DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Perdicus, and other characters from the show Xena Warrior Princess belong to Renaissance Pictures and those who now hold the rights to the show.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story begins the morning after Gabrielle leaves Poteidaia in the episode, "Sins of the Past." It is very much Perdicus' story; so if you really despise Perdicus, don't even bother reading this. Though Perdicus' story, it is his perceptions of Xena and Gabrielle, their relationship, and his feelings about it. And everything happens prior to Seasons 3.
The sex. There are a couple of paragraphs of boy/girl action, but I make up for it with many pages of explicit scenes of physical intimacy between two women.
There is reference/dialogue from actual episodes from the show.
DEDICATION: To my Xenite friend, Carol Johnston whom I miss terribly. It's been a year and I hope you can hear my daily thoughts to you. To my other buddy, Jay who is always an inspiration and brings such meaning to my life.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

What Perdicus Knew
By Portia Richardson


It hadn't been the easiest mission Xena had ever carried out, but she was able to slip into Autolycus' body while he slept off a hangover. She remained unseen and unheard, letting him make his way to the temple that stored the Dagger of Helios. It was when things started getting out of hand that she took over and let her presence be known. Surprisingly, after the initial shock wore off, Autolycus was willing to help Xena. He figured there was potential profit in it and the warrior was a friend.

Gabrielle had met up with Ephiny and a group of Amazon warriors who came to pay their respects. After doing so, Ephiny explained that the Amazon Nation was in turmoil and Gabrielle, as the Amazon Princess and rightful heir to Melosa's throne was needed to lead their people. The fate of the Nation rested in either Gabrielle's hands or the hands of Velasca, a power hungry, violent, Amazon who felt justified in her brutality and aggression. Ephiny begged Gabrielle to think long and hard about her future and the future of the Amazons before leaving them to travel to Amphipolis.

Xena-- I'll always love you-- but I know I have to let you go. I always thought of you as my home, and when you left-- I felt so lost. Maybe, my new home is here. Gabrielle had decided. She would take Xena's ashes to Amphipolis and then return to the Amazon Nation to rule as their new Queen.

As she watched the preparations for the funeral pyre, she thought of Perdicus. Perdicus, I can't believe I'm here again, so soon, saying goodbye to another person whom I cared for. I'm going to take Xena's ashes to Amphipolis. I had promised her that a long time ago and she would want it that way. I've tried to tell her, but I don't know if she can hear me, sense me. If you see her or if Hades sees her, tell her that I'm taking care of her, abiding by her wishes because I love her.

"Gods, has she no idea how cruel she is?" Perdicus whined. "I died fighting to save her. I died the day before we were to travel back to Poteidaia to start a life, but she didn't care. Yeah, sure. She gathered wood for a funeral pyre and watched as Xena hefted my body onto it. She and her big, she-warrior friend both lit those torches, and walked around the pyre and set me ablaze. They probably giggled at their luck. Big, dumb Perdicus was out of the picture, no longer a threat to them being together. By the gods, I loved Poteidaia, but it didn't even occur to her for one moment to take me home or to take my ashes home. No, she told Xena that my ashes should be spread across the meadow where I died; that it would be a fitting memorial to me. Even in death I have been a blind man. I see now. Oh, I see. It wasn't to honor me; it was convenient. Let's just dump him here and be on our way. Out of sight, out of mind."

Hades rolled his eyes as he listened to Perdicus rant. He would have sent him back to the Elysian Fields, but he could still hear Gabrielle in the background talking to the young man. Gabrielle's voice was merely ambient sound as Perdicus raged over what he perceived as another uncaring act by Gabrielle. "Perdicus, I know you don't believe that. From what I know of Gabrielle, she is a very loving, tender woman who thinks of others before she thinks of herself."

"Oh, please. Spare me. Gabrielle thinks of Gabrielle. She ditched me when we were to be married, then once we were married and I died, she scattered my bodily remains in a field near some village I'd never visited prior to the day before. And then, she sends a scroll to my family giving them the news. I know that because…" Perdicus whined in a high effeminate voice, 'Perdicus, I'm letting your parents and brothers and sister know what happened. I'm sending this scroll with a messenger right away. They should know.' Gee, thanks for telling my parents in a scribbled note that I'm dead. That personal touch should make them feel good. Gabrielle is all about Gabrielle. But she loves Xena and she'll do whatever she can to fulfill her love's wishes."

"If that's what you want to believe, I can do nothing to persuade you otherwise. Why put yourself through this?"

"Because you keep sending for me!" Perdicus yelled at Hades. "I don't want to come here! Leave me be!. Let me live out eternity without having to deal with this heartache. I'd be better off in Tartarus then coming here to listen to her talk about Xena."

"We do the living a service by opening our hearts to them as they speak to us."

"Hades, no offense, but since you are the God of the Underworld, why not do the dead a service and not put us through it?"

Hades shrugged. He stood there wishing Gabrielle would finish all that she had to say to her dead husband because this man was about to make him start shooting fireballs. If Perdicus weren't dead, he would be if he didn't stop with all of the irritating comments.

Hades had spoken with Celesta a number of times and his sister was adamant about this not being Xena's time. She, frankly didn't know what was going on or how Xena had ended up in the Underworld. Hades was spending most of the day and night in his great hall listening for information regarding the events going on in the earthly realm. He knew that Xena's soul and spiritual self co-habitated with Autolycus and they were on Amazon land trying to get to her body. He didn't know much else unless Gabrielle spoke to Xena. Since Xena wasn't there, Hades listened to her thoughts.

Xena? Look. They made me Queen. She laughed. Me, the little girl you found in Poteidaia.

It sounded to him like Gabrielle must have been standing over Xena's sarcophagus speaking to the warrior.

It's time that I let you go. See, I…I have to find my own life--just as you were searching for yours. You know, there are two kinds of tears: tears for those… she cried softly. …who leave you and tears for those who you never let go. And I won't say goodbye to you, Xena 'cause we'll be together again. One day.

Hades heard so much pain and longing in Gabrielle's voice and he whispered a thought to his sister Aphrodite that somehow these would-be lovers find a way back together. "Go, Xena, go. Time is running out," Hades said aloud.

When Autolycus was caught trying to steal Xena's body, Gabrielle refused to believe his motives, but when she heard Xena's battlecry coming from Autolycus and watched as he leapt and somersaulted across the Amazon square to land on top of the flaming funeral pyre, she knew in her heart that Xena was not only sending a sign, but that she was there with her and trying to come back. As she had done for seasons, Gabrielle abandoned everything and followed Xena.

When Autolycus and Gabrielle were completely alone in the forest, Xena took control of Autolycus' body so that she could not only speak to Gabrielle, but also hold her.

Xena willed a dreamscape to appear where she and Gabrielle could speak as they always had. Slowly, the dreamscape evolved into a place where they could meet.

"Yes, Gabrielle, it's me. I want you to do something. Close your eyes. Close them tightly, and think of me. Gabrielle. Gabrielle. It's me. I'm not dead." Xena said, looking down at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle was dressed in her Amazon garb and looked like she had aged many winters in just a few days. A tiny wrinkle ran up and down between her eyebrows and Xena couldn't recall having seen it before. There was an unbelievable sadness in Gabrielle's eyes, too. That look she had never seen. Gabrielle was always upbeat, filled with life, filled with hope for the future. Gabrielle still looked beautiful, but she also seemed tired and rundown. Hopefully, Xena would be able to bring that brilliantly jovial woman back with her own return.

"Xena?" Gabrielle looked at her in disbelief. How could this be? She wondered.

"At least, not completely."

Gabrielle knew that this encounter was unusual and probably wouldn't last, but there were questions that needed answers, questions she had been asking herself nearly every candlemark. "Why? Why did you leave? There're so many things I want to say to you."

Talking to Gabrielle at this moment was the most important thing Xena could do. If getting to and eating the ambrosia didn't work, at least Gabrielle would know that Xena's feelings for her were strong enough to make her try to return and that she would always be there for her in some way. It was crucial to Xena that Gabrielle knew this because Gabrielle had changed her life so dramatically. She was a different person and warrior with Gabrielle beside her. She wanted her to know that the young sidekick's dreams for her were appreciated and accepted. "Gabrielle-- you don't have to say a word. We don't have much time. I need to get to the ambrosia; otherwise, I will be gone."

"Xena, I can't lose you again," Gabrielle said as she tried to hold back tears to no avail. My gods, she can't come back to me just to leave me again. I couldn't bear it.

"Gabrielle, I'll always be here."

Xena bent down and leaned in as Gabrielle tilted her head upward and leaned forward. Their kiss was tender and filled with true love that would last an eternity. The passionate kisses they had shared before in many ways couldn't compare to the depth of feeling that this one sparked in each woman. When the kiss ended, both women knew that the other loved her more than any other and they knew that each would go to all mortal lengths to help, protect, and be with the other. It was a kiss that said all that they had ever spoken to each other, yet also promised love that would be unending.

After a mad chase for the ambrosia, fighting villains, a little torture, many threats, and more violence than Gabrielle and the Amazon warriors had never witnessed, Gabrielle slipped the food of the gods into Xena's mouth. To say Gabrielle was overjoyed was an understatement. When Xena blinked and then smiled warmly at Gabrielle, her heart was mended.

It would take days before all the fighting would end. During that time, Gabrielle had to face her archenemy again, Callisto.

