Subtext Reports
Those crazy posts about the episodes originally posted to the nutforum and saved here for posterity in their error riddled entirety (since they were written 'on the fly'). 
Homecoming Series
A series of five (not so short) stories about Xena and Gabrielle building their life together as a couple. 
Magic Series
Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas find love as they uncover more writings of Gabrielle about her warrior princess. 
Conversations by Campfire Series
Set during Season Four, parts of the episodes are worked into chats between Xena and Gab, particularly the subject of Najara and the bard. 
Changes of Heart Series
My take on what happened after Gabby got Chakram'ed upside the head by Xena in the Season Five ender. 
Bonding of Souls Series
This series picks up where 'Changes of Heart' ends with Xena and Gabby back together. Each 'episode' is an expansion of the episodes of Season Six.
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
How DID Ares get stuck in that tomb from the Xena Scrolls? This story answers that question. 
The Play
Xena and Gabrielle have to play the leads in a performance for a ruthless king to save Salmoneus' neck. Unexpected consequences and confessions are the result. 
The Queen, the Regent, the Warrior
Xena leaves Gabrielle in the care of the amazons, only to have Ephiny and Gabby fall in love. Xena does return and chaos and secret confessions follow.
The Contest
Ares and Aphrodite battle over Xena's spirit. 
Loss of Virginity
Romantic musings from one of our gals. 
Moment of Truth
Gabrielle does anything it takes to keep Xena out of a battle that's foretold to take the warrior princess' life. 
Thank the Gods For Henbane
At an Amazon festival Gabrielle has one too many henbane brownies, which results in a funny and sexy night for Xena. 
As It Should Be
The Queen gets taken by the Warrior Princess at the Amazon Village.
Family Ties
Xena takes Gabrielle back to home to spend a little time with the 'in-laws'. 
Dueling Cousins
Xena's look-alike cousin, Sappho, has always been competitive but now the Tenth Muse wants the ultimate prize - Gabrielle. 
The End
Alternate 'demise' of Xena and Gabrielle based on the Season Four crucifixion. 
Truth or Dare
Sexy romp between Callisto and Gabrielle set during 'A Necessary Evil' 
November 29th, 1942
A little romance fic between Janice and Mel. 
Inside Outside
Set after the events of 'A Family Affair', it's a scene told through the eyes of four people - Gabrielle's Father, Mother, Gabrielle herself and Xena.
Something To Talk About
Xena and Gabrielle's friends are all surprised that the pair aren't lovers so they consider why not.
Henbane, Horsenappings and Other Obstacles
A 'murphy's law' comedy where everything that can go wrong for Xena and Gabby but, of course, they still end up saving the day.
All That Matters
During Gabrielle's birthday party in' Takes One To Know One', Xena reflects on her love for the bard.  
Warlord
What if Gabrielle was actually the one behind all the folks who influenced Xena's journey toward good? 
Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice
A little Winter Solstice tale that's available in general (not lovers) and alternative (lovers). .
Little Moments: A Day in the Desert
A tale told through the eyes of Janice and then Mel while on a dig.  
Candy or Chaos
'Classic Xena' general Halloween story with Xena and Gabby return for the Potiedaia Harvest Festival.
Conquering Heroine
Gabrielle is the Conqueror in this piece. How exactly? Give it a read and find out. 
Watching and Waiting
Set after FIN II, Xena watches from afar as Gabrielle moves on with her life. 
1971
Police Office Carol and Protestor Erin clash but find they're fighting for the same things. A short story based on my novel, 'One Belief Away'. 
March 26, 1943
Sequel to November 29, 1942. This time it's Janice's birthday and Mel has some sexy plans for her lover. 
The 10th Muse
In this traditional subtext story that's part French farce; part musical, Gabrielle has a Doppelganger, the Poetess Sappho. It's up to Gabby, Xena and Sappho's friend Aphrodite to guard Sappho during the 10th Muse Competition...Of course they must also try to repair Sappho's damaged relationship with her lover (a woman, and bandmate, who's the spitting image of Xena).

Title: The Queen, The Regent, The Warrior

Author: CN Winters

Fandom: Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and Gabrielle fanfiction, Xena fiction

Rating

Disclaimers: Xena, Gabby, Ephiny (and assorted others) are property of MCA/Universal. This story, which is mine, is strictly for fun and not meant to offend. There’s sexually charged scenes, so if you’re too young come back when you’re older. Don’t read this if they don’t like it in your area of the world. Don’t read this if the idea of two (well actually four) women in love offends you. With that said, let’s get to the story.

Synopsis: When Xena leaves her friend Gabrielle in the care of the amazons, Ephiny and Gabby embark on a romantic relationship...at least until Xena returns and challenges Ephiny for Gabrielle's hand.

Feedback: Drop me a line at cnwinters71@yahoo.com.

The Queen, The Regent, The Warrior

(Art by XenaArtMaker)

CHAPTER I

"How are you feeling?"

Ephiny poked her head inside to the Queen’s hut to see Gabrielle working on a scroll, deep in thought.

"Much better. Although my head still hurts if I move too quick... Have a seat."

Ephiny sat on the edge of the bed, her finger playing with the quilt pattern. "I should have warned you to take it easy on the punch. I didn’t think alcohol would have that strong an effect on you."

"It’s okay. All and all I had a wonderful time last night. You’re good company." Gabrielle smiled warmly at the regent amazon.

"You’re not so bad yourself," Ephiny replied with a devious grin.

This is stupid, the amazon told herself. She knew she should just come out and tell the queen her feelings, her longings. Last night was close. With the music and the alcohol, feeling Gabrielle’s body swaying against hers, Ephiny felt so compelled to take the young woman. She wanted to show Gabrielle just what it meant to be an amazon – soul, mind and especially body. She wanted to but she didn’t.

"What’s wrong, Ephiny?" the bard asked.

Ephiny realized her smile had faded and she was staring at Gabrielle, a thousand illicit thoughts running through her mind.

"It’s nothing," Ephiny insisted. "Just thinking. That’s all."

Gabrielle had seen the look in Ephiny’s eyes before – not from the warrior herself – but from another warrior, a warrior princess to be more specific. To Xena it was also ‘just thinking’ and nothing more. But this time Gabrielle prodded for an answer.

"It’s not nothing," Gabrielle said. "You can tell me, Ephiny... I hope you feel you can trust me."

