~ Our Way ~
by Seska

Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle and Argo two don't belong to me. They belong to the others. To universal and co. I just rent them out to play with them for a while. All the other characters in this story do belong to me though. As is this story which may not be copied in any part without the author's permission!

Subtext: There is nothing like subtext. This is a maintext story. Even though you are free to put as much subtext into my story as you want.

Sex warning: Yes, this story deals with the loving relationship between two adult women who are more than just friends. Don't like it? Don't read it. Not old enough? Don't read it - yet.

Author's note: This story is the second entry in the HER, ME, US - SERIES. (1st entry: ?When she awakens") You don't need to read the first part to understand this story because they are not really linked that much. HER, ME, US stands for the type of writing I'm using in the stories (from who's point of view).

Another note: Thanx to my wonderful girlfriend for editing yet another story for me. Love you, honey!

Please email me useful criticism about this or any other of my stories or just to tell me that you read my story. Thanx! seska.roc@gmx.de

Part 1

<>I awake some hours later. The sun has already climbed up over the top of the trees.

She's laying curled up against me, one arm and one leg posessively thrown over me. I can't see her face because her head is resting on my chest. But I know each of her beautiful features by heart. I have a picture of her in my mind. It never leaves me. She can be miles away, but still the picture of her will stay with me. In my mind. In my heart. That way she's never really far away. No matter how big the distance between us is.

I know for sure that she has this relaxed smile on her face. Like always when she's asleep. I wish I knew what posesses her mind at this moment. What is it that she's dreaming about? Maybe me?

I place a gentle kiss on top of her head. As an answer she moves even closer into me. Unconciously fitting to me. We never had a problem with this. As if our bodies were made for each other. We will always find that exact position that allows us to be as close as possible. Is that a proof that we are meant to be together? I don't know. But I don't mind because I know for sure that we are one. Will always be.

I feel a small smile spread over my face. Having her in my arms is the most wonderful thing on earth. There is no other place I'd rather be. For eternity. I am so thankful that I am allowed to be the one. That I am the one who completes her. And I am thankful for the day we both realised that there was no other way for us. It took us long enough.

I have to silently laugh at the memories of us moving around each other, in that dance of wanting but not daring to. Moving closer to each other. But never touching. We both, in all those years since we met, had been much too afraid to take the first step. To maybe risk our friendship. Until in the end our destinies pulled us together anyway. As it was meant to be.

It had been after Hope. After we had killed her and her son. The joy of having my bard back had been overshadowed by the fear of how our relationship was now. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if the rift between us was so big that we couldn't close it anymore. But even back then I never doubted for a second what I had said outside the barn. I knew even back then for sure that she was and is my way. And I didn't care wherever destiny took us. As long as we could go there together. And I was ready to do anything in my power to get that closeness back that we had shared before. Even though I had never done anything about it or even had told her, I knew I loved her. More than just a friend. So much that the time without her was like going through Tartarus and back. Now that I had her back, all I wanted to do was to be with her, to be close to her. To consume what we had missed in all that time.

Even though I didn't know exactly what she was feeling for me, I realised that she must have felt the same need to be alone with me, to properly reunite with me. Because the same night we killed Hope and the Deliverer, she had asked me if we could leave as soon as possible. Maybe the next morning already. I had been surprised that she didn't want to stay with her family for longer. But I had immediately agreed anyway. And so after saying our goodbyes the next morning to her family and friends, we had headed out onto the road again....


They had been on their way for some time already, Xena on Argo and Gabrielle walking some paces behind, neither saying a word, when Xena reined her horse in and turned in the saddle to look at Gabrielle. The bard was some paces behind her, her head hanging, seemingly deep in thought. She only looked up when she realised Xena was waiting for her. Raising her brows in question she stopped beside Argo.

For a long time both women just looked at each other. Xena felt a sudden deep yearning in her soul to reach out and hold her friend. And to maybe somehow get those pained eyes to shine with joy again. She had missed Gabrielle so much it broke her heart. But now she was back. Very alive and very healthy.

A small smile played around Gabrielle's lips when she looked in the warriors concerned eyes. Xena looked so lovingly at her that all the pain and fear of the last few months seemed to just fade away. Only to be replaced by that old feeling of love and desire to be close to the dark woman. The young woman didn't understand what was going on with her whenever those feelings took a hold of her or where they came from, but all that mattered at the moment was, that she was back again. Back with Xena. Her friend. Her home.

Holding her staff in her left hand, she placed her other one on the saddle beside the warrior's leg.


When she heard her name, Xena broke their connected gazes and blinked. It had been there. She had felt it just as strong as before. Maybe even deeper. This pure love that warmed her heart whenever Gabrielle was near. There seemed to be a fire radiating from where the bard touched the saddle. And she wanted this fire to consume her. Forever.

Realising that her companion was waiting for a sign of acknowledgement, she swallowed hard and pulled herself together. She flashed a smile at Gabrielle.

"Wanna join me up here?"

Xena indicated the place behind her, expectantly looking down at her friend. She just had to feel Gabrielle near again. She had wanted it since they had met in the forest yesterday. But all the stuff going on arond them and the fact that Gabrielle's parents protectively stuck around the bard for every second, had made it too hard to fulfill her wish. They had even slept in different rooms during the night. Now, though, they were alone on the road again...

The bard answered with a shy smile, shaking her head no.

"I'm...I think I feel better stretching my legs for a bit, if you don't mind, Xena."

The warrior felt her heart sink. So, Gabrielle wasn't as interested in closing the gap between them as she had hoped? Was that what her refusal meant? Xena nodded and turned her head away from the bard, too afraid that her face showed her disappointment. She was just about to give Argo the sign to resume her slow pace when Gabrielle spoke again.

"But maybe you could walk with me for a bit, Xena?"

The bard was playing with one of the saddle straps, avoiding her friend's eyes.

Not waiting for a second invitation, Xena slid off her horse and came to stand beside Gabrielle. The young woman still didn't look at her, but she could see the happy smile spread from her lips all over her face. Xena bent her head to be able to look into sea green eyes.

"You okay?" she gently asked.

As an answer a light blush crept up over the bard's cheeks. With her head still bent she looked up into the warrior's eyes.

"Sure. Why are you asking?"

"Oh, just checking."

Xena reached out and gently squeezed the bard's shoulder. Gabrielle turned her eyes away from the taller woman and stared at the hand on her shoulder.

As if nothing ever happened, as if they had never been seperated a single touch of the warrior could still take away her breath and make her heart beat faster. And she didn't miss the sudden tingle in her stomach. Gabrielle never wanted this feeling to end. Deep down in her heart she felt as if something was pulling her to Xena. Making her wish that Xena's touch would never leave her. Making her desire to be enclosed in the strong arms and feel the comforting warmth of the older woman. It scared her to feel this way about her best friend and to not know what Xena would say if she knew about how she felt. But the last months of feeling so cold and alone without her friend pushed the fear to the back of her mind.

Letting the strap on the saddle go, Gabrielle layed her own hand onto Xena's and gently squeezed it. Then she traced the outline of it with a single finger watching her finger slide over the dark skin.

"I missed you, Xena. I missed you a lot."

Her voice still sounded so shy and fragile that it broke the warriors heart. In pure instinct to offer her friend some kind of comfort, Xena reached out for her and pulled her into a tight yet gentle hug. The bard immediately threw her arms around Xena's neck holding on to the warrior as if for dear life. A sob escaped her mouth and she tightened her hold on her friend.

This was what she wanted. What she had missed so much. This felt so right. To be close to Xena again. This was the place she wanted to be. Her home. Standing in the taller womans arms, gave her a feeling of security and love she had never been able to imagine possible. Gabrielle didn't know what it was that made her lose herself in the warriors embrace, but she didn't have the power to question it. She just wanted to feel it forever and never miss it again.

Xena tightened their hug as well and murmurred words of reassurance into the bard's ear to quieten her down.

"I missed you too, Gabrielle. But now it's okay. Everything is okay. I am here. And we both are together. It's okay."

She stroked over the bard's back and squeezed her gently.

"I was so afraid, Xena. I thought I would never see you again when you didn't answer to my letters. I thought something might have happened to you."

Another sob and Gabrielle burried her face in the warrior's raven hair.

Xena couldn't believe her ears. She felt a deep pang in her soul at what Gabrielle had said. The bard had been laying in that hospice, wounded and fighting with death and still she had worried about her and had feared for the warriors safety.

"Oh, Gabrielle."

The taller woman placed a soft kiss on top of the blonde head and leaned a bit back to be able to look in the bard's eyes.

"I never got any word about where you were. I was searching everywhere for you. I knew you were still alive and just couldn't give up. Never, Gabrielle, never!"

Gabrielle looked up at Xena with tearful eyes.

"I am so sorry, Xena. I mean...I shouldn't have doubted you."

A single tear ran over the bard's cheek but before she could wipe it away the warrior caught it with her fingertip and looked at it as if in wonder.

"Now hush, Gabrielle. How should you have known?"

"But you believed in me, You knew I was still alive."

<<Yes, becaue of Alti. Because she showed me our future!>> Xena's mind screamed, but she kept silent. This wasn't the place, nor the time to reveal this secret.

Gabrielle took Xena's hand, ending the warrior's study of her wet fingertip, and squeezed it.

"I am sorry for thinking that you wouldn't come back for me. Wouldn't search for me anymore."

Xena shook her head and pulled the bard back into a tight hug.

"Nonsense. It's okay. Everything is okay now."

She placed a nother kiss on top of the head nestled on her shoulder. Xena inhaled the bard's sweet scent, closing her eyes as a wave of desire mixed with fear of losing her again washed over her.

They stood like this for it seemed an eternity, holding on to each other as if letting go would mean the other one would fade away. Then Xena slowly pulled back. She held the bard's face gently in her hands and looked deeply into the green eyes.

Gabrielle leaned her face into the warriors warm palm, closing her eyes. Moving forward Xena placed a soft kiss on Gabrielle's forehead, allowing her lips to linger a bit longer than necessary. The younger woman sighed deeply and placed her hands on the warrior's wrists. squeezing them.

"Please promise me one thing though, Gabrielle."

Xena whispered her voice breaking from the emotions. She moved her lips to first the bard's right then left cheek dropping featherlight kisses on each.

"Anything, Xena."

Gabrielle's hold on the warrior's wrists had tightened at the feeling of warm lips on her skin. The tingling in her stomach had intensified and she felt a deep heat rush over her whole body, only to settle between her legs. She bit her lip as to not moan out loud.

"Promise me to never disappear on me like that again."

Gabrielle chuckled at the warriors words, so similar to what she had made her friend promise when she had come back from death to her. The young woman opened her eyes when she felt Xena's lips leave her cheek. Blue eyes met green and Gabrielle's chuckle faded away. She moved one hand and placed it on the warriors cheek, stroking the delicate skin with her thumb. It always surprised her just how soft Xena's skin felt under her touch and with sudden desire she wondered if the rest of the magnificent body felt the same. She didn't doubt it for a second.

