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Editor's Choice Award

The Broken Arrow
Part 2

By Bat Morda


Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. 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 notices.


This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.


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Chapter 3: Mirror, Mirror

The trio reached Poli well before dusk. The trail meandered into a canyon and widened out so the two equines could walk side by side. Gabrielle and Lessa talked amiably, Xena participating in the conversation only occasionally. With the small village barely in sight they left the trail heading towards a densely wooded area by the lake Lessa had mentioned.

"This looks good." Xena announced, deciding on their camp site.

Lessa looked around and shrugged. "If you say so." She dismounted from Socrates and stood waiting for Xena and Gabrielle to do the same. They didn't.

"Where are you two going?" Lessa asked, puzzled.

"We're going to stop by the village, you stay here, and try to keep Socrates out of sight."

"Aren't you afraid I might run off?" Lessa asked removing the zebra's saddle.

"Are you that stupid?" Xena asked in return with a smile as she turned Argo towards the small village.

"If you can, would you get some apples for Soc!" She called after them. Looking around the shore of the small lake she addressed the zebra. "You heard the princess, make yourself scarce." With a flick of her head the zebra headed into the dense trees.

Looking down at her saddle Lessa decided she might as well set up camp. She had most of the warrior's gear here anyway. After collecting firewood, starting the fire and putting some water on to boil she set to unrolling the bedrolls. While unrolling the blanket she'd used the previous night, a small pouch fell out, landing at Lessa's feet. She stooped to pick it up, surprised at how light it was. A closer examination of the blanket showed that the pouch had been sewn into the bottom, concealed under a patch. With a quick look over her shoulder the archer dumped the contents of the pouch into her hand; a strawberry blond lock of hair tied with a thin piece of leather it's only contents. Warriors! Lessa thought. With a sigh she put the pouch back where it belonged and rummaged through her gear for a needle. Talking a loose thread from the end of the blanket Lessa set to work sewing.

"So what do you think of her?" Gabrielle asked Xena as they slowly walked to town. It felt good for the bard to stretch her legs and as much as she appreciated the warmth of the warrior's body, it was much easier to talk to her this way.

"Well, definitely an unusual animal, what did you call it- zebra?" Xena replied with a smile.

"Not Socrates, Lessa!"

"She seems unusual as well, but not quite as charming." Xena quipped, still grinning.

"I don't think she was treated very well by Callisto. When I went to get her at the stream, I saw that her back was covered with scratch marks."

"Really" she said, arching an eyebrow.

The two women had reached the tiny village. It was easy to spot the tavern. It was the only building obviously populated. The noise level dropped significantly when the warrior and bard stepped into the building. All eyes turned to the door, and a nervous murmur swept through he dinner crowd. It was irritating but Xena was used to it.

"What can I get you?" an old woman asked when they'd taken a seat at a nearby table.

"I'd like to buy a bed roll, and some traveling provisions- bread, cheese, a little wineand some apples."

"Eleven dinars, fix you up real good." The woman replied smiling. She was missing several teeth.

"Fine." Xena replied, nodding to Gabrielle who discreetly fished the money out of her satchel.

The old woman returned with a bundle of provisions wrapped in a blanket. An unpleasant memory surfaced at the woman's approach. Xena quickly surveyed the room. A few farmers, a blacksmith maybe a merchant or two- this quiet unsuspecting town was a raider's dream. The warrior suspected that it's inaccessibility was it's best protection. Pushing thoughts out of the past from her mind, Xena and Gabrielle headed out of the tavern to a patiently waiting Argo.

"You're not that warlord anymore Xena," Gabrielle said quietly. "That isn't who you are now."

"Can you always tell what I'm thinking?" Xena asked gently, surprised by the bard's astute observation.

"Only sometimes," she replied with a reassuring grin. "Sometimes I get the feeling it's just as well I don't know what you're thinking."

You can say that again. Xena thought to herself as they headed back to camp in comfortable silence. Walking near the warrior, arms not quite touching, Gabrielle again pondered the archers words- her thoughts equally divided between wondering how Xena might feel about her as well as how she truly felt about the enigmatic warrior.

Gabrielle loved Xena, certainly. In a way, that was the easy part. Never had she been as open, honest, vulnerable with anyone as she was with her friend. But physical desire? Yes, she knew there was that too, but those feelings rarely surfaced. Perhaps because she suspected Xena did not feel the same way. No, Xena probably felt towards her as one would for a baby sister, but sometimes she wondered.

There was no sign of Lessa at the campground when they arrived. Two bedrolls had been neatly rolled out, side by side next to a blazing campfire. A skin of water hung near the flame, heating and the remainder of their gear was neatly stowed near the bedrolls. Lessa's saddle blanket was positioned on the other side of the camp fire but that was the only indication that the archer was around.

Sudden sounds emerged from the dense trees beyond the campsite. Harsh words and the thrashing sound of a fight. Xena and Gabrielle ran the short distance to the trees and just beyond were brought up short by what they saw.

Six men, fishermen by the looks of them, surrounded the archer and were engaged in combat. One was swinging a net, another a club, two had short swords the remaining two grabbing for Lessa with bare hands. Gabrielle was about to charge into the fray when a restraining hand on her shoulder stopped her. "Wait a second." Xena said quietly, watching the fight with interest.

At that moment Lessa ducked and rolled under the feet of the man with the net, who promptly released it onto his companion with the club. Rolling to her feet behind him, Lessa shoved with a booted foot and wrapped the remainder of the net around him as well. A quick turn and Lessa kicked the sword out of the hand of a sword wielder, catching it as it fell. Without missing a beat she kicked behind her, catching a barehanded attacker in the face with her boot. Another one down.

Gabrielle wordlessly looked from the fight to Xena who studied the archer, a thin smile on her lips. A glance down revealed that her hand had freed her chakram from it's thong. "Just in case." Xena whispered.

Lessa allowed herself to be grabbed by the remaining barehanded attacker, using the leverage to kick two more charging at her. That completed, she threw the man over her shoulder, thrusting the sword she held down at him. She pierced the inseam of his trousers, pinning him to the ground between his legs. "I wouldn't move if I were you." she said tightly, leaping into the air and landing a backwards flip over the head of the remaining charging swordsman. Pulling two daggers out of her boots as she landed she let them fly, the first pieced the shirt sleeve of the sword wielder to a tree, the second landing hilt first into his hand, knocking the sword from his fingers with a painful yelp. At the sight three of the unpinned fishermen took off at a run, carrying a still unconscious companion with them.

