Convert This Page to Pilot DOC FormatConvert this page to Pilot DOC Format

DISCLAIMERS: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle and other "Xena" characters are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in writing this story and there is no profit in this for mysef. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are mine.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: Minimal; this story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it.

SPOILERS: None - The story assumes our heroines have traveled together for sometime. All pre-rift or no rift depending on how you choose to read it. At this point, neither has vocalized their desire for an intimate relationship and this is basically a story of romance.

 

In the Arms of A Warrior

By Annmaray

annmaray@yahoo.com

September 1999

Once again the Bard told a popular tale of the Warrior Princess and once again the crowd of young men in the tavern flocked around her. The Warrior was becoming impatient over the constant attention her young attractive companion was receiving. *Why canít we just have a peaceful meal without someone wanting a story. Why do I constantly have to share you.* Gabrielle would always volunteer, as it was a way for the couple to earn dinars. Xena realized they always needed the money so never asked her companion to turn down a request for a story. Unfortunately the Warrior was not pleased with the attention Gabrielle received afterward. *When did this change? When did I start becoming so possessive of her?* Observing the beautiful young woman laughing with the young men who were all jockeying for position in hopes she would give them complete attention, the Warrior continued her musing. *When did I fall so hard for her? When did I need and desire more than just friendship?* These were questions that Xena found she asked herself many times during the day. The problem was she never had the answer. Whatever had happened to change her feelings for Gabrielle took place a long, long time ago. Trying to understand her emotions only complicated the matter, as Xena believed Gabrielle could never return her love intimately. Finishing the ale, Xena leaned back against the wall continuing to watch her friend.

Not much time passed, when Gabrielle approached her, followed by two of the young bucks. "Xena, Demosti says there is a dancing place down the road. Can we go?"

Over the past several moons it was impossible for Xena to refuse just about any request Gabrielle made of her. Dancing, however, was not something the Warrior wanted to do. Especially, if the two men planned on hanging all over her Bard. "Gabrielle, itís late and I donít think it is such a good idea."

"Oh, come on Xena....please!" The Bard did not really want to dance with the men clinging to her. As she turned to smile at them, she pictured a couple of disgusting tongues hanging out like a bunch of mangy dogs hoping to lick her bones dry. This caused her to involuntarily shudder and the young blonde Demosti wrapped his arm around her shoulder.

"Are you cold Gabrielle?" Sparkling eyes and smiling lips told Gabrielle, he had plans for her.

Gabrielle did not want anything to do with either man, she hoped it would be a way to dance with her Warrior and maybe rub her body up against Xenaís. Trying to remember how long she has been in love with Xena, the Bard decided she loved this strong woman right from the beginning. Telling Xena was impossible. Gabrielle did not think a woman, as beautiful as Xena, would ever love someone as simple as she was.

Standing up, the Warrior towered over the two men and pulled Demosti away from her Bard. "No Gabrielle. We have a long journey in front of us and Iíd like to make Golesovo before nightfall. It is much too dangerous for us to be traveling at night in this weather."

Realizing that arguing with Xena would cause nothing but problems, the Bard shrugged her shoulders to the men, slid into her heavy fur coat and followed her partner out the door. Grabbing hold of Argoís reins the Warrior led the mare down the road and out of the village. She could hear Gabrielle behind her mumbling some words but she could not understand them. She realized she was irritated at Gabrielle for flirting with those idiots. How was she ever going to explain to Gabrielle that she was deeply in love with her without chasing her away?

The remainder of the day passed in relative silence. The snowstorm that hit them earlier and forcing them to stop at the tavern seemed to lift, leaving less than a hand of snow. Gabrielle insisted on walking and this did not please the Warrior. She was concerned that Gabrielleís feet would become too wet. Even with the heavy reindeer skin boots, Xena knew they too could become damp and cold. Crossing the Menikio Mountain Range in the winter was not the brightest journey to take on but the Warrior agreed to check on her brother Toris for her mother. Toris had taken on a young bride, who was now carrying a child. The young womanís family was from the Golesovo area and Xena knew this was poverty stricken land. Cyrene hoped that Xena could talk Toris, his bride and new baby into moving to Amphipolis. At this point in time, Xena would do her best but Gabrielle was now foremost in her heart.

The Warrior estimated they were now about two candlemarks from Golesovo and another half candlemark to Torisí farmhouse. As they were coming down the mountain, Xena looked at her young companion who was lagging behind as the snow got deeper. "Gabrielle, come and ride with me."

*Hmpf. Fat chance Warrior Princess.* Pretending she did not hear Xena, she kept trudging through the snow. It was becoming more difficult, as the cold wind picked up and she knew her feet were becoming wet. *My toes are getting numb, I have to keep wiggling them.*

Figuring that Gabrielle was ignoring her Xena decided to wait. Looking ahead at the trail they would need to take Xena noticed the clouds forming in the sky. *Hades! More snow coming. I have to find some shelter.*

Pulling the Warrior from her musings, Gabrielle stumbled right by her. "Gabrielle...come on and get on with me. There is more snow coming. We canít be caught out here."

The Bard had also been watching the sky and the clouds moving in and wondered if Xena noticed them. True to form her Warrior did and was prepared to find shelter. Without responding Gabrielle slid her staff in the leather thong of Argoís saddle and accepted the gloved hand being held out for her. Settling behind Xena, Gabrielle could easily feel the heat on the saddle where her Warrior had been sitting before she scooted forward. Gingerly placing her hands on Xenaís waist, she was disappointed that she could not feel the body she knew would be extremely warm; the bearskin coat was too thick.

As soon as Gabrielle was in the saddle and hanging onto her coat, Xena nudged Argo to continue on the trail. What Xena was afraid of was true and rather than say anything the Warrior kept her thoughts to herself. She did not want to make Gabrielle mad and have her walking again. *Baby Ė I could spank you. Your hands are cold and your feet look wet.*

They rode for close to a half candlemark, when Xena saw the caves that Toris had told her about along this trail. It was a good thing too, because the snow had already started to fall lightly. Deciding she should tell Gabrielle her plans, she quickly glanced over her shoulder. The snowflakes were big and sparkled, as they hit Gabrielleís beautiful face. Xena wanted to kiss and lick the snow from the soft cheeks, luscious pale lips and the blonde eyelashes and brows. Argo lost her footing a bit and this abrupt action yanked Xena from her fantasies. "Toris tells me the caves up here will be safe shelter, if we need to stop."

"How do we know which one to choose? Arenít there bears and wolves up here?" Although Gabrielle trusted Xenaís judgement, she was still somewhat concerned about the wild life. Somehow the thought of fighting a bear over a rabbit was not appealing to Gabrielle.

"No, itís late in the season. The bears will be hibernating and the wolves move further north. Are you scared?" Hoping the Bard would admit to being just a bit frightened, Xena thought it would give her a chance to hold Gabrielle to ease her fears. *By the gods, any excuse to touch you I will use. I just want to touch you....no I want more. I want to taste you.*

Thinking that Xena would love to hear she is afraid, there was no chance in Hades that Gabrielle was going to admit that. Then just as she was about to answer that little voice inside told her that it might not be a bad idea to tell Xena she was scared. *Yeah....then itíll give me a reason to be close to her.* Thinking her thoughts through to ensure there were no flaws to this, the Bard responded. "Yes, Xena....I am not too comfortable staying in a cave way up here." Smiling over her response, Gabrielle was glad Xena did not have eyes in the back of her head.

*Oh yes....baby, at least this will give me a chance to touch you.* If she had been facing Xena, the Bard would have seen a huge grin consume the Warriorís heart.

The snow became merciless and the wind picked up causing the once soft flakes to take on a piercing icy formation. Lowering their heads to keep the icy from stinging their faces, Xena made a quick decision when she saw a cave entrance that seemed protected by a number of pine trees. Stopping Argo, she helped Gabrielle slide off and then she dismounted. Leading Argo into the cave, Xena removed the saddle and reins swatting the mare on the behind, which commanded her to roam wherever she felt safe. Gabrielle had already grabbed their blankets and bags and moved deeper into the cave. It appeared to be relatively abandoned with good ventilation. Large enough for the two of them and Argo to stand, but yet small enough that a good size fire would keep them warm.

The sky began to darken quickly and the snow, wind and ice began to fall at a much more rapid rate. The interior of the cave had two fire pits and Xena decided both should be lit. They would need the warmth and the light would keep away any animals seeking shelter. The pit towards the rear of the cave had a number of sticks and one log close by. Other than that Xena would have to secure some more wood. Starting the backfire was tricky. While the wood was dry, it was also cold and stubborn. Finally Xena was able to catch a spark and the flames caught on nicely.

"Gabrielle, I have to get some more....." Turning around the Bard was not in the cave. "Tartarus...where the Hades did she go!!" Racing to the front of the cave, she saw Gabrielle approaching with an armload of wood. Relief spread immediately and the Warriorís heart slipped back down from her throat to its proper location in her chest. Unfortunately in her concern, Xena lashed out in anger. "Are you crazy! You could get lost out there."

Looking directly into blue eyes that were on fire, Gabrielleís feelings were hurt immediately. In an attempt to stop the tears she could feel jumping to the surface the Bard dropped the armload of wood right where she stood. Walking past Xena, she grabbed the bags and moved to the backfire.

*AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH.....STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. Hades, what is wrong with me!!!* Frustrated at her short temper and inappropriate wording, Xena stomped out of the cave in search of more wood.

Xena was not gone too long and returned with another armload of wood. Dropping it by the fire pit close to the entrance the Warrior proceeded to build a rather large fire in hopes that it would knock the chill back out of the cave. Glancing over to see what Gabrielle was doing, she was disappointed when she noticed their blankets were laid out on opposite sides of the fire.

Walking up to her companion the Warrior grabbed Argoís brush, figuring it was going to be a night of no conversation. Gabrielle stopped her. "Is Argo okay?"

Smiling at her companion Xena nodded her head yes. "Iíll be back in a bit, I just want to spend some time with her....sheís a bit jumpy. I also need to brush the snow and ice off her coat." At first hesitating, the Warrior continued. "Are you going to be okay for a while?"

"Sure....Iím just trying to warm up and Iíll make some stew." Gabrielle felt so confused at that moment. She wanted to scream for Xena to stay....to hold her and love her, but once again she kept quiet. Many times through their travels the couple would bicker. Fortunately both realized most times it was because they were tired or the situation they were in was stressful. They learned to step away from each other and cool off. Sometimes they would talk about it and sometimes not. Gabrielle assumed this would be one of the times nothing would be said.

Argo found a comfortable area on the other side of the cave close to the entrance. Xena tried to concentrate on Argo but it was difficult. Her thoughts were consumed by the love she was feeling for Gabrielle. Glancing over the back of the mare she watched Gabrielle remove her boots and coat. Placing the boots close to the fire, Xena knew they were probably soaked. The soft deerskin foot coverings were also removed and placed near the fire. Xena watched, as Gabrielle rubbed her feet trying to warm them up. Unfortunately Gabrielleís pants and shirt were also wet, along with her undergarments. Without a moments hesitation she removed all her clothing. Placing them close to the flames, Gabrielle turned around and reached for her blanket to throw over her naked body. Xena had long since stopped brushing Argo and was now just hypnotized by the woman she craved to touch. It was getting more difficult every time Gabrielle had her clothes off to come anywhere near her body. The horsebrush slipped from her hands and Xena bent over to pick it up. As she did, she stared from under the belly of Argo to the woman she had dreams about each night. Gabrielle continued to tend to her clothing and put together a small stew of sorts for their meal. *By the gods Gabrielle....do you have any clue what you are doing to me right now.* The blanket occasionally slipped from the young womanís body and she glowed from the reflection of the flame. Her breasts were firm with harden nipples begging to be absorbed by the Warriorís lips. Her soft golden blonde hair still sporting several braids hung over her shoulders and down her strong back inviting the Warrior to run her hands through the hair and over the curves of her muscles. *I canít go on....I have to do something....say something.* As much as the desire was there, Xena could do nothing but pick up the horsebrush and continue to tend to Argo.

