Author: ArdentTly
Story Title: Hearts Lost - Hearts Inflamed
Characters: Xena/Gabrielle, Ephiny/f (Kestra), Ephiny & Phantes, Xena/Gabrielle/Ephiny/f (Kestra), Gabrielle/Ephiny, Solari/Eponin
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Xena and Gabrielle spend some quality time with the Amazons. Sequel to A Journey of Love and Ardent Warrior...Passionate Bard...Jealous Queen.
This rating is for explicit f/f sex.

Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Ephiny, Eponin, Solari, etc. all belong to Renaissance Pictures and Studios USA. I have no authority to borrow them, but I promise no harm will come to them and I will put them back.

Yup, you bet. My stories are all written with the understanding that these two women love each other and frequently act on this love physically. More than once. OK, often. If you don't like lesbian sex or depictions of same in fanfic then please look elsewhere. If you are under 18 please do me a big favour and leave NOW. Wait until you are older...this stuff will be around then, too. And remember, it's all done in good fun.

Final Disclaimer: I never know where these stories will take me. This one is a continuation of my other two stories: A Journey of Love and Ardent Warrior...Passionate Bard...Jealous Queen. I guess they can stand on their own but hey, if only to see (hopefully) how much I am improving, read 'em.

You can find more work by ArdentTly at Mary D's The Bard's Corner.

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Hearts Lost - Hearts Inflamed
by ArdentTly

Chapter One

Ephiny lay in bed, the blankets covering her from the ribs down. The blankets seemed to have a life of their own - a certain bobbing action was currently taking place. The Regent moaned and stroked the area between her legs. The bobbing continued.

Two tanned hands snaked out from under the covers and tweaked Ephiny's breasts. The Regent's breathing started to resemble an iron-smith's bellows. The woman thrashed her head back and forth on the pillow, both of her hands holding the lump between her legs.

The lump became Kestra. She moved quickly up between her lover's legs so that her fingers were deep inside the woman and her pubic bone was directly behind, adding force to thrust

"Oh gods, oh gods.....Ahhhh, yes!" screamed Ephiny as she claimed her lover's shoulder with her teeth. Kestra slowed a little until her lover's shudders had all but faded away. Then she began thrusting again, slowly but deeply. She claimed Ephiny's mouth with her own as she massaged one breast.

Eponin paced quickly outside the Regent's hut. She had both ears plugged with her fingers in an effort to close out the passionate sounds coming from within.

Ephiny's voice became high in pitch. With one last thrust she was washed away by the most blissful orgasm she had ever experienced. Well, today, anyway.

Eponin suddenly stopped pacing. She gingerly took out one finger. All was quiet. Hmmm, that could sure change in a hurry, though. She listened. With a deep sigh she walked over to the bench outside the Regent's hut and flopped down. She was miserable. How did she get talked into this 'mission' in the first place?, she wondered. What you'll do for friends!

Kestra began kissing the Regents hands. She sucked on each finger tenderly. She drew three of them together and pushed them into her wet mouth. Ephiny groaned at the sight. Then Kestra removed them and placed them deep into her self. She straddled Ephiny's legs and positioned herself so that the Regent had access to her glistening breasts. Ephiny happily complied, taking each nipple inside her mouth and pulling at them. Kestra held onto her lover's shoulders as Ephiny positioned her fingers underneath. She held them still as Kestra pumped up and down, slowly fucking herself into a frenzy.

Both women had a dazed look in their eyes. They had been making love for hours. They just couldn't get enough of each other. It had been a night of discovery for both of them.

Kestra had not been able to share intimacies with anyone since the death of Patra. Ephiny had had very few lovers after Phantes was killed and was not comfortable in any long-term relationship. She had tried to distance herself from her emotional side, preferring to immerse herself in the political side of her regency. It had kept her busy but was emotionally unfulfilling.

The past couple of years had been very hard for Ephiny. She saw a young girl from Poteidaia blossom into a lovely confident woman. It had brought tears to her eyes when she saw how the woman had gazed lovingly into the deadly blue eyes of the Warrior Princess. She'd fantasized that maybe one day Gabrielle would come to feel that way about her.

Why couldn't she get over Phantes and move on? She'd felt so happy when Kestra had kissed her. After a full night of loving, Ephiny was completely satiated. She really didn't have anything to complain about. No sirree. But there did seem to be something missing.

