Something to talk about
Disclaimers: This story was not approved by MCA/Universal but they are such good sports to let us folks have fun with their characters – Xena, her little bard Gabby and the rest of the gang. Is there a love story between two women in this tale? Of course. It’s a T. Novan story. Are there explicit scenes of love between said women in this tale? Of course. It’s a C.N. Winters story. With that knowledge read on (unless of course you’re too young, live in a conservative neighborhood or just think that love between two people of the same gender is offensive).
Xena entered the tavern two steps ahead of Gabrielle, which was now more out of habit. Although she knew the bard was quite capable of defending herself, Xena had to make sure it was safe for the bard. The tavern was crowded with people, laughing, drinking and bustling back and forth. She scanned across the room until finally resting her eyes on the friends they had agreed to meet for the festival.
Hercules was reclining back in his chair, with the two front legs about two inches off the floor. Iolaus was sitting across the table from him laughing at something Autolycus had just said. Joxer and Salmoneus simply sat and stared at Ephiny and Solari, who looked as if they had been enjoying the ale this tavern had to offer.
"That’s quite a motley crew." Xena said to Gabrielle, pointing to the group in the corner.
"How long to you think they’ve been here?" the bard asked peering from behind the warrior.
"From the looks of Ephiny and Solari I’d guess most of the afternoon," Xena smirked.
"The festival doesn’t even start until tomorrow," Gabrielle answered innocently.
"Well it looks like they’ve got a pretty good head start on it," Xena chuckled as she watched Ephiny in her uninhibited state, playing with a strand of Solari’s dark mane.
"They should be ashamed of themselves," Gabrielle replied a bit disgusted with her amazons for their lack of reserve.
"Well you know what they say Gabrielle. You can take the amazon out of the village, but you can’t take the village out of the amazon," the warrior teased.
"What in Zeus’ lighting bolts does that mean?" the amazon queen asked, clearly offended.
"All I’m saying," Xena began tactfully. ". . .is that you know as well as I do that an amazon will find any excuse to have a party."
Gabrielle could only draw a deep breath. The warrior was right of course. Next to a good fight there was nothing an amazon warrior liked more than a good party. "I suppose we should go join them." Gabrielle said as she started forward.
Xena reached out and took her by the arm. "Not just yet. They haven’t noticed us yet. Let’s find seat and see what our friends have to say when we’re not here."
"But Xena we are here," the bard sighed.
"Yeah, but they don’t know that. Come on . . . it’ll be fun." The mischievous look on the warriors face was one the bard always had a hard time resisting. It wasn’t often that Xena was in this playful mood so she had to take what she could get it. Of course that didn’t mean she had to give in so easily.
"Eavesdropping on our friends is going to be fun?" the bard said in challenge, trying not to grin.
"Sure, think about all the stuff we’ll be able to hold over them tomorrow when they’re sober," Xena remarked as her eyebrows shot up into her bangs.
Xena ordered a couple of drinks from the bar, and led the bard to a table a few feet away from the area where their friends were sitting. They still hadn’t been noticed and Xena observed that they probably wouldn’t be for sometime, if at all.
"Oh they have to be." Autolycus snorted as he took a drink of his port.
"And I’m telling you, you’re both nuts." Hercules replied.
"No I think they’re right." Ephiny said agreeing with the statement from the King of Thieves.
"No they’re not." Hercules said as he brought his chair forward, getting deeper into the discussion.
"What?" Joxer piped in.
"You should see them at the village." Solari offered. "Xena’s almost cute about it," she snorted.
Xena perked up at the mention of her name. Gabrielle sipped her wine wondering where this particular conversation was going. Maybe this eavesdropping stuff had some merit she surmised.
"Cute is not a word I would use to describe Xena." Salmoneus added in his quick chatty voice. "Don’t get me wrong. She’s a verrrry beautiful woman. . . but cute?"
"She’s cute when it comes to a certain bard." Iolaus added sending Autolycus into a fit of chuckles, nearly choking on his port.
"What are you guys talkin’ about?" Joxer asked indignantly.
"Xena and Gabrielle." Autolycus answered in annoyance, quickly turning back to the other gatherers. "Remember what she was like when Xena died?" he remarked to the amazons at the table. He made a violin motion as he continued, "All day and all night."
"What about ‘em?" The warrior- wanna- be inquired much to his companion’s irritation.
"We were just discussing their relationship." Hercules answered.
"What about it?" Joxer asked the table. "I know them better than most of you from our travels."
"Tell me Joxer. What do you think their relationship is? Hercules asked
"Oh, he’s a moron." Autolycus whined. "He’s still pining over Goldylocks, hoping she’ll fall in love with him," the thief said with a dramatic wave of his hand in Joxer’s direction.
Gabrielle nearly choked on her wine and Xena gave her some small pats to the back.
"Oh don’t act so surprised," whispered the warrior.
"No," Herc continued, holding his hands up to silence the table. "I really I want to know what you think," Herc continued gesturing toward Joxer, "because you do spend so much time with them."
Joxer pondered it a moment. "Well they’re really good friends . . . best friends in fact."
"Herc and I are best friends, but I don’t stand that close to him on a regular basis." Iolaus interrupted.
"What exactly are you guys trying to say?" Joxer asked, still confused over the direction of the conversation.
"Told ya. . . Not a single candle lit in his castle." Autolycus grinned as he taped the warrior-wannabe’s head, making Salmoneus chuckle aloud.
"Heyyyyy," Joxer squirmed to avoid him. "Come on tell me what you’re talking about."
"You probably don’t tend to stare at him as much either." Ephiny offered to Iolaus with a wink.
"Who stares?" Xena asked in a whisper as she looked over at Gabrielle who just happened to be staring at her. Xena cleared her throat and looked back into the bottom of her mug.
"Come on guys. What are you…" Joxer whined.
"THEY’RE LOVERS!" The entire group, including Hercules, yelled at him all at once.
Now it was Xena’s turn to choke on her drink. Gabrielle patted her on the back as she coughed.
"Are you all right?" Gabrielle asked as she rubbed the warrior’s back. Xena nodded as a few small coughs continued to escape mostly through her nose.
She drew a deep breath and looked over to the bard. Her eyes had begun to water in response to the fact that her lungs hadn’t received any air. She wiped her eyes with the palm of her hand. "I think we should go."
Gabrielle nodded and the pair made a very quiet exit. They walked silently down the street towards the inn. Xena took a deep breath. "I’m sorry about that Gabrielle. I’ll set them straight in the morning."
Gabrielle didn’t reply immediately and Xena didn’t want to press any points. Finally the bard asked, "Xena do you think everyone thinks that about us?"
"I don’t know Gabrielle," the warrior replied honestly. "I don’t know."
Gabrielle wasn’t sure where to lead the conversation so she started with a question.
"Are you embarrassed?"
Xena considered the inquiry. "Well. . . yeah a little."
A sense of defeat began to wash over the bard, as well as a sense of being a burden.
"Do I embarrass you?" Gabrielle asked in a voice that conveyed she feared the answer.
Xena stopped walking and turned to Gabrielle. "No of course not. Never," Xena reassured feeling the bard’s distress, as she placed her hands on Gabrielle’s shoulders for emphasis.
"Then why does the thought of our being lovers embarrass you?"
"Gabrielle that’s not it at all." Xena continued. "I just wish our friends had something better to do than speculate about our love life." The pair began walking toward the inn again.
"So it’s not the fact that they think you and I are sleeping together?" Gabrielle asked in clarification.
"No of course not," Xena said with a grin that played on her face and in her voice.
"You know they must have had some reason for coming up with that in the first place," the bard added in speculation.
"They’re drunk Gabrielle," Xena smiled. "That’s all. Just drunk."
"No," the bard debated, pausing a moment to consider the nature of the conversation they just overheard, "I get the feeling we’ve been the topic of conversation for most of the day."
"Okay then they must just be crazy. . .Gabrielle how in the world could they possible think that you would even be remotely interested in me?"
Gabrielle smiled as the warrior walked ahead of her. ‘Oh I don’t know’, she thought to herself, ‘Maybe because I can’t take my eyes off you’. "You know what I think we should do?" she offered instead.
"What?" the warrior sighed.
"I think we should really give them something to talk about," the bard grin misceviously.
"What?!" Xena stopped and turned back to the bard. "Have you lost your senses? They already think we’re lovers. Why in the world would you want to encourage that?" the warrior added. ‘And why give me more unrequinted feelings to boot,’ she considered silently in after thought.
"Oh I don’t know. I’m sure if we think about it together, we could find someway of using it against them in the end. You know kind of a cruel practical joke to teach them a lesson to keep someone’s private life . . .. private."
‘Great. Just great’, Xena thought. ‘Like I’m not having a hard enough time controlling all the things I feel for you and now you want to make it worse’. "Gabrielle I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. I mean what if they think we’re serious? It’ll only make the rumors...."
"Yeah and just when they think so we’ll tell them the truth and teach them to stop talking about people behind their backs," the bard answered, waving her finger up to the warrior to stress her point.
