~ A God?s Words ~
by Okcimoron

DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, the Furies, Ares, and the rest belong to Renaisance, Universal and whoever else has a legal claim on them...wish it was me, but alas....They are just terrific enough to let me borrow them.

SUBTEXT: Yes. On a scale of 1-10, I?d give it a 4 in graphics. So if you are under 18 or live where the citizens have a problem with it, consider yourself warned.

VIOLENCE: Nope, not really. Nothing that wasn?t on ?The Furies?. Hey, even Xena needs a day off occasionally.

LEMME SEE, HAVE I MISSED ANYTHING? Um, this story is set around the episode, ?The Furies? and *I* think it has a plot. Oh yeah, this is my first attempt at fanfic so bear with me. You can reach me at Okcimoron@aol.com, if ya want to.

A God?s Words

"I still don't get what you see in her!" Ares words to her daughter, as they were leaving the temple of the Furies, had caused Xena's mother to do a slight double-take. But then the stress of the day and being alone with her daughter at the campsite had pushed this little query to the back of Cyrene's mind, after all her daughter *had* just seriously considered "cutting up Mom, just for fun" and that would tend to make anything the god of war said to pale in comparison. Cyrene winced as she recalled how very close she actually had come to that reality.

She breathed a calming sigh as she felt in her heart that Xena would never had entertained such a notion, had Ares not tricked the Furies into plaguing his daughter with insanity and persecution. Another pathetic attempt to pull her daughter back into his power. But that was then, and this was now. Now they had returned to her inn and Xena was sane, and the loving daughter once again, having held her own against the war god, getting the Furies to release her and rescuing her horse from the hurriedly acquired shelter Gabrielle had arranged for her.

As things seemed to be a bit more calm between mother and daughter, Cyrene's mind thought back to the odd statement by the god of war as she watched the interaction between her daughter and her daughter's friend.

Xena and Gabrielle certainly did have a bond that amazed the innkeeper. She was thrilled to know that her daughter had truly found a friend that seemed to understand her and care about her, regardless of her offspring's warlord past. 'I wonder just how much about my daughter's past Gabrielle *really* knows', Xena's mother found herself thinking. 'I'm sure she knows enough. Yet, look at them, Cyrene. Your daughter has found a true friend, who overlooks her frailties and weaknesses. *That*, Ares is what my daughter *sees in her*'. Cyrene smiled as she continued to watch the two women mill around the kitchen.

Gabrielle was kneading a loaf of dough, trying to teach Xena the finer points of making nutbread, which Xena was concentrating intently on, as she kneaded her own loaf. It was clear which of the two women knew what she was doing and which needed to stick to being a warrior princess.

They were such a contrast. One with raven hair, the other red, with golden hues. One tall, the other...not so tall. One quiet and stoic, the other a bard. The storyteller with an innocent heart, and the conqueror with a heart long past innocent, but wanting so to be that way again.

"Gabrielle, this is...a mess". Xena lifted blobs of dough which appeared to have swallowed her hands like one of those monsters she had heard of Hercules battling. "Why do you insist on trying to teach me to cook? I am perfectly content to catch the food, while you cook it. Can't I stop now? I've tried and I'm just not gettin' it." With that, the raven-haired warrior flicked her hands at the table while blobs of dough splattered against it, and her. " Oh great! That's just perfect! Aarrgh!"

"Hee, hee, hee. Xena. Oh Xena, that is too funny". Gabrielle went off into a fit of laughter, being joined by Xena's mother as they both got a glaring look and rolling eyes from a very perturbed warrior princess.

"Well, I'm glad you two are having a great time! Because, I am *not*." With that, the defeated chef walked out of the kitchen. "I'm gonna clean up and take Argo for a ride! I'll be back in a bit!", came the voice of the dough-conquered-one as she strode out the back of the inn.

"Hey! Hey, Xena?!" Gabrielle ran after her friend, still giggling slightly.

The purposeful gait of the warrior stopped and she turned to face her friend. Dough still clung to the front of Xena's armor and on interesting places around her face, hair and arms. This sight sent Gabrielle into another fit of laughter as Xena began to turn and continue on her way. "Wait. I'm sorry." The bard tried to calm her laughter. "See, I'm calm now...hummpph..sorry. Really Xena, I'm better now, see." She tried to reign in the smile threatening to erupt on her face as Xena cocked an eyebrow and lowered her head slightly in a menacing sort of way.

"What? And don't say I'll get the hang of it, because I won't and ...as long as I have you around, frankly I don't need to." The warrior finally smiled, and gave the bard a self-satisfied smirk.

"And just what *if* I wasn't around anymore? Hmmmm?", Gabrielle asked playfully.

The smile quickly left Xena's face as Gabrielle immediately realized her mistake. "I guess...I guess I wouldn't get anymore nutbread or... eat as well," came the whispered reply. "I'll be back in a while." She turned to head back on her way.


"Oh...what is it you wanted, Gabrielle?" the question was asked softly, but firmly, as Xena looked back over her shoulder.

"Xena...you know I was only teasing, right?"

"Yes, Gabrielle. But what is it that you came out here to ask me?" The question was friendly but it was clear to the storyteller that her friend had been hurt by her attempt at humor.

"Xena...I...I just wanted to ask you if you could see if you could find any berries while you were out on Argo."

"I'll look. I'm sure I can find a few. I'll be back soon, Mother!" Xena waved at Cyrene who had been standing in the doorway watching the conversation between her daughter and friend.

Gabrielle stood and watched as Xena went into the stable, then turned and headed back toward the inn. 'Geesh Gab, you blew that one. You should've known these past few days would've made her edgy. Especially with...with the things she said to you, and did, in her unstable state of mind.' The bard made her way towards the innkeeper with a scowl on her face and flour still on her hands from the breadmaking.

"Gabrielle? Is everything all right? Xena isn't really mad at us for laughing, is she?" asked the concerned mother. Any other person may have been concerned about upsetting such a dangerous woman who had nearly killed them the day before, but Cyrene was merely concerned over her daughter's feelings.

"Nah. She isn't mad about us laughing. I do think I hurt her feelings, though." Gabrielle smiled weakly at the mother of her closest friend and walked past her back into the kitchen. "I shouldn't have made that crack about my not being around anymore. Especially after the past few days. I know Xena well enough to know that it would've bothered her...considering..." She shrugged and looked back at Cyrene. "I guess we had better finish dinner. Xena will be hungry when she gets back from her ride, and, well, I'm always hungry." With that the young woman gave off a slight giggle and Cyrene walked over to try to salvage what was left of Xena's dough. "Cyrene, have you heard yet about our adventure with Cecrops, the lost mariner?"

"Don't you say *anything*!" warned the fearsome warrior woman as she growled at her horse. "Look at this, Argo! Gabrielle's trying to teach me to cook...again. Can you believe I let her do this stuff to me?" The golden mare snorted and whinnied in a way that made Xena think she was saying, "Of course I do master...you love her." Xena warned again in a low growl, "Don't *even* go there, Argo." Then whispered quietly, "I don't think I could make the journey."

After wiping the excess goo off her face and arms, not to mention armor, Xena saddled the warhorse and hopped on. "Let's go for a ride, girl. Gabrielle wants some berries and...I've got to get away and clear my head a bit." Horse and rider left the stable and trotted away from the back of the inn. A short way out, Xena spurred the animal to a full-out gallop, hoping the wind in her hair would clear the cobwebs left behind from the past few days and the pain she still felt at her friend's playful question about not being around anymore. 'Gods Xena, get a grip! It was a joke, for crying out loud. She didn't mean anything by it. And to top it off, you made her feel bad for saying it. Damn!'

"YAAH!" Xena pushed the horse harder as the wind rushed by her so forcefully that she had to concentrate to breathe.

Several candlemarks later, Gabrielle rose from her place at a table and walked to the back of the inn and looked out. 'Where is she? I thought she would've been back long ago.'

After Xena had left, Gabrielle and Cyrene had finished the nutbread and had put on some lamb stew for dinner. The tiny Amazon chef had also taken the time to make some sticky sweets for Xena, from honey and nuts. Nutbread was Gabrielle's favorite, while Xena had a bit of a sweet tooth and the young woman wanted to surprise the warrior with a treat. The bard had told her friend's mother all about their adventure several moons ago with Cecrops and had even told about that little fiasco with Cupid's little bast...er...darling. She had told of Draco's falling for her and Joxer's falling for her and even of her *infatuation* with the warrior-wannabe. After all, Joxer was a friend and had proven himself as such during the past several seasons. She told this all in wonderful bardic fashion, with humor and lightheartedness, but Cyrene had noticed how her tone had changed slightly when she mentioned the parts of her story that had to do with Xena falling for Draco. At first she thought Gabrielle was concernedbecause of the innkeeper's last encounter with the warlord, when he had tried to conquer her village...when her daughter had come back no longer the destroyer of nations, but her *daughter*, and had defeated his plans. But as the storyteller continued, Cyrene began to realize that there was more to Gabrielle's change in tone than that...much more. She seemed to even sound a little hurt or perhaps...jealous?

Ares words came back to her, "I still don't get what you see in her." Was there more to this friendship than...friendship? I mean Gabrielle *did* say that Xena had risked an eternity on Cecrops' ship for her, and that Cecrops found his way after realizing the love Xena had for this little red-headed bard.

The innkeeper smiled inside as she wondered, and even found herself hoping a little, that there was more to her daughter and friend than just *friends*.'Xena certainly needs someone to love her, be there for her, help her. Gabrielle would be, no... *is*, perfect for that. In fact, she's already done that,' Cyrene found herself thinking as she had watched the girl make sweets for her daughter, the former warlord. 'Most of my friends would think that *I* was the one cursed with insanity if they knew what I was hoping for my daughter. Girls should get married and have children, a husband, yada, yada, yada. I just want my daughter to learn to love again.' She had sighed out loud at this thought, which had prompted an "Are you all right, Cyrene?" from Gabrielle, but she had nodded yes and the girl went about her culinary task.

