Poetic Justice

Copyright 1996 by Vada Foster

 

With sincere thanks to MCA for creating "Xena: Warrior Princess", who has kept me warm in my fantasies many a night. This is my first foray into fan fiction (or at least the writing thereof, having of late discovered a veritable cornucopia of fan fiction on the internet). I must warn you, there are some pretty steamy scenes in here between our favorite Warrior and her adorable sidekick, so if this is not your cup of tea, go get some coffee. I won't be offended. (Well, maybe a little, but I'll get over it.) I had fun writing it, and that is the important thing. Oh, and Debbie get's the credit for the kisses I added (I did not have enough in there for a kissing bandit such as herself.) I would love to hear feedback; both negative and positive, that I can use to make the next story even better. My email address is HRHVada@AOL.com. As DAx (my inspiration in this, I confess) says, I will not read or respond to abusive mail, so don't waste your time (and mine) if all you want to do is call me names.. Sticks and stones, and all that stuff...

 

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Gabrielle moved about the crowded hold of the ship as if she were in a theatre for performing bards, regaling sailors and passengers alike with stories of her adventures with Xena. The small vessel was tossed between the waves and the pounding rain that had not let up since they set sail from the port of Piraeus in Athens several hours earlier. All but the minimum crew required to keep the ship on her course had taken shelter from the storm in the hold, along with a cargo of goats, cheeses, and spices. The close quarters and pungent aromas were taking their toll on the human cargo. More than once, Gabrielle raised her voice to cover the sound of a passenger retching into one of the jugs that originally held water for the trip. She could not believe how good she felt, considering this was her first voyage. She paused in her story to glance at Xena, who had been more quiet than usual for most of the trip. Xena sat on the floor, her back up against the wall of the hold, her knees drawn up to her chest, with her arms around them. A goat was tethered beside her, and when the ship rocked, the goat lost it's footing, and practically fell in her lap. Her lips set in a grim line, she helped the creature to it's feet, and withdrew as far as the crowded hold would allow from her fellow passengers, two legged as well as four legged. Gabrielle could not help but notice that Xena looked awfully pale, but at least she was not the sickly green color that some of the less fortunate among them were turning. Gabrielle was about to resume her story, when she realized there was something different in the pitch of the ship, and the sounds around them.

"Listen", she said, cocking her head. "The rain has stopped. Finally." Xena raised her head, and listened for a moment. It did seem the rain had stopped, or at least diminished to the point where she felt being slightly wet would be infinitely preferable to this confinement. She stood, and caught Gabrielle's eye.

"I'll be on deck", she said, her lips still tight. In three long strides she was across the room, and up the stairs. She pushed at the door of the hold, which resisted her briefly, then flew open. The tillerman, who had been leaning against the door to stay out of the wind, fell to his knees. Xena did not notice. She strode to the rail of the boat, where she leaned over the edge, gulping draughts of fresh air. Her long dark hair whipped by the brisk ocean breeze swirled around her face.

"Hey, watch where you're going!", the sailor grumbled, starting to get to his feet. Gabrielle emerged from the hold, and helped him up.

"Are you all right?", she asked.

"No thanks to your big pushy friend, I am.. She almost knocked me off the boat!"

"Which way did she go?" The sailor pointed toward the bow of the ship, and walked off grumbling under his breath. Gabrielle hurried forward, to find Xena still clutching the railing, her face colorless, breathing as if she had just swum up from the depths Hades.

"Xena! What is it? What's wrong?" A note of panic crept into Gabrielle's voice, and the worry on her face could not be mistaken.. She had never seen her friend in such a state.

"N-nothing . Gi-give me a minute." She groped her way along the rail, and sank down on to a coil of rope. Gradually, her breathing slowed, and the color returned to her cheeks.

"Don't tell me nothing; I know what nothing looks like, and that was not it!

"Gabrielle, I already have a mother. I don't need you clucking over me.", she snapped. She looked up to see Gabrielle's expression change to one of shock, then hurt, before she quickly averted her face.

Xena reached up and touched Gabrielle's cheek. "Oh , Gabrielle, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just that I couldn't take another second in that hold with all those goats and unwashed sailors. I started to feel like the walls were closing in on me, and I couldn't breathe. But I'm all right now, really I am. Forgive me, will you?"

Now, Xena wished - not for the first time - that she did not have such a short fuse, especially with Gabrielle. It seemed that every time she opened her mouth, she said something that caused her dearest friend to have that wounded animal look that made Xena want to cut out her tongue.

Xena stood up and stretched; she was stiff from all those hours cramped up in the hold. She turned toward the bow of the ship and noticed land on the horizon, and her heart leaped . "Gabrielle! Look!", she took Gabrielle's hand, and dragged her to the front of the boat "Thank the gods - dry land!"

"Xena, that must be Lesbos! That palace on top of the hill looks just like Myrto described. Oh, Xena, this is great! I'm finally going to study with the greatest poet in Greece!"

"Uh-huh", Xena said without much enthusiasm.

Gabrielle cocked her head at Xena. "Huh", she said, and wrinkled her forehead as if to say "what does that mean?"

So much for avoiding hurting her feelings, Xena thought. When Gabrielle first proposed this trip to Lesbos, Xena agreed happily, as it would give her the opportunity to catch her breath; not much demand for a warrior on a peaceful island. And, in truth, even more than she wanted to take some time off for herself, she wanted to let Gabrielle rest after her ordeal in the Thessalean Temple just weeks before. Gabrielle stubbornly maintained that she could keep pace with Xena, but each day Xena suggested that they make camp a little bit earlier than the previous day, sensing that Gabrielle was exhausted, and sure enough, Gabrielle would be asleep almost before she climbed into her bedroll. She was not recovering her strength as quickly as she should, and it concerned Xena more than she even wanted to admit to herself.

