by JS Stephens
Copyright 1997, revised 2013. All Rights Reserved This story takes place roughly after "Ares' Interlude" and just after the episode "A Necessary Evil".

Warning: The following story may describe a physical relationship with two consenting adult women. If this offends you, or is illegal where you are, stop reading and move.

Legal Disclaimer: MCA owns all rights and privileges, to the characters of Xena and Gabrielle. The new parts of the story are mine, so read, enjoy, but please do not steal.

Gabrielle watched as Velasca and Callisto tumbled through the air, plunging toward the lava river, landing in a brief flume of flame. She looked up just as Xena swung through the air, catching her as she finally lost her grip on the remains of the rope bridge, swinging her to safety once more. "Thank the gods that is over," Gabrielle murmured as she scrambled up to the top of the cliff, leaning over to give Xena a hand.

Over the next few days, Xena watched as Gabrielle was first extremely quiet, then started talking again. As they headed through the countryside, Xena finally asked, "How are you doing, Gabrielle?"

The bard thought for a bit before answering, "I guess I'm okay. Xena, let's stop for lunch, I'm hungry."

Xena smiled, relieved that her friend's normally ferocious appetite seemed to be returning. She scanned the countryside, then pointed to a small line of trees to their right. "Let's go check over there for a place. If I remember correctly, there's a small creek there, and a couple of good places to sit for a spell." The warrior tugged lightly on Argo's reins, steering the horse toward the trees.

A bit later, the two women were sitting on a patch of grass by the creek with their plates filled with cheese, bread, and jerky. The mare was tethered nearby, munching contentedly, and sunlight peeked through breaks in the branches, creating a dappled light. Gabrielle ate slowly, then passed her plate over to Xena. "I'm not as hungry as I thought," she explained.

Xena looked at the plate as she took it. Gabrielle had eaten most of the bread, some of the cheese, and none of the jerky. It was better than the past two days when the bard barely touched anything, so Xena bit back any comments. She picked up the jerky, tearing off a bite, thankful for the extra food. Nothing was wrong with her appetite. "What's bothering you?" she asked.

The blonde looked up, sorrow showing in her pale green eyes. "I keep thinking about Callisto, Xena. You did what you had to do, let her out of her stone prison to battle Velasca. I talked to Callisto that night, hoping she would feel a glimmering of guilt or grief for killing Perdicas, but she didn't. I thought your confession of your deeds in her hometown would change her mind about you, but she just reaffirmed her hatred of you. One minute she was calm, the next giggling like a maniac. Why, Xena?"

The dark-haired warrior dusted off her hands after laying both plates aside as she tried to frame a reply. "I don't have a real answer, Gabrielle. I wasn't any better than Callisto, you know. I led armies rampaging across Greece, burning, killing, looting." She picked up a stick, twirling it idly in her fingers. "I guess I still had a spark of feeling left, Hercules unchained my heart, and then you came along." Xena smiled wryly. "I'm not one for sensitive chats, Gabrielle, that's your area, but I'd say that Callisto is missing something essential inside. Maybe when I killed her family, I killed whatever was good in her. Remember, she was still a small child when she lost her family, and I was old enough to marry when I lost my brother. I made a choice to slip from defense to plundering. Callisto was trying to survive."

Gabrielle nodded, eyes still sad and empty. "I lost my husband," she said slowly, "I saw him die. I lost my sister, my family, when we went home to tell them about Perdicas. But when I had lost you, that was worse than losing Perdicas. Is that wrong?"

Xena lifted an arm and Gabrielle scrambled to cuddle up next to the warrior. Xena wrapped her arms around the shaking bard, a little uncomfortable with the emotion, but understanding where it came from. "We are closer than most married couples," she said, "we face life and death situations, and that binds us close. Soldiers are closer to each other than their wives or husbands, it's natural." She squeezed Gabrielle lightly, feeling the young woman still shaking. "Tell you what, I know of a place nearby where we could camp for a while. It's a good cave, near a stream and a hot pool. Does that sound appealing?"