Later, Gabrielle had gone to a quiet table in the corner of the inn to work on her scrolls. She had written down their latest adventure with the Furies, and Ares, but as she finished up, she began to ponder on the points she had chosen to leave out of the written story. Points she was sure the warrior wouldn't want anyone to know, ever. Points which she knew Xena wished had never happened. Points which...which both caused her heartto pound with joy and yet sigh with sadness at the same time. 'Leave it alone, Gabrielle. You know she was under *the influence*, insane, mad, deranged, not in touch with reality. You, on the other hand... Just get over it and move on'. With that inner chastisement of herself, Gabrielle walked to the window and looked out, wondering what was keeping Xena so long.

While gazing out at the sunset, her mind drifted back to those points again, to that day which seemed weeks ago, but was really only just 2 days before...the day Xena lost her mind.


The day had begun well. She and Xena were racing over a silly wager. Then, suddenly, men had appeared looking for Xena because of the bounty placed on her head by the priest of the Furies. Xena began acting strangely and calling her Mavis. Gabrielle had to smile at that one. After some convincing by the level-headed Amazon, she and Xena finally headed off toward the temple of the Furies.

In route, they had stopped for the night. While setting up camp, Xena had begun playfully touching the bard on her arms, her head, her stomach... anywhere, just to annoy the girl. As much as Gabrielle was enjoying this playful side of her friend, the attention she was getting, and the oh-so-rare touches which she enjoyed more than she would allow herself to admit, she still realized the severity of the situation and had scolded Xena like a child to get her to stop and leave her alone to set up camp.

"Xena! Stop that!" Gabrielle had swatted Xena's hand away as she was about to tickle the bard for all she was worth. "Go sit over there and stir the pot!"

The warrior's face had fallen as though someone had just killed her horse. She stepped back away from her friend and mumbled something so quiet and pitiful sounding that Gabrielle immediately regretted her scolding and stepped up next to her. "Xena. I'm sorry I yelled. I'm just trying to set up camp so we can rest. What was it you said?" Gabrielle gently placed her hands on her friend's arm and shoulder, leading her over to the log, shehad just sent Xena to.

The warrior offered no response to the question, but let herself be led over to the fallen tree. "Really Xena. What was it you said? I'd like to know. Please tell me." The bard smiled and Xena responded. "I said...I like to touch you. You're so soft and...it makes me feel good to be near you. I'm...I'm sorry I bothered you. I won't do it anymore. Please don't be mad at me, Gabrielle."

The mighty warrior sounded like a such little girl and it broke Gabrielle's heart to see her this way. Not to mention the stirrings she was feeling inside at Xena's words. Gods, she loved it when Xena said her name.

"Xena, I'm not mad at you. You know, any other time and I'd be... thrilled to have you touch me(gods she'd said it), but...right now, you're just a little...confused. So maybe ...let's just get some rest and we'll talk about this in a few days, ok? Really, I'm not angry." With that, the warrior smiled a huge grin that illuminated her face, and she quickly leaned over and kissed the bewildered bard right square on the lips. Not just a peck, but an honest to goodness kiss that lasted only a few heartbeats, but an eternity to Gabrielle.

"Okeydokey, Gabrielley. Let's eat! I'm starved!" Xena jumped up and began ladling soup into the bowls as the bard sat stunned at the kiss she had received, her lips tingling. No...nothing like the kiss from Autolycus' lips. 'Don't *even* go there bard', the little amazon thought.

After eating dinner and doing her best to clean up their dinner dishes, Gabrielle found herself still fighting off the playful pokes and touches of a wound-up warrior princess. It was still annoying, for the most part, but no way would the bard scold the warrior again...as a matter of fact, she found herself enjoying it more than she thought she should, and a little more intrigued by this side of her friend, even though it had been *god- induced*. But after the day she'd had and the evening of dealing with Xena, the poking princess, whose touches were really starting to cause Gabrielle to feel a little *too* warm, the young woman felt herself suddenly feeling slightly out of control and needing to end the day.

"Xena. I think it's time we tried to get some sleep...don't you?"

"Unh-unh...not tired."

"But Xena, tomorrow is going to be a long day. Please?"

"Tell ya what, oh bard-o-mine. I'll lie down *if* you do two things."

"What two things would that be Xena?" the girl asked as she laid out her bedroll and picked up Xena's.

"One...you tell me a story. Two...you cuddle with me while you tell it, so I can feel all warm and snuggly. And three, you call me *your* warrior. Then, I'll go to sleep." Xena grabbed her bedroll from Gabrielle and laid it out next to her companion's.

"That's three, Xena. You said two." Gabrielle really didn't mind the third part of Xena's deal. She already thought of the woman as *her* warrior, but insane or not, Xena had said *two* things and she was not going to let it go unnoticed. As for number one, the bard always loved to tell her stories and Xena rarely actually came out and asked for one, although the girl knew the one time destroyer of nations liked to relax and listen to her tales when she thought no one would notice. As for number two, however, the red-head felt a little anxiety at the request. She and Xena had slept side by side before. They had huddled together to keep warm on cold nights. They had developed a familiarity with touching over the last two years of travel, but cuddling...the girl was just a bit nervous at this request. She realized that any other time she would have been more than ready to accommodate the dark woman, for many reasons, but tonight...Xena had been cursed with dementia, and that thought frightened Gabrielle, more than she cared to admit. She seemed to be admitting lots of thoughts about Xena to herself tonight, and her own thoughts scared her.

"So... two, three. Big deal!" Xena shrugged and got down on one knee as though she were about to make an impassioned plea, raising her hands into the air. She looked, to Gabrielle, like a man about to propose to the woman of his dreams and for a brief second the bard wished that was what *her* warrior would do. This surprised Gabrielle quite a bit, and she immediately shook it off. Sure, she loved Xena and had even told her so when Xena had died, twice even, once when talking to Iolaus and once in the amazon village, and yes, she'd even said it aloud when Xena jumped on Cecrops ship, but, this....this was way different.

"So...what's it to be, my bard? Do you agree to my three or do I kneel here all night on my knee? Hey, did ya hear that? I'm a poet and I didn't know it. There I go again." Xena giggled and Gabrielle could do nothing but smile at her friend, her apprehension gone, save for the slight surprises she still felt at herself for the thoughts which had been flickering through her mind.

"OK, Xena. I agree to your three. Now get off your knee and lie down."Gabrielle took Xena by the hand and led her over to the bedrolls.

"All right...my warrior. What story do you want to hear?"

Xena shook her head. "Nope, you agreed to cuddle with me, so I can feel all warm and snuggly. That was number two...and Gabrielle...I *really* liked the sound of *my warrior*." The tall, raven-haired woman smiled at the younger one, in a way that seemed almost seductive to the bard, sending a slight shiver through her.

Gabrielle cleared her throat,"Un-un-umm...OK...*my* warrior...come over here, and we'll...cuddle." Xena snuggled under Gabrielle's left arm, rested her head on her friend's breast and wrapped her arms around the young woman's waist. "All right now, Xena..."

"*My* warrior.." Xena interrupted.

"*My* warrior...all snuggly now?"

"Yeppers, I am...*my* bard."

"Uh...what kind of story do you want to hear?"

"Something exciting, fun...sexy...something about...well, about me."

Gabrielle's eyes widened. Xena never wanted to hear stories about herself. This was a first. *And* the warrior wanted something, um, sexy. 'OK. Think Gabrielle, but be careful. She may be insane, but she's still Xena and she'll catch you if you're not careful. Gods, I can't let her know the thoughts I've been having tonight and ...well, the thoughts that I've *been* having for a while now, come to think of. Coward! You mean thoughts you will finally *admit* to having for a while now...sexy thoughts. Get a very tight grip on yourself, farm girl. This is Xena you're talking about.'

"...and you, *my* bard." Xena raised up and looked into green eyes and actually winked.

"Huh?...uh...what did you say?" asked a very surprised Gabrielle.

"I said..." came a low husky voice, "something about me *and* you." Xena held an intense gaze into the girl's eyes, slowly leaned up and kissed her lightly on the lips. Then suddenly giggled and lowered her head back down to rest. "And fun, Gabby...fun, fun."

A very surprised, confused, and slightly disoriented bard, came up with a fun, exciting, and she thought, sexy, story about the two women, a well, and some spiced up nutbread.

As she told her story, about the laced nutbread and that whole scene in the well, the girl noticed the warrior drawing lazy circles against her abdomen. "Um...Xe...my warrior. That tickles and it's keeping me from concentrating on my story."

Xena answered in low, husky voice, "Maybe I *want* to distract you my bard. Ever think about that?"

"Uh...n..no. I guess I haven't thought about that," lied the girl.

"Well, maybe you should. You certainly distract me often enough."

Xena's voice was sultry and seductive and Gabrielle swallowed hard.

"Gabrielle, surely you've noticed me watching you and touching you more lately. And, gods, I've practically thrown myself at you this past year. I even *kissed* you, for Aphrodite's sake, while I was dead. Didn't *that* even raise some question in your mind about what I've been feeling?" Xena looked up to find an astonished bard with wide eyes and a jaw that appeared to have dropped to the floor. "I guess not. Close your mouth, Gabrielle, you'll catch flies."

The girl quickly shut her mouth. Of course she had noticed those things, but she thought it was all wishful thinking on her part. And the *kiss* had raised some question in her mind, but she just shrugged it off, as it being Autolycus and not really Xena. After all, he *had* put his hand on her butt, which Xena promptly struck him for.