Gabrielle tried to reason with Xena. They didn't need Callisto, despite the fact that she was an immortal. There had to be another way to fight their Amazon enemy, Velasca. But Xena was determined and said it was the only way; she had to use Callisto.

"No, you don't! Every time I close my eyes, I hear her voice! I hear Perdicus scream. Now, I have to live with that till the day I die. What makes you think-- that Callisto would help you?" Gabrielle was desperate to find an argument against using her. Callisto needed to stay hidden away from the world forever.

But Xena won out. She promised Gabrielle that it would be okay and eventually, it was. Both Velasca and Callisto were destroyed in a river of lava. The Amazons thrived under Ephiny's leadership, while Xena and Gabrielle took some time to heal their emotional and physical wounds before heading back on the road.

At the Amazon Nation, Amazon carpenters and smithies worked to get the village that had been devastated by Velasca's wrath rebuilt. While they hammered, nailed, and soldered, Xena and Gabrielle slept in the hut of the Amazon Queen. Gabrielle gave Xena long massages, stretching out her limps that were stiff. Most other people's limps would have atrophied, but Xena was only a little sore. In fact, she didn't need Gabrielle's massages, but having her friend's hands on her was something she found immensely pleasurable.

They had been with the Amazons for over two moons. Xena was back to her old self and knew that she could handle any problem that crossed their paths. She had spent the last part of their stay with the Amazons running drills with other warriors and exercising to exhaustion. Gabrielle had spent her days learning Amazon law and rules and ways to govern. Though that wasn't her plan, there might be a time when she would be called upon to lead her adopted people. If that happened, she would be ready. Now, both women were eager to continue their lives on the road.

The night before, they lay side by side in bed as they had been every evening. Xena suggested that they return to Amphipolis.

"Gabrielle, that was a really close call. I came back mostly for you, but also I want to make things right with my mother and at some point, when I think he's ready, with Solon."

"Oh, I understand, Xena. I want you to stay connected to your family. And already I think of Solon as…"

"A younger brother."

"Hardly," Gabrielle said a bit miffed. "I think of him as my son."

"You would have been nine or ten winters old when you gave birth, then."

"Xena, the implication is that if I thought of Solon as my brother, I'd be thinking of you as my mother and I can assure that my feelings for you are nothing like those I've ever had for my mother."

Xena smiled, but didn't say anything. In the time they'd spent recuperating, neither woman had made any overtures or suggestions about deepening their relationship to add a more physical element. This was the first time that Gabrielle had hinted it was something she still wanted. Going to Amphipolis as it turned out would be providential in Xena's mind.

"Speaking of your mother, Gabrielle--do you want to go to Poteidaia for a visit?"



"Yes, Xena." Gabrielle sighed. "I've gone to Poteidaia twice now and seeing my parents is not something I've wanted to do. I don't know why. I can't explain it. I guess it's guilt or anger or just feeling like a child around them or worse, feeling invisible. My home is here with you and going to Amphipolis sounds fine. I like Cyrene."

"What about Lila?"

"We keep up through scrolls. You know, it's funny that whenever I hear from her, she never writes, 'Mom and Dad miss you' or 'Mom and Dad send their love.'"

"Maybe she forgets to write it."

"You don't know Lila. Whatever she hears, she repeats. If you want to keep something a secret, everyone in Poteidaia knows not to tell her. If they had asked about me, Lila would have told me. It says a lot, don't you think?"

"Yeah, it does. I'm sorry, Gabrielle. Maybe in time, your parents will change." Xena hesitated, then added, "People do."

Even in the dark, Gabrielle sensed Xena's soft smile. She turned to her and asked, "When you were away from me, were you able to hear my thoughts?"

"Sometimes. It was a bit tough with the craziness going on in Autolycus' brain." She chuckled.

Gabrielle reached for her hand in the darkness and grasped it tightly. "Then you know how much I love you. I love you with all my heart; with every beat of my heart."

"You know, before…" Xena hesitated, not sure if she wanted to get into this subject, but knew that she needed to. "Before, when we kissed and touched, I stopped you. I said that I didn't feel the way you did and I didn't want to hurt you."


"I know that what I feel for you is strong and I don't know if I deserve you…no, I don't deserve you. Anyway, I know you could probably do better with someone else. I mean, I'll never be exactly what you want or need…"

"You're just what I want and need, Xena. You're exactly the person I want and need."

"Uh…I'll try to do right by you, all right? If you'll have me."

Gabrielle kissed Xena lightly on the cheek and both women sighed contently, but there conversing was over for the night. Their hands remained entwined even after Morpheus came to them and drew them into sleep.

Cyrene was nothing short of ecstatic to have Xena back in Amphipolis. All of the townspeople were hearing good things about Xena. Her daughter was a changed woman or a better description might be that she had returned to the person she once was. Xena had been an idealistic child having firm beliefs about good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust. Even at the age of four winters, Xena was the little protector of all of the other small children. The big kids hadn't dared bully them with her around. Watching her tall, strong daughter now, Cyrene could still see a glimmer of the child who fought for the weaker ones. Xena was truly back and it was plain as day that this younger woman, Gabrielle played a large role in the return of the kinder, more compassionate Xena. It was just as obvious that Xena had found love.

Over the seasons, Cyrene had heard rumors that Xena was a sexual charmer. So much like her father, Cyrene had thought. With Gabrielle, it seemed that Xena was the one getting charmed. Xena's eyes could take on the coldest, most heartless and piercing stare and Cyrene had not only witnessed it many times, but had been on the receiving end during Xena's teen years. Sitting in her inn this night, the warmth in those blue eyes melted all who were captured by her gaze no matter how fleeting. Xena's mother noticed that whatever kindness Xena gave to others was only the residual tenderness and affection she bestowed on Gabrielle.

"What are your plans for tomorrow, Xena?" Cyrene asked.

"Ummm," Xena began languidly. "I think I'll take Gabrielle across to the fortress. We'll spend the day."

Gabrielle cocked her head in question, but only listened to the conversation while taking in all of the other sights of the patrons at the inn.

Cyrene nodded and smiled. So Xena is quite serious about this feisty girl. Well, good for her. Gabrielle is a beautiful and sweet person. "What time will you be leaving?"

"Early. You'll probably be in the kitchen preparing the meals for the day. We won't disturb you."

"Xena, I want both of you to have a morning meal before you go to the fortress."

"Mother, it's not necessary." She leaned in and whispered, "Frankly, I don't think I'll be able to eat much. I haven't been there in a long time."

"It's much the same as you and Lyceus left it, though Corban asked if he could graze his sheep there."

Xena's eyes flashed briefly as she thought about what the fortress and surrounding areas might look like with grazing animals all over it. "Does that mean we're going to have to deal with sheep dung?"

"No, I've been up there and I know that Corban followed my instructions to the letter. He's left the fortress clean."

"Okay, okay. What is this fortress?" Gabrielle interjected.

"You'll see tomorrow." Xena stared at Gabrielle until Gabrielle became self-conscious under the intensity. "Gabrielle, I need some time to deal with family matters tonight. Mom can set you up in your own room."

Cyrene and Gabrielle looked at Xena with matching expressions of disbelief. Xena stared back but said nothing. Instead, she sipped from the mug of warmed wine that was her mother's specialty drink.

As her mother and companion continued to look at her, Xena was forced to respond, "It's just that I kind of want to have a conversation with Lyceus alone. If that's all right."

"Of course, Xena." Gabrielle remembered that she had walked in on Xena's conversation with her brother at the family crypt. Xena was closer to no one and if she needed time alone with him, that was something she could understand.

"Thank you."

Cyrene was surprised that Gabrielle would be so agreeable. It was obvious that the two women were used to sleeping beside each other. She wondered if Gabrielle was truly upset and just keeping a stiff upper lip about it, but when she turned to look at her, Gabrielle's expression was that of deep love and understanding. Gabrielle was perceptive when it came to Xena and her needs and seemed to give her daughter the space she required.

Cyrene stood and said, "Let me get your room together, Gabrielle. Is there anything you'd especially like in there?"

"No, Cyrene, just some blankets and a mug of water, perhaps."

"This is a classier inn than that, Gabrielle. I'll see what delights I can come up with." Cyrene left the two women sitting at the table. Xena leaned in and patted Gabrielle's hand. "This is the last night you'll sleep alone. Promise."

The word 'promise' made Gabrielle's heart skip a beat. She knew that the word comprised love, passion, friendship, trust, honesty, and their souls. Gabrielle was promising everything to Xena and knew that Xena was doing the same.

When Cyrene returned the two women said their goodnights to Xena's mother and a few moments later, to each other in the hallway. The evening's parting to Xena's mom was sweet and familial, but in the corridor, Xena backed Gabrielle against the wall and holding her chin, began to kiss her deeply. Slowly she moved her hand from Gabrielle's chin to lightly caress her neck, then further down to hold her shoulder as the kiss became less controlled. Gabrielle moaned into Xena's mouth and Xena did likewise as both woman tried to devour the other. Gabrielle's hands were on Xena's waist, squeezing her enthusiastically, flexing her hands as she got lost in Xena's warm mouth.

Xena pushed back and smiled. "I'll see you in the morning. We're leaving early."

Gabrielle looked into Xena's eyes and one corner of her mouth went up and then a grin spread across her face. "Do you think you can carry me to my room?"

