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Eponin slowly opened her eyes to find August giving a light snore next to her. She wiped her eyes of the sleep and rolled over to face Gabrielle. But the bard wasnít there. She canít be up already, can she?
Slowly Eponin rose to rest her weight on her elbows. Thatís when she saw three sets of feet across the room. Quietly as possible she rose and walked over to the other side of the room. Gabrielle was still nuzzled in the warriorís arms. Xenaís cheek rested on the top of Gabrielleís blonde crown.
Admit it Ep . . . they look perfect together, the ex-amazon told herself. She needs her. They both need each other. Sure you want a lover but you want THAT. You want exactly what youíre looking at - that kind of love and connection. And youíre never going to find that with Gabrielle. Yeah you could build your world around her but sheíd never love you like that in return. She couldnít because she already gave her heart away.
Suddenly Xena opened her eyes but she didnít move. Xena could have smirked at the amazon and threw it in her face that Gabrielle had chosen her as a sleeping mate this evening. But Xena recognized that Ep did love Gabrielle deeply by the pain that showed on the amazonís face.
But youíll never love her the way I do, Xena thought as she looked up.
"You better treat her right," Eponin warned the warrior in a whisper. "Or next time you might lose her for good."
Xena didnít reply vocally she gave a slight nod to Eponin fully understanding what Eponin was saying and knowing that statement was very true. That single nod also conveyed that Xena would in fact do right by her. She wouldnít give Gabrielle any reason to doubt her has a mate again.
Eponin gave Xena the Ďwarrior nodí that Xena recognized well. It was one of respect for being Ďbestedí by someone. It was one she herself had never given to anyone. She had never been bested. Nearly killed - yes. But never Ďbestedí.
Without another word Eponin left the room, closing the door behind her.
Gabrielle was jarred awake by the noise and darted her head up. When she didnít find anyone standing above her, she took notice that someone was below her. She felt a bashful grin come to her face as she watched the smiling warrior.
"Morniní," Xena said tenderly pulling her back down to her shoulder.
Without the slightest bit of hesitation Gabrielle put her head back down and gave a sigh. "Morniní" she echoed in a sleepy voice. After she became more awake she asked, "Who left?"
"Eponin," Xena answered.
Eponin was awake? Then that means she saw me . . . with Xena. Oh shit!
"I better go talk to her," Gabrielle replied as she sat up, rubbing her eyes to focus.
"She already read me the warrior riot act," Xena answered.
"I didnít hear her," Gabrielle replied.
"Well, it was one sentence actually . . . You know how us stoic warriors are Gabrielle. We donít say much but when we do we make it count."
"Oh lord," Gabrielle sighed, "What did she say?" the bard asked, dreading the answer.
"She warned me to treat you right or next time Iíd lose you for good."
Gabrielle looked to Xena to continue. When she didnít add more Gabrielle asked, "Thatís it?"
"She didnít need to say more. I knew what she meant. And I know itís true." Xenaís fingers unconsciously found the bards arm and began to rub it up and down. "I want to give it another chance . . . but you have to want that too Gabrielle." Please say yes. Lord, let her say yes.
Do I want to give it another chance? Do I want to risk being hurt again? Am I strong enough to walk away again if I have to? Or will we find that connection we once had where we spoke our minds and led with our hearts? Gabrielle felt the grin pull at the corners of her mouth. It was useless to resist it.
"I think I want that too . . . but slowly . . . I need to take things slow."
Inside the warrior was doing cartwheels but on the outside she gave a tender grin. She moved to her elbows as she sat up. "Do you have any idea how happy that makes me?" Xena asked.
Gabrielle smiled. "Real happy?" she teased.
"Very happy," the warrior replied, moving closer still until she was sitting directly in front of the bard. Her hands made their way to Gabrielleís face. "So very, very happy," Xena added in a soft whisper.
She gonna do it, Gabrielle thought as Xena moved in even closer.
Just as Gabrielle had suspected Xenaís lips tenderly captured her own. The kiss was tentative at first - a few light pecks that lingered, causing Gabrielleís blood pressure to rise. Suddenly Gabrielle could feel her pulse in her head before traveling the length of her body. For the first time in months she felt a torch within her ignite. The kisses that Eponin gave her now and then warmed her like a campfire. Xenaís scorched her like a blazing inferno through a thick forest. And she loved it . . . missed it . . . wanted more of it.
Damn this woman knows how to kiss, Gabrielle thought merrily as more force came in the kisses that followed - a confidence growing between both women.
Neither woman was sure how it happened nor in truth did they seemed to care, but at some point Xena ended up lying on her back again. But this time she had Gabrielle sparing kisses back and forth with growing speed as she hovered over her.
Slow Xena said in her mind. Take it slow. . . But she feels so damn good. . . To Hell with slow. Itís been too damn long. Xenaís hands were on the verge of leaving the bardís mid-section to cup her breast.
They would have continued but a voice brought them to a halt.
"Oh please. There are children in the room for crying out loud."
Xena and Gabrielle both stopped the reacquainting of their lips to giggle like guilty teenagers at Eve.
"Should I kill her now or later for stopping us?" Xena asked Gabrielle with an arched eyebrow to Eve.
"Nah . . . Donít kill her. Not yet anyway. We havenít had the chance to talk yet - mother to daughter."
Eve couldnít help but grin. "She told you huh?" Gabrielle simply nodded. "And youíre okay with that?" Eve asked with a bit of uncertainty.
"Iím wonderful with that," Gabrielle answered without hesitation.
"Told you not to worry," Xena winked to her daughter. "And as much as Iíd like to lay on this blanket kissing you all day," she added to Gabrielle, "I think it might be better if go check on the villagers and see how things are going."
Xena began to rise but Gabrielle stopped her.
"Hey," she called softly.
Suddenly the warrior found her lips coveted again by the bards, and she couldnít hold back the hum of pleasure at the sensation. When they broke apart Xena took an unsteady breath to stand on even more unsteady legs.
"Ohhhhh Evie," she told her daughter. "I pray someday you find someone who can kiss like that," she smiled to Gabrielle. The three of them chuckled loud enough to roust August from her slumber. "Hey sleeping beauty is up," Xena teased. August gave a yawn and sat up stretching. "Come on kiddo," the warrior told the young lady. "A new day has dawned and itís time to go out into the world so grab your boots."
August gave another yawn as she fumbled with her footwear. Once in place Xena helped pull the girl to her feet. "Weíll be back later," she told Gabrielle and Eve, who were sitting in the piles of blankets, looking quite cozy. Xena was almost to the door when she stopped and strode back to the bard, shaking her head. "I canít leave just yet," she said as she leaned down and pointed to her lips. "One more," she said with a sexy grin.
Gabrielle reached up and stroked the warriorís cheeks as her lips made a very delicate impact upon the warrior. "Howís that?" the bard teased.
"Not bad," Xena replied, "But I think we should practice more later," she added with a stroke to the bardís chin.
With that, Xena rose and walked with August who stood momentarily slack-jawed by what she just witnessed. Oh she knew Xena was Gabrielleís lover at one point in their lives but she didnít realize that things had changed . . . literally . . . overnight.
Once alone Eve turned to Gabrielle who was beaming like a lantern.
"Iíve waited months to say this," Eve began with a huge grin.
"What?" the bard asked truly intrigued by what her daughter had to say.
Eve took a deep breath and released it slowly, savoring the moment with her eyes closed. When she opened them she smiled at the bard.
"Mom . . . Will YOU tell me one of your stories."
CONTINUED IN PART XXI: CHALLENGES