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HANGINí WITH THE HARLOTS
by AztecAmazon

 

Disclaimers: Characters Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Eponin, Solari, Melosa, etc. are owned by MCA/Universal. I am not making a profit from this and do not intend to infringe on the rights of the owners of "Xena: Warrior Princess" in any way.

Contains violence, mature subject matter, language which some may find offensive, and depicts a loving, sexual relationship between two women. If any of this bothers you, if you are under the age of 18, or if this type of material is illegal where you live, perhaps you should skip this.

Iíd like to dedicate this story to my wife. Thank you so much for supporting me in my efforts, for enthusiastically taking the time to read every line I write. But, most of all, thank you for sharing your life, your love, and your dreams with me. Youíve made me a very happy woman and I adore you.

Please send any comments to
aztecamazon@yahoo.com

This story is meant to pick up just after Ephiny gives Gabrielle her staff in the episode "Hooves and Harlots."

(c)1999

 

The bard stared down at the staff she held in her hands and then lifted her eyes. The hard lines on Ephinyís face faded as a friendly smile curled the corners of her mouth and somehow the stalwart Amazon didnít seem quite so unapproachable. Deeply moved by the gesture, Gabrielle threw her arms around the unsuspecting womanís neck. "Thank you. Thank you so much," she sighed in Ephinyís ear.

The Amazon reflexively raised her arm, pressing the palm of her hand against the small of the young bardís back before quickly pulling away. "Youíre welcome, princess," she winked and then coolly turned and headed toward the hut she shared with Solari.

Gabrielleís gaze fixed on the approaching Amazon. Though she didnít mean to, the new Amazon Princess found herself gawking at the womanís bulging biceps. "That staff means a lot to her," Eponin addressed the bard. "I think she was impressed by the way you handled yourself on the battlefield today. Well done. Iím sure Terreis would have been proud of the stance you took against Krykusí men," the Amazon extended her right arm. Gabrielle gripped the womanís wrist and smiled, still mesmerized by her muscular form. The same ripples in her powerful arms extended through her shoulders and across her chest, making their way to her midriff and down her legs. Before her visit to the Amazon village, the bard didnít know it was possible for a woman to look so robust.

"Gabrielle...," the warriorís voice interrupted her evaluation of the Amazonís physique. "Melosa would like to see both of us in the queenís hut. Nice staff," she added.

"Thanks. It was a gift from Ephiny," the bard beamed.

"Yeah, I know," Xena mumbled and picked up her pace as the two made their way toward the large hut in the center of the village.

"You wanted to see us, Melosa?," the warrior dipped her head slightly and stood in the doorway next to the princess.

"Xena. Gabrielle. Come in," the queen beckoned with a wave of her hand. She swiveled in the tall bamboo chair on which she was seated and popped a grape into her mouth. "Xena, because of you, my Amazons and the Centaurs across the river are no longer adversaries. In addition, your efforts are responsible for the prevention of an all-out war," she glanced down for a moment and then raised her head high. "I want to thank you on behalf of the Amazon Nation. There will be a feast in your honor tomorrow at sunset and Iíd like to extend an invitation to you and Gabrielle. Would you consider staying here with us for a couple of days? The guest hut has already been prepared."

Xena caught a glimpse of the bard out of the corner of her eye and, judging by the eager look on her companionís face, she wanted to stick around for a while. "Yes. Weíd be honored," the warrior accepted, sparking a huge smile on Gabrielleís face.

"Karrah," Melosa snapped her fingers and the Amazon instantly appeared at her side. "Show Xena to the guest hut," she instructed. "I need to have a word with the princess," her dark eyes shifted to the bard. The warrior followed Karrah out the door, leaving Gabrielle alone with the queen. "Gabrielle...," a serious expression washed over Melosaís face when she began to speak. "Have a seat," she gestured toward a small wooden chair against the wall. The bard lowered herself onto the cushioned seat and listened intently as the queen spoke. "I wanted to tell you that I was pleased with you today. Iíve heard several women say that they were impressed, albeit surprised, by your boldness on the battlefield," she suddenly fell silent, averting her eyes for a moment before returning her gaze. "I loved my sister. She was a strong, loyal, courageous, and all-too-inquisitive Amazon. And if there was good to be found in a person, she was always the one to discover it. I believe thatís why she gave you her right of caste. She didnít look at you---but through you. And, when she did, she saw something in you---something below the surface. I trust my sisterís judgment and Iím grateful to you for trying to save her life. If you pay attention and make it your mission to learn the Amazon ways, Iím sure youíll be a successful leader," she smiled slightly upon finishing her spiel.

"Th..thank you," the young princess stammered, flattered by the queenís compliment. "May I?," she reached out, her hand dangling in the air just above the bowl full of grapes.

"Help yourself," Melosa suppressed a chuckle and watched the bard stuff her jaws with fruit.

The warrior stepped inside the guest hut, pleasantly surprised by the tray of assorted edibles on the table next to the window. "Is there anything else I can do for you?," Karrah inquired, heading back to the queenís hut when Xena insisted that she had everything she needed.

The warrior pulled up a chair and sat down at the table, nibbling on the fresh bread and nuts. When her stomach was full, she leaned back until the chair was balanced on two legs and took a long swig from her water skin. Without warning, the door flew upon and the startled warrior lost her balance. The chair tipped backwards sending her crashing to the floor with a resounding thud. "I didnít mean to frighten you," Ephiny stared down at the woman, trying not to laugh at the sight of the warrior lying flat on her back with her feet in the air.

"Amazons donít know how to knock?," Xena grumbled, wrestling with the chair. "Whatís so funny?!," she demanded, taking note of the obnoxious grin plastered on the Amazonís face.

Ephiny reached down, offering to help the warrior to her feet. Xena accepted her hand and pulled herself up, brushing at her leathers which were now soaked. "Figures Iíd have my water skin in my hand," Xena mumbled under her breath. "Itís not funny!," she squawked, causing the Amazonís already huge grin to expand.

"Whatís not funny?," the bard appeared at the door, stepping over the threshold.

"Oh...nothing," Xena insisted, glancing at the Amazon.

"Did Xena tell you weíll be staying here for a couple of days?," Gabrielle enthusiastically asked Ephiny. The Amazon nodded.

"Maybe Eponin will work with me on my staff technique," the bard chimed, clinging to the staff the Amazon had given her earlier.

"Thatís not a bad idea," Ephiny answered. "And, while youíre at it, you might want to learn how to handle additional weapons," she suggested.

"I kind of like the cross bow," Gabrielle appeared to be deep in thought. "But then again, Iíve always wanted to learn how to use a bow and arrow," she deliberated out loud. The warrior shook her head and planted herself on the bed, reclining on the soft down bedcover.

After listening to the bard rattle on for a few moments, the Amazon excused herself and headed back to her hut, leaving the warrior and the new princess to get some rest.

********************

The bard moved next to the warrior and reached out to help her remove her armor. "Youíre wet," she noted, assisting Xena off with her soaked leathers.

"Mmm hmm," the warrior muttered, not offering an explanation.

Gabrielle slid the straps off her companionís shoulders and lowered the garment to the warriorís waist and over her hips. She focused on well-defined calves as Xena stepped out of her clothing. The bard watched her bend over to pick up the discarded garment, her eyes locked on the warriorís exquisite form, feasting on the sight of her sculptured backside. Gods, how she longed to touch her.

"Do I have a clean shift?," Xena turned to face the bard.