"You're a big girl."

Xena turned and walked down the hall. Only once did she turn back to see Gabrielle still leaning against the wall, eyes closed, and trying to recover from Xena's kisses.

Xena had changed out of her armor and leathers, then the rest of her clothing to sink into the lukewarm bath her mother had left for her. She was sure that Gabrielle had the same arrangements in her room. Her bath smelled of cinnamon oil and Xena smiled that her mother remembered her favorite fragrance.

When she finished, she sat on her bed at the foot and stared into the mirror. Nothing about her looked different—long dark hair, blue eyes, skin the color of a hardworking farmer's. In her eyes, she didn't see the changes that she knew had taken place in her life. She was no longer a pirate or warlord; she didn't brutalize men for amusement; and now, she could still have a good day fighting, but she didn't crave or even want a good kill. She was an Amphipolitan woman, home to visit her mother, traveling with her companion. Of course, Xena was an Amphipolitan to be reckoned with. Kicking ass was her vocation, after all; people should be intimidated by her--it would serve them well to be afraid. These blue eyes could instantly let someone know they had done wrong and would have to be dealt with, but now when she looked at them, she saw peace and a contentment she hadn't known since she and Lyceus played war games and tried to hook the biggest and best fish. She had done something right to have Gabrielle by her side. Xena shook her head wishing that Lyceus could have met Gabrielle. Toris really liked her, so she knew her younger brother would have to.

"Lyceus, brother. I miss you." Xena spoke aloud. "I've been thinking of you more and more because before Gabrielle there was no one who understood me better than you. I just hope I never let her down. She's so open and honest and well…you know me. I keep things close." She shook her head. "She loves me and she tells me now. She held back waiting for me to say it, but she finally told me. I know she expected me to say the same, but I didn't. It's not that I don't feel it, I do, but…" Xena paused and bit her lower lip. "But…whenever I've said that—I love you--the person's been taken away from me somehow--either by death or my own stupidity. You were killed because we went after Cortese. Lao Ma was so disappointed in me that I left her. Akemi? She broke my heart in so many ways. Remember that Amazon I told you about, Anokin? She learned to hate me. Then Solon. I held him in my arms and told my son I loved him, then gave him away. I don't have much of a success record with those I love."

Xena began to cry. A sole, pitiful tear spilled from her eye and drifted casually down the plane of her cheek. She was feeling sorry for herself. Perhaps she would never have and hold love "You know, she'd walk away if she knew all I'd done. I know she wants me to share my life with her, but some of the things in my past…" Xena swallowed hard, and stared at her reflection. "She couldn't forgive me for some things. And, being with me, aren't I putting her in danger? Gods forbid we run across Caesar in the future. I don't think I could control myself. I'd go after him and Gabrielle--she'd never understand it. And what if she finds out about Japa? Or the kidnapping in Chin? Or what I did to the Valkyrie up North? See, brother? See? If I tell her all, I lose her, but if I don't and she finds out…" Xena sighed. "And I've talked to you over the seasons, Lyceus. You know that there are many more people like Callisto out there. We will never be safe. Gabrielle will always be in danger. I know I should take this risk. My brother, the risk-taker. Yeah, so am I. Why does this risk frighten me so?" Xena stared at her hands for good long time before looking up. "I think I've been angry a long time that you were taken from me. So, not only am I with Gabrielle, but I can finally truly say goodbye to you." Xena smiled and then said to her reflection, "Lyceus, in the morning we're going to the fortress. Remember? I will always miss and think of you, Lyceus. Wipe the dirt off your face, kid." Xena chuckled.

She picked up the shift that had been left for her on the bed and pulled it on over her head. She stood and let it slide over her body. She paced her small childhood bedroom for a few moments before she began to voice her thoughts. "Hades, I'm not his loved one, but I need for Perdicus to hear my thoughts. Could you get him for me, please?"

She didn't know if Hades would allow Perdicus to leave the Elysian Fields, but she hoped that when she began, he'd hear her.

Perdicus, you have to free, Gabrielle. She's a young woman who has a right to live her life the way she wants. I know she couldn't be all that you wanted, but she can be that for me. She wants to give me her love and I want to love her. You're standing in the way. I'm not trying to be a bitch. She needs to move on. I'm asking you, if you do love her, to set her free. Show her that you love her enough to want to see her happy. You have a good life in the Elysian Fields, why not let her have a good life here? It wasn't her fault Callisto killed you. Blame the Fates if you need to blame someone, but not her. Not, Gabrielle. I love her, Perdicus. She loves me. Let her go.

"Did you hear that?" Perdicus laughed maniacally.

Hades' hearing was in perfect working order. The plea was so heartfelt that if it had been in his power to send Gabrielle a sign that she should live her life, he would, but it was all up to Perdicus. "Yes, of course. What are you going to do?"

"I wonder what people would think if they knew that Xena, the mighty warrior princess was literally begging me for a favor."

"Perdicus, she's asking you to do a favor for your widow."

"Gabrielle never belonged to me," Perdicus said.

"Then it makes perfect sense that you make that known to her."

"I can't. If I do, what will I have? My life would have been a lie."

Hades walked over to the mortal. He didn't give comfort easily, but sometimes his mortals would become so distressed that they needed his shoulder or embrace. He stood beside Perdicus and put his arm around his shoulders. "I've never seen a man love so strongly. That's something you should be very proud of, Perdicus. Why don't you let Gabrielle know that she should go on without the guilt that plagues her?"

"What will I have?" he cried.

"You'll always have the fact that you loved someone completely, wholly, and the best you knew how. You'll have the pleasant memories of how it felt to tell your families. You have got to do this, Perdicus. You're always pissed off when you come here. I guarantee that once you take care of this, when Gabrielle speaks to you, it will be much more fulfilling for you."

"I'll think about it," he said with anger in his voice.

"Don't. Do it now. Do it, so you can rest, too."

Gabrielle finally made it to her room, but she was weak with desire for Xena. She could barely wait for tomorrow just to see the warrior. What else the day held in store would be a mystery until it happened, but she had a feeling it would be all that she wished.

As she bathed, she told herself that she needed to keep Perdicus out of her head. If she just didn't think about the tragedy, she would be ready and able to take those next steps. She kept telling herself this as she dried her body, slipped on her clean shift, and snuggled in the thick blankets that Cyrene had left as her bed linens. Just before she fell asleep, she forced herself to think only of Xena and their future. That's what she wanted to dream of, not those tortured dreams of Perdicus. She had preferred it when she couldn't dream at all right after he had died to the dreams she'd had lately. Xena would be her focus tonight, not Perdicus dying, not Perdicus awkwardly making love to her, not the look of failure on his face when he told her that he wasn't really a soldier. She refused to have dreams of her guilt when she could dream of the many tomorrows she would share with Xena.

Gabrielle closed her eyes, thankful that the rush to get here from the Amazon Nation had left her exhausted, despite the excitement of tomorrow. Sleep would come easily.

Gabrielle had been sleeping about two candlemarks when she rolled over from one side to another, bunching up her flattened pillow for a bit of cushion in her sleep. She slept on, but even this state was able to acknowledge the softness of the blankets and their fresh smell of rosemary and other herbs.

Before long, Gabrielle's eyes darted left and right rapidly as a dream took over her subconscious mind.

After dinner, Gabrielle and Perdicus had gone for a walk. As they walked they discussed how great it was that their parents were getting along and that the dinner his mother had cooked had been a great success. A candlemark or so had passed and Perdicus turned to Gabrielle and said, "I love you, you know that, right?"

"Yes, of course, I know. You told me fifty times today," she answered with a grin.

"I'm eighteen summers old and am ready to marry. Our parents would love for us to join"

"Uh-huh," Gabrielle said nervously.

"I want you to be my wife." Perdicus turned to face her as they had been walking hand in hand and forward. He stopped. "I would love that…"

"Oh, Perdicus…"

"But the thing is, Gabrielle, you're only sixteen and a half summers. I think you need more time."

Gabrielle didn't speak. She simply nodded, not in affirmation, but asking him to continue.

"It would be unfair of me to just say we should do this when you're not as sure as I. I'm willing to wait for you."

Gabrielle stared into his eyes and knew that her next statement would hurt him, but she needed to know everything. "What if I'm never sure? Perdicus, I so want to have adventures, maybe become a bard. I want to see more than Poteidaia."

"Then maybe you can do that someday, Gabrielle. Maybe we could even do it together."

"But what if I decided to be on my own. Perdicus, you're the best friend I've ever had, but marriage?"

"Gabrielle, I love you and if you decide that I'm not the one for you, it will hurt. I won't tell a lie. It will truly hurt me, but I want you to be happy. If someone else makes you happy, then I will wish that person all the best and ask her to love you at least as much as I've loved you. I will let you go. You should experience the kind of love I feel for you. I won't deny you that."

"Perdicus, what will we tell our parents?" She was more relieved than she could begin to express. Gabrielle knew that Perdicus was practically walking down Hestia's aisle with her; she knew that he couldn't wait for one of the priestesses to bless their union. The love she felt for him bloomed with his offer to wait and Gabrielle actually felt lighter than air.

"They only hope that we'll marry. Nothing has been made final. Don't worry about the parents. This is between us."

"Perdicus, it won't take me long to decide. I'm not there yet, but I will be."

"You might or you might not. That's okay, Gabrielle. That's okay."

