*All of Rob Tapert's "duck and denial" methods on Xena and Gabrielle's sexuality were seriously harmed during the production of this fan fiction, as they rightly should be.*
*Sex btwn women be in here so be forewarned*

When the stars threw down their spears
by Cheaza

The day had been a balmy one, humid in it's heat, so much so that the very air seemed to be almost tangible to the touch. With each inhalation, it seemed to coat the insides of their lungs with a sticky sweetness, this same moist aura that hung about them, permeating their clothes, even their skin. It was almost noon and this heat was becoming unbearable without even so much as a whisper of a breeze to deafen it some.

Gabrielle was convinced that she wasn't going to stop. She refused to let this heat drag her down, as she dug her staff a little deeper into the mud and tried her hardest to stay in pace with Argo's slow trot. As she walked, more trudging than walking really, the sweat poured down her brow, forming droplets that would chase their way down her face and hang precariously on her chin until her hand raised to absentmindedly brush them away. Her poorly fitting top was soaked with her sweat, mixed with the humidity that hung in the air, causing it to cling like a second skin on her body. She could feel her limbs slick with sweat, her feet seemed to be cooking inside her leather boots. She felt the heat more intensely with each step, but was driven to carry on. She kept her eyes on the ground, not wanting Xena to see how overheated she was. Gabrielle was counting her paces as a way to focus her wavering mind when the site in front of her faded and she was overcome with the darkness.

When she came to, she was laying down, in the shade, grass under her and Xena hovering over her.

"Gabs, I'm sorry. I was about to stop, but I shouldn't have even pushed you this far." Xena helped her sit up and lightly stroked her back. Gabrielle rubbed her forehead and closed her eyes trying to get herself together enough to stand up and continue walking.

"I'm the one whose sorry, for legging behind." Gabrielle begun to stand when the world started to twirl in front of her again . Xena steadied her and helped her sit back down.

"Don't be silly Gabs, we'll rest for the day. It's too hot and humid to think about going on anymore right now." Xena put her cool hand to Gabrielle's heated face, and Gabrielle leaned into it, find the cooling relief soothing. Xena didn't miss her friend resting against her hand, nor the heat of her face. "There's a creek up ahead, a calm one that we can camp by. You can sit in the water for awhile to cool you off, bring down your fever some."

"Fever?" Gabrielle asked rather hazily.

"Let me help you up onto Argo and you can ride the little ways to the creek bed." she put her arm under Gabrielle's knees and one behind her back and picked the young girl up, carrying her over to the mare.

"No, Xena, don't make me ride. . ."her words were wobbling now, and Xena watched as her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she passed out again.

She sat the young girl up in front of her, her limp body laying back against her and pressed her arms into her tightly to hold her in place. They went over to the creek bed, and she eased her off, down onto a bed of grass under the shade of a tree. It was here that Gabrielle roused on her own, sitting up and looking around while Xena's back was turned.


"Oh hello there." Xena smiled at her "I seem to keep losing you today!"

Gabrielle smiled meekly at this, leaning against the tree and taking some deep breaths. This was truly a beautiful area, sheltered from view, richly green in foliage, and surprisingly cool due to the creek being so near by.

"Why don't you come for a swim with me in the creek Gabs? Trust me, it'll do you a world of good." She stood up and held out a hand to Gabrielle. She took the hand and stood up beside her, smiling at her briefly to reassure that all was okay. Xena went over to edge of the creek and begun to pull off her armor and boots.

As Gabrielle stood in her corner and begun to pull off her own clothes, she kept her eyes trained on Xena. She watched as more and more of her body was revealed until all her naked curves were in front of her eager eyes. Only when Xena jumped into the water did she finally turn away with a sigh. She had been having these feelings towards Xena, different from that little ache deep in her heart that she felt for her, yet still somehow the same. She felt her eyes constantly upon her when Xena was unaware, admiring even the littlest thing about her. The way the sun hit her hair, turning it red in it's light, or how her incredible blue eyes would contrast against the darkness of her lashes, making her look sublime. But she was feeling other things too.

Sometimes, when she looked at Xena, she felt things moving. . .down there. She had limited experience in this area, mostly consisting of stolen kisses from the village boys, and maybe a few childish games of touching with her young girl friends of the time. She knew not what this feeling was, nor what to do about it. She did feel though that this was something Xena could help her with, even if she wouldn't dare ever ask her.