With deliberate slowness Lessa walked to the tree and using her boot she hoisted the sword into the air, catching it easily. She unpinned the man's shirtsleeve, not looking as she threw the dagger at her boot. With a thwap the blade entered it's sheath. "Beat it." she muttered to the man who took off at a run after his companions. Stooping to retrieve her other dagger she glanced at Xena and Gabrielle before walking over to the man pinned on the ground, sword sticking out between his legs.

Casually tossing the dagger in the air and catching it, she surveyed the evident terror on the man's face. "What's your name friend?" She asked.

"Mekor, please don't kill me."

"Mekor, you and your pals were going to steal my horse. The last person that tried that, got a broken pelvis for his trouble"

"That's gotta hurt." Xena muttered under her breath.

"Funny thing was, I didn't do it." Lessa continued, "that animal does not like strangers. And she's more foul tempered than I am."

As Lessa spoke she tossed the dagger higher and higher over the mans face. Only moving her hand to catch it at the last possible second, stopping the blade's descent into the man's throat. "and I distinctly recall," she continued easily, "that you said you were going to have your way with me." With that, she did not reach her hand out to catch the descending dagger, rather sticking out her boot and catching the dagger in it's sheath.

"Show off." Xena added, causing a smile to ease across Gabrielle's features.

"I didn't mean it." the terrified man pleaded.

"Oh I see, why didn't you say so before?" Lessa asked her hand resting on the grip of the sword, gently rocking it back and forth. The frightened man squirmed keeping the blade away from anything sensitive. "I wish I had a better sense of humor. You should think about that before you threaten women, you know." With a quick pull she freed the sword from the ground causing the man to jerk in fear, wetting himself. "It seems we have a problem," she continued, noticing the stain spreading down the front of his pants. "Tell you what Mekor. I was planning on camping here one night. I suggest you personally see to it I'm left alone. If I have any more trouble, I just might stay awhile- and see to it your life is very miserable indeed."

He crawled to his feet, looking almost paralyzed with fear- afraid to run. "Don't forget your blades," she said handing him the swords. He was about to flee when she put a hand on his shoulder. "And Mekor," she jabbed her thumb behind her. He looked up and saw Xena and Gabrielle standing near the trees for the first time. What little color remaining drained from his face. "Don't make me have to send my big sister after you. I'm the one with the sense of humor in the family, and she so hates it when people pick on me." In seconds he was gone.

"A little over done don't you think." Xena observed.

"Well I didn't know when you guys would show up. They thought I was traveling alone. You could have helped you know."

"Oh I don't know." Xena observed, getting several apples out of Gabrielle's bag, "You seem to have had things well in hand." At that she tossed three apples to the archer who caught each one, beginning to juggle when the third arrived. Gabrielle laughed, amused, especially when Socrates nudged the archer from the back, causing her to stumble and drop an apple. In an instant it was gone, replaced by the contented crunching of the zebra.

"What's for dinner?" Lessa asked, as they headed back to the fire.

"I don't know, rabbit- I guess." Xena said as she unsaddled Argo.

"But we had that for breakfast!" Lessa complained.

"For someone who acts like she's starving, you're pretty particular." Gabrielle observed, helping Xena with Argo's tack.

"It's not that, guys- honest. It's just that with this lake- why don't we have fish."

"A little cold for swimming, don't you think?" Gabrielle asked heading to the campfire to check on the heating water.

"Who said anything about swimming"

"You want your bow." Xena said flatly. It wasn't a question, she knew the answer. For a moment she locked eyes with the archer, penetrating blue searching out resilient green. It was clear now the woman could fight, did she have any more surprises in store.

"Just to catch us some fish. I'll take the string off soon as I'm done." Lessa said, unflinching from the warrior's gaze. Xena was welcome to see into her soul if she could, which she doubted.

Xena walked to the stash of weapons asking, "long bow or hand cross bow?"

"Long bow if you don't mind." Lessa said politely, not moving from her place by the fire.

Gabrielle watched the exchange with interest. It was clear some sort of understanding was being reached between the two fighters. Aside from several sarcastic comments, the archer had given Xena a wide berth and been very clear in her acceptance of the older woman's authority. She had also been very careful around Gabrielle, treating her with curtesy and very aware of the warriors eyes watching her whenever she was around the bard. Her moves were measured and deliberate- it was clear she knew her life depended on it.

Xena handed Lessa the longbow and string as well as her scabbard. She'd taken the sword out but left the arrows. The archer selected two arrows, the handed the scabbard back. Gabrielle watched with interest as she strung the bow, checking the tension when she finished. The three of them walked the short distance to the lake, Xena's hand never straying from her chakram, as Lessa climbed onto a small rock outcrop. She watched the lake for several long moments then stooped to pick up a fist sized rock. After laying both arrows in a groove in her bow, Lessa tossed the rock high into the air. It came down with splash into a shadowed area of the lake, an instant later she released the arrows together with a resounding thwap of the bowstring. It all happened so fast, Gabrielle was stunned to see both arrows sticking out of the shallow bank, a large still fish impaled through the eye with each arrow.

"How?" Gabrielle asked in wonder as the archer unceremoniously unstrung the bow, handing the pieces back to Xena.

"Did you think I was bragging, Gabrielle?" Lessa asked her with a smile, as she headed to the bank to get her fish.

Gabrielle looked at Xena, amazement still apparent on her face. "But" she stammered.

"If that's all it takes to get you speechless- I'd have taken up the bow a long time ago." Xena said with a wry grin as she headed back to the fire. "Lessa might need some help cleaning those fish." She called back over her shoulder.

No sooner had they finished eating then the rhythmic sounds of deep breathing could be heard from Lessa's side of the fire. "She must be exhausted." Gabrielle observed pouring another cup of wine for Xena, then herself.

"Traveling four days straight will do that to you." Xena commented, sitting away from the fire, behind Gabrielle and a short distance to the right.

"I still can't get over that shot" she muttered.

"Well she did say she won the competition at Minos. It's a very serious contest." Xena observed, glancing at the sleeping woman.

Nodding the bard picked up her brush and sat on her bedroll. Something shiny caught her eye, and there between the stones of the fire, and the edge of her bedroll was Lessa's shiny bracer. By shifting her seat, just slightly she could gaze down and see the face of the warrior to her side. For a moment she considered moving, of not observing Xena with such stealth, but curiosity got the best of her. It would be a simple way to find out if there was any merit to the archers words.