Xena could not begrudge the bard an opportunity to study with Sappho; she knew it was a dream come true for Gabrielle. But shortly before they were to depart for Lesbos, Xena was talking to Myrto of the Amazons, who told her about Sappho's preference for women as bed partners. It brought her up short. She realized that she did not like the idea of Gabrielle in the hands of such a woman. It was not that she feared for Gabrielle; she knew the bard could take care of herself. The feeling was one of jealousy, and it surprised her with it's intensity. Intellectually, she had always known that there might come a time when Gabrielle would marry, and she was resigned to it. But in her heart, she hated the prospect of losing her, especially to another woman. "What am I thinking", she muttered. "I don't possess her so I can't possibly lose her".

"What did you say?" Gabrielle was giving her one of those concerned looks again..

Xena had not realized she spoke out loud. She took her startlingly blue eyes off the horizon, and fixed them on the face of the bard. "I said, um, that it's really beautiful now that the rain is over. Look". she pointed to a rainbow arching over the island in the distance. Gabrielle nodded, but said nothing. She knew that was not what she thought she heard, but it seemed the wrong time to push Xena for a straight answer. Clearly, she had something weighty on her mind, and Gabrielle knew she would share her thoughts when she was ready.

"Yes", Gabrielle said, once again looking toward the island that was now close enough to make out people moving about the streets, getting about the business of the day that had been postponed by the rain. "It is turning out to be a beautiful day".

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A group of women in Amazon garb were waiting at the foot of the gangplank as Xena and Gabrielle left the ship. Xena's practiced eye took them in at once as warriors, but they were unarmed and obviously on some peaceful mission, so she was going to pass them by when one of them detached herself from the group, and placed herself in Xena's path. Xena raised her eyebrow and cocked her head inquiringly. Before she could ask the young woman why she detained her, she was surprised to see the Amazon bow her head, as if before royalty. Xena's jaw dropped.

"I am Michaela of the Amazons", the young woman said. "I have been sent by the poet Sappho to bring the two Princesses to her chambers."

"Princesses?!", Xena sputtered. "We aren't..............."

Gabrielle nudged Xena sharply with her elbow, and cut her off in mid sentence. "This is Xena, Warrior Princess, and I am Gabrielle, Amazon Princess. We will be honored to accompany you to the home of the esteemed Sappho".

"Bring their belongings", Michaela said to the three other Amazons on the dock, and they hurried to take the gear that Xena and Gabrielle carried, bowing to each of them as they approached. "It is a short walk from here to the court of the poet, but if your Highnesses' wish, I will have litter carriers brought to carry you there."

Xena could barely contain the laugh that threatened to erupt. "No, thank you.. We have been on that boat for days, it seems. It feels good to walk on land."

"As you wish", Michaela said, bowing. She turned and gestured to her comrades to lead the way to the palace, and fell into step behind them, with Gabrielle and Xena bringing up the rear.

As soon as the Amazons were out of earshot, Xena leaned down and whispered to Gabrielle, "What is it with all this Royal treatment? I feel like I'm masquerading as Diana again."

"Uh, well, I thought it might help me get an audience with Sappho if she thought I was a Princess, and not just a country bard. Besides, it isn't a lie; I am an Amazon Princess, and everybody calls you the Warrior Princess. Are you angry with me?", she turned her face up to Xena.

Xena smiled, and reached out to smooth the worried wrinkles off of Gabrielle's forehead. "How could I be angry with someone who crinkles up her face like that?". Xena felt an almost electric shock when her fingers made contact with Gabrielle's face. She blinked and withdrew her hand before it registered that it was not an unpleasant shock, and in fact had created a rather pleasant sensation in her lower reaches. "What is happening to me?", she thought. Suddenly, all of the looks and touches that had always been simple, friendly gestures, had taken on another meaning. At least for her. Xena took a deep breath, and put a smile on her face. "If it is Princesses they expect, Princesses they will get. Anything for you, my lady", she said, bowing deeply.

"Oh, stop", Gabrielle said, punching her playfully on the shoulder. As she walked beside her best friend, she heard again in her head "anything for you, my lady....", and thought of the look on Xena's face moments earlier when she touched her. The expression in those blue eyes had been one of desire, she was sure of it. But could it really have been directed at her? She dared not hope. With a sigh, she plodded on to her appointment with destiny.

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The court of Sappho was both simple and elegant. Surrounded by lush gardens, it nestled against a hill with a waterfall coursing down to the sea. The floors were made of the finest marble, and the windows were draped with expensive silk and damask. The furniture was unadorned but very comfortable looking. Gabrielle looked about with wonder. She had been in many palaces, but none showed the quiet grace of Sappho's. Michaela lead Xena and Gabrielle to a room that was full of sweet smelling flowers, dominated by a pool filled with small fish. "I have sent your belongings on to your rooms," she said. "Sappho will join you shortly." Michaela backed out of the room with a bow.

Gabrielle knelt by the side of the pool, watching the fish dart about . She dipped a finger into the water, and instantly her hand was covered by the wriggling creatures. In her experience, fish swam away from people as fast as they could, so she was amazed to see these creatures converging on her hand. She smiled at the tickling sensation created by their mouths opening and closing on her finger, until one of them with sharp teeth took a nip at her. "Hey, ow", she jerked her hand out of the water. "Now I know why they're so friendly. It's a trap! That one tried to eat me!"