The next morning, just after dawn when Xena lightly knocked on the door of Gabrielle's room, she was sure she'd have to go in and actually wake her. Gabrielle liked to sleep late every chance she had and if Xena wasn't there to wake her, Gabrielle could stay lost in Morpheus realm many candlemarks longer than most. Surprisingly, she could hear Gabrielle's booted feet pad across the room and the door opened. Xena's heart jumped into her throat as she looked at Gabrielle. She was dressed in her green top and brown skirt, her boots were still a bit dusty from the road, and everything about her looked just the same as it had for the past few moons. But there was something different in Gabrielle's eyes—a look of both optimism and anticipation.

"Hi," Xena said almost shyly.

"Good morning, Xena," Gabrielle answered as she entered the hall and closed the door behind her. "So we're off to this fortress, huh?"

"Yep." She and Gabrielle walked down the hall and down the few steps leading to the main room of the inn.

"Are we meeting a king? Militia?" Gabrielle wondered aloud.

"No, I suspect that the fortress will be deserted." Gabrielle could tell that Xena was purposefully being cryptic.

"Then why are we going?"

"I think it's something you should see, is all."

The wonderful smells of Cyrene's early morning cooking permeated the main room. Xena and Gabrielle could smell various breads baking, the pungent aroma of rabbit stew on the hearth, and the ripe odor of root vegetables boiling, too.

"Are we going to eat first?"

"Uh…I…why don't we eat when we get back?"

"Xena is that you?" Cyrene called from the kitchen.

"Yes, mother. Gabrielle and I are on our way to the fortress."

"Xena, don't leave here without a little something," Cyrene shouted from the kitchen just before she walked through the door into the main room. She was carrying a bundle wrapped in linen. "You might be able to go for candlemarks without food, but I don't think this one would appreciate having to go hungry. I saw her eat last night—she has a healthy appetite."

Gabrielle blushed, but accepted the bundle that Cyrene pushed into her arms. "Thank you."

"It's just a couple of slices of bread, some cheese. You can work up quite a hunger trekking across the land. I know, I've done it before. Xena, your manners as always leave a lot to be desired."

Xena lowered her eyes to the floor and without raising her head, looked up at her mother. "You're right. Sorry."

"Go on with the two of you. And for Zeus' sake, stay out of trouble, if you can, out there."

Xena nodded and guided Gabrielle to and then out the door. Cyrene smiled at the two departing figures and thought, I'll see you tonight.

They walked through town, even though their destination was directly behind Cyrene's inn. There were just too many obstacles out there--several wells, animals grazing, piles upon piles of chopped wood, and overgrown grasses. Cyrene didn't want visitors to the inn curiously wandering out past the inn's backyard. That land was family land and private. As Xena and Gabrielle walked through the village, Xena glanced around. Not much had changed in Amphipolis since she lived here. It was still home. She had lived on the sea and in Chin and Japa. She had traveled to the Caucasus Steppes and had spent many moons with the Norse people. Xena was a world traveler, but this place, Amphipolis was her most treasured land. Taking a deep breath she thought that it smelled like only Amphipolis could and the rich soil was Amphipolis soil, the sky was a beautiful sunrising pink and orange, so much like other sunrises, but distinctively an Amphipolis one. She loved this land and these people and hoped someday that they would truly welcome her back and love her as they once had.

"What are you thinking?"

"Ummm. Just how quiet it is. When the merchants come out, you can't hear yourself think, but right now, it's nice."

"Yeah, it is nice walking next to you."

"Ah, so you're glad I left Argo at the inn's stable?"

"Well, not glad. It's just that I don't really want to ride Argo if I can help it and I know I would want to be near you, so… I guess I am glad. But that doesn't mean I don't love Argo because I do."

"I know."

They past the last building in the town and were now standing at the foothills. "We're going up there, to the top?"

"No, now we're going straight out that way," she said pointing well beyond the field in front of them. "Up there, is nothing really. Just another good hiding place for Toris should danger come his way." She laughed, thinking that Toris was no longer the coward he had once been when he fled up the hill to escape Cortese and his men.

Gabrielle squinted. "Shouldn't I see the fortress? I don't see anything."

"It's well hidden, Gabrielle. C'mon."

Daylight had fully arrived just a few moments before they reached the edge of the field. Xena had timed it so. She wanted Gabrielle to take in the splendor of the fortress when the daylight formed both bright areas and shadows on it.

Gabrielle was astounded by what she viewed. "By the gods, Xena. What is this?"

"What's it look like, Gabrielle? The fortress, of course."

What Gabrielle saw in front of her was an exquisite archway of canopied trees. There were about thirty trees on each side, each bending inward to touch those on the opposite side. The limbs were full with leaves and the sun's light dappled onto the beautifully lush grass, so short and thick that it reminded her of the plush Egyptian carpets she had seen the vendors selling in Athens. She was drawn to it and wanted to sink her toes into it immediately. "Gods, I want to take my boots off."

"Go ahead. I'm the only one here and I'm used to the smell."


"Just kidding, Gabrielle."

Quickly, Gabrielle untied her boots and held onto Xena's upper arm as she removed both. "Oh, this is bliss. It feels incredible. How in the world does this grass stay so short? How did these trees grow like this? Look at all of these beautiful yellow daisies. They look like they're part of the grass. Whose place is this? Is this the fortress?"

Xena nodded. "My mother rents out the land to local farmers so they can graze their sheep. All that munching keeps it fairly low, but I'm sure Toris has been out here with a scythe, too. This is mother's pride and joy—besides us that is." Xena smiled as she recalled the many stories of the fortress.

"You know, Xena when you said fortress, I was kind of expecting a big wooden or stone building, towers, a few causeways, a heavy locked gate."

Gabrielle was turning in small circles, trying to take in all before her. The trees, had they been standing erect would have been gigantic. Bending, they made for a thick roof overhead.

"Expect the unexpected with my family, Gabrielle. Lyceus and I named it 'the fortress.' We'd climb up onto some of the higher branches and that would be our lookout point where we'd survey the area for enemies and warlords. Actually, this place has had many names since its inception. My grandfather and his brothers created it. They had named it 'Mt. Amphipolis,' but one of my great uncles thought that the gods might take offense thinking they were creating their own Mount Olympus. The name was changed to 'Demeter's Haven.' My mother liked to come up here and sing with her friends. 'Demeter's Haven' lost out to 'the Muses Sphere.' When Toris was about ten summer's, he named it Toris' Hideout. That's original." Xena laughed.

While Gabrielle walked a few steps into the semi-enclosed area, Xena leaned her hand against a tree and removed her boots, too.

"It smells so wonderful out here, too."

Xena glanced down at her feet and had a silly smirk on her face when she looked up. Gabrielle shook her head and said, "We all wish, Warrior Princess. Really, what are all of those scents?"

"Walk through the fortress. On the other side, you might discover the answer to that question."

Gabrielle grabbed Xena's hand and dragged her along. As they made their way through, the fragrance became stronger and when they reached the end, Gabrielle's breath caught for a moment in her throat and then she gasped in pure glee. There was a wondrous meadow covered in lavender and rosemary. Bordering the meadow of herbs were vivid purple crocus and delicate white amaryllis flowers.

"Ah, this is where your mother got the herbs for my bath."

"And I thought I was just eager to get to the fortress and was smelling it in my mind." Xena grabbed Gabrielle and pulled her back into her before she could stray too far. "Oh, that is you. Ummm."

Gabrielle burrowed in to the warrior's chest. Xena wasn't wearing her armor—no breastplates, no leathers, but a peasant-styled blue and gray top and a black skirt that was as short as Gabrielle's. It felt so good to the younger woman to just rest her head on Xena's chest without having to deal with the sharp edges of the metal and bronze of her breastplate. Gabrielle reached up and put one hand on Xena's neck, guiding the warrior's head down to her waiting lips. Gabrielle's lips pressed against Xena's as her eyes closed and the warmth of Xena's soft lips infused her body with longing. Slowly, Xena's lips parted and her tongue reached out to caress Gabrielle's mouth. Gabrielle was receptive and her mouth opened to take Xena's tongue. Their two tongues danced together, rubbed and swirled against each other, and explored the inside of the other's cheeks, slid across the other's teeth and made delicate patterns on the roofs of each other's mouths. Gabrielle pulled back and looked at Xena, then reached up and brought her mouth to hers again. This time Gabrielle lightly licked the tiny vertical lines that lightly creased Xena's lips. She was utterly fascinated with those lips. They weren't especially different from any other's lips, but they mesmerized Gabrielle. Playfully, Gabrielle bit Xena's bottom lip and Xena opened her eyes and cocked her head in warning. "Gabrielle…"

Gabrielle grinned and took off running in the field of herbs.

Xena stood and watched her companion take off across the field. She shouted, "Gabrielle, you've got to be kidding. I can catch you with one good leap."

"I dare you, Xena. I dare you," Gabrielle called out.

Xena didn't have the room she normally had in her battledress, but this skirt was short enough to get the job done. She ran a few paces, then leapt into the air, somersaulting across the field to land directly in front of an out-of-breath Gabrielle. "What'd I tell you?"

"You're supernatural. It's not fair. You're just too good."

"You have no idea," Xena whispered this tease in Gabrielle's ear.

"And a braggart, too." Gabrielle was suddenly breathless and it wasn't because of the running.