When she was finally striped down, she ran over to the water too and jumped in before Xena could see anything, suddenly so modest. When she looked over at Xena, she was looking back at her with a knowing expression, like she was recognizing her sudden modesty with a sense of familiarity. Gabrielle tried to shake this off, to get into the spirit of things and laid back in the water, floating there in complete stillness.

She felt hands on her back and she was flipped over rather unceremoniously, leaving her sputtering and gasping for breath. Xena laughed at her, now in her safe corner, watching as Gabrielle jokingly growled at her. With that she pushed a large splash in Xena's direction.

"Oh I don't think you want to start a water fight with me little girl!" Xena joked with her.

"Little girl?" Gabrielle looked at her, genuinely hurt and angered.

"Gabrielle, I-" she would give her no chance to explain, turning her back for a moment to regain her composure than turning back to face Xena.

"Hey it's okay," she went back to floating on her back, leaving Xena rather perplexed to the sudden loss of her anger and emotion over her slip of the tongue. She continued to move around the creek some, thinking things over. As the time progressed they begun to speak about this and that, superficial matters really. Eventually it seemed the "little girl" comment was forgotten by both parties.

Gabrielle looked enraptured as Xena lightly ran her fingers on top of the water, back and forth in an almost caressing action. This sensual movement distracted her, and all her thoughts became centered on Xena. *She thinks I am a little girl, unable to comprehend anything so mature as love or attraction. How could I ever breech this subject with her?* she thought as she absentmindedly ran her own hand back and forth over the water, mirroring Xena. She watched Xena for a little while longer, and thought about the first moment she laid eyes on her. Standing there disheveled and dirty in that swamp, she had been the most beautiful site Gabrielle had ever beheld. At that moment, she had fallen in love with Xena, for it was that moment that this little twinge in her heart had started when ever she looked at her. And now, as she floated there in the creek, watching Xena in this moment of total contentment and relaxation she felt the twinge so strongly, that she had to go over to her, to touch her and make sure she was real. She swam over to her until she was close enough to make Xena look up. She looked at Xena intently for a moment, and this love overtook her. She shyly leaned forward, and gingerly pressed her lips to Xena's for a brief second, barely even touching her, then looked at her with pink cheeks, smiling like a coy little child.

Xena looked at her seriously for a moment, not so much in shock as she was surprised. She felt a small little smile creep up on her face upon seeing the coquettish one on Gabrielle's. Her rational mind seemed to shut down at this moment, and she stood there perfectly still, not encouraging nor denying her in her next move.

Gabrielle looked her in the eye for awhile, unsure of whether she was in trouble for this. But Xena hadn't stopped her or chastised her yet. She very cautiously reached out her hand and ran her fingers down the side of Xena's face, slowly, feeling every curve and dip. Yet her fingers shook in their exploration, and she brought them back to her chest, clutching them and closing her eyes while chastising herself mentally for being so inexperienced, so shy.

Xena watched closely as she tried to touch her then dejectedly took her hand away. She knew Gabrielle didn't know what to do, but she wasn't going to do anything until she knew for sure that this was what she wanted.

Gabrielle opened her eyes and looked at Xena, seeing her still there, waiting for her. She took a deep breath and moved closer to her, the water rushing around them as she moved. Placing a hand carefully on Xena's shoulder, she took her other and laid it against her cheek bringing her face in close to hers. She looked into Xena's eyes for a long moment, making sure she was welcome in doing this. She leaned forward and put her lips to Xena's, this time finding her receptive, bending into the kiss. She pulled away quickly though, for beyond this she knew nothing. She brought her hand down to rest on Xena's upper chest, and looked down at it.

"I don't. . .I don't know. . ." she whispered in a small, dejected voice. Xena's finger on her lips stopped her from finishing. She looked up at her shocked, this being the first response from her. Xena was giving her an understanding expression and she knew she would be patient, no matter where they would go with this.

Xena ran her finger over Gabrielle's mouth, feeling its softness underneath. The Bard's tongue unconsciously darted out to lick it, a motion that sent Xena's head spinning. This was all the encouragement she needed, as she wrapped her arms around the young girl's body, pulling it close to her's.