As she began to brush her hair she watched Xena drink her wine. Noticed how the warrior gazed into the fire, glanced at her then lifted the mug to her lips. After a couple quick glances to the softly snoring archer across from them, Xena eyes made fewer and fewer trips to the fire. They were entirely focused on Gabrielle. Xena slowly drank her wine and openly watched the bard brush her hair. Gabrielle could see Xena's eyes focus on her hands as she lifted the brush to her hair, following the brush as it easily passed through. Then the warrior's eyes began a lazy descent down the bard's body, stopping briefly on her throat, then resting on her breast as her chest gently moved with breathing. When Xena's eyes reached her bare abdomen, and the warrior unconsciously moistened her lips then smiled, Gabrielle almost dropped the brush. There was hunger in those penetrating blue eyes. Affection, lust, desire, it was all there.

Gabrielle could feel the color rising to her cheeks as she finished with her hair. Xena wanted her, and she hadn't known- hadn't really known until now. Why had the warrior not said anything? Kept it hidden? Maybe it was just the wine she thought. But she knew better. When she raised her head and looked back into the curved mirror, her own desire clear in her eyes. But Xena didn't see her, didn't know the warrior's expression had effected her so profoundly. Xena's customary unreadable look had returned. Downing the last of her wine she stood.

"I'm going to have a look around." Xena said quietly, her voice neutral, as she headed off into the trees.

She didn't wait for Gabrielle's response, so the bard nodded, seemingly to no one. "Regain you composure Xena." she whispered, "it's alright." Unsure if she had any regrets about what she just did, Gabrielle picked up the shiny bracer and tucked it under Lessa's saddle blanket. The archer didn't even stir and Gabrielle in that moment envied the younger woman. She had no idea how on earth she was going to sleep this night.

Xena walked for what seemed like hours. A quick glance at the moon told her she'd been gone for maybe two. There was nothing to worry about in the wooded glade by the small lake, Lessa had seen to that. As the warrior quietly stole past the tavern she'd visited earlier she heard Mekor commiserating with his wounded friends. She doubted any of the others would risk invading the privacy of their camp.

As the warrior stole back into the woods, a thousand fragmented thoughts tumbled through her troubled conscience. Xena had given up asking herself why she tortured herself so. The stolen glances that turned into loving looks that fanned the fire of desire burning within. The sound of Gabrielle's voice, the soft glow of her skin in the firelight, the lightness of her hair. Xena drank all of this in and more, reveling in the bards affectionate nature and the moments when she'd feel her tender skin on her own. A touch, a caress, the holding of a hand, Xena guarded all of these memories fiercely, revisiting them often.

The shy glances that crackled with the electricity of their chemistry- it seemed to Xena that she and the bard had been engaged in an erotic dance since the day they'd met. She was smart enough to figure that Gabrielle was aware of this too. How could she not be? She was certain the archer knew- she had caught the young woman's emphatic gaze at mid day. Xena frowned at the memory.

Again Xena told herself why approaching Gabrielle would be a mistake- how she could not risk hurting her friend, or hurting herself with rejection. Deep down, she knew she was a monster, one that had lived her life for years who she kept in check only with great effort- who with provocation might again resume it's control. All of the things she'd done, all the people she'd hurt- someday someone was going to get their revenge on Xena: Warrior Princess- how could she ask the bard to share that life with her? Yet Gabrielle was already a part of that life. She did share it- willingly. Still with that remaining boundary, she might share her life but not the tainted darkness of sharing her soul.

But just as Xena reminded herself why she should leave the bard well alone, she fantasized about what would happen if she didn't. In the darkness of the trees surrounding the lake she sat and let weariness leave her as she pictured Gabrielle in her mind's eye. The shining of the sun off her hair, the gentleness in her eyes, the softness of her skin, the fullness of her lips. The warrior's breathing deepened as she focused on her fantasy. Many times she'd imagined making love to the bard, in may places, in many ways. Now though, with the moon bathing the campsite in a soft glow she thought of only a kiss, warm lips coming together, mouths engaged in dance, tongues intertwined. She knew she could kiss those lips forever, savor them, cherish them.

Xena sighed and stood. There was a place and time for fantasy, and this wasn't it. As she headed back to camp, a sad smile on her face, she vowed to revisit this fantasy later- when she had the time and privacy to explore it fully.

Chapter 4: Message In The Massage

Gabrielle woke well before dawn. It was unusual for her.Thinking back, she tried to remember if she'd been woken from a dream, but no images came to mind. She smiled at the sound of steady breathing from the warm body next to her. Turning her head she could see dark hair peeking out from the warrior's blanket and the elegant outline of shoulders as she slept on her side. Turning back to the dying embers of the fire, she saw the softly snoring archer across from her, head propped up on her saddle. Reaching towards the fire ring Gabrielle grabbed a couple of pieces of wood. Sitting, she shifted her blanket around her shoulders and carefully placed the sticks on to the fire, blowing gently to rekindle a blaze. She looked up at the sky, smiling at the constellations she rarely saw. She was familiar with the stars of the early evening but rarely saw the pre-dawn sky.

Xena shifted slightly behind her, rolling from her side on to her back. An unconscious arm knocking her blanket to her waist. Gabrielle gazed at the sleeping warrior for a long moment. It was so rare she saw the face unguarded, muscles relaxed in sleep, breathing easy. Gabrielle smiled, Xena looked a lot younger this way. Carefully she pulled the blanket up and tucked it gently around the warrior's body. With gentle fingers she lightly traced the line of her collar bone and cheek. She drew her hand away when she felt the warrior's muscles shudder. She didn't want to wake her friend. Cautiously she brushed a stray strand of hair covering Xena's lips. When her fingertips grazed the softness of the warrior's mouth, she pulled her hand away. This time in wonder. She stared at her fingertips for a moment, feeling her temperature rise and heart race, then gently put them in her mouth. With a heavy sigh she laid back down, as close to Xena as she dared, and for a time watched her friend sleep.

When Gabrielle woke a second time it was with a start. "I'm up, stop it." she heard from across the campfire. She laughed at the sight of the zebra nudging Lessa, snorting playfully in her face. The archer frowned at Gabrielle's laughter, and did her best to push the zebra away. "I'll get you an apple, give me a minute."

"Does she do that every morning?" Gabrielle asked as Lessa handed Socrates an apple, the animal walking away, crunching contentedly.

