait.” The storyteller brought her fingers to the taller woman’s lips and gently hushed her. “I’m trying to make a point here. I promise you, it is worth it.” She removed her hand from the warrior’s mouth and continued: “So… this beautiful Warrior Princess met this young woman. They started travelling around Greece together as good friends, and many moons later they became lovers. And it was a first time for both of them. It was a first time for the younger woman because she had been a virgin before their first night together… but it was also a first time for the dark warrior princess because, although she was very much physically experienced, she’d thought she would be incapable of loving and caring about someone else’s pleasure and happiness. However, she surprised her own self with the fact that she could treat a younger and inexperienced lover with respect because she had truly fallen in love with someone else for the first time in her life after she met that young girl. Her younger friend was her first real love.” Gabrielle noticed Xena blush buoyantly at hearing the bard telling their own story.

The bard carried on: “Anyway, unfortunately, their relationship broke after a few moons because the warrior could not find enough confidence in herself for them to be together –and for other important reasons as well. After quite a few more moons, the warrior woman died, not long after being hit by a tree trunk during an enemy attack. Her younger friend wanted her back to life so much she felt terribly pained for a couple of days… She felt sad until the moment she resuscitated the woman she loved with a piece of Ambrosia. They went back to being lovers that night. So, therefore, the Warrior Princess did not feel so ‘dark’ anymore and saw there could also be light in her heart and in her life…”

“You are the light in my life, Gabrielle.” Xena simpered and wrapped an arm around her younger lover. “So… are you still going to draw that circle and make the point you wanted to make or what?” Both women looked at the chakram that Gabrielle had placed on the sand in front of her.

“That’s right, I’m making my point now, Xena. My point is…” The bard started moving her index finger in the sand around the circular object, tracing its outline. She knew the chakram had already shaped a circle by itself, but she nonetheless proceeded to draw another one around it. “We belong together, Xena. It doesn’t matter that difficulties separate us sometimes, our relationship never ends. Our love is endless. It keeps going ‘round and ‘round… like a circle!” The storyteller finished drawing the circle around the chakram. “I complete you. You make me whole. We fulfil each other. And that intense feeling burning inside us –what makes us both feel as if we were each one half of the same soul– is really all we need. I drew a circle because it has no end…” She turned to face her older lover while they were still sitting on the beach. “… just like our love, it’s eternal, no matter what.” They both gazed at one another intensely and immediately kissed each other deeply.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Not one word was spoken as they continued to thoroughly kiss each other hungrily. Suddenly, Xena stood up and lifted the bard. Gabrielle swiftly grabbed the chakram before being moved off the ground. She quickly tossed it near their belongings as the taller woman carried her towards where their bedroll was. When the warrior reached the place behind the rock, she put the smaller woman down onto the blanket.

The blonde then lay down comfortably on her back while looking up at the eagerly lustful look she could see on the warrior’s face. She bent her knees and spread her legs, inviting her lover in.

“Gabrielle…” Xena knelt between the supine bard’s legs and stared down at her lover with a desirous look on her face.

“Yes, my warrior?”

“So you really think there is ‘light’ within me, huh?”

“Yes, Xena. You’ve always treated me right, intimately, I mean.”

“But you do know I have a dark side too, don’t you?” She grinned wickedly at the smaller woman. That made Gabrielle chuckle.

“Of course I know that, Xena. Why are you asking?”

“I’m just trying to explain to you one of the reasons why I like taking the lead so often during our lovemaking, my little bard. You’re so beautiful. I love taking you. And I also love to…” Xena wanted to be playful right now. She wanted to tease the smaller woman before making love to her. She instantly tickled the bard’s belly, making the blonde woman laugh and squirm nervously. The warrior sniggered.

“Oh… Uh… No… Er… Please…  Stop tickling me, Xena.” The younger woman tried to catch her lover’s hands to make her quit, but Xena was too fast.

“I love to make your little body squirm to my touch. It’s so cute.” The Warrior Princess sometimes liked grabbing and lightly pinching the bard’s skin while mischievously moving her fingers along the sides of the girl’s abdomen. That was what she kept doing now.

Gabrielle could not take any more of this. It was no longer funny. “Xena… Stop… You often see me as a ‘little one.’ Who’s being the big kid now?… Uh… Stop… Xena… It’s not funny anymore.”

Seeing that her little girlfriend was starting to feel very uncomfortable, Xena instantly stopped tickling her.

“I’m sorry.” The warrior leaned down to kiss the bard’s mouth. Her body hovered over the smaller woman’s as she used her upper arms to support some of her weight. Her hands touched some of Gabrielle’s long blond hair, which she loved.

“It’s all right. Thanks for stopping.” The blonde wanted to tickle Xena too, to get her own back on what the taller woman had just done to her, but she thought it could wait until later. She felt too good when she felt Xena’s lips onto hers and responded to the kiss with fervour. At the same time, she wrapped her hands around her older lover’s neck and ran delicate fingers through the dark hair. After kissing for a moment, she spoke to the woman who now lay on top of her. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Xena enjoyed her body’s contact to the silkiness of Gabrielle’s skin. That little woman felt so soft to her. “So it really doesn’t bother you that I have a dark side and that I prefer being the one in charge of the lovemaking most of the time?” She sensually brushed her lips to her younger lover’s.

“No, Xena, it doesn’t bother me.” Gabrielle smirked. She kept caressing Xena’s hair while looking up at her. “You know, I have a wicked streak too… I mean, I know a lot about your past and your reputation in some villages but I don’t care at all. I love you just the way you are. You’re so stunningly beautiful, and I totally love it when you take the lead in the bedroll. I love feeling all your warrior strength when you make love to me. I love your power. I love it when you take me. I love your dark side, when you can use it in a good way. I love all of you.”

“Oh, Gabrielle, do you know what you are saying to me?” The warrior immediately took the bard’s mouth again into a searing kiss. She felt so aroused by the things her younger lover had just said to her. She wanted to enjoy the woman she loved and take her ardently. Her tongue easily found entry into Gabrielle’s mouth as their lips locked together once again. Their tongues intertwined, moving fast, making the kiss deep and wet as they passionately tasted each other’s mouth again and again.

Xena caught Gabrielle’s hands into her own and pinned them down onto the blanket beneath them for a short while. She shifted her weight from the bard and returned to a kneeling position between the storyteller’s legs. She grabbed the younger woman’s bent knees and spread her wide open in front of her –admiring the wonderful blonde beauty before her.

Gabrielle remained on her back. Her arms lay still and flat, near her head. She could still hear the peaceful grandeur of the sea working its waves along the beach as she gazed up at her Xena. Her very experienced lover kept staring down at her libidinously. Gabrielle completely relaxed and kept her legs spread –willing to give herself completely to this delightfully stunning dark-haired goddess. She saw the Warrior Princess give her a naughty smile.

“Gabrielle, you are so absolutely gorgeous and I want to make love to you right now,” Xena said huskily. “I want to make you moan and scream my name in bliss.”

“Oh, yes Xena. Take me!” The bard briefly bit her lower lip in sweet anticipation. She felt herself getting very warm between the thighs at the thought of the warrior being on top again.

“Yes, I am going to take you, Gabrielle.” The carnal tone in the Warrior Princess’s voice was so incredibly mesmerising and powerful. “I’m first going to take you with my mouth and with my tongue until you come. And as soon as you catch your breath and you’re ready to go again, I’m going to take you again with my breasts, with my sex and with my fingers until you scream my name in intense pleasure. I swear it, my little bard, you’re going to enjoy every single moment of your warrior taking you.”

Gabrielle moaned in strong excitement as Xena went to lie on top of her again and covered her mouth with vigorous kisses. The words the sexy taller woman had just been telling her seductively thrilled her. She loved it when her lover spoke in such an erotic way to her. This warrior woman clearly was her wildest dreams come true.

The Warrior Princess nibbled on one of the bard’s ears before trailing her tongue down towards the pulse point on her younger lover’s throat. She then planted a series of small, tender love bites along the blonde’s neck, collarbone and shoulder before starting moving her way downwards.

Xena pressed the tip of her tongue onto one of the bard’s dark pink nipples and licked around it, before suckling on it. She then moved to the other breast. She licked and sucked its bud in the same fashion, trapping it between her teeth. Gabrielle’s nipples completely stiffened under her lover’s ministrations. The warrior grabbed the bard’s breasts with both hands and energetically kneaded the pliant flesh. She flicked her thumbs across the hard nipples while slightly lifting her head to look at her bard.

“Are you mine, Gabrielle?” she asked in a horny voice.

“Oh… Yes… Xena… I’m yours,” the storyteller softly groaned. The feel of Xena’s touch on her skin provoked a flame of desire within her. It now fiercely burned inside her body. She enjoyed the sweet, delicious surrender, as she let her older and more experienced lover take complete control of this precious lovemaking. She kept uttering little noises of delight as Xena carried on stimulating her sensitive bosom.

The warrior woman again covered each of the bard’s breasts with her mouth, one at a time. She joyfully played with her younger lover’s breasts for a moment. She was wrapping her hands around those two lovely mounds as she greedily suckled them, eliciting some more happy moans from the blonde woman who then arched into her touch. Xena descended further on her young friend’s body, leaving a path of sultry kisses along the way.

“Oh… Yes… Xena… Please…” Gabrielle moved her hands to delicately run her fingers into her lover’s long, slick and dark hair.

The Warrior Princess gently bit at the soft flesh next to the bard’s navel, slid her tongue around the crevice and left a moist trail of saliva as she moved further down to reach her goal. The dark-haired woman teased each of the petite blonde’s inner thighs with soft little kisses. She paused a brief moment, inhaling the intoxicating scent of her younger lover’s arousal before gently kissing the golden patch of hair at the top. Xena draped Gabrielle’s legs over her shoulders. She flattened her tongue and slowly licked the outer folds, making her lover gasp.

“Hmmm… You’re so wet, Gabrielle. Is this for me?”

“Yes, absolutely…”

The warrior also loved getting a delightful view of the bard’s intimate places. She lifted her head, reached around the younger woman’s thighs and used her fingers to lightly caress her girlfriend’s centre. She spread the outer lips with her thumbs. Xena always felt utterly fascinated by the delicacy of the pinkish textures of her younger lover’s sex and the blond curls covering its apex and outward areas. She looked up at Gabrielle.

“Tell me, my bard: this cute little thing you’ve got between your legs. It’s so beautiful. Is it mine?” The warrior licked her own lips in hunger as she kept touching the bard.

“Oh, yes… Totally, Xena! It’s yours whenever you want it.”

Xena really liked what she had just heard. She instantly buried her face between Gabrielle’s legs. She felt absolutely enthralled by her little lover’s hot and wet centre. She revelled in the familiar and delicious taste of her bard. She leisurely licked up and down the length of the bard’s labia, lapping at the honey-dewed wetness. With the tip of her tongue, she gave slow licks on the area all around the clit.

“Oh… Uh… Xena… Oh, Gods!” Gabrielle rapturously squirmed under her lover’s oral activities on her erogenous zones. She wanted more of this. Her hips started bucking towards Xena’s mouth. She kept stroking her lover’s hair.

The Warrior Princess probed her tongue even more deeply into the bard’s sodden folds. She licked her way into every corner, every crevice. She enjoyed taking every part of the sleek textures into her mouth as she hungrily sucked and licked the inner folds for a long moment.

“Oh… Uh… Yes… Ahh… This feels so amazing, Xena…” the blonde woman kept moving her hips. She tried to push down the dark-haired woman’s head more strongly onto the area between her thighs, but Xena suddenly lifted her face from her sex. “Please, Xena, don’t stop!”

“I won’t, my love.” Xena looked up at her lover for a minute. Her little friend’s moisture was coating every corner of her mouth. “You’re just so tasty. I wanna eat you alive.”

The warrior needed to change her position to give herself more access to her lover’s private parts. She wanted to honour the woman who offered herself to her so willingly and completely. “Come here! You know you love this.” She grabbed Gabrielle’s thighs, shifted herself to lie onto her back and pulled the sweet little body to her until the bard was on her knees straddling her above the shoulders, each of Gabrielle’s leg planted on either side of her head. The warrior took her girlfriend’s hips and lowered her down to her eager mouth.

“Oh… Gods!” Gabrielle swiftly grabbed onto the rock in front of her to support herself as she felt the Warrior Princess return to her task. She felt Xena’s tongue tease her swollen nub again and continued moaning her lover’s name in delight. “Oh… Yes! Xena… This feels great!” Her warrior kept using one of her ‘many skills’ to stimulate her. This felt fantastic. She moved her hips up and down, closer against the warrior woman’s face.

Xena happily lay on her back while fully spreading the bard’s centre above her to taste it even more intimately and closely. Her hands reached around to grip her younger lover’s firm buttocks. She moaned in delight as she thrust her tongue even deeper into the younger woman’s depths, savouring more of the sweet honey-musk that abundantly flowed from the hole. She tried not to lose one drop of her little lover’s luscious nectar. She moved a hand back to the front of Gabrielle and fondled the small bud near the top of the blonde woman’s sex with a finger, as she continued to drive her tongue in and out of her lover. The taste and scent of her bard felt so overwhelming to her senses.

“Xena… Oh… Yes!…Gods!… Uh…” Gabrielle cried out in ecstasy as she felt the warrior plunge her tongue repeatedly inside her while carrying on playing with her throbbing clit. The storyteller grasped more steadily onto the rock behind their bedroll and could see the sea when she looked somewhere above it. The waves that were building up and smashing against the shore before Gabrielle’s eyes now practically matched the wave after wave of increasing pleasure that swept through her body. “Oh… Xena… the things you do to me…” she moaned in delight.

The Warrior Princess knew the bard was going to be approaching climax soon. She glided her tongue upwards, towards her younger lover’s sensitive bundle of nerves and drew the nub into her mouth. She heartily sucked on it while caressing it with her tongue.

“Xe… Oh, yes! Xeeeenaaaaaa!” Gabrielle screamed in ecstasy. As she saw a huge wave crash onto the shore, she reached orgasm, erupting onto her lover’s face below her; her juices pouring down onto the warrior’s nose, cheeks and chin.

Xena carried on licking her little girlfriend’s delicious sweetness with enthusiasm, until the bard’s last glorious spasms ceased. Gabrielle collapsed onto the rock in front of her. The warrior quickly lifted her with her strong arms. In a few swift movements, Xena dragged the smaller body down until the other woman fully lay on top of her.

Gabrielle tried to catch her breath and kissed the brunette, tasting herself onto her mouth. She beamed in euphoria. The Warrior Princess smiled back at her radiantly.

“I love you, Gabrielle.” She stroked her younger lover’s hair and caressed the smooth skin of her back.

“I love you too.”

“I’m not finished with you, my beautiful bard.” Xena grinned wickedly. “Tell me when you’re ready for more… but please rest for now.” She slightly moved the bard down to place her lover’s head close to her heart and she tenderly kissed the top of her lover’s head.

The bard snuggled up closely into the warrior’s embrace. She rested on top of the other woman for a moment, as she just needed to recover from the intense pleasure she had just received for now. She felt comfortably warmed by all the love and tenderness she was getting from her Warrior Princess.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

. . . as soon as you catch your breath and you’re ready to go again, I’m going to take you again with my breasts, with my sex and with my fingers until you scream my name in intense pleasure.

After resting for a short while and being absorbed in drifting thoughts about all the lustful things the warrior woman had said to her, Gabrielle started opening her eyes again. She lifted her head and stared deeply into Xena’s piercing blue eyes as she felt another heat smouldering between her thighs.

“Xena, I want you to take me again, just like you said you would.”

The Warrior Princess just smirked. She quickly flipped the bard onto her back and covered her body with hers. She passionately claimed her mouth with her own. She felt delighted when Gabrielle’s lips parted to allow her a better entry. She pushed her tongue into the blonde’s mouth until her younger lover’s tongue intermingled with hers. After fervently kissing her, Xena whispered something into the storyteller’s ears.

“Gabrielle, I’m going to take you again. I’m going to make hard, intense love to you.”

“Oh, yes! I can’t wait.”

“Neither can I.”

Xena first moved up Gabrielle’s body until her large breasts hung over the bard’s face. The storyteller looked up, seized the two beautiful ample mounds and pressed one of them towards her mouth. Then she moved to taste the other one.

The warrior liked offering her breasts to Gabrielle because she knew how much her younger lover loved them. Xena lowered them against the blonde woman’s hands and mouth as Gabrielle kept playing with them and voraciously suckling on them, one at a time.