"Not bragging, just being truthful."

"Prove it."

Xena pulled Gabrielle to her in a way that lacked the gentleness she had previously used. She was forceful and demanding with her touch and her mouth. Xena kissed her with abandon, making Gabrielle groan and become weak-kneed. "Oh, Xena," Gabrielle muttered.

Xena lifted Gabrielle into her arms, cradling her as she walked, and never letting go of the claim she had on her lips. Gabrielle pushed back and said, "What are you doing?"

"This rosemary's kind of prickly. It doesn't bother me, but it'll bother you if you're laying between the branches with pointy leaves puncturing your body."

"I see. Back to the fortress," she commanded with a giggle.

Xena carried Gabrielle slowly through the meadow while Gabrielle ran her fingers through Xena's hair and then began kissing and sucking her neck. Xena moaned. "You smell so good right here," Gabrielle said as she kissed the pulse point and pronounced vein bulging from Xena's neck.

"Oh." Xena stumbled, but righted herself and kept walking to the elusive fortress. It seemed to be moving further away the closer Xena stepped toward it. Finally, she arrived at the opening of the arched trees and bent to place Gabrielle on her feet. They held hands as they walked through the dense tunnel of trees.

"I can't tell you how spectacular I find this. Have you brought others here?"

"Does Lyceus count?"


"Then no. I've only been here with family and it's still that way. You're my family, Gabrielle."

"I feel the same, Xena."

Gabrielle loved the way the grass felt between her toes and under feet. She was staring down at the natural carpet when her eyes landed upon a basket hidden discreetly between two tree trunks. "What's this?"

"Humph. I didn't think two slices of bread and some cheese would hold you or mother. It looks like she's left us a meal or two." Xena bent and picked it up pushing the contents around, examining all of the many treats.

Gabrielle peeked into the basket, but the food didn't seem to hold the interest it normally would. 'Your mother's written you a note," she said as she pulled out the parchment and handed it to Xena.

"No, you go ahead and read it. What's she say? Not that I can't imagine."

Gabrielle quickly unfurled it and read, 'Dear Xena, I know what Gabrielle must mean to you for you to bring her to this special place. A mother dreams of her children finding happiness and someone who can both excite their heart and calm it. Gabrielle seems to do both. The Muses' Sphere or as you kids call it, The Fortress is a place blessed with love. Your grandfather and great uncles brought their loves here—your grandmother, your two aunts, and two uncles. All of them possessed an abundance of love for their partners be they women or men and those partners showered them with season upon season of joy. The first time I brought your father here, we conceived Toris…'

"Ewww. Don't wanna hear about that, thank you." Xena frowned.

Gabrielle punched her playfully in the arm as she continued. 'Toris brought his betrothed here the night they married. I hope that this day brings you the pleasure that we have all experienced inside the cocoon of these trees with the sweet smells surrounding us. I love you, daughters.—Cyrene.' That is so sweet, Xena. Your mom wrote daughters, not just to you."

"Like I said, Gabrielle, you're family."

Gabrielle let the parchment drop to the ground and turned to look at Xena. With a raised eyebrow, she asked, "I might be family, but would your sister ever kiss you like this?"

Gabrielle pulled Xena down to her face and kissed her with a fevered passion. She finished the long, heated kiss with a smack and a question in her eyes.

"No. No, I don't think if I had a sister she'd kiss me like that."

"I'm not family, Xena. Right now, I am so not family."

They kissed again as Xena maneuvered Gabrielle against a tree trunk. She pushed her long frame into her, feeling her curves molding and pressing against Gabrielle's. Her tongue never slowed as she danced in Gabrielle's mouth. All she heard was Gabrielle whimper and that seemed to drive her to give more of herself. She wanted to show Gabrielle in her kiss that she was her world.

Gabrielle pushed Xena even closer. It was as if she were trying to turn their two bodies into one—that one of them would just melt and meld into the other. As they kissed, Gabrielle at first rested her hand on Xena's lower back, but slowly she made her way down until one and then two hands were palming Xena's ass. She squeezed the muscled flesh and her heart hammered in her chest. Xena's pelvis tilted forward, pressing into Gabrielle, the thin skirts not really providing much barrier between them.

They stood about halfway inside the tunnel of trees, but slowly, Gabrielle started to slide downward, pulling Xena along with her to the ground. The kissing didn't cease. In fact, it became more insistent from both women. Xena latched onto Gabrielle's neck and sucked it, knowing that she was presenting her desire in a strong and powerful way. Once on the ground, Xena moved her lips from Gabrielle's momentarily while she quickly worked the ties of her green top through the eyelets, exposing Gabrielle's breasts. "Oh, Gabrielle. You're beautiful." Xena's mouth dropped to the creamy flesh and licked all around one breast before pulling Gabrielle's nipple into her mouth. Her lips encased it, while her tongue licked the underside of the nipple, then circled it before sucking in earnest. While she occupied both their minds with erotic thoughts, Xena moved one hand to Gabrielle's waist and quickly, as if she'd done it a million times, popped the fastener of Gabrielle's belt out of the small loop that held the skirt together. The skirt fell open, and became a small covering on top of the grass where Gabrielle laid.

Gabrielle moaned deeply, her voice, low and seductive. "Oh, Xena. That feels…" She grabbed Xena's head and pressed it to her chest, while she arched her back, allowing Xena to draw in more of her flesh.

When Xena looked up at Gabrielle, her dark hair hung in her face, covering most of it, but Gabrielle could see her blue eyes between strands of hair and it filled her with so much love. She reached down and squeezed Xena's shoulder and whispered huskily, "I love you."

Since her mouth was otherwise engaged, Xena used her eyes to smile and share the sentiment. Xena moved from one breast to the other as she used one arm to keep Gabrielle on the thickly carpeted grass. It was just so pleasurable that Gabrielle could hardly be stilled. Her body writhed beneath Xena's, but little did she know that her body would be in for so much more very soon. Gabrielle groaned as Xena lightly nipped at her breast before sucking its entire fullness into her mouth. The action was intense and Gabrielle cried out passionately. "Oh, gods, yes."

After spending long, leisurely moments driving Gabrielle's response to new heights, Xena moved up her body to kiss her again. When she did, her skirt bunched up around her thighs and Gabrielle took advantage of that immediately. Her hands swiftly moved to Xena's ass and she closed her eyes when she felt the warm flesh in her hands. Xena wore nothing under her skirt and Gabrielle was absolutely thrilled to feel so much skin in her hands. She kneaded Xena's ass that evidently was very sensitized because Xena moaned with the contact. Gabrielle's kept one hand where it was, but the other she moved up and between them, caressing Xena's breast through her top. "Take it off, Xena," Gabrielle pleaded.

Xena knelt with one leg between Gabrielle's leg and the other on the outside of her right leg. She pulled the top off and threw it so that it landed neatly on a low hanging branch. Gabrielle's eyes were half closed as she watched Xena strip. Xena pulled one long tie on her skirt and the entire thing fell around her landing on top of Gabrielle's thighs. "Oh, gods." Gabrielle's eyes slowly moved from Xena's eyes and lips, to her heavy breasts, down further to her slim waist and full hips, and then across to the bushy triangle between her legs, her tanned thighs, and then back up to her face. "You're so stunning, Xena," was all Gabrielle said before she tossed Xena's discarded skirt off of her own thighs and then pulled her down again.

Both women groaned when their nipples rubbed against each other. They could feel the wiry hairs of the other lightly touching their thighs. . Xena was just a moment away from going too far to turn back. She paused and said tensely, "If this is too much for you, Gabrielle, tell me now. Please. I want you so badly. If you want me to stop, say it now. Tell me now if you're not sure."

"Don't you dare stop. I want you." Gabrielle groaned. "I want to love you."

Xena bent and kissed her again. And again, Gabrielle's hand inched between them and this time she moved her hand over Xena's breast, reveling in its fullness. More than anything on earth at that moment she wanted to claim them with her mouth so she edged her way from beneath Xena and flipped her over. But Xena had a plan of her own and before she could take another breath, Gabrielle was on her back again with Xena hovering over her.

Xena returned to the breasts she had claimed and feasted upon them. It felt so grand that one moment Gabrielle thought if this was as far as they got, she would be completely satisfied, but the next, she knew there was so much more she wanted to experience with her partner. Xena lay beside her, but leaned over, using both hands to tweak and pinch Gabrielle's nipples. Green eyes gazed at Xena as if the warrior held the mystery of life in her possession, and then those verdant eyes would shut as she hissed out her pleasure between gritted teeth.

Soon, only one hand remained on one breast and Xena's other hand was slowly making its way down Gabrielle's body. Her thumb stroked and flicked across the flat plane of Gabrielle's abdomen while her hand lazily created its own circular pattern that barely grazed the skin. Xena noticed that Gabrielle's entire body was covered in gooseflesh and that the younger woman's body was now in constant motion; her hips thrusting upward in the hopes of leading Xena to her need.

Xena's body followed her southbound hand. Her head was parallel to Gabrielle's leg and she let her hair fall gently over Gabrielle's thigh causing the blonde to shiver. Now, both hands had moved below Gabrielle's waist. Xena was lying on her stomach and she grasped Gabrielle's leg, lifted it and slid under it to come to rest between Gabrielle's legs. Even though she was a novice at this type of love, Gabrielle knew what she needed and desired from Xena. She bent her legs and opened herself up to Xena.