The bard's heart seemed to stop for a beat and resume in double speed when she saw the warrior starting to lean forward. Gabrielle wasn't sure what Xena had in mind, but she suddenly realised how much she wanted and needed to feel those lips on hers. It took her only a second to understand what that meant and a quick wave of fear about her own feelings washed over her threatening to take a hold of her whole body. Then she looked into Xena's eyes. They betrayed how nervous the warrior was as well. But exactly that made Gabrielle nearly faint with excitement. She felt her knees weakening when Xena looked away from her eyes and focused on her mouth. The young woman licked suddenly dry lips and tilted her head up just a tiny bit.

Xena was now so close that their breathe mixed and she could almost taste the warrior on her lips. Gabrielle closed her eyes.

A sudden loud Shreek, two black birds shooting out of the forest on their left and right over their heads and an in shock jumping Argo destroyed what might have been.

Xena hit the ground hard when her horse jumped into them, knocking them flat onto their backs with Gabrielle right on top of her. All that was left of Argo was a big cloud of dust.

The warrior cursed under her breath and looked at the stunned bard on top of her. Gabrielle cursed and looked at the surprised warrior under her. They both grimaced at each other and then suddenly burst out laughing about the condition they were in: laying on the ground in the middle of the road, the warrior's backside hurting from the sudden fall and Gabrielle landing on top of her and the falling dust from Argos' hurried escape settling down around and unfortunately on them......

<I> A bird's call in the far distance snaps me out of my thoughts. A small shudder runs over me as I remember how close I had come back then to kiss my best friend. And I wonder how things would have changed, would have went different if we had shared our secrets back then. Would she have been ready to take that step then already?

I look at my companion, who has rolled onto her side, my arm trapped under her face like a pillow. My eyes see the small shiver run over her body and I turn to look at the fire that has slowly died away through the morning. I guess we have been too occupied with other things to take care of that. I grin.

Then I decide, since I am awake now anyway, I could get up and bring the flames back to life. But getting up is a hard task, when a blond head is using your arm as a headrest. My breath moves her strands as I lean in closer and blow gently into her hair. A deep protesting groan is my answer. I chuckle at how responive my bard is. Even in sleep.

Well, even if it indeed is hard to get up, over the years I learned some ways of extracting myself from my bard's clasp. And so I have no excuse to stay laying down any longer. A heavy sigh accompanies me as I roll her carefully out of my arms and onto our blanket. I push her bag that she normally uses as a pillow under her head and use my own blanket to keep her warm.

That task finished I force myself to get up and stretch. It must be close to midday by now, judging from how far up the sun is already. Rolling my head around to get the stiffness out, I trot over to where we placed some dry wood. There isn't much left of it. Simply because we hadn't really planned in staying here any longer than to rest for the night. But things came differently I tell myself with a smirk. Not that I mind in that case.

I gather the few sticks and put them onto the fire using the last embers to bring the flames back to life. Soon a comforting warmth streams out from the burning wood. Taking a look around, my eyes fall back onto my companion. And I realise that she will be hungry when she wakes up. Maybe some gentle work out in the form of hunting will do me some good, I muse as I pick up my sword and chakram. Will it be a rabbit this time? Or something bigger. The forest will answer my question soon enough I decide as I step into the trees surrounding us. Going out to hunt has always been one of my favorites. Simply because you can let your mind wander so easily free while you search for an animal's track.....


Gabrielle was the first to recover from their little accident. Sitting up to straddle the warrior's hips she chuckled and wiped some dust off the warrior's cheek only to make matters worse. She smirked at the tall woman under her.

"I suppose someone needs a wash tonight."

"Oh, yeah? And who would that someone happen to be?"

"I think maybe a certain warrior princess who has just been knocked onto her ass by her own horse."

<<A fairly sexy ass, by the way.>> Gabrielle thought. She blinked in surprise at where her mind took her and prayed that she wasn't blushing. She winked at her friend and poked her in the chest.

"That would be your first guess, I suppose. But what about a...:" mimmicking the bard's voice, Xena poked Gabrielle in the chest as well, "...certain bard who decided that a dust bath on the ground, on top of a warrior would do her some good?"

<<Not that I mind the "on top of a warrior" part of it.>> Xena's mind finished, grinning inwardly.

Looking down at her own dusty cloths, arms and hands, Gabrielle shot Xena a not so bemused smile and got to her feet. Padding her clothes, she tried to get rid of the dirt.

"Well, that certain bard would be very thankful for a bath if that certain warrior princess, who is by the way still flat on her ass, could maybe provide her with one."

Xena's eyes flashed and she jumped to her feet. She padded Gabrielle's back off.

"As the bard's luck may be, the NOT on her ass anymore warrior, indeed can provide a bath. Or at least something close to a bath."

She playfully slapped Gabrielle's butt and then suddenly shot past her friend sticking her tongue out at the bard.

"Of course only if her bard will get going <I>today</I>!" she called over her shoulder, winking at her.

Gabrielle watched the tall form speed off, rubbed her backside and murmurred under her breath.

"Her bard, hm, Xena?"

She picked up her staff when she heard Xena calling from the distance.

"Come on, bard! Don't be so lame! Or do you find your new dusty look so endearing to leave it on forever??"

Little did Gabrielle know that the warrior <I>did</I> find it kind of endearing. Especially with some interesting pictures of how to get the dirt off the bard's naked body flashing in her mind.

Gabrielle shook her head and then ran after her friend who had disappeared from her view at a curve in the road ahead of her. When she reached the spot where she had seen her companion last, she stopped and looked around. Since she didn't find any trace of Xena she called out.

"Xena? Where are you?"

Still nothing. Gabrielle slowly started walking again, holding her staff with both hands at the ready.

"Xena!! Come on, that is not funny!"

The green eyes darted around nervously, trying to locate her friend.

"Please don't do that, Xena! Xeeeenaaaa!!???!!"

Suddenly Gabrielle felt two arms enclose her from behind and strong, yet gentle hands clamp over her mouth. She nearly dropped her staff in surprise but the stranger caught it and pressed it against her body tigthly. She felt herself being pulled deeply into the forest.

"Sh, it's me, Gabrielle."

Xena whispered amused into the bard's ear beside her lips. She slowly stopped and let her friend go. Gabrielle whirled around, her eyes shooting daggers at the warrior. She slapped her in the stomach, hissing angrily.

"Xena! You scared the hell out of me! Are you totally mad or what?! How could you do that to me! I can't believe it!"

Gabrielle ignored the quick flash of hurt that washed over Xena's face and pulled her hand back for another slap into the warrior's midrift and prepared for some more scolding. She had been so afraid because Xena had suddenly been gone. And then the sudden attack from behind. It hadn't been funny. Not at all. regardless what the warrior thought!

Xena caught Gabrielle's hand before she could throw the hit and raised her finger to the bard's lips.

"Sh, Gabrielle. Look." she whispered and pointed behind the bard through some trees. Gabrielle immediately fell silent when she felt the finger on her lips. But she kept glaring at the warrior.

"Look!" Xena encouraged her again. "Please?"

Gabrielle rolled her eyes and turned her head to look at what Xena wanted to show her.

There, only some metres away rom her was a big clearing with the greenest grass and flowers in all different colours. And in the middle of it stood a doe with her fawn. The mother animal had her head down in the grass and the fawn was jumping around her wildly, his little tail flicking with each jump. It kicked it's legs and snorted, seemingly having the fun of his young life.

Gabrielle's mouth dropped open at the beautiful sight in front of her. She gasped.

"Xena...they are beautiful!"

The warrior stepped up behind her and layed her hands on the small woman's shoulders.

"Yes, they are."

<<But not half as beautiful as you are, Gabrielle.>> she added in her mind.

Gabrielle placed a hand on top of Xena's and leaned back into the body behind her. Just as far as she could dare herself to. Without having to fear that the warrior would get suspicious and would force her to reveal some secrets she wasn't totally sure about yet herself. She felt the taller woman's heat envelop her and she took a deep breath of the clear forest air, flowers and defenitely Xena. The blonde closed her eyes and fought the tears of joy that threatened to overflow her eyes.

Just as the fawn fell to the ground and rolled around, a sob escaped her mouth.

"Hey...." a gentle, deep voice from behind her whisperes. Strong arms slid around her shoulders pulling her closer into the warmth of her friend. Gabrielle lowered her chin onto Xena's forearms.

"Why are you crying, Gabrielle?"

The bard turned around and moved her arms around Xena's waist, hiding her face in the black tresess.

"Because they are so beautiful. This is so special. Thank you for that, Xena. For sharing it with me." she whispered.

Xena grinned. She loved to make her friend happy and to do special things that made her smile. A smile from the bard meant everything to her and she would give anything and everything to be able to make her smile for the rest of their lives. Even though Gabrielle's joy and knowing that she did something to cause it, made her a bit shy. Like now. Feeling the old awkwardness rising, she lifted her chakram and gave Gabrielle a sheepish smirk.

"Well, actually, it isn't all that special. I just wanted you to be able to see it before I have to....kill them."

Again the bard's mouth dropped. But this time in pure shock. She took a step backwards from Xena.

"You must be kidding! You...they...you can't just...."

Xena lowered her arm and looked at her friend blankly.

"Deer meat is very special and especially good is that of a fawn. It's still so young and fresh. Who would give away an opportunety like that one? You're hungry, right?"

"No!" Gabrielle placed herself between the warrior and the two animals. She held her hands up to stop Xena. "Wait."

Xena raised one eyebrow in silent question. "Yes?"

"You can't just kill them! They are too cute! My mother gave us enough food for weeks. We don't need them!" Gabrielle pleaded, batting her eyes at her friend.

Trying to ignore the look on the bard's face, Xena looked over her shoulder at her prey.

"I don't want your mothers food today. No offense. But dried meat and bread against fresh, tender fawn meat? I want deer. Now!"

"You can't, Xena! Please! Please??"

"Oh but I can. I'll show you just how good I can!"

Xena lifted her chakram and let it go so quickly, Gabrielle had absolutely no chance to react.


In horror the bard watched the warriors weapon shooting past her and into the clearing into the direction of the two grooming animals. She closed her eyes tightly and waited for the deers' death scream. But then all she heard was the noises of thousands of leaves falling and of hooves disappearing into the opposite direction of the clearing.

Gabrielle carefully opened one eye to look for the chakram. It was neatly stuck into a brunch in a tree not far from them. The last leaves were just tumbling to the ground. Of the two deer nothing could be seen.

The blonde turned around and stood with her hands on her hips, claring up at the warrior.


"Me? Yes?" Xena asked innocently, fumbling with her hands behind her back.

"You...I will...you just wait, Miss Smartass...."

"What? I'm sorry...I missed. Well, actually I decided that I don't want deer today anyway."

All Gabrielle could do was growl at her companion. Xena shrugged her shoulders and smirked at Gabrielle.

"Was just playing with you, Gabrielle. Sooooooorryyyyyyy!"

Xena put on her best impression of her "little - five - year - old - Xena - did - something - bad- but- is - so - sorry - for - it" face and lowered her eyes to the ground.

"Oh, Xena! What can I do with you!?!"