The bard teased each of the hardened nipples and whimpered contentedly as she squeezed the Warrior Princess’ breasts into her hands. She felt disappointed when the dark-haired woman moved down her body and the magnificent mounds were out of her reach.

“Hold on, sweetheart, you’re going to like this.” Xena opened Gabrielle’s legs wider and lowered one of her breasts until its tip touched the wet folds of the bard’s sex. She squeezed her own breast in her hand and pushed it into her lover’s centre, making Gabrielle moan again. She then slid the nipple around her lover’s clit, lightly teasing it before thrusting the tip of her breast against it. She heard Gabrielle cry out in joy and she then used her other breast to do the same thing. She took the other mound and stroked the bard’s sensitive bundle of nerves with it. Then she moved it down and pressed the nipple against her girlfriend’s entrance.

“Uh… Oh… Yes, I love it, Xena, when you make love to me with your breasts.”

The warrior woman lifted herself again, spread the bard’s glistening lips and went to push her own wet centre against her lover’s. Xena now lay on top of Gabrielle, with one arm on the ground to support her own weight and her other hand grabbing one of the blonde woman’s hips, as she began rocking against her.

“Oh… Yes! Xena.” Gabrielle wrapped her legs around her older lover’s waist and clung firmly onto Xena’s back as the warrior ardently ground her sex into hers. Their throbbing lips meshed themselves together as both lovers intensely gazed into each other’s eyes and kissed. The blonde woman panted and groaned in enjoyment. “Oh… I love it… when you make love to me like this… Xena.”

Xena drove her clit more energetically against the bard’s for a long while before suddenly turning herself over, pulling Gabrielle with her. She sat up with her back against the rock and made the smaller woman straddle her thigh.

Gabrielle felt surprised by this abrupt shift in position but instantly put her hands on her lover’s shoulders. The warrior kissed her and made her place one knee between her thighs so that the bottom of one of the bard’s legs now pressed against Xena’s centre while the younger woman’s other knee rested on the other side of the taller woman’s thigh.

“Ohhh… Gabrielle.” Xena revelled in the sensation of her girlfriend’s leg pushed against her wet folds as she brought her hands up to knead the storyteller’s breasts.

“Uh… Yes… Xena.” Gabrielle loved it when her lover took possession of her sensitive breasts. She kissed Xena again and then stared into the warrior’s silvery blue eyes.

“What do you want, Gabrielle?” The Warrior Princess asked as she kept massaging her younger lover’s breasts.

“Ah… Er…” The bard shivered in pleasure as she felt the taller woman move one of her hands towards her centre. Xena’s fingers made contact with her velvety folds before lightly touching her clit. “I want you to take me, Xena. I want you to put your fingers deep inside me.” The blonde spread her legs wider to encourage her warrior.

“All right.” Xena instantly entered Gabrielle with two fingers. She used her thumb to play with the bard’s swollen bundle of nerves as she began thrusting back and forth inside her bard. With her free hand, she reached around and grasped the younger woman’s soft ass. At the same time, she strongly rubbed herself against the blonde’s leg. “Can you feel me inside you?” She gazed intensely into the bard’s blue-green eyes.

“Um… Oh… Yes, Xena!…  That’s it… I love feeling you inside me… Uh… Oh…” Gabrielle continued moaning in absolute rapture as she held strongly onto the dark-haired woman’s shoulders. She stared back at Xena, revelling in the superb erotic connection she shared with this sublime warrior woman. The waves were still making some noise on the beach but Gabrielle was no longer aware of them. All her attention had now been drawn to what her lover was making her feel.

“Gabrielle… Oh… You feel so good inside…” The Warrior Princess intensely looked into her little friend’s eyes as she kept making sweet love to her bard.

“Xena… Oh… Make it harder, please!”

Xena swiftly added a third finger inside the bard and pushed her digits harder and deeper into Gabrielle’s drenched centre. She delighted in the feel of the blonde’s inner walls, which kept tightening around her fingers.

“Uh… Gabrielle… You love it when I give you some mighty warrior love like this, huh… don’t you, my bard?” Xena smiled at the ecstatic expression she could see on Gabrielle’s face as she continued moving inside her at a fast pace.

“Yes… Uh… My warrior… Oh… Yes… I love it… Very much… Ah…”

The dark-haired woman stimulated her lover’s sexual node more vigorously with her thumb, making the younger woman cry out her name again. The storyteller’s pleasure noises sounded like music to her ears.

“Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” The warrior woman quickly came, from her clit’s contact to the girl’s skin. She continued taking her girlfriend towards climax anyway. Gabrielle rocked her hips and moved herself more thoroughly up and down onto the warrior’s hand until she reached the peak. She enjoyed every single moment of Xena filling her so wildly. It made her core clench spasmodically several times around her lover’s fingers.

“Xeeeenaaaa!” She screamed her lover’s name again in utter bliss and fell forward, panting, onto Xena.

They were both gasping for breath, as the Warrior Princess removed her fingers from Gabrielle’s comfortable warmth and moved her hand up to smear the bard’s mouth with her own wetness.

“So sweet!” Xena murmured, before placing her other hand onto the nape of the smaller woman’s neck and pulling her towards her. She eagerly kissed her, tasting Gabrielle’s delicious love juices on her mouth. “I love you, Gabrielle,” she said, “I love you more than you could ever imagine,” and she kept kissing her. The two lovers quickly shifted down onto the bedroll until they lay in each other’s arms.

“Oh… I love you too, Xena.” Gabrielle purred. “I love it when you make powerful and hard love to me so exquisitely.” She felt intensely gratified. Her warrior had just intimately overpowered her so wonderfully. She loved Xena’s dark side for a reason. The Warrior Princess’ dominant power and ardent sexual passion excited her somehow. At the same time, she also loved the fact that the warrior woman treated her right in the bedroll.

Gabrielle was aware of her lover’s bad past but she was glad the taller woman loved her so much that she always gave great importance to her pleasure. The storyteller felt so happy that her own sexual satisfaction mattered so much to Xena.

The older woman could make Gabrielle experience the intensity of her warrior strength during their lovemaking while simultaneously making it safe, by caring so much about how the bard responded to her touch.

If something had felt unpleasant to Gabrielle, Xena would have stopped immediately. The blonde woman was pleased she had opened up such a good side in the warrior. She noticed that she could keep her lover’s dark side under control during their intimate moments, turning it into something rather pleasurable and safe.

Feeling Xena gently stroke her long blonde hair and cuddle her, the young bard dozed off into her lover’s embrace until it was nearly time for supper.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the evening, both women went for another swim together before supper. They also slowly rolled themselves around on the seashore, while closely hugging, kissing, declaring their devotions and loving the feel of each other’s skin, as beating waves softly hit their bodies. They cuddled like this for a little while, until it was time Xena to go catch some more fish and seaweed for their meal. Gabrielle waited for her on the shore.

Once the warrior had caught the food, they walked back towards their belongings. Gabrielle took the blanket, walked around and moved their bedroll back to the front of the rock. She wanted to be able to get a nicer view of the beach while they ate.

Xena walked into the palm tree forest at the back, to gather some more wood from any shrub she could find. She came back and kindled a small fire so Gabrielle could cook.

The Warrior Princess and the bard ate quietly. They observed the sea waves rising and falling in their endless rhythm on the coast. Intermittently, they smiled at one another, the brightness of love sparkling in their eyes. There would now be another couple of candlemarks to go before sunset. As they finished savouring their food, Gabrielle started speaking.

“Thank you, Xena.” The blonde woman grinned.

“For what?”

“For this gorgeous, amazingly wonderful and romantic day you were willing to spend with me on the beach.”

“It’s all right, my love,” the warrior charmingly said.

“You know, I’m gonna miss this place. It was so great to spend such an outstanding day together on the beach.”

“Yeah, I loved it too, Gabrielle, but we really have to start heading back to town early tomorrow morning.”

“It’s okay, Xena. I understand that we have to go. I just simply loved the fact that, for one day in our lives, there was only you, me and the beach that existed for us.” The bard carried on smiling at her older lover.

“Yeah, it was awesome,” the Warrior Princess agreed, smirking.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At night, they made passionate love again a couple more times. Exhausted and panting, they exchanged more words of love and devotion before they decided they really had to try to get some sleep. They now lay together in the bedroll, still completely nude.

As she was trying to fall asleep, Gabrielle turned onto her side. She almost instantly felt Xena gently spooning her from behind.

“I love you so much, my little bard,” Xena affectionately said. She nestled up behind her younger lover, slid an arm around to cup one of the bard’s breasts and softly kissed her neck. She entwined her legs with Gabrielle’s.

“I love you too, my warrior.” Gabrielle slightly turned her head to smile at Xena.

The Warrior Princess gave the bard a quick kiss and was glad to see the younger woman comfortably settle down closer into her embrace. This was a sleeping position they both loved so much. The dark-haired woman lay her head near the blond hair and relished in the glorious smell of her little lover.

The blonde woman could feel Xena’s protective arms around her and the warrior’s hot breath near her ear. She could also feel the warrior’s large breasts softly pressing against her back and her lovely pubic hair touching her butt. This felt all so wonderfully intimate, loving and affectionate to her. Gabrielle fell asleep, feeling all the tenderness her warrior woman was giving her.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Half a candlemark later, Xena also entered the land of Morpheus. Later on in her sleep, she started dreaming, a pleasant dream.

The circle that Gabrielle had drawn in the sand appeared on the ground before her eyes. She was standing alone on the sunny beach, wearing her warrior outfit. The pleasant smell of the salty water filled her nostrils. She then looked up into the sky to see a brief eclipse as the sun turned into an ever-burning ring of fire. After the eclipse, she could see her chakram slowly flying towards her in an upright position and flipping around continuously onto itself. She jumped up and caught it in her hand. She looked through the circular object and suddenly saw Gabrielle appear on the other side of it. She placed her weapon back on her waist.

The bard was now on the beach with her, fully dressed and grinning at her. Xena smiled back and walked towards her. She kissed her younger lover and whispered promises of everlasting love into her ear. Then their hands interlocked and they started dancing together on the beach, in a circular motion. The sun was hot, and the sand bright. The waves were very large in the sea, forming almost circular shapes of blue foamy water before breaking into a surf near the edge of the beach. Xena danced faster with Gabrielle on the sand. This circular dance overwhelmed her mind. She laughed happily and the bard started laughing with her. This love they shared was eternal, she knew it, just like circles could spin ‘round and ‘round…  forever.

The Warrior Princess peacefully slept, snuggled up against her sweet little bard. She smiled in her sleep, thanks to this beautiful dream she was having. The younger woman slept quietly and blithely in front of her on the bedroll.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Early in the morning, Xena got up. She woke Gabrielle up with a few gentle kisses. They got dressed and gathered their belongings. Together, they started walking away from the coast. They both knew they would never forget any of the excellent romantic moments they had spent together on the beach the day before.

“You know, Gabrielle. I had a wonderful dream last night,” the Warrior Princess said, smiling, as they continued to walk away from that amazing place.

“You wanna tell me about it?”

“Yes, I will tell you all about it. But, first of all, let me tell you how much I’ll always love you… forever, sweetheart.”

“My love for you is endless too, Xena.”

Xena let herself be fully convinced that nothing would ever separate them anymore. What she shared with Gabrielle was stronger than anything –life and death included. They belonged together and were made for each other.

They walked happily together in the sunlight, towards town –towards more adventures.

THE END

Closer than blood bonds

Fanfic cover by Silvermoonlight.

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Seasonal Passion series, Vol. 1:

Closer than blood bonds

written by maggielassie

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Genre: Xena Warrior Princess alternative fan-fiction; Xena/Gabrielle femslash.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the Xena Warrior Princess characters. Universal/Renaissance does.

Timeline: This story takes place just after the Season One episode Ties that Bind.

Warning: This story contains sexually explicit erotic moments between two consenting adult women. If this offends you, please refrain from reading. If you are under 18 years of age, please do not read this and come back later when you’re older and you can read it. If lesbian romantic/sexual relationships are illegal in your country or state, please advocate a change in laws.

Author’s note: This is not a first time story. I think there are enough first time stories out there. My favourite X/G first time story is Heaven Down Here by Rebecca Hall (a.k.a. Storm), and thus I’d rather keep it that way in my own subtextual canon (this story here can also somehow be seen as a potential sequel to my favourite first time story, by the way). Also, I believe that Xena and Gabrielle can still be intimately passionate with each other after their first time.

Many Thanks to: Norsebard for the proofreading and feedback; Donar, LucRen, Ninja & RJcreek (from TX) for the pre-release reading & feedback; other people in the Xenaverse and lesbian culture for their encouragements.

Feedback: See feedback page.

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For me, our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could.

The words of the warrior woman still echoed inside the bard’s mind. The extent of the emotional message those words attempted to convey had reached deep inside of Gabrielle’s heart. She felt she was sharing such a profound and very intimate bond with the woman who was standing next to her –the woman who, a couple of weeks ago, had been the first person to make love to her. And she was the very same woman Gabrielle had had to prevent from going utterly mad and harming other people today in this village.

Gabrielle followed Xena as they both walked away from Locia –the villagers feeling utterly peaceful now that the ruthless God of War had left. Xena held Argo by her harness as she and her sweet little blonde friend walked beside the horse.

It had been the second time Ares had tried to get Xena back since she had renounced the warlord lifestyle. His plan had been so evil and stealthy this time. The way he had taken the shape of her father angered Xena. That bastard had made her believe that Atrius had finally come back to search for her –to search for his daughter. However, no, it had been that insanely cruel God of War all along who had impersonated her father in an attempt to make her turn evil again.

As she and the bard walked on further outside the village, Xena felt a little sad and disappointed by what had happened. Gabrielle noticed that the beautiful dark-haired woman walking next to her looked somewhat unhappy.

“Are you all right?” asked Gabrielle.

“Yes, I’m okay, Gabrielle.” Xena gave her a reassuring smile. She pushed her sadness away from her mind –thinking that she and Gabrielle could always talk about this later on.

Looking at the younger woman, Xena felt grateful that Gabrielle had so swiftly brought her back to reality –during the moment when the burning rage that Ares had been inducing in her had threatened to consume her. The way she could have viciously attacked those poor villagers felt dangerous. Had Gabrielle not hit her on the back with that pitchfork, many innocents would have died. Xena wondered what she would do if she did not have that little bard to keep her company and to make sure that she did not stray from her path to redemption.

Both women occasionally looked at each other and smiled as they started walking towards a green forest that was just outside Locia. This apparently was a shortcut to where Xena was leading Gabrielle and Argo.

As they entered the woods, Xena picked up her pace. She strode for a few seconds but then quickly noticed that Gabrielle was lagging behind. Xena briefly stopped walking and turned around to glance at the trailing bard.

“Come on, Gabrielle. Hurry up! I want both of us to find a nice place on the other side, before nightfall.” Xena smiled at Gabrielle while giving her an impatient look. The warrior princess resumed her walk.

“Okay, okay, Xena, I’m coming.” Gabrielle rushed to Xena and walked faster until she caught up with her. The bard took the warrior princess’ hand into hers. Noticing the nice move, Xena held Gabrielle’s hand tightly into hers, pleasantly squeezing it, as both women and Argo quickened their pace through the woods.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On the other side of the forest was a beautiful valley with grassland, bushes and trees. Both women were glad to see the pleasant landscape ahead as they exited the woods. It was still daylight. This sublime place felt peaceful. There was a little stream nearby. Xena led Argo to the side of a tree where she thought the mare could settle for the night that was to come. Then the warrior princess found a comfortable patch for her and Gabrielle to sleep on. She pointed it out to the bard.

“There we’ll be comfy, Gabrielle. Can you please come prepare our bedroll for tonight?” Xena winked and went to gather some wood for a fire as dusk was getting near.

“Sure.” Gabrielle smiled as she went to unload the saddlebags from Argo and then walked to the comfortable patch to prepare the bedroll for the night. She carefully unrolled blankets and made them lie flat onto the ground. She then sat on the newly spread bedroll, waiting for Xena to come back with the firewood.

Xena came back a few moments later, carrying a little heap of wood. She dropped it to the ground in front of Gabrielle, who was sitting on the bedroll looking at her. The bard was beaming at the sight of Xena before her and her little green eyes shone with happiness.

Crouched near the firewood, the warrior princess stared back at Gabrielle with her silvery blue eyes. She smiled back and then crawled towards her bard. Getting close to Gabrielle, Xena knelt on the bedroll –just next to where the blonde woman was sitting.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” The dark-haired woman smiled down at the bard.