"Umm...yeah...thereís one in the...," distracted by the sight of the warriorís naked body, Gabrielle quickly turned away and picked up a saddlebag. After rummaging through the satchel for a moment, she found a deep blue shift which she handed to her friend.

"Thanks," Xena uttered, pulling the shift over her head. Gabrielle watched the fabric glide over the enticing flesh. Suddenly, she felt incredibly warm, her cheeks on fire as her face flushed pinkish-red.

"I...Iím going to go for a walk," the bard announced, grabbing her staff and heading out the door.

The warrior stretched out on the bed, her hands behind her head, staring up at the wooden rafters which supported the hut. Gabrielleís an Amazon princess, she thought to herself. Sheís changed so much since I met her. The naive girl from the sleepy little village isnít a girl anymore. Somewhere along the line she became a woman, though Iím not sure exactly when it happened. She surprised me when she threw herself on Terreis the way she did--risking life and limb in an effort to save someone she didnít even know. But I guess I shouldnít be surprised. Gabrielleís one of the most selfless people Iíve ever met.

The bard made her way through the thick underbrush, looking up at the twinkling stars as she shuffled through the woods. When she found a clearing, she leaned her treasured staff against a tree and lowered herself to the ground. Sitting with her legs crossed, she began to study her new attire, running her fingers over the soft fabric. Thoughts of Terreis entered her mind and, as she looked down at the velvety clothing which had once belonged to the departed Amazon, she wondered what the woman had been like. Staring up at the full moon which illuminated the night sky, she wished she had been able to save her.

When she had been in the woods for nearly a candlemark, the bard rose to her feet and headed back to the guest hut. Closing the door behind her, she quietly crossed the room and retrieved her shift from her saddlebag. She changed quickly and crawled onto the bed next to the sleeping warrior. Xena mumbled something incomprehensible and then shifted her body, draping her arm across the bardís chest. Gabrielle sighed and placed her hand on the warriorís forearm, gently caressing the skin with the tips of her fingers as she drifted into sleep.

********************

The bard woke before her companion. Unable to tear herself away from the warm body next to her, she remained still, her eyes fixed on Xenaís radiant face. The warrior opened her eyes slightly and Gabrielle whispered "good morning." "Morning," her friend mumbled and snuggled close to her, closing her eyes again. The bard could feel her warm breath tickling her cheek and the curves of her breasts against her side. Her stomach fluttered in response. She had never been so close to the warrior. But she liked the way it felt. In fact, she realized she liked it too much.

A knock at the door interrupted the moment, startling the bard and waking the warrior. Xena climbed over Gabrielle, sending a tremor through the bardís body, and drowsily stumbled to the door. "I hope I didnít wake you," Eponin greeted her when she opened the door.

"Itís alright. I overslept. I hate it when I do that," Xena grumbled, inviting the Amazon inside with a motion of her hand.

"Good morning, princess," Eponin grinned at Gabrielle who was slowly crawling out of bed, her hair standing on end. "I thought we could continue your weaponry lessons after breakfast if you want," the Amazon offered.

The bard glanced at the staff in the corner and a sleepy smile moved across her lips. "Yes, Iíd like that," she happily agreed.

"Iíll meet you in the field in one candlemark," Eponin returned her smile. "See you later, Xena," she added and took her leave.

Xena got dressed and then sat down in a chair next to the table, tugging at her boots. Gabrielle, now dressed and ready to head to the dining hut, stared curiously at the warrior. "Whatís wrong?," she asked.

"Nothing, Gabrielle," Xena responded gruffly, her tone suggesting that she was annoyed. The bard looked puzzled. Why did she seem so irritable all of a sudden?

"Xena, whatís bothering you?," the fair-haired woman pressed.

The warrior finished lacing her boots and sat upright in the chair. Realizing that she had snapped at the bard, she took in a deep breath and attempted to reassure her. "Gabrielle, nothingís wrong. Everythingís fine," she said through a warm smile.

The princess, convinced that Xena was just grouchy, returned the smile and the two headed outside into the brilliant sunlight.

********************

When they had finished their morning meal, Gabrielle set out for the field where Eponin was waiting. "Sorry if Iím a little late," the princess approached the athletic Amazon who stood in the center of the field twirling a staff with one hand.

"Thatís ok. Shall we get to work?," the bright sun forced her to squint her eyes as she spoke.

"Iím ready," the bard responded enthusiastically, holding her staff at the ready.

"Actually...," the Amazon reached over and pried the staff from Gabrielleís hands. "I thought we would work on something else today," she knelt on one knee and emptied the contents of the bulky satchel at the bardís feet.

"Wh...whatís this?," she asked, taking inventory of the items lying in the grass---sticks, feathers, string, and a few arrowheads.

"I thought Iíd teach you how to use a bow and arrow," the Amazon answered. "But first, we have to make the weapons."

Gabrielle stared at the objects lying on the ground. Her brow crinkled. "Ok! Show me how!," she cheerfully exclaimed, eager to learn something new.

The two women sat facing each other with their legs crossed. At first, the bard was awkward, unable to get her fingers to do what she wanted them to do. But, before long, the new princess had managed to string the bow and feather an arrow or two. "I did it! See!," she held up an arrow for Eponin to inspect. The Amazon managed to conceal the grin which threatened to reveal itself on her lips. She liked Gabrielleís spirited demeanor. In a village full of restrained tongues and impassive expressions, it was refreshing to witness such animated spunk. "Now letís see if it works," she stood and the bard followed suit.

The Amazon moved behind the young princess, reaching around her compact frame in an effort to teach the novice how to hold the bow correctly. She explained the art of stance, aim, and the tension of the string. The bard listened attentively, but in reality she was more interested in the tautness of her mentorís muscles, rippling through her arms with each movement. She felt the Amazonís body against her back---rock-hard flesh pressing firmly against the length of her body. She let Eponin take control of her arm, wrap her fingers around her own and slowly pull back on the string. When the arrow was finally released, the bard watched it soar through the air toward the target in the distance. "Bullís eye," the Amazon said through a wry grin when the arrow hit its mark dead on. Gabrielle jumped up and down in jubilant celebration, throwing her arms around Eponinís neck. The Amazon chuckled at the princessí enthusiasm.

Xena stood at the edge of the field and watched the two women cavorting in the tall grass. She felt the wave of jealousy swell in her chest before it coursed through the rest of her body. "Something wrong?," Ephiny shuffled through the grass and stood next to the warrior.

"What makes you think somethingís wrong?!," Xena snapped.

The answer was plain to the Amazon---yes, something was definitely gnawing at the warrior. She shifted her gaze back and forth from the two women in the center of the field to the one standing beside to her. Raising an eyebrow, she decided to press her luck. "Youíve got a thing for her, donít you?"

"A thing? For who? Gabrielle?," Xena tried to sound surprised by the assumption.

"Mmm hmm," the Amazon nodded.

"Wh...what makes you think that?"

"Give me one reason I shouldnít think that," Ephiny challenged.

The warrior stared down at her boots, sifting her feet through the emerald turf. "Youíve got an overactive imagination, Ephiny. Why donít you just mind your own business," she griped.

"What if I told you Iím making you my business?," the Amazon moved in close, pressing her body against the warrior.

Xena looked down at the Amazonís ample bosoms pressing against her breastplate. Though she tried not to show it, the warrior was tempted by the obvious proposition. After a brief moment, she tore her eyes away from the tantalizing vision and focused on the two women in the distance. Gabrielle was fawning all over Eponin! Unable to watch the bard drooling over another woman any longer, she hastily turned and stomped toward the woods.