The two women complimented each other sexually; there was no problem there. Both were very physical, demanding, energetic and inventive. Both gleaned as much pleasure in the giving as in the receiving. It was a very sexually fulfilling relationship. But still...

Ephiny tried to think back upon her childhood in the village. Was there a solution to why she was so hard to please? Was she unrealistic in her wants and desires? Maybe her sights were too high.

Chapter Two

Ephiny had been a wild child, growing up in a loving house hold with a very attentive mother and aunt. It was a 'normal' Amazon upbringing - just one big happy family. Each adult acted as a surrogate mother so that all the children felt loved and cared for by the whole village.

No subject was taboo, and no curiousity was frowned upon in Amazon society.

There were great works of literature in the village's library. Each child had to learn how to read and write as well as learning woods lore and the use of weapons. They were taught how to cook, make a smokeless fire, use certain herbs for healing and where to inflict the most pain on an enemy. It was a very well-rounded education and had stood the nation in good stead.

Ephiny had fallen in love with Phantes during the war between the Amazon's and the Centaurs. She hadn't meant to. She was certainly not looking for love. And certainly not with a hated enemy.

He had come upon her in the forest. She lay wounded, an arrow protruding from her left thigh. She had dragged herself over to a tree and clutched her knife before her, daring anyone to come closer.

She had lost a lot of blood and was weakening by the moment. Phantes had waited until she was unconscious before picking her up and carrying her deep into the forest.

It had been something about her eyes, he'd told her later. She'd had the look of a beautiful deer caught in a trap. She had been so brave, keeping her enemy at bay with a simple dagger. It became apparent to all who came upon her that she was just too much trouble to bother with. There were easier pickings elsewhere.

When she had come to, she was wrapped in a blanket under a makeshift lean-to. A figure stood by the fire, his back to the woman. She had tried to get up but a small groan had alerted her captor. He approached cautiously, hands up in supplication. He had knelt down and they had spent the evening just watching each other.

He had removed the arrow, cleansed and bound the wound and had made a tasty supper besides. As the evening progressed, both warriors made small attempts at conversation. The more they talked the easier it became.

Ephiny had never before experienced the emotions she had for Phantes. Her heart was so full of love and desire for him. Both knew their love would be frowned upon but it didn't stop them.

It wasn't too long into her pregnancy that both felt they had to get away and make a life for themselves elsewhere. It was too hard seeing each other every now and again. Their trysts became very stressful as both knew they were being watched. It saddened them both when they finally decided to leave their families and homes for Athens.

Looking back, Ephiny truly believed it had been the only solution they could have made. That it had resulted in her mates' death broke the woman's heart into a million jagged pieces. She thought she would never have those feelings again.

Chapter Three

Eponin slowly made her way towards the dining hut. Well, she thought, might as well get it over with. She sighed and ran a hand through her dark hair. She tried very hard to calm her wildly beating heart. Whew! Listening to those two in the repeated throws of passion was enough to make her drag anyone into the bushes and ravish them. Repeatedly.

As she entered the hut it was not hard to pick out the loan figure at the back. Solari miserably poked her bowl of oatmeal. Her blond hair hung in tangles and the woman didn't look like she'd slept in days.

She barely looked up as Eponin took a seat beside her. The usually gruff weapon's master really felt badly for her friend. She draped on arm around the woman's shoulders and briskly gave her a hug. In a camaraderie sort of way, of course. She had a reputation to protect, after all.

Red rimmed eyes looked over at Eponin, a silent question asked. The look on her friends' face told volumes. Solari really didn't want to go there. But, well...she still held out hope that Kestra was just a passing fling for Ephiny and that the woman would move onto someone else. Damn, but it had been so hard to see them together! If only....she thought for the millionth time.

Solari had worshipped the Regent from afar for what seemed like forever. She didn't entertain any delusions about being able to win Ephiny's heart with beauty or battle prowess. No, she was rather average, as Amazons went.

Sure, Ephiny had always been courteous and had been friendly with all of her sisters. Everyone knew they could approach her for any problems. Many had. Everyone had the utmost respect for the Regent. What little rumours there were centered on how lonely the woman was. Ephiny had had very few lovers over the years. And none since she'd become Regent.