She couldn't believe this was actually happening. Xena was on the verge of telling her that she wanted her...*her*, the little farmgirl from Poteidea. "Xena, I...mean...my warrior...I..."

"Gosh, I'm tired, Gabrielley. Gonna go sleepy-bye now. Nighty night."

Before the storyteller knew what had happened, Xena had kissed her goodnight square on the lips again and had rolled over on her bedroll to sleep.

"G..good night, my warrior."

Gabrielle lay awake a long time thinking about the last year and about what Xena had said to her. She thought she could pick out times when the warrior princess had shown her in subtle ways that she wanted her, needed her, loved her. 'She loves me? Well, yeah, she does love me...but *loves* me? Nahhh...it's just the Furies. Xena's insane, Gabrielle.You can't take anything she's said tonight seriously. When this is over and *if* she does or says anything remotely resembling what she said tonight, *then* you can discuss it. Until then, don't get your hopes up, bard.' With a sigh of sadness, the girl drifted off to sleep, trying not to allow herself to hope.

Later that night, Gabrielle had awakened to find Xena gone. She had followed her trail to a nearby village and found a very frightening warrior with torch in hand.

In her insane state, Xena had awakened with thoughts of ravishing a very appealing young amazon who shared her bedroll. She had slid out of the girl's embrace, stripped herself of all clothes and had knelt down to look in Gabrielle's peaceful face. She had reached out to take hold of the unsuspecting girl, when a moment of clarity passed over her mind and she looked down in horror at what her hands and body were about to do to her best friend, the one person she loved more than life.

She jumped up and began running through the forest, as though something wild and savage was after her. In a sense of self-loathing, she knew something was and she knew it was herself. The thought of what she was about to do to her friend, her life, her Gabrielle, drove her towards a low light she saw in the distance.

By the time she reached the edge of the small community, the clarity was gone, but the feelings from her past that had been resurrected were not. In her tormented state, she imagined a horrible sight. She saw women and children crucified, and viewed the bodies moving around her as the despicable scum who had done this.

She grabbed a torch and promptly proceeded to pass sentence on the filth who had done this wicked imagining, when she heard a soft voice call her name.



Gabrielle came back to herself with a start, as she noticed she had been standing at the window for nearly half a candlemark and was now staring out into darkness. She looked around a bit self-consciously to see if anyone was watching her and found Xena's mother watching her with a concerned, but also slightly curious look.

"Oh...hi, Cyrene. I, ah, I guess I sorta got lost in thought there. You know, we bards, really have quite an imagination," laughed an embarrassed bard and she looked around to see only a few patrons talking quietly at tables, not even noticing her.

"Yes...I've been told that," said the innkeeper with a smile. "Come and eat. Xena could be gone quite a while yet. You know sometimes time gets away from her when she's riding that horse. I'm sure she rode so far that before she knew it, she was halfway to Athens." The woman smiled so warmly that Gabrielle felt as though she could almost believe what the woman had said, although in her heart, she feared Xena was avoiding her, because of the happenings of the last two days.

"No. I think I'll wait on Xena a while longer. I'm going out back to look at the stars and listen to the music of the night."

"Gabrielle, don't worry. Xena's fine, and you and Xena are fine."

Was that a twinkle she saw in Cyrene's eye? How could she know anything about the past 2 days? Did Xena actually tell her the things she had said and done? 'No, I don't think so' Gabrielle reminded herself who she was talking about...the queen of quiet, although getting better. She smiled at herself as she walked out through the kitchen.

Once she got outside and felt the cool breeze, she sat in the grass, and began to lose herself in thought of *her* warrior and all the memories they had created as the *music* of the night filled her ears.

Unbeknownst to Gabrielle, her warrior was only a stone's throw away.

Xena had indeed ridden Argo hard and far, but not so far that she wouldn't have made it back to the inn well before sunset. She had just chosen not to make it back too early. She told herself she needed to regroup and settle her mind after Ares meddling. It didn't take long, however, before she knew the real reason she wanted to stay out longer...she was afraid of Gabrielle.

Well, not exactly *afraid* of the girl, she was a warrior after all, the once-upon-a-time warlord who destroyed, conquered, killed, maimed and was indeed a deadly scourge on the countryside. But a little farm girl, a bard no less, had frightened her away from her own mother's inn, because Xena, the warrior princess, in a weakened state of mind, had said and done things, that she knew her friend, that bard, most certainly didn't like.

She had convinced herself that Gabrielle would tell her that this had been the straw that broke the ox's back, and although things had been much better, she just *knew* the girl would leave her. She had left her before and now Xena felt she had made sure this would happen...for real...this time.

This time, there would be no unexplained intervention, no second and third chance, no simple remedy. No, this time the warrior had done it to herself.

Xena began to think about the evening just 2 days ago. She found herself wandering back towards the inn, just where she wasn't quite ready to go. But go there, she must...she would. Gabrielle at least deserved her to face up to what she had done and said. The warrior would do that if it killed her and kill her it would, after the girl left her. What she couldn't understand was why she hadn't left yet...and was making nutbread, for Zeus' sake. Maybe Gabrielle was still afraid some remaining insanity lingered and was too scared of what Xena might do if she actually tried to leave, or maybe she was just feeling sorry for the wacked-out warrior and wanted to ease into it. Xena shook her head and continued.

Around dusk, Xena had come up to the inn and saw Gabrielle standing in the window. 'Gods, she's waiting for me.'

"Argo, I don't think I'll survive this. Perdicus was bad. This is worse. She left before, because of him. Now, it will be because of me." Xena, clicked her tongue and led the horse around to the back of the inn.

She stabled Argo, brushed her down, fed her, watered her, checked everything again...anything to delay her going into the inn. As she began towards the building, through the back window she saw Gabrielle walk across the kitchen. She jumped behind a nearby bush as the girl stepped out into the night, taking a deep breath. 'Gods she's beautiful' thought the warrior.

Xena found her memory sending her back to the campfire the night before last. The night when she crossed the line.


Gabrielle had led a naked, confused and frightened warrior back to their campfire. Xena had realized that she was in trouble, and had even asked the girl if this was so.

Xena, cursed by the Furies, had been about to torch a small village filled with women and children, imagining they were all dead, crucified. She was suddenly brought back to a clear state of mind when the bard had spoken calmly and reassuringly to her. Gabrielle's voice was like an anchor to the world of reality for the insane woman.

When the warrior had found herself standing there, naked and threatening, she began to shake and feel deep shame at her actions. She also began to feel genuine fear...

Xena hadn't felt fear for herself in many years. Yes, she had been terribly frightened for Gabrielle and *her* safety many times, but never for herself. Even when she had faced the Horde, the fear that forced the dark warlord out of the place she had stored her was the fear for Gabrielle's safety, not her own.

Somehow, Xena had decided that any harm that would befall her was simply her just due after the life she had led, after the lives she had ended and destroyed. The only thing close to fear she had felt in over a decade, that had to do with her, was what her life would be like, or become, if the girl left her.

As Gabrielle led the trembling warrior back to the fire, Xena realized her fear this time was, once again, a fear of her friend leaving her...but even a more dreadful fear, was that in her insanity, she would harm the girl.


"Uh...yeah...what, Gabrielle?"

"Here...you sit down and I'll get your leathers...or do you just want your shift?" Gabrielle led the warrior over to the bedrolls that had been placed together earlier, and gently helped her taller friend sit.

The warrior was lost in thought...fearful thought of what she might do to her best friend...and the other half of her soul. She didn't hear the question or even notice she was sitting on the bedrolls.

"Xena?" Gabrielle touched the warrior's face.

On instinct, the warrior princess grabbed Gabrielle's wrist, causing the girl to let out a surprised "Ouch!"

Like a hot coal, Xena dropped her wrist. "I...I...oh Gabrielle, I'm so sorry! Are...are you..."

"I'm all right Xena. I'm the one that's sorry. I surprised you. It's OK...really," and the girl lightly touched the raven beauty's face again. "Are you all right?"

The strong and mighty warrior looked up into the most beautiful face she had ever seen, and that face looked down into blue eyes that showed fear, dread, confusion...and something else Gabrielle wasn't sure of. But what the bard saw that broke her heart was a helplessness she had never seen in Xena before. The warrior looked like a lost little girl.

Before Gabrielle could think, she was sitting beside her friend, hugging and rocking her gently as Xena began to softly cry.

"Xena...it's...you're going to be OK. We'll go to the temple of the Furies tomorrow and we'll find out what is going on. We'll fix it." The bard swore to herself she would find a way and began to stroke Xena's raven hair.


"Shhhhh, my warrior. You're safe. I'm here." Gabrielle kissed Xena's forehead as she continued to rock her. "I love you Xena. We'll find a way out of this...I promise." Although Gabrielle had never really been able to carry a tune, she began to hum softly, trying to comfort the woman that she suddenly realized made her complete.

Gabrielle sent a silent prayer to any gods that may be listening that one of them would help her to stop the Furies as the humming and gentle touches continued.

The two women sat rocking quietly for nearly half a candlemark, when Xena suddenly froze, her body becoming rigid and tense.

Gabrielle looked at her, startled in the change. She had just been thinking that Xena should be close to being off to sleep. What she saw sent a slight shiver through her.

Xena was looking at her through slitted eyes, with an unreadable, yet definitely cold expression...an expression Gabrielle had only seen on very rare occasions and in instances when Xena had slipped back into quite the frightening warlord.

"Gabrielle," came the low, ominous voice, "did you say that you loved me?" Xena's insane mind completely blocking her memory of previous times when the bards voice and thoughts had told her the same.