"Youíre not getting off that easy," Ephiny stated loudly, gripping Xenaís arm, giving it a jerk that spun the warriorís body with a powerful jolt.

The warrior yanked her arm away from the Amazon and trekked into the trees in a huff. Ephiny persisted and followed her, backing her into a tree when she finally managed to catch up. "Donít tell me youíve forgotten already...," she snarled suggestively, her lips a thumbís distance from the warriorís.

"I havenít forgotten anything, Ephiny. Yes, we have a past. I acknowledge that. Now will you stop badgering me?," she grumbled and broke free of the Amazonís grasp.

"Not until you admit that you enjoyed our...past," Ephiny insisted. "You saunter onto Amazon territory---my territory and act like you donít even know me. Thanks to our mutual desire to find the bastard who was responsible for Tarreisí death, we managed to be cordial for a few candlemarks. But, frankly Xena, thatís not enough for me. You walked out on me," she stared angrily at the warrior. "I deserve an explanation," she folded her arms over her chest waited for a response.

Xena saw a fire blazing in the Amazonís eyes. The warriorís thoughts ripped through the seams of time, digressing backward by five summers. She was a warlord in search of slaves. Her army had invaded Amazon territory and Ephiny was one of the women captured. Xena was instantly smitten by the Amazon with the golden tresses and the brazen tongue. She immediately appointed the woman as her personal slave and set about trying to break her. However, it didnít take the warlord long to figure out that this Amazon couldnít be broken. She would have died first and Xena knew it. Not wanting to waste the life of such an intriguing woman, she began to treat her as a companion rather than a slave. The two women grew close---even attached to one another. When Xena decided to offer Ephiny her freedom, the young Amazon refused, determined to reform the ruthless warlord. It didnít take long for the two to become lovers. Xena left her army for a while and retreated to a remote cave with the Amazon. There they hibernated for days, talking for candlemarks at a time and making love when their voices grew weary. But the warlordís heart was too dark. The blackness shrouding her soul wouldnít allow her to hole up in a cave with a beautiful woman who worshipped the ground on which she walked. She didnít deserve anyoneís admiration---didnít need anyoneís affection. So she left without warning---crept out of the cave in the middle of the night while the Amazon was fast asleep. Without looking back, the warlord returned to her army and resumed her position as Destroyer of Nations. Ephinyís heart was broken. She vowed never again to invest so much trust in another human being and so far...she had been true to her word.

The warrior shook her head as though she was trying to cast the disturbing images out of her mind. "Iím waiting for an answer, Xena," the Amazon sternly reminded her. But the warrior didnít know what to say. She felt bad about what she had done. Like many of her past misdeeds, this one haunted her from time to time. She thought she would never see Ephiny again and, when she and Gabrielle ran into the Amazon and Terreis in the forest, she nearly tumbled right off Argoís back.

Growing annoyed by the warriorís silence, Ephiny pointedly inquired, "Does Gabrielle know about our sorted past?"

"No, she doesnít," Xena replied uneasily. "And Iíd like to keep it that way."

"Ashamed of me, are you?," the Amazon quipped.

"You know Iím not ashamed of...what we had," the warrior looked hurt.

"Then why havenít you told her? Why hide it from her? Since you too are so tight," she snarled sarcastically, sounding as though she wanted to rip the warrior to shreds with her teeth. The Amazon then turned away and stood in silence with her back to her former lover. When she finally turned to face her again, she moved with slow strides toward her. Without waiting for permission, she grabbed the warrior and pulled her in for a long, probing kiss. Xena, overwhelmed with the emotions of both the past and the present, briefly yielded to the Amazon.

When the kiss ended, Ephiny searched the warriorís glassy eyes. She had never seen Xena so close to tears and it moved her. Her hands gently resting on Xenaís cheeks, she cupped her face in her hands and took in a deep breath. "Xena...," she spoke softly. "I know you love her. I can see it in your eyes."

"Ephiny I..."

The Amazon cut her off, "Consider that a kiss goodbye---the one you never gave me before you left all those summers ago." She swallowed hard, choking on the lump in her throat as she forced a bitter-sweet smile.

Xena drew the woman to her and held her tight. After a moment, Ephiny withdrew and grinned at the warrior. "Iím still waiting for your confession," she stated, standing with her hands on her hips.

Xena looked confused. "You are in love with her, arenít you?," the Amazon clarified.

The warrior deliberated for a moment, averting her eyes to the sky. "Yep...," she finally replied. "I suppose I am," she sighed helplessly.

********************

Gabrielle and Eponin gathered their arrows and headed back to the center of the village where Krykus was scheduled to be tried at noon for his crimes against the Amazons and the Centaurs. "Thanks for taking the time to work with me," the bard said, trying to keep up with Eponinís long strides.

"Youíre welcome. You did very well today," the Amazon smiled, taking note of the princessí shimmering green eyes.

"Thanks," Gabrielle beamed.

Ephiny and Xena sat on a flat rock in the shade. "Ephiny...can I ask you something?," the warrior hesitantly requested.

"Sure. What is it?"

"Well...I was wondering...I mean, I assumed you would find someone else after we...after I left..."

"I did. Terreis," she said flatly and then fell silent again.

"You and Terreis were..."

"Yes, we were," the Amazon interrupted before Xena could finish the question. "I loved her," a downcast expression unveiled itself as she spoke. Once again, her love for another had ended in tragedy. Though she hadnít been able to open up to Terreis the way she had opened up to Xena all those years ago, she had indeed loved the woman.

The warrior stood and reached down, assisting Ephiny to her feet. She didnít bother to let go of her friendís hand as the two walked slowly toward the village. "Your deeds precede you, you know," the Amazon gave her a sidelong look. "I was pleased to hear that you were no longer a warlord...that you were fighting for good. I knew you had it in you," she smiled.

"Itís a better life...though Iíll never make up for all the damage Iíve done," the warrior regretfully replied.

"The past is behind you, Xena. You have to learn to look to the future," Ephiny gently reminded her.

The trial was about to begin when the two women arrived in the village. Gabrielle and Eponin had already made it back. "Xena---there you are. Where have you been all morning? I thought you were going to come out to the field with me and Eponin," the bard inquired, a curious expression emerging on her face when she noticed that Ephiny and Xena were holding hands.

Not realizing she was still clutching the warriorís hand, Ephiny abruptly released her grip, her eyes popping wide open as though she had just been caught playing dress-up with the queenís mask. Xenaís expression was similar as she stuttered her way through a response, "I...we...I...Eph...Ephiny and I were ...talking about...the...the trial."

Gabrielleís nostrils flared slightly and she mumbled an incomprehensible reply. Xena couldnít be certain, but she thought she heard her say something about "grubby paws" and "my woman."

"Youíll be standing next to me on the platform during the trial," Eponin moved in and grabbed the bardís wrist, whisking her away. Xena grumbled under her breath causing Ephiny to chuckle.

Tyldus and Phantes represented the Centaur colony at the trial. The proceedings didnít take long. Krykus was buried to his neck in damning evidence by the time all the facts were presented. For the attempt to instigate a war between the Amazons and the Centaurs, the warlord was sentenced to banishment. However, for orchestrating the murder of the Queen Melosaís sister, his punishment would be death.