"Of course, I trust you ," Ephiny replied quickly. "It’s just... I think... I wish... Oh, forget it."

Gabrielle inched closer taking Ephiny’s hands in hers. "It’s okay," she whispered placing her forehead on Ephiny’s trying to calm her. "Please tell me."

"Okay," Ephiny answered taking a deep breath. "I’m falling in love with you ... I know you and Xena are lovers, but I can’t-"

Gabrielle shot away, startling Ephiny. "I’m not sure what shocks me more," the bard rambled. " ... the fact that you love me or ...  or the bit about me and Xena."

"You mean you and Xena aren’t-"

"No!" Gabrielle replied. "Xena would never think of me as a lover."

Ephiny grinned and moved closer. "Why not?"

Gabrielle chuckled. "She still thinks I’m a little girl. I mean the last village –."

"Gabrielle," Ephiny interrupted, taking the bards' face in her hands. "I know you’re a woman. You’re an exceptionally bright and beautiful woman. By the Gods, do you understand the affect you have on this village? I’ve had to order amazons back to work when you walk past."

"Why’s that?" Gabrielle asked innocently.

"Why?!" Ephiny exclaimed. "They lose track of what they’re doing just to watch you move... Sweet Artemis, you are gorgeous."

Gabrielle looked stunned and Ephiny backed off removing her hands. She didn’t want to offend her queen and she quickly made up for it.

"I’m so sorry, Gabrielle. You’re my queen and I never meant any harm. Whatever punishment you feel is deserving, I will see it will be carried out"

"Punishment for what?" Gabrielle asked sincerely. "For telling me how you feel? Please, Ephiny, don’t ever feel you need to be hurt by telling me what’s in your heart." Suddenly she felt uncomfortable with the words she chose. "I mean, I love you Ephiny as a friend and in truth I never looked into our relationship deeper than that. Don’t get me wrong. You are a beautiful woman as well. Sparkling blue eyes, soft curly blonde hair, sensational mid-drift... Okay, so maybe I noticed a little," she added in confession. "The point is I need time."

Ephiny jumped into a standing position. "Of course, Gabrielle I understand. I didn’t expect an immediate answer."

Gabrielle rose and walked around to stand in front of Ephiny. She wasn’t sure how it happened, but somehow her fingertips were caressing Ephiny’s face. Pushing the curls away from her beautiful cheekbones. Neither spoke a word nor wanted to. Ephiny’s sigh at the contact was the only sound in the hut. She couldn’t stand the gentle assault any longer. She kissed the bard’s knuckles one by one and watched as Gabrielle shuttered.

What’s happening to me? Gabrielle asked herself. She had never felt so alive. She could feel her blood rushing through her body, close to the surface, making her hotter. Before she could contemplate anything further, she felt Ephiny’s lips move to her wrist. The warrior looked down on the bard with burning desire as her tongue tickled one of Gabrielle’s lifelines.

Gabrielle had to know. She had to find out.

"Please," she whispered. "Kiss me."

Carefully and delicately, Ephiny’s hands took Gabrielle’s face, tilting it upward as she descended. The first contact felt like an explosion to the two women. If was feathery soft but the passion inside it was as hard as metal. Gabrielle felt Ephiny linger a few moments before she pulled away. "I’ll see you on the practice field," she whispered.

She walked out of the hut not looking back. Once she was gone Gabrielle opened into a full smile, letting her body fall back on the bed. "Sweet Artemis, that was one Tartarus of a kiss!"

CHAPTER II

Days turned into weeks. It had been at least three weeks since Gabrielle received word from Xena. And two since Ephiny’s confession of love.

Xena was leading an army against a ruthless warlord. A group of people had banned together from neighboring villages the warlord destroyed. They need a skillful, competent leader and they sought Xena. Xena was undecided, but after hearing their story, she knew she had to help. She also knew she couldn’t do this mission worrying about Gabrielle. After taking her back to the amazons, Xena traveled to meet the war party. Two months had passed since that day and three weeks had gone by without word of the warriors location or status.

"Any word today?" Ephiny asked. She had witnessed the runner enter the queen’s tent moments before. She imagined, perhaps, Xena finally sent a note.

"No. It’s just a message from the Centaurs. They’re thinking of holding a festival and have invited us to come... Personally, I think they’re looking for more hunting ground and want to bribe us with food and drink." Gabrielle smiled as she tossed the parchment on the table. Slowly, she walked over to Ephiny and pulled her closer by the waist.

"You’re hot and sticky," Gabrielle whispered.

Ephiny blushed and turned away. "I’ve been out practicing all day. I came here to get a bath."

Gabrielle’s hands ran up and down Ephiny’s back. "Why? I like you hot and sticky."

Ephiny shuttered as Gabrielle’s lips made contact with her collar bone. "Oh yeah?" the amazon hissed seductively.

"Oh yeah," Gabrielle responded, keeping the spirit. "Tell me Eph’ ...  do you get that hot and sticky when you make love too?"

Gabrielle reached up, taking the amazon’s mask off of her head, gently tossing it in a chair. She pulled Ephiny with her toward the bed, letting her hands run the length of the regent’s arms, feeling the sweat that covered them.

"You do realize the whole village is already talking about us?" Ephiny whispered. She tried her best to act concerned – that she wanted to protect Gabrielle’s ‘virtue’. Somehow it just didn’t come out as persuasive as she had hoped.

"Let ’em talk," Gabrielle sighed, pulling Ephiny into a passionate kiss. "I’m tired of holding hands and cold baths."

Ephiny pulled away and she could see the hurt in Gabrielle’s eyes.

"Please listen, okay?" Gabrielle simply nodded to Ephiny's request. "I want you... How the Gods know I want you... I just need more than one night. I want to know that it’s me you want... I need to know that when Xena comes back – and you know she’ll come back – I’m not going to watch you walk away again."

Gabrielle realized that was a fact she hadn’t really considered. Ephiny knew the pause meant that the bard was considering it.

"Look Gabrielle, I know how I feel. But I have concerns. Concerns for you, for me, for us... I even have concerns for Xena. I don’t want anyone hurt."

Gabrielle paused, soaking up the words, "I understand... and I’m sorry for the way I behaved."