The girl tried to back away slightly, but Xena grabbed her wrist tightly.

"Ow! Xe..Xena, that hurts!"

"Answer the question, *my* bard," the warrior hissed.

"Y..Yes." Gabrielle was frightened of the woman before her. She knew *her* Xena would never hurt her, but this was the insane Xena, the one that was unpredictable. She had been playfully unpredictable earlier, but not now...definitely not now.

Xena released her grip on the bard's wrist, continuing to eye the girl suspiciously. Gabrielle immediately scooted back about an arm's length from the warrior.

The women looked at each other for several heartbeats. Gabrielle could hear her heart pounding in her ears and tried to calm her breathing.

"Why?" asked the warrior.

"Why...what Xena?" Gabrielle tried to hide the tremble in her voice, but wasn't too successful.

"Why would you say that...that you love me?" Xena's voice was angry and low.

The trembling voice answered, "Because I do." 'There I've said it again, this time with *more* of a meaning...I said it to a nutty Xena, but I said it' bravely thought the girl.

Xena got up and walked to the other side of the fire, dropping the blanket on the bedroll. The firelight flickered on her naked body and Gabrielle felt a lump in her throat. 'Gods, she's beautiful...a little scary right now, but still beautiful' thought the bard.

Gabrielle watched as Xena paced back and forth, suddenly stopping and facing her. "*If* you love me so much, then why did you leave me for that Potedeian farm boy?"

Xena's words cut into Gabrielle's soul. Throwing Perdicus at her was something the bard never expected. She thought they had gotten past that. They had talked about it...hadn't they?

"Answer me!" Xena stepped toward the girl, but clenched her fist and stepped back to the other side of the fire as she continued to pace. Some part of the warlord's mind knew she had to keep her distance from the tiny amazon.

Gabrielle could tell Xena was fighting to maintain control of her...anger? Hurt? 'Oh gods, I hurt her!' Gabrielle suddenly realized. Her mind raced quickly over the entire event, 'but she never...I didn't realize'.

"Oh, Xena, I'm sorry!"

"Sorry for what Gabrielle? That you married him or that I let him die?" Xena spat the words at the girl.

"Xena, you didn't *let*..."

The warrior cut her off "Don't give me that garbage bard! Do you know...do you have any idea..." Xena was suddenly kneeling in front of her, her voice not more than a whisper, "how many times I've wondered if I could have stopped Callisto...if...if...NO!" The warrior screamed and rushed back to her place on the other side of the fire, teeth gritted, fists clenched, pacing continued.

With fear, not of Xena, but of Xena's answer, Gabrielle asked softly, "If what, Xena?"

"If I had really wanted to!" Xena turned and looked at the girl, a tear rolling down her cheek.

They stared at each other for long moments as Gabrielle tried to sort thismess out in her head and as Xena blinked, realizing what she had just said.

'Hmmmm, I guess we really didn't talk this out did we?' wondered the girl.

"Xena...you didn't want Perdicus to die. It was either him or me, and...you chose me. You couldn't protect us both." Gabrielle tried to make her voice as calm and neutral as she could.

Nothing from Xena.

"Xena...I did love Perdicus. I had loved him since we were children." Gabriellesaw Xena wince with pain at her words, confirming a growing suspicion about Xena's feelings, but she continued. "He offered something to me that...that I wanted, that I *still* want." Gabrielle thought she could see Xena's heart breaking, though it was only the blue pools of her eyes that betrayed the warrior. "I still want to be loved, to love, to be a part of someone's soul."

Xena couldn't move. She scarcely knew if she was breathing. Her mind had regained its clarity and she watched her world crumble.

"Come sit here, Xena," Gabrielle's hand patted the bedroll beside her. She was no longer afraid of Xena, just afraid for her, as she could see a change coming over the dark woman. Xena was dying in front of her, just as surely as she did on Mt. Nestus. "Please, Xena."

The warrior shook her head, and held her ground. She couldn't have moved even if she had tried. Her body felt like lead.

Gabrielle did the only thing she could. She got up and walked over to Xena. She reached her hand out to touch the warrior's arm, but Xena pulled back as though Gabrielle's hand belonged to that of Ares himself. Gabrielle could see that Xena was afraid of her touch, but not really understanding why.

"I do love you, Xena. I do." She reached her hand towards the warrior again, slowly."I'm sorry I hurt you. I didn't know that I had. I didn't realize..." She continued her hand towards the woman's arm until finally Xena let her touch her.

"How...how do you love me, Gabrielle?" Xena's voice was small and shaky. "I...I mean...do you love me like you loved Perdicus?"

Gabrielle steeled herself as she answered, "No. No, I don't, Xena."


"Gabrielle! Gabrielle, are you all right?" Cyrene had come to the back door of the inn and had called out to the girl. Her voice startled both Xena and the bard, pulling both women out of their deep thoughts.

"Oh! Yes, Cyrene, I'm fine. Is Xena back yet?"

"No, not yet. Why don't you come in and tell me another story? Nearly everyone is gone and you can talk to me while I clean the kitchen."

"I'm worried about her, Cyrene. She really should have been back long ago." Gabrielle headed back to the door. "Maybe I should go look for her."

At those words, Xena nearly stepped out of her hiding place in the bushes, but her mother's words stopped her. "You'll do no such thing! Xena is perfectly all right. She *is* Xena, after all. She's had a rough few days and she needs some time alone. She'll be home soon. She wouldn't leave her favorite bard now would she?" Cyrene wrapped her arm around Gabrielle as they entered the kitchen.

"Nah...she wouldn't." The girl wasn't sure she truly believed her own words. Gabrielle hugged Cyrene and they closed the door.

Xena found herself whispering out loud to ears that could no longer hear her. "No, I wouldn't leave you Gabrielle, but how can I face you tonight? Last night mother slept by us at the fire. But tonight...we would be alone and we'd have to talk...oh Gabrielle..." Xena's eyes began to tear up as her memory picked up where it had left off.


"I don't love you the same way I loved Perdicus...I couldn't."

At Gabrielle's words, Xena's life ended. She pulled away from the girl and walked quickly over to her shift and leathers. Before she could grab them, her own hands were grabbed by a quick red-head who had moved as quickly as she had. "Xena...look at me."

The warrior stopped and looked up at her bard. She told herself, she wouldn't be able to see that face for much longer and forced herself to take it in once more, though the sight of what she would never have crushed her spirit .

"Xena...I *can't* love you the same way I loved Perdicus."

"That's what you said!" Xena jerked her hands away.

The girl grabbed them back. "Let me finish saying it, Xena!"

"Then say it, Gabrielle! Finish saying you can't love me the same way you loved him. Finish crushing my spirit, breaking my heart, ripping away my hope! Go ahead and...and just... finish." Xena was in tears.

As quickly as she could, but with calmness, needing Xena to understand her fully, Gabrielle continued, her suspicions about the way Xena felt for her, confirmed. "Xena, the reason I can't love you the same way...is...will you look at me and listen while I tell you...please?" Gabrielle lifted the warrior's face to hers and looked into her eyes. "I love you *differently*, because you and Perdicus are two different people. He was the boy I had grown up with, the one I had made plans with, the one I left behind. He held, and still holds, a special place in my heart, Xena. But I never really knew him. Come and sit with me?"

Gabrielle led Xena over to the bedroll and they both sat. Xena avoided the girl's eyes. Gabrielle lifted her chin again to look at her. "Xena, I left him behind to go with you... to be with *you*. I know *you* Xena. I know you and I love what I know. I may not always like who you become when you slip back into the warlord, but I never stop loving you, Xena. You *are* my heart. So you see, I can't love you the way I did him. Thatjust wouldn't be enough."

"Gab..Gabrielle?" Xena didn't know how to respond to the girl. She could feel her control slipping, her mind starting to lose its grip again. She could see her hand grab Gabrielle's wrists again and feel herself leaning into the girl. She could barely feel her lips touch the bard's as heat built up inside of her and a darkness overtook her soul...and then...



Xena blinked as she remembered where she was. She was standing behind a bush like a common criminal behind her mother's inn.

Her memories of that night stopped there. She had spent most of last night and much of today trying to remember what had happened...what she had done to Gabrielle. She only had slight glimpses of memory from the following day.

She remembered Gabrielle being quiet during their walk to the temple of the Furies. She remembered touching the girl on her arms, back, hands. Xena winced at this memory, because with each touch, she remembered Gabrielle pushing her away. Especially vivid was inside the temple. She had tried to nuzzle Gabrielle's neck while the girl was talking to the priest and Gabrielle had pushed her away, again.

She remembered the priest's words and her attacking him. She rememberednearly killing her friend in the forest when she thought Callisto was there. She remembered tying Gabrielle to a tree in a moment of clear thinking. She also remembered how her friend had barely been able to touch her after they had arrived in Amphipolis. Gabrielle had been telling Xena that they would get through this, they always did, but could barely bring herself to touch the warrior.

After the fight with Ares at the temple, things appeared normal between the two friends, but Xena could sense things weren't. Gabrielle tried to act as though nothing had really gone on, but Xena could sense the apprehension in her friend.

"I still don't get what you see in her," the war god had said. At his words Xena lightly pushed Gabrielle's shoulder, leading her friend and her mother out of the temple. She wanted to get them both away from the devil as quickly as possible. He was a god and had obviously been watching them the night before. Ares *knew*. He knew the warrior's feelings. He knew what she had said and done to Gabrielle, and only the gods knew because she was certainly drawing a blank after that certain point. She was so frightened of what Ares may have said, a winged horse couldn't have carried them away fast enough for her.