The feeling of her bare skin against Xena's sent chills up and down Gabrielle's body. She looked at her almost half scared by this reaction and Xena shhed her, lightly stroking her bare back with a warm hand, then faintly scratching it in a lazy pattern. The sensations were overpowering for Gabrielle, as she closed her eyes and laid her head back, absorbing it all. Xena leaned forward and kissed her exposed throat, causing the young girl to jump with the jolt it sent through her. She looked at Xena again, communicating to her what she was feeling, then put her own arms around the warrior's neck, so she was eye level with her.

"I don't know how to kiss you right." she whispered to her in a lover's voice. Xena shhed her again and kissed her, opening her mouth slightly and pulling the girl's bottom lip in.

"Let me in Gabrielle." she whispered in between Gabrielle's insistent, gentle kisses that she was laying on her mouth, cheeks and chin. When she kissed her again, the bard opened her mouth timidly, and Xena gently let her tongue go in, allowing her to get used to the feeling of it at first. Soon she was battling with Gabrielle's tongue in a sensual little game.

They did this game for what seemed like eons, Gabrielle unwilling to let this new passion go so quickly. Xena, one who was never really all that fond of long foreplay in her attempts to seduce and disarm her partner, found herself enjoying it to no end, wanting it not to stop aswell. They moved about the creek slightly, clinging to one another, Xena's hands still rubbing Gabrielle's back in slow circles, and the Bard's fingers entangled in Xena's wet black hair, her nails massaging her scalp. Soon though, Gabrielle found herself wanting more than just Xena's lips. She begun kissing her face, her nose, the defined cheek bones, her eyelids, eye brows, her earlobes which she found sucking on delightful. Much to her astonishment, Xena would do this back with a surprising gentleness, laying feather-light kisses on her face, and then lightly biting the skin on her neck, leaving behind her little red lovemarks.

She stopped for a moment, to look at her bard in the eyes, and ask her if they should go further. Gabrielle nodded before any words were spoken and Xena conceded, releasing her hold on her slightly and taking her hand. She kissed it quickly and smiled at the young girl, then pulled her up and out of the water and back to the shade of the tree where she had laid before. She sat down and pulled Gabrielle in front of her to sit. In this change of scenery, Gabrielle had become suddenly aware of what they were doing, and now was unable to look Xena in the eye. She felt calloused fingers under her chin, lifting her face up. One look into Xena's eyes made the embarrassment dissolve and she leaned forward quickly, capturing her lips in a hungry kiss. Xena caught her and rolled her over onto her back, laying her down beside her and leaning over top of her.

They begun their game again, kissing one another intently for another unmeasurable amount of time. But Gabrielle wanted more. She sat up, leaning against her elbows, then pushed Xena back over onto her back, overcoming her and hovering over her, letting her eyes float up and down Xena's nude body laid out in front of her. The beauty of what she saw made her heart ache, and the thought that it was hers to touch and experience made her head spin. Xena, on the other hand, was finding it so amusing that she was laying there on the bottom, handing Gabrielle all control, something that she had took with no knowledge of the responsibility. She smiled at her bard as she thought of this, and smiled at herself for laying there, waiting for Gabrielle's exploration. The young girl begun with her hands, lightly running them up and down Xena's arms at first, then when she became more daring, lightly up and down her sides, following the curve of her waist. Even though she couldn't tear her eyes from them she was too scared to touch her breasts. Xena could see this herself and reached out, grasping Gabrielle's hand and putting it up to her breast. She smiled at the girl and Gabrielle blushed momentarily. She cupped the breast in her hand and ran her thumb over the now hardened nipple, watching Xena's face as she reacted in arousal from this. She did this to the other breast as well, looking up at her face to ensure she was doing this right.

Before Xena could even ask her to do it, Gabrielle leaned down and brought Xena's nipple into her mouth and kissed it lightly. The moan that this brought from Xena's lips half scared, half-excited Gabrielle as she went back for more. The feel of this hardened nipple and the soft breast in her mouth was intoxicating and she found herself suckling on Xena like a newborn. Plus the pleasure it was bringing her warrior showed it was obviously a good thing both ways.

