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DISCLAIMERS: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Solari, Eponin and other "Xena" characters are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in writing this story. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: None

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: First time romance. This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. Nothing extremely explicit is mentioned. 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.

COMMENTS: I can be reached at annmaray@yahoo.com for comments, suggestions or just because.


Secrets in My Heart
By Annmaray
July 1999

Chapter 1

After stabling Eponinís horse the Amazon Queen and her companion walked down the main road of Terpni, a village located on the eastern boundaries of Amazon territory. The two women decided to stop for the night rather than travel in the dark or the cold night air. Walking to the only available tavern in Terpni the two spoke about the success of their trip to Peponia. The opportunity to reaffirm friendship and continued trading with the villages bordering the Amazon lands to the east was important for the Amazons and Gabrielle was always their best negotiator. Deciding that there was no reason for the Regent to attend and with Xena visiting her mother, Eponin became her companion.

One moon had passed since Xena and Gabrielle assisted an old friend of the Warriorís to defend his land from warlords. Gabrielleís heart broke, when Xena allowed Jason to kiss her. Before they left Gabrielle stayed away attempting to stay busy helping the landownerís servants rebuild the stone walls surrounding the land. Xena stayed at the main house while Gabrielle refused and camped with the servants. The two argued over Gabrielleís decision, however, she was too hurt to stay and watch Jason flirting with Xena. Just as they were leaving the Warrior asked Gabrielle if she would go home with her to visit Cyrene. Gabrielle sent Xena alone informing her that she was instead going to visit the Amazons. When and if Xena was ready to resume their travels, she should come to the village. The Warrior questioned the Bardís reasoning, however Gabrielle refused to discuss it further. Just before they separated Xena asked, "Are you upset with me? Is this about Jason? Gabrielle, please I donít lo....."

Gabrielle interrupted the Warrior before she could finish and held her staff in a defensive position. "No Xena you do whatever you please. I have no hold over you and I only want you to be happy. If Jason can do that for you...then go back to him. Maybe it is time I got out of your way." With that she spun around and walked away fully aware that Xena saw the tears pooling in her eyes. The Warrior never followed her and Gabrielleís heart continued to break apart. Crushed that Xena did not call out for her and angry over her own jealousy the Bard increased the gait of her walk placing distance between them. Once Gabrielle was sure she was out of sight she slid into the bushes and cried.

Not exactly the best tavern in town to find rest Eponin began to regret that she agreed with her Queen to stay here. As they tried to enter through the door several drunks were coming out bumping into the women. Fortunately they were able to shove the drunks out of the way fairly easy. Upon entering the tavern they discovered that it was extremely crowded with all walks of life both men and women. The dark hair Amazon suggested they get a drink and ask for a room.

While waiting to be served the Amazons noticed a huge commotion in the very far corner of the tavern. Standing in front of the bar Eponin ordered them each a mug of ale. Gabrielle paid the bartender and nodded to the old man. "What is going on over in the corner."

The barkeep smiled, picked up the dinars and responded with laughter. "Oh just a bet."

Peaking Eponinís curiosity she asked, "What kind of bet?"

"First one to win an arm wrestling match against the Warrior Princess gets to bed her."

Gabrielle spit her ale across the bar and started coughing. Patting Gabrielle on the back, Eponin realized that this was not good. She knew Gabrielle was in love with Xena and this could do nothing but hurt the Queenís heart. "You okay Gabrielle?"

Without being asked the bartender added that Xena was charging three dinars to fight her and so far no one had beaten her.

"Three dinars, why in Hades is she charging?" An extremely unhappy Bard was crushed that her Warrior would agree to bed anyone that beat her. Even though Gabrielle reminded herself that she had no claim over Xena, she was just so in love with the Warrior that anytime she either took an interest in someone or was looking for physical satisfaction Gabrielle found it devastating.

"Oh, someone will eventually win and be fortunate enough to make love to that absolutely gorgeous, sexy woman. She is drinking, and sooner or later her strength will give out." The bartender excused himself to take care of other customers yelling for drinks.

Pushing away from the bar Gabrielle grabbed her gear and followed the bartenderís wife upstairs to their room. Eponin joined her attempting to reason with her Queen. "Gabrielle, go over and let her know you are here. Maybe sheíll stop when she sees you."