Still facing the fire Gabrielle smiled and began to breathe normally. *So my Warrior.....maybe Iím not alone in my feelings. Letís see I can let the blanket slip one more time and watch your reaction or I can wrap.....* Quickly Gabrielle dismissed her dreams, as being foolish and checked her clothes, to see if they were dry.

Pacing around Argo, hoping it would calm her down the Warrior picked up the loose sticks and wood lying on the ground and returned to the fire. This overwhelming love she had for Gabrielle was too difficult to hold back any longer. *I will just come straight out and tell her Iím in love with her....yeah, thatíll work, maybe. Hades Ė what if she starts laughing. No she wonít do that sheíll try to let me down easy.* Just as she approached the fire, Gabrielle looked up at her and Xena stopped dead in her tracks. *No...I canít tell her. Iíll just have to think of some other way. Drop her hints...yea...thatís what Iíll do.*

Removing her coat, the Warrior tossed it to the side and noticed the stew at the edge of the fire. "Is it ready yet, it sure smells good."

"Xena are your clothes wet?" Gabrielle kneeled and checked her clothing, which were drying nicely. "You should take them off, if they are wet. Give them a chance to dry."

There was no way Xena was removing her clothes. Her body would betray her desires for Gabrielle. "No, they are dry. I wish you would ride with me, then your clothes would stay dry. I donít want you getting sick hon....." Realizing that she was about to call Gabrielle Ďhoneyí, the Warrior quickly slipped the stew to her lips and surprised by the heat yelled and almost dropped the bowl.

Quickly Gabrielle was by her side. "Xena...are you okay. Here let me look at your lips."

*Oh, yea....you can kiss them, if you want....that would heal anything wrong with me.* Knowing she could not let Gabrielle touch her, as her resistance was down she pretended to be the formal Warrior. "No, Iím okay Ė it just surprised me thatís all."

Gabrielle returned to her blanket with a slight smirk across her face. *Sure, Xena...whatever you want me to believe. Letís see do I take a chance and see if you feel the same way or do I ignore you. Were you getting ready to call me Ďhoneyí.*

Both women ate without conversation. Along with the fire the stew help to chase away the chill that was settling into the night air and into their bodies. Xena kept her eyes pinned to the flames sparkling and removed her boots. "Do we have any fruit?"

"Sure, I think we have one orange left. Would you like it?" Without waiting for a reply Gabrielle reached into the food satchel and pulled out the orange handing it to Xena.

Not wishing to take the last orange especially since she was well aware of how much the little one liked fruit she handed it back. "I donít want to take the last one, why donít you eat it."

"Xena, Iím not going to argue with you. I donít want it, so please eat it."

"Will you at least share it with me?" She was not going to wait for a reply and quickly grabbed her dagger and cut the orange in half. Gabrielle accepted the orange. The orange was very juicy and both women could be heard making sucking and slurping sounds, as they inhaled the tangy fruit. The Warrior finished her slices quickly and reached for her sword and whetstone figuring this would keep her hands occupied safely. She did not anticipate glancing out of the corner of her eye. Gabrielle was sucking the juice from the last slice and the sound was exotic. As she swallowed the last morsel, she unconsciously began licking her lips and fingers tasting the bitter-sweetness left on them. Watching her Bardís tongue dance seductively the Warrior let a soft moan slide from her throat, which caught Gabrielleís attention. Their eyes locked and each seemed to drown in the warmth of the others. Breaking the hold Xena had on her, Gabrielle diverted her eyes back into the fire to only become lost in the flickering flames. The Warrior returned to her sword and neither spoke.

Finally Gabrielle stood up to check on her clothes, which were dry. Deciding to put them on, so she would not freeze tonight the Bard turned her back to Xena. Letting the blanket drop to the ground Gabrielle heard the sword and whetstone hit the ground. Glancing back over her shoulder she decided to find out what exactly caused Xena to drop her sword. "Everything okay Xena?"

*I canít believe I dropped my sword. Iíve never dropped my sword. Oh...I have to say something. She is going to drive me insane.* Reaching over to pick up the sword Xenaís hands were visibly shaking. Grasping them together to stop them, the Warrior could not believe Gabrielle had this much of an affect on her.

"Xena....are you okay?"

"Uuuh, yea Ė YES, Iím fine. Just slipped out of my hands." Focusing all her attention on the sword and whetstone Xena did not dare look up into the hypnotic green eyes. *Just great Ė Ďoh it slippedí Ė yea right, I wouldnít even believe that excuse.*

Determining she had nothing to lose, Gabrielle would be direct. "Hmmm, Warrior...are you in love with me?"

"No, I think the storm is moving across the mountain and we should be... WHAT? What did you just say?" Looking directly at Gabrielle, she still had her back turned and was partially clothed.

"You heard me."

Pulling her shirt over her head, the muscles on Gabrielleís back danced against the glowing flames and Xena could feel the throbbing in her loins, as the body she so desperately wanted to love was once again hiding under cloth. Closing her eyes she could feel the warmth of the fire tickling her face. "Gabrielle, I asked you what you just said?" Opening her eyes, Xena looked across the fire at Gabrielle.

Kneeling down on her blanket, the Bard realized she said too much. "Xena I canít do this anymore. Iím just tired and not making a lot of sense. Just forget it." Lying down on the blanket, Gabrielle pulled her second blanket and her bearskin coat over the top of her. "Good night Xena."

Before the Bard could close her eyes the Warrior was at her side and pulled the blankets back. "Gabrielle what are you talking about? What canít you do anymore?" There was nothing wrong with Xenaís hearing and she heard Gabrielle ask very bluntly, if Xena was in love with her. Now, for some strange reason Gabrielle was backing off. *Come on baby Ė talk to me. Gods, please talk to me.* For a few moments the Warrior knelt by Gabrielleís side debating whether to say something more or let it go for now.

The Bard looked up into the blue eyes of the Warrior. The flames from the fire were flickering off them and Gabrielleís desires for Xena were almost uncontrollable. Uncomfortable and a little frightened over the prospect of disappointing the woman looking down at her, the Bard decided to act as if nothing was said. *Iím just fooling myself that you would ever want me. As much as I want to be everything to you....I know it will never be possible.*

"Gabrielle, will you please talk to me?" Staring down at the young woman the Warrior wanted desperately to crawl under the covers and take her Ė make love to her and never let her go. *Just say it Gabrielle, just say it and Iím yours forever.*

"Iím just not thinking straight. Itís too cold." Gabrielle gave Xena her best Ďlooking naiveí smiles and rolled over on her side with her back to the Warrior. "Goodnight Xena."

Her Warrior mode kicked in and she backed away. As she walked over to her side of the fire, she scolded herself for not pursuing it further. *Itís not that cold Gabrielle. You want me to be in love with you. At least that is what Iím beginning to believe.* Sitting on top of her blankets, Xena glanced across the fire to the huddled form underneath a blanket and coat. *I do love you Gabrielle Ė but do you love me? Or do I frighten you?*

As the Warrior let go of the blanket and stepped away, Gabrielle felt as if her whole world was about to collapse. Pulling the blanket over her head, she held back her tears until she heard Xena move away. Stuffing her sleeve into her mouth, Gabrielle bit down hard and burrowed her head into the blanket in order to muffle the sounds of her tears escaping and the crying that followed. Unable to think, she only knew that the love in her heart for the Warrior was screaming with need.

For a long time Xena just stared into the fire watching the flames dance, as they looked for control. Glancing at the entrance and then to Argo who was apparently sleeping without any difficulty, Xena decided to feed the front fire a few more logs. Crawling out from under her bearskin coat, which was draped across her shoulders she moved slowly to the entrance. The icy flakes turned to soft snow during the night and the Warrior could not help but step out for a moment. Lifting her face upward the cool flakes felt refreshing, as they melted into her warm skin. Deciding she would take care of her bladder, which had been calling to her for some time, Xena trudged her way over to a bush close by. The snow was almost to her knees and she prayed it would stop soon or there may be a problem getting off the mountain. Returning to the cave, she stomped her feet so the snow would fall off her deerskin boots. Tossing several logs on the fire, she decided to check on Argo. The horse opened one eye and then closed it immediately. "Argo, itís just me. Get some rest, you my friend are going to need it." Tossing the mareís blanket over its back, she rubbed the horse on the neck and returned to the warm comforts of her own blankets.

Deciding to rest for a while, Xena removed her boots but left on the foot coverings and attempted to snuggle with the blankets and coat surrounding her. Immediately she listened for any movement from Gabrielle but the crackling fire was too loud and she was too far away. The Warriorís thoughts carried her to the young firm body of her traveling companion. It was getting too difficult, when Gabrielle removed her clothing. Xena no longer looked on Gabrielleís body as a companion, a sister or a friend. Her body developed wonderfully over the past several seasons and the once soft features of a young girl grew into the voluptuous features of a woman who in Xenaís mind was exotically dangerous. *Oh, how I desire you as a lover. Not just today but for always.* Rolling over and attempting to find a comfortable position Xena continued to fantasy about touching and loving her Bard. She found her own hands wandering until they slipped between her legs. The cravings for Gabrielle had Xenaís needs throbbing and wet. *Oh yes, what I would give to have you bringing me pleasure.* Lost in her emotions and needs the Warrior began stroking her wet mound and within moments brought herself to a quick release. Hoping she did not groan loudly, the Warrior peeked out of the blankets over at Gabrielle. There was no movement and Xena assumed the Bard was sleeping. Closing her eyes the Warrior fell asleep soon after.

*Oh Xena, donít you know how badly I want to be fulfilling your desires.* Gabrielle had been awake for most of the night. She drifted off after crying but was soon awake once again, startled by the sadness in her own dreams. Hearing Xena walking around, leaving the cave, feeding the fire and taking a moment to check on Argo, the Bard was fully aware when her Warrior was rubbing her body and reaching her orgasm. *Iím so dumb! ĎAre you in love with meí Ė How immature can I get.* Assuming her question was childish and silly for a Warrior like Xena Ė for a woman like Xena, Gabrielle quickly pulled it back. The only one her Warrior would ever consider loving would be a strong man like Borias or powerful women like Cleopatra or Bodiceca. Suddenly Gabrielleís bladder also needed relief. The internal struggle as to whether she could hold off until daylight was worthless. The bladder won easily and the Bard threw her covers back to slip out. A quick glance across the fire told Gabrielle that her Warrior was probably asleep happily dreaming of some exotic body loving hers. Foolishly Gabrielle decided against taking the time to slip on her boots and ran out of the cave into snow that quickly covered the top of her knees. *Oh Tartarus, thereís a lot of snow out here. This was a stupid idea coming out here without boots.* Figuring it was too late to turn back and grab her boots, as her feet were already covered in snow along with her pants, Gabrielle spotted the bushes close by and trudge through the snow quickly. Willing her body to hurry up, the Bard was glad Xena was asleep so she would not get yelled at. As fast as she could, Gabrielle entered the cave and ran straight into an irritated Warrior.

"What is wrong with you!!! Are you trying to get sick? Where the heck are your boots and your coat?" The Warrior was rushing towards the entrance, as Gabrielle headed back inside and their bodies just about collided. Without asking permission Xena lifted Gabrielle off the ground and rushed over to the fire. Setting her down on the blankets Xena grabbed one of them and started rubbing Gabrielleís feet dry. "Take your pants off Ė they are soaked!"