"Don’t you think it would just be easier if I talked to them in the morning?" Xena sighed, already feeling defeat.
"Easier? Yes . . . but not nearly as much fun," the bard said with a coy smile. She glanced back at the tavern. The group had just exited, and was now headed in their direction. "If you’re not embarrassed by me what’s the problem?" she asked taking a step towards the warrior.
Xena took a deep breath. She couldn’t tell the bard she was playing with fire here. That would be too much. Besides this might be the closest thing she’ll ever have to . . .having the bard. "There’s no problem," Xena said trying to muster a confident grin.
"Good." Gabrielle purred as she placed her palm on the side of Xena’s face and gently gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Xena felt her knees go weak at the touch and even weaker with the kiss. And she wondered how this young, gentle woman had the power that even the strongest man in the world didn’t have – the power to capture her heart, body and soul. Everything she ever did she did for Gabrielle. Even this ‘joke’, which could prove very painful in the end, was something she couldn’t deny the bard.
As Gabrielle brushed her lips to Xena’s cheek she whispered, "They’re coming."
The warrior turned her head and looked. Autolycus was poking Hercules in the ribs as he pointed to the pair. Xena’s sensitive hearing heard Hercules mumble, "I still think you’re crazy."
She whispered into the bard’s ear. "Are you sure about this?"
"Oh yeah. I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life," Gabrielle said as she pulled back and smiled at the warrior. ‘I might not be able to have you forever, but I can have you for a couple of days,’ she thought as she slipped her hand into Xena’s and they turned to walk towards the group.
"I thought you were going to meet us at the tavern?" Hercules asked as the pair approached.
"We just got into town and put our gear away. We were on our way," Xena answered.
Ephiny and Solari stepped forward and greeted their queen. They both had grins on their faces they were trying desperately to hide.
"Something wrong?" Gabrielle questioned them with a raised regal eyebrow.
"No my queen," Ephiny offered with a laugh. Solari poked the regent hard in the ribs. "Ouch!"
"Excuse us my queen." Solari managed to stammer. "I think Regent Ephiny is ready for bed."
"I think the Queen is too…" Eph managed to slip in before receiving another sharp poke to the ribs.
"I think you may be right Solari." Gabrielle replied, giving them one of her best ‘looks’ before turning her head to give Xena a thoughtful gaze. The two amazons excused themselves quickly and headed directly for the inn, already beginning to gossip as the shuffled and swayed along.
Joxer stepped forward. "Hey guys! You know we were talking in the tavern-"
Before he could say another word Autolycus clasped a hand over his mouth and Salmoneus grab his legs. The pair offered hasty goodnights and carried the struggling Joxer away.
Xena cocked her head and looked at Hercules. "Care to explain that?" She arched the eyebrow and he knew he was in trouble.
"Not tonight, maybe tomorrow. Come on Iolaus." They too quickly made their departure. All at once warrior and bard found themselves alone again.
Gabrielle and Xena turned and smiled at each other. "Oh this may actually be fun." Xena said, under her breath, as a chuckle escaped her lips.
"Told ya," the bard smirked.
Gabrielle continued to hold Xena’s hand and the warrior made no attempt to break the contact.
As they entered the inn, the small group was still gathered in the common room. All eyes were on them as they entered. Joxer sat on a bench with Autolycus’ hand still firmly in place over his mouth. The duo simply smiled at them and headed for the stairs to their room. Once inside, they both burst into fits of laughter.
Xena wiped the tears from her eyes as she stacked firewood in the fireplace. "That was good. I enjoyed that."
"Yeah I have a feeling that this festival is going to be fun in more ways than one." Gabrielle giggled as she began unpacking their things.
"So how far are we going to take this before we tell them?" the warrior asked as she got to her feet and began fumbling with the buckles of her armor.
Gabrielle set aside the unpacking and moved to help Xena remove her armor. "Oh I don’t know. Just until it feels right I guess. I really think we should let them dig themselves a nice little hole first."
"They’ve got a really fine start," the warrior said as she shrugged out of the armor. Gabrielle took the plates and laid them to the side. Xena removed the rest of the armor and laid it with the plates. She took a deep breath and stretched glad to be out of the heavy armor. Gabrielle watched and sighed heavily, which didn’t go unnoticed by the warrior. "Tired?"
"Yeah I guess I am." She said softly, hoping she would be able to pass off the sigh as a signal of her exhaustion.
"Than we should probably get some sleep," the warrior said as she removed her leathers and laid them with her armor. Another heavy sigh escaped from the bard as she took notice of the warrior who was now left in her shift. She turned to Gabrielle and caught her actually staring this time. "Gabrielle? Hey…" She snapped her fingers to get her friends attention.
"Huh? Oh sorry I just kind of let my mind wander a little I guess."
"Well where did it go? You were pretty far out there."
"Well I guess I was just wondering about you…" Gabrielle let the sentence hang in the air. Maybe Xena wouldn’t be curious tonight and just let it drop like she often did.
"Me? What about me?" Xena asked as she watched the bard untying the laces of her top. ‘Breath Xena, breath,’ she thought to herself as she tore her eyes away and started tending to the fire again. That task didn’t last long and she found her eyes covering Gabrielle’s toned body.
‘Damn,’ the bard thought. ‘She wants me to explain.’ "Well I was just wondering things," she answered vaguely.
It took a moment but Xena broke her regard of the bard long enough to answer. "Yeah you said that already," she teased. "What is it about me you want to know?"
Gabrielle continued to run her fingers slowly through the laces of the top and tried to find the best way to word her question. "Well…umm…I know that you…umm…"
A knock on the door gave her the reprieve that her brain was screaming for.
"Who is it?" Xena called in a short tone as she moved to the door, grabbing her dagger from the table on the way. With one hand resting on the handle and her blade in the other, she waited for an answer.
"It’s Iolaus…" a timid voice answered on the other side.
"Hang on Iolaus…"
She turned to the bard and grinned. She crossed the room to her friend and whispered, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Absolutely," the bard grinned back.
"Do you trust me?"
Before Gabrielle could finish her sentence Xena placed two fingers across the bard’s lips to silence her. Then she went to the bed and pulled it apart, giving it a well used and ‘tumbled’ look. She pulled the sheet free as Iolaus knocked again.
"Hold your horses Iolaus…" Xena, yelled as she returned to the bard and whispered. "Take your top off."
"You wanna do this right or not?"
That was all Gabrielle needed. She shook her head as she slid the small garment off her shoulders and let it drop to the floor. Xena leaned over and retrieved the top and whispered breathlessly as she took in the vision before her "Now your skirt…"
"Xena…" she posed in slight argument. ‘Was it necessary to be totally naked?’ the bard considered silently.
The warrior cocked an eyebrow and asked, "Getting cold feet?".
The bard rolled her eyes and quickly undid the skirt. Xena caught it before it hit the floor. She motioned Gabrielle to the bed and tossed the sheet over her. Gabrielle quickly wrapped the sheet around her nude form and reclined back on the bed, trying her hold down a fit of giggles creeping upon her at the thought of their game.
Xena, for her part, stripped out of her shift and grabbed a blanket from the bed and tossed it around her shoulders. She gave her hair a few quick tousles to make it look somewhat unkept. She even went so far as to wet her bangs with a nearby waterskin.
"Gabrielle!" Xena said loud for Iolaus to hear. "Enough. . .I gotta see what he wants."
The bard scowled at Xena portraying her as the more wanton of the two to Iolaus and Xena just smirked her response. Next she scattered the clothing around the bed and to the entrance as she returned to the door.
"Iolaus this had better be important!" She hissed, as she met the blonde man’s eyes with her own.
Whatever Iolaus had come there for was completely lost when she pulled the door open and he witnessed the sight before him – a wet, half naked warrior princess breathing heavily.
"Well?" She growled again when he offered no response.
"Umm…" he stammered. "I…ummm…" He couldn’t believe what he was seeing with his own two eyes. Now Herc would have to believe him. "There’s a javelin…competition tomorrow and I wanted to know if…"
He was distracted further when Gabrielle decided to readjust the sheet just a bit, revealing a little more bare leg than really necessary. When she rolled completely over snuggling into the pillow the sheet moved further north giving him a nice view of one of the bards bare buttocks.
Xena glanced back to see what had distracted him and felt her self go a little weak in the knees as well, not to mention the sensations that settled elsewhere. ‘Oh Gods I’m never gonna survive this’ she thought as she turned back to Iolaus.
"Wanted to know what?" She managed to ask in a slightly raspy voice, swallowing hard.
"If you wanted…to…umm…be my partner," he managed to finish. He finally took his eyes off the bard long enough to make eye contact with Xena once more.
"Sure. Whatever." She started to close the door then pulled it back open. "Hey why me? Why not Hercules?"
"Well they already asked him to judge." Iolaus licked his extremely dry lips as he tried to concentrate past the sight he was seeing. "Seems that he’s the only one brave enough to stand at the end of the field."
"Ah gotcha. Okay. See you in the morning." She winked at him and closed the door.