After awhile of this, Xena pulled her up to her face and kissed her, begging for a break to catch her breath. She smiled at the bard's eagerness and decided to turn the tables.

"Do you want to know what it's like for a while?" she asked her.

"Are you sure? I mean if you want to. . ."Gabrielle blushed and Xena lightly stroked the pink cheek.

"Of course I want to." She laid Gabrielle on her back and hovered over her, kissing her mouth, then making her lay down. When she got to the girl's full breasts she pulled one into her mouth and ran her tongue around it, causing the bard to arch her back and cry out sharply. It had been more than she had been expecting, and she lay gasping for air. Xena lightly stroked the hair off her face as she calmed down some, kissing the soft skin below her ear lobe as she waited. She could feel Gabrielle's rapidly beating heart under her palm that rested on her bare chest, and smiled, hearing her breathing being so ragged. As she waited she felt her concentration falling to the feel of soft skin under her rough hand. She gently moved her fingers in and out as she clenched and unclenched her hand over the center of her bard's chest. The skin was divine, like silk in it youthfulness, unmarred, perfect. She leaned over her and laid the lightest kiss there, amazed that anyone could possess skin like this.

Suddenly Gabrielle's body took on a new form. She saw all the things in this body that she adored in her bard. The youthful energy, the unmarred soul, even the flush of her innocence that lay over her. Xena begun to kiss every mole, every freckle, each dimple in her childishly plump skin, right down to her elbows and knees, even the fold in the skin between her arm and her breast. The woman before her held so many secrets, areas never explored, this body held even more for Xena's hungry soul to grasp in adoration. She brought each finger into her mouth and sucked on them, pulling them out of her mouth and laying a kiss on the tip. She felt that part deep in her heart aching, grinding with pain, with the heaviness of her feelings towards Gabrielle, causing tears to sting her eyes as she lay her cheek against the bard's warm tummy in defeat. For she was defeated, even though she could tell no one. This girl, in all her youthful adoration had begun chipping at the walls. Others had started to do this, female lovers of past, but none were successful for one main reason: Xena would run. But not now, not this time around. This time around she found herself clinging to this soft, warm Princess, burying her face in the pillow of her womb, resting there in this revelation.

She felt Gabrielle's small, delicate hands in her hair, lightly stroking it off her face, like a mother to a child, and again she realized how their roles seemed to be so easily reversed. It scared her though, that this had so easily become about her and not Gabrielle. After all this was Gabrielle's first time, and Xena was only there to guide her, right? She was there to teach her how to love herself in this way, not to love her herself in ways her heart had only dreamed of. She sat up a bit, regaining her composure and smiled at her bard when seeing her concerned face. She had to finish what she had started here.

Xena leaned over and kissed Gabrielle again, just to reconnect with her, to assure her that this was wanted. She then took the young bard's hand, kissed her fingers and put it down between the girl's legs. Gabrielle looked at her shocked for a moment, and Xena smiled to tell her it was okay. She positioned Gabrielle's fingers inside her slightly, not wanting to actually penetrate, and watched as her natural instinct took over to guide her in the movements to satisfy herself. Xena leaned back slightly, watching as Gabrielle slipped into her own world where only her pleasure existed and smiled to herself. It was the most beautiful sight Xena had ever witnessed, her bard's face wrought with pleasure, a red blush over her whole body, her lips pursed in her concentration.

Suddenly Gabrielle reached out and wrapped an arm around Xena, pulling her back down on top of her. She pulled Xena's thigh in between her legs and began to push against it. Xena was shocked, but didn't push away, instead embracing the bard back, pushing her leg up against her. It was then she realized what Gabrielle was unconsciously telling her, what Xena was denying to herself in a selfish move.

This was Gabrielle's first time, the first time she'll ever feel the supreme feeling that sends one up to higher than the gods. This was something that she wasn't doing on her own, rather something she wanted Xena to help her reach. And all Xena was doing was running away from it.