<<Actually you could do with me whatever pleases you, my bard!>> Xena thought. She bit her lip, then said aloud:

"I don't know. Am just a little innocent warrior. Don't ask me such hard questions!"

Gabrielle sighed and shook her head.

The warrior strode past her and out into the clearing leaving her to helplessly stare at a well formed backside. Green eyes fixed on powerful legs and muscles flexing with every step her companion took. Gabrielle groaned as a tingle started in her stomach and floated out all over her body. Leaning onto her staff she let her eyes travel up over the broad back to strong shoulders. She gripped her amazon weapon tighter when she remembered how it felt to let her fingers dig into the muscles to loosen a knot. And how sensual the warrior's moans sounded when the tightness melted away! The bard closed her eyes for a second as if concentrating on a sound only she could hear. Oh, and how the black silken hair felt when she used to brush it off Xena's shoulders to set to work! Suddenly Gabrielle felt the urge to sink her fingers into the warriors hair. And to let the soft strands glide through her fingers over and over again.

Opening her eyes with a deep breath to steady her fast beating heart, she found herself looking into two blue orbs, all the way from the other side of the clearing. Even though she felt herself blushing she couldn't make herself break their gazes.

It was absolutely crazy. But even though Xena was so far away, it felt as if the warrior was stood right beside her. As if she just needed to reach out and would be able to let her hands brush against soft warm skin. The two eyes staring at her gave her a feeling as if there only existed them two. Nothing around them mattered and she felt herself diving deeper and deeper into the blue stars.

Until Xena shifted from one foot to the other. Then the warrior put her hands on her hips.

"Are you coming, Gabrielle??"

And how her name sounded when the dark woman spoke it. The dark voice settled down around her like a warm blanket on a very cold night. Gabrielle closed her eyes again to let the warmth envelope her totally.

There was something going on with her. She was more sure of that than ever before. But she didn't know exactly what it was. Only that it felt damn good and made her whole body tingle with excitement. And since she liked it, why couldn't she enjoy it, right? It all probably was only because of the joy to be back to her normal life again. With Xena. On the road. In a familiar surrounding. Out of....


Xena's curious voice pulled Gabrielle back from her wandering thoughts with a start. If she hadn't been red before, she was sure now that a tomatoe paled in comparence to her. Pulling herself up she gave her companion an embarrassed smile and started walking into the clearing. When she reached the warrior, two blue eyes studied her thoughtfully.

"Are you okay, Gabrielle?"


Gabrielle smiled again but looked past the tall form stood in front of her.

Xena watched her closely. She had noticed the faint blush creep up over the bard's face when she had turned around and saw the smaller woman open her eyes the first time. Then, after staring at her and closing her eyes a second time, a proper deep blush had coloured Gabrielle's features. The warrior wondered what exactly her companion was thinking about to make her react like that. Did it have something to do with her?

<<Wishful thinking, hm, Xena?!>> the dark voice taunted her.

"Soooo...are we gonna set up camp here?"

Gabrielle scratched her nose, an act known to the warrior as a sign that the bard was extremely nervous, and looked around the clearing curiously. She knew Xena would realise but she just had to change the subject because she didn't want to be questioned by her about things she had no answers to herself.

A dark eyebrow rose at her, but the older woman decided to drop it. She wouldn't try to bring things up that obviously made her friend feel uneasy. Even though she really wished to know what was going on in that beautiful head to make her blush like a new bride.

"Well, yes. If you go get some firewood together, I'll try to get Argo back. Then we can set up camp and have that bath I promised."

The warrior flashed Gabrille a big smile.

"A bath? Don't tell me you have some bath tub hidden somewhere around here??"

Green eyes darted around them.

"Nope, of course not, silly." Xena smirked at Gabrielle playfully. "But there's a lake not too far away from here."

"Really? Where?"

"I'm gonna show you. But...let's get started first, ya? If that stuff dries into your skin we'll never get it off!"

Xena gently wiped some dust off the bard's cheek, grinning at her friend.

"You can talk, Missy!"

Gabrielle patted the hand away from her. Then she leaned her staff against a tree.

"Well, what are you waiting for, warrior?! Go on..go on..." she waved her hands wildly at the taller woman, shooing her away.

This time it was the warrior who shook her head at the bard, then turned around to disappear back into the forest to find her horse.....


I turn my head to Argo II as I enter the clearing we are camping in. The horse raises her head and whinnies softly as if she was aware that our companion is still fast asleep. I smile absently at her and then walk on towards our fire. My hunting went fairely well and I drop the already skinned rabbit. Putting away my sword and chakram I return to the fire and start preparing our lunch. I'm not a great cook. She is.

Only our active life keeps me from turning into a ball, I muse. They say that the path of love goes through your stomach. Well, it wasn't really like that with Gabrielle and me but I have to admit that her cooking abilities have something tantalising about them. Even out of the smallest rests of food we sometimes carry she can make something that will fill us both up. And she seems to be hungry all the time. I laugh at all the occasions when her growling stomach interrupted conversations and how sheepish she then looks at me. In the next village, I decide, I will go and get her some of that nutbread she loves so much. Maybe love does go through ones tummy. It can't hurt to try it, right?

Knowing that the rabbit will take a while to cook I grab the horse brush and walk over to my second best friend. She is so much like her mother and I can't describe the joy I felt when I saw her, there, on Joxer's farm. Only seeing Gabrielle beside me brings me greater joy. People don't understand how you can love an animal so much. For them they are just there to be used. For me my Argo was, and now her daughter is, a loyal companion who goes through everything with me. Just look into your trusty animal's eyes and you will see what I mean. There is a love there only few humans are capable off. I only know one person who can prove that: Gabrielle. When I look in her eyes, I get totally lost. It is as if I can look right down into her soul. And she into mine. She can see past all that I build to protect my heart from any pain. In the beginning I was afraid of that. I didn't like that someone had so much power over me. But by now I learned just how lucky I am that she is there. And that she can look into me like that. That she can read me like an open book. And I know she would never abuse that capability. For my soul is safe in her.

Argo II nudges me and grips my night shirt I had put on after getting up. She pulls on it and looks at me with big brown eyes. I shake my head at her and then start grooming her behind her ear. She closes her eyes and drops her head a little.

After some minutes I hear my soulmate moving on the blankets. The smell of freshly cooked rabbit must have awakened her. I pat my horse on it's neck and then turn to see my sun rise.

She already as her eyes open as I slowly lay down on my side beside her, supporting my head on my arm, looking at her amused. Her pale green eyes stare into the sky sleepily. Ever so slowly she turns her head to me. She blinks. I blink back.

"Morning." she mumbles in a voice still hoarse from sleep.

"Morning is long over, Gabrielle." I tell her and note the puzzled look on her face. When she's in that state of still being half a sleep and half awake, her mind is moving a bit slow sometimes. I nudge her and whisper in her ear.

"You know, morning was when we....played."

She raises a brow at me and slaps me playfully on the arm, as I dart my tongue out to lick her earlobe. Just to help her remember our morning activity.

"Behave, warrior." she tells me off with a twinkle in her eyes. I shrug my shoulders and sit up.

"I take it you smelled the rabbit?" I ask gently, looking to the dark meat cooking over the fire.

She sits up faster then ever and her eyes fall onto our lunch. Immediately her stomach reminds us that it hasn't been filled yet today.

My companion looks at me with big eyes and I laugh nudging her again.

"Go on. I take care of this. When you come back we can eat."

She leans over and presses soft lips onto my cheek.

"Thank you, Xena." she whispers, with her lips still against my skin.

I can't resist and turn my face to take posession of her in a slow, deep kiss. When we break apart I'm a little out of breath. Her eyes are still closed and she licks her lips slowly. "Hmmm...." I hear her mutter. Then she grins at me and suddenly hugs me fiercly to her. I return her embrace. I let her get up and take her little morning walk into the bushes.

When she returns I see her eyes lighten up at the big portion of meat I piled onto her plate. I'm sitting by the fire with my plate on my crossed legs.

"Thought you were hungry." I comment as she sits down beside me.

"You know me so well, Xena."

There isn't anything I can answer to that because it is true. But it's not one sided. She knows me as well. Inside out. We are as if we are one body. And not two seperate persons. Even though having two bodies has it's advantages. I grin to myself and stick some meat into my mouth watching the flames dance.

A silence has settled down around us that is more comforting than nonsense talk ever could be. We don't need to say a thing but will understand each other anyway.

After lunch she goes and cleans up our plates. I get my sword and settle down against a tree. It is too late to do any traveling today. So we decided to stay in this place for the day. I get out my sharpening stone and set to work. She sits down by the fire. Grabbing her scroll bag and pulling out one of her latest writings, she starts reading. After all she's still a bard.

For a long time she didn't write anything anymore and I could feel the scrolls staring at me from our saddlebag accusingly. I guess there was too much going on around us to allow her to settle down to write. Maybe it was the changes inside of her that kept her muse away. I don't know because she never told me. Maybe she doesn't know herself. I can still remember how relieved I was when one day she took an empty scroll and settled down with her back against mine. The scratching of her feather on the paper went on and on long after the sun had disappeared and the night had settled down around us.

It is that same sound now, that let's my mind wander back to where it had taken me before lunch....</I>

The prospect of a swim in a lake made it fairly easy for warrior and bard to quickly get back into their routine of setting up camp together. So, soon they were standing on opposite sides of the fireplace looking around their campsite: they had set it up at the side of the clearing in the shades of the surrounding trees. On Xena's side they had placed a log to sit down on, close enough to the fire to keep them warm in the evening chill. On the other side....well...there lay their bedrolls close together.

Gabrielle had been a bit helpless as to how to proceed when she held the blankets in her arms. For some seconds she had just stood there thinking. Wondering why it felt so awkward to just put the blankets down beside each other. Like they had done all the time since the early days of their journeys together. But something seemed different now and the little bard suddenly feared that by putting thier blankets down together and not with some space between them, she did something the warrior wouldn't approve of. But where was this sudden fear coming from? They had slept beside each other before, so why shouldn't they do so now anymore? Was it her own fear of the feelings inside her? Of her own growing need to be close to her friend. Or the fear of what Xena whould think about that if she found out? She had absolutely no clue what her friend would say to that. She only knew that she wanted to feel the heat of the taller body surround her this night.

Then , after some seconds she had felt her companion's eyes boring into her back. Gabrielle had been to afraid to turn around and instead just had dropped her hands in confusion. She then had heard the warrior move again but only realised that her companion had returned to searching through their saddlebags for the horse brush when the dark voice floated over to her from where the saddlebags were placed.

"It is still getting kinda chilly at night these days, you know. I wonder how hot it will be when summer is here in full force, considering that it is so hot during the days already."

Gabrielle had let a breath go she hadn't known she had held, when she heard the warriors casual words. Suddenly it felt like all the nerves in her body exploded and took away the nervous pressure that had settled on her some seconds ago. She had stopped herself only short from turning around and jumping her friend in thankful joy.

The bard didn't know how, but apparently Xena had known exactly what was going through her mind and had said the right thing at the right moment to give her an excuse to move the blankets close together. And all that without even telling her directly that she was being silly. No, she still had given her the choice but had just added a comforting fact: by bringing up how cold it was at night and that it would be warmer if they slept closer, she had shown her that she wanted to be close too.