“Because you are so beautiful, my warrior,” Gabrielle replied, reaching up to grab the back of the taller woman’s neck –trying to pull her down for a soft kiss. Xena immediately reacted. She wrapped her arms around Gabrielle’s back and leaned down to press her lips onto the bard’s. Gabrielle quickly responded to Xena’s embrace and wrapped her arms around the warrior woman’s neck while being kissed by her. They both parted their lips. Their tongues entwined in slow, sensuous motions. They shared a sweet, deep and tender kiss. When it ended, Xena looked at the shorter woman.

“And you’re very gorgeous too, my bard,” said Xena, grinning. She proceeded to make a fire for Gabrielle and her so they could keep warm in the night. Meanwhile, Gabrielle got something out from one of the saddlebags: some food that the villagers had kindly offered to her and Xena for their dinner tonight.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

By the time both women had finished their meal, night had fallen. Xena and Gabrielle were sitting next to each other on a rock that was near the fire. The warrior was sharpening her sword while the bard was eating an apple and some grapes she was having for dessert.

After she finished consuming the fruits, Gabrielle noticed that Xena was looking sad again –like the way she had earlier on today –right after they had left Locia.

“Xena, what’s wrong?” The bard looked at her with concern. Xena stopped whetting the blade and turned her head to the side to look at Gabrielle.

“Nothing, Gabrielle…” Xena sighed. “It’s just that I really thought it was my father who was with us today. I initially didn’t believe it but then…” Xena shrugged as she looked at Gabrielle with gloomy eyes.

Still holding the whetstone and the hilt of her sword in each of her palms, the warrior brought her hands down beside her thighs, against the rock she was sitting on. Gabrielle’s hand quickly and tenderly covered Xena’s as the warrior was still clenching her sharpening stone.

“Oh, Xena, I’m so sorry.” The bard gave an empathising look to the warrior, wanting to comfort her.

Xena let go of the objects she was holding and put them down onto the ground near the rock. She sat back up next to Gabrielle, gazed into her partner’s eyes and squeezed her hand into hers. She talked again.

“It’s all right, Gabrielle. I just missed my father more than I’d ever dared to think I would.” Xena exhaled. “It’s just that at one point when he and I were talking to each other today, I would have never thought it would turn out to be Ares, tricking me and trying to get me back.” She sighed again.

“I know, it’s such a shame, Xena.” Gabrielle softly rubbed the warrior’s shoulder with one hand while still holding Xena’s hand in the other.

The bard said nothing for a minute or so. She glanced in the direction of the fire while thinking more deeply about what Xena had just said about the God of War. Feeling curious, she looked back towards her older companion.

“Xena, can I ask you a question about Ares?” she carefully inquired.

“Sure,” Xena replied.

“Did you really use to…” Gabrielle hesitated. “… be with him?”

Xena felt a bit annoyed that Gabrielle was asking her this question but she felt that, since she loved her young female friend and she had already slept with her, she could tell her the truth about things like these when the bard was asking her to. She stopped holding Gabrielle’s hand for a moment and turned to look at the fire in front of them.

“Yes, Gabrielle, I used to be with him for a short time. That was before I’d met Hercules. Ares got me my chakram when he used to be my mentor and. . . lover,” Xena managed to say. She turned her head back towards her friend and both women’s eyes met again.

“And how do you feel about him now, Xena?” Gabrielle’s hand searched back for Xena’s. The warrior caught the bard’s hand back into her own.

“Not much, Gabrielle. Ares seduced me with his godly powers. He fuelled my dark side during a time when I’d nearly forgotten what it was like to feel anything other than pride in violence. He made me uncontrollable and murderous. And now that I’ve decided to go on a quest to redeem myself, he tries to get me to become his warrior queen, to get me to revert back into darkness. I have no love for him at all. He disgusts me now!” Xena felt bitter at the thought of Ares beating her up today. She quickly shook her head and dispelled the irritating feeling. She squeezed the younger woman’s hand harder.

“I believe you, Xena.” Gabrielle gave her a sweet little grin, wanting to cheer the warrior princess up. “Can I ask you another question?”

“Yeeeees?” Xena retorted, smiling and feigning annoyance. “Anything you want,” she then replied, more relaxed now. While looking at this precious little woman who made her heart melt, she briefly kissed the back of the bard’s hand she had been holding. Gabrielle chuckled.

“Was Ares a…” The blonde woman hesitated.

“Was Ares what? What are you trying to say, Gabrielle? Was he what?” The brunette wondered.

“… A better lover than I am?” The young woman felt embarrassed asking this but she really wanted to know. She feared she might lack experience when comparing herself to the warrior’s ex-lovers.

“Oh, Gabrielle!” Xena’s jaw dropped in disbelief. She so much wanted to get that wrong thought out of her gorgeous little friend’s mind. “Of course not!” She stared right into Gabrielle’s eyes, lifted the bard’s chin and gently stroked her cheek with the back of her fingers. “Gabrielle… I have never slept with anyone that mattered as much in my heart as you do now. . .” Xena paused, then realised: “Oh, Gabrielle, I know you’re asking me this because you must be worried about being sort of ‘inexperienced’, is that right?”

“Huh. . . that’s sort of the way I feel, I guess.” The blonde woman felt sheepish.

“Gabrielle, I can assure you that I did notice that you seem to be learning quite well, if you get my drift?” Xena grinned. “When we slept together, I could already feel the intense passion you’re able to show to a lover.” Xena kept smiling, looking deeply into the bard’s eyes. “You are my best intimate partner ever, so please stop feeling so insecure. Experience is something you easily acquire with time, okay?”

“Well, I know I’ve got a great teacher, that’s for sure.” Gabrielle smiled back at the warrior and sighed in relief, before being pulled forward by Xena into a hug. The two women held each other tightly into a close embrace for a while. As they ended the hug they briefly kissed on the lips while still holding each other’s arms.

“I’m so glad you’re here with me, Gabrielle, preventing me from being trapped in the dark part of myself again. I’m very thankful for that.” Xena beamed at Gabrielle.

“So you’re not too mad at me about the pitchfork earlier on?” Gabrielle asked, and then saw Xena shake her head.

“No, Gabrielle, not at all.” The warrior gave the bard an honest look. “You had to stop me from harming all those innocent people. Why would I be mad?” With a smile in the corner of her mouth, her silvery blue eyes peered into Gabrielle’s green ones.

“Yeah, I know what you mean, Xena,” Gabrielle admitted, feeling completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the woman beside her.

“All right then, Gabrielle.” Xena briefly squeezed the younger woman’s hands and then stood up. “Now if you’ll excuse me.” She took off her breastplate and tossed it to the ground. “I need to go skinny-dip.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Xena took her leather bodice off and walked towards the nearby stream. Gabrielle went to sit on the bedroll while she lovingly watched her dear friend. Xena removed the rest of her clothes while approaching the water’s edge.

“Are you going to join me?” The charming fighter briefly turned to look at where Gabrielle was now sitting. The dark-haired woman then got into the lake. The water was good. She started swimming leisurely.

“I will. Soon, Xena,” Gabrielle answered and stayed by the campfire. She kept observing Xena from where she was sitting. Moonlight was very bright out there. Thanks to the clear sky, the full moon above and the light from the campfire that gleamed over the water, Gabrielle was able to observe the beautiful naked warrior princess as she was peacefully indulging in a midnight swim. The bard found her incredibly sexy.

Gabrielle watched as Xena fleetingly immersed herself in the stream. Then the bard felt very aroused when she saw the warrior’s ample breasts bob up and down on her glistening body as the soaked woman quickly moved back up above water. Xena resumed her peaceful swim. The sight of the tall woman’s broad shoulders and magnificently toned arms and thighs felt so delicious to Gabrielle’s eyes.

The bard was now deeply thinking about the first time she and Xena had made love together. It had happened a couple of weeks ago –not too long after Gabrielle had come back from Potidaea. Gabrielle had been missing Xena and she had come back to her. Sometime after that, the bard had finally been able to tell the warrior princess that she was now feeling something intense for her –something that meant much more than simple ‘hero worship’ to her. Gabrielle had also managed to convince Xena that she was old enough to know what she wanted, what she desired. She had been glad to find out that the warrior was also very much attracted to her. Gabrielle had easily figured out that Xena had not only slept with men during her past but the warrior princess had also had many female sexual partners before she had met Gabrielle, which Xena confirmed to her.

Reminiscing at the loving memories of the intimate activities she shared with the warrior during their first time together, Gabrielle remembered how wonderfully skilled the woman who took her virginity had been. Xena had not wanted to take her virginity at first. The warrior had seemed happy enough just caressing her and tasting her; but upon Gabrielle’s earnest request and profound desire to be deeply touched inside by the woman she loved, Xena had then gently pushed her skilful fingers inside the bard while whispering affectionately pleasing words in the young woman’s ear. Gabrielle’s first time had therefore been almost painless. It had actually felt exquisitely pleasurable to her, having that stunningly pretty warrior woman make love to her in a way she had totally been fantasising about.

“So what are you waiting for, Gabrielle? Join me, please. I need you here,” from the lake, Xena loudly urged Gabrielle with a yearning smile. She woke the bard up from her sweet reverie.

“Okay, I’m coming, Xena.” Gabrielle grinned at her naked friend in the stream ahead and stood up to remove her clothes.

Gabrielle’s top, skirt, boots and undergarment all quickly got tossed aside. The nude bard swiftly took a bar of soap out of a saddlebag. She then walked towards the lake. She got into the water and rushed towards Xena until she stood in front of the warrior, in the water. Its surface reached them both at the height of their waists.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the taller woman’s neck. Xena placed her hands onto the sides of Gabrielle’s waist and leaned down to kiss her. The bard kissed back passionately and, a moment later, they both gently ended the kiss.

“Look what I brought.” Gabrielle said, showing Xena the soap bar she was holding.

“Very good,” Xena slowly uttered while smiling. “Will you rub me with this now?”

Gabrielle smiled back. She wet the soap bar and rubbed it along Xena’s neck and across the warrior’s shoulders and chest. The dark-haired woman trembled at the blonde’s luscious touch. The bard then washed the warrior’s sublime breasts, toned belly and arms. She also plunged the soap into the water to put it between the other woman’s legs and tenderly cleaned Xena’s centre. The warrior woman lightly moaned at the intimate rubbing while letting herself be touched.

“Turn around now.” Gabrielle kindly ordered.

Xena complied by turning her back to Gabrielle. The bard washed her friend’s hair and then gently pushed it to the side of the woman’s neck. She lathered the soap onto the warrior’s back in slow and sensual strokes. Xena was enjoying every precious moment of her cleansing by this beautiful young woman. Gabrielle also moved the soap underwater and rubbed the other woman’s rear.

“My turn now.” Xena turned around and delicately took the soap from the bard’s hand.

“Okay.”  Gabrielle briefly dipped herself underwater to get herself ready for the intimate wash. “Wash me now, Xena.” She closed her eyes in sensuous anticipation.

With both a strong, yet sensitive touch, Xena lovingly cleaned every inch of Gabrielle’s skin, rejoicing at the softness of the bard’s body. She rubbed the soap bar around each of the younger woman’s lovely breasts in unhurried movements, curving it around the nipples. Gabrielle shivered in excitement at the sensation of letting herself be so skilfully touched by this gorgeous older woman. She bit her lower lip as she felt Xena stroke her tummy with the soap and then glide the bar underwater to rub her heated centre. Gabrielle took pleasure in the glorious delight found in every minute of Xena cleaning her so intimately.

“Now you turn around.” Xena said, kissing the bard on the cheek. Gabrielle opened her eyes, twirled and offered her back to Xena. The warrior princess cleaned the bard’s hair, moved it to the side and leisurely massaged the blonde’s back for a long while, noticing muscles relaxing under her every caress. She then ran the soap underwater along the shorter-woman’s shapely backside.

Once the wash was over, both women submerged into the stream, to rinse the soap off from their bodies and hair. They each had one arm around the other’s shoulder as they walked out of the lake –water dripping from their soaked and naked bodies.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The two women had put on some nightclothes after quickly drying their bodies by the fire. Gabrielle had a white shift on and Xena a grey one. That was all they were wearing, no undergarment. Their hairs were still partially soaked, as they sat by the fire. Sitting behind Xena on the bedroll, Gabrielle was brushing the warrior princess’ hair in a sweet and careful manner.

“Xena?” the bard softly asked while working on the other woman’s hair.

“Yes, Gabrielle,” Xena replied.

“When you said earlier on that our friendship bound us closer than blood, I thought it was pretty nice,” said Gabrielle, feeling happy, “but I’m curious to know: what exactly did you mean by that?” The young woman carried on untangling the knots in Xena’s hair with care.

“I meant that to me you are my best friend and my family.” Xena’s voice was emotionally intense. “I also meant that, although the two of us are friends, we also share a lot more feelings and things together than most friends do. And now we’ve even slept together. I also feel that we’re so connected to each other, you and I, that you’re closer to me than any family in blood.” Xena shifted her sitting position to turn around and gaze into Gabrielle’s eyes. “I think I love you,” Xena admitted, “even though I’ve done so many terrible things in my life that I still don’t think I deserve you, Gabrielle.” The warrior looked dismal again.

Gabrielle put the hairbrush down. The cheerless expression on the warrior’s face made the older woman look so cutely vulnerable to the bard. Xena leaned down and Gabrielle hugged her. She gently cradled the older woman’s head onto her shoulder.

“Shhhh, Xena, please don’t say things like that. That’s not true,” Gabrielle reassured. “I love you so much,” the younger woman said. Xena carefully broke the hug to see the passion that shone from the bard’s eyes. She caught Gabrielle’s hands and held them tightly.

“Gabrielle, I love you too, so much. It’s just that. . .” Xena hesitated. “It’s just that sometimes I feel like I’m tearing up inside. I love you so much it hurts, and I want to be with you all the time.” The warrior princess continued explaining: “When I was a warlord, I used to put such a great deal of restraint on myself to keep me from feeling anything for anyone other than myself that I’m afraid I might have forgotten how to love. That’s also for this reason that I don’t think I deserve you. You are such a good and honest woman. And I used to be this ruthless monster.” Xena gasped. She loved being with this beautiful younger woman but always thought that, if there were to be someone out there better for Gabrielle, she would willingly let the bard leave her for that person, for the greater good, as she seriously did not feel she deserved such a good little woman.

“Xena,” Gabrielle sighed, while both women were staring at one another clutching each other’s hands, “It doesn’t matter now. What is done is done. It’s all in the past now. Now I love you and desire you, and I trust the fact that you are becoming a much better human being now. Your past doesn’t scare me.” Gabrielle gave her an earnest look. “You are now wanting to do good, Xena, and I have faith in you. I sincerely do. So please stop trying to take my choice to be with you and sleep with you away from me. I fully consented to sleeping with you, Xena. I desired you and I wanted you to be my first, I’m sure about that. It is also my choice to carry on being with you.”

“If it is your choice, Gabrielle, then I wouldn’t take it away from you, never.” Xena kept admiring her bard for the trust the young woman had in her. “I love you too much.” The warrior princess softly kissed Gabrielle’s forehead and then their eyes met again.

“Good.” Gabrielle smirked. “Now will you brush my hair, warrior princess?”

“Sure.” Xena started smiling. She took the hairbrush and went to sit behind Gabrielle. She began to delicately untangle the bard’s strawberry blonde hair, which was already half dry by now. The warrior put tender loving care in the task of brushing her beautiful younger friend’s hair. Gabrielle felt happy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Half a candlemark later, the women’s hairs were almost dry thanks to the heat of the fire. Both friends shared a little bit of wine, which they drank from a goatskin that the villagers had given to them. Xena felt tired.

“Okay, Gabrielle.” The warrior put the wineskin away. “Time for a good sleep now.”

Xena lied down on the bedroll, keeping her eyes open for the time being. Gabrielle immediately went to lie down next to her. Propped onto one elbow, the bard placed her other arm on Xena’s belly while looking at her friend’s face. The warrior woman looked back and wrapped her arms around the blonde woman’s shoulders to bring her closer to her.

Feeling the affectionate move, Gabrielle brought her lips to Xena’s. The warrior princess was responsive. She opened her mouth to press her tongue against the bard’s lips, attempting to kiss the young woman more deeply. Gabrielle enthusiastically parted her lips and took Xena’s tongue into her mouth, quickly mingling it with her own. The kiss became more intense, fiery, lingering and passionate as both women held each other tightly on the bedroll. A moment later, feeling a burning sensation between her legs, Gabrielle carefully broke the kiss to look into Xena’s eyes.