"No, Eponin. I have no claim on her. She can do as she pleases. I will not stand in her way." A short time later Gabrielle and Eponin returned to the main room ordering two mugs of ale. Deciding to find a better location than the bar to watch the contest, Gabrielle picked up her mug of ale and moved to a table in a darker corner. Sitting next to Xena was Ephiny and Solari. Both appeared to be drinking but not yet drunk. The two friends sat in silence watching Xena defeat one opponent after the next. Between challenges she would rest a short period. Occasionally the Warrior would converse with Ephiny or Solari but for the most part she was quiet.

*By the gods, I miss you Gabrielle. I canít believe I acted like such a fool with Jason. I have to talk to you and explain....this secret locked in my heart is too strong to control.* Xena knew that the only one she would ever love was Gabrielle. Men and women could pop in and out of her life but none came close to her young Bard. When the opportunity to bed Jason was there, she refused. Xena wanted no one to touch her but Gabrielle. Totally and hopelessly in love with this young woman from Poteidaia, her mother told her she needed to be honest. Cyrene explained to her daughter that love depends on honesty and if Xena was deeply in love with Gabrielle, then she needed to tell her. Gulping down the rest of her ale the Warrior was distracted by another challenger and more ale.

About three candlemarks passed and Eponin guessed the Warrior must have close to 90 dinars in winnings. So far no one had beaten her. Suddenly Ephiny stood and for no apparent reason began laughing and fell back to her chair. Solari decided to stand and announced that the fee to fight Xena would go up to five dinars and a new element would be added. Broken obsidian was placed on both sides of the tabletop. The loser would find the back of his or her hand crushed into scattered volcanic glass. All challengers would have the opportunity to forfeit before hitting the glass and the Warrior would honor them all. At first no one challenged Xena and she along with her two Amazon friends continued to drink. Eventually the Warrior had five different challengers. Each lost; only two had their hands cut on the obsidian.

All this accomplished was to fuel Gabrielleís temper. "Eponin, lets go."

Eponin thought they were leaving until Gabrielle headed in the wrong direction. Determined and irritated the Bard walked directly to Xenaís table and stood in front of her with her arms crossed. Ephiny and Solari slurred their hellos and mumbled words that the Bard was not interested in hearing. Xena just looked up at Gabrielle, raised her eyebrow seductively and smiled. *You are so beautiful my young friend.* The Warrior could feel her heart racing and she was happy to see Gabrielle. "Hi, Iíve missed you." Gabrielle sat down in the chair opposite Xena and slammed five dinars on the table. Leaning forward and twitching nervously in her chair Xena realized Gabrielle appeared angry and was challenging her. "Iím not fighting you Gabrielle."

"Why?" Was all Gabrielle would ask Xena at this point.

"Because....thatís why." This was not like Gabrielle to challenge her. The Warrior desired the young woman in front of her more than anyone in her entire life. The dinars she was earning were to buy supplies for a trip up north. Gabrielle always wanted to celebrate the winter solitise in the snow. Xena planned on granting Gabrielleís wish in hopes that this would show the Bard how deeply she loved her. Never surrendering completely to anyone the Warrior was willing to surrender her heart and life to this young woman sitting across from her. However, she did not want to make love to Gabrielle when she was drunk or as a result of a bet. *Why my beautiful Bard are you challenging me. You know you canít win.*

"XENA, you are not answering my question. Because...is not an answer."

"Gabrielle stop this, I am not bedding.....I mean fighting you."

This slip of the tongue not only caught Gabrielleís attention but the attention of everyone standing close by. Now Gabrielle could be sure that Xena wanted nothing more from her than a friendship. Fully aware that she could not beat the Warrior, Gabrielle decided after this contest she would walk away from the Warrior's life. *I can't be just a friend anymore. The pain in my heart hurts too badly knowing I can never have you completely.*

An irritated Eponin took advantage of the slip and yelled out so the crowd would hear. "Xena, are you afraid the Amazon Queen may win?" This drew the attention of the entire tavern and people began to hover closer. Within moments men and women alike started to urge Xena to accept the challenge. Additional betting began to exchange hands. There would be no backing out of this one for the Warrior.

A slap on the back by Ephiny pulled Xena from her observations and the Regent shouted out the rules of play. "The rules are as follows my Queen. Elbows must stay on the table. Free hand must stay behind your back looped in your waistband. No lifting off your chair to apply added pressure. First hand touching the obsidian or shouting forfeit obviously looses.

"Move the obsidian." The Warrior ordered this knowing full well that Gabrielle would never forfeit. Gabrielle tilted her head raising her eyebrows while a determined and angry expression crossed her face. Xena wanted to reach over and kiss her.

