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Legal Disclaimer: The characters in this story, except for one, were not
created by me (much to my deep sorrow). They are the sole property of
MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures (except Ares, Aphrodite, Artemis,
and the other Gods, who belong to anyone, who believes in them). I am
using them for entertainment purposes without permission, and without any
monetary compensation. The storyline belongs to me, though.

Sexual Disclaimer: This is a story of two people in love. If it bothers you
that they are both women, or it is illegal where you live, I feel sorry for
you. This story gets pretty graphic, so if you're not old enough for that,
GO AWAY!

Rating: NC-17. And I mean it!

Timeline reference: This story takes place before, during and after episode
2.16/40 For Him The Bell Tolls. There are also references to the storylines
in episodes 1.14/14 A Fistful of Dinars, 1.20/20 Ties That Bind, 1.21/21 The
Greater Good and 2.13/37 The Quest, as well as hints towards several other
episodes (plus a few inside jokes. Catch them if you can!). It might be a
good idea to watch the episodes mentioned here by name, before reading this
story, but it is not strictly necessary, I don't think.

Also, I have prolonged the beginning of episode 2.16/40 For Him The Bell
Tolls, and changed some of the actions and dialog throughout the episode, so
as to fit it to this story; as well as altered the length of time, Xena and
Gabrielle spend apart during the episode.

Author's Note: This is a slightly revised version of a story, I wrote back in
'97, which has just been sitting on my hard drive since. I hope you like it.
Feedback would be much appreciated. :)



Xena Warrior Princess: The Secret Scroll (FF,F-mast,rom,voy,first,oral,anal)
by Wolvie

Chapter 1

'Where could she be?' thought Gabrielle. 'She was only supposed to be gone
for a candle mark or two. And that was four candle marks ago! Oh, well, I
suppose, she got sidetracked by some bandits or something. Nothing out of
the ordinary...' she thought, as she returned to the parchment, she was
working on.

It was a warm evening, early autumn, and with the fire burning, it didn't
feel cold at all. Gabrielle was lying on her back on her bedroll, dressed
only in her shift, tapping her quill against her cheek. 'Hmm, let's see
now... Where was I...? Oh, yes:'

The strong, callused hands of the warrior, continued to caress the bard's
rear, while the bard's hands wandered up and down the warrior's back,
eventually ending up in the warrior's long, raven hair...

"Huuhhh," the bard longingly sighed. If only there was some way of
letting her know, how I really feel about her, then maybe some of all these
fantasies, could come true. Maybe I could accidentally leave one of the
stories just `lying around', where she would find it or something. Even
though, my stories don't contain names or places, or even genders, it's
pretty obvious, who I'm writing about. A fierce warrior and a friendly bard?
Come on, you would have to be pretty stupid, not to figure it out.

It would be so simple: I would leave on some pretence, leaving a scroll on
the ground in such a way, so as to make it easy for her to read it, and when
I came back, she would meet me with open arms and a big kiss and... and,
uh... Yeah, right, Gabrielle. If it's that easy, why haven't you done it
already?

You know why, she mentally chastised herself. Because you don't want to
return to camp to find her angry or disappointed... Or maybe she would just
not be there anymore! And that would be the end of your dreams... your
hopes... your life! She shook her head to clear it. No, I'm not going to
think about it anymore. Let's see...

The warriors hand continued to caress the bard's rear, eventually letting a
finger slip inside the bard's breeches and down between the cheeks. The bard
moaned in delight, as their lips met in a fiery embrace, taking their breath
away...

Hmm, this it getting real good, thought Gabrielle, as her left hand
unconsciously started traveling down the length of her left thigh. Soon, she
had forgotten about her story all together, losing herself in the images
produced by her ravenous imagination...

* * *

'I bet, she'll be surprised, when she sees this little beauty,' Xena thought,
as she made her way back to camp. In her hand, she clutched a rather large
eel, about three feet in length, still alive, trying to wiggle its way loose.
It had taken her awhile to catch it, but the look, she knew would be on
Gabrielle's face, made it worth the effort.

Xena looked up at the moon, and the smile on her face stiffened. She had been
gone way too long, and she knew, Gabrielle would be getting worried. And that
was unacceptable to Xena. She knew in her heart that she loved the bard more
than life itself, and that she would gladly give up that life, if to spare
Gabrielle from any kind of pain; be it the blow of a sword or a mere
parchment cut. She had also long ago resigned herself to the fact, that she
and Gabrielle would never be more than just good friends, but if that was
all, she could have, she would still be content for the rest of her life.

'Once or twice,' she'd thought, she saw a fire burning in the emerald green
eyes of the women, she loved, but she had quickly dismissed it; believing,
that the bard was thinking of something, or someone, else. Oh, how she longed
to sweep up the bard in her arms and cover her with kisses from head to
toe...

But she never did. She couldn't take the risk of losing Gabrielle's
friendship, or see the look of horror and disgust, she was sure would be
evident on the face of the gentle bard, if she ever made an attempt to
be... closer to her.

Shaking her head vigorously to clear her mind, Xena continued on her way back
to camp, using her ability to be completely silent, in order to surprise the
bard with her catch. She jumped several feet in the air and landed on a thick
branch. Knowing that their chosen campsite was surrounded by large trees, she
jumped from branch to branch without a sound, in true Amazon style.

She reached a large oak on the other side of the camp, across from Gabrielle.
Xena peered trough the leaves, and was just about to jump into the middle of
the camp, yelling her war cry, when she suddenly stopped dead in her tracks,
bewildered by what she could see, but couldn't quite believe, the bard was
doing.

* * *

Gabrielle was lost in fantasy, her hands roaming all over her firm, young
body; her right hand coming to rest between her strong thighs, the other
grabbing at her ample breasts and erect nipples. Her breathing became
ragged, as the motion of her right hand became frenzied, and it wasn't long
before her back arched and she cried out in ecstasy.

"XEEE... AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH..."

She fell back with a loud sigh of contentment, and tried to catch her breath.
She looked up at the moon, and realized, that it couldn't be long, before
Xena would return. She quickly gathered up her things, put on her shift and
curled up in her bedroll. As satisfying as it had been, the bard couldn't
help but feel somewhat empty at not having her warrior share the experience
and be available to cuddle up with afterwards. Tears came unbidden and
Gabrielle cried herself to sleep, thoughts of unrequited love filling her
mind.

* * *

Xena was stunned.

Not only, had she caught her friend in a most private moment, and stayed to
watch; she could have sworn, that the bard had cried out her name in the
end. The tiniest flicker of hope sparked inside of her, as she reviewed her
options.

Nothing had really changed. Gabrielle still knew nothing of her desires,
and Xena still had no idea, how to broach the subject. What she did know,
however, was that she couldn't stay in this tree any longer. A few powerful
jumps brought her far enough away from camp, so as not to be heard. She
never saw Gabrielle crying.

She dumped her catch and followed it to the ground, then leaned against a
tree, while her hands quickly sought out her already damp breeches. 'Oh,
Gods, Gabrielle. How do you do this to me?' Being to far gone for any casual
love play, she pulled her breeches to the side and plunged two fingers deep
into her slick core, shuddering at the power of the release, she obtained in
seconds.

"Ga-bri-eeeeeeeeeelle..."

Her legs buckled, as she cried out the name of the woman, who brought her to
such heights of ecstasy. She practically fell to the ground and lay there,
panting, for several minutes.

A look at the moon, once again made her realize that she was late getting
back. She returned to the camp at a quick pace; this time being careful to
make as much noise as possible, not wanting to catch her friend in an
inopportune moment and cause her embarrassment.

She needn't have bothered, she realized, when she entered the campground;
Gabrielle was fast asleep already. Xena went over to the sleeping form,
crouched down and looked at her with all the love she felt, present in her
eyes.

"Oh, Gabrielle, I love you so much, but I'm afraid," she whispered, while
tugging a few loose strings of hair back behind the bard's ears. "I'm
afraid that you don't love me, the way I love you, and that I will loose
our friendship, if I try to make an advance towards you. Oh, but Gabrielle,
did I hear you right? Did you really cry out my name, just as I have yours,
more times, than I can remember? If you only knew the real reason, I get up
so early. If you only knew that I need to quench the desires, I harbor for
you, in order for me to get through the day with any rational thought."

Xena was now gently stroking the bard's cheek, losing herself in her thoughts
and the softness of the bard's skin, tears filling her eyes. Reluctantly, she
pulled her hand away, knowing, she wouldn't be able to restrain herself much
longer. She walked over to their saddlebags and found some herbs, which she
stuffed into the, now lifeless, eel. She went over to a bush, she had noticed
earlier and gathered some aromatic leaves, which she wrapped around the fish,
before covering it with hot embers. By morning, it would be cooked to
perfection, just the way Gabrielle liked it.

Xena quickly undressed and curled up on her own bedroll, crying silently and
cursing her own cowardice.

* * *

Unbeknownst to both, a bet was being made between Aphrodite and her son
Cupid, about whether the Goddess of Love could break up a royal wedding,
by way of a bell and the most inept person, they could think of. A
warrior-wannabe named Joxer the Mighty...

* * *

Xena awoke with a jerk, her keen hearing picking up the sounds of a horse in
full gallop. She donned her armor with lightning speed and drew her sword
from her scabbard. Running to Gabrielle, she gently shook her awake.

Gabrielle yawned and stretched, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "W-what's-"

Xena quickly covered the bard's mouth with her hand and motioned her to
be quiet. She couldn't help but notice, how soft the bard's lips were.
"Somebody's coming," she whispered and handed Gabrielle her staff.

A few tense-filled moments later, a man on horseback entered the campsite.
He pulled the reins hard and brought the horse to a stop. "Are you Xena, the
Warrior Princess?" he asked, looking down at them.

Xena stepped in front of Gabrielle for protection, and eyed the rider, sizing
up this potential threat. "Yes, I am. Why?"