They had settled in quickly for the night, neither one really talking about what had transpired. Xena spent the little time they did stay up, with her mother, comforting and reassuring her. She caught Gabrielle watching her in thought several times before bed. Each time, the warrior felt uneasy...the thoughts of the blank memory from the night before haunting her. If Cyrene hadn't been there, they would have had a major talk. Partof Xena was glad it was delayed, and part of her wanted it over with.

They eventually settled in, with Cyrene on the bedroll next to her daughter and Gabrielle across the fire from them. Xena didn't sleep much that night and she could tell from Gabrielle's breathing that she didn't either.

Morning had come and they reached Amphipolis, glad to be done with Ares and the Furies. They all engaged in small talk, trying to laugh as much as possible about the ordeal. Xena noticed Gabrielle had kept her mother between the two of them on the short walk back to the inn.

Upon arriving, they had eaten a quick breakfast of cooked oats and honey, along with some fruit, and Gabrielle had immediately began the task of the great nutbread manufacture, trying to continue in the light vein their interactions had been in all morning. Xena thought Gabrielle was trying her best to delay the inevitable, that perhaps the girl was just afraid of how she may respond.

'And here you are, Warrior Princess, hiding in a bush' sighed Xena as she shook her head and stepped out, heading towards the inn and her friend...no...the woman she loved, the soul that made her whole, the light in her darkness...the mirror that would reveal to her what horrible thing she had done to this innocent spirit she loved.


"Well, hello, daughter!" Cyrene had seen Xena enter the door, but neither she nor Gabrielle had heard a sound.

"Xena! You're back!" Gabrielle rushed toward the warrior, but stopped just short of her when she saw Xena stiffen. Her reaction to hug the woman with joy was quickly put on hold at Xena's body language.

"I...we've been worried about you. Are you all right?" Gabrielle glanced over the tall woman's body, looking for any sign of battle.

"Uh...yes, Gabrielle, I'm fine. See, no blood." Xena held her hands up and turned in a circle to show all sides of her body. "And still sane, may I add." Xena was trying hard to keep the mood light although inside, she scarcely felt light-hearted.

"Sorry I was gone so long. I just got to riding and thinking." Xena crossed over and peeked out to see the main room so Gabrielle couldn't look her in the eye and she wouldn't have to focus on the little amazon in front of her. "I see most of the folks have gone...oh, Gabrielle! I'm sorry! I completely forgot the berries you asked me to get." Xena spun around to see that Gabrielle had followed her over to the doorway, nearly knocking the girl down, she was so close.

"Oh, I'm sorry Gab...are you OK?"

"Uh...yeah, I think so. Nothing like getting bumped into by a brick wall," said the bard as she steadied herself by grabbing the strong arms Xena had reached out to keep her from falling. Xena immediately pulled her arms away, feeling quite guilty about...well, everything. "I was just kidding, Xena. I'm OK...really."

Cyrene walked past the two women in the doorway, carrying a tray of food and drink. "Xena, you must be starved and I'm surprised Gabrielle is still standing. She waited for you to get back to eat. So come on you two...dinner time."

"Gabrielle, you didn't have to wait for me," guilt piling higher.

"I didn't mind...really," sensing Xena's tension.

They walked over to an empty table in a back corner, just the kind of table Xena liked. Cyrene set the tray down, removing the plates and mugs. "Gabrielle, I poured a cider for you...and Xena, I believe you might just enjoy a port tonight, hmmmmm?"

Neither princess, amazon or warrior, had made a move to sit. Each waiting for the other to choose first. "Well, sit down. The food is getting cold and I've got things to do in the kitchen." Cyrene turned and left, leaving both women standing.

Slowly, each one started moving towards a seat. Xena chose the chair facing the door, with her back to the wall. Gabrielle sat at her right, so that only one empty table was behind her. They both began to eat in silence.

Gabrielle was uncharacteristically quiet and this was making Xena more nervous than she felt she could stand. So even though *she* was the warrior and not the bard, she spoke. "This is really good stew. Did you make it, or mother?"

"We both made it," came the soft reply.

"So....were you able to salvage any of the nutbread dough I attempted to ruin this morning?"

"Uh...yeah. Cyrene was able to."


They both went back to eating in silence. After a few bites and a long drink of port, Xena tried again. This silence was making all sorts of things pop into her head. "I really am sorry about the berries. You know how I get when I'm riding Argo. I just..."

"Xena, I don't care about the berries," came the soft interruption.

"Oh...OK." The silent eating continued.

After a long few moments, Gabrielle decided to speak. She knew after her interruption, that Xena wouldn't try again and she didn't want the silence to hang between them. "I hope there wasn't any poisoned vines in that bush. You could get very itchy if there were."

Xena stopped halfway through her swallow of port. Gabrielle knew she was hiding behind the bush. She lowered her mug to see green eyes looking at her. "How...I mean...you knew I was there the whole time?"

"No, not the whole time. I heard a rustling of the leaves when I was walking back to the inn."

"Oh. Gabrielle, I was just...I mean...I was..."

"...not ready to come back into the inn," said a very insightful bard as she emptied her glass of cider. She knew *why* Xena wasn't ready. They both knew she knew, so neither really had to give reasons.


"That's OK, Xena. Do you need some more port, or something else? I'm getting more cider."

"No...thanks. I think I'm about done."

Gabrielle rose and left the table. She walked across the floor to the kitchen. Xena's eyes followed her every step. 'Gods, she's beautiful...and I don't just mean the way she looks,' thought a very taken warrior. 'Get over it, warlord! She's as good as gone. She's just too afraid of you to tell you!' berated the mind of the warrior princess.

A short while later, Gabrielle appeared with a tray of nutbread, cider, another port for Xena anyway, and something under a napkin. She set the tray's contents on the table and took her seat.

"What's under the napkin?" nodded the warrior to the covered dish.

"It's just a little surprise I made you today," Gabrielle told her, as she handed Xena the new port.

'A surprise?' queried Xena's mind. 'Gods, after what I've put her through the last two days...and she still made me a surprise? You have really messed up something wonderful haven't you, Warrior Princess?'

Gabrielle could see the beginnings of something dark coming over Xena's face, so she quickly picked up the plate, removing the napkin to reveal the sweets she had made earlier in the day. 'Was it just this morning that I made these? Wow, it *has* been a long day!' mused the bard.

"I thought you might like these...after all, I got my nutbread." The girl smiled and Xena returned it with equal strength. Maybe she hadn't done anything worse to Gabrielle than she had remembered. All indications, especially the treats, seemed to point to the girl staying. Xena felt her fears leaving her. And besides, what she *had* said and done could be blamed on the Furies, so maybe there was hope after all. Maybe they wouldn't be having a heavy conversation tonight about going separate ways and ending the most beautiful thing in the warrior's life.

"Thanks, Gabrielle. These are wonderful," spoke a warrior with a mouthful of sweets.

The bard smiled and handed her another. What Xena saw when she reached for the treat froze her hand in mid-air. Gabrielle had bruises around her wrist. The warrior knew immediately that she was the one who had put them there. Her wishful thinking of heartbeats ago was gone, replaced with self-loathing and shame.

"Xena, I'm all right. They don't even hurt. They really do look a whole lot worse than they actually are. I must not be getting enough....well, I just need to eat more ....Look, Xena! I won't have you getting all depressed over these bruises!" Gabrielle had decided to put a stop to whatever self-deprecation Xena was engaging in at the sight of the girl's wrist.

Softly, a whisper... "Gabrielle. I...can't say *how* sorry I am about ..."

"Xena, I know you didn't mean to..."

"How do you know I didn't mean to...well, actually...I remember very little about what went on. But, I hurt you, Gabrielle! I know I did! And I am so, so sorry." Xena's voice cracked with unshed tears.

Realization suddenly dawned on Gabrielle. Xena didn't remember what she had said. What she had done. She could just find out what Xena *did* remember and then...

"Gabrielle, I couldn't blame you if you wanted to leave and go...to the amazons, or..."

"What? Leave? Xena..."

"After...what I ...did...you must hate me. I hate myself." Xena's voice was barely more than a whisper and her words were confusing a bard who was already more than a little bewildered at the warrior's lack or memory. " I can't for the life of me, figure out why you were still here when ..."

"Wait! Exactly *what* do you think you did Xena?" The warrior's words finally sinking in.

"Well, you two, finished with dinner?" Cyrene strode quickly over to the table. She knew her daughter and friend were about to get involved in a heavy conversation and wanted them to know, they would be having it privately, so she had chosen that moment to interrupt, knowing it wasn't a good one, but also knowing, there would be no better time.

"I am going to bed, daughter. Put your dishes in the wooden wash bucket in the kitchen and I'll clean them in the morning. I've put clean sheets on your bed, Xena. You two can share your old room. Good night, daughters!" The innkeeper kissed both women on the head, Gabrielle, then Xena. To Gabrielle, she whispered, "Don't give up on her, she loves you" and to her daughter, she whispered, "She loves you, remember that" then smiled, turned and left for her room., both women watching her with wide eyes at her words, each having heard what she had whispered to the other.

After several long heartbeats and a deafening silence...

"I know you can't be surprised at what your mother said, Xena. I've told you I loved you before. Remember when you jumped on Cecrops ship? And as far as what she said to me about *your* feelings...well......."

"Well what, Gabrielle?" Xena was unsure as to what the girl was thinking. Did she tell her? Did she tell her she loved her, that she would gladly die tomorrow if she could hold her just once as something more than a friend, or did she just use the girl to satisfy her own burning desire, never once speaking the tender words Gabrielle deserved. 'GODS, TELL ME WHAT I DID TO YOU!' Xena's mind shouted.

"Xena, before we have this conversation, I want to know *exactly* what you remember about the past two days. And I don't want to have that conversation here in the tavern. Let's just put the dishes in the kitchen, then go to your room."