Xena's heart thumped loudly in her chest. Although she had taken many women lovers over the seasons and she had performed a variety of intimate acts with them, some how this meant more. In her heart she knew that Gabrielle was her last and most significant love. As her fingers began to open her up, Xena began to cry. She bent her head so that Gabrielle couldn't see just how vulnerable she was right then. She gently caressed Gabrielle's labia between her forefingers and thumbs, then ran her fingers over the slick inner folds. Gabrielle gasped in pleasure as her hips tilted upward. As Xena slid one finger up and down Gabrielle's womanhood, she heard the blonde whimpering and moaning above her. "Oh, Xena. Aaah."

Her scent was both earthy and mild. She smelled of lavender, rosemary and the slightest hint of cinnamon. Xena smiled knowing that Gabrielle used the spice for her, knowing that Xena would be the only one to know that she wore it and where.

Xena's wrapped her arms around Gabrielle's hips as she pulled her forward and bent to kiss her triangle of hair the color of the setting sun. She placed a few small kisses there, then opened her mouth and pressed in further to taste her fully. Gabrielle cried out in wonder. "Gods, yes."

If there were doubts that Gabrielle wouldn't like this touch, Xena was corrected. She loved it. Gabrielle rose up on an elbow and stretched the other arm to run her fingers through Xena's hair. Occasionally, Xena glanced up to see Gabrielle's head thrown back, her long blonde hair matted to her forehead and hanging down her back, her face pink and flushed, her chest heaving, her breasts full and firm with nipples swollen and pointing to the roof of the trees. She looked divinely sexual. Xena returned her focus to Gabrielle's center of desire, her engorged and throbbing clitoris. Xena sucked Gabrielle's pleasure core into her mouth, taking tiny swipes with her tongue. While her mouth was locked on Gabrielle's sweet secrets, Xena's arm reached up to grasp a handful of Gabrielle's breast. She palmed her nipple, then gently squeezed it between her fingers sending jolts of pleasurable pain throughout her body. The mixed sensations of having her breasts caressed and touched while Xena's mouth licked and sucked between her legs was were almost too much for Gabrielle. "Oh, Xena. Xena. Oh, oh. Xena, feels so good. I… Xena…"

Xena held Gabrielle's hips in place as she eased off slightly, changing the pace and pattern of her loving. She turned and kissed the inside of Gabrielle's thigh, then licked up and down it. She turned back to where she had been and blew warm hot breath onto Gabrielle and watched as her lover quivered. Gabrielle's abdomen contracted and Xena saw Gabrielle jump and jerk with the motion. Xena's arm came from around Gabrielle's leg and she used her hand to open Gabrielle up again. This time, when she bent in, she licked up and down both sides of her folds, licked all around her clitoris, then used her fingers to spread the folds while she licked the area just underneath her clitoris. Gabrielle was impossibly wet and Xena's lips and cheeks were sticky with those juices.

The amount of pleasure Xena was taking from all of this was more than she could have imagined. She had often wondered how Gabrielle would be to bed-- would she move like she walked? Fluid? Athletic? Relaxed? Yep, Gabrielle was all that. And the sounds she had made the few times she had overheard her knowing herself couldn't compare to the noises she was making now. Gabrielle grunted and moaned, screamed out and groaned. She puffed out tiny gasps, low, seductive growls, and deep utterances of passion.

It had been a good idea to leave the Amazon village and travel to Amphipolis. It had been a better idea for the two women to walk to this beautiful field and finally be together. Gabrielle would have been embarrassed and probably would have censored herself if she had thought anyone could hear them. Here, she was vocal and loud, letting Xena know how much she loved what she was doing to her. Her eyes closed tightly as a feeling deep in her gut began to slam into her chest and heart and center where Xena continued to dine on her. She couldn't begin to describe the feeling and frankly her mind had shut down its ability to form coherent thoughts or words. What was going on inside of her controlled her. This was true love. Others had loved her and she had been intimate with Perdicus, but she had never made love before. Gabrielle's entire being was wrapped inside of Xena. "Xena! Xena!" she screamed out. "I love you!" she said as she finally slipped over and collapsed into her climax. Her body froze, hyper-erect above the lush grass. Then she dropped, her strong, athletic thighs locking Xena's head in place, pulling the warrior with her as she tossed and turned coming down from the powerful orgasm.

Xena gingerly moved from between her legs and climbed up the short body to look at Gabrielle face-to-face. "Taste yourself on me," Xena said as she ground her lips down onto Gabrielle's still panting mouth.

Gabrielle sucked Xena's tongue into her mouth and was amazed by her own taste. She liked it, but it was knowing that she now kissed the mouth that had known her as no other ever had that sent her body quaking again.

"Oh my gods," she choked out from between their touching lips.

Gabrielle was panting as she tried desperately to get air into her lungs. With slightly opened eyes, she gave Xena a sidelong glance as if to ask, 'what did you do to me?'

"So, am I a braggart?"

Gabrielle breathed rapidly through her nose and she wiped her hand over her face, "I'm dedicating an entire scroll to your technique," she said haltingly. "You know I've been keeping a running list of your many skills. I can see that one scroll won't be nearly enough to cover this particular arena."

Xena laughed and bent to kiss her again. She laid half on top of Gabrielle and half on the grass. As she watched Gabrielle breathe, she whispered into her ear. "You are so sexy. You're so hot."

Gabrielle shivered and then Xena added softly as she moved her hand between Gabrielle's legs, "so wet. I want to taste you again."

"Gimme a few moments. I think I'm about to die."

"No, no you're not."

"I think so."

Xena turned and rested on her back, yet stayed so close to Gabrielle that her body was touching her from Gabrielle's head to foot. Xena stared up at the roof of trees. She remembered talking to Lyceus and a few times Toris, too, about ambushing enemies here; about creating obstacles to snare attackers in the fortress; how this was the perfect place to plan strategy. She never thought about why her grandfather and his siblings had created this place. She remembered them as loving men who were at times randy in their talk. It was never a secret that this family grove was all about love and loving. Xena had never understood that, but she chalked that up to being a child with dreams of adventure and fights. But even as she lived her adult life on the seas and in exotic lands, she never thought of this place. Not once did she think she might like to bring Borias here or Akemi or Hercules. The serenity of the fortress crossed her mind when she was with Lao Ma, but not as a sanctuary for the two of them, but in comparison to the haven Lao Ma had presented Xena. It was only now with Gabrielle that she had felt the necessity to come here, to bring Gabrielle here, and to make love to her for the first time on this spot.

Xena licked her lips and tasted Gabrielle on them. She sighed and smiled, then turned to look at her lover. Gabrielle's eyes were closed and she also had a soft smile on her face.

"What are you doing?"

"Thinking about forever."


"Thinking about how we will be together forever. I will never let you go. Never, Xena. I am so happy. I want this to last always and I was picturing it. You, all gray-haired with a few wrinkles around the eyes, making love to me up here."

"Sounds nice. How would you look?"

"Like I do now, of course," Gabrielle turned to face her and grinned. "I will always be youthful…"

"Oh, lucky me. I get to grow old while my girlfriend is doing favors for the gods to keep her youth, huh?" In her heart, Xena knew that warriors seldom had the luxury of growing old. A warrior's days were numbered, but she wouldn't spoil this moment and she laughed at the vision of the two of them winters from now.

"Yeah, exactly." Gabrielle said as she innocently began to touch Xena's body. Her eyes closed as she molded one of Xena's breasts in her hand. "You're so firm and…"

"Not sagging yet, huh?"

"Oh." Gabrielle's eyes closed. "You feel so good, Xena. Really, so good." She dropped her head and took her nipple into her mouth as her hand cupped the breast. She sucked with a hunger that wouldn't be easily sated.

"Oh, yeah. Ummm, you mouth is so warm. Oh, Gabrielle, that's it."

As Gabrielle massaged one breast and pinched Xena's nipple, she felt herself becoming even wetter. Touching Xena like this, the way she had dreamed for so many moons excited her beyond reason. Gabrielle could feel her inner thighs slick with her fluid and she could sense it flowing from her in a constant wave. Gabrielle circled Xena's areola with her palm, scratching across it with her short nails, while sucking the other one long and hard. Xena thought the gods wished they had it this good. Though Xena loved what Gabrielle was doing, she wanted to show her new lover how much she cared for her. Xena was more than aware that she had yet to say the words to Gabrielle. Good gods, I know how I feel. I told Lyceus. I even told Perdicus. I need to tell her. But she knows, anyway. She has to know how I feel, right?

Xena moaned, but pushed away from her. Her eyes flashed heat as her eyes darkened and again, she turned Gabrielle onto her back while she half sat up, half reclined. She leaned on one hand while the other moved between Gabrielle's legs. As her fingers danced against Gabrielle's swollen folds, Xena stared into her eyes. Her expression was serious as she tried to force the words she urgently wanted to say out of her mouth. She saw Gabrielle lick her lips and slowly shut her eyes as Xena's fingers found new spots of arousal. Instead of saying what was on her mind, Xena's eyes followed her hand. Gabrielle had one leg bent at the knee, while the other was stretched out in the grass. Xena fingers moved between the inner folds. "You're so wet for me, Gabrielle. Listen." She moved her fingers to Gabrielle's entrance and lightly tapped at the opening making a sloshing sound. Gabrielle moaned loudly.