"I have a message from King Lias and Princess Diana. They urge you to come to
the castle, as they desperately need your assistance," the man said, handing
a sealed parchment to the warrior.

Xena took it and handed it to Gabrielle, never taking her eyes off the rider.

Gabrielle broke the seal and read the parchment out loud,

"Xena,
We have a big problem, and we need your help.
Philemon has been kidnapped by the slave traders, who lost their business,
when he married my daughter, and their kingdom came under our laws. My
soldiers have been unsuccessful in their attempts to retrieve him.
You are the only one, who can help us.
Please come quickly.
Signed,
Lias, Rex"

Xena quickly thought things through. The ex-slave traders were very
dangerous, and she couldn't risk Gabrielle getting hurt. The mere thought
made her stomach turn, and had she been alone, she would surely have
surrendered the contents of her belly to the ground. But she didn't have
time for that. She took a deep breath, steadied herself and made a decision.

"You, on the horse, what's your name?"

"I'm Crackton."

"Okay, Crackton, there's a stream through those trees. Go and get some water
for your horse, and rest a while. Return in half a candle mark's time, and
we'll leave for the king's palace."

Crackton drew a deep breath, and with a "Thank you," made for the river.

Xena turned to see Gabrielle squat beside the fire, looking at a package
lying in the burnt out embers.

"What's this?" the bard asked, as the warrior approached her.

"Oh, just a little surprise, and the reason I took so long yesterday," Xena
said apologetically.

Gabrielle fished out the package, and Xena's heart overfilled with joy, as
she saw the look on the bard's sweet face.

"Oh, Xena, you know, I love baked eel! Thank you." She threw her arms around
the warrior and hugged her fiercely.

Xena closed her eyes and fought to hold back the tears, she felt in the
corner of her eyes. Oh, how she wished, they could just stay like this
forever.

Unfortunately, this was the moment, the bard's stomach chose to announce
itself with a large rumble. Gabrielle chuckled and broke the embrace, then
sat down to enjoy her food. She handed a piece of the eel to Xena.

"No thanks, Gabrielle, I'm not really that hungry. Besides, I caught that
for you, and you alone. So please, enjoy, my bard."

The bard leapt up, and once again, the warrior found herself on the receiving
end of a vice-like hug. This time, however, before letting go, the bard
planted a big, wet smooch on Xena's cheek, partly covering the warrior's
mouth.

"Thank you so much, Xena," Gabrielle said, before reclaiming her seat and
continuing her meal.

Xena's insides were in an uproar. Did Gabrielle really kiss me on the mouth?
Or did her lips simply miss their mark? And did she catch my slip of the
tongue? The warrior looked out into the horizon, as her tongue snaked out to
savor the taste, that was her beloved bard. She completely missed the fire
in Gabrielle's eyes, as the bard secretly watched the warrior lick her
lips... tasting her.

Gabrielle hadn't intended the kiss to be on the other woman's lips, and she
felt somewhat frightened that Xena would take offence, but when she saw the
bliss in the warrior's eyes, mirroring her own, her heart skipped several
beats. Happily, she went back to her eel, thinking, there might be a chance
after all. She had missed Xena's slip up.

A peaceful silence descended upon the camp, as Xena drank a cup of tea,
watching Gabrielle finish off the three-foot eel. It never ceased to
amaze the warrior, just how much food, the bard could hide away in that
surprisingly flat stomach of hers. Xena finished her tea, placed her
armor between her legs, and started to polish it. No need to look like
Hydra-dung, when you go see a king, she thought.

She quickly lost herself in the rhythmic motions of polishing, and her
thoughts on how to tell Gabrielle, she couldn't come with her this time. She
knew, the bard wouldn't be happy, and it almost broke her heart. She could
feel herself welling up, and shook her head to clear her mind. Instead, she
focused on Gabrielle, and how the bard had looked last night and soon, her
desires consumed her completely.

Gabrielle had closed her eyes and didn't notice Xena staring at her breasts;
at the movements, they made, when she bent her arm to place a morsel of food
in her mouth. She was completely lost in the softness of Xena's lips.

How could someone so strong, be so soft? the bard wondered. I shouldn't be
thinking about her this way. It's not doing any of us any good. She will
never see me as anything but a friend, and I should be content with that.
But, Gods, those lips... Gabrielle lost herself in her fantasies.

Just then, they were interrupted by Crackton returning to the camp.

Gabrielle quickly got up and breathed deeply, not realizing, she had been
holding her breath.

Xena turned to look and quietly cursed the man for interrupting such a
perfect moment. When she looked back at Gabrielle, she saw the bard stand up
fast, breathing, what she thought, was a sigh of relief.

Xena quickly rose and began to don her armor. 'Hades' teeth! How could I have
been so stupid? She must have noticed it, when I said `My bard', and then she
probably caught me looking at her and got uncomfortable or scared; not saying
anything, thinking, I would get mad at her or something. Damn it, I've ruined
everything! Now, she will never want to talk to me again, let alone hug me or
kiss me,' the warrior scolded herself.

Gabrielle felt tears well up in her eyes, but did her best to keep them at
bay. She knew, Xena loved her as only a friend, and she didn't want her to
see the disappointment, she was feeling at being interrupted, or the desire
still lingering in her eyes; fearing, the warrior would get mad or, even
worse, feel obliged to humor her little friend and do something, she didn't
really want to do. She loved Xena too much to put her in that situation.

The bard couldn't help flinching a little, when she felt the soft warmth of
Xena's hand on her arm. Xena quickly removed her hand, once again cursing
herself for not being more sensitive.

"Gabrielle, we have to talk," Xena said, trying her best to keep her voice
neutral.

Gabrielle felt the tears returning to her eyes.

"Gabrielle, these slave traders are very dangerous people; I should know, I
was one of them once. And even though, I know, you can take care of yourself,
I would feel a lot better, if you stayed behind on this one. I'm not sure, I
could guarantee your safety, and if anything should happen to you, I..." She
paused to collect her thoughts and keep the tears away.

Gabrielle's heart was breaking at the thought of the warrior leaving her.

"I once promised you, that I would never return to being a warlord again, if
anything ever happened to you, and I know now, after all we've been through,
that I would sooner fall on my own sword, than break that promise. But still,
Gabrielle, please, let me do this alone."

Gabrielle just stood there for a moment, contemplating what to say. Maybe
being apart for a while, would be the best thing for both of them. It would
certainly give her some time to come to terms with what had just happened.
"You are coming back for me, aren't you?" she asked timidly, part of her not
wanting to hear the answer.

"Well, of course, I am. Gabrielle, look at me." Xena put her hands on the
bard's shoulders and turned her around. "Listen, you're my best friend and
that will never change. I would never leave you, unless it was absolutely
necessary, and unfortunately, this time I think it is."

Gabrielle's heart jumped. She's not leaving me, at least not for good, she
thought. Then the word hit her. `Friend'; Xena saw her only as a friend. She
turned around again. "I... I've put some extra food in one of the saddlebags,
in case you don't have time to hunt or fish on the way."

"Thank you," Xena said and took Argo's reins, then swung herself up on the
horse. "And don't worry. I'll be fine, and so will you. Consider this a
vacation; a chance to get caught up on some of your... stories." The warrior
chuckled inwardly at the last comment, remembering the actions of the
previous night. She rode Argo across the campground, stopping next to
Crackton. She turned and waved to Gabrielle, too far away to see the tears
slowly running down the bard's face.

"Goodbye, Gabrielle. I'll see you back here in a quarter moon or so," she
yelled.

"Goodbye, Xena. Be careful," the bard yelled back, her voice almost cracking.
Then, softly, out of range for Xena to hear, she whispered, "I love you."

* * *

Chapter Two

Xena and Crackton rode for two straight days, stopping only for brief periods
to give the horses a rest. They ate in their saddles, and even though, she
wasn't crazy about it, they continued to ride during the night. Neither spoke
much; Xena wanting to get this over with and get back to Gabrielle. She had
felt a pain like nothing before, at the prospect of leaving her precious
bard, if only for a brief period.

'When did I start to have these feelings for her?' she wondered. 'I've
never felt this way about anyone before. When I'm not around her, it's like
somebody is stabbing me with red-hot pokers. Is this really, what love is
like? If only she felt the same way, I-'

"Xena, look out!" Crackton yelled out.

Xena looked up and pulled the reins hard to the left, in order to maneuver
around a large tree, which she was heading right for. She brought Argo to a
stop and quickly dismounted. "Shh, it's all right, girl, it's all right,"
she whispered to the frightened horse. "I'm really sorry about that. Guess,
I wasn't paying attention, huh? Shh, it's okay now," She turned to face the
other rider. "Thanks, Crackton."

"Are you okay?" he asked, genuine concern evident on his face.

"Yeah, I'm all right. I was just thinking of... something else."

"Your friend?"

"Yeah. I didn't like leaving her behind like that, but it would just be too
dangerous to bring her along." Xena paused for a moment, as horrible thoughts
filled her mind. She shook her head. "Okay, come on. Let's get going."

She mounted the horse again and the two rode on.

* * *

They reached the castle, just as dusk settled upon the land.

Xena wasted no time, and went straight to King Lias, to find out, exactly
what'd happened.

"Xena. Thank the Gods, you've come. Diana has refused to eat until Philemon
returns, and I fear for her health."

"What happened? How was Philemon kidnapped?"

"We're not quite sure, but apparently there was a traitor amongst his
personal royal guards."

"The slave traders may be out of business, but their pockets are still deep,"
the warrior exclaimed.

"Unfortunately, I believe you're right."

"Do you have any idea, where he's being kept?"

"Well, we think, they have him hidden in an abandoned mineshaft. Look over
here." The King led Xena to a large table littered with maps. "As you can
see, there are hundreds of abandoned mines in this area," he said and pointed
to a spot, about two days' travel away. "We have of course sent soldiers out
to search, but there are simply too many hiding places. Those mines are
harder to find your way around, than the maze of the Minotaur!"

"Oh, I don't know about that, but you're right about the many hiding places.
You could spend years going through them all."