Instead of jumping her friend, Gabrielle had put down the blankets and replied casually with something about the weather. They had continued setting up their camp chatting about this and that, each comfortable in doing their own tasks.

And now everything was done. The campsite looked so much like in the old days, as if nothing had ever happened. As if it was just another night after another small adventure. And not their first night together alone after having been parted for such a long time.

They both looked at each other and smiled at the same moment. Xena stepped around the fireside and stood in front of Gabrielle. She placed her hands on the bards shoulders and squeezed them.

"It looks very comfortable, don't you think?"


Gabrielle squeezed the warriors wrists and looked around the campsite.

"Just like always."

Green eyes settled onto blue and they looked at each other for a moment. After some seconds and when the tension seemed to grow with every breathe they took, Xena smiled.

"Ready for that swim?"

All Gabrielle could do was nod. Seeing the warrior's blue diamonds so close had taken all her speach capability away from her.

Gabrielle grabbed the needed stuff and followed the warrior to Argo's side. Even though the lake apparently was only some minutes walking distance away they decided to take the horse to water her with some fresh lake water instead of the bottled ration they carried with them.

"You ready?"

Xena asked gently and took Argo by her reins.


Gabrielle smiled happily at her companion and patted the horse's side.

Together they left the clearing, Xena leading the way with Argo beside her and Gabrielle close up behind her. Soon, the older woman stopped and turned around to Gabrielle. She winked at her and pointed in front of her.

"Here we go. Is that to your satisfaction, my bard?"

Gabrielle raised a brow at the <<my bard>> but let it pass and stepped up beside her friend. Only to be greeted with another view that took away her breathe yet again.

In front of her lay a big lake surrounded by high reed and rich, soft grass. There was a small waterfall to the right and the late afternoon sun splashed the water with a sparkling golden colour. Right in front of her was a green, grassy lawn where they could lay down their stuff and walk comfortably into the lake.

"Oh, by the gods! Xena! It's breathtakingly beautiful!"

Xena layed a hand on the smaller womans shoulder and nodded.

"Yeah. Come on....I can't stand this dirt on me anymore!"

The warrior let her friend's shoulder go and slowly moved into the clearing. Then she took Argo's reins off while Gabrielle put their towels and fresh night shifts down near a stone. The taller woman scratched Argo behind her ears and watched Gabrielle look out over the water. Then the bard slowly undid her boots. Xena's eyes widened when she saw small hands reach for the skirt belt and undo it. She knew she should give her companion some privacy and turn around or busy herself with her own clothes, but she just couldn't take her eyes off the form in front of her.

Her eyes slowly slid over the strong legs to delicate feet, then back up when Gabrielle dropped the skirt and underwear to the ground giving the warrior a very good view of a tight, trained butt. Xena nearly coughed, steadying herself by gripping Argo's mane.

A blond head turned to her, green eyes looking at her curiously.

"Are you okay, Xena?"

The small, delicate fingers were stopping in mid motion, holding the strings to the half open green top in them.

Xena's eyes fixed onto her friend's fingers and then moved up the strings. She swallowed hard and coughed again, choking a "Yeah...just fine...be right there..you go ahead..." out. The warrior's eyes shifted to the bard's face and she desperately tried not to drop her gaze to where the skirt had been before. But the pull was just so strong....

Gabrielle laid her head to the side and gazed at Xena for a long moment, puzzelement showing on her face.

Xena felt a foolish grin spread over her face and she waved at Gabrielle to go on. Then she turned her back to her friend, still holding on to the horse beside her. She took some deep breaths and closed her eyes tightly. Willing the picture of a half naked Gabrielle staring at her out of her head. But somehow it just didn't want to move an inch and she lifted her fingers to rub her tembles.

<<Get a grip on yourself, warrior! She's your best friend, for the sake of the gods! And not some village girl that is out to be laid by you! It's Gabrielle we're talking about! Your friend! Your...oh so damn sexy, cute, hot friend!>>

Xena groaned in frustration and placed her hands over her eyes.

<<Dammit! You're in deep shit here!>> her mind concluded.

Suddenly she felt gentle hand's land on her shoulders and a soft voice asking carefully.

"Xena? Are you really okay?"

<<Oh, this is....Hera's tits!>>

Xena dropped her hand but didn't turn around knowing exactly what sight would greet her. She could feel the bard's body heat slowly envelop her and the gentle hands squeezing her shoulders didn't help either. If she now turned around, she didn't know what would happen. What she would do. How she would hold herself back from just reaching for Gabrielle and claim those soft lips for a deep kiss. And to then lower her to the ground to explore every inch of the young body with her mouth and tongue. And to....

<<STOP IT!>> her mind screamed at her in full force.

Okay, so...she desired Gabrielle. No way of denying that anymore. Well, actually she had stopped fighting against her feelings for the bard a long time ago. It had taken her a while to fully understand that she had those feelings. But knowing and accepting those feelings didn't mean allowing herself the pleasure of thinking about her friend in that way. It was something she couldn't do. Gabrielle was too precious to her to be used like that. Because it felt like using her friend when those images came up and when she allowed to linger with them for some minutes. And the worst of all was: Since Gabrielle had come back her feelings and desire had intensified. There was an urge in her pushing her closer and closer to acting on those feelings. But she couldn't. She knew that. She would never abuse their friendship for that. Never risk losing Gabrielle for her body's desires. She would be content to be with Gabrielle in any other way, if that was what the bard wanted. And until now her friend had never indicated anything that would mean she felt the same way. But then again, only some hours ago, on the road it looked like they nearly had...

<<Don't you dare go there, Xena! No good path! Back off!>>

All the alarm bell's in her head went off, pulling her back from where her mind was threatening to go.


The warrior realised that Gabrielle was still stood behind her waiting for an answer.

"Yes, Gabrielle. I'm okay. Go ahead. I'll be in any minute, kay?"

Xena patted the hand on her shoulder and half turned her head to look at the bard's face. She forced herself to smile reassuringly.

"Really? You promise?"

"Yes. Go on, Gabrielle."


Gabrielle flashed her a grin and then spun around walking back to the shore of the lake.

Xena couldn't stop herself and let her eyes fix onto the bard's naked backside. She admired the strong muscles under the skin. The bard had changed in so many ways since they first met. And one of the most obvious things was her body. One fact that for sure didn't help her control her feelings.

She watched the bard stick one toe into the water and then pull it back quickly, only to stick it back in. Then followed her whole foot, then the other and soon the bard was slowly walking into the refreshing lake, hiding her body under the water surface from the warrior's stare.

Xena sighed and turned to Argo.

"Hope that water is freezing cool!"

The horse whinnied softly and nudged her mistress.

"Yeah...I knew you would understand."

Xena rolled her eyes and watched her horse trot away slowly to the side of the clearing to have some fresh grass.

"Come on, Xena! Get in here!" an impatient bard called out to her.

Xena turned around and looked for the bard who was standing up to her shoulders in the water, with her back to her and her head turned to look for what took her friend so long.

The taller woman quickly took off her leathers. Luckily she had left her armor at the campsite and was only wearing her tunic and boots. When she was finished undressing she casually walked over to the lake and stood at the shore.

The bard had turned her head again and was playing with her hands in the water in front of her. No way she realised that Xena was ready to dive into the water already. And she was so engulfed in her own thoughts she never heard the soft splash when Xena slowly entered the water and dived under. One thing she felt though were two hands grabbing her ankles and pulling on them making her tumble right over and under the water. She felt herself go under and the hands dissappeared again.

Gabrielle came up half a second later, spluttering and coughing water.

Xena watched in amusement when Gabrielle tried to get back to her feet. When the young bard came back up she grinned at her innocently.


Gabrielle wiped her wet hair out of her face and stared at the warrior in disbelief. She was ready to let a whole storm of playful insults loose when the warrior stood up tall. Since she was so much taller than Gabrielle, the water only went up to her middrift.

And that left Gabrielle staring at the water drops slowly descending on the warrior's golden skin. From her collarbone, over full firm breasts back into the water.

The bard stopped in midsentence. Her eyes were fixed to two errect nipples who stood out as if teasing her to come closer. She closed her mouth in shock and licked suddenly dry lips.

"Hey? Gabrielle?"

Xena watched her friend's mouth stop in midsentence, then close, then a pink tongue darting out to lick full lips slowly. She bent her head a bit to look into sea green eyes. If she didn't know it better she could have sworn they had darkened with what looked like desire. But....it must have been a play of light.

Xena waved a hand in front of her friend's face to get her attention.

Gabrielle's eyes ever so slowly moved from their intense gaze at her companions breasts up to meet Xena's gaze. When she saw the raised brow she immediately felt the blush start taking posession of her from her toes up to her hair. Her eyes grew wide when she realised what exactly she had stared at. And what was even worse: the taller woman had caught her doing it!

<<Oh, damn it Gabrielle! What is that about?!>> a curious voice in the back of her mind asked. She didn't take the time to consider an answer but instead found it easier to concentrate on paying her friend back for pulling her legs out from under her.

Xena never saw it coming, so deep in thought was she about why Gabrielle's eyes looked the way they did.

Gabrielle didn't think about it before she did it. Maybe that's why it worked.

She suddenly jumped right forward bouncing into the taller woman and knocking her backwards into the water. She felt the strong body go under her and she immediately backed off trying to get a grip on the slippery lake ground herself. In amazement she watched the warrior disappear under the water and then come back up, like a dolphin shooting into the sky. A fountain of water sprayed all over her.

Xena sucked a big mouth full of air in when she came back up. She landed on her feet, all her hair hanging in her face and the water cascading down her body. The sudden attack from her friend had left her heart beating so fast she was sure they could hear it many many miles away from the lake.

<<UH OH!>> was all that Gabrielle's surprised mind could offer when the warrior brushed her hair out of her face and blue eyes lowered on the smaller form.

"I'm....look...Xena....you want to...." Gabrielle held up her hand in defeat and slowly stepped backwards away from the warrior.

Xena didn't say a word. A dangerous fire flickered in her ice blue eyes and she slowly advanced on the retreating bard.

"I'm sorry, Xena. I didn't mean to....even though you have to say it was a pretty cool move." Gabrielle giggled. She really had done it! She really had knocked the mighty Xena, warrior princess off her feet! She, the little bard!

"I'll show you a pretty cool move!" Xena hissed and grabbed the bard so quickly Gabrielle wondered if Xena was able to move faster than light itself.

The little bard found herself in a tight hold by strong arms. And, actaully that wasn't such a bad place. With a very naked, very wet body pressed up against hers. She grinned up into her friends face and then held her breath as she was lifted out of the water. Next thing that happened was her flying through the air only to hit the water two seconds later and go under deeply.

When coming up this time Gabrielle laughed and wiped her eyes. She brushed some hair out of her face and looked at the warrior.

"Yeah, that was cool, but not as cool as me knocking the mighty Xena over!"

Gabrielle stuck her tongue out at her friend and splashed some water at her.