Xena threw back her head and laughed. She walked to the edge of the pool, and extended her hand to Gabrielle, pulling her to her feet. She examined her finger, and found a tiny drop of blood on the end. She laughed again.

"What's so funny?" , Gabrielle grumped.

"Oh, I don't know", she said wryly. "When I think about how you have been battered and kicked and stabbed with hardly a complaint, it struck me funny to see you react like that to a tiny bite that barely bled!" Gabrielle looked sheepish, but she was forced to grin.

"Well, it surprised me, that's all. I'd like to see you stick your hand in there with those vicious things."

"I wouldn't recommend it", said a deep female voice behind them. Xena whirled, resisting the impulse to draw her sword, and saw a woman standing in the doorway. "Those fish are piranhas. They can reduce a body to bones in a matter of minutes." Gabrielle's jaw dropped.

"You mean, it was trying to eat me?"

"Well, yes, it is the nature of that fish to do that. I must apologize for Michaela not explaining the dangers of the pool to you. I will see that she is disciplined."

"That isn't necessary", Xena interjected. "I am sure she didn't expect anyone to go fishing in the pool. Please, don't trouble yourself."

"As you wish...", the woman said with an inclination of her head, "...your Highness". She raised her head, and Xena could see that she trying to suppress a smile. "Do I have the honor of addressing the infamous Warrior Princess? Or are you one of my own Amazons?"

Xena was appraising the woman, trying to decide whether she was mocking them, or simply sharing a joke with her. After all, Xena was not the daughter of a King, nor the wife of a Prince, and therefore no more a Princess than she was a poet. She decided the woman was having fun with her, and responded, " I am Xena. And I am humbled to be in the presence of your greatness, Sappho". She gave a mock bow to Sappho.

"Excellent!", Sappho laughed. "I had heard that you were fierce and strong, and that no warlord could long stand before you. But no one told me you were so clever. Or so breathtakingly beautiful", she added, staring into eyes so deep and blue that she felt she could drown in them. Gabrielle watched the exchange between Xena and Sappho with curiosity. She could sense that there was an unspoken dialog going on, and could not understand why she was being excluded. She cleared her throat, and approached Sappho.

"Sappho, I am Gabrielle, a bard from Potadea." Sappho reluctantly pulled her gaze from Xena, and rested it on the bard. "I have always dreamed of learning from you, if you will have me as a pupil."

"Forgive my manners. I welcome you as a pupil. You are free to stay as long as you wish. And Xena, too, of course", she turned back to Xena with a smile. "You must be tired after such a harsh voyage. Come", she draped her arm over Gabrielle's shoulder, and together they walked to where Xena stood. Sappho put her arm around Xena's waist and pulled her toward her. "I'll have Michaela show you to your rooms, and you can freshen up. Join me for even meal, and after, you can share some of your work with me, Gabrielle."

"Fine.. I'd like that," Gabrielle said. But even as she said it, she could not help but think that perhaps this trip was not such a good idea. It felt awkward to be have Sappho between herself and Xena. And she had to admit she did not at all like the possessive hand that Sappho was resting on Xena's hip. Just as she was about to pull away, Sappho removed her arm, and gestured toward Michaela, who had been hovering outside the room.

"Take them to their rooms, Michaela, and then return to me. I have some tasks for you.", Sappho dismissed Michaela with a nod, and reluctantly removed her arm from Xena's waist. "And you, my beauty.....perhaps you have some talents you can share with us as well, hm?" She winked openly at Xena. Xena could not credit the effrontery of this woman, to flirt with her so brazenly, and without encouragement. If not for Gabrielle's desire to be here, she would suggest that they find a tactful way of leaving this place without further delay.

"Perhaps, " said Xena, "I could vanquish some warlords for you. Nothing I like better after a good meal." Sappho laughed heartily, and clapped Xena on the back.

"I like you, Warrior Princess", she said. "You have spunk as well as great beauty. Your little bard must have her hands full trying to record all of your exploits."

"I keep her busy", Xena said, and left Sappho to her own interpretation. Michaela caught Xena's eye, and inclined her head upstairs. "Let's go, Gabrielle. I must smell like a goat after that voyage. I could use a nice long bath before dinner."

"Sure, me too. Uh, thanks again for your hospitality and....", her voice trailed off, as she tried to think of something to say . " and for warning us about those fish." She turned and hurried to catch up with Xena, already halfway up the stairs. Michaela stopped in front of a room and gestured to Gabrielle. "This is your room, your Highness".

"Thanks, Michaela.. And I think we can drop the Highness bit, OK? It's just Gabrielle."

"As you wish, your Hi......Gabrielle." Michaela motioned for Xena to continue following her, and took her to a room at the opposite end of the long hall. Gabrielle stood in the doorway of her room, watching as Xena walked away. Her eyes traveled the length of Xena's form, from the top of her head to the soles of her feet. "Not even out of my sight yet, and already I miss my warrior", she thought. "Huh", she smiled wryly. "Listen to yourself. My warrior indeed." But she realized that it was true. She did think of Xena as hers on some level she had not even admitted to herself before this moment. True, Gabrielle had been engaged before, and had fairly close relationships with men, but nothing touched on the closeness she felt with Xena. Sometimes as they were sitting around the fire in the evening, they would both start to say the same thing at the same time. It was as if they were one soul within two bodies, perfectly attuned to each other in every way...... "Except physically", she mused. Oh, but there were more times than she could count when she wished she could reach out and touch Xena's skin, knowing how soft and warm she would feel from those small contacts her fingers made as she helped remove her armor. She wondered what that skin would feel like to her lips; what it would taste like. Her eyes closed involuntarily, and behind the lids she could clearly see Xena as she had often before, dropping her tunic and stepping into a stream to bathe. Unlike those times, Gabrielle put herself into the scene in her mind, leading Xena into the water, taking the cloth and soap from her hands.