"Excuse me? What...what did you say? No?" Gabrielle was taken aback by Xena's calm statement.

"Yes, Gabrielle, I said no....and I meant it." Xena grabbed their plates and headed into the kitchen .

Following quickly on the warrior's heels, "Xena! Are you telling me that you won't talk about this? I thought we had..."

"We *have* gotten past that Gabrielle," said the raven beauty, quickly cutting off the red-head's direction of thought. "I meant, no, I don't want us to go to my room, to have this conversation."

"Why? I don't understand."

"Don't you?!" Xena spun around quickly causing the bard to instinctively step back. "Don't you understand, Gabrielle? Gods!"

"Xena, you are making absolutely NO sense at all to me! NO, I do NOT understand! Why can't we have this conversation in ...." Gabrielle stopped and took a deep breath. "All right Xena. We won't have this conversation in your room." She turned and headed back into the large room.

The bard thought that Xena obviously didn't want to be in such a confined space with her and rather than fight with her and end up not having this discussion at all, she decided that she could stand giving the warrior the space to escape her gaze, which the large tavern room supplied. *She*, on the other hand, would have rather had the warrior confined to the small room where eye contact would have been forced, ' but I can give a little here,' decided the girl. 'Wow' thought a startled warrior princess, 'that was easier than...it should have been. What are you thinking, my little bard?'

Xena's reasons for wanting to avoid the room did include the feeling of being caged, but extended so much farther beyond. She was scared of the little Amazon. Frightened of what the girl may see in her eyes in that tiny room. Afraid of her own feelings for her young friend, and what those feelings might cause her to do, or say. This time there would be no gods , no Furies or fates to blame. If she crossed that threshold of feelings, words, or actions tonight with the bard, Xena was sure her world would come to an end because it would force an action from the warrior that she just wasn't sure she could handle.

Xena followed Gabrielle back into the tavern. Gabrielle continued toward the door. Xena following her, confused about why she was... 'leaving? She can't be leaving. I knew she backed down too easily, gods don't leave!' screamed the warrior's thoughts.

"Gab...Gabrielle. Are you leaving? I mean if it's *that* import..."

"No. No, Xena, why would you think I was...Oh, well bard, you *were* heading toward the door." Gabrielle smacked herself in the head. "No. Actually, Xena, I thought we might walk for a bit while we talk. Get some fresh air, the moon is lovely. What do ya think? Good idea?" If Xena wanted space, Gabrielle was going to give her enough to get lost in.

"Don't you walk enough, my little bard?" Xena couldn't believe she had called the bard hers. " Well, um, sure...let's walk." And the warrior headed out the door, not believing her good fortune. One of those gods must be looking kindly upon her, after what that bastard Ares had done. Outside, in the wide open night, was many times better than the tavern.

'Your bard, huh? So I *was* right! It wasn't just the Furies and your insanity.' And Gabrielle took her thoughts with her out into the clear night.

Walking just past the edge of Amphipolis, both women were deep in thought, not having said much while still in the village. Xena thinking about what she would say to her bard and Gabrielle thinking about what she would say to her warrior, each worried about what the other might say back.

"OK, Xena. Tell me *everything* you remember...and I mean everything Warrior."

"It isn't that easy Gabrielle. I mean..."

Gabrielle touched Xena's arm, stopping them in their tracks. "Xena, *I* do remember everything...um, remember?" The girl giggled, Xena grimaced, which did not go unnoticed by the ever-observant storyteller. "Look Xena. You can't tell me anything I don't already know, but I do need to know what you remember so...well, so that I can fill in the blank places. OK?"

Xena sighed. This was it. The bard would tell her what she had done. How she had pushed her to the bedroll in her insanity; how she had ravished the woman against her will in the manner she had stopped herself from doing previously; how terrified the girl had been of her; how...

" OK, Gabrielle. Well, I remember racing over our wager and-"

Xena continued on with her memories of the past days of her insanity. Gabrielle listening, never interrupting, occasionally frowning, sighing , uh-huhing, hmmm-ing, and, Xena thought, smiling.

"And then I remember grabbing your wrist and leaning into you, my mind going fuzzy. That's it. That's all I remember." It had taken the warrior almost three full walks around the outer perimeter of the town to tell her story, and boy, had it been hard. She had been unable to even look the girl in the eyes, although she had occasionally glanced at her features to read an expression or two.

"I see," was the bard's calm reply.

"Gabrielle...you have to tell me what I did. I ...I know it's hard for you but.."

"Xena." The young Amazon stopped the warrior again near the back side of Cyrene's inn, forcing the tall woman to finally look her in the eye. "Xena, there are many delicate issues we have to discuss, and I really don't want to do that standing out here. I want to go to your room, sit down and calmly discuss them. I know that isn't what you want, but I'm asking you to do this...please."

That whispered please gripped the warrior's heart and she only nodded her approval. Inside her fears raged, threatening to overtake her very soul.

A few moments later, Amazon Queen and Warrior Princess, walked into a room with a small table, a chair, a bed barely large enough for two, a wash basin, a fireplace with low burning embers, a mirror, and Gabrielle's traveling bag. Cyrene had lit a candle and placed it on the table for light, although it had now completely melted down to a small nub.

"I'm going to light some more candles, Gabrielle, so we can see better." Xena had grown more confident that the small beauty wasn't going to leave her, and for that, she had even whispered a thank-you to those gods she despised so. But still, her ever increasing anxiety over what might happen should her feelings for the girl escape from her control caused her a slight shudder.

"OK. I'll get our sleeping shifts."

"Umm, that's OK, Gabrielle, I'll just sleep in my leathers. It's almost morning anyway and well..."

"OK. Then I won't change either."

"I can go out while you change if that's the..."

"That is *not* the problem, Xena." Gabrielle turned and looked at her warrior with a fire in her eyes that told Xena the girl really wasn't afraid of changing in front of her.

"Um...OK then." Lighting the last candle and placing another log on the fire. "Let's ...discuss." Xena walked over and sat in the chair at the table.

Gabrielle took her seat on the edge of the bed, facing the tall woman.

"First of all, Xena. You did NOT hurt me in anyway."

The warrior glanced at the girl's bruised wrist.

"That doesn't count!" Gabrielle continued, while Xena felt a hopeful flutter from the butterflies that had been flitting around inside all evening.

"True, you *did* push me down on the bedroll and...you *did* kiss me, Xena." The bard's skin flushed a little and Xena glanced down at the floor.

"BUT...you did nothing to hurt me. You didn't do anything without my permission and you didn't scare me." The force of the bard's voice caused the warrior to look back up into her emerald eyes.

"Wh...what *did* I do?" came a whisper from the former warlord.

"Well, well...well...you see...it was like this.."


"Xena...I've ...well, you see..."

"Gabrielle, whatever it was I did, I'm sorry. It won't happen again." The words gushed from Xena's lips trying desperately to put the girl at ease with her. The struggle Gabrielle was having to get the words out simply crushed the warrior's heart.

"NO! No, I mean...I mean...*what* do you mean Gabrielle? Come on farm girl!" Gabrielle sighed and got up, walking toward the door and then turning, to look at Xena, sitting there, looking for all the world like that world was ending. She knew Xena thought the worst about what may have happened and she wanted to stop that line of thought, but she really wasn't sure that the warrior needed to hear that story just yet.

She headed back towards the warrior and stopped just short of her, and kneeled, putting her hands on Xena's knees. The dark woman swallowed hard and looked directly into jade eyes.

"Xena. I love you. I mean that with all my heart." Jade irises focused intently on ones the color of a clear sky. "I've wondered for a long time about how you really felt about me. I knew you cared about me, and you've called me your best friend many times. I know you've felt love for me, after all, love is a thing you do and like Cecrops said, you've risked your life for me so many times, I'd be a fool not to realize that you *do* indeed love me."

Xena sat motionless, listening to the words from the girl's lips, feeling her heart starting to race, longing to speak her feelings, to touch the woman, but she remained silent and still.

Gabrielle could feel her own pulse begin to quicken and longed to say so many things to the warrior before her, but knew that she must choose those words carefully. One mistake and it could all end before it even began.

"When you were...well, nutty...I couldn't hardly believe some of the things you said to me...and when you kissed me....." the girl's voice trailed off as her thoughts went back to the memory of those lips on hers. She glanced down quickly, feeling suddenly shy. Xena took that to mean something other than shyness, something bad, something that made the warrior feel tremendous shame and regret.

Gabrielle heard Xena's whisper, "I am so sorry."

The girl reached over and took Xena's hands in her own, looking back up to see her warrior had dropped her head in shame and guilt. "No, Xena. Please don't be sorry. I'm not."

Blue eyes looked up with tears in them to see green eyes sparkling with love.

"I did think it was all caused by your insanity and the curse, but now I'm not so sure. Xena, I need to know...were those just words and actions orchestrated by the Furies...or...or..."

"I don't want to answer that Gabrielle, until you tell me what happened after I went fuzzy...when I pushed you down to the bedroll."

This was getting to be too much for the storyteller. She was wound up so tightly she feared setting off a whirlwind should she let go.

"WHY? Would what happened change your answer?!" The Queen of the Amazons was beginning to feel more than a little angry. Her emotions were so sensitized that anger became a quick defense against her fear of rejection. She dropped Xena's hands and stood, turning her back and walking to the edge of the bed.

"So, if I say that we made love then you'll either blame it on the Furies or on yourself for forcing me to do something! If I say you *did* force me to do something, you'll blame it *totally* on yourself and leave, or worse, not be able to look at me again. And if I say, nothing really happened, you just kissed me once then told me nighty night and cuddled with me, then ...what? You won't believe me? Gods, Xena, I am really starting to get angry here!"