“Xena, please… I want us to make love again, right now.” There was a strongly desirous tone in Gabrielle’s voice and a lustful expression on her face. Xena thought that she did not feel so tired after all. She sat up. Gabrielle did the same. The warrior woman then placed her hands onto the sides of the other woman’s shoulders while their gazes met.

“Are you sure, Gabrielle?” Xena inquired.

“Yes. Absolutely sure, Xena.” Gabrielle was sincere about her desire for Xena. She so often felt deeply sexually turned on by the sublime fighter who meant so much in her heart.

Xena felt equally attracted to the stunningly wonderful young woman whose burgeoning beauty developed as fast as the inner power that emanated from the bard to make the warrior’s heart soften like fluff.

The blonde woman took the older woman’s hand and kissed its fingertips. Gabrielle’s lips felt like glossy petals to Xena. The warrior princess tried to caress the satin-like skin of the bard’s face but the blonde woman held her hand firmly into hers.

The young woman brought Xena’s hand down towards the bottom hem of her shift. Understanding the communicative gesture, Xena caught the garment and helped Gabrielle remove the thin white dress. The warrior then revelled in the sight of the bard’s wonderfully blossomed naked body before her.

Xena rapidly took off her own shift too. She then lovingly kissed Gabrielle, softly grasped the smooth skin of the bard’s shoulders and carefully moved the younger woman onto the bedroll.

The warrior woman felt her heart melt at the thought of the unbelievable trust this young woman had in her. It took Xena a great deal of strength to keep herself from being rough, like the way she had been with other lovers in the past. Thankfully, the intense love she felt for Gabrielle helped her keep herself under control. She wanted to fulfil all of Gabrielle’s sexual wishes while carefully behaving like the bard really wanted her to in the bedroll.

Gabrielle now lay onto her back with Xena’s body on top of her as the warrior princess was continuing to give her a deep, searing kiss on the mouth while they both held each other tightly. She felt such an incredibly intense emotional link to this taller woman she loved, and all she could think about right now was the deeply intimate affection the warrior was giving her. She felt the fighter’s wet centre press against her thigh as Xena moved her mouth down to leave a trail of moist, blazing kisses onto her neck.

“Hmmm. . . Xena. . .” Gabrielle started moaning in pleasure.

Xena kissed her way down to the top of the bard’s chest. She gripped one of Gabrielle’s breasts into her hand and began to squeeze it firmly but gently for a little while. She then tickled the nipple with two fingertips, making her young friend utter another sexually charged sound.

Xena held the bard’s breast again and took it into her mouth, tickling the hardened nipple with her tongue. She kept sucking onto this mound and was rewarded by another cry of gratification escaping from Gabrielle’s mouth. With her free hand, she tightly grasped the other breast and tenderly brushed its nipple with her thumb until it went stiff.

“Oh, Xena… yes!” Gabrielle felt a wave of ecstasy and bliss sweep over her. The way the splendid warrior woman was taking care of her sensitive breasts electrified her. She felt Xena move her mouth to her other breast and take it between her lips, first sucking its nipple then the whole breast. “Hmmm, Xena, it feels so good. . .” Gabrielle cried out and quivered in satisfaction.

Once Xena finished suckling the bard’s adorable breasts, she kissed her way down the younger woman’s tummy and started licking around the belly button, eventually dipping her tongue into the navel.

“Hmmm… Xena. Oh, please, carry on!” Gabrielle ran her fingers through Xena’s hair as she felt the warrior princess glide her mouth towards her heated centre. She bent her knees and spread her legs wider, offering herself to Xena.

Xena absolutely loved pleasuring Gabrielle like this. She first kissed the lovely blonde curls of the bard’s triangle. She then used her thumbs to part Gabrielle’s outer lips and sank her tongue inside the tasty wet cleft.

“Oh gods, yes, Xena!” Gabrielle felt an utter bliss rush through her body as Xena licked her way along every fold of her sex. She felt the warrior woman’s tongue slide into her wet opening while Xena’s fingers began rubbing her clit in circular motions. “Hmmm… Oh, yes! Xena, you are so skilled… Hmmm…” Gabrielle moaned at the intense pleasure her girlfriend was giving her. She started thrusting her hips rhythmically towards the other woman’s tongue as it pleasurably stroked back and forth inside of her.

Xena then firmly moved her tongue along the bard’s labia and pressed it against the engorged bundle of nerves at the top. The warrior’s tongue exquisitely slid around Gabrielle’s clit, making circular, leisurely movements, while she totally savoured the sweet, luscious and honeydewed taste and smell of her little friend’s sex.

“Oh, gods, Xena, please… Don’t stop!” Gabrielle loudly uttered a couple of times while caressing Xena’s hair. Hearing this, the warrior princess thought that there was no way she was going to end this so soon. Xena placed her mouth around Gabrielle’s hardened nub and began sucking on it –sometimes alternating with teasing pushes from her tongue.

After the bard had felt the warrior princess vigorously sucking and licking her swollen clit for a long while, she suddenly grabbed Xena’s hair and arched her back off the blanket beneath her and a rapturous guttural cry tore from her throat.

Xena hungrily licked away at all of Gabrielle’s precious dripping nectar, slowly running her tongue up and down the bard’s glistening folds. She kissed her friend’s beautiful sex and climbed her way back up Gabrielle’s body.

“You taste so good, Gabrielle,” Xena softly whispered into Gabrielle’s ear. The warrior utterly enjoyed getting a good taste of her bard yet again. Xena kissed the younger woman’s mouth. Gabrielle enjoyed feeling the taste of her own passion onto her experienced lover’s lips. The kiss deepened and their tongues sensually intertwined.

When they ended the kiss, Gabrielle squirmed beneath Xena. She was not in pain at all, but simply wanted to be able to sit up. Noticing this, the warrior woman moved her weight away from the blonde woman’s body.

Gabrielle sat up, quickly grabbed Xena by the shoulders and used all her might to flip the warrior onto her back. Xena sank into the blanket. Gabrielle straddled the dark-haired woman’s stomach and leaned down to kiss her neck affectionately. The warrior princess placed her hands onto the bard’s back; Xena always loved the feel of Gabrielle’s silky skin.

“I wanna taste you too, Xena. Hmmm…” Gabrielle said while kissing her way down to Xena’s collar bone. The young woman felt a fierce, smouldering desire inside of her. All she could think about right now was touching and savouring again the perfectly toned body of the woman she loved.

“Yes, Gabrielle. Do whatever you want.” Xena surrendered to the bard’s touch. Deep down, Xena still did not feel she deserved Gabrielle, but she felt completely powerless in dealing with the bard’s sexual demands. She loved that little woman so much that she felt like giving her everything she wanted. She utterly enjoyed satisfying Gabrielle’s every want.

Gabrielle slowly moved her way down Xena’s body, enveloped her hands around the warrior princess’ ample breasts and rejoiced in the delightful way these felt between her fingers and palms. The bard took as much as she could of one of the breasts into her mouth to suckle its nipple, which swiftly went hard under her ministrations. She then eagerly pushed more of the breast into her mouth while caressing the nipple of the other breast with her fingertips.

“Gods, Gabrielle. . . This is too good!” Xena gasped, thrilled by the strength of Gabrielle’s ability to please her. She felt Gabrielle slip her tongue towards her other breast and flick it across its nipple before sucking the mound into her mouth as far as she could.

“Oh, yes!” The warrior’s hands suddenly left Gabrielle’s back and clutched violently at the blanket underneath. Xena clenched her teeth, enjoying every moment of this.

After finishing relishing in Xena’s magnificent breasts, Gabrielle moved her way down the warrior woman’s body. She gently nibbled at the smooth skin of Xena’s stomach, near the belly button, and then heartily placed her head between the taller woman’s legs. The bard kissed the dark curls and then eagerly slid her tongue into the centre of the warrior princess’ pleasure.

“Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” Xena screeched. “Gods, please, more!” Xena put her hands on the back of Gabrielle’s head and firmly stroked the bard’s hair.

Gabrielle licked her way into Xena’s delicious wet slit and pushed her warm tongue inside the warrior’s entrance, pleasingly moving it in and out of her. She heard Xena scream her name in pleasure again. Savouring the warrior woman’s appetising scent and exotic taste, she gave firm licks to Xena’s inner folds while softly fondling the warrior’s hard clit with her fingertips. The bard then glided her tongue towards the sensitive bundle of nerves. Gabrielle flicked her tongue across Xena’s nub and happily sucked on it for a moment.

“Gods, Gabrie-e-e-e-elle!” Xena felt the joy of being so lovingly pleasured by the beautiful young woman she loved as she strongly but carefully held strands of Gabrielle’s hair into her curled, clenched hands. She tossed her head backwards, feeling completely exhilarated to be intimately pleased by her bard.

Gabrielle did not have as much experience as Xena, but the bard noticed that she was learning fast –judging from the warrior’s pleasure. She licked Xena’s remaining juices, kissed the dark patch of hair and crawled back up the warrior’s body.

“Hmm. . . this felt so good,” said Gabrielle before kissing Xena. Like she had the first time, the bard loved doing such explorations of the warrior’s body. Xena kissed her own taste onto Gabrielle’s lips. The warrior princess then gently rolled the bard over onto her back.

Xena gave the bard another deep, eager kiss before propping herself onto one elbow as she now lay down next to her. She noticed that Gabrielle was quietly gazing at her. She peered back into the bard’s eyes for a while as she leisurely caressed the smoothness of Gabrielle’s chest and belly. Gods she loved this woman. Xena could not deny the glaring emotional attachment she shared with this young bard. The passionate love flame that had been kindled inside her heart not too long after she had met Gabrielle now burned stronger than ever. After this long reflective moment, the warrior climbed to straddle the bard’s thigh.

Gabrielle felt Xena’s warm wetness against her skin. She moved her thigh upwards as much as she could under the warrior’s weight and heard a low, guttural cry coming from the other woman’s mouth as she was pressing against the warrior’s centre.

Xena brought a hand down to the delightful warmth between Gabrielle’s legs and began to fondle the bard’s sex, tenderly but firmly.

“Oh, gods, Xena, yes!” Gabrielle felt extremely aroused. She shivered in absolute excitement when she felt the warrior woman delicately massaging her swollen clit and the area around it. She felt she could not take this for much longer. All she wanted right now was her beloved friend to make love to her deeply. “Xena, hmmm…  Please… Take me now!” she ordered while lifting her hips a little and looking up into the experienced woman’s eyes. She then felt Xena swiftly bring her fingers downwards, near her wet cavity.

“You really want this, huh, my bard?” Xena asked as she teasingly positioned two fingers just outside Gabrielle’s wet entrance and ran them in stroking circles around it for a moment while smiling down at the bard.

“Xena, please! Oh, yes… my warrior, please!” Gabrielle begged, with an intensely amorous tone. Trying to relieve the ache between her legs, she desperately attempted to thrust herself up towards Xena’s fingers, but could not.

Xena could not resist. She had to please her bard the way the young woman wanted her to. She immediately inserted the two fingers deep inside Gabrielle’s coral opening. She revelled in the bard’s lovely inner textures which she felt clench around her digits. Xena kept straddling Gabrielle’s leg, grinding her sex against it joyfully in forward and backward movements while she moved her fingers back and forth inside the young woman and felt the bard’s liquid fire wet her digits.

“Oh, gods… Xena, yes! Hmmm… more please!” Gabrielle urged, placing her hands on the toned skin of Xena’s back. She then felt the warrior push a third finger inside of her while tenderly rubbing her clit with the thumb. “Oh… sweet… gods… Harder, please, Xena!” the bard loudly screamed. She felt utterly thrilled and arched her body upward, threw her head back and lifted her leg against Xena’s soaked folds.

“Gods, Gabrielle!” Xena cried out in bliss at the intense friction. The warrior princess’ fingers picked up some pace inside the bard as she thrust those three digits harder and deeper into the younger woman’s soaking wet centre. Xena also pushed her thumb further onto Gabrielle’s sensitive clit.

“Gods, yes! Xena! Keep going,” Gabrielle cried out as she grabbed onto Xena’s back more tightly. Xena saw the blonde woman’s face glow with happiness at the way the warrior deeply touched her.

Gabrielle realised she was going to come soon. She looked more deeply into the eyes of the woman making love to her, as she gripped more strongly onto the skin of Xena’s back –trying to bring more of this beautiful warrior woman into her. She felt so good. Xena’s hand was usually very rough while handling a sword in battle, but it could bring a touch that was so skilfully strong, swift and careful at the same time when it came to pleasuring her. Although Xena was now driving her fingers harder inside her, it had happened following Gabrielle’s readiness and willingness for her to do so and it all perfectly matched the bard’s inner sexual tempo.

With final deep thrusts of her fingers inside Gabrielle and pleasing strokes from her thumb on the bard’s engorged nub, Xena brought her friend over the edge.

“Xeeeenaaa!” As Gabrielle climaxed she closed her eyes and fiercely tossed her head backwards. Her body went rigid and she sank into the bedroll, feeling the rapturous aftershocks from the multiple blissful waves of intense pleasure the warrior princess had just given her.

Xena came not long after that, screaming Gabrielle’s name, as she kept strongly moving up and down against the bard’s thigh. After the orgasm, she fell limp onto the blonde woman. Xena removed her fingers from Gabrielle and hungrily sucked them clean.

The warrior princess moved her weight away from the bard’s thigh, went to lie next to her and kissed the side of her younger lover’s face. They were both covered in sweat, and the heat from the fire made them both feel even clammier.

Xena shifted and now lay on her back. Gabrielle instantly moved to snuggle up to her best friend and put her head onto the warrior’s chest, briefly kissing her breasts before resting there. Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle and cuddled her closely, stroking her hair.

“I love you, Xena… You’re so wonderful,” Gabrielle said, hugging Xena’s waist, and feeling the warrior princess softly kissing the top of her head.

“No, Gabrielle. You are wonderful! I love you…” Xena hesitated. She then murmured: “and I still don’t believe I deserve you… I hope that one day you’ll find someone who does. I’m only doing all this for you just now because I love you, you are so wonderful and I cannot refuse.” Xena felt sad.

“You believe what you wanna believe, Xena,” Gabrielle said while resting herself in her friend’s protective arms, “but you are with me for now, and I’m not gonna let you go that easily… Anyway, you’re right, Xena: our friendship really does feel closer than any blood bonds…” Gabrielle felt very exhausted and closed her eyes. She nestled herself closer against Xena and drifted into sleep.

Xena kissed the bard’s hair again, caught a blanket that was lying on the side of the bedroll and covered their nude bodies with it. Closing her eyes, she held Gabrielle tightly into her arms, felt slightly happier now and then fell asleep.

THE END

Another Way (a post-FIN story)

Fanfic cover by Silvermoonlight.

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Another Way

written by maggielassie

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Genre: Xena: Warrior Princess alternative fan-fiction; Post-FIN; Xena/Gabrielle and Gabrielle/Aphrodite femslash.

Copyright: I don’t own the Xena Warrior Princess characters. Universal/Renaissance does.

Timeline: This story takes place after the events of Friend in Need.

Violence: just a couple of scenes involve some violence, nothing too harsh though.

Subtext/maintext: Yes, some, between consenting adult women. This story contains themes of loving relationships between women. If this offends you, please refrain from reading. This is only PG-13 though, for this one.

Many Thanks to: Norsebard for the proofreading and feedback; everyone on TX for their encouragements.

Feedback: See Feedback page.

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“Xena?”  Gabrielle whispered to the female presence she had just noticed lying next to her, in the dark of the amazon queen’s hut. Moonlight lit the room. The woman had her back turned away from her on the bed. Gabrielle could hear some breathing — that sounded like Xena’s breathing. The sensual female form and long dark hair of the woman she loved seemed to be close to her now. She placed her hand on the shoulder of the woman lying next to her. Suddenly, she could hear some painful moans coming from that woman.

“Xena?” Gabrielle asked again as she started getting closer to the presence while slightly tightening her grip on the woman’s shoulder. The woman turned around, pressured by the grip. It was really Xena. Her beautiful blue eyes were filled with tears.

“I’m so sorry, Gabrielle, I should have known there was another way.” Xena’s facial expression was so pained.

“Xena, please don’t cry! I’m so glad you’re here with me.” Gabrielle smiled at her, both reassured and reassuring. Xena’s face became less pained as Gabrielle started drying Xena’s tears with her thumb.