"Stop treating me like a kid Xena! I can take care of myself." Feeling inadequate, Gabrielle pushed the Warriors hands away and stood up. Her feet were cold and the pants she had on were once again wet. Grabbing the blanket from Xenaís hands she tossed it off to the side. Without looking at the Warrior, she pulled her pants off and set them close to the fire to dry. As she moved back over to her bedding, Gabrielle realized she was now with only one blanket on the ground, her bearskin coat to cover her body and no pants. *Hades, Iím going to freeze!* Not willing to give in to the Warriorís apparent need to care for her, Gabrielle crawled under the bearskin and turned her back to her friend. "Goodnight!"

Circling her hands into a fist the Warrior was very agitated at this point. Had she not been so in love with Gabrielle, the Warrior would have never given it a second thought whether Gabrielle wore boots or not. The Warrior wanted to pull the Bard into her arms and tell her why she was so upset, why she worried so, why she was so in love with her....why....why....why!!! Frustration set in and Xena retreated to her own bedding. Crawling under the warmth they offered she knew Gabrielle would not stay very warm for the remainder of the night. The internal battle within the Warrior once again raged. *Do I take my blankets over and just crawl in with her Ė tell her Iím keeping her warm. Do I wait for her to ask Ė HA Ė sheíll never ask sheís too stubborn. Maybe I should just tell her Iím cold and then sheíd be willing to share her bedding with me. No Ė sheís too smart, sheíd suspect something.* Rolling on her side facing toward the fire, Xena let just her head and eyes peek out of the coverings. *Hades, this is going to be a long night!*

The night progressed and Gabrielle was indeed cold. She couldnít knock the chill from her midnight dash to the bushes and the loss of one blanket and her pants did not help matters any. Curling up into a small ball in an attempt to keep warm, her thoughts were mixed with the events and emotions of the day. Eventually the tears took control of her eyes and once again she cried until drifting off to sleep.

The Warrior also drifted in and out of sleep confused by her dreams and thoughts of the young woman sheíd traveled with for so long. Believing they should be sleeping in each otherís arms, rather than apart, the Warrior also relived the events of the day and her thoughts came back to Gabrielleís question. ĎAre you in love with me?í *Oh yes, I am very much in love with you. Hades, why couldnít I just tell her!*

A lone wolf howled in the night and this startled both Gabrielle and Xena. From across the fire the Warrior could hear Gabrielleís question easily. "Xena....I thought the wolves went north?"

Sitting up, Xena glanced over to notice Gabrielle was also sitting. "They do Gabrielle, it is probably a stray wolf. Itís further away than it sounds. The snow and silence of the mountains is just carrying the howl on the winds."

"And thatís suppose to make me feel better?"

"Gabrielle, would you like to come and sit by me?" Hoping Gabrielle would come, the Warrior silently thanked the lone wolf.

Gabrielle thought about the offer. "No, Iíll just watch Argo. Sheíll let us know if the wolf is close, wonít she?" Instantly regretting her decision, the Bard chastised her stubbornness. *Dummy Ė you could be close to her, cuddling with her....touching her, smelling her....gods, loving her.*

"Yes, Argo will let us know." No longer able to think about this insane night, Xena laid back on her bedding. *Tomorrow my Bard...we are going to have a talk. My heart aches too much for you, to go on pretending otherwise. If you tell me to go away, I will. Iíd be crushed, but I will leave you alone.* Trying as hard as she could to stay awake, exhaustion took control and Xena drifted off to sleep.

Gabrielle remained sitting darting her eyes between the flames of both fires and Argo. She was more cold than afraid of the lone wolf, at this point. Reaching out to feel the legs on her pants, they were still too damp to put on. Her foot coverings and boots, although somewhat dry, would need to stay by the fire until morning so they would not be damp. Gabrielle knew dry boots would be important. Unsure when her body started to shiver, Gabrielle instinctively scooted closer to the fire. Glancing towards the entrance the snow had stopped and with this came a drop in temperature. Tossing several larger sticks into the fire, Gabrielle was glad that Xena collected enough wood. At one point, she thought about brewing some hot tea to help chase the cold from her body but she was too exhausted to move. Suddenly everything became overwhelming and the tears once again slid down her cheeks. Burrowing her head into her coat, Gabrielle could not control her sobbing.

++++++++++++++++

Dreams of the young blonde walking towards her consumed the Warrior. Her hair was blowing in the breeze, her lips were smiling and her eyes were calling for Xena. In an attempt to reach out and touch the dream Gabrielle slipped away and the Warrior woke abruptly. It was morning and she could smell the aroma of mint tea brewing on the fire. Following the wonderful smell, Xena could see Gabrielle putting her pants on. "Are they dry Gabrielle?" The Warrior did not want the Bard to put on wet clothing and would willing stay as long as needed in the cave until her clothing was dry.

"They are fine. My boots are dry too." Turning around to look at her Warrior, Gabrielle lowered her eyes and poured a cup of tea. Walking around the flames, she handed the cup to the raven hair beauty. "I added some mint, hope itís okay."

The tea tasted wonderful. "Mmmm, itís good, thank you." Sipping on the tea she watched Gabrielle pack the bags from last night and roll up her blankets. "Did you sleep at all?" Feeling guilty for falling asleep, Xena hoped her Bard was able to sleep at least a little.

"Sort of....I guess. Stayed awake feeding the fire most of the night."

Stretching her arms and legs, Xena rolled out of the blankets and could tell the day would be colder than yesterday. Finishing the tea, she set the cup down next to the fire. "Iím going to saddle Argo, will you be okay to travel today. If the weather holds, I think we might be able to at least make Golesovo by midday."

"Yes, I can travel." Without looking at the woman she desperately wanted to hug and kiss, Gabrielle fell into the routine of cleaning up camp and preparing to travel.

It took less than a candlemark before the couple was ready and leaving the cave. Xena led Argo out into the snow, which was fairly deep. Mounting the horse, she looked down at Gabrielle and held out her hand. "I want you to ride, okay. Please donít argue with me." Hoping to sound firm, she depended on the fact that Gabrielle would not dispute her Warrior tone and do as requested.

Deciding that Xena probably knew what was safe for this type of land and weather, Gabrielle accepted Xenaís hand and was soon sitting behind the Warrior. Holding on to Xenaís bearskin coat, the mare was guided slowly through the freshly fallen snow. The traveling was rough because of the amount of snow left behind by the storm and Xena did not want Argo slipping and breaking a leg.

About a candlemark away from the cave Xena thought her normally talkative Bard was a little too quiet. Hoping she was not still angry with her, the Warrior glanced over her shoulder to find the green eyed blonde staring off to the left. "Hey, you okay Gabrielle?" Receiving no response or reaction, Xena tried again. "Gabrielle, are you sleeping with your eyes open?"

Slowly her head turned and the green eyes looked directly into blue. "Iím sorry. I was just thinking. What did you say?"

*No, youíre not okay....I can see it in your eyes.* Stopping Argo to get a better look at Gabrielle, the Warrior twisted her body around to face the Bard from a better angle. "Whatís wrong...you donít look well. Are you getting sick?" Xena tugged at her glove pulling it off and rubbed her hand up against Gabrielleís cheek. "Hades! Youíre feverish." Reaching for the waterbag, most of the water was frozen but there was still some sloshing around in the bottom. "Come on drink up." Holding the waterbag, the Bard drank what was left and pushed it away from her lips. "I knew I should have made you sleep with me last night! Tartarus Iím so stupid!"

Covering her face with her gloved hands Gabrielle felt a bit lightheaded and leaned forward to rest on Xenaís shoulder. "No, Xena....itís not your fault. Letís keep going."

Straighten her body back in the saddle Xena nudged Argo further down the trail until she came to a small stream frozen over. "Looks like we have to get off and walk over this. Iím not sure how deep the steam is or how solid the ice will be."

Lifting her leg over the top of Argoís head, Xena hopped down. The snow was not as deep here and the Warrior was grateful. Reaching up Gabrielle allowed Xena to help her off Argo. When her feet touched the ground her legs began to buckle and Xena caught her from falling. Holding the young blonde tightly Xena kissed her forehead. "I have to get you someplace safe so we can beat this fever."

Gabrielle tilted her head to look up into concerned and protective blue eyes. "Xena, I can go on. How far away are we?"

"The deep snow slowed us down quite a bit. I need to take care of you first." Not at all happy about the choices, Xena realized Gabrielle would be much better off in a warm inn than a cold cave. "Okay, here sit on this rock. I need to get Argo across the stream and Iíll come back for you."

Nodding her head in agreement, Gabrielle sat and closed her eyes hoping the stinging would go away. The Warrior could not resist the yielding lips and closed eyes. Without thinking she bent over and kissed Gabrielle lightly on the lips.

This caused the Bardís eyes to open abruptly only to see Xena already approaching Argo. *Did I just imagine she kissed me? Is my fever that high that Iím hallucinating?*

As the Warrior led Argo across the stream, she could not help but talk to the mare. "Well girl, I just kissed her....right on the lips. Think she noticed." The mare shook her head back and forth and continued to step carefully over the frozen surface. "I wonder if she noticed? She had too Ė maybe it was too light of a kiss, or maybe she thinks I kissed her because Iím worried. Yeah, that will be what sheíll think." Once on the other side, Xena tied the reins around a small bush. "Okay here goes nothing Argo. Either sheíll say something or she wonít."

The kiss definitely caught Gabrielleís attention. *Is she just worried about me? It was a tiny peck, not really a kiss......not like I want her to kiss me.* Interrupted from her thoughts by the dizziness, Gabrielle rested her head in her hands and waited for Xena to come back for her. Within moments she felt strong arms around her and a gentle voice that sounded like music to Gabrielle.

"Okay, come on letís get across the stream." Helping the Bard stand, the Warrior realized Gabrielle was feeling lightheaded. "You need to eat something. That might help some."

Together the couple concentrated on crossing the ice. Safely on the opposite side, Xena insisted Gabrielle once again ride. Helping her up in the saddle the Warrior then got up behind her. Gabrielle never said a word to Xena about the kiss. "Come on hon.....Gabrielle. Lean back, Iíll hold you so you donít fall. If you can, try to sleep." Once again the Warrior almost slipped and called the Bard a sweet tender name. Assuming Gabrielle was too feverish at the moment to notice either the kiss or the loving name, Xena focused her attention on the trail and getting them both to warm shelter.

Toris told Xena to follow the stream north and it would take them out of the mountains. The trail would be easier and if they needed shelter, there were several caves along the way. It was difficult to estimate exactly where they were but her brother said that once they hit the stream it would be about a candlemark before they reached the village. Riding with her arms wrapped around Gabrielle was something Xena loved to do and it was rare. Usually Xena could never come up with a good reason to have Gabrielle in front but when she did, it was like floating on a cloud. Pulling her glove off, the Warrior rubbed her hand against Gabrielleís cheek and was not happy to find it was still hot. Whispering softly into the tender ear so close to her lips for nibbling, Xena knew now would not be the time to talk about desires. "Gabrielle, are you awake? Can you hear me?"

There was no response and she could tell that the Bardís body was fairly limp. Unsure whether she was sleeping or just passed out from the fever, Xenaís instincts told her they would have to stop. *If the rest of your body is as hot as your face, then my sweet Bard, we need to break this fever before it gets worse and causes.........* Stopping her thoughts instantly, she refused to believe that she would ever lose this woman. Scouting the land, in search for a suitable cave it took only a few moments before Xena found one. Close enough to the stream for fresh water and possibly some fish, the Warrior guided Argo to the cave entrance.