"Oh yeah?!" Xena grinned and again advanced on the bard.

"Oh yessssss.....and what do you think the people would say when they found out that the little bard has so much power to overthrow Xena?" Gabrielle teased and splashed more water at her companion. Gabrielle turned and moved to the right.

Xena splashed some water back at her and cut her way by turning left.

"If the oh so powerful bard will live so long to tell that story....that is." Xena threatened playfully, a grin playing around her lips.

Gabrielle turned left. Xena turned right and trapped her again.

"Now, we don't want to do any bad stuff to the little innocent bard, do we, Xena?"

The younger woman flashed a sweet smile at her companion and quickly stepped to the right again trying to get an opening past Xena.

"I see no little, innocent bard here, Gabrielle." Xena smirked and took a big step to the left.

"Then open your eyes, warrior!" The bard did a step to the left and when Xena moved in the same direction she shot forward trying to get past the warrior on her right side.

Two strong arms immediately shot out and closed around her middrift. She groaned, closed her eyes and took a deep breath when she felt herself being lifted up into the air. Nothing happened.

Carefully Gabrielle opened one eye looking down at a smirking warrior holding her up in the air. She was about to say something when Xena winked and threw her into the air. With a shreek the younger woman hit the water and went under.

And then she did her second foolish thing for the day. During their playing they had gone further and further back to lower waters. As soon as she came back up, Gabrielle turned around and crawled out into the direction of the shore. The water was so shallow now that it only went up to just above her ankles.

"Oh, come on, warrior babe. You have to come up with something better to defeat this bard!" she called over her shoulder with a teasing laugh and watched Xena advance on her again. When the warrior was close enough she dived and grabbed a handful of sand from under the water and threw it at her friend.

Believe it or not, she hit the older woman right in the face with the mud. And Xena was stunned. Stunned into absolute stiffness.

Gabrielle couldn't believe it. She rolled onto her back and stared at the taller woman standing only some meters away from her, her face hid behind dark black mud that was dripping off her in big slimy blobs.

The little bard pressed a hand in horror over her mouth.

<<OH MY GOD! I can't believe I did that! Sweet Aphrodite save me!>>

Xena lifted one hand and wiped the mud off her eyes, then opened them slowly.

Two blue icy stars where the first things that Gabrielle could see from Xena's face. And suddenly she couldn't take it anymore. The laughter came from deep within and exploded right out of her. Tears immediately sprang to her eyes floating over her face. She held her sides and pointed one finger at her friend. Every new glimpse she took of the figure in front of her through her tearful eyes sent her off into another laughing fit.

Xena growled deep in her throat. Even though she maybe should be, she didn't feel angry and she had to fight the laugh that was threatening to errupt at the helpless bard lying in the shallow water rolling from side to side. But she kept her face straight and raised a muddy brow.

"You think that funny, hm?? You really think THAT funny?!" she asked in a low, dangerous voice.

Gabrielle couldn't answer so hard was she laughing. Xena wasn't even sure the bard had heard her speaking. The warrior watched the younger woman for another minute and then moved forward.

Strong fingers closed around two ankles and pulled the bard down towards her. Xena lowered herself to her knees between the bard's legs.

That caught the blond woman's attention. Her laughing subsided immediately and she stared with watery eyes at the woman towering over her. Large hands reached out and grabbed her arms pinning them over her head. One hand held her trapped and the other one dug into the sand beside her body.

Sea green eyes widened in recognition.

"Now wait, Xena! Let's talk about that! You can't just.....I was just...please don't...."

Xena's low voice stopped her in midsentence.

"Now, let's see how funny THAT is, shall we?!"

A deep groan and Gabrielle closed her eyes tightly. Xena lifted some sand and smeared it right into Gabrielle's face, grinning at her shocked friend.

It was cold and wet and sticky. And it smelled of lake water. Gabrielle felt the hand holding her wrists above her head loosen and she slipped one hand free wiping some of the mud off her face. With the sand sticking to her palm she reached out and payed the warrior back big time. She spread the mud over the black hair flashing a challenging grin at the taller woman on top of her.

Xena picked the challenge up very willingly. She reached for more mud and plastered it all over the bard's collarbone.

Gabrielle squeeked and tried to get away from the cold dirt wiggling her whole body against Xena's.

They both felt a jolt of energy pass between them as their naked bodies slid against each other and two silent moans escaped them. But they were too engrossed into their playful mud fight to pay it any more attention.

It went back and forwards between them for a long time, both rolling around in the shallow water trying to get an upperhand in their mud fight. In the end they both stopped by lying beside each other in the shallow shore water, covered in mud from head to toe and laughing until their stomach muscles hurt.

Xena was the first to recover. She rolled onto her side and proped her head up on one arm. She studied the laughing, muddy face of her companion and grinned in affection. A similar smile spread over the bard's face. Gabrielle slowly reached out her hand and gently wiped some mud off Xena's cheek allowing her finger to travel over the soft skin slowlier than was needed. A comfortable silence settled over them and they looked into each other's eyes, forgetting about their surrounding and anything else that could have mattered.

Now it was the warrior's turn to softly wipe away some wet sand from Gabrielle's nose.

"Thank you for coming back, Gabrielle." she quietly said, playing with a strand of normally strawberry-blond hair and looking into warm emerald eyes.

Even though coming back wasn't really what she had done, given the fact that it was more like Xena finding her than the other way around, Gabrielle smiled and said quietly.

"How could I not, Xena? I couldn't have...just forgetten about everything. I missed you too much."

"I missed you too, Gabrielle."

Xena bent over and placed a very gentle kiss on the bard's forehead not caring about the mud.

"I love....." she hesitated for a moment. Her body sent out waves of excitement and nervousness and made her squirm under her emotions. She moved back and looked into the affectionate gaze the bard gave her. It looked so assuring. And yet, she couldn't say the words. Too afraid was she that Gabrielle wouldn't understand. Wouldn't share her feelings in the same way.

"...all this." Xena moved her head in a circling motion indicating the lake and what they shared at the moment.

"I couldn't lose..it."

Xena's eyes returned to her companion. They looked at each other and for a moment Xena thought she saw understanding flash in the bard's eyes. Understanding what her words meant for real. But it passed too quickly for her to believe it.

Then two gentle arms encircled her neck and pulled her down for a tight hug.

Xena's body melted to the mud covered one of her friend. She hid her face in the soft neck and held on tightly, never wanting to let her precious prize go. She felt a hand stroking over her hair and pulling her head in closer.

Gabrielle felt the heavier body settle down on her, a comforting weight pressing her down to the ground. With Xena's head nestled in the crook of her neck, there was nothing that would ever feel better than that. And she wanted to hold her friend like that forever.

But of course this forever had to end at some point to feel reasonable friendly and not more.

"Come on, Xena. We should get that stuff off us before it dries." Gabrielle coaxed, even though she was surprised that Xena had stayed in her arms for such a long time. Normally it was the warrior who broke embraces first.

Xena sighed and rolled off her friend carefully. She stood up and reached out a hand to help Gabrielle up.

"Alright. I make you a deal. We just wash that stuff off quickly. Then I wash your hair, and you mine. And then we can lay in the sun for a bit to warm back up, kay?"

Gabrielle pulled herself up and grinned.

"Best idea ever!"

And so they stepped back into the lake and swam around lazily for a bit, washing the mud off their bodies. Then Gabrielle went to get their soap from where their blankets lay and they settled down in the shallow water washing each other's hair in turn.

Gabrielle took her time, letting the silken hair slide through her fingers like she had imagined only some hours before. Xena in turn, took her time in not only washing the bards hair but allowing herself the pleasure of washing the strong backside as well.

After those tasks were done Gabrielle climbed out of the lake and went to put on one of the shifts she had brought. Xena had said she wanted to just swim around the lake some more and so the bard, after having washed their clothes quickly, settled down on the soft grass and looked out over the water. The sun tickled her outstretched legs and she sighed in contentement. Everything was just so perfect that it was as if it was just a dream. But Gabrielle knew it wasn't a dream. It was the wonderful truth.

With Xena being out of sight and nothing else to do Gabrielle layed back down and closing her eyes allowed her mind to wander.

<This day was so wonderful, she couldn't believe it. In the morning she had been a bit confused. They had started off early, just after the sun had risen. She didn't know why, but she had felt that deep, deep urge to get away from home. And mostly, to be alone with Xena again. But then it didn't seem....proper. Xena had ridden Argo some paces ahead of her for the whole morning and they had barely said a word to each other. Then Xena had stopped and asked her to join her up in the saddle.

It hadn't been only because she wanted to stretch her legs that she had refused. It was more because she suddenly had felt an uneasyness in being so close to the warrior. It had her left totally confused because deep down that was all she wanted. To be able to feel Xena again. But then, to think she would be up there, pressed up against the tall body, had suddenly left her feeling all mushy inside. Oh, she knew since a long time that being close to the warrior gave her special feelings. But she had never been able to put a finger onto them and to define them. And they never had been so strong like they seemed to be now.>

Gabrielle sighed and sat back up, pulling her legs to her. She found a little piece of thin reed and started drawing in the wet sand of the shore.

<And then she had asked Xena if she could maybe join her down on the ground and walk with her. And why had she done that?>

Gabrielle drew an X in the sand and took a deep breath.

<Because she didn't want to miss the warrior's closeness. Not all of it. She had been pulled back and forwards by her feelings. They pushed her away from the warrior, and then back into her. It was all so...stupid.>

The letter G followed the X, right beside it on the left.

<So, the warrior indeed had come down off the horse to be with her.>

A small smile spread over Gabrielle's face at the memories of the warriors leg brushing against her hand on the saddle. And at the sudden heat that had spread immediately all over her body.

<And then it had happened. She hadn't planned on it. Maybe that was what she had been so afraid of. That something like that would happen. She had just wanted to tell Xena how much she had missed her. And it ended with them....yeah, what?>

Gabrielle drew a line on the side of the X.

<Then they had.....then Xena had leaned into her as if she wanted to kiss her.>

A short laugh escaped Gabrielle's mouth.

<Yeah! As if! But...what if Argo wouldn't have jumped into them? Would Xena really have kissed her? And how would she have kissed her? They had kissed before. On the cheek, even on the side off the mouth at Gabrielle's stupid wedding with Perdicus. And don't forget that damn kiss when Xena was dead. Although they had never talked about it and Gabrielle still wasn't sure if it had been Autolycus or Xena who had started it. Anyway, the question was, what kind of kiss would it have been this time? From the way Xena had leaned into her so slowly and not just kissed her quickly on the mouth...that would mean it would have been a "proper" kiss. So...let's say, that is how it would have been. How would she herself feel about that? Why would they share a kiss like that?>

Another line, this time on the side of the G.

<...Maybe because of the same reason that she wanted to be closer to Xena so badly. Maybe because.....>

Gabrielle's eyes focused on the drawing in front of her:

An X.

A G.

And surrounding the two letters: a perfect heart.

The bard's mouth dropped open and she layed the little wooden instrument she held in her hands down beside the etching. In mild disbelieve she stared at her creation. And suddenly it all became so clear to her. Like it had been there all the time. For her to discover. Only that it took her much too long to figure it out. Now, it all made sense.