Solari just couldn't approach Ephiny about how she felt. When she'd seen her reaction to Kestra mooning over Xena, it was like a nasty slap in her face. It had broken her heart to see the pain written on the Regent's face. Part of her was happy that Ephiny had found someone and had a smile back on her face. She wanted her to be happy. She just wished that the smiles were directed towards her instead.

"Okay, Ep. Spill it. But please, don't get graphic on me. I don't think I could....take it...right now."

Eponin drummed her fingers on the table. What to say, she thought. If she told the truth her friend might harm herself. If she lied...well, lies had a way of coming back and biting a person in the butt. No matter how careful they were. She had to find a middle ground.

"Um, Solari. I really feel uncomfortable about this. I mean, I really felt, well kinda like a Peeping Tom, ya know?" She paused but saw the look on Solari's face and continued."Ok, Ok. Yeah, they were making it, ok. Is that what you want to hear! Don't look at me like that, Ari. Geez. You did ask me, right? I won't lie to ya."

"Ep, I'm sorry. I really shouldn't have asked you to do that. I know you and Eph are friends and you feel uncomfortable. I just...well, I need to know if there's a chance for me. I won't let another one pass me by, believe me."

"Look, Solari. I don't know much about love. I mean, I know its out there, but I've never experienced it for myself. But it seems to me that ya should, you know, tell her. I mean, maybe if she knew how ya felt and all...." Solari didn't say anything. She just sat, looking thoughtful.

After waiting a few minutes, Eponin decided that she'd lost her appetite. She patted her friend's hand and got up to leave. Maybe she could interest Xena is some drills. Those two hadn't been seen since last night either. She hesitated about approaching their hut. She really didn't need another lesson on the different sounds a person could make while 'doing it'.

She got closer to their hut. She looked around. Hmm. Everything looked normal. She could hear the two women talking. Well, that was a good sign. She straightened her leathers and bravely strode forth.

She was about to clear her throat when she heard Gabrielle gasp. And Xena moan. Ooops! She quickly pivoted on her heel and headed in the opposite direction. The poor woman spent the next three candlemarks engaged in very strenuous combat drills. She just seemed to be looking for a fight. Funny how frustration does that to a person.

Chapter Four

Gabrielle hugged her body to Xena in exhaustion, her hair matted and damp with sweat. Xena had her pinned against one wall of the hut, the woman's legs wrapped around her torso. She kissed the bard's nose as she fondled the perfect flesh of her lover's buttocks.

"No. No more, Xena. Please, love...can't we, you know, just snuggle for awhile? I mean, I'm really exhausted, ya know? Its been a long night, love." She yawned and nuzzled her lover's neck.

Xena stepped back and let Gabrielle's legs touch the ground before sweeping her up into strong arms and carrying her over to the bed.

As they lay holding each other, Gabrielle caught her lover's chin and looked deeply into her eyes. "I love you so much." she said earnestly. "Ditto." the warrior replied, planting a light kiss on the bard's lips. Gabrielle sighed contentedly and cuddled closer.

"I wonder how Eph and Kes are doing?" pondered the bard. Xena chuckled softly. She tickled the bard's chin. "Guess you were too busy to notice the screams of passion. Other than mine, that is."

Gabrielle snorted. " Oh, I noticed. I never thought that Ephiny was the vocal type. I mean, my ears are still ringing!"

"Yeah. I guess still waters do run deep. She always seems so...well, reserved. Its kind of shocking to find a veritable volcano lurking just below her surface. She is...a very passionate person, huh?" Xena looked at her bard quizzically.

Gabrielle arched both eyebrows. "Why are you looking at me? Believe me, I've never been on the receiving end of any passionate looks let alone anything else. How would I know?"

"Hey, I've seen the way she looks at you, that's all. I mean, you are a very beautiful woman, Gabrielle." She took a deep breath. "Ok, ok, so I'm a bit jealous."

"No reason to be, love. You have my heart. Only you." And with that, she kissed her warrior deeply. They rubbed foreheads first and then noses. Gabrielle's tummy began to rumble.

"Hmm. I think that voracious appetite of yours wants to be fed. Up, bard. Let's go get washed and see about getting some breakfast. Maybe Eph and Kestra will be there and we can sit and get caught up." said Xena, as she rolled over to sit up at the side of the bed.