"Let me do it", her fantasy self whispered to the naked warrior. Xena did not trust herself to speak; she simply nodded, and closing her eyes, gave her self over to the soft hands caressing her body. Gabrielle started with her shoulders, rubbing the cloth slowly over each one, then down to her breasts. She abandoned the cloth, and kneaded the softness of her breasts with her hands. She rinsed the soap off, and tentatively touched a brown nipple with her tongue At the touch of her mouth, Xena gasped, opening her eyes, and turned her blue eyes on Gabrielle's face. The bard returned her gaze unflinchingly. "Do you want me to stop?", she asked, praying that the answer would be no. Xena shook her head, and once again closed her eyes. "Gabrielle", Xena moaned...... "do it!"

"Gabrielle, are you all right?" Gabrielle was wrenched from her dreaming by Xena's hands on her shoulders. Her eyes flew open, and for a moment she was disoriented. She almost expected to see Xena standing before her naked as she had been moments before. Involuntarily she groaned, reluctant to let go of the warm feelings her fantasy was creating. Xena was becoming alarmed. Gabrielle's cheeks were flushed, and she really looked as if she were about to collapse. Xena touched her cheek to Gabrielle's face to see if she was running a fever. Gabrielle turned her face toward her, brushing her lips softly over Xena's before she could withdraw. "Oh, god, why did I do that?," she thought. Xena raised her eyebrow, and looked at Gabrielle with a smile playing about the corners of her mouth.

"Was that a reward for my nursing skills?" she quipped. "I'll have to check you for a fever more often." Embarrassed, Gabrielle stumbled into the room, away from Xena.

"No, I.... that is, you were so close, and when I turned toward you...... I", she stammered.

"Shhh, you don't need to explain." Xena crossed the room, and knelt in front of Gabrielle as she sat on the edge of the bed. "I'm sorry if I startled you. I looked back to wave at you, and you were leaning against the door with your eyes closed. It looked almost like you were going to faint. When I put my hands on your shoulders, your reaction was almost..." She broke off, gazing into the bard's pale blue eyes and smiled. "What were you thinking?"

"It.....wasn't anything important", Gabrielle said, but in the back of her mind, a little voice was saying "Tell her! Tell her!"

"Uh-huh", Xena nodded, though she could tell from the still flushed look on Gabrielle's face that she was hiding something. "Well, since you're OK, I guess I'll go get cleaned up." Gabrielle nodded; she wanted Xena out of the room before she said something she could not take back. "I'll see you at dinner," Xena said, flashing her beautiful smile.

"Yes." Gabrielle managed a small smile in return. Then Xena was gone. Gabrielle threw herself forward on the bed, pounding on the pillows with her fists. "Idiot, idiot, idiot!!, she screamed into the pillow. "I might as well have ripped her clothes off of her! Oh, god, what must she be thinking about me?" She hugged the pillow to her chest and sighed. This was going to be the greatest challenge of her life. How could she concentrate on learning from the poet she had admired since she was a child, when all she could think about was touching and kissing her best friend.

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Sappho sat on a lounge in the garden, surrounded by a group of young women, who gazed at her with unconcealed adoration, hungry for every word that fell from her lips. She knew from past experience that any of her neophytes could be coaxed into her bed if she longed for female companionship. She was bored with these simple girls who would submit themselves passively to whatever activity she could think of. She longed for a woman that knew how to please a woman completely. The moment she saw Xena, she could tell she was such a woman. Whatever it took, she was committed to seducing the raven haired blue eyed beauty.

Her concentration was too fragmented to continue teaching her young pupils. She dismissed them with a wave, telling them to rejoin her in the morning. She rose from her couch, and crossed toward her private chambers, considering which of her diaphanous gowns would most appeal to the gorgeous warrior.

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Michaela led Xena and Gabrielle into the dining room, and asked Gabrielle to take a seat at one end of the long table. She put Xena on the side at the other end of the table, beside the opulent chair obviously intended for Sappho. Michaela herself sat on the side of the table near Gabrielle. The table was made of Italian marble with alabaster legs, and covered with a fine silk tablecloth. The crystal goblets reflected the light from the candles in silver candelabra, and threw rainbows around the room. Food of every kind was laid out to appeal to the eye as well as the tongue. Xena had heard the term "feast fit for the gods" before, but had never seen a meal so lavish as this. She doubted Sappho treated all of her pupils to such sumptuous repasts, and wondered what the woman had in mind.

Even as that thought crossed her mind, Sappho herself floated into the dining room. Floated was the only word she could use to describe her entrance. Sappho was dressed in a blue silk gown, gathered at one shoulder with a golden clasp, and bare on the other. It draped to her waist, and was gathered by a sash that seemed to have all the colors of the rainbow in it. Her honey colored hair was piled up on top of her head in soft curls, with ringlets framing her face. She wore sandals of soft leather, faded to a pale brown. Even her toenails had been painted a bright pink, which matched the rouge on her lips.

The effect was not lost on Xena, who stared open mouthed at the vision that was Sappho. The great woman glided to her seat at the head of the table, and stood looking expectantly at Xena. "Oh.". Xena realized that Sappho was waiting for someone to pull out her chair for her, and hastened to do just that.