"NO! No favors, no special treatment. I will challenge you just like everyone else."

Several in the crowd yelled in agreement with the Amazon Queen. "No forfeiting!"

Looking directly into the blue sapphire eyes that so captivated Gabrielle she added. "Donít do me any favors Xena. If I loose, I will walk away. And if I win, well I would never force you to make lov...." Gabrielle stopped in mid sentence in order to collect the proper words. "Xena, either way you will win. I will not call in the bet, if I should win." Eponin moved to Gabrielleís right and Ephiny stood on the left. Placing her elbow on the table ready for the match the Warrior grabbed her hand and Solari guided their arms into position.

Leaning in Xena could smell Amazon leather and beauty of her Bard. "Gabrielle, please donít do this. I donít want to hurt you. Letís just end this now and go somewhere to talk."

Unable to stop the sadness eating at her heart the Bard closed her eyes tightly to choke back the tears and before Xena could reach out, the tears slid from her eyes. Opening her tear filled eyes she pushed on Xenaís hand. Caught off guard the Warrior submitted to the force, however, reflexes caught the Bardís surprising strength before her hand could hit the obsidian. Confused at first Xena knew in her heart that Gabrielle did not expect to win this contest and held her easily from pushing further. "I refuse to let you get hurt my sweet Bard. We can work this out." There was no response from Gabrielle and Xena decided she would throw the fight. Her musings cost her focus and suddenly Gabrielleís arm went limp and the force Xena had applied to stop Gabrielle worked against her and she forced her Bardís arm to the loosing side of the table. Eponin observing the emotions and eye contact between the women saw both pain and stubbornness. The Amazon also surveyed the tension in the muscles and watched the strength drain from her Queenís arm. Setting her hand out quickly Eponin managed to catch her Queenís fist. This caused the Amazon to take the obsidian into the back of her hand. The patrons roared with cheers and excitement. No one complained that Eponin saved the Queenís hand. It was understood that these Amazons gave up their life for their Queen. Gabrielle and Xena were shocked.

"EPONIN Ė youíre hurt!! Oh...gods, Iím so sorry." Gabrielle quickly grabbed hold of the Amazonís hand and stood. "Please forgive me Eponin...if I wasnít so jealous...Iíd have never.."

The Bard words were interrupted when she felt Xenaís hand on her shoulder. "You...you were jealous? But why?"

An intoxicated Solari slapped Xena on the back getting her attention. "Come on Xena, sheís in love with you. Hades, donít you know that. You let some guy kiss you and you donít think that isnít going to tear her apart!!"

By the time Xena turned her head to look back Gabrielle had pulled away from Xenaís grip and was leading Eponin up the stairs to her room. Ephiny ran to the bar to secure bandages and healing supplies while Xena pushed through the crowd to follow. Unfortunately too many patrons claimed her attention with desires to congratulate her success. The affects of the ale had long since worn off. By the time she got to the stairs Gabrielle was out of sight. Jumping the stairs three at a time her heart was pounding through her chest and her only thoughts were Solariís words that Gabrielle was in love with her. Without knocking she pushed the door opened to find her Bard washing Eponinís hand. "Eponin, Iím sorry. Let me help, please." Nether woman said anything but Eponin smiled and waved her over.

Gabrielle would not look up at Xena and kept busy washing the pieces of obsidian from the Amazonís hand. The Warrior was overwhelmed by how gentle her touch was. Over time Gabrielle had learned a number of healing techniques and Xena was proud of her. As the volcanic glass and blood mixed with the water it became apparent that several stitches would be needed near the knuckle and wrist. Ephiny was soon behind them with healing supplies. Xena threaded the needle. Gabrielle moved out of the way allowing Xena to stitch the hand. The Regent pulled her Queen aside. "You okay Gabrielle?" Not waiting for a response she continued. "Talk to Xena, will you. Tell her you love her. She really needs to hear it from you not one of us."

Gabrielle moved to the door. "Ephiny my jealousy caused Eponin to get hurt and I only served to show Xena that I am unworthy of her love. So please do not push me." The Queen returned to Eponinís side and lovingly rubbed her back while Xena continued to stitch. "Will you be okay?"

The Amazon bent over kissing her Queen on the top of the head. "Yes, why donít you get some rest."

Without further words Gabrielle walked out of the room. Eponin looked up at Xena who was struggling to keep control. "You have to talk to her Xena." The Warrior just nodded her head and a tear slipped from her eye.