Melosa held Terreisí sword high in the air after the sentence was pronounced. Gabrielle gasped when the queen turned and handed the weapon to her. When Terreis gave her the right of caste, she also made the bard her avenger. In accordance with Amazon law, the new princess would be charged with treason if she refused to carry out the sentence. Tears filled her eyes as she stood before Krykus, the tip of the blade pressed against the left side of his chest. Her hands trembling, she was unable to move. "Coward," Krykus spat tauntingly. Gabrielle clenched her teeth and reinforced her hold in the handgrip, poised to plunge the blade into the warlordís chest. The air suddenly whistled in her ears and she watched the manís body slump to the wooden platform. She stared down at him and watched his chest rise and fall for the last time.

Melosa knelt next to the warlord and placed her fingers against the side of his neck. "Heís dead," she announced and pulled the arrow out of his chest before giving his body a spiteful kick which sent it rolling off the edge of the platform and onto the dusty ground. Somehow the queen didnít seem the least bit pleased. "Who is responsible for this arrow?!," she loudly demanded. Silence fell over the crowd as heads began to turn from side to side in search of the disorderly culprit. No one offered an answer. Gabrielle scoured the sea of faces in search of the warrior, relieved to see her standing among the spectators. She had no idea who carried out the execution with such mystery and precision, but she was grateful to whoever was responsible. Her blood-innocence intact, she slowly descended the stairs leading from the platform and weaved her way through the masses---straight into Xenaís comforting arms.

"Thank the gods," she whispered in the warriorís ear as she melted into the needed embrace.

"You made me nervous for a minute there," Xena responded, tenderly kissing the bardís cheek as she pulled her closer.

"Xena...do you think I couldíve actually killed that man?," the bard began to fret.

"Shh...you didnít. And thatís all that matters," she assured her, stroking her flaxen hair. As the crowd around them began to disperse, the warrior caught a glimpse of Ephiny out of the corner of her eye. The Amazon stood next to the queenís hut watching them and, though she was several paces away, Xena could tell she was smiling.

"You ok?," Eponin placed her hand on the bardís shoulder.

Gabrielle withdrew from the warriorís warm embrace and addressed the Amazon. "Iím fine," she managed to smile though she was still shaken.

"Do you want to go for a walk? It might help you clear your head," Eponin suggested.

Xenaís eyes narrowed and she wanted to sock the Amazon square in the nose. "Thank you, but I promised Xena I would have lunch with her," the bard politely declined. Xena bit her tongue so she wouldnít cheer with delight and draped her arm around Gabrielleís shoulders.

"Oh...ok. Well...Iíll...Iíll see you tonight at the celebration then," Eponin forced a faint smile and then turned and walked away.

The bard and the warrior went to the dining hut, loaded a tray with food, and carried it back to the guest hut, neither of them in the mood to socialize. Just as they were sitting down to eat, there was a knock at the door. "Come in!," Xena shouted, obviously annoyed.

Karrah slowly shifted the door on its hinges and entered. "This is from Eponin. A gift for the princess," she announced and handed Gabrielle a small box. The bard lifted the lid to reveal a beautifully crafted necklace. "Eponin was hoping you would wear it to the celebration tonight," Karrah explained.

"Itís exquisite!," the bard exclaimed. "Please thank her for me and tell her Iíll be sure to wear it tonight," she smiled appreciatively. Karrah nodded and took her leave.

"What?," Gabrielle inquired, having noticed the warrior shaking her head. "What?!," she reiterated.

"Oh nothing," Xena sighed heavily.

"Xena, you donít think..."

"I know," the warrior cut her off. "Sheís got the hots for you."

"Oh come on, Xena! This is just a gift...you know, for the princess. Who happens to be me," she insisted.

"It doesnít take a genius to see that sheís got her eye on you, Gabrielle. I saw her falling all over you today in the field," the warrior slipped, instantly regretting the remark.

"I thought you never made it to the field?," the bard put her on the spot.

Xena shifted nervously in her chair, refusing to make eye contact with her companion. "Xena!," Gabrielle exclaimed. "Are you jealous?!," she boldly asked.

"No, I am not jealous. Why would I be jealous?," the warrior attempted to mask her feelings.

"Well, youíre certainly acting jealous. Turning a little green around the gills?," the bard teased as she began to dig into her lunch. The idea that the Xena might be jealous of the attention Eponin was lavishing on her delighted the princess. But she assumed she was only being possessive because having the bardís undivided attention most of the time had spoiled her. She simply wasnít used to sharing her friend with anyone and now, all of a sudden, she was being forced to share her with a village full of devoted Amazon women. The bard understood.

Xena mumbled something under her breath and stuffed her jaws full of radishes. Jealous? Her? Well...yes, actually she was seething with jealousy but she wasnít about to admit it.

********************

Sweat rolled off the warriorís body as she stabled Argo. She had spent the remainder of the afternoon helping Ephiny, Solari, Karrah, and a few additional Amazons dispose of Krykusí body. Hot and sticky from her labors, she thanked the gods that she had enough time for a swim before the celebration. Grabbing a block of soap and a towel, she headed toward the riverbank.

When she reached the waterís edge, she noticed a pile of clothes lying on the ground. "Xena! Come on in! The waterís wonderful!," Ephiny called out when she emerged from beneath the still water. The warrior discarded her armor and clothing and swam toward the Amazon.

"Gods, this feels good," Xena moaned as the cool water enveloped her sizzling skin.

"I know. I couldnít get here fast enough. The sun is absolutely brutal today," Ephiny replied, splashing the soothing water over her face.

The two bathed and swam for a while before the Amazon finally requested the answer to the question that had been nagging at her all afternoon. "Xena...," she began cautiously. "I was wondering..."

"Yeesss?"

"The arrow that killed Krykus...did you...," she began only to be hushed by the warrior.

"Ephiny...," Xena looked her dead in the eyes, a serious expression on her face. "You know I canít answer that question and you know why."

The Amazon nodded and decided not to press the issue. She understood. Melosa wasnít pleased with the insubordinate violation of Amazon custom. It was best if the queen didnít know who was responsible.

"Weíd better get back. The celebration will begin soon and it wouldnít look good if the guest of honor showed up late," Ephiny reminded her.

The two women made their way to the shallow water next to the shore. Ephiny lost her balance when she slipped on a slimy rock and would have fallen had the warrior not reached out to steady her. "I thought Amazons were supposed to be graceful?," Xena teased.

"Iíll show you graceful!," Ephiny bellowed, dragging the warrior back into the water.

The bard stood only a few paces from the riverbank, hidden by an overgrown shrub. Steam came out of her ears when her eyes locked on the two naked women frolicking in the water. She thought Xena had been acting strange when Ephiny was around and now she was beginning to understand why. The warrior and the Amazon obviously knew each other well...too well as far as she was concerned. "Iíll teach her," she fumed, creeping toward the shore. A devilish grin invaded her lips as she swooped down, grabbed the bundle of clothing and the two towels and took off, snickering all the way back to the village.

Twilight came quicker than Xena and the Amazon had expected and, before they knew it, they were in danger of being late. "We had better hurry. Gabrielle will kill me if Iím not there when the celebration begins," Xena groaned, quickly making her way toward dry land, Ephiny trailing close behind.

Once on shore, the two women turned their heads from side to side, wandering aimlessly with puzzled expressions on their faces. "Give it up, Ephiny," the warrior said and sighed heavily. "Theyíre gone."

"Alright, Xena...," the Amazon glared at her companion. "The jokeís over. Where are my clothes?"

"Umm...Ephiny...this is no joke. I donít know," the warrior insisted, throwing her arms in the air.