"Sorry if I kept you waiting. My hair refused to behave."

"It looks beautiful now," Xena said, her eyes taking in the careful coiffure. "Worth the wait."

"You flatter me, warrior princess. But thank you. I like it."

At the other end of the table, Gabrielle watched the brief exchange, feeling somewhat like a voyeur at a Bacchanal orgy. She would have liked to join into the conversation, but somehow, she did not feel as if she would be welcomed. With a sigh, she turned to Michaela.

"So, Michaela, tell me how long you have been here with Sappho?"

"Since I was a young woman. My mother was one of her pupils, and she brought me to live here after my father died. Mother and Sappho were.....close. After I lost my mother as well, Sappho let me stay ."

"But, you are an Amazon; why didn't you study poetry with her?"

Michaela laughed. "I tried. I can barely put two words together, let alone create songs and poems. Sappho knew that, and encouraged me to become an Amazon. I owe everything I am today to her."

"You will have to tell me all about growing up with her. I know I could make some stories out of it." She glanced at the pair at the other end of the table, just as Sappho leaned toward Xena, and whispered something in her ear that made both of them laugh. Sappho's hand rested possesively on Xena's wrist. Gabrielle blinked, and took a few deep breath's.. She could feel the color rising in her cheeks, and her heartbeat quickened. It was all she could do not to run to the other end of the room and remove the offending hand. But, Xena did not seem to mind, or even notice, so intent was she on her conversation. "How could she do that to me?", Gabrielle thought, gritting her teeth to keep from saying something out loud that she would regret.

"........and he fell through the floor, with nothing but his head and shoulders still in the room. You should have seen the look on his face when I........" Michaela suddenly realized that Gabrielle was miles away, and had not heard a word of her story. "Gabrielle?"

"Huh!" she started, dropping a fork on the table. She turned toward Michaela with her eyes wide. "What did you say?"

Sappho dragged her eyes off of Xena when she heard the clang of silverware. "Michaela, why don't you take our little Amazon princess to the library, and show her some of my work. That's a dear", she said, dismissing them as if they were already gone. Gabrielle had not eaten a bite of the glorious food spread out before her, but she had no appetite, and truthfully had no desire to sit and watch the spectacle being acted out at the other end of the table. She jumped up, nearly knocking her chair over in her haste. Michaela scrambled to keep pace as Gabrielle fled the room.

"Gabrielle, wait...," Xena began, and made as if to rise and follow her. Sappho put her hand over Xena's, and held it to the table.

"Let the youngsters go", she purred. "I was rather enjoying having a conversation with a mature woman for a change." Xena slid her hand out from under Sappho's a little more forcefully than she intended. She could tell by the look on Sappho's face that she was used to getting what she wanted. Once again, Xena was stuck by the thought that if this woman were not so important to Gabrielle, she would tell her exactly what she thought of her. She recalled the look Gabrielle gave her just before she left the table, and if she did not know any better, she would swear that the bard was jealous. Xena did not know what to think. She could no longer write off her feelings for Gabrielle as mere comradeship. And she would not have thought that Gabrielle could possibly share those feelings, but the signs were all there. Had they been there all along, and she was simply too preoccupied with her own growing feelings to notice? She shook her head to clear it.

"Sappho, I think we have a...." she searched for the right word, ".misunderstanding here."

"On the contrary. I understand that you are the most desirable woman I have ever had the good fortune to lay my eyes on. And, I believe from the way your face lit up when I came into this room that you find me desirable too. Or did I completely misread that head to toe appraising look you gave me?" she said with a half smile and a raised eyebrow.

Xena paused. "No. You didn't misread it. I do find you beautiful. Perhaps even more than beautiful. But...." Sappho interrupted her by placing her finger on Xena's lips.

"No buts. If two unattached people find each other attractive, why should they deny each other pleasure?", her voice lowered to a throaty growl.

"That's just it. I don't consider myself to be *unattached *." Now that she had admitted it out loud, she knew it was true. She considered herself more attached to Gabrielle than she had ever been to Marcus or Hercules, or any other man in her life.

Sappho was not ready to quit. She trailed her fingers up Xena's arm, then across the top of her breast, and watched as the skin erupted in gooseflesh in her wake. "Your body is on my side, my Princess." Xena closed her eyes for just a moment. Her lips parted, and she gave a small shudder.

"Sappho, believe me. My body responds to your touch, but my heart is not even in the room. You would not want to take advantage of me if my heart wasn't in it, would you? It would be no better than rape." Sappho relaxed back into her chair with a sigh.

"I don't understand why you would prefer that little country mouse over me, but I have never forced a woman to my bed, and I don't intend to start now." She looked Xena in the eye and smirked. "But I promise you, you could have had the ride of your life." Xena laughed. "If you change your mind, I'll be in my chambers." She touched her lips to Xena's, and with a shake of her head, she rose from the table and glided from the room.

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Gabrielle rolled the parchment carefully and tied the satin ribbons at each end. Tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. She wiped them away before they could fall onto the precious parchment.

"I have never read anything so beautiful in my life", she whispered, returning the scroll to it's place on the shelf. She turned to find Michaela right behind her, her face scant inches away. Michaela smiled, and reached behind her to remove the scroll from the shelf.

"This one goes here", she said, placing it on another shelf. "She hates it when they're out of order." Michaela made no effort to move away from Gabrielle, and in fact, Gabrielle could feel Michaela's breasts through her tunic lightly touching her own. Michaela's hands reached out to caress her cheeks. "Your skin is so soft,", she whispered. "I wonder if your lips are as soft." Michaela leaned toward her, closing what little space there was between them. Gabrielle tried to back up, but found herself up against the shelves. In desperation, she bent her knees, ducking under Michaela's arm, and scrambled across the room.