"Unless I possessed your skills, Xena. We will provide you with anything you
need; soldiers, weapons, you name it. Please, will you help us?"

"Of course, I will help. I'll leave a list of the things, I need, and set
out at first light. Don't worry, Philemon is as good as home already. Now,
if you'll excuse me, it's been a long day and I would like to rest up for
tomorrow."

"Of course, Xena. I have a room made up for you in the east wing." King Lias
snapped his fingers and a servant came to take Xena to her room.

After giving the servant a list of the things, she needed, Xena settled down
to rest, but sleep didn't come easily. Her mind was filled with images of her
bard and the sadness, she had seen on her face, when she left. Oh, what she
wouldn't give to once again se her radiant smile.

It was late, before Xena finally managed to cry herself to sleep.

* * *

After having spent a couple of days in a small town, Gabrielle headed back
out on the road. She was still feeling a profound sense of loss, but a few
nights in a real bed, had cheered her up a little. She even found herself
whistling a little tune, she'd heard at the inn. Using her time off to think
long and hard upon her situation, she had resigned herself to wait for Xena's
return, and nothing but friendship, from the woman, who owned her heart.

Just then, she heard the noise, she dreaded most in the world.

Joxer the Mighty.

He roams through the countryside,
He never needs a place to hide.

With Gabby as his sidekick,
Fightin' with her little stick

Rightin' wrongs and singin' songs
Being mighty all day long

He's Joxer

He's Joxer the Mighty!

Oh, dear Gods, no. Not him! Not now! Gabrielle thought, as she quickly ducked
behind a tree. Unfortunately, she wasn't fast enough...

* * *

Xena awoke early as usual, but not rested, having spent the better part of
the night, yearning for Gabrielle's touch, her smell... her taste.

Ever since that first cold night, when they had huddled together to stay
warm, they had slept side-by-side, even after the weather broke. Xena, being
the first to wake up, would often find herself pinned down by the bard,
having moved in the night. She would lie there for a while, just looking at
her sleeping friend, wondering, what she was dreaming - holding her close,
comforting her, when she could tell, the dream was a bad one; trying hard
not to giggle and wake her, when she heard the bard's sweet laughter;
fighting the urge to kiss her, when she had to ward off the bard's roaming
hands...

Xena stood up and got dressed. After a light meal, conveniently located in
the room, she went out into the courtyard, where she found the King and
Princess Diana waiting for her, along with Crackton, who was holding the
reins of two gray steeds and Argo. Their supplies had already been packed,
so after a short goodbye, the two were off.

* * *

The trip was uneventful. Neither spoke much; Crackton had enough to do, just
trying to keep up with the furious pace, Xena kept. The raven-haired warrior
herself thought of nothing, but Gabrielle, her mind busy contemplating, what
the bard was doing.

They reached the mining area in the late afternoon of the second day.
While Crackton sat up camp, Xena looked around for signs of Philemon or
the kidnappers. It took her a while, but just as the sun was setting, she
discovered some tracks, that someone had tried very hard to conceal. She
returned to camp to eat and rest, but found she wasn't very hungry, nor
was she tired.

When she finally went to bed, her sleep was disturbed by horrific dreams of
Gabrielle being tortured and slain by monsters and madmen. She gave a yelp,
as Crackton woke her up by shaking her shoulder hard.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm all right. Is it dawn yet?"

"It will be soon. Come on, I've got some tea ready, if you want some."

"Thanks."

They sat in silence, drinking their tea. Xena's mind was still filled with
the horrible images of her dreams. Finally, Crackton broke the silence.

"So, what's your plan?"

"Well, I've got a pretty good idea of where they have gone in, so I'm just
gonna follow them, find Philemon, get him out and be on my way."

"What can I do to help?"

"Just stay here, `til I come out. I'm gonna need your help to get Philemon
back to the castle. I won't be returning with you."

"You going to see your friend?"

Xena nodded.

"She must be pretty special."

"Yes, she is," Xena said, offering no more information.

When Apollo's chariot broke through the sky, they quickly packed up camp.
Xena fastened her sword on her back, put her chakram on her waist and threw
her saddlebags over her shoulders. She was carrying both her own two and two
extra, packed with food, water and medical supplies. She said goodbye to
Crackton and thanked him again, before heading into the mine.

* * *

Xena went through miles of abandoned tunnels, careful to mark each passage,
she went down, but every time she thought, she had found the right tunnel,
she would come to another fork or a dead end. She was getting quite
frustrated, when she suddenly thought, she heard some people talking.

Xena followed the sound, but was soon met by a waterfall, cascading down from
one of the tunnels above. Even though, she wasn't happy about it, the warrior
decided to cross through the waterfall. She was sure, there was good footing
on the other side, but it meant discarding her torch and the risk of her
spare torches getting wet, along with everything else.

Just then, she heard people talking again, and decided, that she couldn't
wait any longer. She bound her bags together with some rope, and threw them
through the water. She could easily hear them drop to the ground, a few feet
behind the waterfall. She took a couple of steps back, then ran towards the
water.

Xena dove through head first, her arms stretched above her head to cushion
her fall. She hit the ground and rolled forward. She lay panting on the
ground for a few seconds, then got up and dusted herself off. She searched
around in the darkness, until she found her saddlebags. Unfortunately, she
discovered that none of the torches had escaped the water. They were all
too wet to be lit.

Cursing her luck, Xena sat down against the wall and tried to think of her
next move. Her right hand played absently with her chakram, and then it hit
her. She threw the chakram in the direction of the tunnel and clearly heard
it hit another wall. She easily caught her round-killing-thing again, and by
the sound, the speed and the time it took for the weapon to make the journey,
she was able to calculate the distance to about 25 paces. She picked up her
bags and pressed on.

By using her chakram, Xena was able to move almost as fast, as before. The
only drawback was that the kidnappers would clearly hear her coming. Also,
she was beginning to regret her choice of going through the waterfall. She
hadn't heard anything for a while and was beginning to think, she had taken
a wrong turn somewhere. Just as she was about to turn back, she heard voices
again. Much closer, this time.

Xena worked her way quickly through the tunnels, but just as she thought,
she saw a light in a side-tunnel, she slipped in the darkness and made a bad
throw with her chakram, which embedded itself in the rock ahead. Annoyed at
being halted so close to her goal, the warrior stormed forward, not noticing
the hole, before it was too late.

With a loud surprised yelp, Xena fell through the air, landing on the ground
more than 50 ft. below. The fall knocked all the wind out of her, and she
felt herself slip into unconsciousness...

* * *

Chapter Three

Xena lay unconscious for over half a day.

When she finally came to, she found herself in total darkness. She tried to
stand, but immediately fell on her back with a pained cry. She felt around
and discovered that she had sprained her right ankle, broken her left pinkie,
and from the pain and slight trouble she had breathing, she guessed that she
had a couple of bruised ribs on her right side, along with an assortment of
minor cuts and bruises. On top of all that, she had a splitting headache, but
an examination revealed no fractures.

Xena lay in the dark, going over her options. She couldn't call for help; the
only ones who could possibly hear her, were Philemon's kidnappers and they
wouldn't help her. Getting out wasn't her concern at the moment, however. She
needed food, water and bandages to mend her wounds. Top of the list was fire,
though. Not being able to see anything, was bad enough, but she was also
already shivering a little, and she knew, that if she fell asleep now, she
might never get out.

She rolled over and started crawling forward. It didn't take her long to
reach a wall. Disappointed, she crawled back the way she came. After what
she judged to be around 50 ft., Xena's progress was halted by a large mass
of boulders and timber. She searched around and couldn't suppress a little
cheer. There, hanging on a rafter, was one of her saddlebags!

She quickly rummaged through it, but was discouraged, when she couldn't find
any food or water. When she searched the bag again, however, her spirits were
lifted somewhat. She found her flint and some kindling.

She used the flint and kindling to make a little torch. Xena had to quickly
close her eyes, when the light hit her, but once she had adjusted, she
discovered that there was a large amount of old, dry planks, buried among
the rocks.

She fastened the torch between some of the rocks and started to drag wood to
the other end of the cave. There, near the wall, she built a fire and made
some more torches. Using those, she was able to determine the layout of the
cave.

It was about 100 ft. x 50 ft. and the walls bent inwards, giving it a kind of
oval bowl-like shape. Near the middle lay the rocks and wood, and Xena found
that she had been lucky not to land on the big pile. Had she been walking
instead of running, she would have landed on the rocks and surely died. 'Then
again, if I'd been walking, I probably wouldn't have ended up down here at
all,' she thought with a wry smile.

The walls of the cave were smooth, which lead Xena to believe that it had
once held water. This meant that there was no way she could climb out on her
own; even if she weren't injured, she wasn't sure, she could have made it.
She took one of her newly-made torches, and stood, where she believed, she
had landed, favoring her left leg. She held the torch in her right hand and
began to swing it back and forth. Then, with one final swing, she hurled it
upwards.

The torch flew up and shone its light on the walls of the hole, she had
fallen through. Xena grabbed the torch with disappointment written all over
her features, and hobbled back to the fire.

It was at least 75 ft. to the top!

All the hard work had taken its toll on the warrior. She removed her armor,
grabbed the saddlebag and dumped its contents on the ground. Besides the
flint and kindling, the bag contained only a blanket, some old rags, three
scrolls and one of Gabrielle's spare shifts. No food or water anywhere.

Xena used the rags to bandage herself up. Afterwards, she just sat and
stared into the fire. Having neither the energy, nor the desire to read about
herself, Xena rolled up in the blanket and tried to fall asleep.

She didn't slip into the arms of Morpheus easily, however, her thoughts on
whether she would ever see her beloved bard again. She reached out and
grabbed Gabrielle's shift, put it up to her face and breathed deeply. The
bard hadn't had a chance to wash it, and Xena inhaled the scent, that
belonged to the women, she loved. She pressed the shift to her body and
cried herself to sleep...