Slipping off the back of Argo woke Gabrielle. "Xena, are we there...did we make it." Then as if, she had no idea of her surroundings she looked out over the landscape. "Snow...when, how....why are we in the snow?"

Grabbing the young woman, Xena smiled and pulled her from the mare. Lifting her off the ground, she carried her into the cave and set her on the ground close to the entrance. "Listen, Gabrielle, you are running a high fever. I need to bring it down. Okay. Just sit here for a moment."

Turning to find some kindling to light up the cave, Xena prayed to any god who would hear to help the woman she loved heal. Before much time passed, the Warrior quickly explored the cave to find it smaller than the previous but still large enough to support them and Argo. Moving quickly, Xena started a large fire and laid Gabrielle down by it. Leading Argo inside the cave the Warrior grabbed the blankets and food supplies. Rushing down to the stream, she found a small break and filled the cooking pot with water. As the water was heating, Xena took two blankets laying them on the ground with the intentions of moving Gabrielle to them. Kneeling beside the young beauty, Xena pulled her to a sitting position and removed her coat and boots. Momentís later Gabrielle was under a pile of blankets and bearskin coats. Never once did she open her eyes.

The heated water soon became tea with the Warrior adding a fever-reducing herb. Propping herself up against the cave wall she pulled Gabrielle to a sitting position and tried to wake her. "Gabrielle, hey...itís me, wake up...I want you to drink this." It took a few more tries before Gabrielle would open her eyes. Lifting the cup to her mouth the Bard sipped at the tea. "Thatís it, come on just a bit more." The Warrior continued to encourage Gabrielle until the entire cup was empty. Through the whole process Gabrielle kept her eyes opened and looked directly into Xenaís eyes. Placing the cup to the side, Xena held Gabrielle closer to her face and rocked the young woman in her arms. Not really caring what Gabrielle would say, Xena kept kissing her lightly on the face. "Hang in there honey, weíll beat this fever." The Warrior realized she slipped and called her Ďhoneyí but no other word seemed appropriate. *I guess Iíll deal with all of this later....if she remembers anything.* Soon after Gabrielle closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

As the afternoon progressed, Xena made the decision that they would spend another evening camping. Even if Gabrielleís fever broke, she did not want to move her too fast. Eventually Xena dozed off and allowed herself to sleep sitting up with Gabrielle held snugly within her grasp. Her sleep was one of exhaustion and without dreams of any kind. A weak voice penetrated her dreams and Xena could feel someone tugging on her arm. Realizing it was not a dream the Warrior opened her eyes and saw sleepy green ones looking up at her.

"Xena." Feeling very weak and hot, Gabrielle woke up to find herself wrapped protectively in Xenaís arms. "I have to go outside."

"Okay...come on." The Warrior helped Gabrielle sit up and put on her boots. Wrapping a blanket around her, Xena would not let her walk and carried her outside. Both emptied their bladders and returned to the cave. The temperature of the afternoon was dropping with the sun and the Warrior wanted to collect more wood, water and maybe a few fish before nightfall. Gently placing Gabrielle back on the blanket, the Bard wanted to sit up a bit. Xena removed the young womanís boots and covered her body. "Iím going to make some more tea for you. Then I have a few chores to take care of." Brushing her fingers through the blonde bangs secured a smile from Gabrielle. "You still have a fever but it doesnít seem as hot. How are you feeling?"

"Better, I think. Iím really sleepy."

"I know. Here can you drink this while I get some more wood and try to catch a few fish. I promise I wonít be long." Gabrielle accepted the cup and nodded her head okay. Determined not to be long, the Warrior grabbed a few fishing supplies, both waterbags and rushed out of the cave.

Within a candlemark the Warrior had two fish cooking over the fire and some cool water for her companion to drink. When she returned from the stream, Gabrielle had fallen back to sleep and there was no real change in her body temperature. Nothing mattered right now to Xena than to make her friend better. When the fish were cooked, the Warrior was able to encourage Gabrielle to eat. Happily the Bard ate quite a good portion of the fish and drank a great deal of water. When she was done, Xena cleaned up the area and decided to settle Argo for the night. While the Bard drifted back to sleep the Warrior tended to the mare.

Once again the Warriorís hearing picked up the weak voice of her partner and rushed over. Gabrielle needed to once again empty her bladder. Repeating the earlier routine, the couple returned to the side of the fire. "Xena....thank you. I should have listened to you about my boots."

Brushing her fingers across Gabrielleís cheeks gently, the Warrior wanted desperately to kiss the soft lips speaking to her. "Itís okay. It is in the past. Letís not worry about it." Sitting next to the Bard, Xena threw several large sticks and one log into the fire. "Tonight, you are sleeping with me and I donít want any arguments....okay?" Gabrielle nodded her head in agreement and leaned into Xenaís shoulder. Instinctively the Warrior pulled Gabrielle in tightly and held her. "Your fever has gone down some, are you feeling better?"

"You called me Ďhoneyí." It took a great deal of thinking and collecting her fevered thoughts together for Gabrielle to realize she was not hallucinating. *I also know you kissed me but Iíll ask about that later.* There was silence for a moment and the Bard wondered, if Xena was intentionally ignoring her statement. Just as she was about to ask in a more direct fashion, Xena lifted her chin to look into her eyes.

"Yes, I did call you that. Iím sorry....it just slipped." Leaning forward the Warrior kissed her on the forehead. "You should get some sleep, youíre still somewhat feverish."

Pleased with the answer Gabrielle snuggled closer and wondered if Xena would admit to kissing her. Before she could say anything, Xena started to hum and the power of her voice relaxed Gabrielle and within moments she was asleep.

The couple stayed in that position for a long time, before Xena moved Gabrielle under the covers. Taking off her own boots, Xena joined Gabrielle who had rolled over on her side. She still had a slight fever, but it was not nearly as dangerous as earlier today. Snuggling up behind Gabrielle, she wrapped her arms around the young woman and the slept like lovers would. *Oh, baby....I can only hope that one day we can sleep like this always. I love you so much.* Within moments Xena joined the Bard in the land of dreams.

++++++++++++++++

Sometime during the middle of the night Xena woke up to find she was on her back and Gabrielle was sprawled over her with her face burrowed under Xenaís chin. Rolling her head just slightly the Warrior could still feel the fever within Gabrielle. *Come on honey...fight this fever.* Unable to stop her emotions Xena kissed her over one closed eye and then on her forehead. This was enough to stir Gabrielle and soon the Warrior had sleepy green eyes peeking directly into hers. "Sssshh, go back to sleep. I was just checking your fever."

Laying her head back on the muscular shoulder of the woman she desired more than anyone, as a lover and friend, Gabrielle decided to ask. "Did you kiss me earlier?"

Although, the Warrior wanted to say more, she decided if she said too much right now, she would want to do more than just talk. As long as Gabrielle was running a fever, Xena did not want to take advantage of her. "Yes, I did kiss you. Now go back to sleep. We can talk about this tomorrow."

Lifting her head up again Gabrielle propped up on one arm and looked directly at Xena.

*By the gods Gabrielle, donít look at me like that.* The flames flickered off of the tousled blonde hair making it glisten magically. The sea green eyes radiated with softness and her lips looked tender and tempted the Warriorís heart. Suddenly Xena was aware of the weight of Gabrielleís breasts pushing into her side and she could have sworn the nipples were hard and needy. The Bardís left leg was draped over Xenaís knee and the Warrior knew she only needed to slide her leg slightly and she would be able to feel the heat coming from the Bardís hidden treasure. The Warrior could feel herself melting right into the power this young woman had over her and she did not want to stop it.

"Kiss me again."

The request was sweet and gentle. *Oh baby please donít do this to me, I wonít be able to stop.* Breaking away from the eyes that held the Warrior captive she looked over at the fire. Looking back at the wonderful woman lying in her arms Xena knew this woman would hold her heart forever. "Gabrielle, I, you.....I.....go to sleep, okay. When your fever is gone, then weíll talk."

Placing her hand on the Warriorís cheek, she turned it delicately in order to look into the blue eyes that always commanded her attention. "No......now. Just kiss me. Thatís all Ė nothing more or less."

"I canít just kiss you." Her body was heating up quickly and Xena knew that if Gabrielle pushed this much further, she would lose all resolve.

Confused over the words, Gabrielle could feel the heat rising in the Warriorís body and she could feel her squirming slightly and even maneuvering her leg so it was resting between Gabrielleís thighs. *You are in love with me Xena.....so why are you so afraid. Is it really my fever or is it something else. Do you think maybe I donít want you in the same way.* Deciding not too push the Warrior any further, Gabrielle relented and laid her head back down. "Okay....weíll talk tomorrow. Promise?"

"Yes." A mixture of highly charged emotions battled in the Warriorís heart and soul. *Gods, I want you so badly. Forever...Gabrielle. Not for a while....forever. Yes, we will talk tomorrow and if you feel the same way I do....my commitment to you will be eternity.* In her heart, the Warrior understood that no one filled the spaces like Gabrielle and if this young woman would devote her love to Xena, then she would never look or desire anyone else but Gabrielle.

As the passing snow clouds hid the moon, the couple slept relatively warm and safe in each otherís arms. Occasionally Xena would wake and reach over tossing a small log or several sticks into the fire to keep it burning. Each time she would kiss Gabrielle on the forehead and each time Xena was concerned over the fever that kept control of her Bardís body. Eventually the fever found a stopping point; it would neither drop nor rise Ė it just stayed level. Drifting back off to sleep Xena knew Gabrielle would question her tomorrow about the kiss on the lips. Deciding she would be truthful, a warm comfortable feeling spread throughout her body and her thoughts slipped into dreams.

++++++++++++++++

 

Abruptly Gabrielle sat up startled and afraid. Searching around her quickly all she could see were burning homes. The children were running and crying out for mom and dad. Men were plunging their swords into bodies and devastation took a stronghold on the village. The snow turned red with the blood of many innocent lives. Suddenly Gabrielle opened her eyes and pushed herself to her knees. Scanning the area she knew there had to be a way of escaping.....then she heard the voice. A strong yet gentle voice was penetrating her soul. Soon she could feel protective arms holding her and the voice was soothing and filled with love. "Xena.....oh gods.....what happened?"

"Sssshhh...youíre just dreaming. Itís okay there is no one here but us. That fever is giving you nightmares." Xena heard Gabrielle crying instantly and tired to wake her, but it was as if the Bard was trapped in another world and whatever power was holding her there, would not release her. The sweat was pouring from Gabrielleís body and Xena realized the fever rose several notches. Once she had Gabrielleís attention and calmed her down the Warrior would make some more tea. Then she was going to sponge her body down with cool water hoping it would help break the fever once and for all. Gabrielle began to cry softly. "Honey, Iím here, no one will hurt you." Lifting Gabrielleís chin, the Warrior was saddened by the tears slipping over her cheeks. Without hesitation Xena kissed the cheeks and the eyes hoping it would make Gabrielle feel better. After a few moments the Bard calmed down. Laying Gabrielle back down Xena scooted over to the fire to heat up the water. "Gabrielle, Iím going to collect some snow for melting. Iíll be right back."

All Gabrielle was capable of doing was nodding her head. She watched, as Xena went out of the cave and quickly returned. Soon Xena was lifting her body up so Gabrielle could drink the tea. "Xena....I had a dream...a bad one. Itís the village...Torisí village."

"What?" Knowing that Gabrielle had a gift of prophecy, Xena learned to listen when dreams like this occurred.

"It was being burned and people were dying. I did not see Toris but....oh Xena there was a lot of death."