~~ ~ ~~~~~~~ ~ ~~

Chapter 2

Once she left the room Gabrielle realized she had no where to go. Everyone was already in her room. Unable to stay there the Queen went back into the main room of the tavern directly pass the whistles and suggestive comments out into the cold night air of the winter season. Traveling at night without a cloak was not wise and since all her belongings including her staff were back in the tavern in the same room she just left the Bard decided not to return for them. The impact of her foolishness in challenging Xena caught up with her and she ran out of the village with no destination in mind.

Not positive how long she ran, the burning sensation in her lungs and the cramping in her side forced Gabrielle to stop. Leaning up against a tree she realized she had no idea where she was. The full moon fortunately supplied some light for her to at least see outlines of trees and rocks. Overheated from running the Bard did not feel the temperature in the night air becoming colder. Cursing she turned around attempting to retrace her steps. After several moments the sound of running water filled the silence. *Iím lost.* Following the sound of the water the Bard could soon see the moonlight shimmering off the stream. Kneeling down she scooped water in her hand and began to feel the coolness of the night.

By the time Xena finished bandaging Eponin and apologized for agreeing to the match with Gabrielle, the two Amazons were already sleeping on the bed. "Go find her Xena. She has been hurting ever since she came to the Amazon Village. Iíll bunk here with our drunken warriors and pray they have massive hangovers tomorrow." Both Xena and Eponin chuckled over the possibility of torturing the two women the next morning.

The Warrior quickly checked her room hoping to find Gabrielle sleeping; she was not there. *Maybe she went back downstairs.* Believing that talking to herself might keep her calm the Warrior returned to the main room of the tavern. The cold kept most people in and for longer periods of time. It took awhile to scan every corner and move through the standing crowd. It was now passed midnight and the tavern was packed. Making her way to the bar Xena asked the owner if he had seen the Queen. The old man indicated he had not. Eventually the Warrior wondered if Gabrielle left the tavern. Returning to her room she grabbed her cloak and stopped in to see how Eponin was doing. All three women were asleep. Xena left them alone and headed out into the night deciding to check the stables and then the temple belonging to Artemis located on the outskirts of the village.

The cold air was invading Gabrielleís body too quickly. Her running only made matters worse and she found herself shivering. Believing that walking might keep her warm the Bard moved away from the stream. Looking at the moon she could see that it was moving to the west, which meant the village, would be somewhere in the opposite direction. Gabrielle was not sure how long she walked but the cold became painful and she found her eyes becoming heavy. Slapping her face and body several times she finally saw candlelights burning in various window through the village. Struggling to walk she said a prayer of thanks to Hermes for guiding her way.

Concern turned to fear when the Warrior did not find Gabrielle in the stables or the temple. Returning to the tavern Xena prayed she might have missed the Bard in her search. First checking her room only to find it empty the Warrior returned to her Amazon friends. Standing in the doorway listening to the women snoring, Xenaís fears turned to panic and she woke the three Amazons rather abruptly.

Pounding headaches did not stop Ephiny or Solari from jumping to their feet. Immediately they regretted getting drunk and ignoring their Queen. Eponin also got ready and within a short time the four women bolted out of the tavern.

Slowly approaching them was Gabrielle. It was very obvious that she was sluggish and shivering. In her concern and fear the Warrior rushed to her. "Gabrielle....gods....youíre freezing." Opening her cloak she pulled Gabrielle to her body and wrapped her arms around the young woman bringing the cloak with her.

As soon as Gabrielle felt the heat from Xenaís body, she was automatically drawn in. Leaning her head under Xenaís chin with her arms tucked in front of her Gabrielle allowed the strength from her beautiful Warrior to wrap her into a loving and protective cocoon.

The Amazonís smiled at Xena who was burying her face into the blonde hair and returned to the tavern. Feeling her Bard shivering Xena led her inside the tavern. The bartender was already aware, having followed the running Amazons out the door. "Warrior, come to the back room. I have some hot tea and a warm fire waiting."

Thanking the old man Xena followed him keeping Gabrielle close to her body. Not wanting to let go of her young companion the Warrior moved to the fire. Removing her cloak she kept it covering Gabrielle. Accepting the hot tea from the bartenderís wife Xena held the cup to Gabrielleís lips. "Here, drink this. Itís hot so be careful." Allowing the Warrior to hold the cup Gabrielle took several sips of the tea. "Why donít you sit down."