He stood there for a moment and tried to catch his breath. Then he began a very slow walk back to his own room shaking his head the entire way.
After Xena heard him leave, she flipped the lock on the door and leaned on it looking back at Gabrielle. The bard’s shoulders were rising and falling rapidly in silent laughter. "Well Miss ‘Show off’," Xena said walking over and pulling the sheet to fully cover Gabrielle, ". . . that should be enough for some lively conversation at the morning meal."
The bard allowed herself a single chuckle and rolled over to face Xena. The sight she saw froze her – Xena lay next to her. Her long form stretched out, raised up on one elbow, her temple resting on a relaxed palm. If ever there was a person who personified beauty. . .desire. . .passion. . .Xena was it in Gabrielle’s eyes. . .especially at this moment.
Xena’s smoky voice however soon broke Gabrielle’s rambling thoughts.
"Now what were you saying before Iolaus interrupted us?"
"How many lovers have you had?"
The tension of her earlier attempts to ask the question was now gone. She wasn’t sure at first if she had spoken the words aloud. After seeing Xena’s suddenly shy change in demeanor she realized she had in fact asked.
"Many," Xena replied without adding more.
"Any women?" Gabrielle pressed on.
Xena grinned bashfully, knowing the answer and surprised by the bard’s bluntness – not that Gabrielle was one to beat around the bush. When she wanted an answer she wanted it now. And it seemed that the nervous energy Gabrielle emitted earlier somehow transformed itself to Xena.
"A few. . .when it suited my purpose," Xena added in afterthought, shifting from her side to lay on her back.
"Look," Gabrielle offered sensing Xena’s mood change. "You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to."
"Well what about you," Xena teased, turning the tables. "Any woman in your past I should know about," the warrior grinned.
"Just one," Gabrielle replied, settling back like Xena to stare at the ceiling as well.
Xena was grateful Gabrielle had turned, her knowing smirk fell instantly with the new knowledge about the bard. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. When Xena didn’t reply, Gabrielle looked over to the warrior.
"You okay?" she asked concerned.
"Yeah," Xena replied, clearing her throat. "Yeah. I’m fine. Why do you ask?"
"Well for starters you’re as white as this sheet and two you didn’t say anything after I said-
"It just . . .surprised me is all," Xena said making Gabrielle stop from repeating the words. For some reason she found the bards past experience a little unsettling. Not that she herself was a chaste woman – far from it. But Gabrielle? Her Gabrielle was so young, so innocent. . .so incredibly sexy and, apparently, very open minded about love. "I thought Perdicus was the only one," Xena replied knowing she had to add more.
"He was the first man," Gabrielle answered without further comment.
‘Okay Xena. Now what?" the warrior considered. Should she pry into Gabby’s past or wait for the bard to continue? And did she even want the bard to continue? On some level, she found Gabrielle’s history ‘unsettling’. All the fantasies of being the first woman to open Gabrielle up into new territory, just flew out the window.
The talkative bard was now quiet. After a few moments of listening to muffled tavern noise below them, Gabrielle reached for the lantern and turned it down.
"We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow," she yawned. "Better get some sleep." With that, she curled up into the blankets, getting comfortable.
Xena reached down to her shift on the floor and tossed it over her head. "You might get cold," she told the bard. "Sure you don’t want to get your shift on," the warrior offered. In truth, it was more of plea. Lying next to a naked bard all night was tempting at best.
"Nah," came the sleepy reply. "Too comfortable. . .’sides that’s what you’re here for – instant warmth."
Xena felt instant warmth all right. And although she didn’t see the grin, she could hear it in Gabrielle’s voice. In that moment, she wondered if Gabrielle was playing her own game as well as the one on their friends.
"Can’t argue that my bard," Xena chuckled, letting the term of endearment slip out. The warrior settled herself in as well and offered her goodnight, getting only a moan in response.
Several moments later and almost asleep Xena felt Gabrielle roll over and onto her. The bard now lay on half-mattress; half warrior princess. Xena’s eyes shot open. And as Gabby’s naked form lay upon her, the bards breath tickled her cleavage. Xena resolved it was going to be a very long night indeed.
Gabrielle awoke the next morning and allowed herself a long and luxurious stretch. She hadn’t slept that well in…she couldn’t remember ever sleeping that well before. The last thing she remembered was curling up next to Xena . . . She smiled. She had actually spent the night curled up next to Xena while completely naked. She remembered Xena asking her if she wanted her shift and her innocent reply of being too tired. In reality this was just the fulfillment of one of her many fantasies about the warrior princess, of course in her fantasy Xena had been naked too. "Oh well can’t have everything," she sighed.
As she rolled over and wrapped herself in the sheet she realized for the first time Xena was gone from the bed. A quick inventory of the table told her that the warrior hadn’t gone far, her armor and weapons were still laying where she had put them the night before. She sat up and ran a hand over her face forcing a little more wakefulness. The door to the room opened and Xena entered carrying a tray with a pot of tea and a light morning meal. The warrior set it gently on the dresser top and stripped out of her leathers, getting comfortable again.
"Thought you might be hungry," she yawned as she poured two cups of tea and took them from the tray.
She made her way over to the bed and handed a cup down to Gabrielle before settling back on the bed next to the bard. She leaned back against the wall and tried unsuccessfully to stifle another yawn before taking a sip of her tea.
"Sleep well?" Gabrielle asked as she sipped her own tea and settled back against the wall next to the warrior
"Okay I guess. You?"
Xena of course had lied through her teeth. She hadn’t slept for more than a candle mark last night. The bard had spent the entire night with her nude body draped over the warrior and the truth of the matter was Xena just didn’t trust her subconscious self with a sleeping Gabrielle in that situation. It had however felt good to hold the bard in her arms all night and she enjoyed that immensely.
"So why are we eating in our room? Shouldn’t we go downstairs and see what Iolaus has to say this morning?" Gabrielle asked as she climbed over the warrior and made her way to the table.
"Nah we want to give him time to ‘spread the word’ so to speak." Xena watched as Gabrielle held the sheet in place with one hand and picked through the fruit and pastries she had brought up for them.
"You know that was truly inspired Xena." The bard turned with a grin as she pulled apart a pastry and placed a small morsel between her lips, licking them as she did.
Xena drew a deep and involuntary breath. "Thanks. It’s easy when I have a good reason."
"Really?" Another piece of pastry was placed ever so slightly between her lips.
This time it was simply a gasp that escaped from the warrior. Gabrielle turned slightly to look at Xena who was now staring intently into the bottom of her cup. The bard returned to the bed and sat down on the edge.
"Hungry?" she asked as she offered the warrior a bite of the treat.
Xena looked up and stared at Gabrielle before leaning forward and taking the food into her mouth. She knew now, the bard was playing a game of her own. Okay two could play at this game. Xena captured the bard’s wrist and held it gently as she took the pastry and then proceeded to lick her fingers clean of the remnants. Now the gasp belonged to the bard. Xena released her hand and grinned.
"Yeah I guess I’m a little hungrier than I thought." The warrior leaned back and sipped her tea.
"Well let me get you some more." The bard replied when she could breath again. She gathered herself up and returned to the table trying to keep her heart from beating out of her chest. Fixing a plate for Xena, she returned to the bed and handed it to her.
"What? Not going to feed me dear?" She raised her eyebrow at the bard who just blushed.
"No. I know you know how to feed yourself. I’ve seen you do it." Gabrielle teased. "I’m going to get dressed. You have a javelin competition in a little bit."
"I paid for a bath for you. The bathing chamber is down the hall." Xena popped a piece of fruit in her mouth as she watched the bard collect her clothing that had been tossed around the room.
"Thanks. It’s just what I need right now." ‘Yeah a nice cold bath,’ she thought as she bent over and retrieved her shift.
"By the time you get done we should be able to go down and see what our friends have to say this morning."
Gabrielle kept her back to Xena and tossed her shift over her head, allowing the sheet to fall away as she did. The warrior swallowed hard as she got another look at that very fine, firm, young backside. The bard tucked the rest of her clothes under her arm and moved to the door.
"Take your time." Xena nonchalantly sipped her tea and winked at the bard.
With the close of the door, Xena’s façade fell and she released a long sigh, running her fingers through her hair in frustration. The bard was going to be the death of her. She knew it. Playing games on their friends was one thing but with each other? That was something else entirely different.
Xena tried to shake the recent memory from her head. But the image of Gabrielle offering her fingers and the taste of her skin and the look on the bard’s face . . . and . . . and . . . it was all too much to take. The bards pulse had even quickened too.
Xena’s wandering, erotic thoughts came to a stand still – the bard’s pulse had quickened, she realized for the first time. Perhaps the play Gabrielle engaged in was something more; something deeper. Maybe - just maybe - Gabrielle set this up to snare not only their friends but her as well . . . Maybe she . . .
‘Nah,’ the warrior resolved quickly. ‘Just imagining things Xena.’ Xena knew she could imagine things. ‘Lots and lots of things,’ she considered silently, setting the teacup on the nightstand. The warrior sat up and pulled the shift from her body. The rough material ran it’s way along her skin setting her nerves full of excitement.