"And my towel?," the Amazon grumbled. The warrior shrugged her shoulders in response. "Xena?...," she whined. "What are we going to do now?"

"I donít know about you, but Iím going back to the village," she said matter-of-factly and began hobbling across the tiny pebbles embedded in the dirt.

"This sucks!," Ephiny shouted, following behind the warrior.

When they neared the village, they could see the torches illuminating the area at the heart of the village. "For Peteís sake, theyíve already started," Xena grumbled.

"Whoís Pete?," the Amazonís brow furrowed as she took cover next to the warrior behind one of the huts near the edge of the village.

"A pet turtle I had when I was a child. I found him near the pond behind my second cousin Verahís house and...," she abruptly silenced herself. "We donít have time for this!," she gruffly whispered. "Now...," she resumed her focus. "Weíre almost to the guest hut, but this is going to be the hard part. We have to make it from here to there without anyone seeing us." She pointed to the cluster of trees several strides away from the hut. Unfortunately, there were no other barriers between the trees and their current location. They peeked around the corner of the hut, waiting for the perfect moment. The drums pounded in their ears and the voices of the droves of celebrating Amazons filled the air around them. "They look distracted. Iím going for it," the warrior informed her companion.

"Iím with you," Ephiny affirmed.

"On the count of three, we make a run for the trees," Xena instructed. "One...two...three!" And the two women darted across the ground. However, just as they did, all fell silent and Melosa stepped onto the platform in the center of the festivities.

The queen began to speak. "Iíd like to ask our guest of honor to step forward," she announced.

All eyes began to roam, seeking out the Warrior Princess. "There she is!," Gabrielle shouted from high on the platform, pointing a finger directly at Xena and Ephiny. The two naked women froze in their tracks, the light from the torches illuminating their bodies for all to see. The two engaged in a brief struggle, each attempting to hide behind the other.

Melosa fought to keep a straight face as the crowd of Amazons erupted in a roar of cheers and catcalls. Realizing that they were standing there buck naked, Ephiny and the warrior took off again, bolting to the guest hut. The Amazon yelped as she closed the door behind her. "Solari just slapped my ass!," she shrieked, wrapping a blanket around herself.

Xena stared at her friend, standing there clutching the blanket, her face blood-red from embarrassment. Unable to maintain her composure, the warrior burst into laughter. The Amazon glanced back at her own behind, taking note of the hand print Solari had branded on her left cheek. "Can you believe this?!," she exclaimed and joined in the warriorís laughter, doubling over when her ribs began to ache.

"Gabriellle," Xena growled, reading the note the bard had left on the table aloud. Dear Xena, Nice butt. Love, Princess Gabrielle and the Amazon Nation.

"What the...," Ephiny mumbled and then laughed until tears were streaming down her cheeks. At first she wasnít sure how she felt about the mouthy bard but now she knew without a doubt that she liked the young princess. "She got you, Xena. She got you good!," she taunted the warrior.

"Maybe so, but at least I donít have a hand print on my ass," she grinned, jumping into the air when the Amazonís hand landed on her backside with a resounding smack.

"Now ya do," Ephiny batted her eyes at the warrior.

Xena grumbled and began to rummage through the pile of clothes on the bed. At least the bard had been courteous enough to leave their clothes for them. The two women quickly dressed and then reluctantly headed for the center of the village, mortified at having to face the throng of celebrating women.

The Amazons exploded in cheers and whistles when the two made their appearance. Queen Melosa approached the warrior, slapped her on the back, and handed both her and Ephiny a tall mug of ale. "You two look like you could use this," she shook her head and walked away.

"You see Gabrielle anywhere?," the warrior asked, straining her eyes in search of the bard.

"Umm...umm...," the Amazon stuttered.

"What is it, Ephiny?," Xenaís eyes narrowed.

"Sheís...umm...there she is," she pointed into the crowd. Sure enough, the bard was in the middle of the sea of women. And she was dancing with Eponin.

Xena felt her face flush crimson when she saw Gabrielle hanging all over Eponin, the Amazonís hands placed firmly on the bardís hips. "I think Iíll cut in," she growled and handed the mug of ale to Ephiny.

"Hi, Xena. Have a nice swim?," the princess chuckled when Xena was standing next to her and the Amazon.

"Very funny," the warrior mumbled and turned to face the other woman. "Do you mind?" Eponin backed off and let Xena have her dance.

Gabrielle willingly wrapped her arms around the warriorís neck and pressed her body against her. Xena quickly lost herself in the bardís enticing scent as they swayed to the music. Before long, a harsh stench overcame the sweet aroma. "Gabrielle? Are you drunk?," the warrior wrinkled her nose, getting a whiff of the princessí potent breath.

"Uhh...yep," the bard giggled and pressed her cheek against Xenaís.

The warrior held the young woman tight, delighting in the way it felt to be so close to her. Savoring the moment, she closed her eyes, clinging to the woman of her dreams. As they danced, she suddenly felt as though she was being watched. Opening an eye, she caught a glimpse of Ephiny and Solari dancing next to them. Ephiny looked at her, smiled, and closed her eyes, seemingly swept away in Solariís embrace. Xena watched the two women for a moment. It was nice to see her friend looking so content...so peaceful. She wanted Ephiny to find happiness...and love.

"Xena," the bard whispered in her ear, resting her head on her shoulder.

"Hmmm," the warrior sighed.

"I want to show you something," she sounded enthusiastic as she abruptly pulled away from the embrace.

"What is it?," Xena smiled, her curiosity peaking.

Much to the warriorís surprise, the bard lifted her tunic, flashing her breasts to everyone around them. "See!,í she exclaimed.

Xena stared at the tiny gold hoop dangling from the bardís nipple. Hastily, she grabbed Gabrielleís tunic and yanked it down again. "Itís a nipple-ring, Xena," the princess informed her. "Eponin did it." The familiar look of annoyance returned to the warriorís face. "Youíre not angry are you, my warrior?," the bard chimed, her speech beginning to slur from the effects of the ale she had consumed over the course of the evening.

Her warrior? She liked the sound of that. On the other hand, the thought of Eponin piercing...touching... fondling...groping Gabrielleís nipples didnít sit well with her at all.

"Hey, Xena! Did Gabrielle show you her new accessory?," Eponin appeared next to the warrior, grinning from ear to ear.

Xenaís mouth dropped open and she found herself unable to speak.

"Well...do you like it?," Eponin persisted.

Gabrielle raised her top again, flashing her perky breasts. "Oooo! I like it!," Ephiny chimed, staring at the shiny circle. Xena spun around and looked at her as though she was going to wring her neck. The Amazon clamped her jaws shut and scurried away with Solari in tow.

"For Peteís sake!," Xena screamed at the top of her lungs. All fell silent and Melosa, a bit tipsy from overindulgence, stepped up onto the platform. "Amazons!," the queen called out, gaining everyoneís attention. "Whoís Pete?," she inquired, looking out over the crowd.

"Heís the f*cking turtle I had when I was a child!," the warrior shouted and stomped off in a snit.

"I didnít mean to upset her," the bard pouted. "I canít understand why a little nipple-ring would bother her so much. Iím going after her," she continued to talk to herself as she pushed her way through the crowd.

"Xena?," the drunken princess stumbled into the guest hut to find the warrior slumped in a chair with her head resting on the wooden table, her face buried in her arms. "Whatís bothering you, Xena? Do you feel ok?," the bard asked, tripping over her own to feet as she moved toward the warrior.