"I want to go inside you. Is that okay?" Xena asked. She had always taken what she wanted. In her past, especially with men, Xena was not only the initiator, but also the one who controlled all aspects of the sex. With the women she bedded, she had been affectionate, but there had always been some ulterior motive—to glean information, to win a bet, to gain some sort of power. However, she was compelled to treat Gabrielle with a tenderness that had been lost to her.

"Xena, you're already inside of me." Gabrielle sighed and she pressed her hand against her heart. "You're already so deep inside me. Please, Xena take me."

Xena pressed two fingers together, then entered Gabrielle slowly, not wanting to overwhelm or frighten her. Gabrielle became accustomed to the touch quickly and bent and raised her other leg in order to intensify the feeling. Xena sighed as she felt the wetness surround her fingers. She moved down a bit further and pushed in deeper.

"You've always been inside me, baby," Gabrielle whispered.

Xena found a rhythm that seemed to please Gabrielle a great deal. She pushed in slowly, then slid her fingers out about halfway before plunging in again.

"Uh," Gabrielle groaned.

Xena pushed in again.




Her fingers danced within her while sliding in and out.


She pushed in again.




Gabrielle's eyes were half-closed, her mouth slightly parted, the tip of her tongue resting at the corner of her mouth.


"Uh. Oh, yes. Umm."

Xena moved just a bit faster as she stared at Gabrielle's face that was contorted in pleasure. Her fingers slid in and out quickly as she pressed into her, Xena's fist bumping against Gabrielle's clitoris with each thrust.

"Oh. Oh. Oh, Xena. Yes."



Xena's forearm bulged as she worked a third finger into Gabrielle.

"Oh. Uh. Uh. Uh."

She filled her up over and over.

"Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Oh."

Gabrielle gritted her teeth and she hissed a long inhale representing the joy she was taking from Xena's attention. Her hips were in continuous motion, undulating, writhing, pressing into Xena's hand.

"Oh, Xena. Xena. Xena. I love you, Xena. Yes."

Even faster.

"Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Oh, gods. Oh."

Xena was on her knees, pushing into her lover. The experienced woman could feel the physical changes inside Gabrielle and knew that she was close. Gabrielle's inner walls had thickened and were billowy and very hot. Her hold on Xena's fingers was stronger and where she had already been tight, she suddenly became tighter. Xena was very turned on by Gabrielle's response that she was dripping onto the grass. The warrior pressed her thighs together to take some of the edge off of her own desire while she pleased Gabrielle, but it didn't work. She needed it bad. She could scarcely think for feeling that she might pass out from her need. She grabbed Gabrielle's hand and pressed it into her folds while she continued pumping into her and caressing her hardened clitoris with her thumb.

Gabrielle gasped at Xena's wetness and that was what sent her over the edge. "Oh, Xena. I'm there. I'm falling. Help me. I'm there," Gabrielle screamed out as her hand slipped away from Xena and her arm dropped onto the thick grass. Her entire body was contracting—between her legs, her abdomen, her shoulders twitched as did her toes. Xena plunged deeply into her a few more times, then slowed, until she came to rest inside of her. She kept her fingers there, enjoying the pulsing going on inside of Gabrielle. Honestly, Gabrielle just as she reached her peak, felt as if she were going to die. Her heart seemed to stop and she felt dizzy as she whirled upward, then spiraled down. It was unbelievable.

Gabrielle licked her lips and slid her hand between her own legs. Her fingers, that already glistened from Xena's love juices were now covered with hers as well. She popped two fingers into her mouth and tasted a wonderfully pleasant mix of herself and Xena. "Umm. Nourishment," she said softly.

Xena fell onto her side and grabbed Gabrielle's hand and licked the fingers as well. "Umm. Better than anything in mother's basket."

"Not a good time to mention your mother, Xena. Not a good time at all."

Gabrielle weakly got to her knees and straddled her partner. "Okay, Xena. No fast moves, cause you might hurt me. I'm not at my strongest right now."

"Gabrielle, why don't you rest? You don't have to…"

Gabrielle placed her finger over Xena's lips to quiet her. "Lips for kissing, not talking," she said as she bent to claim Xena's remarkably soft and talented lips. The kisses that had started out so passionate at the beginning of the morning were even more so now. Xena wanted to get lost in Gabrielle's mouth forever. Yet, Gabrielle's breasts were too inviting to ignore. Xena cupped one in each hand and pulled and massaged them. Of course, this action made Gabrielle groan loudly, but Gabrielle had been loved and now it was her turn to show Xena. Soon Xena became confused about what she wanted. Gabrielle continued kissing her, but one hand was kneading Xena's breast roughly and without a shred of tenderness. Xena looked up into Gabrielle's eyes and saw that the young blonde was dazed, her eyes glazed over, lost in her own feelings.

"Xena, ever since the first time we touched like this it's all I've thought of. Gods, I want you."

Gabrielle maneuvered down Xena's long body and immediately slid between her legs. She paused and stared at Xena's womanhood. Xena was drenched. Her outer lips were a deep pink, almost purple and when Gabrielle opened her up, she saw a very ripe clitoris waiting to be loved. "Gods, Xena. You're gorgeous." Gabrielle inhaled deeply and the headiness of Xena's scent made her both dizzy and happy. She was absolutely thrilled to be able to have complete access to Xena's most private parts. "Just gorgeous."

Xena stared down at Gabrielle, silently pleading with her to ease her discomfort. The warrior was so aroused that she was afraid of what she might do if she weren't satisfied soon. Desperately, she tried to calm her racing heart. This was after all Gabrielle's first experience with a woman and she should be able to go at her own pace. Her own pace was just too slow for Xena, though.

"Go ahead," she ordered while pushing Gabrielle's head to her center, but Gabrielle pushed back, not ready to use her mouth on her.

"Let me just look at you a moment. Please."

Xena bit her bottom lip and blinked a few times. This was pure torture and she suspected that Gabrielle knew it.

Suddenly a float of butterflies swarmed from wherever they had been sleeping or resting in the fortress and flew over Xena and Gabrielle. It was an marvelous sight to witness dozens and dozens of large, multi-colored butterflies flying in no particular pattern around them. A few landed briefly on their naked bodies, but soon took flight again, joining the others as they gracefully flapped their delicate wings while passing through.

"Did you see that? I've never seen such butterflies or that many."

"They come every season around this time." Xena said roughly. As a child, the butterflies had intrigued her and she would catch several to examine. Right now, she had no interest in them, only Gabrielle and her fingers and her mouth giving her pleasure.

Gabrielle smiled, but quickly lowered her gaze and using one finger, slipped between Xena's labia and slid that finger through the wetness, feeling the fullness of the outer lips and the thin, wing-like inner folds. Without another moment's hesitation, Gabrielle used her thumbs to pull back Xena's outer lips and held them open with her thumbs and fingers. Now, Xena was fully exposed and open to her. Green eyes bore into her and just Gabrielle's gaze made Xena's body feel scorched.

"You're like a butterfly here." She bent and for the first time, used her mouth to bring Xena satisfaction. She licked the full and swollen outer lips and said, "My beautifully winged butterfly." She licked the inner folds and then her lips surrounded Xena's clit that was protruding impossibly. Xena went wild. She moaned loudly causing Gabrielle's insides to leap and dance in joy that she could bring her this pleasure. As she licked around Xena's tight hole, Gabrielle's nose moved back and forth over Xena's clitoris. The warrior clutched Gabrielle's shoulder, and then ran her fingers through the long blonde hair. She groaned as Gabrielle's touch made her leave the ground again and again. Gabrielle kissed Xena's womanhood, planting small tiny kisses over every part of it. Xena thought the kisses there were very similar to the way Gabrielle had kissed her mouth earlier. Her clitoris was just like her tongue as Gabrielle circled it, pushed against it, licked its sides. Her outer folds were like the inside of her cheeks, warm and slick and Gabrielle slid her tongue across those folds. Next, Gabrielle returned to Xena's hardened center and nipped at it with her teeth just as she had done to Xena's lower lip earlier in the morning. The whole time, Gabrielle's thumbs moved up and down Xena's very sensitized folds.

Such a delightful sound Gabrielle had never heard. It was lovelier than Orpheus playing his lyre or Pan's flute. This was the purest of music to Gabrielle—filled with emotion and passion, alluring and enticing, and beckoned her. Gabrielle's eyes closed and she sighed unable to deny herself anything. She open mouth kissed Xena's at the apex of her legs, allowing her tongue to move freely and unconstrained, rambling over every bit of that small, musky space. Xena moaned a guttural sound that voiced her ultimate pleasure. Gabrielle never slowed. Her mouth was in constant motion. Her nose and cheeks joined her lips and tongue—all taking part in transporting Xena down the road to bliss. As Gabrielle loved Xena, she muttered to her. "I love you."

She licked and sucked. Xena groaned.

"I love you, Xena."

Gabrielle bit and chewed on her folds. "I love you."

Xena grunted.

"I love you."

Xena tightened her hold on a fistful of Gabrielle's hair, but Gabrielle didn't cry out in pain. Instead, she whispered into Xena's center, "I love you."

Xena shouted, "Oh, gods."

Gabrielle answered, "I love you."

"Ugh. Ugh. Oh."

Gabrielle swirled her tongue around Xena's clit again and again. "I love you."