"Please don’t apologize for your passion for me." Ephiny smiled. "It’s an important ingredient in love. We just need to be sure of what we want that’s all."

Gabrielle nodded. "Okay. Go take that bath now. I’m going to discuss this festival invitation with the counsel."

Gabrielle rose to leave and Ephiny stroked her face tenderly. "I love you," she replied softly, placing an affectionate kiss on the bards lips.

Slowly, Gabrielle made her way from the hut as Ephiny headed to the royal tub.

CHAPTER III

Another month had rolled by with still no word from the warrior princess. The festival had taken place that evening. Just as Gabrielle expected the Centaurs wanted to expand their border. Being the shroud bargainer she was, Gabrielle didn’t give them what they asked, but enough to make everyone happy.

Gabrielle and Ephiny now made their deepening relationship no longer a secret. Light caresses and tender kisses mixed with the feeling of unity of the festival. Late in the evening, the amazons returned home. The bard rested between Ephiny’s shoulder blades as they rode the short distance.

Once at the queen’s hut, Gabrielle ordered the guards away for the evening, stating that she would be quite protected with the amazon regent in her company for the evening. With nods and well-knowing smiles, the royal guards retired for the evening.

When Gabrielle walked into the hut she found Ephiny already inside. The bard felt mesmerized as she watched her regent walk over to her, totally naked. "That didn’t take too long... Did you give them the night off?"

Gabrielle lost her voice and could only nod.

"Good," Ephiny replied leading the bard by holding both hands. "You know, my queen, you are very well protected with me near." Ephiny administered a light kiss to the side of Gabrielle’s cheek before moving to the other.

"Oh Ephiny," Gabrielle sighed.

"Yes my queen? Is there something I can do for you?" she teased. "Perhaps I should ready you for bed. Should I help you off the your royal attire?"

Gabrielle sighed again as Ephiny’s lips made contact with her throat. She was spinning. She wasn't sure if it was all the wine she consumed during the course of the evening or Ephiny’s seductive charms that were doing her in.

"I’ll take that as a yes." The amazon warrior slowly walked behind her queen. She carefully pulled the straps loose from the bards’ shoulders, before unfastening the tunic from the back. As it landed on the floor Ephiny’s palms seized the queen’s breasts, kneading and pitching the flesh.

"Ohhh... the skirt," Gabrielle whispered huskily. "Take my skirt off too."

Ephiny’s tongue tickled Gabrielle’s earlobe. "Anything for my queen," her replied deep with desire.

Gabrielle’s passion was immense as Ephiny’s skillful hands worked the skirt free, soon joining the tunic on the hut floor. Last, the queen sandals were removed as she took a seat on the bed.

"You are vision, Gabrielle. I can see why you are Artemis chosen. She certainly has a thing for beautiful women... and you are no exception."

Gabrielle moaned and pulled Ephiny on top of her. They both tumbled to the bed, wrapped in each others arms. Lips locking with flesh, tongues dancing across sweat covered skin. Their bodies almost seemed to steam in the hot summer night. Gabrielle began to feel herself become more lightheaded by the second.

"Ephinyyyyy," she groaned as the warrior’s lips assaulted her nipples unmercifully. "Please make love to me. Please."

Ephiny pulled back and studied the beauty of her bard. She wanted to see the desire in the lovely woman’s face. "Yes my queen," she whispered affectionately, yet tinted with lust. "Anything for you."

CHAPTER IV

Solari was on her way from the mess hall when a sight made her drop her breakfast tray. She had heard the rumors about the night before. Without taking the time to organize a clear thought, she darted directly toward the queen’s hut.

"By the Gods!" she shouted. "Xena! Is it really you?!"

Xena smiled at the greeting. It was uncharacteristic of Solari to be that loud, deafening in fact.

"Yes Solari and now that you’ve woken up the entire village, I’d like to see Gabrielle." The warrior tried to push her way gently around Solari, but the amazon grabbed her by the arm.

"Oh come on. Let her sleep awhile longer," Solari insisted. "Tell me what happened. Where have you been?"

"Maybe later," Xena said lightly shrugging her off, finishing her journey into the hut.

Ephiny was in the middle of tugging her tunic on. Gabrielle, in typical fashion, was still sound asleep.

"What in the name of Hades is goin’ on here ?!" Xena shouted.

That got Gabrielle moving. "Huh?... What?... Xena!"

Xena looked a moment at Gabrielle’s naked body. Then she turned to Ephiny who was now fully dressed. She pulled her sword and pointed it at Ephiny. "Start talking," she ordered.

"It’s not what it looks like ... well not exactly... " Ephiny’s voice trailed off. "Please put the sword away, Xena. We can discuss this calmly and rationally. I didn’t hurt Gabrielle."

"Well, from the look of things I’d say that’s true," Xena sneered. "You probably made her feel pretty good."

"Really, Xena," Gabrielle insisted. "I’m okay. Ephiny didn’t force herself on me or anything."

"What are you saying, Gabrielle?" Xena insisted. "This was consensual?"

"Yes," the bard whispered. "I didn’t expect you back... unexpectedly... I figured I’d have a chance to discuss this with you."

"And what exactly is this?" Xena replied. She could feel her tears welling up in her eyes.

Gabrielle could feel Xena’s distress but she knew she had to answer., 

"Ephiny and I... we’re lovers."

Xena felt like she’d had the wind knocked out of her. 

"I can’t breathe," she whispered to Solari, who was standing beside her.

"Here," the raven-haired warrior said, guiding Xena. "You need to sit down."

Without thought, she pushed Solari away and limbered toward Ephiny.

"It’s not true, Xena," Ephiny replied, hold her hands in front of her defensively. "Gabrielle and I aren’t lovers."

"What?" the bard asked. "But last night –

"You fell asleep, Gabrielle. Too much wine at the festival last night, remember?"

"I did?" Gabrielle asked. Suddenly, she began to realize, she didn’t have any clear memory of love making. She asked Ephiny to make love to her. She knew that much. But she couldn’t piece together anything past that point. "Oh gods, I did! Ephiny, I’m so sorry."

"Sorry?!" Xena shouted. "You’re sorry?!"

Ephiny had to protect her queen. "That’s enough, Xena! I won’t have you treating the woman I love in this manner. You will go outside and wait for the queen’s arrival."