"I'm sorry, Michaela. I can't do this", Gabrielle said with as much force as she could muster. Michaela started walking toward her, and Gabrielle darted behind a chair. " Now you just...stay on your side of the room while we talk, OK?" Michaela shrugged and nodded, but the look in her eyes suggested she was not going to keep that promise. "I like you", Gabrielle continued, "but not the way you seem to think I do. I have never.. um, been with a woman before. Or a man, as far as that goes. I don't even think I was really aware that it was possible to...", she searched for the right words, "love a woman as you would a man."

"Oh, my fair princess, loving a woman is nothing like loving a man", she said with a wicked smile, advancing a few steps closer to Gabrielle. "I can show you just how beautiful it can be, if you'll let me." Another step closer.

"No! You promised to stay over there while I talked, now hear me out!" Michaela stopped, raising her hands in an `I give up' gesture, and sat down on the couch. This was going to be tougher than it seemed, she thought. Sappho had asked her to "keep the little mouse occupied" after dinner, so she would have some time alone with Xena. But the mouse was all too eager to get away from the cat.....and into the arms of her warrior, Michaela mused.

Gabrielle's thoughts tumbled in her head, but she was not even sure how to begin. Funny how as a bard she never had a problem finding the right words, but in matters of the heart, she became tongue tied. She took a deep breath and began. "Last year several women in my village -including myself - were captured by a warlord, who was going to sell us into slavery. Xena rescued us, and brought us back to the village. She went on her way; just another good deed completed, and time to move on. I followed her. She didn't ask me to; if anything, she tried to discourage me from coming. But I could not let her walk away from me. I thought then I just wanted some adventures so I could turn them into exciting stories, and become famous." She turned away from Michaela, but not before she noticed a tear rolling slowly down her cheek. Gabrielle wiped it away and resumed her story. "I think I loved her almost from the moment I saw her in that glade. She acted so strong and tough, but I could see a softness in her eyes that drew me like a moth to a candle. As the months went by, I learned of her life before we met; of the men she had loved and left behind. My mind could not imagine what it could be like to be loved by a woman like her, but my heart didn't care what my mind knew. If I thought she could possibly feel the same way, I would follow my heart. But she has never shown me that she loves me in the same way."

"That's because she was afraid she would scare you away if she did." Gabrielle whirled around to see Xena standing in the doorway. "You hid your feelings so well. I wish you had told me." She crossed the room in three strides of her long legs, and stopped beside Gabrielle. She put her fingers under Gabrielle's chin, and tilted her face up. As many times as she had looked into those eyes, she could not imagine how she had failed to see the undisguised adoration there. She kissed each eyelid, then the tip of her nose, and finally her lips. She wrapped her arms around her and thought how good it felt to hold her. How right . She glanced at Michaela, still sitting on the couch. "It's fortunate for you that you stopped when you did, Michaela. I have no patience with people who try to force themselves on Gabrielle. I could give you the names of some big strong men who walk the other way if they see her coming down the street."

"I'm sorry, Xena. Really, no harm intended. I, uh, just thought she might like to have some fun, that's all. I wouldn't have forced myself on her, honestly." Michaela had risen from the couch, and was backing slowly around the room, her eyes never leaving Xena's face. She bumped a table, knocking over a vase which fell to the floor with a satisfying crash. "Oh, goddess!", she moaned "Sappho will have my hide. I have to clean this up." She fled the room muttering something about a broom.

"Kind of clumsy for an Amazon warrior, don't you think?" Xena said with a light laugh. She looked into Gabrielle's eyes, so trusting. So sweet. Gabrielle turned her face up to Xena, with a look of desire that could not be misunderstood. Xena cupped her face in her hands, then leaned down and lightly touched her lips to Gabrielle's. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena's neck, kissing her back with a passion that ignited a flame within them both. Xena explored the soft curves of Gabrielle's mouth with her tongue, and Gabrielle trembled, overwhelmed with the sensations flooding her body. Gabrielle cleared her throat.

"Um, Xena. I was just wondering if you might like to, um, escort me to my room". She blushed to the roots of her red gold hair.

"I thought you'd never ask." Xena grinned, entwining her arm with Gabrielle's.

************************************************************************

Xena plucked a glowing taper from the fireplace and lit the candles that stood on small chests on either side of the bed. The flickering flames created shadows that danced across the walls, and brief points of light that flashed in her eyes like stars. Gabrielle sat on the bed, spellbound by every movement, every gesture. The candles lit, Xena returned the taper to the blazing fireplace. She rose and turned slowly toward Gabrielle, knowing that the younger woman was watching her every move. As she walked toward the bed, she shrugged out of her shift and tossed it to one side. Her body fairly glowed, with the warmth from the fireplace creating a halo around her. Gabrielle gasped. Never in her life had she seen such beauty and grace. And it was hers for the taking! She could scarcely believe her good fortune. Xena knelt at the foot of the bed, and took Gabrielle's hands in her own, kissing first one palm, and then the other. She looked up into Gabrielle's adoring eyes, and murmured, "Do you have any idea how much I love you?" With a smile, Gabrielle nodded, caressing Xena's face. She leaned toward her, kissing her full on the mouth. She put the tip of her tongue against Xena's lips, and felt them part invitingly. It excited her to think that for the first time since she had known Xena, she had the power to bring the mighty warrior to her knees. She tasted the sweetness of Xena's mouth, thinking nothing in her life had ever tasted so sweet.