<..because she loved Xena.>

Gabrielle closed her eyes as she felt tears come to them.

<OH....BY.....THE......GOOOODS! I love Xena, my best friend. I am <I>in love</I> with Xena!>

She heard soft footsteps and then a tall figure sat down beside her, spraying her with little water droplets as she shook her head. Instinctively Gabrielle's hands reached out in front of her and wiped away the picture she had drawn.

"Hey." a soft, dark voice echoed in her ear, immediately pulling her into the warrior's warmth.

Gabrielle kept her eyes closed tightly, fighting with the emotions that threatened to overthrow her. One side of her just wanted to immediately jump the woman beside her and tell her what she had found out and then...well..act on the feelings.

But there was still the other side. The reasonable one. The one that told her that she should keep it her own secret to start with. That she didn't even know how Xena felt or how the warrior would react to that "little" piece of information. Especially if she didn't feel like that but just wanted to be friends.

But then again there was the incident on the road and the nearly-to-be kiss, initiated by Xena. And, what about how Xena reacted when she had undressed to go swimming earlier on? Was that just because the warrior had swallowed wrong? Could she really be so naive? Or had it to do with something else? Something bigger? And what if no? What if it really was just something unimportant that happened? What if everything was smaller...meant less than she would like it too?


The teasing soft voice and the hot breath on her ear made Gabrielle jump. She opened her eyes with a start and stared at Xena wide eyed.

The warrior raised a brow in question and moved her face back from beside the bard's.

"You okay?"


A gentle smile played around the older woman's perfect lips.

"Hi. Where were you off to?"

"I was here...sat here all the time, Xena."

"No, silly. Where were you off in there?" Xena gently patted Gabrielle's forehead with one finger and grinned.

"Oh...that....I dunno....I was just....." Gabrielle stammered being totally embarrassed about her thoughts.

"Off into that bardic world, hm? One day you have to take me there, you know?! I'm really curious about it!"

Xena sighed and layed back down to let the early evening sun dry the water on her body.

Gabrielle gulped. Her eyes slowly wandered over the totally naked form laying beside her. So close....so close, in fact, that their legs were touching. And causing a burning heat in Gabrielle's whole body.

And, even though she didn't know that at that point, in the warrior's as well.

The bard reached out and wiped a water drop off Xena's forehead, stroking the soft skin under her fingertip. Suddenly she wanted it so badly! To run her hands over that naked form beside her. To feel her skin pressing against the warrior's own. To become one with her companion.

Blue eyes opened lazyly and blinked at her.

Gabrielle smiled at Xena.

The warrior turned her head a bit more to get a better look at her friend. The green eyes suddenly seemed filled with a deep sadness.

"Hey....are you okay, Gabrielle?"


Gabrielle had pulled her hand back. But now she was tracing the outline off Xena's hand with one of her fingers, fascinated by the dark skin. She didn't look up at her friend.

Xena frowned and then moved her hand and lifted the bard's face with gentle fingers under her chin. They looked deeply into each other's eyes.

Gabrielle's heart started beating in double speed. She bit her lip and blinked nervously. Where they back on the road? Would Xena.....

"You look sad."

It was more a question than a statement.

"Oh...oh, no! I'm not sad! Not at all, Xena! I am very, very happy!!"

The bard smiled at the older woman.

"Ya? Oh, that's good. But do you think I could make you even more happier somehow?"

<<Fatal question, warrior! Yes, you can! Just tell me you love me just as much as I do you and then kiss me so deeply I faint!>> Gabrielle's mind teased the bard.

"Hm...I dunno. But I bet you could think of something. Even though I am pretty happy already."

"If you come back to the campsite with me, then I'll show you!" Xena winked at her, got up and went to retrieve her night shift. Gabrielle watched her leave and swallowed hard at the promise.

<<Could it be??? No..don't get any false hopes, Gabrielle!>> a warm voice warned her from the inside.

She shook her head to clear it, took a last look over the lake and then went to Xena, who was waiting patiently beside Argo, with the towels and their other things in her hands.

Xena climbed onto her horse's bare back and held out a hand to her companion. The little bard smiled and took the offered help.

"You better hold on tight, Gabrielle."

The warrior's warm voice adviced as she nudged Argo into a slow walk out of the clearing.

Gabrielle's mind whirled from the just found out news. Sitting pressed up to her only in a light shift and her underwear dresses friend didn't help much either. The water dripping out of the dark hair had turned the shirt into not much of a barrier between Xena's and Gabrielle's skin. When the bard leaned back a bit, she was able to get a good climbse of the warrior's bronze skin shimmering through the cotton.

On her friend's advice, Gabrielle closed her arms tighter around the strong form, their bodies melting into each other. Riding on bare back wasn't one of the bard's most favorite things to pass her time. But being that pressed up against the warrior was <u>the</u> plus factor for joining the older woman up on the horse.

Gabrielle felt a jolt of excitement grip her body as she got aware of strong, naked thighs pressing back into her own. And another thing didn't pass her attention: her painfully hard nipples pressing into the wet shirt Xena was wearing. A light groan escaped her lips when her breasts rubbed up against her friend's back as Argo sidestepped a fallen brunch. Gabrielle clenched her fingers over the taller woman's stomach unconciously, the strong muscles jumping under her touch. As her eyes traveled along Xena's back and further southward she got aware just how easy it would be to drop hr hands and glide them up and down the finely formed legs. So easy, but unacceptable.

"Easy there, Gabrielle. You're squeezing me out like an orange."

Large hands covered the bard's ones and patted them. Amused blue eyes turned around blinking at Gabrielle.

"Are you feeling seasick up here?"

As if that single touch would burn her skin, Gabrielle pulled her hands roughly out of the light grasp and moved them instead onto Xena's hips.

"Oh, sorry, Xena. I didn't realize...."

"Hey, it's okay."

Luckily they arrived at their campsite just that moment and Gabrielle didn't have to explain herself.

Xena turned to face forwards again and reined Argo in, allowing the smaller woman to slide off the horse's back. The warrior followed and went to take of the reins while the bard laid their clothes out to dry over night. Then she got out some of their supplies: the sweet red wine they had picked up in her hometown, fresh baked bread and dried meat that Gabrielle's mother had given them as a ration for tonight's dinner. The blonde woman put all onto two plates and settled down on the log while Xena started their fire.

Gabrielle watched the strong hands quickly light the wood and grinned in amazement at her friend when she sat down beside her, reaching out for her own plate.


Xena raised an eyebrow at her friend and took a big bite out of the bread Gabrielle had given her.

"Nothing. Just amazed at how fast you're able to light those fires."

The other eyebrow followed it's companion into the black hairline, but the warrior shrugged the strange comment off. The rest of their dinner they spent in a comfotable silence, both occupied sorting out their own thoughts and feelings.

What was on the bard's mind is an easy guess. There was this little voice in her head that kept on teasing her, repeating the same sentence over and over again.

<<You are in love with your best friend!>>

It even seemed to get louder and louder, as Gabrielle's confusion grew bigger and bigger.

Okay, so she loved her best friend. Cool. No big deal. Or? What did that mean? What was she supposed to do now? Should she just face the warrior and tell her, plain and simple? What would Xena do then? Tell her that it was a foolish crush? That it was just the joy of being with her again and that it would fade away again. back to normal, like before she had "died". Well, what was normal? Hadn't she felt like this for a long time? But she just hadn't allowed herself to acknowledge her feelings. She had played them down. apperently though, that didn't work anymore. So, back to the first question: What did that mean and what could, should, she do? Plus, there was also the secret about how Xena felt. But how could she find that out? It wasn't like Xena was very outgoing with her feelings. One thing was sure: Things would change. Especially since even the slightest touch from the warrior made her legs go weak. And not even that much was needed to get the ants in her stomach dance gogo. One short glance out of those incredibly blue eyes and she was flying! So, she was in a no gain, no win situation. Lost to her own feelings.

And Xena? The warrior's mind was working just as hard as her friend's. And in similar ways. Most of it was centered on the memory of the bard's clenching hands on her stomach. It had made her whole body tremble and the desire had started boiling deep down in the pit of her stomach. From there it had spread out until it had settled down between her legs. The thought of returning back to the lake to the ice cold water suddenly was so appealing, it had been hard to resist. Instead she had patted Gabrielle's hands pointing out to the bard that she was squeezing her too hard. And then the blonde woman's hands had landed on her hips. A good place if you wanted to get the reaction out of Xena, that she had fought so hard: a shiver had run all over her body making her bite her lower lip when a deep moan threatened to escape. But it all was nothing compared to the rest of the sweet torture she had put on herself when asking her friend to ride with her: hardened nipples had first pressed into her back only to then slide against barely covered skin with every of the horse's steps. Pure, brutal torture! rarely before had she been so happy to arrive at their campsite.

The warrior was pulled out of her thoughts when Gabrielle got up, took the empty plate out of the older woman's grasp and went to clean up. Xena watched the smaller woman for some seconds. Then she got up herself and went to where her sheath with her sword was laying.

"Hey, Gabrielle. Sit by the log and close your eyes." she called over her shoulder. She didn't need to turn around to know that a questioning look had crossed her companion's face.

"What is on your mind, Xena?"

Gabrielle got up from where she had been kneeling to stuff their dishes back into the saddlebags. She came up behind her crouching friend and tried to peer over broad shoulders.

"What do you have there?"

The older woman grinned to herself but didn't look up.

"Don't be so nosey. Just go over to the log, sit down and wait."

But Gabrielle proved herself to be more stubborn than even a mule. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and stared at the taller woman.

"And what if I want to stay right here? What will the mighty warrior princess do then?"

"Then...." Xena got up to her full height and turned around lifting a small bag up over her head, far out of the small bard's reach. "...you will never know what is in here."

Green eyes flashed with mischeif.

"Oh yeah I bet I will be able to anyway!"

Gabrielle stepped forward until she was stood toe to toe with the warrior.

"Just dare me to!"

She shot a daring grin up at her friend.

Xena grinned and wiggled the bag in the air.

"All right then, <u>little one</u>. I dare you to."

The bard growled deep in her throat and without thinking she grabbed onto the longer arm pulling on it with all her might. Xena arched an eyebrow and refused to give in even the tiniest bit.

"Please, Xe? Show me??"

Gabrielle had stopped the useless arm pulling and now winked green eyes up at blue ones.

"Nope. No way. Sit down first, Gabrielle." Xena smirked.

"You're no fun, you know that, warrior?"

The bard quipped like a told off child, turned around and strolled over to the log. Then she settled down, wiggling around until she was seated most comfortably. A small eyebrow rose at her grinning friend.


"Nah. In front of the log is better."

Xena decided and flashed her companion a white toothed smile. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and snorted.

"And why would I do that? It's dirty down there."

The warrior sighed, then put the bag down beside her sword and went to their blankets. She grabbed one, then went to Gabrielle's side and with glowing eyes lowered the blanket in front of the log.

"Is that to your satisfaction, your majesty?"