Not sure what to say in response, the Warrior knew Toris was living outside the village. Her brother was also smart enough to not fight and instead hide and escape. "Gabrielle, Iím sure Toris will be just fine. Right now you are my priority. I canít do anything without you. Okay. So first things first...lets get you out of these clothes. I want to sponge you down with some cool water and try to break this fever of yours."

Grabbing onto Xenaís arm, the Bard looked deeply into the blue eyes and found a genuine concern. "Xena, why donít you just leave me here...."

"NO." Having no intentions of ever leaving the Bard, Xena would stay and care for the one person in her life that meant more than anyone ever has. "Do you trust me?" Gabrielle nodded her head. "Okay, then let me take care of you."

Allowing Xena to help her remove most of her clothing, the sponge bath actually felt good to the Bard. Her body was burning up and while Xena sponged delicately the fever-reducing herb took hold and Gabrielle drifted off to sleep. The Warrior held on to her roll as a healer and when Gabrielle allowed her to dab the cool cloth over her breasts, Xena kept her eyes directly on Gabrielleís face. Knowing how feverish the young woman was, the Warrior refused to turn this into pleasure...she just would not use Gabrielle like that. Eventually Xena could feel the heat from Gabrielleís body start to cool down. Stripping out of her own clothes, the Warrior crawled under the blankets and pulled the sleeping Bard close until their bodies melted together as one. Afraid that when the fever took a dive, Gabrielle would end up becoming very cold, Xena hoped to avoid the sharp contrast by keeping Gabrielle evenly warm.

As she anticipated, it was only a candlemark or so before Gabrielle started to shiver and this woke her up. "Iím so cold." Feeling Xena embracing her tightly and rubbing her strong hands up and down her back, hips and arms, it suddenly occurred to Gabrielle that both of them were without most of their clothing. Instantly Gabrielle realized Xena was trying to keep her warm with body heat. Wrapping her arms around Xena, she kissed the Warrior under the chin. "Thank you Xena."

The Warrior smiled fully aware that the kiss was indeed one of thanks. "Gabrielle, are you in any pain at all?"

"No, just cold and sleepy."

"Well, the coldness will disappear in a while so why donít you try and sleep."

Before long Gabrielle was sleeping and the shivering ceased. Reaching from the cocoon the Warrior made from the blankets and bearskin coats, she tossed several sticks on the fire and finally joined her partner in sleep.

++++++++++++++++

The following morning the Warrior woke and slid out of the blankets. Getting dressed, she put together a small breakfast some tea, and saddled Argo. Constantly glancing over at Gabrielle who was still sleeping she was thankful that during the night the fever finally broke. With Gabrielleís dream fresh in her mind, the Warrior decided they would try to travel on, as long as the Bard was feeling up to it. The movement of blankets caught Xenaís attention and she quickly knelt down next to her companion. Sea green eyes were peeking up at her. "Hi, how are you feeling?" Without permission Xena brushed her fingers through the blonde bangs.

"I think Iím okay. Just a bit tired." Pushing with her arms, Gabrielle sat up. Accepting her clothes from Xena, the young blonde got dressed.

Turning toward the fire to get the bread and cheese she left out for Gabrielle, the Warrior did not leave her side. "Youíll probably be tired for a few days. Here Ė try to eat. You need to build your strength back up."

Complying with Xenaís request Gabrielle ate both the bread and cheese. "Xena...thank you....I really mean that."

Pulling Gabrielleís hairbrush from the bag the Warrior scooted around and began to groom her companion. "Think youíre up to traveling?" Enjoying the attention Xena was giving her, she nodded her head and closed her eyes. The sensation of the tall raven hair Warrior stroking her hair gently and protecting her, tugged at the Bardís heart.

By mid morning the couple was back on the trail. Xena insisted Gabrielle ride in front so she could keep an eye on her and the Bard did not argue. The day was brisk and there was not a snow cloud in the sky. Turns out they were closer to the village than they realized. Just as they came to the knoll above the village, Xena could smell the smoke and so could Gabrielle. Cautiously the Warrior guided Argo off the trail and between the pine trees which offered some protection. As they came across the knoll, the village of Golesovo was in ruins. Burnt to the ground. The snow was covered in blood and bodies just as Gabrielleís dream predicted. There were several people moving around but all signs of the responsible invaders were gone. Slowly and silently the pair rode down the hill and into the remains of the village. Gabrielle covered her eyes and began to weep quietly. Xena tightened her grip on the young woman and kissed the back of her head many times hoping it would help.

"XENA!!!"

A familiar voice cried out and Xena saw her brother standing by the side of a partial wall. This caught Gabrielleís attention and the Warrior slid off Argo and ran to her brother. The reunion was joyous and soon Toris was explaining the attack on his village. Apparently there was a great many deaths. Those that were alive or injured were being taken to Torisí farmhouse and that of three other farmers. The invaders struck from the north and headed east. It was a fast hit and the surrounding farmhouses to the west and south were spared. At this point, only the dead in the village had to be buried. The Warrior agreed to help gather the dead for cremations.

"Gabrielle, I want you to take Argo and head out to Torisí farmhouse."

"No Xena, Iím not leaving you." There was no way the Bard would leave Xena behind. "I can help." Sliding off Argo the Warrior was standing in front of her, as her feet touched the ground.

Placing both hands on the Bards shoulder, Xena did not want her to do this horrible task. And she knew the possibility existed of Gabrielleís fever returning. "Gabrielle...listen to me. I donít want you out here. You still need to rest. Please go on to the farmhouse."

Toris moved away to allow the couple some privacy and Gabrielle noticed this immediately. Looking into the sapphire blue eyes that appeared worried the Bard decided now was a good time. "Are you in love with me?"

"What?" Smiling at the young blonde who managed to pick the craziest time in the world to ask this one question, Xena wanted to kiss her. "Now is not the time to talk about this."

"I didnít ask to talk about it. All this requires is a yes or no answer." Staring right back at the blue eyes, Gabrielle took a step forward to be closer to Xena. "Are you in love with me Ė intimately?"

*Oh sure, now you tack on the little word intimate Ė which is really a huge word.* Rubbing her fingers across the Bardís delicate cheek and slipping through the blonde hair Xena could only smile and realized she needed to answer honestly. "Yes.....now will you please go to the farmhouse."

This response gave Gabrielle the courage she needed. Stepping closer the couple were a breath away from each otherís lips. "No. Iím staying, so get use to it."

Wanting desperately to kiss Gabrielle, the Warrior knew she would not be able to stop once she started. *No, not out here among the dead.* Wanting to be anywhere else but right here, Xena struggled with her internal desires that were rapidly building. "Gabrielle, look....I...I donít want you out here collecting bodies.....please, for me...just this one time."

"You make it hard to say no." Gabrielle rubbed her fingers across the full red lips she wanted to suck on and love so dearly.

The heat in Xenaís body was quickly reaching a peak. If reached, she knew she would take Gabrielle in her arms throw her across the horse and ride off to find a place to take her passionately. Grabbing hold of Gabrielleís hand she attempted to talk. "I want....ah...look Gabrielle...oh gods...do you have any idea......what you are doing to me right now?"

Soft fingers slipped from the Warriorís hand and traced the outline of Xenaís lips. Standing on her toes Gabrielle leaned in closely, licked her lips and whispered seductively. "Mmmmm, actually yes...I know exactly what Iím doing...and what I plan to do the next time I have you alone."

Shifting eyebrows gave away to a half smirk across Xenaís face. "Really....and just what did you have in mind?"

Strong warm hands began caressing Gabrielleís cheek and she could feel the heat rising in her body through to her heart. She loved this Warrior deeply. Having built this love on friendship, trust and even bad times and betrayal, the young Bard wanted no other in her life. Gazing into the blue eyes of her best friend, she found herself quickly sinking into a puddle of mush. Feeling the Warriorís hands and arms slipping underneath her coat to be closer, Gabrielle sighed slightly and started tripping over her words. "Xena...I. Iím sorry....I should...guess maybe..well...are you going to help me out here?"

Leaning in to whisper into Gabrielleís ear, the Warrior chuckled softly. "Oh yes...I guarantee I will be helping myself to quite a bit of you."

The sensation running through the Bard caused her to shiver slightly and her knees buckled. Fortunately the Warrior was there to steady her and for the briefest of moments each understood their destiny. Now it was just a matter of time.

Unable to be patient any longer, Toris tapped his sister on the shoulder, which broke the couple apart. "Sorry...but Iíd like to get things done before the sun sets." The women looked around Toris and everywhere else but directly into his eyes until the man called them back with the seriousness in his voice. "Gabrielle, my wife....she lost what little family she had." Toris had tears in his eyes and both could see the worry across his face. "Please....Iím asking you to protect her. Iím not sure I trust these invaders." Kneeling down in the snow, the brother of the Warrior Princess drew a map. "Here is the village....and....this is my house. Back over here are the mountains you just came from. Over here, behind my barn there are some caves cut into the mountains. If there is trouble, I want you to take Bella to safety. My wife will know where to meet me. We have a special cave that we discovered and....well take her there." Standing up the trio looked at the map.

"Wonít they follow Ė how safe are those caves?" The Warrior did not want her soon-to-be lover getting trapped.

"The caves are huge...in fact you can get lost in them....forever, I imagine." The young man lowered his head and kicked at the snowmap to destroy it. Toris placed his hands on Gabrielleís shoulders. "Bella knows the passageways to take." Toris smiled at both women and returned to the ugly task at hand of removing the bodies.

"Gabrielle, take Argo. Iíll use one of the strays wandering around. I want you to get to some warm shelter and safety. Please...I will see you in a few candlemarks."

The Bard placed her foot in the stirrup and pulled herself onto the mare. The Warrior was at her side and holding on to Gabrielleís leg. The warmth of Xenaís hand penetrated the pants and the Bardís desires once again began to grow. "Xena be careful." Smiling at her beautiful Warrior, she nudged Argo to move.

"GABRIELLE!" Shouting out abruptly the Warrior rushed over and grabbed the reins. "Are you in....."

Before she could finish her question, Gabrielle brushed the dark bangs from the Warriorís eyes. "Deeply. Iím deeply in love with you Xena." Placing a kiss on her fingertips the Bard placed her fingers over Xenaís lips. Giving Argo a kick in the flanks Gabrielle rode away from her Warrior.

++++++++++++++++

Because the snow was so deep, it took Gabrielle longer to get to Torisí property than originally anticipated. Just as she came to the edge of the field something internally demanded she stop. The feeling was not comfortable and acted as a premonition to danger. Sliding off of Argo, Gabrielle guided the horse around the perimeter of the field and into the wooded area south of the land. Cautiously the Bard circled in and out around the trees until she came parallel with the farmhouse. "Something is not right Argo." Grabbing her staff, the young blonde left Argo in the woods and slowly hike up towards the house.

As she got closer, the Bard heard voices shouting and laughing. The language was strange and unrecognizable to Gabrielle. Intuitively she knew there was trouble. Dropping to the ground Gabrielle crawled in to get a closer look. There were at least three men dressed in foreign garb and none looked friendly. Moving carefully around the back of the house, there appeared to be only one man at the back entrance. Gabrielle knew she would just have to wait observe any pattern to the guards that were obviously posted in various areas around the house. She had no idea how many were inside but could roughly guess by the number of horses that there were at least ten men. Grateful that the sun was shining, the Bard knew it would not last long. Thankful for the long coat and dry boots Gabrielle crawled until she reached the outhouse. There she got up on her knees and peeked around the small wooden shack. Occasionally a woman would dump water or scraps of food out the back door and Gabrielle assumed that must be Bella.