Xena pulled away slightly. "Shall I help you off with your clothes?", she asked. Gabrielle expelled a lung full of air; she had not even realized she was holding her breath until that moment.

"Y-Yes", she stammered. Xena worked her fingers under the edge of her shirt, teasing it slowly up to her breasts, grazing the tips of them with her hands. Instantly, the nipples were hard, the brown rings around the nipples contracted. Xena smiled at the obvious effect her touch had created. She quickly removed the blouse, and tossed it into a heap with her shift.

"Stand up", Xena asked. Without hesitation, Gabrielle scrambled off the bed to stand before her. Still on her knees, Xena loosened the ties on her skirt, and let it drop down her hips to pool at her feet. "Oh", she said softly, putting her arms around her hips, and gently pulling her toward her. She touched her lips to her abdomen, and watched as the muscles contracted. Her tongue followed where her lips led, leaving a trail of gooshflesh in its wake. Lightly, she kissed the reddish curls between her legs, inhaling the warm musky smell of her. Gabrielle was trembling as if she was in the grip of a fever, and her knees started to buckle. She gripped Xena's shoulders.

"I - I can't stand up any more." she moaned. "My legs are turning to porridge." Xena stood up, and putting one arm behind her shoulders, and the other under her legs, she swept Gabrielle up in her arms.

"I wouldn't have let you fall," she whispered as she moved to the side of the bed, carefully lowering Gabrielle, then climbing in beside her. Xena raised herself on one elbow, and gazed down at Gabrielle, still trembling violently. "Are you cold?" she asked, tracing the outline of Gabrielle's lips with her finger. "No", was all she said.

Xena lowered her body on top of Gabrielle's. The younger woman moaned. Her eyes fluttered, then drifted shut. Every part of her body that was touched by Xena's felt like it was enveloped by cool fire. Xena kissed her neck, and could feel Gabrielle's pulse pounding against her lips. She moved to the hollow of her neck, and then to the soft mounds of her breasts. She played her tongue around each breast in turn, then drew the nipple into her mouth and suckled. Her hand moved slowly down Gabrielle's body, her touch as light and airy as a butterfly's wings. Gabrielle was swept away by the sensations. It amazed her that a woman so fierce and feared on the battlefield could be so gentle and loving in her arms.

Xena's hand found the damp curls, and parted them with her fingers. "Ohh," she groaned.

"You are so wet."

"Is that good?", Gabrielle asked. She really did not know how her body should behave, or what would appeal to Xena.

Xena smiled, bringing her fingers to her lips, and tasting the wetness there. "What do you think?", she purred.

"Uhhh, good?", she teased.

Xena chuckled. "Ri-i-ght", she quipped, sliding down the length of Gabrielle's body until her face was above the triangle she sought. With her knees, Xena pressed against the inside of Gabrielle's thighs, spreading her legs to accommodate her. She kissed the side of one leg, moving gradually up to the center of her. When Gabrielle thought she was going to touch the part of her that begged for attention, she moved to the other leg. She teased her like that for several minutes, getting closer with her mouth each time, and then pulling away. Gabrielle felt like she would scream if she did not feel Xena inside her. She began to wriggle on the bed. "Please.....oh, please", she begged softly.

The words, so softly spoken, pierced Xena to the very core of her. She felt her own muscles contract, and moisture from her nether lips coated the insides of her thighs. With a groan, she moved her mouth to Gabrielle's inviting labia, sliding her tongue around the outside before parting the lips with her fingers. She drew in the intoxicating scent of her, feeling another stab of pure desire in her abdomen. "Oh, goddess", she murmured into the damp fur. Her hips began writhing in tempo with her tongue. She found the hard button that she knew would bring Gabrielle to ecstasy, and began applying firm strokes with her tongue.

"N-no", Gabrielle whispered, pulling her body out of range of Xena's mouth. Surprised, Xena raised her head to look with concern into her precious face.

"Did I hurt you?", she asked, a worried frown creasing her brow.

"Oh, no, believe me, you didn't hurt me", she murmured. "It's just....well, I could feel something happening, and....." Xena interrupted her.

"Gabrielle", she smiled wickedly, "that's a good thing again."

Gabrielle returned her wicked smile, with a small shake of her head. "I may have been a virgin, but I could tell that was a good thing." She lowered her eyes, not sure how to phrase her request, and a little embarrassed to be so ignorant of the art of making love. "It....I...that is, I want you to feel the same thing I do at the same time. Is that possible?"

Xena's eyes drifted closed for a moment, imagining how it could be accomplished. She opened her eyes again and smiled at Gabrielle's expectant look. "Yes," she whispered. "I think it can be done." The look of happiness on Gabrielle's face was all she needed to see to know it was the right thing to do. Even though she had had several sexual experiences with men, she really was going purely on instinct as to what to do to please Gabrielle. So far, it seemed she was succeeding more than she imagined. She hoped her instincts were right about this, too.

"Move to the head of the bed, and get up on your knees." Gabrielle complied, certain that Xena knew what she was doing. "Tie your hair up behind your head; I think it will be in the way." Gabrielle did as she was told, and watched as Xena also rose up on her knees, and moved toward her. Xena put her arms around her, and leaned down to kiss her lips. Gabrielle could smell and taste herself on Xena, and the idea of tasting Xena made her knees tremble. She pulled back, and looked into Xena's eyes.

"Xena....I feel like I'm going to fall over. You make me weak as a kitten."