"Hey, come on." She caressed the bard's shoulder, seeing the woman was snuggling back under the covers

"Up, love. Let's have a quick bath and get this day started. Gods knows, its almost half gone now."

Gabrielle gave a pouty look but got up, throwing the blanket on the floor. Soon both women were up to their necks in cold bath water. Xena had a contented smile on her face as her lover carefully washed her hair.

Then it was Gabrielle's turn. She leaned back into Xena's chest and sighed. "How could I have possibly been happy before this?" she wondered.

Xena chucked. "Ya mean you're totally, absolutely happy?" Gabrielle turned and wrapped her arms around the warrior and hugged her hard. "Yup. Completely." They exchanged sweet kisses that soon became more passionate.

They never made it to breakfast.

Kestra sauntered over to the dining hut. Solari was still brooding at the back table. Her eyes shot daggers at the woman. Kestra ignored the looks and piled food onto a tray. She picked a table close to the back and sat down.

An uncomfortable silence descended on the room. Most of the Amazons present discovered they had urgent business elsewhere and the others, well, they made no excuses, they just bolted. Soon the two women were alone.

Solari got to her feet and stalked over to where the other woman sat, her hands clenched at her sides.

"I hope you know just how lucky you are to have Ephiny. I've seen how she looks at you. Do you love her?" No answer. "You'll break her heart if you don't. You'd better not hurt her, Kestra. You won't be able to hide from me then." The threat hung heavily in the air.

Kestra said nothing, merely shrugged her shoulders and began to eat. Solari stormed out and made for the practice field. She knew it was the best place to work off her anger. She just hoped she didn't end up hurting any of her combatants too much.

Kestra sat, elbows on the table, pondering Solari's words. She thought of the love making she and her new lover shared in the past 18 hours. It seemed as if a dam had been broken for both of them. She knew how unhappy the Regent had been. She was pleased she could put a smile on the woman's face.

How did she feel about her, though. She absently picked at her food. She was honoured that someone could feel love towards her. The last person had been Patra. They had given each other their heart, body and soul. Kestra sighed.

She honestly didn't think she could ever do that again. It had been too hard to watch Patra being raped and killed while she tried to fight off the attackers. After she had inflicted too many injuries they had fled, taking their wounded with them. Leaving a very broken and distraught Kestra to hold her lover in her arms until she died. As Patra gasped out her last breath, Kestra had kissed her, knowing that part of her own soul had died along with her.

Kestra knew she'd have to make Ephiny understand that while she did love her, it would never be with all of her heart. It would be a painful conversation; she hated the thought of hurting Ephiny.

Ephiny slowly pulled on her clothes and sat at the edge of her bed. She should be feeling happy but instead was feeling...sad. Although she enjoyed being with Kestra and really wanted the woman in her life she had some doubts that Kestra felt the same way.

To be honest, Ephiny knew she would never feel the same way towards anyone as she did for Phantes. The love she now felt was different. It made her happy and she hadn't felt wanted for a very long time. She desperately needed someone to share her life. She wanted it to be Kestra. She had felt something the first time the woman had looked into her eyes.

There was such sorrow in those grey flinty eyes. She longed to take the woman in her arms and sooth the pain all away. She felt her passion rekindled, even after the sexual marathon they'd just had.

They seemed to compliment each other sexually so well. Each took pleasure in giving ecstasy that sometimes it seemed a battle of will as to who could give the most pleasure. Kestra seemed insatiable and after such a long drought in her own love life, Ephiny was happy to comply. Never had she experienced such earth shattering orgasms. The love between two women was just so pure and emotional. It compared to nothing else Ephiny had ever experienced.

She decided a long talk with Gabrielle was in order. Surely they'd be up having breakfast by now.

Deep in thought, Ephiny barely knocked on the doorway to the visitor's hut before entering.

Xena looked up from between Gabrielle's legs, one eyebrow arched. Quickly covering her breasts with her hands, the bard cleared her throat. "Um, Ephiny? Ah, could you, um...come back later?" she tried. When she got no answer she looked over at Xena with a frown.

Xena wiped her mouth and sat up. "Come on in, Eph, and grab a chair. Don't mind us." she said with a smirk.

Gabrielle hid her face in her hands and groaned. She quickly got up and retrieved the crumpled blanket and jumped back into bed. Her face was very red as she pulled the blanket over her head. "Oh Gods." she murmured, totally embarrassed.