Xena looked shocked with her mouth hanging open. Finally, the realization that Ephiny was ordering her around sunk in. She was no longer shocked. She was angry.

"I will, huh?" the warrior replied, menacing closer and closer to Ephiny until they were inches apart. "I’ll tell you what I’ll do... I will break every bone in your skinny little amazon body. Then I will break each one again. Then again."

"Xena!" the queen yelled, pulling the warrior princess’ attention from Ephiny. "Go outside... I will be there shortly." When Xena didn’t move, Gabrielle knew she would have to be stricter. "Solari!" she ordered. "Please escort Xena to a nearby hut. Have a bath drawn for her and make sure she doesn’t leave until I’ve spoken with her."

Solari rolled her eyes in a ‘why me?’ gesture before moving behind Xena. 

"Please Xena," the dark-haired amazon begged. "Please come with me. I don’t want any trouble."

Xena turned and she saw the worry in Solari’s eyes. The young amazon didn’t deserve her fury and, quietly, she agreed. Without another word, Xena turned and Solari walked with her out of the hunt. The amazon guard, however, made sure to shoot a disgusted look at Ephiny and Gabrielle before her departure with Xena.

Ephiny and Gabrielle sat in silence until the blonde warrior spoke.

 "Looks like that answered some of our questions," she said dryly.

"And which ones would those be?" Gabrielle asked frustrated.

"Well, now we know how Xena would react and two... she’s very much in love with you."

Neither woman replied to the comments. And with each passing moment, Gabrielle realized she was postponing the inevitable.

CHAPTER V

Gabrielle peeked into the hut to see Xena lying back in the hot tub, arms extended, eyes closed.

"Xena?" she asked, unsure if the warrior was even awake.

"Yes Gabrielle," she replied, lifting her head and opening her eyes. "I guess you’re ready to talk now."

"Thank you for cooperating with Solari," Gabrielle began.

"You know I’m not one for idle chit-chat, so let’s get this over with."

Gabrielle had never seen Xena’s eyes so hollow. The blue that once reminded Gabrielle of a clear summer day now looked icy cold; unfeeling. She felt herself shiver.

"Okay," Gabrielle agreed. "What do you want to know?"

"How long?"

"How long what?" Gabrielle replied evasively.

Xena rolled her eyes. "I’m not going to play games. You know damn well what I'm asking. How long has this thing been going on with Ephiny?"

"Does that matter?" Gabrielle asked innocently.

"It does to me," Xena said, rising out of the tub. Gabrielle always admired Xena’s body, but since her exploits with Ephiny, she watched the warrior’s body in a new light. Gabrielle watched as Xena patted herself dry, all the while feeling herself grow wetter between her thighs. "Did you wait a few weeks or did you just drag her into your bed as soon as I left Arborea?"

Gabrielle’s admiration was cut short by the acidity in Xena’s voice.

"What?!" Gabrielle exclaimed. "How dare you?! How dare you?!" The bard began to pace whenever she was upset or confused. This was no different. "Look Xena, you’re supposed to be my best friend. I figured you would be happy that I found someone who loves me. You’ve told me before that all you cared about was my happiness. I didn’t expect the jealous lover bit, especially since we’re not lovers... What gives you the right to think I’d sit by and wait for your return?! It was WEEKS, no, it’s been MONTHS since I heard from you."

Xena got right up into Gabrielle’s face. "I spent MONTHS trying to get back here – back to you! We traveled much, much further than we planned. And once the job was finished I started on my way back here because ... "

The warriors voice trailed off and she walked over to get her robe. As she put it on, Gabrielle walked over to her. 

"Why, Xena?" she asked. "What caused you to come back?"

Xena couldn’t face her. Not like this. Not with the tears starting to cascade down her cheeks. 

"Just go," Xena muttered. "Ephiny’s waiting for you."

"Damn it, Xena!" the bard yelled, spinning the warrior around to face her. She saw the tears but she paid them no heed. "Tell me why?!"

"Because I love you!" The words came out angry and harsh. It was never this way when the warrior envisioned saying them. She knew the day would arrive sometime, but she imagined the tone would be soft and gentle. Mentally, she kicked herself at the outburst and hung her head low. 

"Oh Gods, Gabrielle... I’m sorry ... I should have told you sooner but... but it’s pointless now."

"You love me?" Gabrielle questioned. "Since when?’

"Does it matter?" Xena teased, going back to the start of the conversation.

Gabrielle smiled bitter-sweetly. "It does to me," she whispered.

"Why? You have Ephiny now... Ephiny." As the warrior uttered the amazons name, she heard the contempt in it. "I asked her to look out for you. To keep an eye on you... She’s very thorough - that’s for sure," Xena chuckled at the heartbreaking joke.

Gabrielle didn’t respond to Xena’s attempt at humor. She still had other concerns. 

"When?" she asked again, taking Xena’s hands in hers. "Please tell me when."

"Let’s just say this isn’t a recent revelation." Xena grinned. "I’ve known for quite a while. I didn’t want to lose you... so I never told you... funny... that’s exactly what’s happened anyway, isn’t it?"

Gabrielle wanted to cry. Her heart was being ripped to shreds. Although she never looked at Xena as a potential partner, she did love Xena deeply. Perhaps on some level more deeply than Ephiny, who she was prepared to make her lover. Gabrielle needed to clear her head and fast. Xena wasn't sure how many more tears she herself could hold, so she made her request of the bard.

"Gabrielle," she whispered. "Please go... It hurts too much to see you right now... Please go and I promise I’ll say goodbye before I leave."

The bard, was speechless. She simply rose and quickly darted from the hut. Leaving the warrior alone in her tears.

CHAPTER VI

Gabrielle took to the woods. Events from the last twenty-four hours flooded her mind – Ephiny’s delicate touches, Xena’s tear filled eyes. Each memory, each sensation was more troubling as she continued to walk.

"Where do you think you’re running to?" Gabrielle turned to meet the unfamiliar voice. "Running away won’t solve anything...  Besides no self respecting Queen of mine would ever run away."

"Artemis?" Gabrielle questioned.

"Looks like you got a really problem on your hands - two beautiful women, both willing to lay their lives down for you, if need be. All mortals should be so lucky."

Gabrielle shook her head while it hung low. "It’s not as appealing as it sounds... I never intended this to happen. I love them both Artemis... I truly do."