Xena disentangled herself from her bard's death grip on her body to reposition herself over her love. Gabrielle let out a little moan of disappointment when she lost contact with Xena, her arms blindly reaching out to search for her. Xena hushed her with a few kisses and settled her hands down as she reached down to sprawl her fingers between her bard's legs. She looked Gabrielle in the eyes for a moment to make sure she was allowed, and found Gabrielle pushing her body down over the fingers. It was then, with shining eyes locked with her lover's, that she inserted them in to break the last wall of purity. Gabrielle cried out in a brief moment of pain, then turned it to a wail of pleasure. She came in a fraction of a second, being so ready and arched her back up, gripping her lover's shoulder so hard that she broke the skin with her fingernails. She yelled out Xena's name over and over then fell to the ground, wasted of her energy, her mind and body reeling.

Xena sat over her, massaging sore muscles, her hands working over her lover's thighs and calves, her feet and hands, arms and shoulders. This, combined with her spent physical exertion, caused Gabrielle to fall off to sleep almost immediately, only after grasping Xena's hand and lifting it to her lips to kiss it in gratitude. When she felt their dampness, her own wetness, now upon her lips, she smiled to herself as weary eyes closed. Xena sighed as she watched her lover slip away, sighing at herself and at what she had done. She noticed that it was supper time now, the sun being lower over the sky, and knew her bard would awake soon with a hungry stomach. She pulled away from Gabrielle's entangling arms and lit the fire again to boil some water for dinner.

Not too much time had passed until Gabrielle awoke, her tummy grumbling for food. She sat up, now covered in the blanket to see a naked Xena crouched before the fire, cutting up the vegetables they had bought earlier in the week. She felt her face flush deep red with embarrassment as she realized what they had done, and how she had screamed out Xena's name so loudly. Xena turned around to face her, but Gabrielle couldn't look her in the eye. She felt fingers under her chin, fingers that still carried the scent of her arousal. She looked up and smiled sheepishly, a smile Xena couldn't help but returning.

"Don't ever be embarrassed about what we did Gabrielle. There's nothing to be ashamed of, okay?" Xena spoke in soft, gentle voice, yet firm in her speech. Gabrielle nodded and wished desperately that her cheeks would loose their red hue. "Are you hungry, my bard?"

"Yes." she whispered in a small voice, sitting forward to be beside Xena. She was handed a bowl of soup and took it meekly, still feeling awkward at what they had just done.

Suddenly Xena's hand was on her back, lightly rubbing it like when they had first kissed in the creek. Gabrielle's hunger disappeared as she put the bowl aside and attacked Xena in a kiss, begging to be loved again.

Gabrielle awoke the next morning with the blankets tightly wrapped about her, now dressed in Xena's favorite little shift. Gabrielle loved the feel of it on her skin, reminding her so much in it's feel of the warrior. She pulled some of it up to her face and inhaled deeply, smelling her lover's scent and smiled like a giddy child. She sat up and looked around for her love, now wanting more of what she got yesterday.

But Xena was no where in site. The fire had been started again, yet lay nearly dying, as if rekindled awhile ago. The camp had been cleared out of all the gear, abet the blanket Gabrielle was sleeping under. It was like Xena had. . .she wouldn't allow herself to even think it. But when she stood up and looked around, her heart was thumping loudly in her ears in deep-seeded fear, as tears stung her eyes in dread.

"Xena?" she croaked out in a cracking utterance. She walked over to where Argo was tied up the night before, and upon finding the mare gone, broke down into tears.

She fell to the ground, wrapping her arms about herself as she sobbed silently. She couldn't believe she had been betrayed. . .to think Xena had just used her and then left. . .how could what they had done the day before be so insincere on her part? How could she had faked the tenderness in her touch, the vulnerable arousal written all over her face as she peaked under Gabrielle's touch? The bard could still taste her upon her lips, her essence so sweet, so intoxicating. . .it turned bitter in her mouth and she spat it out, the tears coursing down her cheeks. She shakingly stood to her feet, wiping her running nose with the back of her hand. She shook her head to clear her thoughts, trying to calm herself, to get control enough to get the Hades out of there. She went over to the blanket and gathered it up, drying her face on it, clearing her tear-stained cheeks, and taking steady, deep, abet wobbly breaths. She wouldn't think of it now, she wouldn't think of how her heart had been opened to Xena last night, how she had given her her purity, how she had loved her body over and. . .