Strong hands wiped of any traces of dirt. Green eyes studied her for a second, then moved over to where the desired bag lay. Blue eyes followed.

They both shot up like arrows at the same moment darting for the treasure. Gabrielle was so close to it that she felt her fingertips gliding against the soft fabric of the bag when two strong arms encircled her waist and lifted her up. She squeeked in surprise when she felt herself being hoisted around, then being put down on the ground again.

Xena picked the bag up with a triumphant laugh.

"Oh you!" Gabrielle slapped the older woman's forearm playfully. Blue eyes winked and then moved patiently to the log.


The bard sighed heavily in defeat and went to sit down on the blanket with her back to the log. She lifted her eyes up to her friend and met the warrior's loving gaze. they smiled at each other. Gabrielle felt a warmth and peace settle over her like she only felt when Xena was around. She blinked but found that she couldn't look away from Xena's intense blue eyes. A tingling started in her gut and brought with it a nervousness new to the bard. her smile faded away and she sat transfixed, not daring to move a muscle. Breathing suddenly became hard. And harder and harder the deeper she dived into Xena's eyes. The sudden fear of drowning in them was only broken when she heard the warrior's deep, comforting voice:

"Close your eyes, Gabrielle."

It was the low vibration in the older woman's tone that calmed her heart. her smile returned and obediently she closed her eyes.

For some seconds she didn't hear anything but the crackling of the fire. But her feelings alone told her that her tall companion was still watching her intensely. Only when her heart began racing again she heard the soft footfall of the warrior. Gabrielle took a deep breath and was stunned when the first thing her nostrils identified, was the sweet scent that filled the air around her. And that scent was very close. She didn't open her eyes even though there was nothing she wanted more. She felt the warrior kneel down in front of her. Then, the next thing she grew aware of was an incredibly soft fingertip against her lip.

Gabrielle fought the moan that was forming in her throat. The featherlight touch intensified and Xena's fingertip opened her lips a tiny bit. The bard's hand's gripped the blanket when her tongue moved and nearly slipped past her teeth to brush against the gentle finger on her lips. Then the tip disappeared only to be replaced about a second later by a round fruit.

The younger woman gasped and allowed Xena to push the treat further into her mouth. With her eyes still closed she didn't see how her friend slipped the wet fingertip into her own mouth, closing her eyes as she tasted the bard on it.

When the blonde's teeth sank into the soft fruit, the juices exploded into her mouth. The moan she had held back now errupted from deep within her and without thinking Gabrielle reached out and grabbed her friend's wrist. Xena opened her lips at the last second, releasing her own finger, as green eyes fluttered open and a delighted smile spread over the bard's face.


The warrior grinned at Gabrielle and with her free hand held another fruit up in front of the bard's face. Swallowing the first one the bard immediately reopened her mouth widely to accept the offered treat. Her eyes flew closed in acceptance.

But Xena waited. The bard's intense reaction had left her to helplessly stare at the light on her friend's face. She licked her own lips as she imagined herself licking away the juices from that sweet, full mouth. Xena felt herself leaning in closer, She could almost smell her friend's scent on the warm skin. But at the last moment her rational mind took over and she raised her free hand and placed the next fruit into the waiting mouth.

A deep groan came as a thank you from the blonde woman as she closed her lips around the gift. Xena watched as if transfixed while Gabrielle chewed the sweet fruit and then swallowed. For another moment both sat in silence. Then Gabrielle opened her eyes very slowly. The green colour of them had deepened about two shades and the little bard threw her arms around the warrior in a tight hug.

"Gods! Xena! They are so good!! Thank you!"

The taller woman placed the bag containing the fruits on the ground and closed her arms around her friend.

Without her armor and leathers, the embrace felt so much better, as they willingly gave in to the need to be close to each other. Gabrielle hid her face in the dark hair when Xena gently stroked over her head.

All too early Xena leaned back and picked up the bag again, holding it out to her friend. Gabrielle's eyes lit up when she saw that there were about a dozen of the sweet fruits left. She took the offered present from Xena's hand accidently brushing her fingers against the warrior's. Both were sure they heard the air crackling between them at their innocent touch. Their eyes met again and Gabrielle felt herself blush. She turned her gaze down to the bag they were both holding.

"Thank you. They really are delicious."

<<Only the best for you, Gabrielle.>> Xena's mind answered but all the warrior could do was smile as the heat slowly took a hold of her body.

"You are beautiful when you blush."

Xena, in disbelieve at having heard herself say that as she let the bag go, stood back up and walked over to their saddlebags. Why in all the god's names had she just said that aloud? Well, putting some distance between them was the best thing she could think of at that moment. Let her heart slow down again. Let her skin recover from the tingles washing over it as soon as she came closer to her friend.

With the warrior moving away from her, the mood subsided. Gabrielle lifted her eyes back up carefully, staring at the broad back. She sighed. Another chance had passed without her acting on her feelings. Without her using it.

<<Stupid! Stupid!>> the little bard told herself off. But then the voice in her head reminded her that she didn't know yet what exactly Xena felt. Neither how she wanted to deal with her feelings herself.

Suddenly she realised what her friend had said as she had gotten up. A quizzical look crossed Gabrielle's face. What did that mean?

Xena turned back around and when she met the bard's puzzled eyes she held up their brush as if in question. Gabrielle immediately forgot everything about any regrets and things the warrior said and gave her best friend a perfect smile, slightly nodding.

"Where did you find them?" she asked as another fruit found it's way into her mouth.

The taller woman walked around the log, then sat down on it behind Gabrielle, one leg on each side of the bard.

Gabrielle looked up from the bag she had searched through when strong thighs brushed against her bare arms. she gulped and bit her lip.

"Just on the other side of the lake."

Xena reached out with gentle hands and brushed the tangled hair off the bard's shoulders. She studied the mess in front off her and then started untangling the knots first with her fingers. The little woman sighed as she felt long fingers glide through her hair.

"How come I didn't see them earlier? How did you sneak them past me?"

"I didn't sneak them past you. I walked past you to my sword and put them in the little bag very openly. You were just too deep in thought to realise."


A faint blush crept over the bard's face when she remembered what exactly had occupied her mind back then.

The warrior's hands continued their gentle ministrations until all the knots had loosened. Then she picked up their brush and began combing the strawberry-blond strands. They sat in silence for some time. There was no need to say anything. And they both were much too occupied battling down their desire.

The position they were in gave barely any room for any air inbetween them. Especially when Gabrielle leaned back into the tall body behind her. But how could she not when Xena after a long time of combing her hair, put down the brush and started a gentle massage. The long fingers began at the bard's temples and then worked themselves imazingly slowly back over the blonde head. Only to start at the front again.

Gabrielle had her eyes closed and fought the urge to drop her head back against her friend's chest. This felt so extremely good! Xena's touch sent pleasant chills all over her body and after her heart had decided that it maybe could slow down now, her body relaxed totally. She stuck another fruit into her mouth and moaned in delight.

"Your hair looks like the purest gold, Gabrielle."

Xena said in amazement, watching her fingers glide through the strands.

"Eh? Maybe we should cut it off and sell it then? We could use the money!" a relaxed voice answered, a soft laugh following.

Xena chuckled and then, getting all her courage together, moved her arms around the bard's shoulders, pulling the smaller form against her. She lowered her chin on the strong shoulders. At first the warrior felt her friend stiffen a little but then she relaxed very quickly into the warmth the taller body was providing. Small hands folded around Xena's forearms.

"Listen, Gabrielle...."

Xena turned her head a bit, getting a glimpse of two green eyes opening in startled alarm.

"....I am very sorry for teasing you like that earlier. I mean, for jumping on you."

The older woman watched as stunned eyes turned to her. Suddenly their faces were so close it hurt. They felt their breath mingle and both sets of eyes lowered to half open lips. another jolt shot through Gabrielle's body. She cleared her throat nervously and then looked back up to blue eyes, watching her from up close.

"Don't be silly, Xena. It's okay."

Gabrielle smiled reassuringly at her friend.

"Nah, I mean it."

The taller woman loosened her arms around her friend's shoulders and sat back up.

"I didn't mean to scare you."

Xena jumped a bit when two small hands landed on her right thigh as Gabrielle turned around to face her.

"I know, Xe. And I promise that it is okay. Just means I have to learn a lot more if you are able to surprise me like that."

Green eyes winked at the warrior. Xena smiled and placed a large hand over the smaller ones still on her thigh.

"No. You have learned so much already, Gabrielle. I am so very proud of you."

Only when her friend's hand landed on hers, did Gabrielle realise where she had placed her own. A deep blush coloured her face. Not just out of embarrassement but also about the older woman's approval. She didn't know why, but it meant so much to her and hearing Xena say that, warmed her from the inside. Or, it would have, hadn't she been so hot already.

Gabrielle tried to cover her feelings by turning back around, reaching for one of the fruits and then placing it at the warrior's lips. A smile edged it's way around the dark woman's mouth and she took the gift carefully out of Gabrielle's fingers. Never breaking their connected gazes. She winked at her friend when green eyes widened. Then she dropped her hands onto the bard's shoulders and pushed her back into her old position facing away from her. The strong hands started a surprisingly gentle massage of tired arm and shoulder muscles.

Soon Gabrielle's body began to relax anew and she pointed out to the warrior where she liked the touch the most by uttering small moans and groans.

It was incredibly wonderful! Partly her body was burning with desire, but on the other hand it just felt so comfortable. It felt like being home. Cozy. Warm. And totally safe. And why shouldn't she be allowed to feel like this? Especially since her friend didn't have anything against it, but instead had caused it herself. Did she really have to do anything about her feelings? Did anyone or anything force her into telling Xena or to decide now about what to do? Why couldn't she just enjoy their closeness and how it made her feel?

Gabrielle felt the urge and stress of having to find a solution to her "little" problem slowly dissolve with each of Xena's gentle squeezes. She permitted herself to totally relax back into her friend. A tired yawn escaped her mouth and she closed her eyes.

Suddenly she felt the warrior move and she got aware of being carefully pushed forward until the taller body slid off the log down onto the ground behind her.

"Sh...that's right....Relax, Gabrielle." a deep, calming voice murmurred into her ear. The little bard fought her body's reaction to flee out of her friend's hold when yet again two arms slid around her, this time around her middrift. Gabrielle let her head fall back against strong shoulders, her eyes still closed. She took a deep breath inhaling Xena's scent. The hands on her stomach had started to draw lazy circles, while the warrior watched the flames of their campfire dance. The bard moved one hand onto Xena's and stroked them with her thumb while her other hand found it's way onto a strong thigh beside her. A comfortable, happy sigh and she felt herself crawling deeper and deeper into Morpheus' hold. Still she was fighting it though. Too wonderful was this all to just fall asleep and miss it. A gentle murmur filled her ears as she wiggled in the long arms around her to get more comfortable. The last thing that rushed through her foggy mind was the thought of how good and safe she felt. And that was what she wanted for forever.