"This love business is far to complicated for me. Perhaps I should call ‘Dite and you two could chat."

Gabrielle grinned. "No disrespect but ‘Dite doesn’t know jack when it comes to love."

Artemis had to smile at her queen’s defiance. "I have to agree. She’s a bit shallow, but she’s all we got...  Well, except for Cupid. Good boy, but he tends to use his heart more than his head at times."

Gabrielle continued to grin. "I’ve met him and he seemed ‘down to earth’. But I don’t think even Cupid could help me now."

"You’re probably right," Artemis agreed. "But you have to do something. I know you love Ephiny. She’s a wonderful amazon. I’m very proud of the way she’s grown to be an outstanding woman... And Xena, well, Xena’s grown a lot too. She’s done so much good that, between you and me, she’s already won her place in Elysian...  She’s also won a place in your heart too, if I’m not mistaken."

Gabrielle could feel her frustration rising as her head started to shake. "What do I do?"

"Wait," Artemis insisted. "Let the fates decided which road you should take. If the warrior princess walks away, then let Ephiny be your partner in life. And if you feel compelled to leave with Xena again, do so and make it forever... The choice is yours Gabrielle. You’ll do what’s right when the time comes. So will they."

Gabrielle looked up to speak to Artemis but she had vanished. Gabrielle had her answer – useless as it was – she still had her answer. She headed back to the village. She needed to speak to Ephiny to tell her about Xena’s plans for departure.

Perhaps Artemis is right, Gabrielle told herself. Perhaps I’ll let the fates decided.

CHAPTER VII

When Gabrielle arrived at the village square she found a circle of amazons and loud shouting. Quickly, she scanned the area for Ephiny. When she didn’t find her, she pushed her way through the crowd. She froze when she spotted the source of the conflict.

"You’re challenging me!" Ephiny yelled.

"That’s right! What part of that didn’t you understand?!"

"You’re crazy Xena! Absolutely crazy! I will tear you limb from limb before I let you drag Gabrielle away from me again."

"I’ll take that as a yes then?!" the warrior princess pushed.

"You bet! Today when the sun is high meet me on the practice field and we’ll let Hades decide who gets Gabrielle’s hand!"

"Done!"

Xena stormed off with a group of amazons – her supporters, Gabrielle assumed. In a few heartbeats, Gabrielle’s racing mind gained enough control to walk to Ephiny. The warrior began to shake her head as Gabrielle approached.

"Don’t say it!" she shouted. "I’m not about to let her take you away!"

"It’s my decision of whether I stay or go," Gabrielle replied. "This stupid challenge isn’t going to do anything except get someone I love killed... perhaps both."

"It’s too late," Solari interrupted. "The challenge has been made and accepted. They must settle this today."

"Am I STILL the queen?" Gabrielle insisted. "Do I NOT have a say in what happens in this village?"

"Yes, you are the queen," Ephiny answered. "And no, you don’t have a say. One way or another, it ends today!"

Gabrielle was helpless to make any head way and she watched as Ephiny walked away, readying herself for battle.

CHAPTER VIII

"I thought you had decided to leave!" Gabrielle roared as she marched inside Xena’s hut. The warrior sat calmly, sharpening her sword.

"I changed my mind," the warrior replied casually.

"You changed your mind!?" Gabrielle asked. "What do you mean you changed your mind?"

"Like I said," Xena replied, stopping briefly before starting her stokes again.

"Why?" Gabrielle provoked. "Ephiny is your friend and you repay that friendship with a fight to the death."

"I’ve never walked away from a fight in my life," Xena answered. "If it’s a fight she wants, it’s a fight she’ll get!"

Gabrielle couldn’t believe what was happening. Fates or no fates, she couldn’t just sit by and let the two most important women in her life try to destroy each other, especially over her. But she realized that’s exactly what was happening, and according to amazon custom, there wasn’t anything she could do – queen or no queen.

"Please," Gabrielle whispered. She walked over and stroked Xena’s cheek to get her full attention. "I love you both. Don’t do this."

"I have to do this," Xena answered. She tried her best to look unaffected by the young woman’s touch.

"Why? Because of some stupid custom? Some ignorant warrior’s code?"

"No," Xena replied softly. "Because I can’t live without you. If I lose this contest then I lose my life. And that’s just fine with me... It’s been a long time coming actually. I couldn’t think of dying for a nobler cause."

"Oh, Xena." Gabrielle took the sword from the warrior and replacing her body in the location that the blade set moments before. She rested her cheek on Xena’s shoulder feeling the warmth escaping the warrior’s body.

"Do you love me Gabrielle?" the warrior asked leery of the bard's answer. "The way you love Ephiny?"

Gabrielle hadn’t considered her feelings. She didn’t have time.

When she woke up she was suddenly explaining her relationship with Ephiny to Xena. Then she was dealing with the warrior princess’ confession of love. Now she had to face a mortal combat that would take someone she loved to Elysian Fields and out of her life... DID she love Xena the way she loved Ephiny? She didn’t have time to analyze now – she could only react.

"No," she whispered. "I love you both deeply, but for different reasons... And I don’t want to lose either one of you."

"Different reasons?" Xena asked.

"Yes," Gabrielle replied. "You make me feel safe, protected... Ephiny makes me feel... aroused."

"So you never... desired me?" Xena asked.

Gabrielle blushed and refused to look up. "I didn't say that," she mumbled. 

Xena smiled and pulled Gabrielle far enough away so she could look at her, but close enough that she could feel the bards' labored breath tickle her cleavage.

"I’m sure I could arouse you if you give me the chance," Xena teased seductively. 

Without waiting for a response, Xena pulled Gabrielle’s lips to hers. All of her want, all of her desire flamed in the delicate kiss she placed on the bard. Xena’s hands gently captured Gabrielle’s head bringing her closer, taking them deeper into the kiss.

Gabrielle’s hands found a life of their own and caressed the warriors’ muscular thighs causing both women to sigh at the contact. Their lips broke free and Xena proceeded to nibble on Gabrielle’s exposed neck. The bard’s mind drifted further away with each sweeping move of the warrior’s tongue.

"I could take you to heights of pleasure you’ve never known. After all I have-."

"Many skills," Gabrielle whispered, finishing her sentence.

"See how well you know me," Xena observed as she began to suck on the bards earlobe. "Better than I know myself at times."