"Unfortunately, yes. It's really bad when I don't have anything to give her." Lessa sat upright and stretched for a moment before looking past the bard. "Where's Xena?" she asked.

"Probably out getting breakfast- or tending to Argo."

Lessa nodded and looked around the perimeter of the lake. There was no sign of the big warrior or her horse. "So," she ventured cautiously, "any interesting revelations last night?"

It took a moment for Gabrielle to realize what she was asking about. When understanding dawned on her, the crimson of her cheeks gave Lessa her answer.

"So what are you going to do about it?" she asked conversationally.

"I don't know," Gabrielle sighed, giving up on any pretense of not trusting the young woman. It could be a mistake she knew, but the thought of another woman to talk to- about Xena- was too appealing. "What would you do?" Gabrielle asked, when Lessa arched a knowing eyebrow she added hastily "if you were me."

"Torture her." she replied, reaching for her armor.


"You feel a certain way about her, you've got a pretty good idea she feels the same way about you- but she won't act on it. I strongly feel that there is a price to be paid for such behavior." Lessa shrugged, "that is, unless you don't want her to approach you about it- you could approach her"

"How?" Gabrielle wondered and blushed realizing she'd spoken out loud.

"C'mere" Lessa said with a disarming smile. "Sit down here- in front of me."

Gabrielle complied, feeling a little uneasy at where this was going. She felt better when Lessa instructed to sit with her back facing the archer. "Oldest trick in the book." Lessa said conversationally as she rubbed her hands together, warming them. "I want you to shut your eyes and pretend I'm Xena."

"What!?" Gabrielle asked and was about to turn around, when a firm but gentle hand pushed her head back- facing forward.

"You asked, I'm showing you. Trust me or don't- make up your mind." Lessa waited for the bard's nod of acceptance before continuing.

"As I was saying, relax, close your eyes and think about Xena." With that Lessa gently put her palms on the bards shoulders. She began to feel strong hands massaging the muscles of her neck. Confident fingers loosening the knots accumulated by nights of sleeping on the ground.

Gabrielle sighed, a slow contented breath of air forced from her body as images of the warrior filled her mind. It wasn't so hard to picture Xena doing this. As soon as her mind made that connection she began to feel more than the contented responses of her muscles. Picturing her friend with strong hands on her back, gently, rhythmically working her muscles caused a barrage of new sensation. Everything external relaxed, her muscles turning to water, but within she felt like a taunt bowstring. She could feel the blood racing from everywhere to somewhere below her stomach. Her skin felt tingly all over and she vaguely heard her own breath, softly ragged. Her body wanted to be touched all over, caressed everywhere with a start she remembered that it was not Xena behind her and broke from her reverie with a start.

"What are you doing?" She demanded turning around.

Lessa looked at her with gentle green eyes, a comforting smile on her face. "I'm demonstrating how I think you should approach the warrior, Gabrielle. How you felt just now thinking about her- I'd bet Socrates' apples that she will have that same response if you touch her"

Gabrielle nodded mutely. There was noting to say. With a friendly squeeze on the arm, Lessa stood and walked back into the trees, greeted by a nicker from the zebra. She left Gabrielle with space to compose her thoughts, to put her rampaging feelings into some sort of order.

It was about ten minutes later that Xena came out from the woods, astride Argo. Confident and beautiful in the early morning light. Gabrielle smiled in greeting- her skin tingleling anew at the sight of her friend. Xena smiled in response and dismounted in an easy fluid movement. She carried two rabbits and handed them to the bard. "If we cook both of them now, we'll have some meat for lunch." It was still early, time enough to cook the rodents. Xena's eyes quickly canvased the camp site and came to rest again on the bard. "Where's Lessa?"

"I think she's tending to Socrates."

Xena nodded and removed the archer's long bow, hand crossbow and quiver from Argo's back. With confident strides she headed to the trees.

"Are you up for some target practice?"

Lessa was stooped over the zebra's rear leg, examining the hoof and looked up with surprise. "On you?" she asked watching the warrior's approach.

"It never hurts to practice." Xena replied, handing over Lessa's weapons with a grin.

"You don't think there's the slightest chance I might hurt you?"

"If you're as skilled as you claim, I think you could avoid killing me." Her honeyed voice flowed over Lessa like a challenge. With a curt nod, she began stringing her bow as Xena walked to the other end of the meadow. Lessa slapped Socrates on the rump, the zebra trotted back into the trees, away from the two women.

It didn't take Gabrielle long to skin and spit the rabbits. It wasn't as if she didn't have enough practice with the activity. She headed to the trees to see what Xena and the archer were up to. She was brought up short by the sight of Lessa aiming an arrow at her friend.

"Stop! What are you doing?" She shouted.

Bowstring still taunt Lessa slowly turned her head facing the bard. "Target practice," she replied and with her eyes still on the bard let the arrow fly.

Xena, distracted by Gabrielle's outburst almost missed the catch. She caught the arrow as it passed, grazing her shoulder, drawing blood.

"If that'd been poisoned, you'd be in trouble." Lessa called to the warrior.

"Lucky shot." Xena replied with a frown.

Realizing that this must be Xena's idea. Gabrielle sat, watching- determined not to be an additional distraction.

Lessa then knocked two arrows into the bow, as she'd done fishing the night before. With a thwap she let them fly. This time the warrior was ready and lunging to the side she caught them both in her right hand. The with a quick grab of her left she caught a dart. Gabrielle looked at Lessa, shock registering on her features. She'd hadn't even heard the hand cross bow fire. But there she stood holding the device in front of her. Lessa nodded, impressed and reached for another arrow. This time she fired at the ground. The arrow skipped up catching dirt, making visibility difficult. Xena leaped into the air coming down on the arrow with her feet.

"Careful!" Lessa shouted, "don't break the shaft."

"Then don't shoot at my legs." Xena replied with a shrug.

Lessa fired several more arrows, Xena catching each one. She made it look effortless but Gabrielle could see by the concentration on her face, that this archer was indeed challenging. Lessa glanced back at her quiver, she had three arrows left. With a quick glance at Gabrielle she smiled. As she extracted the arrows, Gabrielle noticed that two were straight, the third had an unusual bend in the shaft and odd looking fetching. Holding the bent arrow in her mouth, Lessa knocked the two straight ones in her bow, pulled the string back to her eye, then slowly rotated the bow ninety degrees. She held it now, almost looking like a cross bow then fired. The arrows shot out speeding for each of the warrior's shoulders. As Xena dropped low and with a spin to the side reached with her right hand to capture both arrows, as she turned, Lessa dropped the curved arrow from her mouth into the bow. With a quick turn she righted her bow and fired. No sooner had Xena caught the arrows then she turned to see a third speeding toward her. As she readied herself to catch it, the arrow abruptly changed course heading away from her face to her abdomen. Mid grapple the warrior changed direction and caught the arrow in her left hand, barely. Her shoulder spasmed once but she held on to the arrow.