* * *

Xena awoke, not rested, but less exhausted. She wasn't sure, how long she had
slept, but from the dryness of her mouth and the rumblings of her stomach,
she guessed it to be around ten to twelve candle marks. Well, at least my
headache's gone, she thought to herself. Now, let's see if we can't find a
way out of here.

She searched the cave for several candle marks, but found nothing that would
indicate a possible escape route. Her search was impaired by her physical
condition. Although she no longer had a headache, her sprained ankle made it
difficult to walk for long, and a couple of her ribs were still pressing
against her right lung. However, the fact that she was breathing with only
minor difficulty, she took as a sign that none of the ribs had punched
through the lung.

After resting, sometimes dozing of, by the fire, Xena made another attempt at
finding an exit, but it was to no avail. She also examined the hole, which
she had dropped through, and as far as she could tell, what had happened was,
that the mineshaft above had collapsed, when the miners had tried to enlarge
it. They had dug too deep and the floor had given way. She was strengthened
in her beliefs, when she found the skeletal remains of one of the miners
buried under the rocks. Dejected, Xena sat down by the fire.

By now, the lack of food and water was becoming more and more of an issue.
For the third time, she searched the saddlebag, this time more thoroughly.
She didn't have much hope of finding anything, but it was better than to
just sit and do nothing. Alas, once again, the bag appeared empty.

She had just about given up, when she noticed that the bag didn't seem as
deep on the inside, as the outlining would indicate. She searched it again,
digging her fingers into every nook and cranny. Finally, her fingers caught
a hook-like device in one corner. She pulled it, and the entire bottom of
the bag came loose. Xena looked down into the bag and saw... a scroll.

Xena let out a breath, she didn't realize, she'd been holding and put the
scroll back into the bag, not really acknowledging it. Just another damn
scroll, she thought. Why can't I ever catch a break? She leaned back
against the wall and closed her eyes.

She let out a sigh and put her hands on the ground. Her fingers touched
something, and she glared down at it. It was one of the first three scrolls,
she had found in the bag. Well, if that's the way it's gonna be... she
thought. Let's see, what your take on our adventures is.

The first scroll, she picked up, was entitled: `The Lost Sumerian Treasure'.

Xena started to read it without much interest, but that changed as soon as
she realized that the bard didn't simply retell the events of their lives,
but also interjected her own thoughts and feelings, making it read more like
a diary entry than a story. She had always assumed, that Gabrielle just
simply repeated their experiences.

When Xena got about a third way down, she suddenly found herself more than
interested.

Xena thought, I was asleep, but that was not the case. I heard her threaten
Thersites, the assassin, on my behalf; telling him, that if he ever tried to
hurt me again, he would find himself in Tartarus so fast, it would make
Charon's head spin.

'Well, I'm not sure that's exactly, what I said, but she seems to have
gotten the gist of it,' Xena thought to herself, not being able to suppress
a chuckle. That chuckle quickly disappeared, however, when she read on.

I also heard, what she said to the warlord Petracles, her former fianc‚. But
more importantly, I heard his response. Was she jealous? And if so, was she
jealous of me... Or him? I didn't know then, and I still don't know. Maybe I
never will.

Xena put the scroll down, a blank look upon her face. Had she really read,
what she thought, she had read? She read it again, this time carefully
examining every possible meaning of every word. It didn't give her much of
an answer, though. No matter how much, she read into it, it was just as
possible, that she was mistaken. She didn't find any reason to believe...
to hope, that Gabrielle would ever want to be more than just friends.

Disappointed, but more eager, she picked up the second scroll: `Family Ties'.

Xena very quickly realized, what this story was about; the time that Ares
had tricked her into believing, he was her father. She just sort of skimmed
through it, not wanting anything to do with the God of War. She was just
about to put it down, when her eyes caught the words, "... leave her."

Xena quickly re-read the passage.

I didn't want to ever be without her, but Atrius was her father, and I was
not going to be the one to come between them. Xena had the right to be with
her family and to deny her that would have hurt her beyond belief.

I could never do that to her. She is my friend, and she deserves to be happy.
That was why, even though I didn't want to, I was going to leave her; maybe
for good, maybe not, but at least for a while.

I convinced her to go with Atrius to head off the warlord Kyrillis, while I
got the former slave-girls to safety. I hated lying to her, but I didn't feel
like, I had any choice. She would never just let me go, she is too loyal for
that (or is it because of something else?), and so, I had to be the one to
make the break.

She said `See you soon.', and so did I. What she didn't hear me say, was:
`Goodbye, Xena'.

Xena dropped the scroll, her jaw literally hitting her chest. 'Gabrielle had
planned on leaving me? Maybe for good? Without even saying goodbye?! Doesn't
she know that I would never let anything, or anyone, come between us? How
could she have even thought of such a thing?' the warrior asked herself.

'Maybe `cause I never told her that! Oh, Gabrielle, how could I have been so
foolish? Had the marauders not gone after the village, I could have lost you;
the one person that means more to me than anyone, more than life itself.'

With trembling hands, Xena lay down the scroll and picked up the third one.

`The Needs of the Many...'

Xena immersed herself completely in the story this time. She chuckled, as
Gabrielle told of the villagers standing up to their assailants, armed only
with fizzy-water and corks, driving them away. She couldn't help but cheer
out loud, as Gabrielle rode into the warlord's camp on Argo, dressed in the
warrior's armor, much to big for the bard's slender form.

Then her expression changed, as Gabrielle told of the nightmare of almost
loosing her best friend to a poisoned dart.

We later learned that it was Callisto, who had shot the dart, but at
that point, it didn't matter, who'd done it. All that mattered was Xena's
recovery. Xena told me to hit Talmadeus at his camp again. I was so scared,
but I had faith that my raven-haired friend wouldn't let me do it, unless
she was sure, I would be safe.

When I came back and found her lying there on the ground, something inside me
shattered to pieces. It was my heart. I had lost my best friend in the whole
world. The one person, I thought would never leave me. The one person, I
can't live without.

My heart is mended now, but the scars remain. Xena is my best friend and I
love her dearly. I don't think... No, I know, I wouldn't be able to go on
without her by my side, in this life or the next...

Xena bowed her head, as tears began streaming down her face. 'Oh, Gabrielle,
how could I have left you behind like that? What are you doing now? Are you
sitting somewhere, wondering, where I am? Thinking, I have left you for
good?'

'I should have told you, how I really feel about you, but I didn't. I didn't,
because I was afraid that it would ruin our friendship, that you wouldn't
want me in your life anymore, that it would cause you to disgust and hate
me... That you would leave me. I couldn't take that risk.'

Xena realized that even after reading the stories, she was no closer to
finding out, how exactly she was perceived by her friend. 'I'm still not
sure, what to do, should I ever get out of here. Do you... Could you ever
love me, the way I love you? I feel like, I'm lost in a big forest and
your stories are clues to finding my way out, but I can't decipher them.
I... I... Wait a moment!'

Xena dropped the scroll and reached for the saddlebag. She opened it and
pulled out the last scroll from the secret compartment. Okay, Gabrielle,
let's find out, why you chose to hide this from me.

One part of the warrior didn't really want to read the scroll; thinking that
Gabrielle had a right to privacy, but the other part argued, that there was
a good chance, she wouldn't make it through this alive, so she might as well
go ahead.

That part won.

Xena stretched and lay down on her left side next to the fire. She wiggled
around a bit, until she got comfortable. The scroll was neatly folded, and
bound with a red ribbon. Xena carefully unwrapped it and began to read.

My Confession
By Gabrielle of Poteidaia

I love you, Xena.

It's not hard to write and yet, I can't bring myself to tell you. Why?
Simple. I'm afraid that you don't feel the same way about me, that I do
about you. It has always been difficult to tell, what was going on behind
that beautiful, but expressionless, face of yours, but over time, I feel,
I've gotten better at reading you. However, when it comes to this
particular subject, I am totally in the dark.

I'm afraid that if I tell you, how I long to kiss you, to taste your lips,
to smell your skin, to run my hands all over your strong body, to look into
your eyes and let you see my desire for you... To make love to you forever
and ever!

To hold you and never let you go.

I'm afraid that if I tell you, you will be angry with me, or think me
ridiculous or stupid or... Or leave me.

I can't live without you, Xena. If you ever left me, I know, I wouldn't even
try to go on. You are everything to me, and if friendship is all, I can ever
hope for, then so be it. Anything to be near you. And if keeping that
friendship, means that I can never tell you, how I really feel, then that is
a price, I am willing to pay.

I love you, Xena of Amphipolis. Mind, Body and Soul.
You hold my heart forever.

Xena rolled over on her back, clutching the scroll in her right hand, her
left arm covering her face. Tears of joy and sadness blended and rolled
endlessly down the warrior's cheeks. Suddenly, she saw their departure in
a whole new light.

'Oh, Gabrielle, why didn't I tell you, when I had the chance? If I had only
known, then...'

Her mind clouded, as feelings of anger and infinite despair took control of
her. Anger at herself, for not revealing the truth to the woman, she loved.
Despair, because she might never have a chance to correct that mistake. She
sat up, crossed her legs carefully, being mindful of her sprained ankle,
folded her hands in her lap, bowed her head and did something, she had
rarely done before...

Xena prayed.

"Great Goddess Artemis, Goddess of the Wilderness, the Hunt and Wild Animals,
Virgin Protector of Childbirth, Patron Goddess of the Amazons, I beg you,
hear my prayer. I doubt that I will survive this ordeal, so I ask You to
please protect Gabrielle from danger. To keep her safe from harm. I love her
with all my heart, so please, I beg of You, keep her safe in times to come.

"I know that I am the last person, who should expect to get anything from
any God or Goddess, but I implore You, please do not let my mistakes, hurt
the one I love. She is not just my reason for living, she is the light that
shines in the night for so many others, including your own Amazons. I have
done unspeakable things in my past, but, please, do not judge her for my
crimes. If protecting Gabrielle means my death, then so be it. I shall
gladly cross over, if only she is safe."