She had every intention of getting dressed and starting the day. Those plans however fell behind in favor of taking care of the ache that started deep inside the night before when the naked bard decided to use her as a pillow. The hands that should have been adjusting her leathers were now adjusting her desire by stroking all the places she dreamed the bard would love to touch. She had time, she figured. Once Gabrielle was in a tub it was a guarantee it would be at least a half-candlemark before she returned if not longer.
While Xena lay in bed releasing her ‘tension’, Gabrielle found that the sponge she was using to wash her body had other purposes as well on this morning. The coldness of the water did little to cool her desire. In fact, the water acted as a catalyst to her passion. When her nipples tightened, her thoughts ran rampant. From there, there was no turning back.
She closed her eyelids, picturing the azure eyes of her warrior princess coaxing her, loving her. She could hear the sultriness of Xena’s requests, asking her, begging her to release. With those thoughts and the help of a textured sponge the bard peaked.
She wasn’t sure how much time had passed but she was sure Xena was probably waiting for her so she hurriedly dried herself and heading back to their room for her boots. She couldn’t wait to see the look and the whispers their friends would have today. Gabrielle had her hand on the door latch of their room when she heard a sound inside that stopped her movements.
She could hear the bed creaking rhythmically and hear Xena sighing, her breathing labored. An impulse to rush inside was strong. Gabrielle realized one of two things was happening. Either Xena was in great pain or great ecstasy. The bard listened much more attentively, closely placing her ear by the door. She was totally unprepared for what she heard next.
"Ohh Gods. . .Gabrielle."
The words were spoken softly but with a powerful intent behind them. Gabrielle didn’t know what to do. Should she turn around and go back to the bath? Should she just go down stairs and wait? Should she walk in and act like nothing happened? Or should she walk in and confess her heart to the warrior. Gabrielle imagined what the warrior looked like at this moment. She swallowed hard, running a hand across her face.
‘My Gods! Am I starting to sweat?’ she wondered feeling the heat and a wetness rise to her face as the words settled in. Another realization occurred. The noise had stopped on the other side. The movement had stopped and any second now . . .
Gabrielle quickly dropped the towel and bent over as the door flew open.
"Thought I heard someone out here," Xena replied standing in her shift. "Are you spying on me?" she teased.
"No!" Gabrielle answered shooting upright. She took note that she answered the question far too quickly and tried to make up for it. "I’m mean, I just dropped my towel," she answered, showing it to Xena as proof. "The bath is still open," Gabrielle offered, handing over the towel. "The water’s not warm but it’s fairly clean."
"Thanks," Xena replied, taking the linen. "Are you going down now or should I meet you here at the room?"
Xena’s eyes were never bluer. Gabrielle considered it must be a result of the warriors recently spent passion. Her skin was flushed. Gabrielle began to imagine what she looked like moments before in rapture. Her curiosity didn’t last long. She knew Xena expected an answer by the way the warrior’s eyebrow cocked in question.
"Maybe we should make an entrance together," Gabrielle suggested. "I’ll wait here."
"Okay. Be back in a few," Xena said as she strutted down the hall to the bath chamber. Gabrielle watched her leave as she walked inside. Once Xena was out of sight she entered their room and closed the door.
The room smelled of the warrior. Metal polish and leather. Cinnamon and Sandalwood. Sweat and sex. Gabrielle inhaled deeply and her sexual stirrings started all over again.
Damn it! Didn’t she just find relief a few minutes ago? Didn’t she just see to satisfying her passion? Damn it! It’s not supposed to start all over again. Not that soon anyway. Her best (and safest) option was to find her boots and just get the Tartarus downstairs. She was sure Xena would understand and if not, she certainly wasn’t going to explain it . . . at least not yet.
As Gabrielle made her way downstairs she found all of her friends gathered at a large table eating their morning meal. She swallowed hard, wondering about the brilliance of the decision to face them alone. Glancing back up the stairs, the thought of facing Xena was more than she could stand right now. She took a deep breath and continued down the stairs and over to the table.
"Got room for one more?" She placed her hands on the shoulders of Ephiny and Solari. They both looked up at her with knowing little smiles.
"Sure." Eph slid over making room for the little queen. "Where’s Xena?"
"She’s ah…taking a bath. She’ll be down in a bit." Gabrielle answered as she reached for the teapot, with the memories of their room floating helplessly through her mind.
As she poured a cup of tea she made eye contact with Iolaus. He grinned at her and then cleared his throat. "Um Gabrielle would you like something to eat?" He picked up a platter and offered it to her across the table.
"Thanks." She took the platter from him their eyes never loosing contact with each other. "What?" She mouthed silently to him. He shook his head and dropped his eyes and began inspecting his own food.
It suddenly occurred to her that the entire table was being far too quiet. She looked at each one of them individually. Hercules just smiled at her as he absent-mindedly scratched his face. Iolaus was still contemplating his food. Autolycus raised his mug and winked at her with a simple grin on his face. Salmoneus gave her a nervous little smile and Joxer…well Joxer just looked plain depressed. Solari was doing everything she could to keep from smiling. She wasn’t succeeding. Slowly Gabrielle turned her head to Ephiny who was holding her tea mug to her lips to mask her smile.
"What’s going on?" Gabrielle growled quietly at her regent.
Just as Eph was about to comment all heads turned to Xena who was making her way down stairs. She had a huge grin on her face and seemed to have a slight bounce in her step. She made her way over to the table and stopped behind Gabrielle placing her hands on the bard’s shoulders.
"Good morning everyone." She leaned over and gave Gabrielle a soft kiss on the neck before reaching out for a piece of fruit and a cup of tea.
The bard felt her heart drop to her stomach and her breath began to come in short bursts as Xena massaged one of her shoulders while she spoke with Iolaus, who still refused to look up from his food. Gabrielle grabbed Eph by the arm. "Come on. Let’s take care of that village business…"
"What…" Eph yelped in surprise as her queen drug her from the bench.
Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle’s arm and began to stroke it softly, up and down. "You okay?"
"Yeah…yeah," She stammered as she stood and gripped Eph’s arm. "I’m fine. Ephiny and I just have some things to take care of. I won’t be long." She looked to her regent. "Come on," she barked softly.
Ephiny just shrugged her shoulders to the warrior. On her way from the table Ephiny rested her hand on her lovers’ shoulder. Solari captured it with her own hand, giving a light squeeze in return.
"We’ll be back," Ephiny told her bondmate.
"Take your time," Solari offered as the two blondes walked toward the exit of the tavern.
Ephiny and Gabrielle both had to shield their eyes from the glaring morning sun. Gabrielle wasn’t used to the blast of light since she and Xena often rose before sunrise. The sun was getting quite high and the festival merchants were already on the streets as the two walked side by side.
"So how’s the village?" Gabrielle asked conversationally.
"Good. How’s Xena in bed?" Ephiny asked bluntly. She couldn’t help it – there was no sense in beating around the bush at this point and she laughed at her own forwardness.
If anyone else had asked the question Gabrielle would have probably been appalled but it was Ephiny after all. Subtlety was not the amazon’s strong suit and if pressed she’d say that’s just what she needed now – someone to tell it like it is. Because truth be known, Gabrielle didn’t know exactly how it was or where her relationship with Xena was going.
"I don’t know," Gabrielle answered truthfully, now starting to chuckle herself.
Ephiny’s smile subsided and became replaced with a look of confusion. "But Iolaus said-
"I have a fair idea of what Iolaus said and he wasn’t lying. He did see what he saw . . .well kinda. . .but not quite."
It was the only sound the amazon could utter. At this point she was totally confused.
"Maybe I should start at the beginning?" Gabrielle offered.
"Yes. That sounds like a good idea."
Gabrielle took a deep breath and tried to formulate her thoughts as she looked through some scarves on a market table. "I love her Ephiny. I have for a long time now . . . When we came to the festival yesterday we overheard the table talking in the tavern about us – the ‘are they, aren’t they’ debate . . ."
"Gabrielle," Ephiny started to apologize.
"That’s all right," Gabrielle said putting her hand on Ephiny’s shoulder to stop her regent. "Anyway Xena and I thought we’d play a trick on everyone and pretend we were lovers – just to see how everyone would react and teach you folks that it’s not nice to gossip," the bard grinned devilishly. "So whatever Iolaus said he witnessed was probably true. Before Xena opened the door we kinda set it up to look like he was ‘interrupting us’. . . But it was all an act . . .well for her anyway . . .at least I think . . ." The bard got a far off look in her eye as she replayed the events from the breakfast in bed to the sighs from the bedroom. She shook her shoulders to come back to the present conversation.
"Has Xena expressed an interest?" Ephiny asked attentively, getting engrossed in the dialog.
"Well . . .not directly," Gabrielle answered choosing her words carefully.
"What does that mean?’ the regent pondered.
"Well this morning . . . before I went to the bath . . . I fed her," Gabrielle answered.
"You fed her?!" Ephiny chuckled. "Oh this I gotta hear," she added excitedly.