Ephiny absent mindedly lowered herself into the proffered chair and gazed blankly at the wall. Xena gave the bard a worried look and sat up. She scrunched her eyebrows together. What, trouble in paradise already, she wondered. "So Eph. What's up?" she tried. The Regent looked up in surprise, taking in the scene before her. A very naked warrior was walking towards her! Where to look, where *not* to look she thought frantically.

"Oh geez. I'm so were...busy...and I.." she stammered. "I'll, um,come back...later. Yeah, gee...later." She got up to leave, averting her eyes from the goddess before her. Xena placed one hand on the woman's shoulder and lifted Ephiny's chin. Xena's smile seemed to freeze any thought from the Regent's mind.

She felt entranced as soon as those cobalt blue eyes looked into her own. She gulped and stood mezmerized. Gabrielle appeared at her shoulder and placed a hand at the Regent's waist. "Eph? Ephiny, breathe."

It was all too much for the poor woman as her mind went into sensory overload. She mumbled something incoherently as the colour drained from her face. Her eyes took on a glassy look as her mouth hung open. She blinked rapidly.

Xena chuckled and picked the woman up and brought her to the bed. "Um, Gabrielle? Why don't I go and find Kestra and see what's going on." She began to dress quickly and walked over to the bath. She squeezed the excess water out of her hair after dunking her head into the water. She gave her lover a half smile. "And Gabrielle, get dressed, huh? I think you're state of undress is distracting our friend."

"And being 'exposed' to the many charms of Xena, Warrior Babe had nothing to do with the state she's in now, huh?" snorted the bard looking for her clothing. "Ya know, I've heard this about your...many skills...but, wow, I've never seen them in action before. No wonder you're considered a dangerous woman, even without weapons!" Xena tried not to blush but it was a losing battle. The bard grinned and kissed her chin.

"Hey, when you find out what's up with Eph tell her I didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable. I mean, she did walk in during...well, the throws of passion. Its not my fault if she's receiving the left over vibes." She blew her lover a kiss and went off in search of Kestra, a frown replacing the smirk as soon as she left the hut.

She had never seen the Regent look so...unnerved. She had quite a few questions and Kestra was going to answer them all.

Chapter Five

Ephiny slowly sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. A crimson blush covered her face and her heart beat wildly. Not knowing where to look while Gabrielle dressed, she cast her eyes to the floor.

'My gods', she thought. 'What must they think of me!', she wondered for the fifth time. The whole embarrassing scene just kept replaying itself over and over in her mind. And the sight of what Xena had been doing....! The blush deepened.

She still felt the cloying tentacles of sexual desire wafting over her. Xena just seemed to ooze sexual magnetism from every pore. Gabrielle's sexuality had always been somewhat of an enigma. She was an unknown quantity to those who lived in the village. Most of them had seen her grow from a brash, young, impetuous girl to a radiant and confident woman right before their very eyes.

Everyone knew she had been married for a short time. Few of the Amazons, however, were privy to the information that nothing had happened on the wedding night and that Gabrielle had still been a virgin. This latest visit to their village had finally dispelled any questions as to her relationship with the warrior princess. Many had assumed this relationship had been consummated long ago. Only Ephiny had shared the woman's secrets regarding that encounter.

Ephiny had noticed something right away when the two had first arrived. There seemed to be an aura around the two and it fairly bristled with electricity. Try as they could, the two just couldn't keep their hands off each other.

Gabrielle was simply Gabrielle when she was away from Xena. She had always been a very tactile person; simple emotions were to be expressed whenever and wherever they occurred. This had made things a little difficult for the warrior at first, Ephiny knew. The stoic woman tried very hard to keep her chiselled features completely devoid of any emotions. Judging Xena's current response to said emotions, it was evident the bard had finally broken down the barriers. Ephiny was a little surprised but glad, nevertheless.

When the two women got together, however, the combined intensity of their sexuality was so prevalent one could cut it with a knife. The Regent had only been on the receiving end of the aftermath of such an encounter. She rolled her eyes and drew a deep breath just thinking about what it would actually be like to be on the receiving end of Xena's burning blue eyes or the bard's smoldering green ones.

Finally dressed, Gabrielle turned around and gazed fondly at her friend, who for some reason, couldn't bring herself to look her in the eye. She walked over and sat down next to the Regent. She took her hand and patted it.