Blonde hair wisped across Xena's thighs, tickling her there as Gabrielle rubbed Xena's outer folds once more before removing one hand to grasp Xena's hip. Her other hand rested atop Xena's triangle of hair and her splayed fingers held Xena open.

"Oh, yes. Yes."

"I love you so much Xena," Gabrielle softly spoke just a breath away from Xena's center.

"Gabrielle, Gabrielle…Oh, Gabrielle…I…"

Gabrielle moved her hand back to Xena's beautiful butterfly and pushed one finger into Xena's entrance and immediately curled it under and gently massaged the spongy spot where the nerve endings that made up the back of Xena's clitoris lay protected by this layer of skin.

"Oh, gods. Gabrielle…"

"I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you, Xena," she said as she massaged her and felt the muscles inside begin to twitch and contract violently. "Xena, I love you," she added just before slipping Xena's clitoris between her lips and sucked it mightily.

"Ohhhhhhh! Ah. Ah. Ah." Xena bucked as the orgasm seemed to jump out of her. It was as if her climax had a life of it's own life and she a mere host to it. She had never in her life fallen so hard and so completely.

At Xena's nonverbal insistence, Gabrielle moved her mouth away from Xena's center, wiping her damp face on Xena's inner thigh.

Gabrielle sighed. She already knew love and what it was to be in love with Xena. Now, she knew utter contentment. All of those years of knowing that something was missing, but not knowing what had ended with this act. Complete love, fulfilling love, passionate love. Xena love, Gabrielle thought.

One shuttered eye slowly opened and Xena looked down at Gabrielle whose head still rested on her thigh. "My gods." Xena breathed deeply, still unable to catch her breath. That was the best ride she'd ever been on in her life and she wondered if it was because of Gabrielle's innate skill as a lover or something else. Because she loves me? Because I love her?

Gabrielle grinned up at her. "Can I take a little nap? Right here?"

Xena sat up on her elbows. "Come up here. Let me kiss you."

Gabrielle was too overwhelmed with feelings to move. She didn't want to break down in tears. What she needed was a bit of time to process all of this and to just relax. "I'll be right up." Instead, Gabrielle fell asleep. Xena looked at her for a few moments, then dropped back down onto the grass and she, too fell asleep with one hand entwined in Gabrielle's hair.

Less than a candlemark later, Xena awoke slowly when she felt a tickling on her private parts. She waved a hand across it to shoo away the insect but it continued. The warrior yawned and sat up on her elbows again to see Gabrielle using the very tip of her tongue to lick long strokes up and down her nether lips. "Gabrielle," she said deeply, her voice still blanketed with sleep and hoarse from the groaning she had done earlier. "You realize I'm older than you. You're not going to see me gray-haired if you keep that up."

"What if I told you that I just can't get enough? You're my new favorite food."

Xena laughed. "You're giving up cheese and fruit and nutbread. No more shwarma?"

"Yes, I will get all of my sustenance from right here. This is my nourishment, my source." Gabrielle said and immediately bent to use her tongue on Xena's inner lips.

Xena moaned, but reached down and patted Gabrielle on the cheek. "Gabrielle, come up here. Let me kiss you."

"I want to love you."

"You can do that up here, too. C'mon."

Reluctantly, Gabrielle pushed up onto her hands and knees and crawled up Xena's body. Xena reached up and pulled her down to her waiting and wanting lips. They kissed like they had earlier, but there was a depth of feeling that went beyond what they had experienced before. After many, many kisses, Gabrielle broke away and smiled at Xena. She shook her in disbelief. "This was so worth the wait. Do you think we can give up our life on the road, find a field somewhere…" She looked around and said as if a brilliant idea had just come to her, "Maybe here and I can love you all day and night." She nodded her head. "We could wake up to the smell of lavender and make love to greet the day. Then, we could make love to praise Apollo for a beautiful day or Zeus if it's raining, then later, I could…"

"No, later, I could cover my tongue with your essence. Later, you could make all the gods jealous by calling out my name and later, I could make all the gods furious by shouting your name."

"I love the way you said my name during…"

"Gabrielle. Gabrielle."

The women kissed again and while doing so, Xena took hold of Gabrielle's hips and placed her so that her right leg pressed against Xena's pubis and Xena's right leg did the same against Gabrielle. "Let me guide you, Gabrielle. Just press into me, baby and let me guide you."

Gabrielle nodded. Her eyes already hooded, her sex already covering Xena's leg with her passion. "Okay. Teach me, guide me."

"Press into me," Xena said huskily as she moved Gabrielle against her. "Now, use your hands and open yourself up for me."

"Ah. Oh, that's nice."

Xena spread her legs a tad more and when she did, her hard clit pressed against Gabrielle's muscular leg.

Strong warrior arms set the pace, but Gabrielle, with her voice steered the rhythm of their lovemaking. "Oh, that's good."

"Yeah, it's very good. It's all so good, Gabrielle."

As the two women slid against each other, Gabrielle bent to kiss Xena and they moaned into each other's mouths. While they made love, the float of butterflies returned from their trip. As they circled in the tunnel of trees, they lighted on the two women and seemed to watch them bring each other pleasure. A butterfly landed on Xena's cheek and it looked like a beautiful and exotic tattoo. Another flew onto Gabrielle's shoulder and rested there whispering to her about love. Xena moved Gabrielle faster on top of her. There sweat and juices made their bodies slick and there was no friction between them. Gabrielle's back arched as she moved closer and closer to her climax. A butterfly landed on her breast and Xena's eyes focused on the picture of the colorful green, yellow, and black butterfly in the foreground tickling Gabrielle's full, creamy breast.

"Oh, Xena. You're all I want. Now, Xena. now."

Xena's fingers pressed into Gabrielle's hips, holding her tightly and she knew that she was leaving a mark, but she had to hold on as she went over this cliff. She was falling fast. "Yes. Yes. Yes."

The shady trees provided protection to their skin. Apollo's sun was high and bright in the sky and they hadn't stopped loving each other for candlemarks. They were both sleeping soundly, spent and exhausted. Gabrielle was on her stomach and Xena lay beside her with one large hand still between the blonde's legs. That hand was so warm and happy there, nestled in Gabrielle's hidden embrace.

When they awoke, they dressed each other to return to the inn, but while dressing, they both ended up undressed again.

The town wasn't as quiet as it had been in the morning when they left for the fortress, but the bustling that had gone on during the day was long over. Vendors had folded up their tables and carts, mothers were home cooking, fathers were cleaning their tools after a long day in their shops and farms. Xena and Gabrielle didn't speak as they moved from the outskirts of town toward the inn. Both women were lost in their own thoughts.

Perdicus. It's me, Gabrielle. How are you? I hope you're happy in the Elysian Fields. You deserve happiness. Perdicus, I am so happy. I don't think I've ever felt this way. I have you to thank for that. Did you know that you came to me in a dream last night? You did. You told me to not feel guilty about anything. That helped me. If you knew about coming to me, thank you. Thanks for that. And Perdicus, the way you loved me showed me what love could feel like. After Xena, you are my closest friend. I love you. Not the way you wanted and I finally know how that must have felt for you—to have all these feelings for me and not have them reciprocated. The thing is, Xena hasn't told me that she loves me. Not once. It hurts, but I know she does love me. I could feel it in her touch, in her eyes, in her smile. I can wait to hear her say it. I hope I don't have to wait too long. I think my love inspires her, makes her happy. I hope so. I might come to you for advice sometimes. Please don't mind. I want to stay connected to you. I'll love you always dear, Perdicus. You know, the song I wrote for you I'll perform in Athens some day. Everyone will know about you, my friend.

Perdicus grinned at Hades. "Did you hear that?"

Hades nodded.

Xena's eyes zipped across the square. They landed on the windows of every home, glancing in to see if anyone was looking out. She wanted to kiss Gabrielle or at least hold her hand, but enemies could lurk anywhere. Not everyone in Amphipolis was glad about her visit. Too many people had lost their sons under her leadership and that was something that was not easily forgotten. Xena needed to touch her lover, though. She didn't want the euphoria of the day and the events at the fortress to end. Instead of an embrace, she lightly touched her shoulder as they continued down the path. Brother, bet you didn't expect to hear from me twice in a day. Gabrielle and I made love today for the first time. I know you don't want to hear about it and frankly, it's not your business. I wanted to just tell you that I love her so much. She knows I love her, too. No, I haven't told her yet, but I will soon. I love her and will forever.

The evening crowd of travelers and townspeople were already eating the hearty meals Cyrene and her staff had prepared and many of their cups had been filled numerous times when Xena and Gabrielle walked into the inn. The customers all turned to the door to see who was entering, but when they saw the two young women, they turned back to their conversations. Xena was carrying the basket and dropped it off on the counter, nodding to the barmaid. She and Gabrielle were heading straight upstairs. The walk had only served to increase the sexual energy between them. They had been discreet and platonic through town, but now they wanted to undress each other again and experiment with making love in virtual silence. They were back at the inn and had to be quiet with their passion. Luckily Xena's room was laden with pillows and blankets. The warrior had a feeling that Gabrielle would need some extra help embracing hushed loving. Xena was positive she'd need help, too.

Just as they were climbing the stairs, Cyrene called to them. When they turned, Cyrene was rummaging through the basket of food.

"Girls, you didn't eat."

The End

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