Gabrielle nodded, finally looking up, face drawn with misery. "Yes," she said hoarsely, "I don't want to see anyone for a few days. Please take me away, Xena."

"All right," Xena said, "we'll go there. I used it several times over the years when I needed to get away, and no one ever found me there." She kissed Gabrielle's forehead, then asked, "Are you ready to go?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," Gabrielle said, pulling away reluctantly.

Xena took Gabrielle to the cave and worked to make it comfortable for a short while. She was pleased that her stack of firewood was still there, along with a stash of blankets and cushions. She concentrated on making a sleeping area, then went out for a while to settle Argo, and to catch their dinner. She was lucky to pull several fish from the stream, and found a patch of wild carrots. It would go fine with the rice and dried fruit that Gabrielle had bought in the last town. Xena wished they had fresh bread, but she'd just have to live without it for a few days.

Gabrielle slept most of the afternoon, waking as Xena finished piling their supper on plates. The young woman blinked hard, croaking, "You cooked?" Xena nodded. "Thank you," Gabrielle said, not joking about Xena's cooking. Instead, she merely reached for the plate, picking at her food, finally eating about half of it.

After supper, Gabrielle pulled out her writing kit, but simply stared at the fire that Xena had started. After a short time, she put her kit away and went over to sit on the blankets next to Xena and laid her head against Xena's shoulder, pulling Xena's arm around her. Xena tightened her hold on Gabrielle, then tentatively reached up with her free hand to stroke the strawberry blonde's hair, hoping that Gabrielle would finally speak.

Her patience was soon rewarded. Gabrielle pulled back to look up at Xena, but keeping Xena's arm around her. "Xena, why couldn't Callisto stop hating you? You gave her another chance at life, apologized in front of many people. Why?"

Xena answered honestly, "Gabrielle, I created the circumstances that made her into a hateful, vengeful person. I said this afternoon that Callisto was much younger when her family died than when mine did. I did have a choice, I could have beaten Cortese and his army back and then stopped fighting, but I made the choice to keep fighting, and to fight for the wrong reasons. Callisto was so young that it probably seemed that the only way to live was to be as terrible as my army and I were then. She never had the security of growing into adulthood--she was thrust into it by my army."

"But you did choose to be good, eventually," Gabrielle pointed out.

Xena looked into the serious green eyes, thinking about her reply. She pulled Gabrielle closer, hugging her gently, laying her cheek on top of Gabrielle's head before answering. "Hercules helped me see the error of my ways. Then, you burst into my life, believed in me, even when I could not believe in myself." She stopped for a moment, letting Gabrielle sit back up, then looked directly into her eyes. "It was your love that saved me, your friendship, given willingly and without fail. I could not bear death without you, dear friend, so I had to come back for you."

Gabrielle took it all in. "So you really could hear what I was saying after you died? And you really came back for me?"

Xena's face relaxed into a rare smile as she touched Gabrielle's cheek. "Yes, I could hear you and I did come back for you. M'Lila pointed out how brave you were, trying to get my body back for a proper Amazon ceremony, even though you were injured seriously yourself. She insisted that I had to find a way back, that it was not really my time to die yet. And I was afraid that you could not handle Velasca yourself, I could see that she wanted the power of the Amazon nation under her thumb, not under your rule." Xena stopped a moment, lost in thought. "When I heard you say how much you loved me, I was determined to get back, even if I had to steal Callisto's body to do it. No, that was a joke--I would not steal Callisto's body. But, I knew that my time on earth was not complete, and I would have fought Lord Hades himself for the chance," Xena explained.