Xena lay down again and cried herself to sleep, clutching Gabrielle's shift
to her chest, all the while continuing her plea to Artemis. "Please, great
Goddess, please: Take care of Gabrielle. Please... please... please..."

* * *

Artemis looked down upon the woman, who was pleading so hard for her
attention. Such loyalty. Such dedication for another. Suddenly, she
understood, why Ares held her in such great esteem, and why he was always
trying to get her back.

And she's not even praying for me to save her own life. No, she's asking me
to keep her friend safe. The woman, she loves. The woman, who loves her. And
not just any woman, either, but my Chosen, and the Queen of my beloved
Amazons.

"I shall do as you ask, Xena. I would have done it anyway, but I can't help
feeling inadequate, because I can't save you. I didn't make the rules, Xena,
but I have to obey them, nonetheless: You didn't ask to be saved, only that
I help Gabrielle, so I can't help you. I'm sorry," the Goddess said with a
deep sigh.

"Hold on, Art. I think, I have a way to solve your little problem," a voice
like the sweetest honey exclaimed. It was Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.

"What do you mean?" asked Artemis. "You heard her: She only asked for my help
in protecting her friend. We can't interfere with her own destiny."

"Ah, but that's were you're wrong, Art. You have to save Xena."

"What are you talking about? Has the peroxide finally begun to chew at what
little brain you have in that beautiful head of yours?" Artemis asked and
ruffled her sister's platinum-blond hair.

"I'll pretend, I didn't hear that, Art, but you're, like, totally gonna owe
me for this one."

"Would you just get to the point, please?!"

"Okay, okay, don't get your breeches in a bunch, will'ya? Man, you seriously
need to get some R&R, sis. You know, there's this little dive, just outside
Athens, where-"

"Aphrodite!"

"Okay, lighten up. Look, the answer is simple. Xena asked you to keep
Gabrielle safe, right?"

"Yeah, and?"

"And Gabrielle wrote in her scroll, that if Xena ever left her, she couldn't
go on, right?"

Artemis scrunched her brow, trying to figure out, what her sister meant.
Then, realization suddenly hit, and she snapped her fingers. "Of course! My
dear, sweet sister, you are a genius!" the Goddess shouted and fiercely
hugged her sister.

Despite being the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite couldn't help blushing a little
at the rare and unusual compliment, not to mention physical contact, from her
very attractive warrior sibling. "Yeah, okay, Art. Go on. Go help Xena get
out of that cave. And give her a bath, while you're at it. I don't care, how
much they love each other, she still stinks!" Aphrodite shouted at Artemis'
back, as her sister quickly left Mt. Olympus, heading for the mineshaft.

* * *

Chapter Four

Xena woke up feeling rested and relaxed. At first, she didn't understand why,
but then it hit her. She wasn't trapped in the cave anymore! She was lying on
her bedroll, next to a small fire.

The warrior looked down and saw a scroll clutched in her left hand. She tried
wiggling her fingers and felt no pain. Unwrapping the bandage, Xena found
that her finger wasn't broken anymore. She tried to stand up and found that
her ankle didn't hurt either, nor did her bruised ribs. She unfolded the
scroll.

Go help Philemon.
Afterwards, send him home and return to this place.
A

"Thank you, great Goddess. I shall do as you ask," Xena said.

She heard the sound of hooves and turned around to see Argo happily munching
on some soft grass. Running over, Xena gave her a big hug, then returned to
the campfire. Next to it, she found her weapons and armor, sharpened and
polished.

Xena quickly gathered her things and went back to the entrance of the mine.
There she saw that her own markings had been erased and replaced with a
silver arrow. She said a silent "Thank you," and went in.

By following the marks, she soon found Philemon and his kidnappers. After a
brief struggle, she was able to free him from his restraints. He had a black
eye and a split lip, but otherwise, he was fine. They returned to Xena's old
campsite, where they found Crackton waiting for them with the two gray horses
and Argo.

After a short goodbye, Crackton and Philemon left for home, while Xena rode
off to find Gabrielle.

* * *

Xena wasn't sure, what the fastest route was. She certainly didn't want to
backtrack the whole way, that would take to long. She came to a fork in the
road and decided to go left, but Argo had a different opinion.

"Come on, girl. What are you doing? We're going this way."

Argo replied with a snort and resumed going to the right. Xena, not wanting
to hurt her, decided not to argue. Then she heard an owl cry, and a thought
entered her mind.

"Thank you again," she whispered and put the horse to a gallop; her mind
busy, contemplating how to tell Gabrielle of her feelings.

* * *

"I'm just a pathetic hero-wannabe, Gabrielle. Face it, I'm useless!"

"You're not useless, Joxer. I..."

Gabrielle looked up, as she heard the sounds of a horse approaching. She
recognized it immediately, and ran to meet the warrior.

"Xena!"

Xena quickly dismounted, and soon found herself on the receiving end of a big
hug. "Hey, Gabrielle. It's good to see you again. I've missed you."

"I've missed you too, Xena."

"Gabrielle, there is something, we have to talk about, but first, what's
wrong with Joxer?"

"Oh, he's in one of his I'm-no-good-at-anything moods again," the bard
exclaimed with a sigh.

"Okay, I'll go talk to him," Xena said and walked over to Joxer. She sat down
next to him on a log. "Hi, Joxer."

"Hey, Xena," the would-be hero sighed. "Come to have a laugh at my expense?
Wouldn't blame ya, if you did. That's all, I'm good for!"

"Hey, that's not true, Joxer, and you know it. Trust me, when I tell you,
that maybe you mess up sometimes, but you always have the best of intentions.
You may not be the best swordsman around, but you do have the heart of a
lion."

"Yeah, I do, don't I? Joxer the Lionheart. Yeah, that has a nice ring to it.
Thanks, Xena."

"My pleasure, Joxer. Now, do you think, you'll be all right on your own for
a while?"

"Of course. I'm Joxer the Mighty, remember? You two go on. I've got important
hero-stuff, I have to do."

"Thanks, Joxer. We'll see you later, okay? Come on, Gabrielle. Goodbye,
Joxer."

"Goodbye, Xena. Goodbye, Gabrielle."

"Goodbye, Joxer," the bard shouted, as Joxer ran of into the world; his armor
clanging, like a bell-tower at noon.

"So, did you have any trouble rescuing Philemon?"

"Nothing, I couldn't handle. What about you? Why was Joxer so down?"

"Well, it all began, when Joxer met Aphrodite and-" Gabrielle's story was cut
short by a large lightning bolt ripping the sky, and the thundering roar that
followed.

"We'd better find some shelter. And soon," Xena said, mounting Argo and
dragging Gabrielle up behind her. They headed towards, what looked like a
cave.

Not again, Xena thought, as they entered the dark place, just as the rain
started to pour. She completely missed the silver arrow, carved next to the
entrance.

"Good thing, we made it," Gabrielle said, looking around. "Xena, look!" She
rushed over to the far wall of the cave, where large piles of dry wood lay
scattered about.

Unseen by the bard, Xena once again bowed her head in silent thanks to the
Goddess.

They were enjoying a quiet meal, consisting of a large rabbit, which had
mysteriously decided to stumble into the cave, while each contemplated, how
to broach the subject of their true feelings.

"So..." Xena said.

"So..."

"So... what happened with Joxer? You mentioned something about Aphrodite?"

Gabrielle took out some parchment and a quill. "Oh, yeah. It was really
strange. You see, it all started with this bet..." The bard became totally
engrossed in her story, taking notes for future reference, as she was telling
it.

Xena laughed out loud more than once, but all of a sudden, she went quiet.

Gabrielle was so lost in her tale, that she didn't take notice of it, until
she reached the end of her story and discovered, that Xena didn't join in her
merriment. She looked up and saw the warrior stand at the far wall of the
cave; her head bowed down, her right hand on the wall, her left at her side,
balled up like a fist.

Gabrielle rose and went over to her friend. "Xena? Xena, what's wrong? Are
you feeling all right?"

"I'm fine, Gabrielle," the raven-haired woman answered through gritted teeth.
"Go back to the fire!"

"No. Xena, tell me what's wrong," the bard said and put her hand on Xena's
shoulder.

Xena quickly shrugged it off, not turning around, not seeing the hurt look on
the bard's face, although she knew it to be there.

Gabrielle just stood there for a moment, trying to keep her tears at bay.
"Xena, please, talk to me."

Silence reigned for a few moments. Then...

"You felt something..." Xena mumbled under her breath.

"What?"

"You felt something? Joxer kissed you, and you felt something?!" the warrior
shouted into the wall.

"Well, yeah, but... but... he was under Aphrodite's spell. I mean, come on,
Xena, this is Joxer, we're talking about!"

"Yeah, well, when I kissed you, you didn't even bother to mention it
afterwards! Or maybe, it didn't count, `cause I was `dead'. Or... or maybe,
you were just kissing Autolycus and not me, huh?!"

Realization hit Gabrielle like a bucket of ice-water. "Xena? Xena, look at
me," she said quietly. She put her hand on Xena's shoulder again and turned
her around. "Xena, when you kissed me that time, it was the most beautiful
thing, I've ever felt in my entire life. I will never forget it. I have never
felt so safe, than right there with you."

"I love you, Gabrielle. I've loved you from the moment, we first met. I...
I-I... `I long to kiss you, to taste your lips, to smell your skin, to run
my hands all over your strong body, to look into your eyes and let you see
my desire for you... To make love to you forever and ever! To hold you and
never let you go'."

"Xena, isn't that...?"

"Yes, Gabrielle. I found your scroll," the warrior said, her voice breaking,
tears starting to flood her cerulean eyes. "You don't know, how many times,
I've thought about telling you, how I really feel, but I was scared,
Gabrielle. I've never felt this way about anyone before, and I couldn't
imagine, what you would ever want with someone like me. Someone, who has
brought so much pain and suffering upon the world. I... I couldn't risk
endangering our friendship; couldn't risk loosing you. I love you, Gabrielle.
You hold my heart in your hands. I am at your mercy."