"Nothingís bothering me, Gabrielle. Nothing at all," the warrior mumbled, repeatedly thumping her forehead against the table as her frustration consumed her. This was getting to be too much. Her emotions were trampling through her body, stampeding all over her. And the worst part of it was that she didnít know what to do about it. She was afraid that telling the bard how she felt about her would only make her feel uncomfortable and she certainly didnít want to put any distance between them.

"Xena...," Gabrielle stepped forward and stood close to the warrior, gently placing her hands on her shoulders. Xena was certain she felt her body tremble at the touch and she hoped the bard hadnít noticed. "Xena, look at me," Gabrielle whispered, her companionís mirthless demeanor seeming to drive the effects of the ale away. The warrior complied and raised her head, lifting her eyes. The princess searched the crystalline orbs. She was pretty sure she knew what was bothering her friend. "Xena, I think I know whatís going on," she took a deep breath. The warrior felt her heart skip a beat and her muscles tighten. "Youíre in love, arenít you?," the bard pressed, studying her friendís face in search of the truth.

"I...I umm...," Xena stammered.

"Xena, itís ok. When we started traveling together, I wasnít stupid enough to think that this would never happen. It was bound to happen eventually."

"And...how do you feel about that?," the warrior managed, her palms sweating, her uneasiness mounting.

"Well...," Gabrielle grew silent as she contemplated her words. Tears formed in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. "Xena...," she began again. "I just want you to be happy....," she paused for a moment and then continued. "And if being with Ephiny makes you happy, you have my blessing," she forced the words, trying desperately to swallow the lump in her throat.

Ephiny? The warrior stared at the bard, standing in front of her with a pitiful expression on her face. "Gabrielle...," she said softly. "I..."

"Donít worry about it, Xena," the bard interrupted her before she could say another word.

"No, Gabrielle, you donít understand. I...," she bit her lip and tried to catch her breath as her nerves began to fray. She reached up and gently cupped the bardís face in her hands, encouraging her to look into her eyes. Blue met green and both women were certain they could see the tension building between them. She leaned in closer and, terrified of what might happen next, she forced her confession. "Gabrielle, youíre right. I am in love...but not with Ephiny," she said timidly.

The bard looked puzzled as she swiped at the tears on her cheeks with the back of her hand. "But I thought..."

"No, Gabrielle," the warriorís hands began to tremble. She was terrified of losing the bardís companionship. She hoped she wasnít about to make a huge mistake. But this had been going on for so long. Day after day, she had stifled her emotions, hid her feelings, lied to herself and the woman she loved. The time had come to be honest with her, no matter what the consequences. "Gabrielle...Iím in love with you," she was sure her heart had stopped beating when she finally revealed the truth.

"M...me?," the bard stuttered, unable to believe what she had just heard. "Really?," she asked, her question marked with profound disbelief. Xena nodded and awaited her fate.

A warm smile moved over the young princessí mouth, yet her tears continued to fall. "The gods, Xena. Why didnít you tell me?," the bard grabbed the warriorís shoulders and shook them slightly.

"Would it have mattered?," Xena sighed, confused by the bardís mixed reaction. "I didnít want to hurt you...didnít want to destroy our friendship," she admitted.

"You havenít hurt me, Xena," the princess moved closer to the chair, positioning herself on her knees between the warriorís legs. "Xena...," she gazed intently into blue eyes. "I love you too," she said through the sweetest smile the warrior had ever seen. The corners of her mouth twitched slightly, her ruby lips beckoning---calling Xena to them.

The bard could feel her undergarments growing damp and her flesh beginning to burn. All this time, she thought her love for the warrior was in vain---assumed that Xena saw her as a naive girl who could never be anything more than a trusted friend. Mustering her courage, she leaned in even closer. She pondered the mysterious expression on her companionís face. It was one she had never seen before, but it didnít take her long to figure out that it was a look of desire. Was it possible that Xena craved her the way she craved the warrior? Gods, she hoped so. Bravely, she asked the question she had suppressed so many times before. "Are you going to kiss me, Xena?," her voice wavered.

"Not...not if you donít want me to," the warrior pulled away and leaned back in her chair.

"I do...I want you to kiss me," she confessed.

Her heart pounding in her ears, Xena leaned forward again and brushed her lips against the bardís. Gabrielle closed her eyes and concentrated on the smooth flesh lightly grazing her own---the warm breath drifting over her lips and into her mouth. Gods, she wanted to taste the sweetness of this womanís kiss. When she thought she would keel over from the sheer torture of the warriorís teasing, Xena parted her lips and covered her mouth with her own. Gabrielleís stomach fluttered at the contact. The warrior was on fire as she slipped her tongue between the bardís lips and into her hungry mouth. The intensity of the kiss escalated, quickly growing heated and frenzied. Xena pulled the bard onto her lap and continued her exploration, both surprised and pleased by the young womanís passionate response.

Gabrielle melted into her warrior, conveying the message she had kept hidden for so long without uttering a single word. Her demanding mouth and tenacious tongue told Xena everything she needed to know. Lost in the explosion of kisses, Gabrielle reached behind her back and took the warriorís hand in her own. Xena gasped slightly when the bard placed her hand beneath the edge of her mahogany skirt. Slowly, her fingers crawled up the back of Gabrielleís thigh and beneath her undergarment. Continuing to relish the fevered kisses, she sank her fingers into the bardís firm buttocks, kneading and caressing. Gabrielle shuddered under her touch and traced a trail with her tongue over the warriorís chin and down her neck, seductively nipping and sucking the sensitive flesh. "Ahhgoddsss, Gabrielle," Xena moaned when she felt the bardís hand slide down her chest and into her leathers, curious finger tips relentlessly teasing her nipple.

Unable to stand the clothing separating her from her loverís body any longer, the warrior stood and carried the bard across the room to the bed. Lying on her back, Gabrielle watched Xena undress. She couldnít believe this was actually happening and, secretly, she prayed to the gods that it was real---that the only person she had ever wanted was finally going to make love to her. Xena leaned down and kissed her and the bard couldnít resist the urge to touch her bare breasts. She watched the warriorís fingers as they loosened the ties and peeled back her tunic. "I love you, Xena," she whispered, longing to hear the words returned. She raised her hips, allowing the warrior to remove her skirt and undergarment. "I love you too, Gabrielle." The words brought tears to the bards eyes. The bard pulled her lover on top of her, the feel of their merging flesh sparking a low growl in the back of her throat. "You feel so good," she sighed, enchanted by the way her loverís skin felt next to her own. "Kiss me," she whispered, placing her hands against the sides of the warriorís breasts which were captivatingly crushed against her own. She brushed her fingers of the smooth flesh, sliding them back and forth between Xenaís breasts and her own. After a few moments, she couldnít tell where her own body stopped and her loverís began.

Xena resumed her kisses and glided on top of her, creating the friction which sparked sensations the bard didnít know existed until now. She could feel the warriorís dampness against her own and she longed for her loverís touch. Xena sensed her need and moved next to her, kissing her breasts, her neck. "I really do like this," she said in an incredibly sultry voice. Gabrielle looked down at the warriorís fingers, lightly touching the hoop adorning her left breast. "Iím glad because I did it for you," the bard lapped at her earlobe. Secretly, she had hoped that Xena would find the piercing to her liking. And she liked the idea of the warrior looking at her body---no matter what the reason.