Gabrielle couldn’t help but laugh softly. "It was nothing real exciting, honestly. I offered her a pastry and she took my wrist and ate it from my fingertips."
"Oh sweet Artemis," Ephiny sighed. "You call that nothing?"
"Why? You think it’s something?" Gabrielle questioned.
"Well . . .yeah!" Ephiny nodded readily.
"Well maybe it’s a little something," Gabrielle responded. "But nothing too big."
"No not big," Ephiny answered. "Huge! . . .By the gods Gabrielle! Are you totally blind?" she chuckled again.
Gabrielle was glad Ephiny was getting such a kick out of her misery and it began to show on her features as she moved to the next stall.
"Hey," Ephiny said taking her upper arm and making her stop. "I’m sorry. I don’t mean to laugh it’s . . . you and Xena fit together so perfectly. An outsider may ask ‘what’s the attraction’ but I can see it because I know you both."
"And what’s that?" Gabrielle asked.
"You and Xena have the same foundations – you believe in justice and truth and preserving the things in this world that need help being preserved. You both go about it differently but you’re on even ground in that respect. At first glance, folks can’t see a warrior and a bard making a life together . . .but myself, and a few others, see you two as a perfect fit."
Gabrielle looked like she wanted to say something but was holding her tongue.
"Out with it," Ephiny teased.
"I heard her . . .this morning when I got back from the bath . . . I was outside our room and I heard her . . .say my name."
The regent looked bewildered but suddenly recognition took hold of her features – her eyes widened and her mouth dropped. Quickly she closed her mouth and sighed.
"Why didn’t you tell her then how you feel?" Ephiny questioned.
"And do what?" Gabrielle laughed. "Say ‘Hey Xena. I love you and no, I’m not a peeping tom’? The timing was just wrong," the bard said defeated. "Besides maybe I didn’t really hear it . . . it could have been all in my head."
"She loves you Gabrielle," Ephiny answered softly and sympathetically.
"How can you be so sure Eph?"
"I’ve watched her while she watches you – when she thinks no one’s looking . . . especially at the festivals when she’s had a little too much port. My Gods! The woman undresses you with her eyes like you wouldn’t believe . . . but even when she’s not intoxicated she lights up whenever you’re around. It’s like you give her power, a will . . ."
"A source," Gabrielle muttered more to herself than her regent. Hadn’t Xena used those exact words herself once upon a time?
"Exactly!" Ephiny exclaimed. She watched as Gabrielle picked up some whet stones on a table, feeling each one.
"How much?" she asked the vendor.
"4 dinars," he told her.
"It’s a rock for cryin’ out loud," Gabby bartered. "I’ll give you 2," she added.
The vendor considered it, stroking his chin.
"And throw in that polishing cloth," the bard added.
"Now hold on," the vendor replied. "We’re discussing the stone."
Gabby picked up the cloth and the stone and took two dinars from her pouch. "What do you say? Take it or leave it," she told him.
Without further argument he took the money and placed it in his pocket as the women walked on.
"You’re really good at that," Ephiny complimented her.
"It’s a learned art. One that I’ve been trying to teach Xena for years – never pay asking price," she chuckled. "She’s coming around. When the bargaining gets too tough though, she’ll still call me in for the save," the bard added with a grin.
The two headed back to the tavern and Gabrielle turned to Ephiny. "You will keep this conversation in confidence won’t you?" the bard asked.
"My lips are sealed," she said making a gesture that followed suit.
"Not even Solari Ephiny . . . I don’t want anyone knowing. Promise me?"
Ephiny took Gabrielle by the upper arms and pulled her into a tight hug. "I promise my queen. Not a word."
The rest of the group had made their way outside. Xena wasn’t sure what feeling came over her when she saw Ephiny’s hands wrapped around Gabrielle’s arms and Gabrielle’s hands on Ephiny’s bare hips. Whatever it was she didn’t like it one bit and the conversation of Gabrielle having a female lover came back to her mind. Perhaps her lover was Ephiny at one point. The pair always seemed to have a bond that Xena was never party to.
Xena shook off her possessive thoughts. Tartarus what right did she have to feel jealous? They weren’t lovers now were they? They didn’t share themselves intimately did they? What could Xena say or do? The warrior realized this line of thinking would get her nowhere.
Ephiny looked up and took one look at Xena’s face. "Look at her," Ephiny whispered to Gabrielle. "She wants you," the regent grinned.
Gabrielle blushed and waited as Xena approached them.
"So are you coming out to the field to root me on?" Xena asked the bard as she walked up to the pair.
"Of course," Gabrielle answered. "I got you a whet stone and a polishing cloth – just let me put them away first, okay?"
"Sure but try to hurry," Xena replied. "Iolaus is getting anxious." Gabrielle nodded and started to move around the warrior but Xena caught her by the waist and pulled her up into a tender kiss just shy of her lips. "Thank you for thinking of me," she whispered, caressing Gabrielle’s hand that held the items.
"I always think of you," Gabrielle answered; stroking Xena’s face . . . Both women could feel it wasn’t just a reply but a confession. Their eyes locked and Gabrielle was so close to the edge of spilling her heart it felt crushing.
"I’ll wait here for you," Xena said, pulling away, trying to alter the mood. Gabrielle nodded and started to the room once more. This time however Xena let her go and Gabrielle felt relieved and saddened all at once.
‘This can’t go on much longer,’ the bard resolved silently as she took long strides to the inn.
Stepping back outside Gabrielle found Xena leaning against a post, arms crossed against her chest, talking with Autolycus. The bard stopped and just looked at the warrior, ‘Gods I love you so much’ she thought as she stepped out onto the street.
Xena looked up from her conversation with the thief and smiled, extending her hand to the bard. "Ready to go to the contest field?"
Gabrielle took the warrior’s offered hand and grinned. "Yeah - ready to watch you wipe the field with them!"
"I’ll do my best," Xena grinned.
The bard looked at the thief who winked again. "Do you have something in your eye? You seem to be having a problem with it today."
"No it’s fine." The thief answered with a hint of embarrassment since he noticed Xena was staring at him now.
"Then let’s just go the competition shall we?" Xena growled softly in the thief’s direction.
"Ah certainly Xena. Whatever you say."
Autolycus followed the warrior and the bard as they walked hand in hand toward the competition field.
When they arrived, Autolycus and Gabrielle split from Xena. They went to the side with the rest of the spectators as Xena moved over to Iolaus and the other competitors. The warrior watched as Gabrielle settled into a spot and flashed her a wide grin.
Gabrielle smiled and dropped her head as she felt a blush rise to her cheeks. Autolycus leaned over and whispered. "Congratulations."
The bard raised her head and looked at the thief. "Congratulations? What for?"
"For finally trapping the warrior. She’s very happy you know. And she loves you a lot."
"Oh yeah? How do you know this?" Gabrielle crossed her arms and waited.
"Just look at her for Zeus’ sake." Autolycus waved a hand at Xena. "I’ve never seen her smile this much. I didn’t know she was even capable of it."
She looked over at the warrior again. Autolycus was right. Xena was smiling as she talked with Iolaus and they waited their turn. As she watched them Xena looked to her again, giving a slight wave and another brilliant smile.
‘Oh I’ve got to talk to her’ Gabrielle thought as she waved back giving the warrior her own pleasant little smile.
When it was their turn, Iolaus and Xena picked their javelins carefully. Gabrielle watched as Xena selected one and then another hefting their weight and checking them for defects that could put her throw off. It was then, as Iolaus began his throws, she realized the warrior never made a decision lightly.
She had decided to go along with this little ‘joke’. She had decided to up the stakes with that little ‘show’ last night in their room. She had decided to be more than affectionate with the bard this morning. ‘Could this mean that Xena really…nah…Gabrielle get a hold of yourself’, she thought as she watched the warrior pick back and forth between javelins, testing each one.
When she finally settled on a javelin that would suite her, she headed over to the crowd of her friends. Stopping in front of Gabrielle, she stuck the javelin in the ground and reached up taking the bard gently by the arms.
She smiled at her with a devilish grin, ‘Okay bard time to put your dinars where your mouth is.’ She thought as she stroked her hands up and down the well-toned arms. "Kiss for luck?"
Gabrielle leaned up and placed a soft kiss on the warrior’s lips. She felt the warrior grip her arms just slightly. The kiss suddenly became a little firmer as she felt her hands go to the warrior’s waist and the distance between them began to close. When she felt the warrior’s body next to hers she couldn’t take it anymore. She had to try . . . because she had to know for sure. She had waited long enough.
She brushed Xena’s lips with the tip of her tongue. Her question was answered as the warrior’s lips parted and the kiss deepened. Soon they were consuming each other, exploring with a passion that had long built up in both of them. Their arms went around each other as the kiss continued and became more fevered. The crowd around them simply slipped into oblivion as they discovered each other.
It was only when Gabrielle felt a hand on her shoulder did she begin to break the kiss. "My queen," Ephiny whispered in her ear. "It’s Xena’s turn."
The bard gave the warrior several more little kisses as she moved her face near Xena’s ear. "We need to talk," she whispered.