Xena fell to her knees, her head bowed down, her eyes closed, tears rolling
down her cheeks.

Gabrielle dropped down in front of the warrior and put her hand under her
chin, gently lifting her head up and looking into the warrior's eyes. "I love
you too, Xena. I always have, and I always will."

"Then, why...?" Xena took a deep breath, trying to gather up the courage to
ask a question, she wasn't sure, she wanted answered. "Why... why did you
marry Perdicus?" she said quietly, her voice barely a whisper.

"Xena, I..."

"You loved him, didn't you?"

"I... Well, kind of, I..." Gabrielle stammered, then took a deep breath.
"Yeah, I guess, I did love him in some way, but that's not, why I married
him."

"Wha... what do you mean?"

"I think... I think, I married him, because I was afraid. Xena, I had all
these feelings for you, which I didn't know, how to handle. You see, back
home in Poteidaia, I was raised to believe that love between two women was
something to look down upon, something to feel ashamed about, and when I
met you, I... it just... I don't know, I just couldn't get it to fit, with
what I had always been taught up to believe. And then Perdicus came along
and... Well, we travel around all over Greece, going up against warlords
and murderers, fighting injustice, and I guess, I just wanted to experience
something that felt a little more... uh... well... normal.

"That all changed, when you died. Xena, loving you doesn't scare me anymore,
but making love to you did, and still does. I assumed that you'd been with
other women before, and my inexperience embarrassed me. I didn't want to do
something wrong and have you laugh at me. At least with Perdicus, I had a
pretty good idea, of what I was getting myself into."

"Gabrielle, while it's true, that I have been with other women before,
please believe me when I say, that I would never hurt you or laugh at you or
anything like that."

"I know that now, Xena, but at the time..." the bard said, as tears started
rolling down her cheeks.

"Hey, it's okay, Gabrielle. It doesn't matter anymore. It's in the past. I
just want to be with you right now. Now and forever."

"I love you, Xena."

"I love you too, Gabrielle."

They both leaned forward to share a kiss, both looking into the other's eyes.
They saw a reflection of themselves there, of the love, passion and desire,
they both felt. Their lips met, softly. They stayed like that for a moment,
oblivious to the world beyond, then leaned back again and looked at each
other.

Xena stood up and held her hand out to Gabrielle. "Come, my love..."

They went over to the fire, never breaking eye contact. Xena gathered
Gabrielle up in her arms and laid her, ever so gently, down on their
bedrolls. They stared at each other and saw in each other's faces, the
kind of undying love, that only comes along once in a generation. The
warrior laid herself on top of Gabrielle, being very careful not to
hurt her.

"I want you so much, Gabrielle."

"I want you, too, Xena, but I..."

"Hey, it's okay. You can tell me."

"I... I'm scared, Xena. I forgot to tell you this before, but... well,
Perdicus and I... I mean, we never... ah, that is to say, I never... uhm..."

"You're still a virgin?!"

"I... Yes."

"But... but you just said...?"

"I said, I had wanted to experience it, not that I actually had."

"But why?"

"You. I loved you too much, Xena. I couldn't go through with it. Perdicus
didn't say anything, but I think, he knew... had known from the start, that
my heart belonged to another, and that I could never give myself to anyone
else." A single tear ran down the side of the bard's face.

"Oh, Gabrielle..." Xena said and leaned forward. She stuck her tongue out
and licked the salty bead from the bard's cheek. Then, she leaned in and
they kissed again, slowly at first, then more passionately.

Xena steeled herself, letting the bard set the pace, not wanting to rush her.
Her heart jumped, as Gabrielle's tongue timidly sought entrance, and both
moaned, as their muscles wrestled for superiority; tentatively, at first,
then their passion built and they stole each other's breath away. The kiss
seemed to last an eternity. They both gasped for air, when their lips broke
their tender embrace.

Xena looked down at her beloved bard. "Gabrielle, I want you to know, that
we can stop, anytime you want. Just say the word. You don't have to explain.
I'll understand. I could never hurt you."

Gabrielle looked up and saw the love in Xena's eyes. In response, she
pulled her warrior down for another breathtaking kiss. Her hands moved up
to intertwine themselves the warrior's raven hair, while Xena's hands began
to gently stroke the bard's sides. The hands moved down over the ribs and
inwards, towards the laces that held Gabrielle's green top together.

Xena lifted her head and asked: "Gabrielle, may I...?"

The bard simply nodded, too caught up in the moment to speak.

Xena began to slowly undo the lace, drawing it out, trying to make it last
as long, as possible, but Gabrielle wasn't as patient. She brought her hands
down and grabbed the warrior's wrists, moving them apart, pulling at the
lace. The top came undone, exposing the bard's perfect breasts, the nipples
already stiffened.

Xena unconsciously licked her lips, as the two orbs became visible. "By the
Gods, you are beautiful!" She couldn't wait any longer. She slid down the
bard a bit and flicked her tongue gently across Gabrielle's right nipple.

Gabrielle inhaled sharply and arched her back at the sensation, bringing the
nipple closer to Xena's hungry mouth.

Xena didn't waste any time. She lowered her head to the bard's chest,
captured her breast with her hand and closed her mouth around the nipple.
Neither could contain a deep moan, as contact was made.

Gabrielle arched her back even further, and Xena seized the opportunity to
capture her lover's other nipple between the callused fingers of her left
hand. She gently started to tweak it, once in a while pausing to flick at
it with her tongue, alternating between each breast. While she sucked on
one, she gently rolled, pulled and massaged the other.

Gabrielle moaned deeply and began to move her hands around the warrior's
leather-clad back. "Xena...?" she whispered.

Xena immediately looked up and removed her hands, concern furrowing her brow.
"Is something wrong? Do you want to stop?"

"No, but... I can't touch you, Xena. I need to touch you!"

The warrior smiled and sat back on her heels. She began to unhook the straps
of her leather tunic, but was halted by Gabrielle.

"No, let me," she husked.

The bard sat up and began to undress her lover. First one strap, then the
other; ever so slowly, until Xena's full mounds were exposed to the bard's
hungry eyes and equally hungry mouth. Gabrielle leaned forward and carefully
took a nipple between her lips, reveling in the feel and taste of her Warrior
Princess.

Xena couldn't help a moan escaping her lips, as her bard started to gently
suck the erect teat. "Oh, Gods, Gabrielle... Mmm... HIH!" She inhaled
sharply, as the bard, on a whim, ever so slightly raked her teeth across
the stiff bud.

Gabrielle looked up for confirmation and was rewarded with the sight of her
warrior's face, her lids half-closed, her mouth open, desire burning in her
eyes. "I take it, you like that, huh?" the bard said with a wry smile.

"Oh, yes... Mmm, keep going," Xena said, reveling in the touch of the woman,
she loved.

Gabrielle lowered her mouth to Xena's breast again, gently suckling,
nibbling, sucking at the woman, who meant everything to her.

Xena could feel her heart pounding, as the bard continued her relentless
attack on her bosom. She moaned deeply and felt her juices trickle from her
throbbing sex. Her breathing became ragged, as Gabrielle increased the pace.

But the warrior wasn't about to let Gabrielle do all the work. Her hands
moving to the bard's shoulders, she finished removing the strawberry-blonde's
top, then, quickly succeeding in her task, Xena's hands came up to cradle
Gabrielle's face and gently pull her away from her chest, gently laying her
down again. She planted a trail of kisses down between Gabrielle's breasts,
ending just above the rim her short skirt. She looked up at the bard, who
nodded gently.

Xena slowly removed the belt that held it in place and proceeded to slide
the skirt down Gabrielle's legs. The warrior then kissed and licked her way
up the bard's inner thighs, causing Gabrielle to shudder. The raven-haired
woman placed a finger inside the rim of the bard's breeches. Looking into her
lover's eyes, she slowly removed the last obstacle in her way. Xena softly
kissed the bard's golden curls, before moving down, inhaling the scent of her
woman. Gabrielle shuddered and arched her back slightly.

"Mmm..." She kissed the bard's outer lips, causing Gabrielle to arch her back
further.

"Gods, Xena... more... keep going..."

"Whatever you say, my love." Xena placed her thumbs on the bard's outer
lips and pulled gently, exposing the nub that she knew would bring Gabrielle
pleasure. She flattened her tongue and lapped at her.

Gabrielle moaned deeply and started bucking her hips. Xena continued to
slowly lick her lover, sometimes stopping to flick at Gabrielle's little
bundle of nerves, causing the bard to jerk violently, trying to find
release.

"Mmm, you taste soooo goooood, my love."

"Aah... Xena... I want... I need... ungh..."

Xena started to gently rub Gabrielle's clit, causing the bard to press her
sex against the warrior's already slick fingers. She increased the pace and
pressure, as the bard's hips started to buck furiously.

Xena matched her lover's speed, and just before the bard came, she stuck her
tongue deep into the bard's core, sending Gabrielle plunging over the edge.

"Oh... Oh, Gods... Xena... Oh... XEEE... AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH..."

Xena kept licking and stroking, drawing out her bard's orgasm. Only when she
felt Gabrielle coming down, did she stop, quickly sliding up, cradling the
young woman in her arms. She brushed a few sweat-soaked strands of hair back
from the woman's face. "Shh, it's okay, Gabrielle. I'm here, and I'm never
gonna leave you."

"Oh, Xena, I love you so much"

"I love you too, Gabrielle. I love you too."

Xena continued to stroke the bard's hair, whispering sweet terms of
endearment in her ear, while gently rocking the bard to sleep. She continued
a little while longer after that, simply because she could, free of fear or
trepidation, before joining her lover in the arms of Morpheus; her last
thought, that Gabrielle had indeed cried out her name that night...

* * *

Chapter Five

Gabrielle awoke a few candle marks later, to the feeling of Xena gently
sucking on her nipple. "Mmm, I could get used to waking up like this," she
said and yawned.