“I should have known, you know?” Xena looked at Gabrielle with her deep blue eyes.

“What?” Gabrielle asked her, amazed.

Xena’s presence then started vanishing in front of her. Gabrielle could see Xena gradually becoming transparent until the bard found herself staring into the empty space on the bed next to her.

“Xena! Where are you?” Gabrielle whimpered. Her lover so close to her again, this had not lasted long. Gabrielle sat up and her hands felt around on the bed. “Xena?!” Her right hand suddenly felt something steely and wet under the blanket. She got it out from underneath and looked at it. It was the chakram, covered in blood — just like the way she’d found it on that battlefield in Jappa. Distress rushed through her.

“No!” Gabrielle woke up in a sudden jump, sweaty. She looked around in the queen’s hut. It was late morning. The sun shone through the planks and the entrance. What an overwhelming dream, she thought. She lay back down onto her bed for a minute, staring at the ceiling.

“My queen?” someone called. Gabrielle turned her head. Varia stood by the entrance, looking at her worryingly.

“I’m sorry, Varia. I slept in again.” Gabrielle said with a vanquished look on her face.

“It’s alright, Gabrielle.” said Varia “It’s understandable after what you’ve gone through… I heard you scream ‘No!’ What was it?”

“Did I?… Hmm, it’s okay, Varia. I just had a bad dream, that’s all… Can you please ask for some warm water to get prepared for me in the bath hut, Varia? I’ll be over there in a few moments.”

“Alright, Queen Gabrielle,” said Varia, with a reassured smile.

“Thank you, Varia.”

Varia bowed her head and left the room. Gabrielle got up from her bed and put on just some light clothing for going to the bath hut. She reached for the water that was in the Egyptian vase on a table, put some on her forehead, temples and cheeks, and drank a little.

She had brought back that vase from the Land of the Pharaohs six months ago. Goodness, how time went fast. She had met a group of nomads there who needed a girl with a chakram to help them defeat an attacking army. Great job, but so much harder without Xena by her side. She was now a very skilled fighter, equalling the strength of Xena’s, but her sense of well-being felt incomplete without her soulmate.

She looked into the mirror by the table. She looked depressed. Her hair had grown back a little, though it was still short. She looked at the chakram she’d left on the table the night before. It was clean and dry, not bloody like in the reminiscent dream she’d just had. Good. She went out, and walked toward the bath hut.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She had asked to be left alone while she was bathing. Her amazon sisters understood that she needed a lot of time for herself. It had been so many months since she’d lost her lover and best friend, and she was still mourning. Amazons recognized her as their queen again as soon as she’d come back living with them. She sometimes asked for some queen’s duties that involved watching out for the tribe and its food supply to be under Varia’s responsibility, when she could not always go outside during her times of mourning. Gabrielle still always participated in fights whenever there occasionally was a nearby danger. She would be there to defend her tribe.

Gabrielle still did not think she was doing enough as a queen to be with her tribe. She could not always be with them during meals and dances in the moments she needed to retreat to her hut to mourn. She could not stop thinking about Xena.

As she lay in the hot tub, Gabrielle could not stop bringing to her mind all the amazing sensual moments which she’d had while bathing with Xena. Then came to her mind all the good times they’d had spent hugging, kissing, cuddling, bathing together, sleeping together and making love. Her soulmate, now dead.

While she’d been on the deck next to her at the time of leaving Jappa, Xena had implied that she would be her ‘spiritual sidekick’ from now on. However, Gabrielle had only felt the presence of Xena’s spirit near her only a couple of times ever since.

Gabrielle remembered one time when she was on the ship during the exhaustingly long trip from Jappa to Egypt. She had been lying down to sleep while feeling so lonely, and suddenly she’d felt a hand stroking her short, golden hair. When she’d looked up, she could see Xena’s ghost smiling at her, “It’s me. I’m here for you, Gabrielle.” Such a lovely presence, watching over her while she’d gone to sleep.

Then another time, while she had been walking with the nomads going to battle in Egypt, she’d spotted Xena in the distance watching out for her.

“Why doesn’t it happen more often?” Gabrielle whispered to herself “She’d said she’d be at my side.” Where was Xena? Did she go into an afterlife? Did she go to the Elysian Fields? Gabrielle felt clueless.

I should have known there was another way.

She remembered the dream she’d just had this morning. Did that mean anything? What was Xena trying to say? What other way? She sighed. Perhaps it was just a dream and it meant nothing, just like all the other nightmares she’d been having every single month since her lover’s death.

She rubbed the soap onto herself. While soaked into the warm water from the bath she was lying in, a painful –but necessary– thought came over her: Xena would probably never come back to her, and maybe she should be starting moving on now?

She could not stop thinking about Xena, and it was distancing her so much from reality, stopping her from forming relationships with others. As the new warrior princess, she felt like an emotional wreck. Xena was the most important person she’d ever known: her soulmate, but she was not ever going to be with her anymore. So what could she do to get ready to move on?

Maybe she should quit the warrior lifestyle just for a little while –the time she would need to recover– like taking a vacation of some sort? She was a brilliant warrior princess, but fighting reminded her too much of the times she’d been with Xena, in a way that was hard to cope at the moment. She had to learn how to fight without emotionally missing Xena. She had to learn how to use her memory of Xena solely to give her more courage to fight in the future.

She had what was left of the Amazon Nation to help her fight, and she would come back to them eventually. Maybe now she could decide to go to a friend’s place, or to her family’s –somewhere calm, away from violence for a little while. Then later she could come back to her amazon tribe, rested and ready to fight even more, and more committed to take part in amazon gatherings again. Whose place could she go to, to help her move on?

She had already visited her sister Lila in Potidaea once since she’d come back to Greece. She had only been able to go there for a weekend, as Lila was now busy with local Poteidians building a new tavern, a business Lila was going to own –her faithful sister therefore was not home often. “Maybe come back to visit me in the winter,” Lila had said “and we’ll have more time to spend together.” It was only summer now. Going to Lila’s was not an option. Who else could help her?

What about Aphrodite? The Goddess of Love was a loyal friend and she could summon her anytime. Gabrielle remembered that when she’d gotten off the boat from Egypt, Aphrodite had been there to welcome her back to Greece. The Goddess of Love had hugged her as she was crying over the loss of Xena and the fact that, for the first time, she was back from a long trip without Xena by her side. “Call me anytime you need me, pumpkin. Also, my temple door is open if you ever need a place where to rest,” Aphrodite had said as they were parting while Gabrielle was heading to her amazon village.

Ending her absorption in thoughts, Gabrielle got out of the bath and grabbed a piece of fabric to dry herself with. She had brought her red velvet outfit, which she put on. Standing alone in the middle of the bath hut, she summoned the Goddess of Love, hoping Aphrodite would have time to hear her right now.

“Aphrodite?” Gabrielle called and waited a few moments.

“Yes, sweetheart?” In a golden shimmer, the Goddess of Love, with a cute smirk on her face, appeared before her.

“Aphrodite, I’m gonna need to ask for your help… Would you let me come to your temple and spend some time there? I need a vacation from fighting, just for a moment.”

“Hmm… the new warrior princess, Amazon Queen Gabrielle, already needs a break from fighting? What could this be about?”

Gabrielle slightly lowered her head and briefly bit her lip, sad-looking.

“Xena, huh?” said Aphrodite. “Oh, pumpkin, come here.” Aphrodite opened her arms to welcome the bard in her embrace.

“Oh, Aphrodite!” A tear came down Gabrielle’s eye as she wrapped her arms to firmly grip Aphrodite’s back and put her head near the Goddess’ shoulder. They slightly broke the hug to look at each other.

“Aphrodite,” Gabrielle explained: “it’s just that I now need to spend some time away from violence for a little while, so that I can better manage my feelings over my memories of her.

It’s been so many months now and I have decided to start coming to terms with it, before it eats me up alive. I’ve been mourning for a while now. I can’t stop missing her, but it’s taking too much of my life. I have to learn how to deal with it. Then, when I’ll come back to Amazon territory, I’ll use her courage she taught me and that remained in my heart to be able to fight again, without her…. So, is that okay for me to come spend some time with you? I need a friend, a non-warrior one at the moment.”

“Of course, Gabrielle, it’s alright.” Aphrodite smiled.

“I’m gonna have to go pack my things and we could walk to your temple; it’s a nice day.”

“Gabrielle, you still have the ashes, don’t you?”

“Yes, they’re in my hut, put away in the same corner as the Xena Scrolls… my ‘mourning corner’ that has a drawing of Xena Joxer had made.”

“Have you thought of pouring the ashes somewhere? It might be a way of starting coming to terms with it?”

“There’s a little river near Amphipolis. Maybe, Aphrodite, you could come with me as I go pour the ashes there.”

“When you’ll be ready, we’ll go there, pumpkin.”

“I’m ready today, actually. We could go there as we’re on our way to your temple.”

“Huh? You sure, Gabrielle?” They looked right into each other’s eyes.

“I have to let her go, Aphrodite. That would be a start, I guess.” Gabrielle said in a solemn expression.

“Okay, honey. Just go pack your things. Say goodbye to your tribe. I’ll be waiting for you outside.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Okay, Varia, now you’re queen again for the time being… until I come back.” Gabrielle had just explained it all –regarding why she needed to go away for a while– to her amazon sisters.

“Take care of yourself. We’ll all be waiting for your return, warrior princess.” said Varia. They both hugged.

“Goodbye, Gabrielle. We’ll hopefully see you again sometime soon, sister.” said Cyane.

“You will, Cyane.” Gabrielle interlocked her wrist with hers in an amazon way of saying ‘stay strong’.

The Amazon Nation praised the warrior princess, Gabrielle, as she got on her horse, Argo II, to leave for her vacation. On Argo’s back, she slowly rode towards the gates of Amazon Land. Aphrodite was standing there, waiting for her on the way out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gabrielle rode to the river near Amphipolis, with Aphrodite walking by her and Argo’s side. As they arrived near the edge of the river, Gabrielle got off her horse. “You wait here, Argo. Good girl!” Gabrielle got Xena’s ashes out of one of the sacks that was on Argo’s back. She walked closer to the river.

Gabrielle knelt in front of the water. She held the urn firmly with both her hands. Aphrodite stood near, watching Gabrielle quietly. It was a warm day, and the sun shined onto the river.

“Xena,” Gabrielle spoke to the silent sky above her, still holding the urn, “you have been my whole life so far. I don’t believe I’ll ever meet anyone like you again. The fact is I will most likely never see you again.” Tears started running down Gabrielle’s cheeks; she quickly dried them and sniffed. Aphrodite had a pained expression on her face while looking at Gabs by the river.

“I will never feel your touch on my skin ever again…” Gabrielle continued. “We will never hug each other tightly ever again… And we will never kiss or make love ever again… You left me. I understand you had to. Now I seriously have to come to terms with it. I have to find another way… my own way to be able to live now as the new warrior princess. I will never forget you, Xena. You were my best friend, my lover, my soulmate, my family…” Gabrielle looked down at the urn and took off its lid. “We’ll be together again, Xena… one day.”

Solemn and self-assured, Gabrielle poured the ashes into the river. “Here is the closest river to Amphipolis, Xena — your home.” She kept a quiet expression on her face as she watched the sun-glittered water engulf Xena’s ashes until the urn was fully emptied. “Goodbye, Xena. I will now use the memory of your strength and courage to help me survive.” Gabrielle closed the lid, put the empty urn onto the grass, and left it there. She walked back to Aphrodite and Argo.

“Let’s go to your temple now, Aphrodite.” They all walked away.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was two months later. Gabrielle was still staying in Aphrodite’s temple. She had prolonged her vacation. She felt she needed to spend more time with Aphrodite. Her great friendship with the Goddess of Love had initially prevented her from feeling empty inside after she’d said goodbye to Xena’s ashes. But now the friendship she had with Dite was getting even stronger. The Goddess was always lively and cheerful about spending time with Gabrielle.

Within her temple, the furniture, the marble floors, stairs and pillars were all of an absolute beauty. It was a spacious and elegant place. There was a beautiful garden just outside, with lots of flowers, and there was a stable for Argo at the back. Because Aphrodite was an immortal, she didn’t need food. Gabrielle could only find food there when people brought gifts to the goddess. Thus, Gabby often had to walk to Athens to go buy food for herself.

Apart from that, everything needed was there for the bard, especially the charm and liveliness of her immortal friend. They had fun together everyday, sometimes playing dice or checkers, other times going outside for walks, to see the sun, the trees and the flowers. Occasionally, Aphrodite had to go to towns on a Love mission to spread love amongst mortals; Gabrielle would come with her and witness the wonderful Love that her friend was spreading around Greece.

They found so many ways of having fun together and enjoying themselves, be it in the temple or outside. Now this evening, they were both sitting on a couch talking to one other, just after Gabrielle had had her dinner.

“So you like it here, pumpkin?” Aphrodite grinned.

“Hmm… this is the best vacation I’ve ever had in my life…” Gabrielle smiled but her tone then became slightly saddened: “… ever since my girlfriend passed away.” She smiled again: “Thank you so much, Aphrodite, for letting me stay.”

“You’re very welcome, honey. How are you feeling now?”

“A lot better. I’m starting to be able to live again, little by little.”

“Any more nightmares?” asked Dite.

“None since I’m here,” replied Gabby.

“You must be feeling very comfortable in the bedroom I gave you, no?”

“Yes, it’s very nice. Great view. Thanks.”

“That’s no problem, Gabrielle. Do you want me to go get you some wine?” inquired Aphrodite.

“I’m fine.” Gabrielle smiled at her.

Aphrodite smiled back. She put her hand onto Gabrielle’s, which was loose on the couch. The bard noticed the Goddess’ hand gently caress hers. Gabrielle reciprocated and their hands interlocked. They exchanged a friendly and smiling look at each other. Gabrielle suddenly looked deeply into Aphrodite’s eyes. Her friend had been doing everything to cheer her up ever since she’d got here, including godly tricks that suddenly made flowers or rabbits magically appear. Aphrodite had been so funny and loyal to her. And now holding her hand tightly and looking so deeply into her eyes, the goddess seemed to be having a crush on her.

Gabrielle could barely resist the charm. She brought her lips closer to the goddess’ to see if that was the next move Dite expected. They kissed. It was just a gentle, short kiss on the lips. Gabrielle breathed, thoughtful a minute, and resumed kissing her friend. This time it was a much deeper kiss. Gabrielle remembered when she’d backed away from Dite’s kiss while they’d been in Rome many moons ago, while Caligula was ruling. She would certainly not back away, not now. It was so powerful kissing the Goddess of Love. She felt butterflies going through her head. Happiness.

Why had she backed away the first time anyway?… Xena, she suddenly thought. Gabrielle immediately broke the kiss. She lowered her head, feeling confused. “I can’t. I’m sorry…” She whispered. She then briefly looked at Dite. “… Not just now.”

Gabrielle stood up and walked away quickly, toward her room upstairs in the temple. Aphrodite watched her go, feeling slightly disconcerted, but she understood. It’s a shame gods can’t sleep, she thought. She would also feel better retreating to her own bedroom now. She would have to be satisfied simply lying onto her bed then. Gods can rest, but they can’t sleep.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That night, Gabrielle kept tossing and turning in her bed, alone in the room Dite had given her when she’d arrived two months ago. Why had she so swiftly backed away from such a delicious kiss Aphrodite was giving her? She could never stop thinking about Xena, but was she not now trying to start a new life, as she’d planned? Her own attitude bothered her. If she really wanted to come to terms with the loss of her soulmate, she figured she should not prevent the beautiful goddess of love –whom she really was fond of– from giving her all the affection she’d terribly been missing lately. If she wanted to feel better, she felt that she’d better show others that she really was fine now, that she’d started turning the page.

Gabrielle got up from her bed in the middle of the night. She got out of her room and walked along the corridor towards Aphrodite’s suite. She knocked on the door.

“Come in.” Said Dite. Gabby opened the door. “Hey, sweetheart?” The goddess smiled. She lay comfortably onto her bed.

“I couldn’t sleep, Aphrodite.” said Gabrielle. “About earlier on… I’m very sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have walked away.” She gave the goddess an apologetic and embarrassed look.

“Oh, it’s okay. Come here.” Aphrodite sat up and opened her arms to Gabrielle. The bard walked towards her, sat on the bed and reciprocated the embrace. They hugged tightly for a minute, and then Aphrodite offered: “Do you wanna lie down on the bed next to me? You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“No, I want to.” Gabrielle nodded.