Xena kissed the pierced nipple gingerly, aware that the piercing had probably made her sore. Her tongue grazed her lips and she turned her attention to the right breast, the beige center alert and begging to be kissed. Kneading the flesh softly with her fingers, she delivered gentle kisses before taking it into her mouth. She sucked lightly, delighting in the quiet moans emerging from her loveís throat. Then she felt Gabrielleís hand on the back of her neck, pushing her tighter against the magnificent peaks. "Yesss, Xena. Yes, my love." The words fell on her ears, urging her on. The warriorís sucking intensified, her teeth and tongue grazing the nipple causing her lover to shudder.

Savoring the sweet taste of her love, dragging her tongue over the ripples in her chiseled stomach, the warrior stretched out next to her. Holding her close, she gazed into loving eyes, exploring her body with heated fingers. "Xena...I...," the bard began only to be silenced when the warrior slipped her hand between her trembling thighs. Slowly and cautiously, Xena began her exploration of her lover---sifting her fingers through the moistened curls before sliding between the inviting folds. Gabrielle raised her knees and parted her thighs in response as her body began to quiver. The warrior gently captured the sensitive bud between her thumb and index finger evoking a drawn-out groan of pleasure that seemed to arise from her loverís soul.

Xena rose to her knees and kissed the bard, delving her tongue into her mouth, leaving nothing undiscovered before descending over her body. Her lips blazed a path down the center of her loverís chest and then seized her nipple, firm and eager for more attention. "Xenaaa," the bard groaned when she felt the warriorís raven tresses brush against her midriff as her lover moved lower.

Nestled between the young princessí thighs, the warrior took in her intoxicating scent, all the while delivering tender kisses to the center of the dampened blond locks. The bardís body writhed beneath her, begging for more. "Xe..naa...pl...please...goddsss pleeasse." Unable to wait any longer, Xena grazed her loverís center with the tip of her tongue and then descended on her. Driven by the bardís urgent pleas, she lapped at the scrumptious flesh, dragging her tongue through the desirous wet folds. "Mmmhmmyeah the gods yeesss," her lover urged her forward, lunging her hips against her insatiable mouth. The warrior had dreamed of this moment so many times. She didnít know how many times she had emerged from sleep in the middle of the night covered in sweat, her center burning between her thighs. "I...love...the... way... you...taste," she panted, her mouth on fire.

"Iím...Iím...gl...glad...because...I...could...le...let...you...do...this...all...n...night," the bard responded through ragged breaths and gasped when she felt the warriorís lips capture her aching clit. "G..goddsss! Donít...st...stop...pleasse keep....ohyeah...mmmmahhhyesss," she groaned, begging for release.

"Oh, but I am going to stop," Xena whispered and tore herself away from the seductive nectar. The bard moaned urgently, her body shivering as the warrior slid across the bed and snuggled close beside her. "Xe..Xena...wh..," she attempted to get the words out, but was silenced when her lover placed her fingers over her lips.

"I love you, Gabrielle," Xena kissed her tenderly, caressing her body with the palm of her hand. She slipped her other arm under her loverís neck and supported her head, holding her tight as her hand moved downward, sparking a powerful tremor when she reached the bardís center. Her fingers drifted over her sizzling flesh, lingering at her loverís ready opening. "Xe...Xena...I...Iíve never...," Gabrielle whispered.

"I know, Gabrielle," the warrior said softly, fully aware of what her lover was going to tell her. "Is...is this what you want? Are you sure?," she tenderly asked, kissing the bardís lips.

"Y..yes, Xena," she sighed and parted her thighs. The warrior knew Gabrielle well and she could tell the bard was nervous. And, if she was honest with herself, she would have to admit that she was a little nervous herself. The gods know the warrior had been with many women. But she had never made love to someone she loved so completely...someone who was undeniably the other half of her soul. Gently, she stroked the bardís center, lovingly gliding her fingers over the wet folds. At first, her lover remained still and tense, but it didnít take long for Gabrielleís hips to rise and fall in response to the arousing caresses. The bard quickly increased her pace, rocking against probing fingers. She was so wet. The warrior raised her hand to her lips. Gabrielle watched as, one by one, she placed her fingers in her mouth, drinking in the bardís savory nectar.

The bard raised her hips, needing to be touched again. Xena kissed her passionately as her hand found its way back to Elysia. She stroked her lover urgently, pressing a finger tip against the bardís opening. "Yeesss, Xena. Take me," Gabrielle pleaded, spreading her legs further. The warrior wrapped her arm tightly around her, drawing her close. She gasped for air when the bard lunged against her, driving her inside the smooth refuge. Gabrielle raised her hips again with a powerful thrust and Xena felt her lover flinch when her fingers passed through the delicate barrier. "Do you want me to stop, sweetheart?," the warrior asked with tears in her eyes. "No, Xe..Xena. D...donít stop," she whispered and rocked her hips against her lover.

Xena gazed into her eyes and kissed her deeply, her hand moving slowly between the bardís legs. "More, Xena. Let me give myself to you. Iíve waited so long." Gradually, the warrior inserted a second finger. She stilled the motion of her hand, entranced by way her loverís muscles contracted around her. Gabrielle raised her hips again and Xena resumed her loving strokes, matching the bardís thrusts. A single tear etched a line down the warriorís cheek when she saw her lover smile. "Oh yes, my love," the princess whispered, struggling with her own tears.

Gabrielleís thrusts quickened, becoming more powerful with each stroke. Xena pressed her knees together, her own desire scorching the insides of her thighs. "Xe...Xena...goddsss," the bard moaned, raising her hips off the bed. "Pleeassse," she erupted and the warrior pressed deep inside, more tears now trickling down her face. Gabrielle quickened her pace, urgently thrusting, arching her back. "Ohhhgodsss," she screamed, clenching her teeth. Xena moved in and out, clinging to her lover. She felt the bardís body quake and moans of sheer ecstasy rang in her ears.

The warrior withdrew gradually, Gabrielleís frame trembling with every movement as she descended from her powerful climax. Completely overwhelmed with emotion, Xena wrapped her lover in her arms, kissing her cheeks, her forehead, her lips.

"Xe..Xena...I...I didnít know it could be like this," the bard whispered, tears of elation flooding her eyes.

"Was it what you expected?," the warrior asked, hoping she hadnít disappointed her.

"Mmmm even better...so much better," she sighed, kissing her passionately.

The words fell sweetly on the warriorís ears. She wanted desperately to make the moment special for her love. She wanted to show her how much she loved her, how much she meant to her. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you," she said softly.

"Do you know how long Iíve waited to hear you say those words?," the bard sighed.

"Youíll never have to wait again because I intend to say them to you every day for the rest of my life," Xena smiled and kissed her again.

The bard returned her loverís heart-rending kiss and gently tugged on her bottom lip with her teeth. The warrior was taken aback by the bardís strength when she effortlessly pushed her onto her back and climbed on top of her. "There are so many things I want to do to you," she growled, kissing the warriorís neck. Xena shuddered in response and turned her head, allowing her lover access to the erogenous flesh. Gabrielle kissed and sucked and lapped at the skin until the warrior was certain she couldnít take anymore. Rising to her knees, the bard straddled her loverís abdomen. Her hands followed her eyes to ample breasts causing Xena to groan with anticipation. She caressed the enchanting flesh, watching the responsive nipples harden at her touch. Leaning forward, sliding down the length of her loverís body, she placed her tongue flat against the warriorís right breast, dragging it over her skin. Spellbound, Xena watched the princess move in circles before covering her with her mouth. Hungrily, Gabrielle devoured her sumptuous breasts, relishing the flavor of her flesh. "Are you enjoying this, my love?," she purred. "Yeesss," Xena moaned, turned on by the sight of her lover attentively stroking her with her mouth. "Is there somewhere else you would like me to kiss you?," the bard whispered. Xena gasped at the mere thought of Gabrielle between her thighs. "Mmmyess," she managed, quivering when she felt her lover touch her wet center. "Where?," the young princess asked, dragging her fingers through the damp curls. The warriorís heart pounded so hard she could almost hear it beating. "Tell me where you want me to kiss you," Gabrielle growled, slipping a finger between the moist folds before moving her hand away.