"Do you want to sleep some more? There's no rush."

"Oh, no. I'm awake."

They could to hear birds singing happily outside the cave. A look confirmed
that it had stopped raining.

"Good morning, my love," Xena said, drawing the bard in for a deep,
passionate kiss.

"Hmm, good morning, Xena." Gabrielle yawned and stretched. Her stomach
rumbled. "Mmm, I'm hungry."

The warrior chuckled. "When are you not hungry?"

"Ha, ha, very funny. I'll have you know, that I don't really eat that much!"
the bard replied with a pouty smile.

"Compared to what? A giant?" Xena teased, receiving a gentle shot to the
ribs.

"Just for that, you have to go get us breakfast." Gabrielle looked out at the
sun. "Or should I say lunch? I didn't realize it was so late in the day."

"Neither did I. Gabrielle?"

"Hm?"

"Any... any regrets?" Xena asked, her lower lip trembling slightly.

Gabrielle raised her arms and drew the warrior in for a kiss, putting as much
love in it, as possible. "None. Except, I wish, we'd done this sooner."

"I know. After last night, I can't understand, why I was so afraid to tell
you, how I feel. I love you, Gabrielle."

"I love you too, Xena." The bard's stomach chose that moment to once again
make itself known. "But right now, I need to eat!"

"Okay, okay, love-of-my-life. There's a stream to the east, not far from
here. I'll catch us something to eat, you pack up our stuff and bring Argo.
Okay?"

"Okay, my big, dumb warrior."

"Anything particular, you want to eat?"

"How about salmon?"

"Wrong season, Gabrielle, which you very well know," the warrior said with
an angry/playful expression on her face.

"Then how about... uhm... eel?"

"Well, remembering your reaction, the last time, I brought you that, I'll
see, what I can do." A big smile curved her lips. "I'll definitely have
to see, what I can do..." With that, she got up and got dressed, kissed
Gabrielle and then left for the stream, while the bard packed up their
belongings, humming a happy tune, as she worked.

* * *

Gabrielle found her lover lying lazily next to the stream beside a small
fire. She immediately noticed a rolled up package of leaves, just sticking
out from under some red-hot embers. The bard smiled and laid herself next
to the warrior. "You spoil me, Xena," she said, nodding toward the package.

"I love you, Gabrielle" Xena said and propped herself up on one elbow. "You
know, I'm no good with words, so if spoiling you like this, is what it takes
to show you, how much I love you and retain your love for me, I consider it
a small price to pay."

Gabrielle turned to look at Xena. "Xena, you don't have to do anything to
`retain my love'. You are the keeper of my heart, now and forever. No matter
what happens, we'll always have each other..." The bard paused, then asked,
"Won't we?"

"Of course, we will, Gabrielle. I will always love you. Don't you know that
by know?"

"Yeah, I do. I just wanted to hear you say it. Oh, and just because you don't
have to spoil me, doesn't mean, you shouldn't," the bard grinned.

"Why, you little..." Xena grinned and ruffled the blond woman's hair. "Hm,
your hair seems a bit tangled. What do you say we take a nice, long dip in
the stream? I'll wash your hair and then braid it for you. How's that sound?"

"Well, what can I say, other than... LAST ONE IN IS A SON OF A BACCHAE!"
Gabrielle shouted, as she jumped to her feet and ran towards the water,
shedding her clothes along the way.

Xena stood up and enjoyed the sight for a moment, before she also took of for
the water.

"Ha, ha, I beat you!" Gabrielle shouted, splashing water in Xena's direction.

"First of all, you cheated. Second, you'd better watch it, or I'll have to
use my many skills on you!" Xena answered with a splash of her own.

"Is that a promise?" Gabrielle yelled back.

"Maybe. That depends," Xena said and settled in the cool stream.

"On what?" the bard queried, as she too settled down.

"On what, I get in return," Xena said, chuckling.

"Oh. Well, I'll have to think about that," the bard responded, a wicked
expression settling on her beautiful face.

The warrior gulped hard. What had she gotten herself into? "Do you want me to
wash your hair now," she asked, in hope of changing the subject.

"Uhm, yeah, sure," the bard answered absently, her mind racing with hundreds
of fantasies.

Xena moved behind the bard and cupped some water in her hands. When she let
it run down over her naked lover, Gabrielle was unable to suppress a shudder.
Then it hit her. She didn't have to suppress anything anymore! She turned
around to face her newfound love, her eyes burning with desire.

Xena recognized the look in her lover's eyes. It was mirrored in her own.
Taking a deep breath, however, she put her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders
and gently nudged her around. "First the hair..."

The bard let out an exaggerated sigh of disappointment and laid her head back
a little, to allow the warrior better access.

Xena started to carefully separate the entangled strands of hair, a little
bit at a time. She tried to be as gentle, as possible, not wanting to hurt
her love.

Gabrielle lost herself in the touch of her best friend. She loved it, when
Xena would wash her hair. It never ceased to amaze her, how someone so
strong and powerful, could be so gentle and loving. She was ripped from her
thoughts, as Xena proclaimed to be finished.

"Come on. I'll braid your hair after you've dried it."

The warrior started to move towards the shore. Gabrielle couldn't keep her
eyes from her lover's oh-so-perfect body and stared shamelessly at her.

Xena felt the burrowing eyes of her bard and smiled happily. "You coming?"
she called.

Gabrielle broke from her fantasies and started towards the fire, mumbling
under her breath, "I plan to..." As she got to the shore, she knew exactly,
what she would give the warrior.

After Xena had braided Gabrielle's hair, they ate in silence, sitting up
against some rocks opposite each other. They hadn't bothered to put their
clothes back on, both confident that the warrior's keen hearing, would pick
it up well in time, if anybody approached the camp. Besides, they couldn't
get enough of looking at each other!

Neither noticed the food or how it tasted. They just sat and stared at
each other, and Xena could tell that the bard was up to something, but she
couldn't figure out what.

"Dinar for your thoughts," Xena said. When she didn't get an answer, she
repeated the question a little louder. "Gabrielle? Dinar for your thoughts?"

Gabrielle still didn't answer. Instead, she put her plate down, walked over
to the warrior and put her hand out. Xena put her own plate down and took the
hand.

Gabrielle led her over to their bedrolls, laying next to the fire. She
beckoned the warrior to lie down and laid herself beside her. "I want you to
show me some of your many skills," the bard husked and gently kissed Xena's
neck. "And I've figured out, what to give you in return."

"G... Gabrielle, I... I was only joking. You... mmm... you don't have to give
me anything."

"But I want to, Xena." She leaned over and put her mouth close to the
warrior's ear. "I love you so much," she whispered, nibbling Xena's earlobe.
"My virginity, Xena. I want you to be my first. That is my gift to you."

Xena breathed deeply. Had she been standing up, despite her tall frame, her
jaw would have literally hit the floor. "Are... are you sure, Gabrielle? I
mean, it's... it's not something, you can ever get back."

"I know. That's why I'm giving it to you, and only you, my warrior."
Gabrielle bent her head down and softly kissed her lover.

"I love you so much, Gabrielle," Xena whispered and rolled the bard over on
her back.

They kissed deeply. Gabrielle's hands were all over her lover's back, while
Xena let her hands travel down to cup Gabrielle's breasts, grabbing them,
squeezing them gently. She brought her hands closer together, her fingers
seeking out her bard's erect nipples.

Gabrielle arched her back at the exquisite feel of Xena's callused fingers
gently massaging her pinkish teats.

"Are you sure about this, Gabrielle?" Xena mumbled between kisses.

Gabrielle answered by bringing her hands up to the warrior's shoulders and
gently pressing down, urging Xena to travel further south.

Xena was happy to comply, as she slid down her lover, until her head was
level with Gabrielle's soft mounds. Gabrielle's skin was flushed with heat
and she shuddered and moaned, when Xena blew cold air at her nipples, making
them stand out even more.

"Xenaaa..."

Xena smiled, as she captured one of the hard buds between her lips, flicking
her tongue over it, while her right hand continued it's assault on the other
nipple.

"Uhh... oh..." Gabrielle moaned, as her pelvis started to slowly gyrate.

Xena felt the vibrations coursing through her love's body and headed
downwards. As her mouth left Gabrielle's breast, the bard lifted her head.

"Wha...? Ooh..." she sighed and put her head back down, as Xena planted a
trail of wet kisses down the woman's abdomen, her hands traveling along the
bard's sides.

Xena stopped just above Gabrielle's sex, burying her face in the damp,
golden curls; inhaling the scent that was the woman, she loved. "Mmm, I love
the way you smell, my beloved bard." She swept her right hand through the
woman's pubic hair and down the length of her sex, brushing slightly against
Gabrielle's clit. Gabrielle moaned, as she looked down to see Xena bring her
finger up to the bard's mouth, a single drop of fluid dangling from it. She
raised her head and captured the digit in her mouth, gently sucking it,
tasting herself on her woman.

"I... mmm... I taste good, too," Gabrielle exclaimed wickedly.

Xena flattened her tongue and slowly ran it up the woman's labia. Gabrielle
shuddered and dropped her head back down. "Yes, you do, my love."

Xena continuing her oral ministrations, it didn't take long before the bard
started to move her hips more vigorously, pushing against Xena tongue, urging
it go inside. Xena continued to lap up the sweet nectar, flowing from inside
the bard. She wanted to move on, but didn't want to rush this, either.
Finally, she gave in to Gabrielle's hips and pushed her tongue deep inside
the bard's throbbing sex.

Gabrielle arched her back, almost bringing herself up to a sitting position
and cried out, as the warrior darted her tongue rapidly in and out of the
woman. "Aah... Xe... Xena... Gods... please... don't... don't stop... Oh...!"
she yelled, before falling back on the bedroll.

Xena continued to lick the bard, while she placed her left thumb against the
bard's erect bundle of nerves and started rubbing it slowly. She gradually
increased the pace, as she felt Gabrielle near her climax, but just before
that happened, the warrior slowed down again, almost stopping, eliciting
groans of disappointment from the bard.