"Oh, you will fall over, all right. But not yet. Not for a while yet. Trust me. Give me your hand," she reached out and took the hand that Gabrielle proffered, and placed it between her own legs. "Feel what you do to me, Gabrielle.", she said huskily. Gabrielle's fingers were tentative at first, uncertain of what do to. She needn't have worried. The folds of Xena's womanhood opened at the slightest touch, revealing warm wetness. Gabrielle wanted to feel the very center of her being. She pushed a finger inside, and was rewarded by a gasp from Xena, whose head was thrown back, her eyes closed. She added a second finger, and the tight muscles squeezed against her fingers until she thought she would not be able to move them. Another groundless fear. Her fingers were slick, and moved easily in and out of the opening. She withdrew her hand, which elicited another moan from Xena. Lightly, she painted the tips of Xena's breasts with the moisture from her fingertips, then bent down and began to suck them, marveling at the sweetness of the taste.

Xena's breathing pattern changed to short panting, and the trembling in her own knees threatened to topple her over. "Now it's you making me weak," she whispered. Gabrielle nipped playfully at Xena's breast before looking up with a grin.

"Turnabout's fair play." She made as if to resume her teasing, but Xena had recovered the use of her limbs enough to squirm out of her grasp. She lowered her body to the bed before Gabrielle even knew what was happening, and slid her head between Gabrielle's knees. She wrapped her arms around Gabrielle's thighs, and with a tug, brought those tantalizing curls within reach of her mouth.

"Yes. It is," she whispered against the folds of skin before plunging her tongue inside.

"Ahh...ooh," Gabrielle sighed. Her balance was precarious, and before she knew it, she fell forward, throwing out her arms to either side of Xena's hips to break her fall. Her face was inches away from Xena's dark, shiny curls. She smiled, realizing this was exactly what Xena had in mind. She wrapped her arms around Xena's thighs, and pulled her legs apart. As she did, she lowered her head and kissed the top of the mound. She angled her body so that she could free her hand, and parted the hair with her fingers. "Goddess, I hope I can do this right", she mused. She put her tongue where her finger had been, and felt Xena stiffen underneath her, then relax, and open her legs wider. Gabrielle smiled to herself. She knew she was doing something right.

Xena paused in lavishing attention on Gabrielle's swollen clit the moment she felt the bard's mouth on her own. She only hoped that she could concentrate on what she was doing long enough to accomplish her goal, which was to reduce Gabrielle to an almost lifeless heap of humanity...before the same fate should befall her. But, oh, it was hard. Determined, she wrapped her arms more tightly around Gabrielle, and pulled her closer, shutting out the sensations she was feeling, and thinking only of what she was tasting.

Gabrielle had only a vague idea what the end result of her efforts would be. She had heard of women fainting dead away at the moment of climax, but considering that most of her information came from other bards, she assumed that was largely fiction. She made a mental note to ask Xena if she had ever fainted at the ultimate moment, then scratched it out. She didn't want to know if some one - some man, - she amended, had been able to do something for the woman she loved that she did not even know if she could do herself.

Remembering the reaction she got when she first touched Xena with her hand, she slipped her fingers inside of the warrior. She continued to flick her tongue over Xena's bud, increasing the pace as Xena had done.

Suddenly, Xena cried out against Gabrielle's flesh, and began to grind her mound into Gabrielle's face. She tried to continue lapping at the bard, but it was useless. She could think of nothing but the mounting sensation in her loins. Gasping, she turned her face to Gabrielle's thigh to muffle the sound building inside her.

Instinctively, Gabrielle knew that this was what she was after, and she worked her mouth and fingers at a frantic speed. Xena planted her heels , and began to lift her hips off of the bed. A sound was coming from Xena's throat, which was like nothing Gabrielle had ever heard before. She almost panicked, thinking something was wrong, but from the way Xena was moving, she decided this was another of the good things, and worked even harder.

Xena felt like she was going to explode. Never had she known anything remotely as wonderful as this. She did not seem to have any control over her body, which continued to rise off of the bed, but the bard hung on for all she was worth. When she was sure she would die if she did not climax immediately, she felt the explosion begin in the very center of her being.. It rippled out, causing her body to jerk and writhe until she could not take another second. She dropped back onto the bed with a cry, once again burying her face in Gabrielle's thigh to muffle the sound of her unexpected sobs. Reflexively, she clutched at Gabrielle; she never wanted to let her go.

Gabrielle slipped her leg over Xena's body, turning herself around so that she was facing her. Tears were streaming down Xena's cheeks. "Oh, goddess, I've hurt her", she thought, feeling alarmed that she could have been so wrong about what she was doing. "Oh, Xena, I'm sorry...I, I didn't mean to hurt you, I...." Xena shook her head with as much force as she could muster, taking Gabrielle by the arms, and pulling her up on top of her. She did not trust her self to speak right away, so for several moments, she held Gabrielle tightly, allowing her breathing to return to normal, and the flow of tears to stop.

She put her hands on either side of the bard's face, and pulled her toward her, kissing her softly at first, then more urgently. Her strength was returning, and she realized that she still had a goal to achieve.

One moment Gabrielle was lying on top of Xena, wondering what was really going on with her, and the next moment, she was lying on her back with Xena on top. She blinked up at the smiling warrior. "Gabrielle, my sweet, you have to learn to tell the difference between tears of sorrow or pain, and tears of joy."

"It was a good thing , then?" Gabrielle queried.

"A very good thing", Xena laughed. "I can't even tell you how good; I don't have a way with words like you do. But ", she added with a delicious grin, "I can certainly show you."

The End

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