Xena swallowed hard, took her loverís hand in her own, and placed it between their bodies, guiding her between her legs. Gabrielle shifted her weight and lay next to the warrior. "Show me how to please you," she whispered, allowing the warrior to guide her hand. The bard felt herself growing wet again as their fingers moved in unison. She was still nervous, being inexperienced and wanting so desperately to please her lover. "Is this where you want me to kiss you?," she asked seductively, rubbing the warriorís throbbing center. "Mmmahhhhgodss....yesss," Xena groaned, pressing the bardís hand against herself.

Gabrielle withdrew her hand and slithered down her loverís body. Xena bent her knees and felt the bard wrap her arms around her muscular thighs. Gabrielle delivered a kiss to the center of the mound of raven curls, sending shivers down the warriorís spine. Xena watched her lover hovering over her, her hot breath scorching her flesh. The bard, completely aware that she was being watched closely, began to repeatedly drag her tongue over the delectable flesh. "Ga...Gab..rielle...pl...pleassse...," her lover pleaded. "Help me please you," the bard answered and slipped her tongue between the folds. The warrior threw her head back in ecstasy. The gods. She didnít need any help. She was driving her completely crazy. Xena writhed beneath her as she ravaged her---licking, sucking, devouring. She could hear her lover feasting on her---drinking her in, swallowing her desire. Without warning, the bard pulled back slightly and raised her eyes. A wicked grin moved over her mouth as she licked her lips and lowered her head again, capturing the pulsating cluster of nerves. "Ohgods...ohhgoddsss...Gabri...elle," the warrior groaned. "Inside...pl...pleeease...I...need to feel you...yesss," she panted when the bardís probing fingers quickly found their destination. "Yes, Xena. Gods, yes. Tell me what you want," Gabrielle whispered, continuing to caress her lover with her mouth while her fingers penetrated her, gliding in and out as the warriorís thrusts became more intense. "Gabri...Gabrielle!," she suddenly screamed and arched her back, gripping the blankets in her fists. The bard pushed deep inside, mercilessly sucking. Xena was unable to suppress the resounding scream that escaped from her body as her orgasm jolted her frame. The bard slowly removed her fingers from the saturated tunnel and delivered small, but powerful, kisses to her loverís center causing the warriorís body to shake in the wake of the aftershocks. When she was certain Xena couldnít take anymore, she crawled into her spent loverís arms.

Out of breath and exhausted, the warrior attempted to speak. "I...I always knew making love to you would be an incredible experience, but...I never imagined...Gabrielle, youíre amazing!," she panted, staring wide-eyed at the bard.

"I was made to love you," she sighed and kissed her lovingly.

"We were made to love each other," Xena said softly, holding her close.

Gabrielle snuggled next to the warriorís body, wrapped in her strong arms. The bard had never known such happiness...such contentment...such love. She had spent most of her life dreaming of this--- imagining what the love of her life would look like, sound like, be like. And now she knew. A smile adorned her face and she closed her eyes, thanking the gods for the woman lying next to her.

********************

The two woke the next morning before daybreak. Unable to get their fill of each other, they made love in the darkness until the sun began to creep through the window. Famished, they dressed and headed for the dining hut. "Xena," the bard nudged the warriorís ribs with her elbow and pointed toward the stables. Xena turned her head and squinted her eyes. "Is that...," Gabrielleís eyes grew wide and she didnít manage to finish her question.

"Yep, it sure is," the warrior answered and chuckled under her breath. The stable doors were wide open and, just inside, Eponin and Karrah were rolling around in the hay, kissing passionately. Xena shook her head and reminded the bard that it wasnít polite to stare. Gabrielle laughed and draped her arm around her loverís waist, pulling her close as they walked.

Once they had loaded their trays with food, they found an empty table and sat down to eat. The giggles coming from behind them soon transformed into low whispers and lustful growls. Gabrielle, unable to resist the urge, turned to see who was making all the noise. "Xena...," she gestured toward the two Amazons huddled in the corner. The warrior raised her eyes, surprised to see Ephiny sitting on Solariís lap, feeding her strawberries.

"Morning, Xena!," Ephiny waved and grinned. The warrior smiled, pleased to see the Amazon looking so incredibly happy. Ephiny returned the affectionate smile and popped another berry into Solariís mouth. She and Solari had been friends most of their lives and, through the years, their relationship had grown into one that was notably close. Though Terreis had been gone only a few days and Ephiny missed her terribly, she took comfort in knowing that the noble Amazon had been delivered safely to Artemis. And she knew she had to let her go and move on with her life. She and Solari had spent the previous night together---talking and shamelessly flirting with one another much as they were doing now as they huddled close together in the corner of the dining hut. Neither of them knew for sure what would come of their relationship, but they were drawn to each other and Ephiny was genuinely enjoying spending time with Solari. She told herself that, if their relationship did progress, she would give trust another chance. During the time that she and Terreis were together, she had remained reserved---hidden behind the barrier she had constructed around her soul. And now that Terreis was gone, she found herself regretting her timidity. But she had learned a valuable lesson. Love and intimacy, trust and bonding---just might be worth the perils which so often accompanied them. She had decided that, even if it meant her heart would have to ache now and then, she wanted to experience all of her emotions and everything they encompassed. After all, if Xena the mighty warrior princess, could put her heart on the line...so could she.

Xena returned her eyes to the bard and reached across the table, taking her loverís hand in her own. "Iíd do anything for you. You know that, donít you?"

Gabrielle smiled, pushed the tray of food aside and, much to the warriorís surprise and delight, began to slink across the table toward her. Lying flat on her stomach on the cold table-top, she grabbed the warrior by the leathers and gave her a tug, forcing her lips to her own. Inquiring Amazons turned their heads and a clamor of "oooís and ahhís" rang out. Xena surrendered to warmth of the bardís intrepid mouth and found herself tempted to take her right there on the breakfast table in front of hundreds of gawking Amazon eyes.

Gabrielle could sense that someone was standing over her and opened her eyes, her lips still locked on the warriorís. Melosa towered over them, staring down at the couple with her arms folded over her chest, a deathly serious expression on her face. "Huh oh," the young princess murmured and Xena raised an eyebrow, peering at the queen out of the corner of her eye, her mouth still pressed firmly against her loverís. The women in the room fell silent and looked on, waiting for Melosa to speak.

"I see youíre learning the Amazon ways," a mischievous grin appeared on the queenís face as she turned and walked away, her words sparking a roar of laughter which resonated throughout the hut.

Xena pulled the bard onto her lap and wrapped her in her arms. "Melosa seems to be pleased with your progress," the warrior whispered in her ear.

"I have a great teacher...and there are so many things I have yet to learn. Teach me, my warrior. Teach me everything you know," the bard growled and kissed her again.

"Everything?"

"Oh, yes, my love...everything."

The End


Comments? aztecamazon@yahoo.com I thrive on them! "Iím neurotic. I need a lot of reassurance." ~~Barbara Streisand in "The Prince of Tides."

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