Gabrielle stared into the fire too ashamed to look Xena in the eye. Sensing that the Warrior was looking directly at her, Gabrielle glanced up at the one person who consumed her thoughts and dreams. Unable to stop shivering Xena again offered the tea. This time Gabrielle took the cup in her hands and within moments drank the entire content. Handing the cup back to Xena the Bard mumbled a thank you. Placing the cup to the side Xena closed the distance between them and opened the front of the cloak. Reaching for her hand the Warrior sat in the rocking chair and pulled Gabrielle to her lap. Using the cloak as a blanket, Xena hoped her body temperature, the cloak and the fire would help warm her friend. No words were exchanged, as Xena held Gabrielle and the young woman began to relax. Holding her close Xena began rocking the chair and humming softly. Well aware that Gabrielle loved to hear her humming or singing the Warrior was pleased when Gabrielle slid one arm around her waist and slipped the second one around her neck. Gabrielle then laid her head on the Warriorís shoulder so she could burrow her face into Xenaís neck. Each breathed in the comfort and love coming from the other. Slowly the Queen began to warm up.

Without warning Xena felt tender lips kissing her neck and a whispering voice. "I love you Xena."

Lifting Gabrielleís chin Xena found soft melting green eyes staring directly through her on the only path to her soul. This young woman managed to capture not only the heart and spirit of the Warrior but also her soul. "Gabrielle....I....I love you like no other. By the gods you mean everything to me." Taking a chance and praying she was not rushing Xena tipped her head and brushed her lips to Gabrielleís. The kiss quickly was more than Gabrielle had ever dreamed of and she could not control the moaning that slipped from her throat. The Warrior interpreted this as permission to continue. Kissing Gabrielle was everything she hoped it would be and more. Separating her lips Xena felt the heated passion of Gabrielleís tongue probing and searching for a deeper kiss. The Warrior responded with a need that pulled from deep within her body. Breaking away she heard Gabrielle groan and protest. "Can I touch you Gabrielle. Can I...." Seductive lips stopped all words coming from Xena. Her Bard was adventurous and slipped her hands around Xenaís breasts, which elicited a throaty moan from the Warrior. Pushing her anxious lover away she whispered between the continuous light kissing claiming her lips. "Letís move." Finding several blankets in the room Xena threw them on the floor in front of the fire. Gabrielle needed no encouragement and was quickly on top of the raven hair beauty.

The bartender hearing the moaning smiled and hung a sign from the doorknob. His wife grinned at him, read the sign and stood on her toes to kiss her husband. "Hmmm....do not disturb Ė nice touch dear." The Warrior and her young lover spent the remainder of the night discovering how deep their love for each other truly went.

Chapter 3

Sunrise came too soon for Xena and Gabrielle. Sleep was unimportant and the need to touch and taste the other took precedence. The Warrior was overwhelmed with the passion her young lover displayed and Gabrielle managed to satisfy Xena in ways she never though possible. In a matter of several candlemarks the Warrior found herself exhausted. Gabrielle found she could not get enough of Xena. Her taste, her smells, her groaning, the way Xena brought Gabrielle to exotic places physically and emotionally served to capture the young womanís heart. As the lovers lay embracing each other, they could see the sunrise through the window.

"Xena?"

"Mmmm, yes Gabrielle."

"Why were you charging money to arm wrestle?"

Rubbing her fingers through the gorgeous blonde hair the Warrior thought before speaking. "Well, if you will answer a question for me, then Iíll tell you." Gabrielle agreed so Xena continued. "I was earning enough dinars to take you north for winter solstice. There is a small cabin up north that my mother owns and as long as I can supply it and provide warm clothing, I want to take you up there."

Leaning up on her elbow the young blonde kissed her Warrior lightly on the lips. "Just you and me?"

"Yessss, would you like that." Gabrielle giggled and began pouring kisses all over Xena. "Wait, now for my question. How long have you been in love with me?"

Beautiful sea green eyes took on that puppy look softness and melted the Warrior instantly. Fiddling with the braids in Xenaís hair Gabrielle smiled. "Iíve always loved you Xena. Ever since I saw you the first time.....Iíve always loved you and it only gets stronger. Is that okay. Can I love you forever?"

Sliding her hands around Gabrielleís neck she pulled her in for a cherished kiss. "Yes my Bard, it is okay with me. You know, some day I am going to marry you. Is that okay?"

"Yes my Warrior.....oh yes."

 

The End

Annmaray@yahoo.com


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