She heard the beat of horse hooves, fast approaching her. She ducked down behind a tree, not wanting to confront anyone while in this vulnerable position. When the horse and rider stopped in front of her, she looked around to see who it was.

"Xena!" she screamed out in relief, running out to her. All she wanted to do was to embrace her, make sure she was real, make sure that she hadn't really left. Only an embrace, an intimate gesture that would be easily accepted by one you spent the entire day before loving. But when Gabrielle approached her, something in her eyes, something in the way Xena's body tensed up when she neared stopped Gabrielle in her tracks. She stood there, awkward in what to do next, suddenly so ashamed of her tear soaked face, of her state of undress, of the whole day she had spent with Xena.

"What's wrong with you?" she hadn't meant to say it in such a condescending tone, it was more the choice of words that Xena used that cut Gabrielle to the core. She felt a sting deep inside, and wished for a brief second that Xena really had left her instead of returning only to cheapen what they had shared. At least if she had left she'd still have the memories untainted.

"I thought- I thought you had left. . .I woke up and you were gone" she felt her hurt turn to anger and a bitter tone raise to the tip of her tongue. "And I thought you had deserted me."

Xena regarded her intently for a brief moment, and realized what had happened. She turned away from Gabrielle as she went through what must have taken place when she had awoken, alone, with everything packed up and gone, thinking she had been used and dumped, on her first time. *I am so stupid sometimes!* she thought *I CAN NOT believe I did that to her! I should have stayed with her till she awoke, but I was too scared, terrified of her now that she can hold me so vulnerable.* Xena turned back, yet kept her eyes down lest they reveal her true thoughts.

"I, uh, I went to the nearest town this morning, I, uh, found out about some trouble with a giant just west of here. I thought we could start ,um, start making our way up there today." She said it in a quiet voice, uncharacteristically stumbling upon her words.

Gabrielle took this "caught with her hand in the cookie jar" look to be a shy after effect of their time together the day before and smiled to herself. Her overly- romantic and somewhat naive mind wiped out all the other unpleasantries from that morning in favour of the idea of Xena being shy in the wake of the site of her lover.

"That sounds good Xena, just let me change. . ." she reached out to Argo's saddle bag but Xena's firm hand on her forearm stopped her.

"No no Gabrielle, it's still very hot today, and you'll be much cooler in what you have on, trust me." she was able to glance up at her now and then, but straight eye contact was impossible. "Let me put your boots on ya and we'll head on our way. "

Ever since they first starting traveling together, Xena had always put Gabrielle's shoes on her feet for her. It was a humbling gesture as much as a friendship one, yet also a way of reminding her of how human and how young Gabrielle really was. For when she kneeled down in front of her, tying up her shoes like a mother would for a child, she felt all her overprotective emotions towards Gabrielle come to a boil. Today was no different, even though in Gabrielle's mind it was all in a hazy pink mist of romantic love. She smiled like a pre-teen looking at her first crush as she watched her lover slip her boots on and do her quick handy work on the laces. Yet as she reached out to grasp the warrior's chin in her palm to get a kiss, Xena ducked away, making it look unintentional.

"Let's go!"

The traveled in the usual silence, only on this day it was thick with an air foreign to them before this. Xena sat upon Argo becoming more and more angry with herself for allowing her passions to get so out of hand, and then for just up and leaving Gabrielle that morning. She knew that the young girl had been crying, weeping out of fear that her lover had deserted her. . .She cursed herself for this act, after swearing she would never, ever hurt Gabrielle.

The young bard, on the other hand, was looking up at Xena with adoration in her green eyes, weaving incredibly romantic scenarios as they walked. She dreamed of what she would do with Xena now that she had her, the things she had always wanted to do with her. . .now she could cuddle up to her warm soft side every night, be able to kiss her when she felt like nothing else verbally could express how she felt. . .by the time they stopped to camp she was in a complete daze.

While they silently ate dinner, Gabrielle begun to shift closer to Xena, but when the warrior would lay sullen eyes on her, she'd blush a deep pink. She knew not how to start this, being completely unpracticed in the art of seduction. Not to mention the fact that the melancholic air about Xena was doing little to bring them together. Gabrielle just kept thinking about the nighttime, when she would bury herself in Xena's arms and all this tension would fade away.