Xena felt incredibly good herself. She had taken a chance when she slid down and allowed herself to be that close to the bard. But apparently her friend had no problem with it. The smaller body had snuggled back into her, a happy, very content sigh escaping perfect lips. It took only some minutes until the older woman heard the even, soft breathing that indicated that Gabrielle had fallen asleep. But no way was she to give the hold on the smaller form in her arms up so quickly. Instead she just stayed the way she was and continued watching the flames, drawing circles on the bard's stomach absently and holding her best friend warm and safe.

As the sound of her quill scratching over her scroll ends I look up from my sword. Our eyes meet and she smiles at me. We share one of those moments in which we just look at each other. And nothing else matters. She slowly gets up and walks over to me. Bending down she holds my face in her hands and lowers her lips to mine. We don't deepen the kiss or put much of a passion into it. But we don't need to. Just the brushing of our lips means so much to us that it can say more than any words ever could. When our lips part she straightens back up, still looking at me.

"I love you." she says in the sweetest voice and I feel a grin playing around my lips.

"I love you too, Gabrielle."

She flashes me another smile, then turns and strolls over to a tree. Leaning against it sideways with her shoulder against the wood, her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes drift off into a far distance.

My eyes though stay very close. They take her in, from head to toe and back up. I feel that jolt of excitement in my stomach and have to bite my lips to keep from moaning out. She is so beautiful and takes my breath away every time I look at her. Nothing on this earth can compare with her. Not with her body or her soul. And the greatest thing about it is, that I am allowed to call it mine.

It's not like I own her or anything. She is free, as free as a bird in the sky. But it is her who chose to give herself to me. Willingly. As willingly as I handed myself over to her. Because she owns me just the same. Body and soul.

I lick suddenly dry lips and force myself to drop my gaze. I turn my sword and start working on the other side of it.

Even though my eyes are now fixed on something else but her, it doesn't keep my mind to stay put.....

It was already late into the night when Xena felt Gabrielle stirring, trying to get comfortable while being sat up. Blue eyes focused on the relaxed face of her sleeping companion. She sighed and then carefully slid out from behind the smaller form. never letting totally go of it. Then she bent back down and picked the low moaning bard up into her arms. In her sleep Gabrielle immediately slid her arms around Xena's neck, getting comfortable in the new position.

The older woman stood still for a moment, holding her precious cargo safely to her, bathing in the warm glow surrounding them. Then she turned and walked over to where they would sleep. Carefully she lowered her friend onto the remaining blanket and got back up. With a deep sigh and a frown the younger woman protested the sudden loss of her companion's warmth. Xena grinned, but instead of immediately laying down as well, she first took care of the fire so it wouldn't burn out over night. At last she grabbed the other blanket and put it down beside her sleeping friend. She lowered herself down onto it, leaning her head on her hand so she was able to study her comapnion's face. As soon as the warrior hit the blanket a strong arm sneaked out and slid around her waist. Xena watched in amazement as the frown immediately disappeared and was replaced with the ghost of a smile on the bard's lips.

The older woman laughed silently, then brushed a strand of blonde hair out of the sweet face. WIth Gabrielle being deeply asleep she did something she would allow herself in no other circumstance. Slowly she lowered her mouth towards relaxed lips. At the last second she turned and breathed a featherlight kiss on the corner of the young woman's mouth. Moving back just a little, she whipsered:

"I love you, Gabrielle."

"...you too..."

A brow shot up at the mumbled response. Had she really heard that? The words hadn't been louder than a whisper in the wind. But maybe they had been real?! Xena lowered her head onto the blanket, facing the bard. When she fell asleep some minutes later the same content, happy smile played around her lips as around the bard's.

Gabrielle awoke the next morning with a jerk. She sat up straight and looked around with sleepy eyes. When she met her friend's quizzical gaze she sighed and fell backwards onto the blanket. The little bard closed her eyes and moaned in protest.

Immediately she felt a taller body crouch down beside her and a gentle hand reached out for hers.

"Hey, sleepyhead. Are you alright?"

Another moan, this time deeper. And then Gabrielle reopened her eyes slowly.

"Yeah....s'ppose so."

A yawn followed.

"Had a bad dream?" Xena asked carefully, giving the smaller hand a squeeze.

"No. Actually I slept better than ever before."

Green eyes turned in wonder to her friend. The warrior smiled warmly but didn't say anything. Nothing about how the bard had, during the night, rolled nearly on top of her, with one leg draped over her longer ones and a blonde head nestled in her shoulder. Nothing about the hand that had rubbed her stomach unconsciously for a long time. And nothing about the words she had thought she had heard whispered back to her. Especially now, with daylight, Xena was sure it had been nothing but a trick of her mind.

In turn Gabrielle didn't say anything about her dream. Nothing about her dream lover that had caressed her skin and kissed every centimeter of her body. Nothing about the burning lust those full lips had inflicted in her. Nothing about naked skin sliding against naked skin. And nothing about her dream lover looking and smelling exactly like her friend.

Xena dropped the question as to why Gabrielle woke with such a start and instead got up and went to the fire to retrieve two cups of steaming tea. Then she returned to her friend's side and sat back down beside her, handing over one of the mugs.

Gabrielle, who had sat up under protesting growls, smiled a thank you at the older woman. After some careful sips in silence, the bard asked curiously:

"So, where are we headed now?"

Xena looked around their campsite, then to where the sun was just crawling out of the ground.

"Hm, I thought we could travel further east. There's a village where we can have lunch and then see where to go next."

"Sounds good."

The little woman yawned again. She grinned sheepishly at her amused friend.

"Too bad that we have to leave this place. I liked it alot."

The older woman nudged Gabrielle.

"Don't get all melancholy on me, Gabrielle. I promise we'll come back here one day, `kay?"

"I'm not getting melancholy." the bard replied and grabbing her blanket threw it at her friend. Then she got up and stretched. With her back to the warrior she shrugged her shoulders, not seeing as lustfilled eyes took in her body and an eager tongue shot out to lick dry lips.

"I really like this clearing, Xena. Thatīs all."

The warrior shook her head to clear it, picked up their empty cups and got up to clean them out.

"I know. Me too." she whispered conspiratoraly when walking past the younger woman.

They made quick work of breaking camp and soon they found themselves back on the road. Xena had chosen to walk beside Gabrielle because she wasn't ready yet to give up their closeness of the day before and the night just passed. The bard had given her a happy grin when she didn't climb onto the horse's back.

And so they were walking side by side, their hands and shoulders occasionaly brushing against each other. Of course they knew that they could just walk further apart, but neither made a move to. The first few times they mumbled some excuses when they bounced into each other but eventually they gave it up and just enjoyed the fleeing touches.

When the sun was standing in the middle of the sky they at last arrived in the village they had been heading for. It had taked them a bit longer than planned because they had agreed without words, to take it easy and not to rush things.

Now they were stood in front of the local inn.

"You go ahead and get us a table. Iīll get Argo stabled."

Xena squeezed her companion's shoulder and went to the inn's barn. Gabrielle watched her leave, admiring the view until the warrior turned around and smiled warmly at her. She flashed a smile back and then entered the inn.

Other than with Xena, her entry normally didn't lead to the room quietening down. Only some curious heads turned when she stepped into the packed building. She scanned the place for trouble and then, finding none, she went to a small free table in the back of the room. She had just sat down when the inn door reopened and, as she had expected, a hush fell over the crowd.

The warrior's tall figure stood in the doorway, effectively shielding out the midday sun. Cold eyes gave the room a quick once over. They fell onto Gabrielle and the bard saw a small wink. Then they returned to inspecting the inn visitors. Only when Xena stepped totally into the room, people began talking again, more or less quiet.

The older woman walked up to the bar and talked with the waitress. Then she turned around and leaned her arms against the wood behind her. She smirked at some guy who saw his chance and, drunk as he was, stumbled towards her. Her look stopped him in midstep though and he turned around finding his own table far more interesting suddenly.

Blue eyes travelled to the back of the room and landed on Gabrielle. The bard was sat with her back to her. Xena's heart warmed at the knowledge that her friend had chosen one of the smaller more uncomfortable tables in the back because she preferred it. And not one of the bigger tables in the front which Gabrielle liked more.

The blonde head turned at the warrior's intense gaze and a warm smile crossed over the bard's face as their eyes met. It subsided though when the younger woman saw the predatory look flash in her friend's eyes. She blushed a bit but then forced herself to calm down. She raised a brow first in question, then she saw a small grin playing around xena's lips, a silent challenge. She turned around and ignored the taller woman.

Another smirk played appeared around Xena's lips at Gabrielle's cool response. She turned to the waitress and took the two drinks she had ordered. Then she slowly made her way through the crowd towards where the little bard was sat.

The blonde woman felt her dark friend's form stood behind her immediately. she fought the need to look up at her. Gabrielle wasn't really sure what was going on. Only that she had seen something maybe close to desire in the blue eyes gazing at her from across the room. And then she had challenged the warrior. It made her stomach tingle with nervousness to not know what her friend was up to or what they were playing. But nevertheless she liked the excitement.

Suddenly the warrior behind her moved and leaning over her, placed a mug with cider in front of her. Their arms brushed and Gabrielle gasped in shock. She didn't look up but instead chose to ignore her friend even more.

Xena chuckled to herself and still bending over Gabrielle she asked in a deep voice close to a sensitive ear:

"Hey cutie. Is that chair still free?"

She pointed to the chair opposite of the bard, between the wall and the table.

"No." came the soft reply.

Xena ignored the answer and walked around the table. She sat down and taking a sip from her port eyed Gabrielle. The bard raised her eyes off the table and locked their gazes. She was just about to say something when her friend spoke again, still in that deep voice that made the hair on Gabrielle's neck raise and small shivers run over her body.

"How come such a beauty like you travels all alone?"

"I'm not travelling alone." Gabrielle answered with a winning smile.

"No? Where is your husband then?"

Blue eyes scanned the room again.

Gabrielle leaned back in her chair, starting to enjoy their game.

"I'm not married. I'm with a friend."

"A friend?"

"My best friend, in fact."

"Oh! Your best friend."

Xena gave her a wink and took another sip from her drink.

"Well, where is he then?"

Blue eyes now settled on her and watched her intensly.

"She should be coming soon. And she won't be happy to see that someone took her place."

Realising what her words could mean as well, Gabrielle frowned and then nodded to the chair Xena was sat on.

"I'm sure she wouldn't mind. If she's foolish enough to leave such a treasure as you alone, it's her own fault if someone comes along and snatches her place away."

Xena grinned at her friend and lowered her eyes. Gabrielle didn't exactly know what to answer to that. She watched her companion curiously.

"So, now that we cleared that, how come you don't have a man at your side? They must be all over you."

"I have my friend. That is all I need." the bard answered sincerly, looking Xena deeply in the eyes. They stared at each other for a moment in silent communication, before the warrior put her port down on the table.

"She must be some woman, that friend of yours."

"Oh yeah, she sure is!"

Gabrielle fought a laugh and winked.

"What's her name?"


The bard let the name melt on her tongue, toying with the taller woman. The extra warmth put to that single word got an immediate reaction from the dark woman as she closed her eyes for a second to bath in the glow. Then she reopened her eyes and focused on her friend.

"Then you must be Gabrielle."

"Yes, that's me."

Concluded in Part 2.

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