“You sure?” Aphrodite touched Gabs’ chin and looked into her eyes.

“I am.” Gabby nodded again, and proceeded to climb onto the goddess’ bed, and lay next to her.

“You wanna sleep here now? I’ll watch for you, make sure you fall asleep comfortably.” Dite wrapped her arms around Gabby.

“Sure….” Gabs said, her arms around her friend too. “Aphrodite?”

“Yes, Gabrielle.” She gently stroked the bard’s golden hair.

“I think I’m ready.” She looked up at Dite, with a peaceful, relieved expression.

“Really?” inquired the goddess.

“I have to move on with my own life. I need affection, Aphrodite. You’re such an warm and loyal friend. I’m really fond of you. You’re so beautiful.”

“I’m fond of you too, honey. You’re very gorgeous too.”

Gabrielle sat up, put her hand on the goddess’ cheek and kissed her. Aphrodite kissed back. This time it was much better. The kiss was never interrupted and became very passionate. It felt so good kissing the Goddess of Love, Gabby thought. Once again, butterflies flew inside her mind –probably the effect of kissing such an amazing deity.

“Aphrodite… there might be something I might not be quite ready for though. I might need a bit more time for this. You know what I’m trying to say?” said the bard once they finished kissing.

“Oh, pumpkin!” said Aphrodite, smiling. “It’s okay. I completely understand. We will just kiss and cuddle then, if you’re okay with that?”

“Absolutely, I love kissing and cuddling with you. I need it, so much. You’re my goddess, Aphrodite.” Gabs snuggled up to her. They kissed and sensually touched for a few moments, gently running each others’ hands onto the fully clad shapes of their bodies.

Aphrodite then hugged Gabrielle tightly. The bard, a few minutes later, fell asleep with her head lying onto the goddess’ breast. The new warrior princess felt cosy. Aphrodite was the only woman she would want to get this type of affectionate behaviour from these days.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

During the next two weeks, Gabrielle only wanted to sleep next to Aphrodite. They became really close to one another. Gabrielle now regarded  the Goddess of Love as her new romantic interest. They were not intimate –or at least not yet– but so often they were kissing, cuddling, caressing each other’s bodies and sharing baths together. It was strange for Gabrielle having an immortal girlfriend, especially a goddess. She clearly had never gotten that close to someone like Dite before.

On a beautiful morning, Gabrielle was finishing her breakfast, sitting at a table and eating some fruits. Aphrodite walked to her; she held a green velvet bag in her hand. The goddess sat next to Gabby.

“Gabrielle, have you ever thought of what it would be like if you became immortal?”

Gabrielle looked up suddenly, concerned.

“What are you talking about, Aphrodite? I know I won’t live as long as you will, but I’m so happy spending some time with you right now.”

Aphrodite opened the bag she held. She took a round object out of it. It was a golden apple. She showed it to the bard.

“I got this from Odin. I’d momentarily teleported myself to the Norse while you were in town the other day. After some discussion, he gave it to me. I’d explained to him why I so much needed it… Gabrielle, I think I love you. I’ve never felt that way for someone –ever since Hephaestus and I got separated a couple of years ago. I’d love to have you here with me for eternity, with all your mightiness and beauty. What do you think?”

The bard felt utterly perplexed.

“I’ll… need to think about it. It’s an interesting offer. But, at the same time, I really feel alright the way I am, as a mortal. I wasn’t expecting this kind of offer; that’s all I can say right now. Just please give me some time to think about it, okay?”

“Of course, I understand, Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle took the golden apple into her hand, to touch its texture. It was so wonderfully smooth. She looked up at her new girlfriend.

“You know, pumpkin,” Dite spoke gently and seductively, “it might actually feel wonderful for you to become an immortal. Think about how many painful mortal feelings you could rid yourself of, huh? Like, for example, fear of death, what a horrible sort of feeling that must be?”

“Yeah, but maybe that’s the importance of feelings like these: making you feel human, bringing you back to reality… As the new warrior princess, I might need this sort of reality to motivate me for fighting,” answered Gabrielle.

“That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t feel any strong incentive to fight for yourself or your people in Amazon Land, Gabrielle, if you were immortal. Will you just think about it?” inquired Dite, quietly  and nicely.

“Yes, I will. I promise.” Gabrielle handed back the apple to Dite. They smiled at each other and hugged.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the afternoon, Gabrielle needed to go to Athens to get herself a large supply of food. She left Argo in the stable, because she figured she’d rather walk than ride on horseback to Athens on such a seemingly peaceful and beautiful day.

She took a shortcut through the woods. She was dressed in her red velvet warrior outfit with her sais in her boots and her chakram hanging on the side of her waist, in case there might be trouble ahead. She was on her long vacation from fighting, but there could always be people wanting to mess with a warrior princess.

As she walked in the middle of the forest, she arrived to a clearing. She suddenly stopped walking, got the sais out of her boots, and held onto them firmly. She could hear noise, like barely discreet footsteps. She looked around her.

An ugly-looking, long-haired, chubby warlord who was loosely holding a sword walked out from one of the bushes on the right. He was shortly followed by his mates, who then stood behind him. They were all armed. But there were only three of them, as far as she could tell.

“Gabrielle!” said the chief warlord, sniggering with his ugly teeth. “The new warrior princess!”

“What do you want from me? I’m on my vacation for the time being.” Gabrielle kept her eyes focused on the three warlords, her pointed sais held in front of her in self-defence.

“Well, since you’re the new warrior princess,” said the main warlord “somebody has to kill you and therefore be proud to become the man who killed Gabrielle. Me and my friends here, we could make plenty of dinars, just on your head.” The warlord brandished his sword in attack. “Do you think we care about your vacation? Prepare to die!” the warlord bellowed.

He lunged at her, while the other two men were still standing some space behind. All her movements now had to be swift and effective. Gabrielle skilfully stopped the blade of the first warlord attacking her –catching it into one of her sais. She then quickly moved forward, pushed him and his weapon back away from her with all her might, and she subsequently kicked his chest with an outstretched leg, throwing him backwards. He hit his back against a tree and moaned in pain. His sword fell on the ground beside him.

Next, the two other warlords started coming at her. Gabrielle dropped one sai onto the grass in order to quickly seize her chakram. She flung the circular object around. Flying in the air, it struck both the warlords’ weapons, chopping off the top of their swords. Gabrielle caught her chakram back. The warlords dropped their disabled swords and ran towards her in a fury, wanting to kill her with their bare hands.

She plunged her other sai into the thigh of one of them, and quickly got it out. The man screamed. Blood ran from his fresh wound. He collapsed. She immediately stretched her leg forth and fiercely kicked the head of the other man, breaking his neck. His body fell down to the ground.

“You bitch!” shouted the man with the wounded thigh, lying on the ground in pain.

“Shut up!” Gabrielle retorted. “Just get a bit of cloth and firmly place it around your wound to stop the bleeding. You’ll be fine.”

Gabrielle looked at the chief warlord, who had his back against the bottom of a tree. As she walked closer, it looked like he had no broken limbs. He slowly started standing up and brandished his sword again.

“You killed one of my mates. I’ll kill you.” said the warlord, as he was walking towards her, step by step.

“Yes, I killed him. When attacked, a warrior has to act quickly. And there can be people being killed in the process.” said the new warrior princess, sharply.

“Argh… I’ll kill you!” the warlord bawled. He started walking quicker, his sword in hand. Gabrielle leaped forward –she did a very high front flip that sent her flying above the enemy, with all the beauty, strength and suppleness of her body. She landed on her feet, behind the warlord, turned to him and kicked the sword off from his hand as he moved around to face her again.

The warlord stared at her, unarmed, and tried to attack again. She punched him in the face with such a force that it discouraged him from attacking again. He was severely weakened.

“Now you all just get the Hades out of here!” Gabrielle said. The wounded and exhausted men walked away from the scene, carrying the body of their dead mate.

Gabrielle crouched down and put her sais back into the sides of her boots. As she stood up again and was ready to go, she heard a masculine voice behind her: “Well-done, Gabrielle.” Gabrielle turned around, bug-eyed, as she saw Ares standing a few feet away from her with a slight smile on his face. He looked just as hauntingly suave and malicious as ever.

“Ares? What are you doing here?” Gabrielle froze.

“First of all, I’m here to admire my new warrior princess. The way you beat those three guys was absolutely awesome and stunning. I had to come here and watch this.” The God of War walked towards Gabrielle and softly caressed the side of her face. He then gently lifted her chin with the tips of his fingers, forcing her to look at him deeply. “You should be proud of yourself. You’re pretty much just as skilled as Xena now.”

Gabrielle pushed his hand away.

“Stop it!” she uttered. “I’m on vacation, Ares.”

“Hmm… you fight pretty well during your vacation. That surely arouses me,” said the God of War, lecherously gazing at the shape of her body from head to foot.

“They were attacking me. I had to fight back,” Gabrielle replied angrily. “Look, it was Xena you wanted to own as a warrior queen. Now she’s dead. Leave me alone.”

Ares sighed.

“That she’s dead is a terrible fact to me. She did not deserve to die.” The God of War now looked dismayed at that thought.

“For once, here’s something you and I agree on,” remarked Gabrielle.

“Look, Gabrielle, you’re important to me. Your amazing skills appeal to me.”

“So is that what you’re here for? You now want me to become your warrior queen to fulfil all your sick and lascivious needs?” Gabrielle looked at him suspiciously.

“Well, very tempting but… Not exactly,” replied the dark deity.

“Good! I’m with Aphrodite now anyway.” Gabrielle smirked. “Now please get out of my way.”

“Gabrielle, wait, I have something important to tell you.” Ares placed his hands onto the bard’s shoulders, gripping her smooth skin. He never wasted an opportunity to touch a beautiful woman.

“What is it?” Gabrielle wanted to move away from him but she felt she was somehow being under his godly influence right now. She remained standing in an upright position, facing the God of War while looking up at him.

“Look, I know Aphrodite has just made you an offer to become an immortal.” said Ares. “I’ve been watching you this morning, inside her temple. I can make myself invisible and watch in a corner, you know.”

“What exactly do you want from me?” asked Gabrielle. A feeling of unease climbed up her spine.

“I’ll let you know soon enough. First, I have to tell you about something…. Xena’s soul, Gabrielle, do you know why she disappeared away from you?”

“Xena’s soul?… Why?”

“She’s trapped in hell, Gabrielle. She died unfairly, an untimely demise,” Ares explained as Gabrielle listened to him attentively. “It wasn’t her time. The souls were freed. She did not have to stay dead. Somebody, Akemi perhaps, withheld or distorted information. Had you dumped Xena’s ashes in the water on Mt. Fuji, Gabrielle, those forty thousand souls would have been just as freed and Xena just as redeemed. You just didn’t know there was another way.”

“Are you sure?… How do you know all this, Ares?” asked Gabby, in a shocked bewilderment.

“I’m a God, little girl. I’ve got my own contacts in the netherworld.” He tightened his grip upon her. “I saw her soul being trapped in hell, Gabrielle. That place is worse than our Greek Tartarus. I could not intervene; it was outside the realm of my duty as the Greek God of War. She is there because she’s been cursed. First, she died unfairly. Then, dark ghostly Japanese forces from the netherworld seized her spirit, in an attempt to avenge their Lord Yodoshi, and they took her to hell.”

“Last time I saw Xena’s spirit, I was in Egypt, on a mission,” said the bard. “I saw her in the desert.”

“They seized her not long afterwards. I had confirmation of that, Gabrielle,” said Ares.

“Is this why she never came back to see me?” Gabrielle put her hands onto the strongly muscled arms that were grasping her shoulders. Profoundly disconcerted, she needed to hold onto something right now.

“That’s right,” said Ares. Gabrielle looked at him.

“Still, what do you want me to do? What can I possibly do?” The bard was sad and confused.

“As an immortal, you could help release Xena’s soul from hell. Only someone like you can free her, Gabrielle,” said the God of War.

“How?” Gabrielle did not understand.

“Look, let me take you to a place somewhere just for a few moments, will you? Just the time for me to explain a deal I want to make with you and why, and then I’ll teleport you back here, all right?”

“Okay.” Gabrielle accepted. She would do anything to help free Xena from her unfortunate situation.

The God of War held Gabrielle tightly and they both vanished together in a flash of light.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In another burst of light, Ares and Gabrielle appeared inside a dark place. The bard looked around her. The God of War stood by her side.

“Where are we? Where did you take me?” Gabrielle was confused.

“Don’t you recognize this place, little girl?” asked the dark deity.

Gabrielle scrutinized the dark room. It was a vacant and gloomy temple. On the floor, a few feet ahead, the few remnants of an extremely sabotaged loom lay. Its threads were gradually turning to dust. A feeling of déjà vu came over the bard.

“The loom?… We’re in the Temple of the Fates,” said Gabrielle, bedazzled by the bleak spot before her.

“That’s right, Gabrielle… Or, more exactly, what is left of the Temple of the Fates. You destroyed their loom, remember?” asked Ares.

“But that’s not possible.” Gabrielle shook her head, even more puzzled. “When I destroyed it, it was in an alternate life, when I was trying to save Xena.”

“Yes, but, Gabrielle, please consider that under Olympian Law, no Greek sacred place can completely disappear. Deities, without mortals knowing about it, can still access different lives and different universes.”

“And exactly how, Ares? How did you find out about the loom?”

“I’ve always been watching all Xena’s paths very closely, including alternate lives. Gods can only watch those alternate lives though; we cannot intervene. So, anyway, in the process of watching Xena’s, I came across many of her lover’s paths too; as your destiny and hers are always so intrinsically linked together, Gabrielle. I’ve got to admit I’m jealous,” he conceded, sounding unsatisfied.

“You’re so obsessed with Xena that you’ve been doing this? Nothing surprising here… Still, can you please explain to me how come this place exists here and now despite the fact that I’d destroyed it in another world?” she asked.

“Well, it doesn’t, as a matter of facts. It doesn’t really exist. I just took you to that alternate universe here, at some point in time not too long after you destroyed the loom. I know this may sound strange, Gabrielle, but digging deep enough into the various schemes of things, I was somehow able to access this place, this paradox. I’ll take you back to reality soon enough, you’ll see.”

Gabrielle did not have any time to waste on asking the God of War for more details. In the real world, Xena had died in Jappa. Cruel Japanese ghost judges of the netherworld had abducted her soul and taken her to hell.

“Okay.” she said. Now having a better understanding of where she was, she spoke more firmly: “Now let’s get straight to the point, shall we? Why did you take me here, Ares? What is this about? How am I supposed to release Xena’s soul?”

“Follow me.” Ares walked towards the left wall of the shadowy place they were in. Gabrielle walked with him. He lit one of the torches hanging on the wall with his godly powers.

Gabrielle looked at the newly lit stone wall Ares was showing her. An engraving had been carved into it. It said:

“To the mortal who destroyed our loom:

Thou hast not completely tare it asunder,

so to speak. In whatever life thou shalt have,

shouldst thou become an immortal and then

drink the sacred Water of Aganippe, thou shalt

be granted the ultimate power over all

destiny. Our reign as Fates hast disappeared,

and this is our legacy to thee.”

~ The Fates.

“By the gods…” said Gabrielle, as she was starting to come to realize what this was all about. “You said earlier on that I was the only one who would be able to free Xena’s spirit from hell, Ares. And you also said that you knew about the offer Aphrodite made me. What exactly do you want from me? What is the deal you were talking about?”

“As the Fates carved it on this wall before they disappeared after you destroyed their loom, they gave you the legacy of the power over destiny –probably because they wanted a possibility for the control over mortal destiny to never be lost, but that’s another story.” Ares continued: “There are, however, two prerequisites to your acquiring of the power over destiny. First, you must become an immortal. Second, you must drink some of the water from the spring of Aganippe, which is at the base of Mt. Helicon.”

“The Fountain of Aganippe? The sacred place of the Muses? I’ve been there before while I used to write some of my scrolls. I thought it only was a place to give inspiration to writers and bards?” asked Gabby.

“That’s right,” answered Ares. “It is mostly a place to inspire mortal bards to write. Yet, according to the gift you received from the Fates, if you became immortal you could become some sort of powerful eternal being who could control destiny. Drinking the sacred Water of Aganippe hence would set your power in motion… I believe that if you then wrote on a scroll something related to the destiny of a mortal soul, living or dead, what you write would come true.”

“So then I could write, for instance, something about Xena’s soul escaping from hell and making it to heaven or the Elysian Fields, and it would come true?” A feeling of hope crossed Gabrielle’s mind.