She laid out her bed roll by the fire and smiled shyly as she caught Xena's eye from where she sat by the fire. The young girl laid down on the blanket, her back to the fire, waiting for Xena to join her. After a few minutes past and she felt no movement behind her, she sat up and looked around. There was Xena stretched out by the fire on the other side, sleeping.

This site broke through the shell of fantasies Gabrielle had created, and reality, as cold and ruthless as it had been that morning, came crashing through. Big tears began to drop down her face, rolling down her cheeks one after another. At first she made no sound, but when she laid her head back down, tiny little sobs escaped her lips, the sounds of a child defeated.

She had given Xena her purity, her heart and this was how she was repaid. Shoved off to the side, forgotten, exploited. The act that was so filled with beauty, with intimacy, suddenly took on a dirty sensation, and she could almost feel the deceit on her skin. She sat up and tore the blanket off, preparing to take off, and run as far from here, from the hurt, as humanly possible.

"Gabrielle?" Xena's sleepy, concerned-filled voice froze her in her seat. Xena sat up and stared at her a moment. Gabrielle hid her face from her, lest she see the tears that shone wet upon her cheeks.

"I'm fine." It came out curt and blunt, but there was little she could do to help it. Xena crawled over to her and tried to put a hand on her arm. Gabrielle snapped it away like she had burned her, turning her back to her.

"Gabrielle, if this is about this morning. . ."

"Yes Xena this is about this morning, when you left me to awake after my first sexual experience alone and deserted, this is about the fact that you haven't said two words to me all day, and this is about that. . .that. . "her voice, once strong in its anger, was breaking now in tears of anguish "that I am laying her alone, with no lover to hold me. . .that is precisely. . ."

She didn't finish for the tears and the sobs had closed her throat. She still sat with her back to her, her hands clasped over her face as her shoulders shook with cries. Xena was dumbfounded, that she had overlooked this all day, that she could be so blind. She didn't know what to do for this young girl who expected so much, yet demanded so little.

Not ever being one good with words, she used actions to ask for forgiveness. She pulled Gabrielle around to face her and wrapped her in an embrace. The bard allowed her to hold her close, rubbing her back as the bard sobbed into her shoulder. Xena laid back, pulling the young girl down to lay atop her, stroking her hair and lightly shhing her as she had done the day before. She used her thumbs to dry the tears from her face, that feeling in her heart blazing like a forest fire.

"Sleep now Tacquin. . .sleep now. . ."

In the beginning it was part of teaching her, like teaching her how to fight, how to be aware in situations, like any of the other millions of lessons I was teaching her. It was just a way to help her learn more about herself, to discover what she liked, what pleasured her, and how to pleasure others just as well. It was a way of showing her that sex wasn't wrong, that it wasn't some dirty act, that women could actually enjoy it, even teaching her how to pleasure herself. At least it had started like this.

After awhile though, it changed. It lost this kind of teacher/student feel. The more she was with me, the more she crawled behind my walls, and into my closely guarded heart. And slowly but surely this act took on a whole different feel. It became so personal, so loving, even more intimate than it had been before. And I realized something. That before, when I thought that it had been merely another lesson to teach, that I was letting this young girl use my body as a way of learning about herself, that even then it was more than I admitted to myself. That from the start it was a loving act, that when I touched her, and let her touch me, it was a reflection of the love we had for one another. That from the moment I first laid eyes on the little girl I saved from the slavers, I had fallen in love with her.

And how could I not, with her large green eyes, so pure, so innocent, so full of intelligence and youthful aggressiveness, looking at me like she knew my soul. Every one of her features were and still are engraved into my memory; the feel of her long blond hair under my hand, the texture of her skin, like satin, under my calloused fingers. She was beautiful, inside aswell as out. And I loved her.

As the act continued on for all those moons, it took on an entirely different context. She was starting to become more in control of the situation, it was more than me just allowing her to explore, for now she knew my body like a well-traveled path. And she knew where to touch me and what to do to set me off. I became the spectator to her now, actually ceding control to her, allowing myself to be vulnerable. I did it because this time we would share doing this was quickly becoming my favorite time. Yet never in any incident would I admit what I really felt. What I still feel now, as I look at her every night across the fire and every day when she walks by my side. That I love her.



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