Gabrielle felt the warrior nod as they broke the embrace and they gazed upon each other. Xena’s eyes seemed to shimmer in the afternoon sun and in them held a promise; perhaps even a bit of mischief.
"I’ll be back," she said in a sigh as her fingertips stroked the bard’s face.
Xena walked to the field a short distance and Iolaus gave her a pat on the back in support. Xena stood at the line and saw Herc give his nod for her to begin. She took three long strides back before charging the line again.
Xena threw with all her might, muscles flexing, breathing labored. Their crowd of friends gasped as the watched the projectile fly through the air, shooting way off left. Even Herc stood in the field scratching his head, wondering what could have happened with that throw. For a woman who could make a spinning discus go in any direction to finally meet it’s target, this didn’t add up.
"That’s okay," Iolaus said coming up close behind her. "You’ve got two more chances. Best outta three remember," he added, giving her a chuck on the shoulder. Xena nodded and held out her hand as the field boy returned her javelin to her.
Up in the stands, their friends were watching in disbelief as well. If they didn’t know any better they might think Xena was throwing the tournament. The warrior princess wasn’t perfect but she was accurate if anything else. They considered it a fluke as Xena stood at the line, rolling her head side to side along with her shoulders.
Once more she charged with all her might. Once more far to the left.
Iolaus walked up. "Okay now I’m a little worried here-
He didn’t have a chance to finish. Xena called a time-out and headed toward the stands. She pointed to the bard and cocked her finger, motioning her to come. Gabrielle looked side to side and then pointed to herself as if in question. Xena smiled and nodded.
Gabrielle moved from her seat to meet Xena.
"Xena…" She began but she was cut off with a finger across her lips.
"What did you want to talk about?" Xena answered.
"What?!" the bard asked in disbelief. "You’re in the middle of a tournament Xena."
"I know that," the warrior sighed. "And that’s why I’m asking. I can’t focus . . . What did you want to talk about? I gotta know."
"Well . . . about us," the bard said reluctantly.
"I don’t have time to play the questions game now," Xena grinned. "Do you love me?" she asked assertively. "And you know what I mean if that kiss today was any proof," she added for good measure.
Gabrielle chuckled. ‘So much for romantic confessions’ she thought. But then again that was her warrior – Xena’s ‘cut to the chase’ style was something she always admired in the warrior – even now. Gabrielle nodded in agreement. "Yeah I do," she whispered.
Xena bent and gave Gabrielle a quick kiss to the lips as the line judge called her back from the break. "That’s what I needed," Xena informed her. She turned to walk away but stopped and faced the bard instead. "By the way," she grinned devilishly. "I love you too."
Gabrielle’s heart leaped to her throat. She thought of all the ways she could confess her feelings; all the ways she could have seduced Xena. But here she stood on the corner of a field, getting ready to watch Xena throw a piece of wood through the air with the knowledge that they loved each other. It wasn’t what she had ever planned in all her fantasies but by Tartarus it would do just nicely anyway. Her grin was as big as the Nile as she returned to sit with her friends and watch her warrior. ‘MY WARRIOR’ Gabrielle’s mind pointed out.
"What did she need?" Ephiny asked as Gabrielle took her seat.
Gabrielle considered the question and answered, "Inspiration." With that they turned back to watch Xena throw.
Some other competitors began to heckle Xena now – two bad throws with only one shot left. Iolaus actually feared for the talkative men’s lives when he saw Xena turn around and give them a bright smile. Xena never smiled it seemed. And when she did it meant bad times were soon to follow.
"Don’t listen to them," Iolaus coached quietly.
"Don’t worry," Xena replied. "I’m not."
"Are you okay?" he asked cautiously.
Xena turned her brilliant smile upon him. "I can honestly say I’ve never felt better my whole life."
Xena moved to the line for her third and final throw. Herc nodded but Xena shook her head and motioned him to step back farther. He was sure that wouldn’t be necessary. After all, no one had made it past this point anywhere during the competition. He did however take a few steps back, honoring her request.
Xena looked back to the stands and found Gabrielle smiling at her. Xena turned back down the field and closed her eyes. With a running start and a battle cry that could wake the dead she fired the rod with all her might. It soared through the air long and fast and seconds later Herc realized he hadn’t listened close enough. He started to run as fast as he could to get out of the projectile’s path.
The audience sighed as the javelin bared down on the demi-god, moving at an alarming rate of speed and accuracy. Next thing Herc heard was a ripping sound before he tumbled to the field. He looked back to find his pant leg had been pinned by the javelin.
From his angle it was difficult to grab the spear to remove it without either cutting his leg or tearing his clothes apart further. Xena and Iolaus quickly made their way down field to check on their friend.
"Are you okay Herc?!" his partner called out frantically.
"I’m fine Iolaus," he said chuckling at his predicament. "But my wardrobe seems to be stuck."
"Told ya to go down field," Xena said dryly before cracking a tiny smile.
"Yes Xena you certainly did," he laughed. "Maybe next time I’ll listen."
Iolaus freed his friend and Herc stood up giving the crowd a wave to let everyone know he was fine. With that he also raised Xena and Iolaus’ hands and claimed them the winners. Even the hecklers had to come over and offer their respects for such a clean, beautiful throw.
As the people began to leave the stands to go onto other festival activities, Xena’s eyes searched and found the bard walking toward her. Of course, everyone was following but Xena was fixated on what mattered most. Iolaus handed a bag of dinars to Xena, nearly startling her.
"What’s this for?" she asked.
"Half the winnings," he told her.
"You can keep it," she said trying to hand it back. "It was your idea."
"Nah," he said pulling her down to whisper in her ear so the other gatherers couldn’t hear. "Use it to buy something nice for Gabrielle," he winked.
Xena liked that idea. They rarely had much money and it would be nice to get something for the bard that wasn’t a necessity for once. "Okay," she agreed with a warm smile. "Thanks."
"No," he said sincerely. "Thank you."
Salmonus’ eyes lit up and he began to follow Iolaus who was walking away with Herc and Autolycus. "Ya know," Salmoneus began. "That’s a nice hunk of change there. What would you say if I told you that I’ve got an idea that could double it?"
Xena just shook her head as she listened to Salmoneus rambling on in the distance about his latest ‘vision’.
"Nice throw," Joxer complimented. "Of course not as far as my throw at the competition I was in last month," he said smugly. "My javelin went-
"Joxer!" Ephiny interrupted him, sensing Gabrielle’s growing irritation. "Why don’t we go to the tavern and you can tell me and Solari all about it? . . . Come on," she added leading him by the arm.
"Okay," he agreed happily. Ephiny gave her queen a wink and she and her bondmate started to lead the babbling man away from the field.
"Not bad," Gabrielle complimented once they were alone. "But I hear Joxer is much, much better than you," she teased.
"He might be able to throw a javelin better but can he do this better?" Xena asked.
Without so much as a warning, the warrior captured the bard’s lips. And by the time she pulled back the bard was breathless and finding it difficult to open her eyes. Gabrielle said nothing so Xena prompted her with a soft-spoken, "Well? What do you think? Him or me?"
"You," the bard sighed. "Definitely you."
Xena chuckled deeply, "Good answer." She placed her arm around the bard’s waist and they began to walk. "Come on, we might miss another heroic Joxer tale at the tavern if we don’t hurry."
"Ohhh . . . hold me back," the bard giggled as she joined her partner.
As they headed for the tavern, walking through the festival stalls, something caught Xena’s eye. She laid a gentle hand on the bard’s arm. "Gabrielle go ahead and go to the tavern I’ll meet you there in a little bit."
Gabrielle turned and looked into her partner’s face only to find a slight grin and a cocked eyebrow that told her it wouldn’t be wise to question or argue. "Ummm…okay. Don’t be too long. Don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my hands off Joxer." She grinned as she caressed the warrior’s cheek.
"Here let me help you with that decision." Xena pulled the bard into her arms and gave her another kiss, leaving the little blonde breathless and weak in the knees.
"You know," she sighed as she recaptured her breath. "You’re really good at that."
"I’m good at many things and I intend to show you my entire repertoire a little later if you’ll allow me." She wiggled her eyebrows and leered at the bard. "But right now I have a little something I need to do. So just head back to the tavern and have a drink with Eph and Sol. I’ll be there in a few moments."
"Okay." She planted a little kiss on the warrior’s cheek and headed for the tavern.
Xena turned around and faced the vendors. She drew a deep breath to steel herself for battle and headed for the stalls.
Gabrielle went into the tavern. Solari and Ephiny sat at a corner table having a drink. Joxer was no where to be seen for which the bard gave a long and grateful sigh. She moved through the room and joined her friends.
"Gabrielle!" Ephiny perked up peering past the bard. "Where’s Xena?"
"She said she had something she had to do." The bard sat down across from the regent and smiled.
The regent leaned in. "So tell me…"
"We really do love each other Eph. It wasn’t just a game…for either of us."
"Congratulations. I’m happy for you Gabrielle."
"So is there a joining in your future?" Solari asked as she brought her mug to her lips.