The delicious sensations the bard felt came to a stand still at the warriors words. That’s true, the bard reflected. She slowly pulled away and met Xena’s eyes.

"You’re right. I do know you... And I know you can’t kill Ephiny." She grinned. "You may think it’s the only way out, but it’s not. When the time comes Xena, do you really think you could be responsible for spilling her blood?"

Xena had to look away. She rose and re-sheathed her sword. "I’ll do what I have to do," she whispered.

"As will I," Gabrielle replied before making her way to the straw door. "See you on the practice field."

Xena watched as Gabrielle left without another word. The grin that played on the queen’s face wasn’t what she expected but she tried not to think about it. She had a foe to face and she’d be damned she’d let that young woman play tricks with her mind.

CHAPTER XI

Ephiny stood proud on top of the hill as Solari continued to try talking the regent out of the competition.

"Just listen to reason," Solari pushed.

"You’re not giving me a good reason," Ephiny countered. "You don’t know what it’s like to love like this and constantly have it taken away. Gabrielle will never leave this village as long as I breathe. And if she does, it will be over my dead body."

"I don’t know what it’s like to love like this?!" Solari countered. "Really?"

"Yes," Ephiny replied. "Really."

"Let me ask you a question, Ephiny. Do you know why I stayed on duty for three days and nights straight while you nursed that fever this winter? Do you know why I see that the land between the village and your son’s people is so protected? Do you know why I let you cry on my shoulder every time Gabrielle comes and goes out of your life?... Because I know what it’s like to love like this... I live it every day of my life... However, unlike your Gabrielle, you never leave. You continue to be a part of this village. So close to me and so far, far away."

Ephiny was speechless. She never would have guessed that Solari felt so strong – so much love – for her. She had always admired Solari since she came to the village, but Gabrielle had stolen that attention. "I never knew," Ephiny confessed in a whisper.

"I know," Solari said remorsefully. "And I understand your pain more than you realize."

Solari began to walk away as Xena made her way up the hill.

"Let’s get this show on the road," the warrior princess taunted. "Unless, of course, you’re not up for it."

Ephiny got her barring as she watched Solari take her place next to Gabrielle. She watched as the two women began to talk with each other. Suddenly, she heard Xena shouting.

"What?" Ephiny asked as she turned around.

"I said are we out here to settle this or are we just working on our tans?"

"Of course," Ephiny said pulling her sword and taking a defensive stance.

Xena’s menacing grin appeared. "Well, then ... "

Xena’s first blow was tremendous. She was strong. A lot stronger than any of the sparring the two friends engaged in. She knew Xena was out to win this competition and for as much as Ephiny believed she loved Gabrielle, she wondered if it was really worth it. She looked over and saw the pain in Solari’s eyes as the battle became more heated.

Xena was impressed. Ephiny was a strong opponent and much more difficult than she had imagined. So far she saw two advantages in the battle, but she didn’t press either one of them. Her heart was playing tricks on her mind – maybe Gabrielle was right. She couldn’t kill Ephiny, even though she convinced herself it was the ‘only’ thing to do.

They both pulled back and swung fiercely, knocking the swords from each others hands. On mere instinct, they reached for their breast daggers and clung to each other. Each warrior’s weapon poised at the others throats. The entire village sighed, knowing the simplest of swipes would leave the other defeated, the life force oozing from their neck. Seconds turned into minutes as each woman waited for the other to strike. Gabrielle and Solari both took shallow breaths waiting for the inevitable.

Ephiny watched as Xena’s dagger cascaded from her fingertips.

"Do it," Xena ordered softly. "I can’t be without her and I’ll never be with her if I take your life. She’d never forgive me... and I’d never forgive myself."

Ephiny pushed the warrior slightly away and raised her arm to strike the death blow. As swiftly as she raised her weapon, she dropped it, pulling the warrior into a tight embrace. A feeling of relieve and understanding washing over her.

It took Xena a few seconds, but she realized she wasn’t going to die. Ephiny wasn’t going to hurt her. In fact, she was hugging her and Xena returned the gesture. Both women could hear the happy sighs Solari and Gabrielle both emitted. Xena pulled back and started to make her departure from the village.

"Where do you think you’re going?" Ephiny asked.

"I’m leaving." Xena grinned, strictly for show. "You’ve won."

"Xena, please stay," Ephiny pleaded. "I think we need to talk."

Xena grinned. "What is it with women?" she asked. "All you ever wanna do is talk, talk, talk."

Ephiny returned the grin. "Yeah. But I think you’ll like this conversation," she added as she waved Xena toward her.

Solari and Gabrielle watched as the two female warriors walked down the hill, their arms wrapped tightly around each others' waist in comradery.

"Didn’t they just try to kill each other?" Gabrielle asked, slightly confused at the friendly gesture transpiring before her eyes.

"Yeah," Solari replied with a smile. "It’s a warrior thing Gabrielle. Don’t try to understand it or analyze it. Just let it be."

CHAPTER X

"Can I come in?" Gabrielle asked, peeking her head into Xena’s hut.

"You’re the queen," Xena teased. "You can go anywhere in this village you want to go."

Gabrielle smiled. "That’s true, but I’d never go anywhere that I’m unwanted."

"Believe me," Xena smiled. "You’ll always be wanted here... Have a seat."

Cautiously, she took a seat next to Xena on the bed. "Ephiny told me about the conversation the two of you had... She was concerned about how I was taking all this."

"Sounds like Ephiny... She’s a very touchy, feely type of amazon... Those kinds of warriors are hard to come by... I think she and Solari will make a beautiful couple."

A silence flooded the room until both women spoke the same words at the same time. "I’m sorry," they admitted in harmony, bringing a smile to their faces. 

"You first," Gabrielle insisted.

Xena took a deep breath. "Okay," she nodded. "I’m sorry for challenging Ephiny. I’m sorry for putting you through that. And I’m sorry I didn’t get word to you sooner about where I was during the mission... Oh yeah and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner how I really felt."

Gabrielle grinned. "Is that it? Please don’t stop. You’re on an uncharacteristic roll. Four whole sentences and more than four words each... I’m impressed."

"Wel, usually I can’t get a word in edge wise." Xena smirked. "Give me the chance, and you might find I could do a lot of talking."

"I’ll keep that in mind," Gabrielle playfully replied. "But I’m not going to make any promises."