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle."

"AND STOP SAYING YOU'RE SORRY!" The girl spun so fast that Xena nearly tumbled backward in the chair, totally caught off guard and more than a little surprised that her bard could have *that* much force and anger in her voice.

Gabrielle stood, breathing hard, face flushed trying to calm her raging emotions. The warrior smirked slightly and spoke, "I'd say I'm ...well, sorry, but I'd probably be ...er, sorry I did?" The dark woman smiled apologetically, and despite her desire to the contrary, the lighter woman smiled slightly in acceptance.

The warrior stood and walked over to her companion, thinking hard, 'OK warrior-coward, speak up. Now's your chance. Sink or swim. Put it on the air and trust it to her.'

"No, Gabrielle. To answer your question, my words, and actions were not orchestrated by the Furies. I would never have revealed any of that to you without their interference, but they didn't cause my feelings for you. You made me love you all by yourself."

"So, it's true. You *do* love me...as more than just your best friend?"

Xena sighed, "Yes. Yes, I do."

"Well, gee Xena, don't sound so excited by it." The bard was feeling a little hurt at the resigned defeat in the warrior's voice.

"That didn't come out the way I intended it to. It's just that, people I love tend to get hurt, and usually by me."

"Xena. I fully expect to get hurt. And I expect you to be doing some of that hurt yourself."

The warrior's eyes lowered. She felt as though she would never escape her warlord past. Especially now that the purest heart she's ever known fully expected pain at her hand.

Sensing this, Gabrielle quickly added, "If I didn't love you so much that I feel as though my insides would explode, there wouldn't be any way you could possibly hurt me. I mean, love isn't easy Xena and it hurts...if you're lucky. I mean, if I didn't care, then ....I mean..."

"I think I know what you're trying to say Gabrielle. The only way I *could* hurt you was if you loved me. So, I guess you're telling me that you love me." Xena's eyes sparkled with hope as she raised her face to look at her bard, her life.

"Yes. I am. I love you more than words could possibly express. Although, I look forward to spending the rest of my life trying to do just that." Gabrielle took Xena's hands again, and leaned up towards the face her soul wore. Stopping just short of the warrior's, her own bardic lips whispered, "Kiss me, Xena".

Warrior lips descended and gently touched soft lips of beautiful, Amazon royalty. Hands still grasped, the only contact other than lips, as they carefully and measuredly tasted each other. Although, it really wasn't their first kiss, it was the first one while each were in their right bodies and minds.

After a few exquisite moments, Xena lifted her face from her bard's, as the girl let a moan escape from her throat. Jade eyes opened to see those of a most beautiful creature staring back at her. Xena couldn't believe it, but she was actually feeling a little nervous and shy. A feeling she hadn't experienced since...since never. No one had ever made her feel *this* way.

"Gabrielle, I do so love you." Xena pulled the girl's hands toward her, causing the bard's body to press into the warrior's own as they kissed again, less carefully, less gently, and definitely less measuredly.

Releasing their hold on each other's hands, the bard found hers traveling up Xena's arms to wrap around her shoulders and the warrior found hers, splitting intent. One grasping the shorter woman's back and the other tangling in fiery gold hair. All hands were pulling the two bodies together as kisses became more urgent. Throaty moans erupted and internal aches increased.

Gabrielle felt the bed press against the back of her legs as Xena lifted her knee up beside the girl's body to rest on the bed. Xena's movement caused Gabrielle to sit back on the soft mattress as both bodies sought to take refuge on the piece of furniture. Gabrielle's body scooting backward, making room for Xena's body urging forward. Lips and hands never untangling or losing touch, as both women found themselves heading towards their destiny.


"What? Are you OK?"

"Breastplate, Xena. Lose the breastplate."

"Oh...yeah. Right you are."

Xena sat up, and began unbuckling armor as a very helpful bard got in the way. "Hey!" said an exasperated warrior as she slapped away the hands of a very anxious Amazon. "Patience Bard," and the warrior winked. "We'll get there soon enough."

"Right. We have all night. Or at least what's left of it."

After removing the offending breastplate, Xena slipped off the bed and began unlacing her boots and slipping off her gauntlets and bracers. Stopping short of removing her leathers, she looked up at Gabrielle who had been sitting there watching her. Noticing that the girl had made no move to undress herself, not even her boots, she spoke, "Gabrielle. It's OK if ...well, if we don't...I mean, we can wait if you would rather."

"OH!" Looking down at herself, she realized what her lack of similiar disrobing must have caused Xena to think. And maybe Xena *was* thinking right. Gabrielle suddenly felt very vulnerable and unsure. Not unsure of her love for the woman before her, but unsure of what she was truly ready for. She quickly sat on the edge of the bed. "Oh. Xena, I'm not really sure *what* I would rather. I mean I know what I'd like to do...eventually. I mean, I'd just like us to ...go with the flow...ya know?"

Xena smiled understandingly,"Yeah. I know."

Quickly pushing aside any thought of what may, or may not, have happened in her insanity, Xena walked over and leaned down to kiss the fair woman. There would be time enough to discuss that later. "Why don't we just get comfortable for bed? To sleep. We can cuddle, and see ...well, how things ...flow. OK?"

Smiling, Gabrielle reached up and drew Xena's lips to her own, kissing her with all the love and trust she felt. After several heartbeats, which were rapidly increasing in speed, lips parted and Gabrielle agreed, "OK".

Xena removed her leathers, as Gabrielle unlaced boots and top, and slipped out of her skirt. Xena stood there in her white shift as Gabrielle stood in the thin green top she wore underneath her outer garment and matching green briefs. Suddenly, both women were feeling a little self-conscious. They had seen each other in *much* less before but this was different.

"Xena, I'm a little nervous".

"It's OK, Gabrielle." Feeling a little nervous herself, Xena continued, "Why don't you wash up and crawl into bed while I stoke the fire."

"Well, you've already done that, but I suppose you should put another log in the fireplace." Gabrielle's eyes widened. Had she said that? 'Oh my farm girl!' she thought to herself, as she turned towards the wash basin and poured some water on a cloth, glad Xena couldn't see the fire rushing to her face.

Xena's eyebrow raised as she flashed a grin and walked to the hearth. She could hear Gabrielle behind her washing herself, and as much as she wanted to look, she didn't. Gabrielle needed a few moments of as much privacy as the situation afforded.

Having surprised herself with her brazen comment, Gabrielle quickly washed herself, thankful that Xena had seemed to have found a reason to spend some extra time tending to the fire. Finishing, and dumping the dirty water into the pail in the corner, she glanced at Xena's form in front of the fire. The sight caused her insides to begin stirring in a somewhat familiar way, but not. Leaving her wondrous view, she crawled under the blankets and lay flat on her side of the bed. It was a good thing she was against the wall or she may have fallen off the edge, she had scooted herself so far over.

Xena added a few logs and returned to the bedside, having blown out all but the candle on the small table beside the bed. She also poured some water on another cloth her mother had left for them and began to wash herself. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Gabrielle trying not to look on, with questionable success. This attempt by her bard to give her the same amount of privacy, both warmed Xena's heart and made it pound harder at the sight of how much difficulty said bard was having at accomplishing that task.

"Gods, Xena, you did have a bath *last* night didn't you?" Said bard was losing patience with the slow torture of trying to avoid looking at the most glorious creature she had ever seen, as said creature was taking her time cleansing *every* part of her body, since said creature had removed her shift.

"Yes I did Gabrielle, but as you know, I rode long and hard today. Just let me get a clean shift and I'll be done."

"Um...you don't have to get a clean shift. I....I don't mind if you ....sleep ...I mean, if you *want* to sleep without..."

"Thanks, Gabrielle. I think I might like to wait until the morning to put on a clean shift."Xena smiled at what her bard was trying to tell her. She would just see where things flowed.

Xena crossed to the bed and slipped under the covers. She immediately noticed how far over Gabrielle had moved and how much space there was between them. Trying not to read more into it than Gabrielle's nervousness, and feeling a bit nervous herself, she kept her past guilt from making her think the girl was afraid of her.

Both women lay there looking up at the ceiling for a few heartbeats. Xena reached over and lifted the candle, bringing it to her lips to extinguish the flame.

"Xena? Could you leave the candle burning for a while longer?"

"Sure. No problem." She then placed the dancing light back on the table and lay back down. Although she was slightly successful at not thinking Gabrielle feared her, she had decided to allow the girl to go as slowly as she wanted. Her hormones raged inside of her, but Xena wasn't about to allow her body to betray her love. If Gabrielle wanted to end the night with their previous kisses, then she would lay awake all night if she had to, in order to insure the girl received no unwanted contact. If they touched again tonight, it would be Gabrielle's idea.



Gabrielle raised up on her arm and scooted closer to the warror's body, careful not to touch it. "It's not flowing."


"I mean it *is* flowing, ...what I mean is...gods!" Gabrielle quickly pressed her lips to those beneath her, taking Xena's face in her hand and scooting closer to touch the body those lips belonged to.

Xena moaned when she realized that Gabrielle had shed her undergarments before crawling into bed, and was now pressing uncovered flesh against her own.

In a few sand grains of time, bodies were entwined, hands were roaming and lips were tasting lips, chins, necks. Moments later, eyes looked into eyes as candlelight danced across features. Love was seen, need was seen, desire and passion were seen. Xena's eyes questioned. Gabrielle's hushed voiced answered, "I trust you, Xena, and I so love you, my warrior".

Things were indeed flowing nicely. Xena's touch was erasing all of Gabrielle's uncertainty about what she was ready for. And just Xena's willingness to wait was making her ready for so much.