"That's all my arrows!" Lessa called from across the field.

"Fine." Xena replied with a grimace, and stooped to pick up the ones she'd dropped after catching.

"That was some shot." Gabrielle quietly said to Lessa as they walked across the clearing to join Xena.

"You should thank me for that." Lessa said while they were still out of earshot. "She pulled her left shoulder catching that last one- it'll hurt like hades tonight."

Gabrielle stopped in her tracks, staring after the archer as she walked over to Xena and retrieved her arrows. Checking the condition of each one she put them back in her quiver then unstrung the bow. With a smile she handed the equipment back to Xena then headed back to the campsite. Gabrielle shook her head, Lessa had guts- that was certain, however provoking Xena also seemed to hint at a lack of common sense.

"Are you okay?" she asked tentatively, unsure of just how irritated Xena was.

The warrior smiled down warmly at her friend, even as she shook out her left arm. "I'm fine Gabrielle, never better."

"Xena," The bard replied, as sternly as she could muster. "You may be a lot of things, but you're not a very good liar." She gently dabbed the warrior's bleeding shoulder with a clean scrap of cloth from her pocket. Xena waited patiently until Gabrielle was finished, hoping her delight at the bard's gentle fingers looked like tolerant amusement.

"Lets just say I don't lie very well to you, and leave it at that" Xena replied. They stood together for a moment- looking at each other. There was a look of understanding in the bard's eyes that Xena had never seen before. Instantly she felt very nervous. As if sensing her emotional near panic Gabrielle squeezed her right arm gently.

"I'll go check on those rabbits- why don't you break camp?" and with a gentle smile she headed after the archer.

Xena watched her go. What just happened here? She wondered to herself. Something had changed, of that she was certain. For the longest time the slight touches that set Xena on fire, the smile on the bard's lips that made the warrior's heart sing- Xena was certain Gabrielle had no idea how profoundly she was effected by their closeness. This time she knew. It was evident in her eyes. She knew Xena's heart raced when she smiled, that her skin responded to her touch- she had that power. Xena smiled and shook her head- walking back to the camp site. Maybe not, she decided, this is Gabrielle after all- the same Gabrielle she'd been traveling with for the past couple of years. What could cause such a change in her now?

"Come on princess- shake a leg." Lessa sat astride Socrates, carrying most of their gear now- save for her weapons. Gleaming black and green armor set against the dizzying black and white of the zebra.

Xena stared a long moment at the archer. With a quick glance to Gabrielle she muttered "Don't call me that."

Lessa watched her a moment, helping Gabrielle with the last few bundles of gear and food. "Yes, your highness." she replied. Xena looked up quickly but the archer had moved away- not seeing the icy glare.

"The trail is much better today." Lessa continued. "Not as much right on the coast but we're still heading up. There is a hot spring that starts out two days from here. We can have a nice hot bath in a steaming creek if we continue two hours past the trail split that heads to Loki. If we get that far we'd be more than half way to Eselan."

"You're awfully familiar with the route?" Xena observed dryly.

Lessa shrugged, "Callisto left very specific instructions for me to meet up with her- she didn't want me to get lost."

"Can't imagine why?" Xena muttered under her breath then vaulted to Argo's back. She extended her arm to Gabrielle and although there was more room, with some of their gear with Lessa, the bard still sat blissfully close, her arms snug around the warrior's middle.

"So who taught you to use a bow?" Gabrielle asked while the road was still wide enough for the equines to walk side by side.

"My older brother is supposedly the archer in the family. There was this time when I was two- and visiting- he lives with our mother- and picked up his bow. I was as big as I was, but I managed to pull the string on it- and got several arrows embedded in our ceiling."

Gabrielle laughed at the story, Xena smiled, but not at the story. "Did you get in trouble?" The bard asked.

"Surprisingly, no." Lessa shrugged. "My mother iswellkind of a free spirit. Since my father was married at the time of her affair, it was just as well because she's not the settling down type. Luckily his wife got pregnant at the same time my mother did. Mother gave birth to me in his barn and Father managed to sneak me in to his wife's room as she was giving birth. She was so out of it she's never suspected that in fact she did not give birth to twins. I have a half-sister who thinks she's my twin."

"Sounds like a lot of trouble to go through." Xena commented. "You're quite sure they won't miss you- thinking you're dead and all"

For the first time the archer looked sad. "I suppose they miss me." she said quietly absently running her fingers through the mane of her zebra, "but it wasn't any good with me there. I had a connection with my dad, but I'm just not built the same way as the rest of the family. It hurts to leave, but not as much as it would hurt to stay."

"I know the feeling." Gabrielle said into Xena's back.

Without thinking Xena laid her hand over the bard's, interlacing her fingers and squeezing reassuringly. Gabrielle smiled and wouldn't let go when the warrior tried to take her hand away. Xena turned her head, glimpsing her friend out of the corner of her eye.

"Thank you Xena." Gabrielle whispered into her neck, and after a quick hug, released her.

Lessa headed up the trail in front of Argo, leaving Xena with a smile on her face she mistakenly assumed the archer didn't see. Lessa thought about her family, her mother and her place in the universe. Why is it, she wondered, that the ones with the dark and tortured past fall the hardest?

The riding that day was easier, if not more frightening. There were fewer places the trail narrowed dangerously but when it did it was usually at the edge of a cliff overlooking an endless expanse of ocean. It made Gabrielle light headed to look down and see so much surf and rock beneath her. Waves thundered into the cliffs, scattering sea spray in hypnotizing patterns. To the bard it seemed that the brilliant blue of the shallows dared to compete with the beauty of Xena's eyes. The ocean lost of course, but not by much.

"Beautiful, isn't it." Xena commented, distracting the bard from a particularly tricky patch in the trail.

"So now you know what I'm thinking," Gabrielle replied with a smile.

Xena laughed quietly and began to hum. Not really anything in particular- she just felt exceptionally good. Gabrielle sighed contentedly and leaned against Xena's back, resting her head against her friend, wishing Xena would find a more convenient place for her sword.