Gabrielle listened, amazed. She knew that Xena had come back for her, but did not know the depth of Xena's feelings for her. She felt Xena suddenly pulling her into a tight embrace and could hear the other woman's heart pumping reassuringly. She was stunned at Xena's eloquence, but more than happy to enjoy the security of her arms around her. Before she married Perdicas, Xena would tolerate Gabrielle's fits of affection, hugging her spontaneously or kissing her goodnight. After that, Xena withdrew. It was only after she had died and come back that she tolerated Gabrielle touching her again, but she never initiated it. Gabrielle could only thank the gods and goddesses for this tender moment, a time to treasure. She even started feeling sleepy, but warm and safe feeling. The last thing she remembered was Xena's quiet laughter and rumbling voice saying something about letting sleeping bards lie.

"XENA! WHERE ARE YOU?" Gabrielle screamed. She looked around at the ghostly woods, trying to find their campsite. She could hear the rustle of animals in the underbrush and the maniacal giggle of Callisto somewhere nearby.

"Looking for your best friend?" Callisto giggled, stepping into the clearing. "Well, she ain't here, sweetheart, I killed her. It's only fair since she killed me--twice." She threw back her head and laughed at the moon as Gabrielle ran away, legs furiously pumping down the road. "You'll never find her!" Callisto's voice floated on the wind behind her.

"Gabrielle! Wake up! You're having a dream."

Gabrielle bolted upright, sweat pouring from her face, staring into Xena's face. "Thank the gods! Callisto said she had killed you." Gabrielle managed to gasp.

Xena pulled the bard into her arms, rocking her as she tried to calm Gabrielle down. "She can't get you, Gabrielle. I have you, you are safe with me. Do you understand this?" Gabrielle did not reply, she just held tightly to the warrior, still trembling from the aftershock of the dream. "Hey, she is gone. I am here. Look up at me, Gabrielle" Xena commanded.

Gabrielle slowly raised her face, still pale with fright, still shaking with emotion. "I won't let anyone take you away, do you understand?" Xena demanded. The bard barely nodded, then tried to hide her face again. Xena tipped Gabrielle's face up, asking quietly, "Would you like to sleep with me the rest of the night? Would that make you feel safer?" Gabrielle nodded once, then burst into hysterical tears. Xena rocked the bard like a baby until the storm passed, then got up and rearranged the sleeping gear. She laid down beside Gabrielle, pulling her into her arms. After a bit, they both fell back asleep.

Xena was still worried about Gabrielle, so she proposed that they stay in the cave for a little while longer. "After all, we don't have any pressing plans," Xena suggested over breakfast (which she devoured and Gabrielle barely touched). "I think we are both still recovering from our losses."

Gabrielle finally looked up from her plate, agreeing. "Okay, Xena, we'll stay for a bit. Maybe I will feel like writing a little in a few days." She was rewarded by a relieved smile from her friend. "I guess I should start looking for food supplies," she volunteered, "some wild grains or berries or roots or something, but I'll let you do the fishing and hunting."

"It's a deal," Xena agreed.

They fell into a routine by the third day of their stay. Xena fixed breakfast, then left to hunt for their other meals. Gabrielle cleaned the plates and foraged for additional supplies, and cook enough for lunch and dinner.

Afternoons found Gabrielle watching Xena work with Argo, reinforcing old training and teaching her new tricks. Sometimes Xena would ride by and grab Gabrielle, sweeping her up into the saddle. "This trick could save your life, you know," Xena growled as she deposited the bard in back of her.

"Yeah, it has already, but could you do it without pulling my arm out of socket?" Gabrielle grumbled as she hung on for dear life.

Xena just laughed. "I should teach you how to fall out of the saddle at full gallop," she said, "for you never know when that trick could save your life." She laughed harder as she felt the bard squeeze her middle as hard as possible. Xena kicked Argo's sides lightly, asking the mare to thunder out of the woods and over the nearby plains, enjoying the feeling of Gabrielle at her back and the sun and the wind in her face.

She finally slowed the mare down, guiding her back to a gentle walk. "You still okay back here?" she asked Gabrielle.