Another silence filled the room again until Xena prodded. "And you?" she muttered, cueing the bard.

"I’m sorry that I didn’t consider your feelings more before I became involved with Ephiny. I mean I didn’t know your true feelings, but I should have given it more thought regardless. I’m sorry I didn’t realize just how much you cared, but I honestly never had a frame of reference... You know what I mean? . . Until Ephiny showed me it was possible to love another woman I never gave it much thought."

When Gabrielle didn’t continue Xena interjected. "Don’t be sorry for knowledge you didn’t have and please promise that, in the future, we’ll work out our problems together. I know happiness doesn’t last forever - there will be difficult times - but relationships can survive as long as there’s trust. You’ve taught me that."

Gabrielle placed her hand over Xena’s in an unspoken promise and soon after they locked fingers sealing the bond. 

"I do love you Xena," the bard whispered. "I feel safe, protected and now... without a doubt... aroused... when you’re near."

"So you liked that kiss, huh?" Xena teased.

"Oh yeah," Gabrielle replied breathlessly, making the warrior’s heart skip a beat. Since when did she sound so sensual.

So Ephiny gave her some knowledge, the warrior considered inwardly. Guess it’s up to me to finish the education. Xena’s fingertips traced Gabrielle’s cheekbones and the warrior found herself helpless to resist the sight of the young beauty before her. Gabrielle closed her eyes savoring the feel of Xena’s flesh touch hers so innocently, yet so seductively. It wasn’t overtly sexual, but Gabrielle could feel the light caresses rocking her to her core.

Xena thought her heart was about to explode. She loved Gabrielle deeply, more than even she realized. Being able to caress her and hold her in the flesh was greater than any fantasy her mind created.

 "Gods, how I’ve loved you," the warrior whispered.

Gabrielle melted into the words. The sparks Ephiny created in her was nothing compared to the effect Xena was having on her at this moment. She loved the way her skin tingled from the warriors' touch. And aside from the physical pleasure, her heart felt complete as well. Gabrielle loved Ephiny, and always would, but with Xena she had the feeling of ‘home’ – safety, contentment, peace. Ephiny brought out Gabrielle’s passion, but Xena ...  Xena gave her a sense of unity. Unity in her heart; in the world around her. And with the way the warriors' tongue tickled her shoulder blade, unity in her passion as well.

Gabrielle found her hands clutching the back of Xena’s head, silently begging for more stimulation from those skillful lips. Xena heard the moans and it took all her will power to get a grip. She didn’t want to rush things. Although they didn’t lead a ‘normal’ life by any standards, she wanted Gabrielle to feel ‘courted’. Lovingly; gently she placed a delicate kiss on the bards ruby lips. Reluctantly, she pulled away to meet the bards’ desire-filled yet questioning eyes.

"I think we should take things slow. If we keep this up, I can’t guarantee that I will stop." Xena grinned mischievously.

"Who said I want you to stop?" Gabrielle replied, pulling Xena’s lips to hers once more.

Xena again pulled back, holding the bard by her upper arms. "I’m serious," Xena whispered.

"So am I," Gabrielle replied.

Before she had a chance to react, Gabrielle had Xena pinned to the bed – all of her weight forced down upon the warrior. Xena put up a half-hearted refusal of about three seconds before letting the bard claim her lips, her body. Gabrielle could feel Xena’s gorgeous body through the light cotton shift. Slowly, she stroked Xena’s peaks and valleys through the thin material.

Emitting a small moan in anticipation, Gabrielle’s lips seized Xena’s nipple, soaking the fiber until felt non-existent. Knowing she was still dressed yet feeling totally naked excited the warrior to no end. Gabrielle’s ears rejoiced at the sound of the warrior’s strained cries of building satisfaction.

"That’s it," Gabrielle said straddling Xena’s hips, her fingers playing with the wet nipple. "You’re lovin’ this aren’t cha’?" she teased seductively. "Your want for me is overflowing, isn’t it?"

By the gods, Xena’s mind raced. She’s going kill me. That voice. Those lips. These fingers. Oh yes... I know where to put these fingers.

Without further, hesitation Xena gripped Gabrielle’s hand driving it toward and finally into her sex. She whimpered as the bard withdrew and she opened her eyes. Suddenly, she felt Gabrielle return, high and deep forcing her eyes shut again. Soon, Gabrielle had a steady rhythm building and quickening.

The bard felt herself moving faster and faster, matching the warrior’s hips thrusts. Xena’s body was still somewhat of a mystery and Gabrielle wanted to see all of her. Xena groaned as Gabrielle pulled out before the task was finished.

"I need to see your body move. I’ve watched those muscles working in the heat of battle so many times, Xena. I need to see them in the heat of passion." As Gabrielle reached for the shift Xena helped, pulling it off in one fluid movement. Staring at Xena’s nakedness, Gabrielle couldn’t hide her arousal, "Gods you truly are beautiful."

Gabrielle gently pushed Xena back to the bed as the warrior reached to pull Gabrielle’s clothing off as well. "No," Gabrielle ordered in a whisper. "I want you to see this amazon loving you. I want you totally vulnerable, totally exposed. In due time, I promise I’ll join you but... for now... you WILL give yourself to me."

Xena shuttered - not in fear, but in desire. The idea of letting go, giving Gabrielle total control, was foreign to her, but she loved the feelings it invoked – trust, commitment perhaps on some level, even a tinge of uncertainty. She knew that Gabrielle would never hurt her intentionally, but the knowledge of the unexpected had its amorous side effects.

Gabrielle’s hands were so soft; so gentle in their caresses. Xena ached as Gabrielle continued to tickle and kneed her flesh. Up her sides; over her breast; down her legs. Xena simply closed her eyes, letting the sensations wash over her skin, imbedding them into her soul. Gabrielle soon replaced her hands and fingertips with her lips and tongue. When the amazon queen brushed her mouth over the warriors' clit, the warriors hips thrust up uncontrollably, searching for the mouth again.

"You liked that?" Gabrielle asked seductively, not the least bit shy.

Xena’s reply was raw and husky. "Yes."

Without further torture of words or teasing, Gabrielle offered her mouth again. This time she let her tongue bat at the nub of nerves with quick feathery strokes. Xena’s moans deepened as her hips set a rhythm with the bards tongue. Gabrielle loved the feel of being in control, the passionate aggressor.