*I have to get her out of here before....* Interrupting her thoughts were several screams and moments later five men were led out the back door and killed by three of the invaders. Laughing and betting over the time of death for each victim, they soon returned to the house. Gabrielle held her anger and tears in check. Realizing she would not have time to return to the village for Xena, the Bard decided to find the right moment to help Bella escape.

Grateful that no one chose to use the outhouse, the Bard felt protected for the time being. The sun was beginning to set and the air became chilly. Gabrielle watched the snow clouds blowing in from the north and assumed they would have snow tonight. Unsure how long she was kneeling behind the outhouse, more shouting rang through the air and the man guarding the rear entrance shoved Bella to the ground. His shouting was apparently not kind and he tugged on Bellaís coat to bring her to her feet. Pushing her along, they were heading for the outhouse. Gabrielle saw this as an opportunity to grab Torisí wife.

As Bella entered the outhouse, the guard made her keep the door open and was watching her. Swiftly and skillfully with seasons of training and watching her Warrior, Gabrielle swung out with her staff and knocked the guard to the ground. "Bella, Iím Gabrielle. Letís get out of here...quickly." Assuming the knock on the head would keep the man down for a while, the two fled around the side of the shack when a shout came from behind the couple. Gabrielle spun around anticipating a second attacker. From the back door of the house a barbarian with a bow released an arrow. Instinctively Gabrielle raised her staff and the arrow was stopped. The invader dropped his bow and charged toward the women. Bella started pulling the icicles hanging off the shackís roof throwing them in hopes they would delay the charging man. Willing away all fear, Gabrielleís adrenaline took over and she quickly whipped her staff through the air like a boomerang. The staff slapped the man in the head knocking him out cold.

"GABRIELLE LOOK OUT!"

From the ground the guard she knocked out earlier stood abruptly to his feet and yanked on Gabrielleís coat. Pulling her back he slapped and punched her several times across the face. From an unknown source, the Amazon Queen felt a sudden surge of power and with all the strength she could pull together she rammed her knee into his groin with so much force the man instantly lost consciousness.

"Gabrielle...are you..."

The Bard quickly got to her feet ignoring the pain radiating from the punches to her face. She did not have time to stop or to think about it. Not giving Bella an opportunity to speak, Gabrielle grabbed her hand and the two women fled to the safety of the woods. Circling back around the perimeter, Argo was heading directly for them, as if she knew Xenaís companion needed help. Quickly Gabrielle pulled her coat off and demanded the women switch. Bellaís coat was much lighter and would not keep her warm for long. Pulling off her gloves Gabrielle also handed them to Bella. "Donít argue with me. We have to keep you and that baby warm." Slipping the warm bearskin coat on, she accepted the gloves. Gabrielle was thankful the woman was wearing boots. The young blonde Amazon mounted Argo and pulled Bella up behind her. Moments later the couple were moving swiftly through the trees away from the property.

Once Gabrielle was sure that they were not being followed she turned in the saddle to face Torisí wife. "Are you okay?" The woman nodded her head and tried to reach for Gabrielleís cheek, which was terribly bruised. "Never mind about me....I have to get you to safety. Toris mentioned a cave...."

"Yes, keep going in this direction and I will lead you there."

Just before darkness could claim the sky completely, the women were safely inside the cave, which was rather deep and complex. Once again bears and wolves gave Gabrielle the creeps but she said nothing.

Just as Toris had promised, Bella knew exactly which way to go. "Gabrielle, over there!" Pointing to a small tunnel, the women would be able to slide through but Argo was too big.

Deciding to let Argo loose, Gabrielle knew the mare would find Xena. Removing two blankets, the extra flint, one of the waterbags and a few food supplies, the Bard swatted Argo and told her to find the Warrior. Arranging the supplies to carry easily, Bella pointed out several torches that the villagers kept at the entrance for exploration. Taking two of them, the Bard was pleased they lit so easily.

Leading the way, the women made their way through the narrow passage going deeper into the cave. After a while the passageway opened up into a chamber holding a fire pit. "Is this the place?"

Indicating that it was not, Bella took the lead and continued through the other side of the chamber. "Gabrielle, this passage will actually take us through the ceiling of the cave and back out into the snow. Then we have to walk a bit further for the cave Toris and I discovered." The young woman looked directly into the green eyes of her new friend and was immediately concerned about her bruises. "Gabrielle, we should take care of ....."

"No, itís not bad. We have to get to safety first." The pain was actually starting to increase now that Gabrielleís adrenaline was slowing back down. She knew, however, that they could not risk stopping until they were safe.

After weaving in and out of several passages and chambers the women broke through the snow and were at the surface. It was already dark so they relied heavily on the torches. It was not much longer before the women were inside the cave that Toris referred too. Together they collected a great deal of wood and quickly started a fire. Melting some snow for tea, Gabrielle went in search of more wood while Bella brewed the tea. Just as she returned, the snowflakes started to fall. They were heavy and thick rather than icy. For this the Bard was happy because it meant the night would not be as cold.

"Gabrielle, here drink some of this. And you should probably get out of those clothes, you are wet."

"Bella you drink the tea, when you are done I will have some. Iíll just stand in front of the fire and try to dry."

"Gabrielle let me see your cheek, it really looks like it hurts." Concern covered her face and a few tears slipped from the dark brown eyes of her companion. Taking some snow, the woman hoped it might help lifted it to the bruised cheek. "How does that feel?" The cold water help numb the pain, somewhat. After a while Bella pushed Gabrielleís hands away, and applied some fresh snow. The young wife of Toris smiled up into the sea green eyes of the young woman she had heard a great deal about from her husband. "Does this help?"

"Itís okay." The Bard had no intentions of letting Bella know that it was painful. "How far along are you?"

The conversation turned to the baby and Gabrielle was pleased to hear that she was only about five moons pregnant. This would mean they could get her back to Amphipolis safely. Eventually both women went through two cups of tea and each shared a portion of the dried meat. Neither woman had any idea how long they were in the cave but both were tired. Taking both blankets, Gabrielle spread one on the ground and insisted the young mother-to-be try and rest. The woman protested for a moment until the Bard reminded her of the baby. Accepting the blanket Bella was pleased, when Gabrielle covered her with the second blanket and then laid the heavy bearskin coat on top.

"Gabrielle, youíll freeze!"

"No, Iím staying extremely close to this fire, I will be just fine. Please try and rest. We canít do anything more until tomorrow." As Bella drifted off to sleep, the Bard turned all her thoughts to Xena. *My Warrior, where are you? I miss you so much. All of this is very scary. Please come to me....please.*

++++++++++++++++

The day was grueling and long, as the bodies were collected and placed in several areas for cremation. It was close to nightfall by the time the funeral pyres were lit and the flames began to consume the bodies. The Warrior sang her song of the dead to honor the fallen villagers. A handful of men stood with Xena and Toris until darkness completely claimed the sky. Finding a stray mare, brother and sister headed towards the farmhouse hoping for warm beds and even warmer companions. On the top of the Warriorís priorities were to kiss her young Bard. *Gabrielle, if nothing else, I am going to kiss you no matter who is standing around.* As the siblings rode, Toris told Xena of the injured staying in his home. There were eight men with a variety of wounds including sword cuts to broken bones. The women and children were taken to the farms located in the southeast and should have already been moved to the next village. The invaders came from the north and Toris described them as barbarians, with no particular needs other than killing and raping.

"Toris, mother wants you to come home and live. Will you?" Rather than beat around the bush, Xena decided to be direct.

Thatís what Toris liked about his sister, for the most part she never beat around the bush but instead was direct. This made conversations with Xena easy and many times short. "Yes, Iíve spoken to Bella about it a number of times. We donít want to bring our children up in this harsh countryside. We will go back with you and Gabrielle."

The pair continued on the trail towards the farm. The full moon was hidden once again by a haze and impending snow clouds, which made traveling in the dark more difficult. In addition to the dark, the snow got deeper as they entered into the fields. Both could see the tracks left by Argo and Xena was pleased that her young friend would probably be okay.

From out of no where, Toris watched, as Xena followed the tracks and seemed to be lost in thoughts. It amused him somewhat that while his sister was so direct about many issues in her life, she hesitated and avoided the topic of love. Deciding to stir her up a bit, he thought his question through before asking. "Xena, have you told Gabrielle that you are in love with her?"

"Hmpf....is it obvious?"

"It was the last time I saw both of you, which was almost three summers ago. You were in love with her then." Saying this was easy because he believed it to be true. Soon the dark hair man started to chuckle. "Donít tell me you didnít realize that back then?"

"Yea, well very funny dear brother. Now you sound like mother." Laughter rose up in Xena, as she knew her love for the little Bard went back to the first day she met Gabrielle in Poteidaia. When Gabrielle wanted to go with her, Xena wanted to take her on the spot but understood that she was still too fresh on the path of the greater good. When Gabrielle followed her, the Warrior struggled with her emotions of whether to let her stay or force her home. Over time Xena allowed the love she was feeling to bloom and she was forever grateful that that feisty little blonde trailed her. "Toris, I just told her. So we are kind of new at this Ďlove out in the open thingí."

"Xena how new? Have you kissed her yet?"

"You my brother are very nosy, in fact........." Suddenly Argoís trail veered off to the left. "Thatís strange."

Toris came up next to his sister and noticed how the trail changed abruptly. There also appeared to be footprints indicating Gabrielle was now walking rather than riding. Intuitively both realized Gabrielle must have seen or heard something to make such a drastic change. The siblings followed the trail into the woods and discovered Argo anxiously waiting.

Patting the mare on the neck, the Warrior grabbed the reins. "Hey girl, whereís Gabrielle?" The Warrior then noticed one waterbag missing and her search of the saddlebag told her the extra flint and several other items were also gone. "Toris, something is wrong."

As the snow started to fall in huge flakes, the couple followed Gabrielleís footprints in the snow. Soon the house came into view and Xena could see a set of footprints shifting toward the back of the house. As they got closer they saw several invaders along the side of the house and a number of horses. It was too dark to count accurately. The Warrior and Toris dropped low circling around to the back. That was when Xena spotted Gabrielleís staff now leaning up against the back door. With cat like maneuvers, sister and brother slipped around the outhouse. Believing that the women were trapped inside, rage filled both of their hearts and they made the decision to attack the house. Both would enter from opposite ends. Within moments Toris cut down the three men he found in front. Inside the house Xena wasted no time in slicing the remaining invaders taking three of them out with her chakram.

Toris entered through the front door and saw the carnage in his home. There was nothing left and no sign of Gabrielle or Bella. "They must be at the cave Xena." Both rushed through the back door and Xena grabbed the staff, as they raced into the dark and back to the horses.

Abandoning the stray horse, Xena vaulted in the saddle and allowed Toris to lead them to the caves. The ride was slow going and each was lost in their thoughts about their loved one. *Please be safe Gabrielle. I can not go on without you. Why didnít I tell you sooner, when I had the chance?* Concern and fear pushed the Warrior and it also pushed Toris. In the dark it took a while to get to the caves.

"Xena, we have to leave the horses. The cave can only be entered on foot. It is well protected from attack. If the women are there, they should be safe." The dark hair man located the torches and each lit one. Scanning the entrance of the cave Xena believed in her brother and trusted his ability to lead them to the women. Gathering the blankets, waterbags and saddlebags of supplies the Warrior followed her brother through the maze of passageways and chambers. They crept along quietly so they could both hear any possible sounds. Eventually they also broke through the surface and crawled out into the snow, which was now falling from the heavens faster. Continuing to move through the snow, driven by their love, brother and sister finally saw a warm glow emitting from the cave.