Xena was relieved that the archer was far enough ahead to be out of sight. Something was unusual about that woman, and it was more than just her annoying personality. For someone so young she was too confident, too self assured, to much like me, she thought, but without the darkness. It was pretty clear what Callisto saw in her, she was beautiful, strong, brilliant with a bow- and smart. That last bit puzzled Xena. Lessa was obviously smart enough to realize Callisto was insane- why would she wait three months to try to escape. She didn't for a minute believe any of Lessa's story involving her actually being prepared to kill Gabrielle. She didn't appear to have an ounce of evil in her entire being. A twisted sense of humor maybe, she displayed that when she toyed with the fishermen, but certainly not evil.

The path began to widen out, turning back again into the mountainside. Argo was about to catch up with Socrates just as a group of men rounded a bend in the trail. Xena signaled the horse to stop, from where she stood she could see them through some shrubs but they hadn't seen her.

"Well, well what do we have here?" The largest of the five men asked. They were all dressed in filthy clothes and reeked of rancid ale and fish. Three had swords, two had crossbows. Loaded ones at that.

"Trouble, if you don't get out of my way." Lessa replied smoothly.

"Big words for a little girl traveling alone on her pony."

Lessa frowned. "I don't know who hates what more. Me being called a little girl or Socrates being called a pony."

"Oh well sorry to offend." The thug said smiling, revealing several unsightly gaps where his otherwise unattractive teeth should have been. "Let me make it up to you." He grabbed at his crotch suggestively.

"You know, bathing usually works for fleas."

Several of the thugs snickered making Romeo frown angrily.

"Off your pony now girl!" He demanded.

"Maybe you'd better ask my big sister first."

Taking her cue, Xena nudged Argo forward with her knees and the big horse casually walked around the bend in the trail. She sat there, bored smile on her lips and studied the thugs.

"Problem sister?" Xena asked sweetly.

Lessa looked back at the men, now looking a lot less confident. Romeo however was still defiant. "Get 'em!" He shouted and rushed forward at Xena.

One of the archers fired his cross bow just as the sole of Xena's boot firmly connected with Romeo's nose. A distinctive crunching was followed by a thwap. Xena snapped her head in Lessa's direction at the sound to see the young woman deftly catch the crossbow bolt before it hit her chest. "You lost this." She called to the archer then threw the bolt back at him. With another crunch it impaled the man in the shoulder. He screamed and dropped the cross bow. "Oops, sorry." Lessa shrugged with a smile.

From her vantage point Gabrielle didn't see a whole lot of the fight. She grabbed the closest thing to her, which was Lessa's longbow, and hit the next thug that rushed Argo in the head with it. It made a dull thud as it connected with the man's skull and he fell to the earth unconscious. The bow was much heavier than it looked.

"Hey, watch the bow." Lessa called, turning her head to face Gabrielle and away from the second archer who fired at her.

"Look out!" Xena called. This time the archer caught the crossbow bolt without looking. Xena's eyes narrowed in suspicion, but her attention was diverted by two more men rushing Argo, swords drawn. Extending both feet she broke two more noses as the men fell, unconscious. The two injured bowmen ran away, the other three in unconscious piles near Argo.

"How did you catch that." Xena demanded as they continued on their mounts up the trail.

"Oh come on Xena, same way you do. You heard the bow string snap. I knew how far away that guy was- it was no big deal." With a smile she added, "besides, you warned me. Thank you, by the way."

Xena nodded, not sure if she believed the archer or not.

The rest of the day's ride proved uneventful. They had left the cliffs several hours behind and were now heading into patches of lush forrest. There were glimpses of a meandering stream on either side of them. Gabrielle noted with interest the colorful algae, moss and lichens that flourished near the moisture. In places, seam could be seen rising off the water in delicate tendrils.

"Are these the hot springs you mentioned?" Gabrielle asked as the three women walked on foot, giving Socrates and Argo a rest.

"Yeah." Lessa nodded. "Tomorrow night we'll be at the main source then we should be at Eselan by tomorrow afternoon. Anyway," she continued, "you can tell how hot the water is by the color of the moss and stuff. Stay away from that pale yellow- it'll burn. That bluish green stuff," Lessa pointed to a patch a short distance from the yellow, "that's the best."

They followed the stream until it opened up into a clearing. There was a nice stand of grasses heading into a small copse of trees. Argo's ears perked up at the sight. The ground was flat and to the edge was a circular pool of water. About twelve feet in diameter and clear it was edged by the large boulders that extended below the surface. Gabrielle smiled at the sight of shallow ledge a couple of feet below the surface, and the blue green moss that covered some of the rocks.

"What a perfect camp spot!" She said, rushing forward to test the water.

Xena looked around, good source of fallen wood for a fire. Shelter from the wind, easy observation of the trail and a canyon that carried sound to listen for danger. Her eyes also lighted on the hot pool, it's steam curling seductively off it's surface. This was indeed one of the best camp sites she'd ever seen. Surprisingly she saw no evidence of previous use. She said as much to Lessa.

The archer shrugged. "I guess this route doesn't get much traffic. Except of course unless you're a brigand on the run from Eselan to Loki. I don't think they'd be much in the market for scenic camp sites in that case." Gracefully dismounting from her zebra Lessa began to unload Xena and Gabrielle's gear. After removing her own bedroll she re-mounted the zebra.

"Just where do you think you're going?" Xena asked dangerously.

"There was a stand of fruit trees aways back, I was going to head back and see if any of them had apples. Soc is out and you know how she gets"

"Fine." Xena agreed. "But the zebra stays here. We'd be so disappointed if you ran off" The zebra nickered thankfully and trotted over to join Argo, still wearing the now irritated archer on her back. Argo snorted in greeting and went back to chomping grass, an activity which the zebra joined in enthusiastically.

"Socrates! Stop it." Lessa commanded, and was promptly ignored. "Look Xena if I walk there and back it's going to take hours. I've ridden just as long as you have"

"Nothing like a nice walk to work out the kinks from the trail." Gabrielle supplied helpfully.

"Oh great, now you're starting." Lessa dismounted, and still grumbling removed the blanket saddle. Taking an empty saddle sack, she turned to go. With a soft nicker the zebra nudged her in the butt then snorted softly at her when she turned back around. "Don't even try to apologize." Lessa said sternly. "You'd just better let me sleep in tomorrow." She added softening.

"We'll be sure to save you some dinner." Xena added, "sister."