She lapped greedily, which brought an even greater wetness in the warrior. ‘All the more to feast on’, the bard thought merrily. And feast, she would. She loved the taste of the warrior. Being a women who loved to delight her palette, this was Elysia for Gabrielle. She had never had anything so tasty on her lips. She found her tongue searching deep inside the warrior, striving for more of the delectable treat.

The bard’s greed to get at her juices was driving Xena mad with desire. And the noises the woman made from between her legs – the ‘umms’ of satisfaction – pushed Xena closer to the pinnacle. The warrior felt the building and building. She gripped Gabrielle by the back of the head, driving the young amazon forceful against her as her orgasm claimed her body.

"Oh gods, Gabrielle ... "

There was so much she wanted to tell the bard; to share with her. But her vocal cords wouldn’t allow it. Her cry of pleasure was already so strangled it was barely understandable. The bard, however, understood it. She rode with Xena until the waves began to calm. Finally, when Xena stilled the bard only then removed her mouth to speak.

"Well, my warrior princess-."

The bard didn’t have the chance to finish. Xena gripped her by the forearms. In one swift pull, the bard was lying on top of the warrior face to face. A second later, she was on her back as the warrior ripped her skirt free. The sound of fabric tearing and the determined look of her warrior created a river between the bard’s legs.

Suddenly, the warrior pulled back, trying to steady her breathing.

 "I’m sorry. I should take things slow and gentle."

Gabrielle grinned and pulled Xena’s lips to hers, the force bruised their lips. The bards fingers buried and tugged harshly on the warriors’ long dark tresses. "Don’t be sorry," Gabrielle reassured. "I’m not."

Xena could literally feel her jaw drop as Gabrielle tore the armor away from her amazon queen tunic. She threw it across the room, knocking down a wicker chair. 

"Rip it off," Gabrielle whispered to Xena, as she offered the material to her. "Take me."

Xena was bound to do her queen’s bidding. In one easy heave and tug, the garment split down the middle, exposing Gabrielle’s firm breasts. The bard sighed passionately once she was free of her clothing. Xena let a lazy hand work it’s way over Gabrielle’s side. The bard, however, had immediate needs. Authoritatively, she grabbed Xena’s hand and forced the warriors' fingers deep inside her. She groaned long and hard at the feel of Xena filling her. With her free hand, she gripped the back of Xena’s head, ordering the warrior’s mouth to take her nipples. Xena complied completely and without question.

The warrior could feel her arousal begin all over again – with her drenched fingers buried deep in her bard, her mouth nipping and pulling on the now rock hard nipple – all she could do was moan her joy of the situation. As if these sensations weren’t enough, Xena soon had to contend with the bard’s voice as well.

"Yes. Faster," Gabrielle coached. "Harder. Do it harder, Xena."

Xena couldn’t stand it any longer. She needed Gabrielle to stroke her. She shifted her body so she could still administer to Gabrielle’s wishes, yet close enough to fulfill her own need. She pushed the bards' fingers deep inside her own throbbing sex.

"Oh yes," they said in unison at the contact.

Both bodies bucked and arched in time. Both sets of fingers striving for the ultimate pleasure of the other partner. In time, they moved, like perfect dance partners, knowing which way the other would turn or sway. They rocked and hit a fever pitch, sweat pouring from both of them, their muscles glisten in physical satisfaction. But soon muscles contracted and both women could feel the other tighten and release; tighten and release. Both of their names hit the air at the same time, until finally both heads collapsed on the pillow at the same time.

Eyes met for long moments, but neither woman said a word nor moved, except for strong hands lightly caressing wet skin. Finally, Xena offered her arms which the bard eagerly took. She snuggled into the warrior’s shoulder without comment, feeling the large arm muscle securing her back as they settled into sleep. Only the morning sun shinning through the tiny cracks in the straw hut woke them.

 

EPILOGUE

The following morning the amazons said goodbye to their queen once again. Ephiny and Solari watched arm-in-arm until Xena and Gabrielle were out of sight. The regent walked back to her village with her would-be consort on her arm. She ruled for many moons with occasional visits from Gabrielle and Xena.

Years later, the duo finally returned for good. Cyrene had died two years prior and Xena no longer felt bonded to Amphipolis. Her once raven hair was now salt and pepper and all the years of battle had taken their toll on her joints and muscles. Mounting Argo was even becoming a chore.

It wasn’t until a conflict with raiders in a back-woods town that the bard convinced Xena they should leave the dangers of the road. It was only three men Xena faced, but the warrior almost lost her life to her own chakram. If it wasn’t for the bards' quick timing in catching the disc, the warrior would have been decapitated by her own weapon. Xena could finally see the bards' concern with her loss of concentration and reflexes.

So for Gabrielle, her Gabrielle, they decided to go ‘home’ to the amazons for good. They were welcome with open arms. Gabrielle worked happily documenting all their journeys and Xena felt an inner peace training the young amazons the finer points in combat (with the rule of course that they couldn’t beat up the instructor – Regent Ephiny’s orders). The aged warrior felt that passing down what she learned would preserve her ‘family’ as well as keep the world safe long after she was gone.

And the day did come when she was gone. The winter before though, Gabrielle caught a fever and didn’t lose it. Xena stayed up day and night trying to make the bard as comfortable as possible. One evening, as the bard was sweating, she asked Xena to come to bed and hold her. She fell asleep in Xena’s arms that night... She never woke up again. 

For months after Gabrielle’s death, Xena would remember the bards' last words. As Xena held her that dreadful night she whispered, ‘You kept your promise’. It wasn’t until weeks later that the warrior knew what it meant. She promised Gabrielle she would never die on her again... And the warrior kept her promise.

Some amazons said Xena caught the lingering illness Gabrielle had. Others say the warrior was poisoned by an old enemy one night. But, in any case, the warrior died two seasons later - in the summer. Ephiny, however, knew the real reason.

Although Xena’s heart continued to beat and her blood flowed through her veins, she died that night too in Gabrielle’s arms. It just took her body longer to catch up to her heart and her soul. She wondered if Xena found her place in Elysia. She didn’t know what the warrior’s fate was, but she prayed every night to Hades that he had made the ‘right’ decision. She prayed that her friends would never be parted again.

The End
 
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