"Xe... Xena, what... what are you doing? Don't... don't sto- Aah..." The bard
was halted mid-sentence, as Xena wrapped her lips around the blond woman's
clit and sucked hard.

So that's how you get her to be quiet, the warrior mused. I must remember
that.

"Oh, Xe... Xena... please... I... I need you... Oh, Gods... To take... take
me... now... Please..." Gabrielle begged.

"Shh, trust me, Gabrielle," the warrior exclaimed, as she once again brought
the pace up a notch. She repeated the pattern several times, bringing
Gabrielle right to the edge, then yanking her back. It didn't take long,
before Gabrielle's hips were bucking so wildly, that Xena had trouble keeping
her mouth on the woman.

"Xena. Xena, stop. Please, stop," the bard panted.

Xena immediately brought her head up to look at the bard. "What's wrong,
Gabrielle? Did I hurt you?" the warrior asked with a frightened look on her
face.

"No. No, it's not that," the bard said, trying to catch her breath. "I
just... I can't stand just lying here anymore. I want... No, I need to taste
you. Please."

"Anything for you, my bard." Xena tried, but couldn't quite keep a note of
disappointment out of her voice, as she crawled up to lay next to the bard.
She wasn't finished yet, dammit!

"Wait, no, that's not what I meant," the bard said.

Xena looked at her quizzically.

"Here, turn around." Gabrielle put her hands on the warrior's shoulders and
gently tried to nudge her around. Then Xena understood.

My, my, I wonder, where she learned that? Xena thought, as she turned
around and lifted her right leg over the bard, straddling her young lover.
She quickly brought her mouth down upon her lover's sex once again, while
the bard took her time, slowly exploring this, to her, new and unmarked
territory.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the warrior's hips, as Xena lowered herself
down, until she was gazing at the opening of her lover's entrance. The bard
lapped cautiously at her warrior's sex, already dripping with moisture; then,
deciding she liked the taste, she started licking more enthusiastically,
soliciting deep moans from between her own legs. Wanting to hear more of
that, she brought her right hand around and placed a finger at Xena's
opening.

"Oh, yes, Gabrielle. Do it!" the warrior said and gasped, when Gabrielle slid
her finger in deeply. "Aah, yes. Please, Gabrielle. More! Oh, Gods!"

Gabrielle slid in a second finger, then a third, and started to move them
quickly back and forth. Xena started to lick faster, rubbing her thumb across
the bard's hard nub. Both women moaned and groaned, as both picked up the
pace.

Gabrielle could feel Xena's muscles tighten around her fingers and realized,
that the warrior was getting close. She made a quick decision and put her
left index finger in her mouth to lubricate it. Then, just as Xena was
reaching her climax, she placed the finger at the entrance to Xena's anus and
plunged it deep inside of her, sending the warrior screaming over the edge.

"GABRIEEEEEEEEELLLEEE!"

Xena's hips bucked wildly, and she almost passed out from the exquisite
feeling of release, washing over her. She managed to hold on to reality,
however, and with Gabrielle's fingers still inside of her, she started to
rub and lick her lover's pulsating sex at a furious pace.

Gabrielle's hips trashed around, and the warrior had to use both her hands
to keep her mouth on the bard's clit. The bard started to move her fingers
again, sending Xena on an upwardly winding spiral of ecstasy.

Xena felt Gabrielle near her peak and placed two fingers just outside
the bard's coral opening. As she neared her own climax again, she
plunged her fingers deep inside her golden-haired lover and claimed her
once-in-a-lifetime prize.

Gabrielle felt a short stab of pain and cried out, but it quickly subsided,
as Xena started to move her fingers in and out. When her lover brought them
almost completely out, then added a third finger, only to bring them right
back in, it was all over for the bard.

They both came together, screaming each other's names at the top of
their lungs. The ground vibrated under them, and all over the land, small
earthquakes would occur, where none had ever been experienced before.

As wave after wave of pleasure washed over them both, Xena used her last
ounce of energy, to get off her lover and lie down next to her. Nothing was
said for a while, as both women tried to catch their breath. Then, for once,
it was Xena, who first spoke.

"Gab... Gabrielle?" *Huff!* Xena took a deep breath in an effort to gain
control of her body again.

"Yeah...?"

"Are you okay?"

"I... I'm not sure. Are we dead?"

The warrior chuckled. "We might be, I'm not sure, but if this is what the
Elysian Fields are like, I don't really care."

"I second that."

Several moments passed, as both women tried to calm down.

"Gabrielle?"

"Yeah?"

"Where did you pick up those moves?"

"Why? Did I do something wrong?" the bard asked nervously.

Xena rolled over and hugged the bard. "After this, how can you even ask? I
have never... ever, felt anything that comes even remotely close to that!"

"So you liked it, huh? I was hoping, you might. I mean, when Ephiny showed
me-"

"Ephiny?!"

"Yeah, she showed me-"

"Ephiny showed you, how to...? That bitch! I'll kill her for this!" Xena
started to get up, her exhaustion forgotten, a murderous look in her eyes
at the thought of their so-called friend taking advantage of her sweet,
trusting bard.

"Wha...?" Gabrielle was confused at first, then it dawned on her, what the
warrior was thinking. "Oh! Oh, no, Xena. That's not what I meant." She
clasped her lover's hand and dragged her back down.

"Then, what?" Xena asked, refusing to meet her lover's eyes.

"Xena, I didn't know, what to do. Xena, look at me. Please!" Gabrielle begged
the warrior, putting her hand on her shoulder, trying to get her to turn
around.

After a bit of coaxing, Xena turned to see the bard look at her with equal
parts amusement and love.

"It was after we kissed, Xena. I was so confused. You were dead, and I was
transporting your body back to Amphipolis. Then, all of a sudden, I was in
the middle of a war for the title of Amazon Queen. I had accepted the title,
when the guards caught Autolycus trying to steal your body, with some story
about you being in his body. I didn't believe him, until I saw him do things,
that only you, or possibly Ca- one other person in the world, could do.

"He rode of with your body, and I followed him. I saw you take control of
him, I closed my eyes and... Puff! There you were. Right there in front of
me. We didn't talk much, in fact, I can't even remember, what I said, and
then you kissed me, and I remember feeling a sort of tranquility drape over
me, like a blanket. I knew then, that somehow, I had to let you know, how I
really felt."

"And Ephiny?"

"I told her about, how I felt about you, and how nervous I was at the
prospect of making love to you. I wanted more than anything to make you
feel, how much I loved you."

"Gabrielle, even if we never made love, I would have been happy just to have
you in my life."

Gabrielle smiled. "I know that now, but at the time... Anyway, I told Eph and
she showed me..." The bard trailed of, a mischievous glint in her eyes. "The
library!" she exclaimed, giggling.

Xena looked perplexed. "The library? What's so special about that?"

Gabrielle calmed down and explained. "In the back of the Royal Amazonian
Library, there's a display of drapes with all kinds of coat-of-arms and
such."

"Yeah, and?"

"Well, behind the one bearing the symbols of Queen Hippolyta, there's a
secret passage going down to an underground room. That's where the adult
section is located."

It dawned on the warrior, what Gabrielle was talking about. "You mean..."

"Yep. Scroll after scroll after scroll; all dedicated to the art of
lovemaking between women."

"Oh. So Ephiny never...?"

"Never. I've only ever wanted you. When you came back, after..." Gabrielle's
voice trembled slightly at the memory of that terrible time.

Xena gathered her love in her arms. "Shh, it's alright. I'm here now, and I'm
not going anywhere."

After a few moments, the bard had calmed enough to finish her tale. "Thank
you, Xena. Well, I wanted to tell you, but I wanted to wait for the perfect
time, the perfect place... and the perfect words. That's what the scroll you
found, was all about. I don't know, how many draughts, I went through, before
settling for that one. Those were the words, I had planned to recite to you,
when that perfect moment arrived. But it never did. And the more, I postponed
it, the more, I lost my nerve. I'm sorry."

"No, hey, it's okay, Gabrielle. Maybe you didn't get to recite your scroll to
me in person, but I felt you there, when I read it. And it was beautiful, my
love. You're sorry for not telling me, but you're wrong; you did tell me.

"You are a bard, Gabrielle, the best in the world, I might add, and you used
the tools you possess to let me know, what was going on. I think, that if
either of us had had to actually say it without any precedence, there's a
good chance, it would never have come out. Not before it was too late,
anyway."

The two hugged tenderly, and Gabrielle snuggled up to her warrior. They lay
in silence, just watching the clouds roll by.

"Xena?"

"Hmm?"

"How did you come to read that scroll?"

"What?"

"Well, you still haven't told me, what happened, while you were away."

"I'm afraid, that'll have to wait," Xena husked and rolled towards the bard.
"Because right now, I'm more interested in finding out, what else, you picked
up from the Amazons!"

Xena put her lips to the bard's, and they soon lost themselves in each other,
the outside world quickly fading away...

* * *

Artemis smiled down upon them from her chamber on Mt. Olympus.

"You did good, sis," Aphrodite said, as she joined her sister at the scrying
bowl.

"I couldn't have done it without you, dear sister," said Artemis and put her
arm around the Goddess of Love, giving her a gentle squeeze and a kiss on the
cheek.

"Oh, by the way, thanks for the lightning, dad," the Goddess of the Hunt
said, as a bright flash of light announced the arrival of Zeus.

"My pleasure," the King of the Gods said with a smile.

The three were soon joined by most of the other Gods, all coming together to
gaze at the perfect love beneath them; even Hades poked his head up to see,
what was going on.

Only Ares was absent. He sat in his chamber on a throne of blood-covered
skulls, and couldn't help shedding a single tear that fell to the ground and
burned like acid, knowing that perhaps, he had lost his star pupil forever.

It didn't take long, however, before his sick, twisted mind began to
formulate new plans to get his former Chosen back...

The end (and the beginning...)

    

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