Xena gently pushed the tiny amazon back onto the mattress and lowered her face to kiss her bard's lips, neck, breasts. Gabrielle instinctively placed her hands on the back of Xena's head, pulling her in. She moaned as *her* warrior, *her* Xena did wonderful things with her lips and tongue. Unconsciously, she began to press downward. Xena obeyed the silent command and slid her body along the smaller one beneath her, as moans of pleasure escaped from the little amazon's throat.

"Oh yeah! It's definitely flowing." Gabrielle's voice made Xena shudder and her words made her smile.

Reaching down between the bard's legs, causing an "Oh gods!" and trembling, the warrior answered, "Yes. I'd say it's flowing all right."

Before a response could come from the young storyteller, she was jolted with the most extraordinary sensation of warm moistness moving against her, in the most private of places. She had finally relinquished that once private spot to her warrior, her love. In the split second before she lost all cohesive thought, Gabrielle purposed to spend her life bringing Xena these feelings she now had.

Moments later, Gabrielle lay spent in Xena's arms. Her damp hair being stroked gently, and loving words being whispered softly into her ear. She vaguely recalled lightning and a rushing sound in her ears and was too shy to ask for confirmation that it was *her* voice she had heard screaming Xena's name. As for Xena, the sound of her name erupting from Gabrielle's body caused an intense feeling of something unrecognizable, something that frightened the warrior princess.

Lying there in the strong, gentle arms of her love, Gabrielle purposed to tell Xena of her night with Perdicas. Xena needed to know what did, and did not happen. True, she wasn't a virgin after that night, but equally true, she certainly had not experienced this or the euphoria that accompanied it. Perdicas had certainly not been the other half of her soul. Although this may have been an odd time to think of her dead friend and husband, she knew from days ago that this issue had yet to be resolved, and *this* Amazon was not going to avoid the hard things, because to push past them would make what she had with Xena, that much more solid, more true, more real, more permanent. But all that would wait til later. Right now, there were things that needed tending to... one tall, dark, beautiful thing in particular.

Gabrielle raised herself to look into Xena's eyes and wordlessly lowered her lips, tasting something new on those of her warrior's. She moaned as she grasped Xena's face and pressed her own against the lovely one in her hands. She kissed the dark woman passionately, trying to convey all the love, desire and trust in her heart. As she slowly moved her lips to the neck of her soulmate, she felt Xena stiffen. That unrecognizable something coursing through the warrior's body, frightening her rigid.

"Xena? What is it? Am I doing something wrong?"

"NO! No, Gabrielle, you're not. You couldn't do *anything* wrong."

"Then what is it? Don't you...don't you want.....?"

"YES! Of course I do. I'm ...I'm feeling a little...frightened. I don't understand it. I'm just a little scared. That's all." There! She'd said it. The mighty warrior princess admits fear at the hands of a little farm-raised bard.

"Scared? Of me? Of *what*?" Gabrielle couldn't hide the surprise in her voice as she looked into the blue eyes, actually seeing the fear there. "I mean, surely, this isn't your.."

"No. It is *NOT* my first time" responded a mildly irked warrior.

"I meant, maybe....with a woman? I mean it was certainly *mine*."

"Gabrielle. Think about it." Then her voice softened to a whisper, " No...not the first with a woman...either." Xena wasn't proud of her past sexual experiences. The only ones she could remember without disgust was Marcus and Hercules, and sometimes Borias. She hadn't let herself think of Lao Ma or M'Lila at all, because of her feelings for Gabrielle. It would have put too much stress on her, traveling with the girl just out of reach. That wouldn't have been a good choice, for her to allow herself to think of them with Gabrielle so near. She wasn't sure she wouldn't have just taken the girl, especially in the beginning. And maybe...she finally *had* a few days ago. They still hadn't discussed what she had done, or didn't do. Gabrielle's voice pushed those thoughts away.

"Then what, Xena? I want...no...I *need* to make you feel this way. Loved, wanted, desired, connected. What are you afraid of, Xena?"

Gabrielle stroked Xena's face, giving the warrior time to answer. She knew how hard it had been for Xena to admit having a fear, *any* fear, much less a fear of sex. After several minutes, the warrior found her voice, finally identifying the source of her fear.

"Of giving you myself. That's what I'm afraid of . I'm not proud of most of it Gabrielle, but I've had sex lots of times. I've even made love a few times. But...*this*...with you...to you...*for* you, I'd have to give over all that I am. And that scares me."

The girl, who often seemed to have grown very wise in such a short time, thought carefully before answering.

"Xena, I *could* tell you that, no, you wouldn't have to do that. That it would be OK with me, if you needed to take awhile. That right now, I just want to make you feel good and that it really wouldn't bother me, if you didn't scream my name." Eyes of jade and azure gazed into one another. "But, I can't do that, Xena. I love you too much. I wish I could, Xena, honestly, but I've given you everything *I* am, and I need the same from you."

Hearts pounded, as minds considered outcomes.

"This time, I'm going to have to surrender, aren't I, Gabrielle?"

"You *could* look at it, not as a surrender, but a victory over your fear."

"No. It is a surrender, my bard." Xena looked into the face of the one she loved above all, and reached up, pulling Gabrielle's lips close to her own. "Help me surrender, Gabrielle," the warrior breathed into the mouth of her soul.

Gabrielle kissed Xena gently, but then harder with a greater passion. Although her experience was limited to one night with Perdicas and one experience of David's heaven with Xena, instinctively Gabrielle knew Xena wouldn't surrender easily, no matter how much the warrior's heart and body wanted her to.

She pulled her body on top of the taller one beneath her, running her hands down the dark body, grasping Xena's left thigh, pulling it up, as she pressed her right knee between the warrior's legs, the moisture betraying the warrior's fear.

"I love you, Xena."

Gabrielle trailed her kisses down Xena's neck. She felt the body of her love stiffen in fright, but continued caressing neck and shoulders with her lips and the fingers of her other hand, until she felt the warrior princess relax a bit. She continued pressing her knee.

"I'll love you my whole life, Xena."

Xena's fists clenched tightly on the sheets beside her body as she licked her tongue over her lips tasting Gabrielle on them. Gabrielle slid down slightly, releasing the muscular thigh, pleased that it remained raised, as she moved her mouth to heaving breasts and felt the moisture move up to her hip. She straddled one of Xena's legs as one hand caressed the raised thigh reaching underneath to other flesh and the other hand grasped Xena's throat, eliciting a slight gasp from the warrior.

"You're safe, Xena."

After thoroughly covering, suckling and taking in breasts with her mouth, Gabrielle began trailing kisses down Xena's abdomen, slowly sliding her body down, intent to do what Xena had done to her. She felt Xena's hands, grasping her shoulders, the fear showing through.

"No. Gabrielle, no. Stay here with me....please."

"Shhhh. It's OK, Xena. I'm here."


Not sure how she would accomplish her goal now, Gabrielle nonetheless succumbed to Xena's small frightened voice and moved back up the length of Xena's body, replacing her knee into the cleft between the woman's legs.

"I'm here. I'm here."

Xena allowed her hands to remain on Gabrielle. The storyteller couldn't believe the feelings this woman's touch gave her. If she wasn't careful, she'd be the one surrendering...again. Gabrielle returned to the ministrations she had been giving the raven beauty's upper body. Caressing, stroking, kissing. Going purely on instinct, a conversation or two with Ephiny, and a few poems she had read, Gabrielle shifted her body and lowered her hand between her knee and Xena's body. Her warrior had yet to moan since admitting her fear of surrender. Gabrielle knew this was a struggle for Xena's very life, for both of their lives.

"Let go, Xena. I love you. I'll catch you."

Gabrielle shifted her own body again so that she lay along the length of her warrior's body and began exploring with her fingers as her mouth claimed Xena's in fierce possession. Finally, a soft moan. Which was answered with another soft moan.

Slowly, Gabrielle slid a finger into a waiting cavern. And then two. First moving slowly and then more rapidly, while a thumb found another place. Xena's hands grasped Gabrielle's shoulders so tightly the girl almost cried out. The warrior's moans increased as Gabrielle begged any god to help her, to help Xena, to help them. She would win this battle. She would help *Xena* win this battle. She had to.

Releasing Xena's lips from her own, Gabrielle brought her mouth to Xena's ear as one hand reached under and behind the warrior's shoulders and the other continued to move rapidly down below.

"I love you, Xena. You're safe."

The dark woman lifted her head and brought her mouth to her bard's shoulder, using the amazon's flesh to stifle a loud moan threatening to erupt from her throat.

"It's OK, Xena. *You're* Ok. You're so beautiful. You are *so* special to me, Xena."

A moan and trembling as the bard continued with her hand and words.

"You're safe, Xena. Let go. Give yourself to me."

A loud moan, stifled by the Amazon's shoulder.

"Come for me, Xena. Oh please."

Teeth biting into flesh as the warrior princess fights her greatest battle. Gabrielle, so intent on what her love must be going through, barely notices the pain searing into her shoulder.

"Give yourself to me, Xena. I need you."

At those words, Xena screams out the name of her life, her soul, her Gabrielle. She surrenders. She soars, she cries out, she clings to Gabrielle, needing the anchor, as her heart nearly bursts with ecstasy at feeling loved, wanted, desired, connected.

"Thank you, Xena. Oh, thank you."

Gabrielle's hand slows and then comes up, allowing her to embrace the warrior. They rock, as tears flow, as "I love you's" are spoken, as hearts join, souls are united, and dreams are fulfilled.


"Yes, Xena?"

"I'm sorry I bit you."

"I treasure it as a badge of honor, Xena."



"You're never going to tell me what I did, are you?"

"No, Xena. I'm not. It doesn't matter now."


In another room, a mother smiles as a god's words come back to her.

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