"I'm alive, if that's what you're asking," came the muffled response, "can't say I'm really enjoying this, however." Xena chuckled, turning Argo to walk sedately back to their cave.

Gabrielle woke in the night with another nightmare, screaming in terror, the vision of Callisto killing her Xena fresh in her sight as Xena shook her awake. "Gabrielle, you're dreaming again," Xena said anxiously.

"I'm sorry," Gabrielle whispered, reaching for Xena. She curled around the older woman, feeling Xena's strong arms wrapping around her. "Please stay with me, please, Xena, don't leave me," she begged.

Xena stroked Gabrielle's hair, trying to soothe her friend. "Okay, I'll stay with you," she said, "if that will stop your nightmares. Try to get some sleep, Gabrielle," she said.

Gabrielle heaved a great sigh, slowly laying down on the nest of bedding, pulling Xena down with her. It was only after Xena laid there, rhythmically stroking her hair, that she felt safe enough to drift back to sleep.

It took Xena a while longer to fall asleep, watching the bard's face relax in the banked firelight. She felt so protective of this young woman, this woman who had left her family to follow her, had lost a husband, who had defied everyone to transport Xena's body home. It was no wonder that Gabrielle had nightmares, but she didn't want Gabrielle to know that she, too, had nightmares, dreams of losing the bard to the first young man who came along, or to Callisto or some other crazed enemy.

Xena finally drifted off to sleep, dimly aware that she felt so comfortable sleeping with Gabrielle. She had not allowed anyone to sleep with her in years, even kicking her lovers out before she fell asleep, yet this felt so right to have the young woman sleeping peacefully in her arms.

After a more days, Gabrielle started writing again, but soon abandoned it, claiming she was bored. She asked Xena at lunch, "Can I watch you practice this afternoon?"

"Sure, why not? You need to practice as well, I haven't seen you pick up your staff lately," the dark-haired warrior replied. "Get your staff and meet me in the meadow." Gabrielle agreed as she picked up their plates to clean them. A little bit later, she found Xena in the clearing, waving as she found a good rock to sit on to watch as Xena went in to her routine.

Xena started by going through some simple exercises to loosen her muscles. Gabrielle watched with a bard's eye for detail, noting how the warrior went through exercises that stretched each part of her body, a slow progression that was close to a sensual dance. She watched Xena's muscles rippling in the sun, swing her sword slowly, then faster and faster until she all she saw was a silver blur whistling through the air. Her heart swelled with pride and love as she watched her friend. For a brief moment, she wondered what it would feel like to put her hands on Xena's body as it worked, to feel the muscles rippling. She shook her head, wondering where that thought came from.

Xena stopped and called out, "Aren't you going to warm up? It wouldn't do to have stiff muscles."

Gabrielle snapped out of her reverie and started slowly stretching as she had seen Xena do. She picked up her staff and started executing slow moves with it, then started whirling it faster until it was a brown blur, much like Xena's silver blur.

Now Xena watched with a critical eye, noting that Gabrielle had not lost any speed or moves. The Amazons had taught her well, she decided. Xena sat down on the rock just to enjoy watching for a moment, noting how the sun danced on Gabrielle's hair, turning it into spun gold.

After Gabrielle finished warming up, Xena dropped her sword and snuck up behind her with a long, sturdy stick she found. Gabrielle sensed the movement, bringing her staff up in position, attacking with blinding speed. They thrust and parried, challenging each other, testing their defenses, seeking weaknesses. They moved as if in a tightly choreographed ballet, never managing to land a blow. Xena approved and started to say so when Gabrielle swept her staff suddenly, knocking Xena to her feet.

Xena grabbed Gabrielle's staff, pulling the woman down, trying to pin her, but somehow Gabrielle wound up on top of Xena, bouncing on her, proclaiming, "I won! I won! I defeated the great Xena." She dropped on top of Xena, letting her breath whoosh out. Xena smiled, wrapping the bard in her arms, enjoying the weight on her, enjoying the feeling of the other woman's body against hers. Desire stole over her without warning, desire mixed with love, joy, and tenderness, which she expressed spontaneously kissing the young woman, first on the cheeks, then on the lips.