Without hesitation the travelers entered the cave to discover a good size fire and the women. Bella was obviously asleep under all the warm covering and Gabrielle was leaning up against a rock shoving a stick into the flames.

The Warrior rushed directly to the Bard. Hearing the travelers enter Gabrielle looked up to see Xena. Unable to get to her feet quick enough, the Warrior was kneeling on the ground in front of her and pulled her in tightly for a hug. Gabrielle sank into the embrace and it was the best feeling she ever had. Xena was mumbling words but the Bard could not hear them. Slipping her arms into Xenaís coat she hugged the dark hair woman tightly. Several breaths passed by before Xena pulled her back to find the lips she wanted so badly to taste. That was when she saw the bruises on Gabrielleís cheek and stopped her pursuit for a kiss.

"Gabrielle...oh baby....no!" Xena cupped the side of Gabrielleís cheek in her hand delicately and tears pooled in blue eyes. "No, oh gods, what happened?"

"Itís nothing...just a few bruises. Iím okay." Sea green eyes clouded over with a few tears. "Iím so glad you are here. I missed you so much."

Xena quickly removed her coat because it was cumbersome. That was when Toris and Bella caught her attention from across the fire. "Gabrielle, thank you so much for saving Bella."

"Toris, I did not do........"

Without warning Bella interrupted. "Oh yes you did Gabrielle. If it was not for you, weíd both be dead."

Xena looked at Gabrielle and then over at Torisí wife. "What happened? Somehow I donít think my little Bard is going to tell me the whole story." The Warrior turned to sit down next to Gabrielle and as she placed her arm around the Bardís shoulder to pull her in closer, the young blonde let out a small but painful ouch. Looking at Gabrielleís face, the Warrior immediately realized her young friend was hurting from more than the bruises on her cheek.

Over the next candlemark Bella told the story of how the invaders took possession of the house, how Gabrielle saved her and the battle that followed. The Bardís muscles and body were sore from the struggle and the Warrior discovered a few additional bruises that Gabrielle had tried to ignore. Xena was extremely proud of her little Bard and on the other she was enraged over the men who caused her pain. By the time the story was finished and questions answered, Gabrielle was drinking one of Xenaís special medicinal teas to ward off any possible infections or fever. Eventually Bella was tired and Toris suggested she get some sleep.

The Warrior set up the bedding assuming Gabrielle would be sleeping with her Ė not just next to her. Removing her clothing the Warrior crawled under the covers, as the Bard watched. *How am I supposed to sleep next to you. Your body is just waiting for me to touch it.*

"Whatís wrong Gabrielle? Get out of your clothes. They need to dry." Xena grinned at Gabrielle, understanding the raised eyebrows of her blonde companion. Reaching out to Gabrielle, the Warrior tugged at her arm and whispered. "Iím only going to hold you. I promise."

*Yea...the question is can I only hold you?* Removing her clothes, the Bard crawled under the covering and was quickly pulled to Xenaís body. The sensations of their bodies touching sent fevered chills racing throughout their veins. "Why are you only going to hold me.....donít you want me?" In spite of her sore cheek and the slight throbbing in her body, Gabrielle decided she was feeling especially playful tonight and was actually surprised that her thoughts came out verbally.

The Warrior rubbed her hands over Gabrielleís arms and down her side, stopping at the curving hips. A small moan slipped from her throat. "Yes, I want you. Gods how I want you! But I donít want an audience." Bringing her hands back up the athletic body she wanted to taste, the Warrior wanted her alone.

Gabrielle propped herself up on one arm to peer into the captivating blue eyes. "So, what youíre telling me is you are not going to make love..." Playfully the Bard kissed Xenaís cheek. "....with me because..." Leaning over she kissed the other cheek. ".....your brother is..." Cupping Xenaís chin she gently pushed her head to the side and nibbled Xenaís earlobe quickly. ".....next to us." Gabrielle was succeeding in driving Xena crazy because several groans slipped through. Focusing back on the tender earlobe, the Bard soon felt Xena cupping her face gently and pushing her away.

"You are going to be in big trouble, when I get you alone." It took a great deal of willpower and strength to stop Gabrielle from seducing her, because that is what she was doing and Xena knew it. "I want you badly....please donít make it any harder than it is."

Soft inviting green eyes looked into the blue eyes of her Warrior and she brought her lips temptingly close to Xenaís. Whispering seductively Gabrielle almost lost it, when she felt Xenaís breath on her lips. "Promise?"

The suggestion in Gabrielleís eyes sent shivers through Xena and she moaned sensually. "Baby, donít......please, you are torturing me Gabrielle." Desperately Xena wanted to kiss Gabrielle. *All I have to do is lean forward and your lips are mine...you are mine....oh gods baby.* Placing her fingers over Gabrielleís lips the softness of them almost took control of the very last of Xenaís willpower. "Stop....roll over, get some sleep."

Enjoying this newfound power she held over Xena, the Bard realized she too was having a very difficult time. *Xena, if you ever turned your seductive powers on me, I would be a puddle at your feet.* Grabbing the hand of her Warrior, which was gently caressing her lips, Gabrielle kissed the fingers slowly, allowing her tongue to slip up and down the longest finger until she reached the tip and sucked on it gently. Xenaís eyes closed over this little maneuver and she knew the Bard would possess her for life. As quickly as Gabrielle began the seduction, she ended it and buried her face under Xenaís neck in a cuddling manner. "Goodnight Xena. I love you."

The heat in Xenaís body was overwhelming and she attempted to get control of her rapid heartbeat. Increasing the hold she had on her little one, the Warrior kissed her forehead and whispered goodnight. Several moments later soft lips were kissing and sucking on Xenaís neck.

In a low voice Gabrielle whispered. "Xena, I canít wait." The Bardís hand started caressing Xenaís stomach and began sliding down towards the essence Gabrielle so badly wanted to consume. "Pleaseeeee, just let me touch you."

Rolling her head back to give Gabrielle better access to her neck, Xena realized she was collapsing fast. The magical fingers of her young Bard were delicately rubbing and teasing her stomach and hips, sliding down her thighs on the outside and up on the inside but never touching her throbbing center. This was becoming too much for Xena to withstand, as the teasing alone would bring her to a climax. "Gabrielle.....oh baby, please stop." The young blonde brought her hand dangerously close and allowed her thumb to gently brush the dark curly hair covering the Warriorís silky folds. "Ohhhhhhh, gods, yessssss that feels sooooo...." Nothing mattered anymore. Xena just lost all of her resistance and all of her strength and fell hopeless into Gabrielleís love.

Whispering seductively Gabrielle slipped her tongue into Xenaís ear and flicked it exotically. "Do you really want me to stop."

Barely able to breathe at this point, Xena pulled the bedding covers over their heads to muffle any sounds of passion. "No, no...don...donít stop." Growling in Xenaís ear, Gabrielle slid her lips to the womanís breast taking all of it in her mouth immediately, which produced only moans of pleasure from Xena. Slipping her fingers slowly over the dark heated passion of her Warrior, Xena began grinding her hips in anticipation of the Bards fingers stroking and teasing her wet center.

Brutally Toris jumped from his bedding with Bella kneeling by his side and shouted. "XENA!!"

"WHATTTTTTTT!!" Both women were jolted. Their hearts raced over the interruption of their discovery in love.

The women looked up to see one gigantic bear near the entrance of the cave. No more conversation was needed. Xena quickly put on her clothes and grabbed her sword. Gabrielle was right behind her and fully dressed before one could blow out a candle.

"Xena....I thought bears hib..."

"Ssshhh....donít anyone move. He must smell the blood from the village. Just everyone stay still." Both Xena and Toris moved slowly toward the front of the fire. Gabrielle slid cautiously to Bella and inched them both to a position behind the flames. Xena indicated with her hand that the two should crouch down low.

"Xena....any ideas?" Toris moved slightly closer to his sister and whispered as low as he could.

Motioning to the wood, Toris placed several sticks into the flames to get them started. He realized immediately that Xena wanted to transfer some of the fire to the entrance of the cave in hopes the flames would keep the bear from entering. What seemed like forever was only a moment. As Toris tossed the burning sticks towards the entrance, the activity startled the bear and it retreated. Quickly, the duo grabbed as many burning sticks as possible and added them to the entrance to build a larger fire. In the back Gabrielle threw more wood on that fire to keep it burning. Outside the cave the foursome could hear the bear growling in irritation. Both Toris and Xena were grateful that Gabrielle had gathered so much wood. Once they were satisfied with the front fire the pair retreated to the back of the cave. Bella was quickly in Torisí arms and started to cry. Moving the blankets to the back wall, he sat down and attempted to comfort his wife.

Lowering her sword, Xena backed toward the fire. A tender warm hand slipped into her free hand and the Warrior instinctively squeezed. Never removing her eyes from the entrance Xena allowed Gabrielle to pull her back and close to Toris and his wife. "Xena....what are we going to do."

Glancing down at the beautiful face of her Bard, Xena could see the concern in the green eyes. Wrapping her arm around Gabrielleís shoulders the Warrior guided her close in order to hug her. Kissing the top of the silky blonde hair, Xena looked directly at her brother. "We wait. There is nothing more we can do now. Itís too dark outside."

Toris nodded his head in agreement and continued to calm is crying wife. Xena released her hold from Gabrielle and sheathed her sword. Pulling the bedding to the rear of the cave so they were located next to the wall and behind the fire, Xena retrieved her sword and sat down. Gabrielle knelt down next to her. "Xena, you said the bear smells blood from the village. It woke up just for that....I donít understand?"

"With all the noise from the invaders, it must have been enough to disturb its hibernation. Which means there may be more." With a gentle touch Xena fondle the side of Gabrielleís injured cheek. "How does your cheek feel?"

"Fine Xena. What are we going to do? We canít stay here."

"I know. When itís daylight, we will all head back to the passage. If the bear is still out there, heís too big too get through the small entrance. Weíll just have to make our way back to the horses and head west."

Mad over the whole situation, Gabrielle leaned up against the wall and lowered her eyes to hide the tears that were collecting in her eyes. Wiping the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt, the Warrior caught the motion out of the corner of her eye. Gabrielle felt a strong hand lifting her chin and she melted into the loving gaze of her Warrior.

Gently Xena wiped the tears from the Bardís eyes. "Gabrielle, things like this just happen. We will get to safety." Moving her head closer to Gabrielleís, the Warrior wanted to kiss the young woman.

"Xena!" Toris called out to his sister and quickly realized what he was interrupting. "Sorry.....um, look I need to talk to you about this. Gabrielle can you sit with Bella for a few moments." Brother and sister moved to the side of the cave, while Gabrielle comforted the young woman. "Iím sorry about interrupting....you know."

"Yeah, yeah...donít worry. What do you want?" Impatient that Toris interrupted her on two occasions in less than a candlemark, the Warrior realized it was not intentional.

"Do you have any plans about this bear. We all run tomorrow and that bear will catch us....or some of us." The dark hair brother placed his hand on Xenaís shoulder. "Bella canít possibly run too fast....I donít want her to lose the baby."

"I know Toris. Tomorrow I will lead the bear in the opposite direction. That should give the three of you enough time to get into the caves. Just wait for me there."

Toris shook his head back and forth. "Xena, I donít want us splitting up. And anyway, just how do you propose to get the bear to follow you?"

Grabbing her brother by the forearm the Warrior applied firm pressure. "We donít have any other choice. Youíll just have to trust me."

"Whatever you are up to my sister I know Gabrielle is not going to like this." His heart went out for the young Bard. He could tell how much this woman loved his sister and Toris also knew Xena was in love with her.