“Correct. You would have the power over the fate of Xena’s spirit… Of course, more importantly, you could also write about Xena’s soul being born into a new body like say, for example, the body of another beautiful woman –an option which I would prefer.” Ares grinned. “When that beautiful woman would be grown, I could seduce her all over again.”

“So, is this what it was all about?” asked Gabrielle, sternly. “You want me to bring Xena back to the living world so that you can one day attempt to possess her again? You’re only driven by your own selfish needs, aren’t you?” She looked at him with disgust.

“Selfish, me? I was the one who told you about all this. I helped you find out about this fortunate legacy from the Fates to you –a gift you could use to release Xena. You should be more grateful, little girl… Now, why would you care if I were to be with Xena?” The God of War sighed. “You’ve got your new partner, the Goddess of Love. As an immortal, you could be next to her for eternity. So it’s not all that bad, is it?”

“Xena is my soulmate! I won’t let you have her.” said Gabrielle, scornfully. “Once I’m immortal and I drink from that spring, I will write about a destiny for Xena to go to heaven, and that will be it.” She started turning away from him. He seized her arm, prompting her to face him again.

“Oh, no, it won’t.” Ares stared at her with an evil look on his face. “I have something that will inspire you to write the right thing.”

“What are you talking about?” In a quick movement, Gabrielle freed her arm from his grasp. She kept looking at him.

“I knew you would be trying to pull one of your ‘goodie two-shoes’ plans here. So I took some precautions: I went to Poteidia and got your sister Lila abducted yesterday. She’s being guarded by some of my followers in my temple right now.” Ares sneered.

“You bastard!” Gabrielle screamed. “You vicious, conniving bastard! You’re trying to get me to bring Xena back only to satisfy you own perverse needs, and now you’re threatening my sister. I hate you!”

Ares gripped her shoulders in an attempt to calm her down. He did a godly trick while staring at her. Gabrielle froze. She looked up at him more quietly. She could feel his influence upon her now. He’s trying to control me now, she thought to herself; I shouldn’t let him take over my sanity.

“Gabrielle, listen,” said Ares. “Accept Aphrodite’s offer as soon as you get back to her temple. Become immortal tonight. Then come and meet me tomorrow morning near the Fountain of Aganippe. Come alone, with a scroll and a quill. Your sister will be there. She will not be harmed if you cooperate. We will free Xena’s soul from hell, you’ll see. Everything will be alright, for Xena, for your sister, for you and for me.”

“Especially for you, huh?” Gabrielle remarked. “I will have to lose my mortality so that you can have Xena. This is unfair.”

“So do we have a deal then?” asked Ares.

“Yes… I guess we have one,” said Gabrielle, reluctantly. “I’ll meet you at the base of Mt. Helicon tomorrow. And I want my sister to be there with you.”

“She will be. Shall I bring you back to the real world now?”

“Yes, please.”

With his grip on the bard, Ares teleported Gabrielle back into the woods, back to reality.

“One more thing,” said Ares before he left. “Don’t even think about going to that sacred spring by yourself during the night. I will be watching over that place closely.”

“I won’t do that,” said Gabrielle, unhappy. Ares disappeared in a flash of light.

What was she going to do now? She did not want to walk to Athens anymore after all this. With a couple of dinars, she would just be asking for food from someone nearby. It was still the afternoon, but she just wanted to go back to Aphrodite’s as soon as possible.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gabrielle walked back into the temple not too long after managing to get a little bit of food for the evening, from people in a neighbouring village. The Goddess of Love lay on one of the couches, reading one of the Xena scrolls Gabs has let her borrow.

“Hey, sweetheart! You’re home?” said Aphrodite, lifting her head from the reading. She smiled.

“Yes, I’m here now.” Gabrielle walked to Dite and gently kissed her on the lips, briefly.

“Hey? You don’t look so happy, Gabrielle,” said Dite. “Something happened while you were out?”

“Oh, no I’m alright. I just got attacked by some warlords.” Gabrielle had a quick bite on some food while she sat on a chair near the Goddess. She did not want to worry Aphrodite too much.

“Oh, really?” asked Dite.

“Yes, really… right in the middle of my vacation. I had to fight back. Annoying.” Gabrielle nodded.

“But you’re alright now?” asked Dite.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” answered the bard.

“I was just re-reading one of your scrolls. It’s excellent. It’s the one about Xena fighting the Persian army and saving you from a poison.”Aphrodite sounded excited about the story.

“Oh, it’s an old one, that one. I love it, one of the best I’ve ever written.” Gabrielle smiled.

“It is.” Aphrodite smiled back.

“Hmm… Aphrodite?” asked Gabrielle.

“Yes, honey?” The Goddess of Love glanced at her.

“I’ve been seriously thinking about the offer you made me, earlier on today…” Gabs took a deep breath.

“Yes?” said Dite, impatiently interested.

“… and I thought that, actually, it might definitely be okay for me to become an immortal. In other words, I think I’m ready, Aphrodite. I’m ready to join you.” Gabrielle looked at her in a serious way.

“Eh… Are you sure you wanna do this? I thought you said you would miss your mortal body, your mortal feelings?” Dite was curious.

“Yes, in a way, I guess…” said Gabby. “But I really wanna do this. I’ll be able to protect the Amazon Nation even more, and I’ll be by your side for eternity. I want to make you happy… Er… Aphrodite?”

“Yes, pumpkin?” asked the Goddess.

“Can you please go get that golden apple for me, now?” The bard briefly bit the bottom of her lip.

“You want it right now, already? Won’t this be a bit too quick for you? I thought you needed some more time to think about it?” Aphrodite looked slightly puzzled.

“I’ve had all afternoon thinking about it. It’s very tempting, and I’m ready. I know that as an immortal, I won’t become someone devoid of feelings,” affirmed Gabrielle.

“Not with such a good heart you have, you won’t… I’m so happy you’ve made that decision. I really want this to happen but, at the same time, I’m very surprised, as it isn’t like you at all to suddenly want to become immortal so quickly. But, if you insist…” Dite smiled.

The Goddess stood up and went to get the green velvet bag that contained the golden apple. A few seconds later, she handed the apple to Gabrielle: “There you go. Take your time.” Gabrielle took it in her hand and looked at it again. Aphrodite sat back down and went back to reading the scroll she loved, while keeping an eye on Gabrielle sitting in the same room.

For a moment, the bard sat there, golden apple in her hand, and absorbed in her thoughts:

Could this all really be helpful to Xena? Once I get the power over all destiny –as a gift from the Fates– what could I possibly do to thwart Ares’ plan? He’s got Lila; I don’t want him to kill her. At the same time, I want to be able to free Xena’s soul without the possibility of Ares having her again someday. He would drive her back into her evil warlord ways and make her kill innocents again. I must find a loophole in Ares’ plan somehow. How could I possibly send Xena’s soul to heaven? Surely there must be another way… Bah! I’ll just take the apple. As an immortal, I might be able to beat Ares on a fair game.

Gabrielle brought the golden apple to her lips, holding it in front of her mouth for a minute. Aphrodite saw that and watched her.

“You’re really sure this is what you want?” Aphrodite now watched her with close attention.

“So be it.” Gabrielle nodded solemnly.

She placed her teeth around the golden flesh of the fruit and took her first bite of it. A rush of shimmering golden waves fluttered around her soul. She kept eating the apple, letting the powerful stream of immortality overwhelm her spirit.

Once she finished eating the godly fruit, she put the core down on a table and she looked at Aphrodite, who was sitting in front of her.

“How are you feeling now, Gabrielle?” asked the Goddess of Love.

“I’m fine. Eating that apple was so wonderfully pleasant.” Gabrielle smiled. Next, she took one of her sais out from her right boot. “Just checking something,” she said.

Gabrielle stretched out her left forearm in front of her and, with her other hand, plunged the point of the sai deep into it. “Unbelievable,” she said, bewildered. The sai was buried deep into her arm, its tip coming out of it from underneath, and there was absolutely no blood visible and she did not feel any pain. She pulled the sai out of her left arm and, still, felt nothing. There was no hole, wound, blood or physical pain. These things were non-existent in an immortal’s life. Gabrielle put her weapon away.

A few moments later, she walked towards the Goddess of Love and sat next to her on the couch. They kissed and then they paused for a moment, looking into each other’s eyes.

“I’ve made it, Aphrodite,” said Gabrielle. “I’m with you now.”

“Thank you so much for doing this for me, my little darling.” Dite hugged her.

“It’s alright.” Gabrielle smiled and hugged back. They resumed kissing and cuddling each other closely. Gabrielle stayed with Aphrodite. This night would be a long one. She needed to relax.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the morning, an immortal Gabrielle walked through an easy path she knew, one which would lead her to the foot of Mt. Helicon. She had told Aphrodite that she just needed to go for a walk outside, for the first time, as an immortal fighter. She had put an empty scroll and a quill in a rucksack she carried. She also had a sheath placed onto her back, with a sword inside it, sticking out. She wore her amazon outfit today –the one she’d been wearing when, with Xena and her amazon sisters, she’d been fighting the forces of Bellerophon, just outside a fortress on the nearby coast.

She arrived near Mt. Helicon. As she kept walking through a landscape filled with ample greenery such as grass, bushes, flowers and trees, she reached her destination: the Fountain of Aganippe. Ares was standing in front of it, a few feet ahead of her.

“Hello, Gabrielle,” he said. “Thanks for coming. I can feel the aura of your newly acquired immortality from here.” He looked at her right in the eyes and grinned.

Gabrielle looked around. They were standing in the middle of this beautiful Aganippe place she knew: lots of green spaces, a grass-covered ground, plants, bushes, and a few trees. Somewhere behind Ares, the spring of Aganippe was gushing from the centre of a large, rectangular and light blue marble pool. The morning sun glittered over the water. This was the magic Water of the Muses, which had the power of inspiring any writer who drank it –the very same water which would enable an immortal bard like her to be inspired and write something that would come true.

“Where is Lila, Ares?” asked Gabrielle angrily, while scrutinising the place around her.

“Kyros and Leonidas,” called Ares, “come out here! Bring the sister!”

A little distance away from the scene, two of Ares’ warlords and loyal followers came out from one of the large green bushes on the right hand side. They held Lila between them by her arms. Her hands had been tied together with ropes, and she had been gagged with a piece of cloth. Lila’s eyes stared into Gabrielle’s, as soon as she saw her sister. One of the men held the blade of a dagger near Lila’s throat. She looked terrified.

“You bastard!” shouted Gabrielle to Ares.

“Now stay where you are just now, Gabrielle,” said Ares, “One movement towards her and she dies, understand?”

Gabrielle remained where she was. She may be immortal but she was not a god yet. She could not help Lila from the place where she was standing. She looked at the water behind where the God of War was standing. Just one sip of it and that would be it, to give her the power over destiny of all souls.

“You want me to cooperate, Ares, right?” She sighed.

“That’s right,” he said. “Did you bring a scroll and a quill?”

Gabrielle opened her rucksack and dropped the scroll and quill on the ground beside her to show Ares.

“Here they are,” she said. “You want me to write about Xena’s soul being born into a new body, once I drink the water, alright? The body of someone who’ll become a beautiful woman. Is that still what you want?” she asked, tensely.

“Yes.” Ares smugly sneered. “Except that you’re not gonna be the one who gets to choose the body, Gabrielle. I get to choose it.” Ares glanced towards another one of the bushes, not too far away from Lila and her two captors. “Theron! Galenos! Bring the other girl!” he yelled.

Gabrielle saw two other men come out of the bushes. They were carrying the body of someone. The woman looked unconscious, inert. The men walked to the middle of the scene, in between Ares and Gabrielle. In a thump, they dropped the body to the ground and walked back near the bushes.

Gabrielle looked at the woman’s body lying on the ground. The woman looked dead. Gabrielle did not know her, but her features and shapes looked beautiful, just like Xena’s. Although it was not Xena, it seemed to be the closest resemblance to the former warrior princess. Gabrielle was shocked.

“You found a woman who looked like Xena and you got her killed?” she asked Ares.

“That’s right,” replied Ares, “half an hour ago. She’s only been strangled by one of my men. Her body is still fresh, beautiful and intact –perfect to welcome a new soul. I figured that once Xena’s spirit enters it, the body will be revived and the bruises on her neck will heal shortly thereafter.”

“Hold on, Ares,” said Gabrielle, repulsed. She tried to make sense of what she was witnessing: “You won’t accept Xena’s soul to go into the body of a future newborn because you don’t wanna wait until she grows up to seduce her… So, you want her right now, and you kill an innocent… And now you expect me to go drink that water and then write for Xena’s spirit to take over the body of a woman who’s been recently killed?”

“Correct.” Ares gave Gabrielle an evil smile. “Moreover, Xena will probably only have a very vague memory of her past life once she enters her. She’ll be easy to seduce again, for me.”

“You are one sick son of a bacchae!” yelled Gabrielle, feeling squeamish. “And you think I’m gonna do this for you? You think I’m just gonna let that happen?” She gave him a scornful look.

“Oh, yes, you will! Especially if the life of your beloved sister is at stake,” said the God of War.

Gabrielle looked towards Lila. One of her captors still threatened her with his blade. Her sister painfully uttered a muffled moan under her gag –Lila’s eyes bulging as she saw the blade move slightly closer to her neck, intimidating her.

“Lila, I’m sorry,” said Gabrielle, upset, “I did not think you would get involved in all of this.” Gabrielle looked back at Ares. She was profoundly annoyed at what was going on.

“See, Gabrielle? She’s in danger,” said Ares, in an authoritarian voice, “Now, let’s get down to business, shall we? Come drink the sacred water here, then walk back toward your scroll and write for Xena’s soul to escape from hell and take over that woman’s body in a few moments. Do that or Lila dies, get it?”

“Ares,” Gabrielle shouted back, “that water is not only supposed to give me the power over someone else’s fate. It is also supposed to give me some inspiration on how to write about that fate.”

“Yes, but, Gabrielle,” yelled Ares, “when someone holds a dagger to your sister’s throat, let’s just say that that your options for inspiration are limited, all right? Now please proceed with the job. I want my Xena back. I will treat her right, you can count on me.”

“Ares, this is unfair,” responded Gabrielle. “Can I please ask, as an immortal, that I get the chance to fight against you first? A fair fight? I’m very angry just now.”

“I guess a God of War would never refuse a good fight,” said Ares, “but what are you hoping to win in this?”

“The chance to beat you at your own game.” replied Gabby. “If I win, I’ll still write the story you wanna hear. But the woman comes with me, and not with you, when she stands up. And then her, Lila and I, we can all go home safe.”

“And if I win?” asked Ares.

“Then I write the story you wanna hear and you can have the woman, I guess,” said Gabrielle, reluctantly. “But because the scroll will be my work, I want to at least get the chance of reaping the rewards, even if it’s not certain.”

“Alright,” said Ares, thoughtful. “I guess that either way the woman could still be mine, as I could always go after her again sometime if she goes with you. But… I doubt you will win anyway.” The God of War smirked.

He ordered Theron to remove the dead woman’s body from the middle of the scene. The follower obeyed, as Ares and Gabrielle were getting ready to confront each other.

While Ares’ warlords and Lila watched from their standpoint on the side, the God of War got his sword out of his sheath. Gabrielle did the same. Facing each other, they walked towards one another. Ares brandished his sword. As his blade was about to strike Gabrielle, she stopped it with her own sword.

Their weapons clashed several times, making raucous, clinking sounds. An immortal swordfight: they both would have to figure out what would strike the winning blow or bring the other to the ground.

In a swift move, Gabrielle’s sword penetrated the chest of the dark deity. She pulled it out. Although that hadn’t produced any physical effect, it angered Ares further. He moved forward, held his sword high in the air and lowered it to hit the new warrior princess. She blocked the blade with her sword in a defensive move, but as he kept his sword in position above hers, Ares hit Gabrielle’s head with his elbow. This did not hurt her, but it made her temporarily lose the control of the protective position of her sword.

Ares plunged his weapon underneath Gabrielle’s right collarbone. For an instant, the blade protruded from the top her back. Gabrielle quickly jumped backwards, backing away from Ares’ sword. There was no blood, no mess, no nothing. She sent a proud smile to the God of War, who was facing her –proud that she was immortal and physically unscathed.

She dropped her sword on the grass and threw her chakram around. In its circular flight, it broke Ares’ sword. He dropped what was left of it to the ground.