Lessa turned back around and feigning anger without much success shot back, "in your dreams sweetheart."

Gabrielle watched as she headed around the bend and out of sight, then turned around to see what Xena was up to. The wince of pain was unmistakable as the warrior removed the saddle from Argo's back. Remembering what Lessa had told her earlier she rushed to help.

"Here, let me get that." Gabrielle said, taking the saddle from Xena, "you get something for dinner- I'll take care of the rest here."

It was the usual division of labor so Xena didn't protest, even though the bard had been most insistent about taking the saddle. Her shoulder hurt anyway, most likely the archers fault from this morning. Or my fault, she thought, for almost missing. She headed off into the trees and with her chakram made quick work of a large pheasant. Sitting at camp she dressed the animal for cooking while Gabrielle built up the fire. Inwardly she was glad the archer would be gone for awhile. It was nice to spend time with her friend, unobserved. Xena suspected the archer knew how she felt about the bard, those green eyes told her as much, and that fact she found most disquieting. If a total stranger could see it in a matter of hours, how could Gabrielle not after years? Then again if you drop a frog into hot water it'll jump out, if you put a frog in cold water then heat it, it will die, not noticing the increase in temperature.

With dinner slowly cooking and camp well established, it was now time for the warrior's favorite ritual of the evening. Xena couldn't remember exactly how it happened, probably an indulgence to let Gabrielle feel like she was doing something useful so long ago, but now she dreaded the thought of ever having her armor removed any other way. It was still an indulgence, surely, only now it was Xena who indulged in the gentle attention of the bard. Listening to her stories, going over the adventures of the day, sometimes getting her hair brushed- these were all guilty pleasures the warrior cherished.

"Over here Xena." The warrior turned she swallowed, hard- eyes drinking in the sight. Gabrielle stood at the edge of the hot pool, dressed in nothing except a clean shift. She tested the water with her foot and smiled, "it's perfect."

Xena walked over as Gabrielle sat down on the grassy bank. She stood next to the bard, not knowing what sight was more intoxicating, the clear steaming pool, or Gabrielle.

"Is there any wine left?" Gabrielle asked, looking up at her friend. When Xena nodded mutely she added with a radiant smile, "then get it."

Xena returned with the wine, and while she scanned the area one last time, picking out probable ambush sites, Gabrielle started unlacing her boots. Xena removed her scabbard and chakram, setting them down carefully and within easy reach. After taking off her boots, she sat next to Gabrielle, legs dangling in the deliciously hot pool. Gabrielle kneeled behind her and after handing Xena the wine skin, began to loosen the buckles that held the shoulder plates to the back plate. Then, reaching her arms over Xena's shoulders, removed the hook that held the breast plate to the shoulder plates. Born of nights of practice, Gabrielle deftly removed the various pieces of armor. She was less talkative than usual, which for Xena was not unwelcome. She felt herself relax as the armor was removed, kicked her feet slowly in the water, drank wine and let her mind wander.

Gabrielle gently pulled Xena's arm to her. At first startled, then relaxing when she saw Gabrielle work the leather laces of her forearm bracers. "You've gotten really good at this." Xena remarked, not knowing quite what else to say.

Gabrielle just looked at her smiling, "thank you." she replied, her eyes laughing. "You've gotten more patient." She continued, working on Xena's other arm.

"Well I don't know I'd go that far"

"Admit it warrior, this bard has had a mellowing effect on you." Her words and tone were playful but to Xena truer words had never been spoken.

"You have, Gabrielle. You have no idea how much" Xena replied seriously, unable to add I love you to the end of her sentence.

Gabrielle nudged her playfully, "now look who's getting soft."

Xena laughed at that, no matter what, Gabrielle knew just what to say to put her at ease. Still as the last of her armor was undone, Xena wondered if Gabrielle felt the heat of her skin as her blood rushed to be close to the contact of the bards fingers. Sitting on the bank now, only in her shift, she heard the bards breath against her cheek.

"Get in the water, there on the ledge." It was not a suggestion, it was not a request, it was a command. Xena looked over her shoulder with an arched eyebrow, feeling a twinge of her shoulder as she did so.

"Okay" she replied, curious now as to what the bard had in mind. She sat in the water, which rose up above her hips, on the smooth rock flat ledge. Gabrielle sat down behind her, where the bank sloped down to the water. She saw the bard's graceful calves and feet on either side of her hips as she felt gentle hands twisting her hair. "What are you doing?" Xena asked as she felt the bard twist her hair into a bun and fasten it in place with a smooth stick.

"Nothing," Gabrielle replied as she rested her palms on Xena's shoulders. Tentative at first, then stronger, she began to work at the muscles of Xena's neck and upper shoulders. The warrior sighed, a relaxed blissful sound that she couldn't have stopped if she wanted to. This felt too damn good. Carefully, Gabrielle undid the shoulder straps that held the shift in place, and began to massage the rest of the warrior's muscular shoulders.

For her part, Gabrielle couldn't believe this was happening. Not only that it was her, sitting here massaging Xena, having her way with the warrior's shoulders, but that Xena was actually letting her. She delighted in the feel of the warrior's soft skin, smiled as the knots gave way beneath her probing fingers. With boldness born of growing confidence, she extended her hands down Xena's arm. Focusing her attention first on her left arm then her right, delighting in the feel of muscle moving beneath skin. Gabrielle felt dizzy in knowing it was her hands making Xena respond this way. Every where she touched she felt the muscles respond, encouraging her in their immediate relaxation. She thought back to that morning, of her own muscles turning to water, and remembered what had happened to her on the inside. That beneath the warm glow of relaxation, an inferno of desire had ignited at thoughts of Xena touching her. She wondered to herself if Xena was feeling the same thing, as she slowly brought her hands back up to the warrior's neck and with strong hands massaged the base of her skull and neck.

Xena's heart worked furiously to pump blood every place it wanted to be. The nerve endings of her skin demanded it, to relish every exquisite touch. Her abdomen craved it to send those signals lower, as for lower? Lets just say the pleading of that sensitive area would not be denied. Like water every tension flowed away, every care, every worry and for a time every regret and dark memory had no place in her mind. She was connected to the woman she loved and for now that was all that mattered. It was moments before she noticed that Gabrielle was humming, with a final sigh, she smiled and leaned back, eyes closed enjoying the bliss.