"Whoa! Give us some time," the bard chuckled. "We have a lot of things to discover first."
"Oh yeah and I’m sure you will enjoy making those discoveries." Solari added with a wink. "Eph and I certainly did." This got the amazon guard a poke in the ribs from her bondmate.
Gabrielle grinned as she sipped her drink and watched her two friends. They were certainly happy. She hoped that she and Xena would find the same happiness.
A few moments later Eph smiled and pointed, indicating that Gabrielle should look. She turned around to find Xena coming into the tavern. The warrior came to the table and leaned over giving Gabrielle another kiss on the neck, this time however in was not nearly as platonic as the one from the morning. "Let’s go back to the inn." Xena whispered as she moved away.
"Ummm…Xena we should…"
Xena looked to the regent and her bondmate. "You wouldn’t have any objections if I took your queen away. Would you?"
"No." Solari offered quickly.
"Absolutely not." Ephiny was quick to follow.
"Didn’t think so." Xena smirked as she took Gabrielle’s hand and brought her out of the chair. "We’ll see you later…much later." Xena wrapped her arm around the bard’s waist and they began the walk back to the inn.
Xena opened the door to their room and motioned for the bard to go on in. She stepped inside with the warrior following closely behind. She heard the door close and the lock fall into place. Gabrielle smiled and turned to find a warrior who definitely had plans for the evening.
"I picked up a couple of things for you." Xena said as she took the bard’s hand and led her to the table.
She lifted a cloth and revealed three new scroll cases and a long thin wooden box. Gabrielle smiled and picked up one of the scroll cases and removed the top to find new clean parchment.
"I guessed that you might be running low…we haven’t had a lot of spare money lately…" The warrior let her head drop just a little, almost ashamed of the statement.
Gabrielle capped the case and set it aside. Then the bard lifted the warrior’s chin and looked into her eyes. "You know it doesn’t matter to me Xena."
"I know but it should. You should want more…"
"Xena . . . today I was given everything I wanted. You gave me your love." She planted a soft kiss to her warrior’s lips. "Everything I ever wanted…" She sighed again as she rested her cheek on Xena’s.
The warrior drew a deep breath and nodded. "Well I figured that you’d have a lot to write about now." She smiled and picked up the long wooden box and opened it to reveal two new quills. "The case is to keep them from getting crushed or broken. I know how you hate to sharpen them."
"You think of everything don’t you?" The bard inspected the quills and then closed the box and set it to the side, preferring instead to wrap her arms around her warrior.
Gabrielle could feel herself shaking just slightly as she leaned into the warrior.
"Nervous?" the warrior asked wrapping her arms around the bard.
"Nervous isn’t the right word really…"
"Really?" Xena smiled. "Oh that’s right…you’ve done this before…"
"The other woman in your life, remember? The one you mentioned last night. Gabrielle, I know I don’t have any right to be jealous of your past loves. Gods know if past relationships were a reason to be jealous you’d never speak to me again, but I’ve got to know," the warrior paused and drew a deep breath. "It wasn’t Ephiny . . . was it?"
Gabrielle began to laugh but Xena’s expression didn’t change and the bard quickly made up for it. "I’m sorry Xena," the bard answered with a simple smile this time. "I just find it a bit ludicrous that you’d think it was Ephiny . . . I love Eph but as a friend."
"Then who was it?" Xena realized that she was now prying and backed off. "You don’t have to answer," Xena added, shying away. "It doesn’t matter really."
"No," Gabrielle replied. "I don’t mind and this is obviously something that has you concerned."
"Well it’s more curiosity than concern," Xena said honestly. "You just never struck me as someone . . ." Xena didn’t finish the statement. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to say.
"Sexual?" Gabrielle teased, filling in the blank.
Xena felt a flush go to her cheeks and she turned her head to grin. A bit of silence settled between them until Gabrielle spoke again.
"My first lover was someone you don’t even know," Gabrielle answered taking Xena’s hands in hers. "From Potedaia," the bard added, making the answer more specific. "She and I met when her family came to town – about a year before Perdicus and I were betrothed . . . She was a few years older. She’d seen much of the world since her family traveled often."
Xena listened attentively to the bard’s tale as she continued. "We became fast friends – like we’d known each other forever," the bard grinned as she reminisced. "But her dad found a position near Athens and . . . she left. I saw her again - two summers ago when you and I were in Athens. But we never became lovers again," Gabrielle finished with a bit of melancholy in her voice.
"I’m sorry," Xena replied softly.
"I’m not," Gabrielle replied. Her response surprised Xena and it showed on the warrior’s face. Gabrielle simply grinned and added, "If she hadn’t left I might not be here now . . . and I’m much happier with you than anywhere else." The bard backed the warrior up until her legs made contact with the bed, with a gentle push the warrior found herself sitting on the bed.
Xena realized the reason behind her curiosity. She didn’t care so much about Gabrielle’s past as she did about the bard’s present and future. Was she what Gabrielle needed? The answered made the warrior smile ear to ear.
"Of course," the bard began as she slowly straddled the warrior’s lap. "I’m much more comfortable here than anywhere else," she added, noting her new ‘location’.
Xena released a shaken sigh at the sight of the bard above her. The look in the bard’s eyes was something she only saw in her wildest dreams. She wondered if she should pinch herself to find out if it were real. Perhaps it was just another heartbreaking illusion. Soon she would wake up to find the bard sleeping peacefully beside her.
The light kisses that Gabrielle was planting on her face however was enough to convince her it was real. It had to be real. Dreams never felt this good. As Xena placed her hands on the bard’s hips she reveled in the feel of the well-toned flesh beneath her fingers.
When Gabrielle finally made it to her lips they both moaned in harmony and appreciation. As the kiss grew and finally deepened, their hands began to explore. Xena worked the laces of the bard’s top free enough to pull the shoulder straps down just a tad, giving her enough access to covet Gabrielle’s shoulder with her lips. The lips then wandered to the bards pulse point on her neck, eliciting a deep moan from the storyteller.
Xena wanted to take the bard. She was sure at this point the bard would have no objections but Xena also wanted to enjoy every single moment of pleasure. And with that thought she remembered the other gift she had gotten the bard earlier in the afternoon.
Xena pulled back and looked into Gabrielle’s eyes, stroking the bard’s cheeks with gentle fingertips. She wanted this moment burned in her memory forever. No matter what may happen in their future; no matter what events may come to pass, this was one time that the warrior would hold dear for all her days in light of any troubled times that lay ahead.
"Would you do me a favor?" Xena asked softly.
"Anything," Gabrielle whispered just as gently.
Xena nodded toward Gabrielle’s bag. "You have another gift in your pack. Would you go get it?"
Gabrielle smiled and blushed at the thought of receiving yet another present from her warrior. She felt she didn’t deserve this much attention and felt a bit awkward, expressing it on the way over.
"You’re going to end up spoiling me," the bard teased as she went to her pack. "You really shouldn’t have." Gabrielle’s comments stopped though once she had the item in her hands. "Oh my," she sighed softly.
Xena hesitantly asked, "Do you like it?" The warrior stood and approached the bard.
"Oh Xena this is too much," she said as she held it out. "There’s so many more things you could have gotten instead. A new saddle bag, another halter for Argo-
"No," Xena said cutting off the bards rambling list. "I had to buy this. You rarely have a chance to get new things and I thought you’d like this," Xena explained.
"Are you kidding?" Gabrielle chuckled. "I love it."
"Good," Xena answered as she reached around and undid Gabrielle’s belt. The skirt was next and finally the halter top. Gabrielle stood shy and naked before Xena until the warrior ‘redressed’ her.
The chemise was made of blue Egyptian silk and came just past the apex of the bard’s legs. Xena walked backward admiring the bard until she felt the bed behind her. She slowly took her seat again and motioned for the bard to turn around in a circle.
Gabrielle blushed but obliged the warrior the pleasure of seeing the garment and the body that was outlined inside it. Xena couldn’t contain her growl of arousal at seeing her bard showing off.
"Be honest," Gabrielle teased, "Who did you really buy this for? Me? Or you?"
"After seeing you in it?" Xena countered playfully. "Both," she added sincerely with a warm smile.
"Um-hmm," The bard settled back down straddling the warrior’s lap once again and slinging her arms over Xena’s shoulders. "Thought so." She grinned as she leaned in and kissed the warrior thoroughly.
Xena’s hands moved to the bard’s thighs and slipped under the silken gown, stroking the soft skin as the kiss continued and their passion and emotions began to rise.
Gabrielle broke the kiss with a warm smile as Xena’s hands continued to run gently up and down her legs. "Xena?"
"The armor has got to go." She began reaching for the buckles all the while planting little kisses all over Xena’s neck and jaw line.
"Umm," Xena panted as she felt the soft warm lips moving around on her very warm skin. "You know I could help if you’d stop distracting me."
"Oh but," Teeth found a very sensitive earlobe and gave it a gentle bite, eliciting a small moan from the warrior. "I don’t need or want your help." The bard growled playfully as she finished unbuckling the breastplate and lifted it away. She carefully lowered it to the floor and then slid off Xena’s lap and knelt before her beginning to unlace her boots. "Xena?"