Gabrielle was startled at the feeling of Xena's lips on her skin, but shivered with sudden delight. She tentatively kissed Xena back, and when Xena did not throw her off, Gabrielle boldly kissed Xena full on the lips, enjoying the contact and the unexpected wave of passion.

Xena finally broke it off the kiss, looking anxiously into Gabrielle's eyes with questions in her own. In answer, Gabrielle kissed her again and gave in to her fantasy of running her hands along the warrior's body. They had lived together, bathed together, slept together for two years, but this was suddenly different. Gabrielle suddenly understood why Xena fought to hard to come back to life; it was love, more than love of friends. She carefully raised up, looking at Xena in a different light.

Xena asked softly, "Well, do I meet with your approval?" Gabrielle nodded, not trusting her voice. "I didn't know it would lead to this--" Xena started, but Gabrielle smiled and said, "Shut up and kiss me, you big fool." Xena complied with the command, rolling them over so she was on top.

They slowly explored each other's bodies, savoring skin and feather light kisses, light kisses turning into deep kisses, kisses turning into caresses. Gabrielle felt a molten river of desire that she had not experienced with Perdicas, but rather an overwhelming urge to caress and kiss and explore Xena's body everywhere. She followed pure instinct, sucking nipples, following skin, finally plunging fingers into Xena. Xena groaned with delight and release, then suddenly flipped the bard over to savor her body.

Xena took her time in exploring Gabrielle's body, wanting to make her first time memorable, but the blonde had other ideas. "No, harder, faster," Gabrielle panted, pounding against Xena.

"As you wish," Xena said huskily, plunging into Gabrielle. She was rewarded by screams of pleasure, legs suddenly wrapping around her, squeezing so hard with climax that she felt like Gabrielle was going to crack her ribs.

Sated for the moment, they laid back in the grass, exhausted, falling into a light sleep. Finally, Gabrielle woke up and asked, "Did you ever do that before with a woman?"

Xena propped up on one elbow, using her free hand to stroke Gabrielle's hair. "Yes. I took women for pleasure as well as men."

"No, I mean, did you love a woman like that?" Gabrielle clarified. "I know you took your pleasure, Xena, I'm not that naive."

Xena looked off in the distance, remembering a time. She brought herself back to the present and answered, "Yes, I did. My friend Lis, who was a few years older than me, taught me how to love women. I thought she loved me, she merely used me to satisfy her needs until her fiance came home. But it turned out for the best, she couldn't hold a candle to you."

Gabrielle smiled happily, kissing Xena's hand. "I never kissed a woman before, but I have heard these sounds before when I was living with the Amazons." She suddenly grinned, shoving the warrior on her back, saying, "let's see if you are a screamer or not."

They spent the next week exploring each other, learning to love each other, talking, and recovering from their recent experiences. Gabrielle stopped having nightmares, Xena felt more secure, and they both agreed it was time for Gabrielle to start cooking again. "Xena, I love you, but I don't think you've ever become acquainted with any sort of spices or seasonings," the bard teased.

"What? I'm not spicy enough for you?" Xena teased back, nipping Gabrielle's ear.

"We'll never get anything done at this rate," Gabrielle grumbled as she suddenly dropped her clothes. Xena followed suit, then they finally went to the hot pool, taking a leisurely bath before falling asleep again.

But the next day, they reluctantly packed to leave. "This was fun," Xena said, "but I'm starting to get restless. Let's go find some wrongs to right, some tales to tell."

"Oh sure, we find a terrific place and you gotta leave. Wonder what adventures lie ahead?" Gabrielle asked. Xena just shrugged as she headed out of the cave for the last time. Gabrielle sighed, then following her, saying, "Hey, did you hear the story about..."

The End

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