As she shifted back, Gabrielle scooted down from the bank, into the water with Xena. As the warrior leaned into her, she was supported by the bank. With gentle fingertips she stroked the warrior's neck and collar bone, singing softly. With a lazy smile on her face, Xena appeared to be asleep. Gabrielle looked down at the warrior's chest, rising and falling with contented breaths as her fingers caressed soft skin of neck and shoulders. She didn't know how long they sat like that, time seemed to stand still, but her eyes didn't. They kept drifting to the edge of Xena's shift, the edge that cut across the top of her breasts. Mesmerized she saw her own hands drift lower and lower, until tentative fingers traced the edge of the garment. She caught herself just as Xena caught her breath. Frozen in fear, she dared not move.

"You don' have to stop Gabrielle" Xena whispered, relaxing against her once more.

Hands shaking now, Gabrielle swallowed and eased a finger under the top edge of the garment. With languid fingers Xena caressed the bard's arm, encouraging her in the exploration of her flesh.

"Oooohh." Gabrielle purred as her hand made contact with the softness of Xena's breast. Encouraged by the warrior's low moan, she eased her other hand under the shift.

"Yes Gabrielle." Xena sighed and slowly rose up and rolled over, her knees between the bard's legs, hands on the bank over the bard's shoulders. For a moment she gazed at the bard, uncertainty clear on Gabrielle's face, startled by the passion so evident in her own.

Gabrielle reached up and with gentle fingers traced the warrior's face from her chin to her ear. Gently reaching behind her neck, she drew her in.

That was all the invitation Xena needed. Slowly, so slowly she thought she'd explode, her lips descended on Gabrielle's. Softly, tenderly she kissed the bard, savoring every minute detail. The pulse beating beneath tender lips, tongues caressing each other in greeting. The bard wrapped her arms around Xena, her hunger becoming evident, and insistent. With strong arms Xena pulled Gabrielle into the steaming water, arms wrapped around her middle, keeping their heads above water with strong kicks of her powerful legs. When they broke apart, Xena could only stare in wonder at the desire evident in Gabrielle's face. She reached for her again, hungry, needful only to have the bard duck below the surface of the water. She looked down trying to follow Gabrielle as she swam beneath her.

Gabrielle wanted to shut her eyes against the stinging heat of the water. It took but a second to duck out of her shift and as she headed for the surface she glided up against Xena's back, feeling the warrior moan as she rubbed her bare breasts against the length of her body. Breaking the surface Xena's lips descended on her once again, taking her breath away, kissing her fiercely.

Lessa watched all of this from her vantage point behind several large trees. She'd made it back faster than she thought, and had sat silently watching the warrior and bard, giving them what privacy she could. When she saw Xena draw Gabrielle into the steaming water though, she stood. "Not 'till tomorrow night, you don't." She said quietly to herself as she headed back up the path to make a noisy entrance. She checked the moon, she'd been about three hours, served them right for taking so long to get to it.

Whistling to herself she slowly entered the campsite going first to the fire, then looking to the pool as an afterthought. She found Gabrielle submerged in the pool, save for her head, and Xena standing on the bank, sword drawn and soaking wet.

"Do you guys always bathe in your clothes?" Lessa asked innocently as she studied the dripping warrior. "I'd put something on if I were you, you'll catch your death." She remarked, with an unabashed gaze at the warrior's erect nipples, quite evident in her soaked clothes. "What's for dinner?"

"Perhaps you'd like to check the perimeter?" Xena growled, unamused by the interruption.

"Check the perimeter yourself." Lessa replied, "you're the one who made me walk to get the apples. Besides, I'm starving."

"Fine. I will." Grabbing a dry shift from her saddle bag Xena stalked off into the woods.

"What are you doing!" Gabrielle demanded when the warrior was out of sight. "Everything was going perfectly"

Gabrielle climbed on to the bank, Lessa noting with amusement that she was no longer wearing her shift.

"Well at least one of you has the sense to bathe naked." She quipped, handing Gabrielle her bedroll to dry off with. "Look, Gabrielle I'm sorry. I didn't know- okay. Tomorrow I promise I'll make it up to you. Do you know this bird is going to burn if you don't turn it?"

Gabrielle laughed in spite of herself. She was no less annoyed by the interruption but did see the humor in it. "Is food all you think about?" She asked, getting dressed.

Lessa thought a moment, "pretty much, yes. Well, food and sleep- oh yeah, and getting apples for Soc."

A few minutes later Xena stormed back to the fire. Dinner was ready, the pheasant was surprisingly good, considering their inattention about turning it. There was also some fresh bread, and spicy cheese.

"Where's this from?" Xena asked, wrapped in her blanket by the fire. Lessa had been smart enough to avoid any further comments about how she found them.

"Those trees were owned by young couple. Their goat was stuck part way down the cliff- I helped them get the goat back, and she gave me a lot of food. I can't believe I carried as much as I did. It would have been nice to have ridden"

"You rescued a goat, from a cliff in the dark?" Xena asked, cutting her off. She was beginning to believe very little of what the archer said.

"Well the moon is bright enough to see- or hadn't you noticed? It'll be full tomorrow." Lessa explained around a mouth full of food. "I did slip though." She lifted her elbow to reveal a nasty abrasion and already purpling bruise. "Damn goat tried to kick me."

"Good for the goat." Xena muttered under her breath.

"So did they have apples?" Gabrielle asked, smiling quickly at Xena.

"They did, in fact. Of course if I'd ridden I could have carried" A glare from Xena ended Lessa's narrative. "Never mind."

It was an awkward evening. After they'd eaten and settled down to sleep, none of the women seemed able to. The moon shown down brightly and Lessa was well aware of radiant blue eyes watching her every move. Mother help me, she thought, this is too much pressure. How and I supposed to sleep with them with them starting at me wishing me asleep. Finally she decided to just roll over away from the other two and stare at nothing in particular.

Gabrielle was stretched out by the fire, Xena curled around behind, strong arm wrapped protectively around her. Xena studied her profile in the moon light as the bard gazed into the glowing embers of the fire. "I'm sorry about earlier." She said quietly.

"Sorry about what?" Gabrielle replied, turning in her arms to look at her, "it wasn't your faultthings were interrupted."

"Is that what you want?" Xena asked, daring to hope.

"To be interrupted?" Gabrielle smiled. "Certainly not." Then drawing the warrior down for a loving kiss added, " when we have privacy"

Xena nodded with a frown at the back of the obviously conscious archer. Of all the stupid luck With more than a little regret and frustration she settled down with Gabrielle, warmer than she'd ever been, and waited for sleep.

The Broken Arrow Part 3

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