"Yes Gabrielle." Xena looked down and ran her fingers lightly through the bard’s hair.
"I think you should know that once I have you undressed I don’t intend to let you go anywhere for a very long time." She pulled off one boot and then the other. She smiled as she ran her hands up and down Xena’s calves and then moved directly between her legs. She leaned over and planted soft kisses on top of the warrior's thighs.
Xena braced herself on her hands and moaned as she felt the bard bite the inside of her right thigh. "Trust me Gabrielle I don’t have any desire go anywhere." She looked down at the mischievous grin on her partner’s face. "You have no idea what you’re doing to me do you?" She swallowed hard.
"Oh but I do…" The bard straightened up and removed the bracers and arm guards, tossing them down on the floor as she reached for the straps of the warrior’s leathers. As she pulled down one and then the other she gave the exposed skin tender kisses. Moving to Xena’s ear she whispered, "I know exactly what I’m doing. You’re mine now warrior."
"Totally . . ." Xena replied in a shallow breath. She felt the laces being loosened at her back and the leather being pulled away from her body.
Gabrielle gave Xena a gentle push and laid her back on the bed and finished stripping the leathers away before placing herself on top of the warrior. Xena’s arms went around the bard as she delighted in the feeling of the silk against her skin.
"Gods Gabrielle you feel so good." Her hands traveled under the gown and up the bard’s back. "So very good." She brought her head up and captured the bard’s neck giving it long and firm attention with her mouth and tongue. "I can’t take much more of this…"
"Of what warrior." The bard teased her partner as she ducked her head and took an already erect nipple between her lips.
Xena’s back arched and she gasped as she wrapped her hands in her partner’s hair again. "You are a horrible tease Gabrielle."
"One of my many charms," came the muffled reply as the bard continued her exploration of the warrior, moving her head to the other breast.
"You know," Xena tried to lift her head, finding that all but impossible she just smiled as the bard’s mouth and tongue burned it’s way around her sensitive flesh. "You have too many clothes on." She rolled the gown up in her hands and pulled it over the bard’s head. With a little help it was soon discarded with her leathers. Once warm skin met warm skin the warrior had taken all she could stand. She rolled over and trapped the bard with her body and an evil grin.
"Why Xena I do believe…" The bard’s words were cut off by a rather insistent kiss, which she was all too willing to return. Gabrielle felt the breath leave her body and fail to return once the warrior began running her hands over her body. "Yes…" She whimpered as the warrior began further explorations with her mouth, landing on a particularly sensitive nipple. She tangled her fingers in Xena’s hair and allowed her body to receive and enjoy all the pleasure it would be given.
Xena trailed her hand slowly and lightly down the bard’s body, relishing every moment of it and committing to memory every jolt of every muscle. "So nice…" She growled softly as she continued to stroke the body of her lover. Her passions were high, but she wanted this to last and to be something neither of them would ever forget.
"Please…" Gabrielle moaned as she pressed her body into Xena’s.
It was only one word, but that was all it took to send the warrior’s roaming hands down. She knew what the bard was asking for. She gasped as she made contact with the bard’s center. A loud deep moan broke free from her as she felt all the warmth there, knowing it was for her, because of their coming together. "Gabrielle…I love you." She whispered as she began tenderly stroking her lover.
Gabrielle’s body arched into the warrior and her arms clasped tightly around her in response to the loving attention she was receiving from the person she loved most in this world. Words failed her as she nodded in response to Xena’s declaration and her body tensed into the sensations the warrior was providing. She felt herself bite into Xena’s shoulder as her body neared the edge. The moan from the warrior brought her even closer as her mind began to give over to her body and the delightful feelings of their combined motion. Xena’s loving and tender touch was driving her mad. She realized she needed and wanted more. She pushed herself harder into the warrior’s body with a long and deep moan and another plea.
Xena had to oblige her bard’s wanton yet heart-felt request. She watched Gabrielle’s body arch even higher as she gracefully glided two fingers into the bard’s moist depths. Xena couldn’t believe her eyes, her ears. The bard worked her body against the warrior so forcefully, so passionately. The look of strained desire played on Gabrielle’s beautiful face; the sounds of primitive grunts escaped her throat, making Xena all the more warmer and wetter herself. Xena leaned down and captured Gabrielle’s earlobe between her lips.
"So sexy," the warrior whispered, her own want spilling into her voice.
Gabrielle emitted a deep moan at the feel and heat of the words. One hand found it’s way to Xena’s arm that continued to stroke her. The other buried itself into the raven mane of her lover.
"Harder Xena," the bard begged seductively.
Xena was indecisive. She didn’t want to hurt her new lover. She wanted to take things slow and easy. But more than that, she wanted to bring the bard pleasure. And if that’s what the bard truly wanted . . .
"Oh Gods . . . Yes," the bard hissed in a satisfied sigh. Gabrielle opened her eyes to find the warrior was examining her body. She moved her leg, sliding it between her warriors. Xena took the opportunity, raising the bards leg to meet her center.
Never stopping her hand movements inside her lover, Xena began to grind against Gabrielle’s flesh, rubbing her already excited mound to greater heights of desire. As Gabrielle captured Xena’s hips with her hands, practically guiding the warrior’s body in the intimate dance, their eyes locked.
One of Gabrielle’s hands began to wander across the slick, passion soaked body of her warrior – the other remained firmly in place coaxing her lover. She too could feel a dampness across her forehead, making her bangs wet. A feeling of warmth, from their fevered pitch activities and a feeling of chill, from the light breeze through the window, enveloped her all at once.
Gabrielle felt her passion doubling and redoubling at an alarming rate and she knew she was so close to release. The warrior could feel it too - both physically and emotionally. Never breaking the connection of their eyes, the warrior gave a soft, gentle command.
"Come for me," she whispered softly.
The bard groaned in what sounded like frustration but continued her movements. Xena realized just what the talkative bard would need in order to go over – her voice.
"Come for me Gabrielle," the warrior repeated sincerely, still looking deep into her lover’s eyes. "So long we’ve waited . . . and now it’s here – the moment we’ve wanted. I’m gonna do it Gabrielle," the warrior added in a coy voice and a devilish grin. "I’m gonna make you release. Give it to me Gabrielle."
Xena’s voice began to quiver at the end and the speed of her hips increased. Maybe the talking wouldn’t help Gabrielle over but it was sure doing something for her. With that thought she continued.
"You feel so good beneath me," the warrior strained out. "Can you feel how excited you make me?" The bard answered with a simple nod and a quick glance to her leg, which was now slick with Xena’s arousal. "You can see it huh? You can feel it, can’t you? . . . Oh Gods you feel so warm and wet and wonderful Gabrielle . . . You’re the only one Gabrielle," the warrior said honestly. "The only lover I can say I’ve truly loved."
That thought alone sent Xena over her edge. Her mouth opened as if to say something yet no voice came. Seconds later a deep groan managed to escape and her body began to shake sending the vibrations through the bard as well.
‘Oh Gods,’ the bard thought. ‘She’s even more beautiful now than I imagined. So beautiful, so sexy, so . . . so . . .’
"Oh Gods Xena!"
The bard cried out following behind the warrior in ultimate pleasure. Spasms ripped across her body like a wildfire leaving her trembling in its wake. Indeed, dreams never felt this good. No one could ever feel this good. No one except for Xena. HER Xena.
The warrior collapsed on half the mattress and half the bard. Xena apologized and tried to move a bit but Gabrielle wouldn’t hear of it. She clung to the warrior, holding her in place, telling her she was fine just where she was. More than fine in fact – almost divine. Moments later Xena realized she did have to move and rolled to her back gathering the bard in her arms, almost in a protective fashion. Gabrielle didn’t mind. She snuggled in tight to the warrior. And Xena heard the bard’s soft declaration as they relaxed in the embrace.
"I love you Xena."
The warrior smiled and tightened her grip slightly. "Love you too," came the calm response.
As the sun settled over the village the warrior lay in bed with her bard draped over her body. Xena smile as the bard’s hand slowly crept across her chest and then out her extended arm until finally their hands met and fingers interlaced together.
Now that Xena thought about it she was quite pleased that she hadn’t been the one to open Gabrielle up to ‘new territory’. She had found out that her little bard was very capable when it came to pleasure and sighed as the memories settled in.
"Happy?" Gabrielle whispered, not wanted to lose the wonderful and precious silence as they relaxed together.
"Oh very…" The warrior ran her fingers through soft blonde hair and kissed the bard’s forehead. She thought about something else and gave a soft chuckle.
"What?" Gabrielle raised her head from her shoulder pillow and grinned at her chuckling lover.
"Well I guess we showed them didn’t we?" Xena laughed as she guided Gabrielle’s head back to her shoulder.
"Yeah I guess we did. This’ll teach ‘em to talk about people behind their backs," the bard giggled as she snuggled closer to her warrior.
"Well at least now they really have something to talk about." The warrior lowered her head and kissed the bard.