Nodding her head, she glance over Torisí shoulder to look at Gabrielle who was talking with Bella. "I know Toris...I know." Directing her attention back to her brother she suggested they take turns on watch. He would take the first watch and Xena the second. Before returning to the rear of the cave, Toris tossed some more wood on the front fire and each hoped it would be enough to get them to daylight.

Backing away from the entrance Toris reached out for Xenaís hand. "Hey, have you kissed her yet?"

"Not that it is any of your business my dear brother Ė but no. Itís not like weíve had a lot of privacy."

Toris stopped her. "I said kiss Ė not seduce her." That produced a huge smile from the Warrior. "Kiss her Xena. Itíll help you both."

As the pair returned to the women, Xena could not help but chuckle silently. *Oh dear Toris, if you only knew who was seducing whom.* Looking directly into the green eyes watching her every move, Xena understood the devotion Gabrielle had shown her all these years. *Yes, my Bard, you really are in love with me...arenít you.* This realization heated Xenaís heart and she finally believed in soulmates.

Toris took a position in front of the fire the group was huddling around, while Bella agreed that she should try and sleep. Xena sat on the blanket, leaning against the rear wall and tugged on Gabrielleís hand to join her. "I want you to try and sleep Gabrielle. At sunrise, we are going to return to the passage. I need you to be rested."

The Bard knelt by Xenaís side. "I know I shouldnít ask but what......"

Quickly placing her fingers over the soft tempting lips, Xena did not want to explain, as she knew it would only upset Gabrielle. "Tomorrow...right now please, just lay down and sleep. That is the most important thing you can do right now."

Rather than argue with the Warrior, Gabrielle pulled the bearskin coats over their legs and body and she leaned against the wall and then snuggled into the arm and shoulder of her companion. Soon she found Xena pulling her across to settle between her legs, which allow Gabrielle to lean against the Warriorís chest. With the Warriorís arms wrapped around her protectively the Bard eventually drifted off to sleep.

++++++++++++++++

Morning came abruptly and the Bard felt like she had absolutely no sleep at all. Her cheek was sore and her dreams were fitful. Realizing Xena was not with her, she peered over the covers to see her talking with Toris. Momentís later Toris went over to Bella and Gabrielle watched Xena approach her.

"Good morning. How do you feel?" Helping her young companion sit up, Xena could sense the question coming.

"Xena, is the bear still out there?"

"Yea, we think so. Iím going to distract him, while the three of you make a run for the passage."

A soft hand lifted Xenaís chin. "Oh no youíre not. We go together." Xena did not respond immediately and instead reached her hand out pulling Gabrielle to a stand. "You are not going to do this Xena. I know what youíre up too and I wonít let you....."

"Please...donít. Trust me. Wait for me in the passageway, I wonít be far behind you." Letting go, the Warrior began to pick up their bedding.

Angry with Xena for attempting to act as a decoy, Gabrielle walked away and helped Bella pack the rest of the supplies. Once everything was packed and ready, Gabrielle insisted that Bella continue wearing her coat and gloves. Toris offered his coat to the Bard but she refused and pulled on the lightweight coat she took from Bella.

Realizing her young friend was annoyed, Xena still decided to approach Gabrielle. "Here wear my coat."

"Iím fine with this one Xena. You are going to need it more than I will." Looking away from the Warrior she noticed Toris and his wife move to the side of the entrance. As she started to join them, a strong hand grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back.

Piercing blue eyes darted directly into hers and they were deadly serious. "I said put on the coat. I will not have you getting sick again!"

The tone was anger and Gabrielle knew this. Often in their travels Xena would make a demand and Gabrielle thought she was being treated like a child, therefore they bickered. Usually Gabrielle was wrong and ended up apologizing. Occasionally Xena was at fault. At this point, the Bard did not want Xena running around in the snow without protection. If that bear trapped her, she would need the coat against the elements of nature. "No Xena, you need it.....and donít you argue with me!"

The protective nature radiating from Gabrielle penetrated Xenaís heart and she understood the Bardís reasoning. However, she still did not want Gabrielle to travel with such a light coat. She had already been sick from allowing her body to get chilled and the Warrior did not want to chance a second fever attacking the young woman. "Why do you have to be so stubborn?" Xena let go of Gabrielleís arm and abruptly turned away and walked to the front of the cave. Toris was giving her a dirty look and Xena knew exactly what he meant by it. *Be gentle with the one you love Ė yes those would be his words.* Shaking her head Xena spun around to see Gabrielle watching. The Warrior opened her arms and understood complete love, when Gabrielle rushed to her. Allowing time to pass, the soulmates hugged each other until Toris indicated that it was time.

Xena pulled her sword and peeked out of the entrance. It had been quiet for a long time and she assumed the bear moved off and was just waiting for a meal to come strolling out of the cave. Just as she was ready to bolt a hand rested on her forearm. She looked down to see Gabrielle with concern covering her face. Quickly without thinking twice Xena leaned in and kissed Gabrielle lightly on the lips. "I love you. Iíll see you at the passage." Then giving Gabrielle a flirtatious raised eyebrow and a half smile she whispered. "We have some unfinished business."

As Xena dashed from the cave, she instantly turned into a professional Warrior. A number of paces away, the bear stumbled out of the woods and attempted to follow the Warrior who had a wonderful start. Toris yelled at the women and they moved out quickly heading back to the passage and caverns. The snow was fairly deep but the trio moved faster than Toris thought they might. It was not long before they reached the entrance and Toris slipped in first followed by his wife and then Gabrielle. Lighting the torches, they moved in away from the entrance in case Xena came jumping through. Now all they had to do was wait.

The bear was slower than Xena anticipated and assumed it was because it was pulled from hibernation and possibly was still sluggish. After a comfortable distance away from the cave Xena climb into the trees and moved between them like a natural born Amazon. The bear took the bait and was frustrated that the Warrior was not within reach. Moving through the branches the Warrior made her way far enough to drop back to the ground. This was actually easier than Xena anticipated. With one of her wicked laughs, she ran by the cave and headed towards the passage.

The wait felt like an eternity to Gabrielle and she continued pacing, unable to sit and relax. Suddenly the Warrior crawled through the entrance and was quickly tackled by a tearful Bard. The force knocked them both to the ground with Gabrielle straddling the Warrior. Toris and Bella politely turned away and moved down the passage to give the couple privacy. Xena was laughing and pushed Gabrielle back in order to look in her eyes. "Hey, Iím okay...donít tell me you worried?"

"XENA, if you EVER do that again, I will......."

Boldly Xena pulled her close and pressed her lips against Gabrielleís. The Bard melted at the contact and the pair increased the force of the kiss. It was not soft and tender but rather needy and desperate. Both needed to know the other was okay and the power of the kiss determined the answer. Finally pulling herself back, Xena looked into the green eyes of her soulmate. "Gabrielle.....by the gods I....."

Before the Warrior could finish her declaration of love, the bear was swinging its paw through the hole and Xena rolled taking Gabrielle with her. With Gabrielle on her back Xena jumped and pulled her sword. The bear was too big to get through the entrance. "Come on, letís get out of here." Sheathing her sword, Xena reached down to help Gabrielle up, who wrapped her arms around the Warriorís waist. Hugging the Bard tightly, Xena was overwhelmed by the loyalty of this woman. "I love you Gabrielle...come on letís go."

++++++++++++++++

With the bear growling in the background the foursome made their way back through the passageways and chambers to the main entrance of the cave. Leaving Gabrielle and Bella behind, Xena and her brother ventured out into the open in search of the horses. It seemed like forever before they returned but when they did, they were riding. Carefully the horses were repacked while Toris filled the women in on what was going on outside of the cave.

"Looks like there are more invaders to the east of us. You can see the camp fires and a great number of tracks." Toris was concerned that they could not waste anymore time and needed to move quickly.

Xena insisted Gabrielle ride in front and quickly jumped up behind her. Toris and Bella doubled up and he led them out of the cave and on the path west. Once back on the trail, the Warrior slipped the front of her bearskin coat open and pulled it around Gabrielle. With a small sigh, the young blonde laid back resting in the arms of her Warrior. Several kisses covered her head and the Bard could not help but drift off to sleep knowing she was well protected.

++++++++++++++++

Unable to ride for long periods of time, the foursome stopped frequently for Bella to stretch her legs and answer the call of nature. Gabrielle continued to stay wrapped in Xena arms. The Warrior refused to move her and instead stayed in the saddle enjoying the closeness.

Just as the sun was starting to slip from the sky they arrived in the next village. Many from Torisí village migrated here after the attack by the invaders. Many families were staying with friends and locals who were just willing to help out. As Toris left the inn to bring the bad news to Xena, the innkeeper informed him of an abandoned farmhouse south of the village and suggested they try there. Although not happy about the prospects of bringing his pregnant wife to a place that would not have a warm bed, he realized there were no other choices.

"Wait a minute Toris! You mean to tell me they canít even offer a room for a pregnant woman?" This did not please Xena one bit. Slipping from Argo the Warrior entered the inn. Within a momentís time the Warrior returned with a rather smug look on her face. "We now have two rooms. Gabrielle why donít you get Bella inside and Toris help me with the horses. The innkeeper said we can use his barn behind the inn."

"Xena...what did.."

Gabrielle began to giggle and everyone looked to her apparent humor. "Toris...she probably knows the innkeeper." The Bard slid off of Argo into Xenaís waiting arms. "Someone who you fought with or against? Or wait Ė someone in your army?"

"Hmpf! Very funny Ė you really think you know me that well?" Secretly pleased that Gabrielle did indeed know her, the Warrior pulled her in for a hug before releasing her and grabbing the reins.

With her finger up to her lips and her head slightly tilted, Toris and Bella watched the interplay between Gabrielle and Xena. "Hmmmm.....no...I think this is someone you once helped and they are repaying a debt."

Tossing the blankets and saddlebags into Gabrielleís arms, the Warrior grinned. "Yessssss....you could say it was a debt repaid."

"Gee Gabrielle...you are good at reading my sister!" Bella nudged Toris in the ribs and soon all four were laughing and thankful that Xena knew so many people and had debts she could call in at the right time.

++++++++++++++++

That evening after a hot meal was happily consumed by all, the couples said their goodnights and Xena lead Gabrielle to their room. With the door closed and locked behind them the Warrior ignited the wood in the fireplace and pulled the bedding from the pallet in the room tossing it in front of the dancing fire. Gabrielle watched with curiosity, as Xena lost the aggressive edge in her personality and instead became very soft and tender. Xena knew Gabrielle was watching and the Warrior could feel the passion rising in her body. Realizing that she was preparing a place to explore the body and soul of this woman, Xena hoped that she was not being presumptuous. As soon as these thoughts entered her head she abruptly stopped, knelt back on her knees and looked up into the emerald eyes dancing across the room.

Sensing Xenaís sudden concern, Gabrielle walked over to her Warrior and knelt down in front of her. Tenderly the Bard slid her hands around the base of Xenaís neck and smiled. "I love you Xena." Gently Gabrielle pulled the Warriorís head closer to hers. Brushing the full luscious lips of the Warrior produced sighs of surrender from both women. Just as Xena was about to claim the lips of the tempting woman in her arms, Gabrielle spoke quickly and firmly. "Please...please make love to me."

"Oh....yessss....now and forever my sweet Gabrielle."

As the Warrior pressed her lips gently against the Bardís all fears, all worries, all concerns washed away with the rising flames in the fire. Their bodies and souls became one and the blending sealed their destiny. They were now always and forever bonded in this life and the next. This completed the circle of their life. This love grounded their souls. The passion and intensity of their love was like coming home.

The End


Listings of works by Annmaray Fan Fiction
Return to the Fan Fiction area