Gabrielle caught the chakram back and uttered a Xena-like war cry while running toward Ares. She performed a back flip while climbing up his body with her boots –once again totally Xena-style. This somersault landed her on her feet, near the pool. Ares looked at her closely and he started walking around her, distancing himself a few feet away from her while still staring at her in the eyes as she also carefully watched his every move.

“So, you think you’re Xena, now?” Ares hissed. He kept walking around Gabrielle until he was facing her from a small distance as she was now standing in front of the spring, her back to the fountain.

“No,” retorted the blond, short-haired, woman, “I just think that I have now learned how to master all the wonderful strength and fighting techniques I learned from her.”

“Alright, little girl, very impressive but I don’t have an eternity for this,” said Ares. “As we’re immortal, this could go on forever, and I just won’t let that happen.”

Ares immediately lifted his right arm and a shining ball of godly power appeared in the palm of his hand. Gabrielle froze. With his godly skills, he quickly magnified the flash of light –throwing it towards her. The godly forward lightning hit her and sent her straight into the pool behind her.

This was not painful at all, thanks to her immortality. As she fell into the water, Gabrielle let the liquid engulf her whole being. She let her body sink to the bottom, even though the pool was not deep.

Underwater, with her eyes closed, she relaxed as she felt she could hear the Muses’ beautiful chants around her. She felt she could also make out the faint voice from one of the Fates inside her mind –perhaps the Crone:

In whatever life thou shalt have, shouldst thou become an immortal and then drink the sacred Water of Aganippe, thou shalt be granted the ultimate power over all destiny…

All destiny: past, present and future. The fate of all beings, living or dead, will be under your control, one at a time, or in a series of consequences.

The second part of the statement hadn’t been carved on the engraving she’d seen, but she felt it must be true. From another sphere of existence, one of the Fates was letting her know about the possibilities of her power.

She thus opened her eyes, swam back to the surface of the pool and gulped some of the Water of Aganippe as she came out.

Drenched, she stood up in the sacred water –which was still surrounding her at mid thigh-height. Ares was waiting for her outside the pool, with an irritating grin.

“I’m afraid you lost the fight, Gabrielle,” he said.

“That’s because you don’t accept fair fights, Ares!” she angrily retorted. “You always have to use your godly powers somehow, huh?”

“Look, this could have been going on forever,” said the God of War. “We have things to attend to here. I’m glad you drank the water. Thank you for your cooperation,” he said smugly.

Gabrielle felt a powerful wave of inspiration rush through her. Suddenly, it came to her that all she wanted to do was writing –writing about Xena. She figured this sort of feeling meant that drinking that water clearly had the intended effect. It was working.

“Come on now,” Ares said, “come out of the water.”

Gabrielle climbed out of the pool. Ares ordered one of his men to get Gabrielle something to dry herself with. Next, Galenos threw a piece of thick fabric towards her. She caught it and started drying her face, arms and hands.

A few feet in front of where she was standing, Ares picked up the scroll and the quill she’d brought. He looked at her.

“So? Shall we get down to business now?” inquired Ares. “You have to free Xena’s soul from hell, remember? You don’t want her to stay there forever, Gabrielle, do you?”

“No, but I couldn’t send her to heaven if I wanted, could I?” said Gabrielle, with a sad expression on her face.

“That’s right. You couldn’t do that.” said Ares. “Not when your sister has a knife being held near her throat.”

Gabrielle looked at Lila. Her dear sister was still bound and gagged, and surrounded by her evil captors. Although immortal, Gabrielle could still sense a very strong feeling of urgency. She felt a number of thoughts coming through her mind:

But I could not write something about Lila for her to get freed right now, could I? I can only take care of one soul’s fate at a time, unless it happens in a series of consequences. The water I drank tells me that my inspiration should, first and foremost, be on Xena. I’ve got the feeling that I can do something that way.

Theron brought the freshly killed woman’s body back to the centre of the place. Ares walked towards Gabrielle and handed her the empty scroll and the quill, which she took.

“Shall we, huh?” Ares, facing her, looked into her eyes. “And, please, don’t even think about writing something on your sister being freed,” he said, ruling out the option. “I’ll be able to tell, I’m a god. If I see that you’re cheating, I’ll be slicing all the limbs of your body, and you’ll be spending the rest of your eternity in pieces. You’re not quite a god yet, you know?”

Gabrielle felt intimidated. For sure, the Lila option was out. She would have to save her sister some other way.

“Gabrielle,” Ares continued, “seriously think about it: Xena has the right to live again, in a brand-new body. That’s not so bad, is it?”

“So you’re gonna stand next to me when I’m writing and try to force me to comply with what you wanna hear?” asked Gabby. “I don’t think you can do that.” Gabs shook her head.

“Not exactly…” replied Ares. “I cannot really intervene on that. Your newly found power is outside my realm in that respect. It won’t really work if someone watches you writing. The Fates themselves needed not to be observed when working on their threads.”

“So then back away a little,” said Gabrielle, insisting. “Please.” She briefly glared at him.

Ares walked back towards the dead body. He crouched down to observe the beauty of the woman as that of an object he yearned. Gabrielle looked at him. He looked back.

“But Gabrielle,” said Ares, “I can still make sure that you will write the story I wanna hear. If I don’t see the body here coming to life with Xena’s soul inside it, your sister will die and I will separate your limbs so viciously, you won’t even be able to write anymore. So don’t even think about sending Xena to heaven. Now please, don’t waste any more time and write for Xena’s soul to wake up right here, in front of me.”

Ares looked at Gabs, impatient, and with an evil look on his face. Gabrielle looked at the empty scroll she carried, her quill in her other hand. She resumed her thinking:

I have to write something about the destiny of Xena’s soul, but I can’t send her to heaven. What can I do?…  I’ll have to cooperate somehow, or at least pretend to… I must find a loophole somehow… Another way.

Still feeling the wave of inspiration inside her, the bard was absorbed in some more thinking and, a few minutes later, she lowered her quill onto the scroll and wrote –just a few sentences. She then looked at Ares.

“Done,” said the bard, nodding, with a firm expression on her face. She suppressed a smile. What she wrote was going to come true in a few moments.

“Thank you,” said the God of War. “Now let’s see it happen.”

Smugly pleased, he observed the body of the woman on the ground –expecting it to get up at any minute now. When it did not, a few seconds later, Ares stood up, walked quickly towards Gabrielle and seized the scroll off from the bard’s hands.

“What have you been writing, Gabrielle?” He looked at the scroll. What he read on it made him contort his features in anger and puzzlement. “But… that’s not possible… What is this about?” He looked at Gabrielle. “You little bitch!” he yelled.

Gabrielle smirked at him.

“Gotcha, God of War!” she said, pleased.

As Ares was angrily lunging towards Gabrielle, the world stopped and events started going backwards.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She would have the ultimate power over all destiny: past, present and future, thus she would be given the full power of the Fates’ loom –but Ares hadn’t known that part; he hadn’t heard what the Fate had said to her when she was underwater. Gabrielle had fooled Ares so perfectly. The fate of any being, living or dead, would be under her control, the Fates had decided. The water had given her the inspiration to dig into Xena’s past, and to know what would be the final, the good, the right thing to do. She had gotten the inspiration to find another way, a better way. Hence what she had written on that scroll about Xena was very simple:

“After burning Akemi’s body, Xena successfully managed to take her ashes to the sacred shrine in Higuchi without the townsfolk hearing about the fact that she had those ashes or attacking her –thus restoring the honour of Yodoshi’s daughter. No one died in a fire. Yodoshi was taken to the underworld and never became a soul-eater.”

The way she had taken care of that particular moment in Xena’s life changed the destiny of many souls, many beings, one by one, in a series of consequences. Thirty-five years after those events, she would not have to go to Jappa or be separated from her soulmate.

Gabrielle found herself caught inside the middle of a huge vortex of destiny. She was suspended in the air –gently swirling around. While she was looking at what was going on around her, she could see the latest events in her life –and other people’s– going backwards, one at a time.

She saw herself walk backwards to Aphrodite’s, like what she’d done this morning, but reversed. She suddenly felt her immortality being drained from her body, as the golden apple from last night was gradually being restored before her eyes until it was intact. She could see yesterday’s events going backwards. As she got her mortal body back, she felt profoundly human once again, and got really excited at the idea of all that had happened lately going further backwards.

She saw Lila –tied up– walk backwards in the direction of her home in Potidaea with the men who had abducted her. In backward motions, it looked as if the men were removing the ropes on arrival, untying Lila, and leaving –leaving her in peace at her home in Potidaea. Also, the other woman that had been abducted had not been strangled by Theron or slain. She saw her too returned to her home, alive and well.

Further backwards, she saw her recent romantic involvement with Aphrodite being erased bit by bit. She saw herself walk backwards from the temple with the Goddess. Sometime after that, she saw Xena’s ashes get out of the water to get back into the urn she’d held –herself then riding backwards from the Amphipolis river towards Amazon Land. Backwards, it looked as if Aphrodite was leaving her there.

Further backwards, she could see the latest months in her life being undone: she had not been returning to her Amazon village; she had not travelled to Egypt; she had not spent huge moments of her existence alone on a boat from Jappa.

The vortex of time finally reached the events of Jappa, during the last time she’d been with Xena. She saw Xena’s ghost re-appear beside her on Mt. Fuji.

Most importantly, she saw Xena’s last breathing moments going in backward motions: Xena’s head got back onto her shoulders, her neck was intact. The arrows removed themselves from Xena’s body one by one, as if thrown backwards. While the blood quickly went back into Xena’s body, her wounds closed miraculously, her body was intact. Morimoto’s army retreated, or so it looked when seen backwards. Later, Gabrielle and her soulmate travelled away from Jappa back to Greece, in backward motions.

Backward motions could look so wonderful when seen that way, Gabrielle observed. A huge feeling of utter happiness overwhelmed her. It was unbelievably exhilarating to know that none of those horrible things in Jappa had ever happened to her soulmate.

It was absolute euphoria to Gabrielle. She was going to be with her lover again in a few moments. Both the threads of their destinies were so interlocked together within the weave of life that the Fates had miraculously given her the gift of mending what had happened, re-uniting them both, finally.

She was never going to have to force herself to recover from Xena’s demise or to try to find another way to live. Her path –as the inspiration in her heart taught her to restore– was with Xena, as always.

She figured that since –according to the story she’d just written on the scroll– Xena had not done anything wrong in Jappa, thirty-five years later the monk Kenji would never come to Greece to bother them while they both were camping under the stars. This is where it had all started.

Gabrielle suddenly passed out inside the vortex she was in. Everything happened precisely as it should –precisely. As if all this had been a dream, she woke up in the past –which was now the present– just before the very last moment that was not going to be changed by what she had written: the last time she’d been having a quiet and peaceful conversation with Xena.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gabrielle woke up next to Xena on a bedroll, in a jump. It was six years after they’d met –without counting the twenty five years they’d spent together in hibernation.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” asked the beautiful dark-haired, blue-eyed woman who was just sitting up to look at her. Both were on the same bedroll.

“Xena!” Sat up, Gabrielle turned towards her lover and hugged her tightly for a long while.

“Hey, Gabrielle,” asked Xena, “what’s happening? You look like you’ve not seen me in a long while, and you just fell asleep a few minutes ago?”

“Did I?” asked Gabrielle, bewildered, and looked around. She then looked back at Xena, smiled and said: “I’m so glad you’re here with me, my darling.” They hugged again.

“It’s all right, honey,” said Xena while hugging the bard, “I ain’t going away, never ever.” Xena smiled and gently ended the hug to look at Gabrielle. Gabrielle also looked at Xena right in the eyes. They kissed –a long, loving, deep and passionate kiss.

“Gotta put some more wood in the fire,” said Xena after they had finished kissing.

While Xena went to take care of the fire, Gabrielle reached for one of their rucksacks to search carefully amongst her scrolls. Had this all been a dream? She could not find the ‘Friend in Need’ scroll. It was as if it had never existed, as if it had never been written. Next, if things worked well, the monk Kenji would not be turning up tonight. The bard sighed and put her scrolls away.

A few moments later, Xena was lying on the bedroll again, next to her. Gabrielle was observing the night sky. Relaxed, she started talking.

“Looking out at the cosmos makes you think… about where we are, where we’ve been, where we’re going now.” Gabrielle said this, smiling –this gave her a strange feeling of déjà vu.

“Yeah… and like the bigger now,” replied Xena. “I mean, Gabrielle, what are we gonna do? Wander around Greece our whole lives looking for trouble?  Why don’t we go away?  Far away?  Whaddya say?”

Gabrielle looked at Xena. She changed her reply this time:

“I think that maybe we should stay around here, in Greece, for a few weeks. Is that okay to go visit the amazons tomorrow? Not much’s been happening to them there since Bellerophon had attacked them. I need a little rest in their currently peaceful village. Then we could perhaps go to the Land of the Pharaohs a little later. Okay, Xena?”

“I was just thinking about the Land of the Pharaohs right now.” said the warrior princess. “It’s very strange that you mention it. The Amazon village, you sure you wanna go there now?”

“Yes… Please?” asked Gabrielle nicely.

“Okay, okay, then,” replied Xena. “We’ll just stay in Greece for a while then. Tomorrow we’ll visit your amazon sisters. We could always travel to the Land of the Pharaohs next month, I guess.”

“Thank you, my darling,” said Gabrielle, smiling at Xena.

“No problem,” said Xena.

Next, the bard turned her head to look towards the dark woods. She could not see anyone out there, no monk Kenji, no one stalking them. Kenji had probably stayed in Jappa this time, as there was no need for him to come to Greece –no Yodoshi. He probably had never even seen him. Gabrielle sighed in relief.

Gabrielle looked at Xena’s chakram, which was lying near the bedroll. Did she still know how to use it?

“Hey Xena,” she asked, “can I just show you something? Would you please let me hold your chakram for a minute?”

“Sure,” replied Xena, curious at what Gabby was talking about.

Gabrielle took the chakram and stood up. Xena watched her, sitting up on the bedroll. Gabrielle noticed a few branches that were protruding irregularly from the top of one of the green bushes nearby. She threw the chakram around. In a marvellous circular flight, it trimmed the top of the bush she’d aimed at –severing those few irregular branches. As it was flying back towards her, Gabrielle caught the circular object back. She turned to Xena: “Now, catch,” and flung the chakram around towards her –to give it back. In a swift move, Xena caught it in her hand.

“Wow, Gabrielle!” said Xena, bug-eyed. The warrior princess looked at the bard in admiration. Her jaw dropped. “How did you learn how to do that?”

“I saw it in a dream… I guess,” said Gabrielle, feeling a little awkward. She went to lie back down on the bedroll next to Xena.

“Well,” Xena said, still bedazzled by the bard’s amazing chakram throw, “I guess I could always let you use my chakram now and again from now on.” Xena smiled while looking at Gabrielle next to her, giving her a charmingly deep look. “I’m sure that, down south in the land of the Pharaohs, they might be in need of two girls with a chakram, two warrior princesses.” Xena winked.

“Yeah, I’m sure they would need us. Thank you so much.” Gabrielle smiled back. “I love you, Xena.”

“I love you, Gabrielle,” Xena replied.

Xena and Gabrielle kissed and cuddled up to each other on the bedroll. As their mouths interlocked and their tongues intertwined sensually, they both felt around each other’s body. Once they finished kissing, Gabrielle looked at Xena.

“I want you,” said the blond woman, “right now.” She looked at her lover with desire burning in her eyes.

“And I want you too,” said the brunette, reciprocating the yearning look.

Within the thrill of erotic passion, they sensually took each other’s clothes off. Then they gently grabbed the most arousing shapes of each other’s bodies –one lover sliding her hands over the other’s body simultaneously as the other one was touching her in the same fashion.

They thus proceeded to make love –pleasuring one another in turns, then at the same time– while affectionately declaring their devotions to each other. Each woman moaned in pleasure and felt her body squirming with joy at the other one’s touch.

They both enjoyed the way they so voluptuously connected to one another. They loved each other and, in the middle such a mentally and physically pleasurable moment, they felt they were forming a powerful unity as soulmates.

Moments later, a rapturous orgasm filled both their beings as the two lovers loudly screamed each other’s names. An intensely gratifying sensation flooded both their bodies and minds.

Exhausted, they both fell asleep in the arms of one another, snuggling up to each other. Now lying in the bedroll next to Xena, Gabrielle felt the ultimate bliss of having gotten her soulmate back. This was to be forever –she would make sure of that.

The next morning, Gabrielle and Xena got up and packed their bags and, with Argo II, they headed towards Amazon Land.

THE END