"Are you okay, Eph? I'm, well, I'm sorry you caught us....well...busy. I guess we didn't hear you knock." Now Gabrielle looked rather flushed and embarrassed.

Friends could share secrets and such, but sharing such an intimate moment was....well, rather unsettling. Exciting in a way, yes...but....

Seeing that the bard was just as embarrassed about the whole incident took the tension down a notch or two. The two women slowly smiled at each other, their awkwardness slipping away. They embraced and soon were giggling. Then, after another hug, Gabrielle broached the subject of Kestra.

It was a full candlemark later when Gabrielle felt she'd gleaned all the information needed from her friend. She knew in her heart that if something ever happened to her warrior that she'd never love again. She sympathized easily with the Regent and hugged her close.

"Well, Eph. I know its not the same kind of love...but you do have a sparkle in your eyes when you talk about her. Does she know you have reservations about it? You have to tell her. And talking about it with her is the first step in resolving the tension between you."

Ephiny sniffled and wiped her eyes on the back of her hand. She knew her friend was right. She just hoped that what she had to say to Kestra didn't hurt her any more than the poor woman had been.

A wave of intense emotions played across her face. Her eyes drew wide and she smiled.

"It must be love. I haven't felt such empathy for another person's sorrow for a long time. I care for our sisters, Gabrielle, but this is so much more intense, more meaningful. You're right. Thank you, my friend. Let's go find Kestra."

Gabrielle talked her out of that because she knew Xena was off sorting whatever was going on with Kestra. She manoeuvred the Regent over to the dining hut on the pretense that they both needed sustenance if only to keep up with their lovers. Both giggled at this but also knew it to be true. Just the mere thought made both women arch their eyebrows in anticipation of the lovemaking to come.

Eponin and Solari both sat outside the healer's hut, fresh wounds evident on both women. They sat, knees touching , as they commiserated with each other. Mind you, they took some personal pride in the fact that the reason they were still outside was that the hut was filled to capacity with their combatants.The way things were going, they'd have to stitch each other up. And probably do a better job, too.

Listening to the groans and moans coming from within had the two poking each other in the ribs quite a few times and snorting. Eponin made the mistake of comparing the noises to those she overheard from the visitor's hut. Not noticing the hurt look on Solari's face, she went on about what she figured the two had been doing, the positions, etc.

She finally glanced up when nothing was forthcoming from the woman. She blanched at the hurt expression on Solari's face and kicked herself a few times mentally. How could she be so insensitive to her best friend.

A tear trickled down from Solari's eye. She looked very embarrassed when she began to reciprocate her friend's hasty hug. They both looked very awkward, not being the openly demonstrative type. Nadri, the healer, took that moment to poke her head out the doorway, catching the women in an embrace.

"Hey, get a room, will ya? You can kiss each other's boo boo's somewhere's else, right?"

Eponin stood up and glared at the woman. Solari just burst into tears. Nadri gave them both a dirty look and went back to work, patching foolish Amazons who should know better than tangle with these two.

Eponin took her friend back to her hut, daring anyone to look in their direction. People positively jumped out of her way, scrambling to avoid her icy stare.

Chapter Six

Xena stopped by the stable to check on Argo before heading out to the practice field in search of the elusive Kestra. Argo lifted her head and snorted her greeting. She looked quite content, munching her hay. By the looks of things someone had already groomed and fed her. Xena was rather surprised at this: no one touched her horse without prior permission. Who ever 'they' were had done an excellent job, though. Xena left, scratching her head.

On her way to the field, the warrior saw Eponin taking Solari down towards her hut. Solari looked quite upset. The weapon's master caught Xena's eye and motioned her closer.

"Ah Xena? You got a minute? I need some...advice on...something. Ya mind?"

Xena arched an eyebrow. Eponin looked decidedly awkward. And Solari never even tried to get herself under some kind of control, openly weeping against her friends' shoulder.

"Well, Eponin, it'll have to wait 'til later. I'm trying to find Kestra right now." Xena was a little surprised when Solari let out a wail and cried louder. Now she was the one who felt decidedly uncomfortable. What is it about the Amazon's these days?! she thought. They were either trying to kill each other or were crying over nothing lately. First there was Ephiny, then Kestra, Solari and now Eponin. What was in the water around here anyway?!

Eponin gave Xena a dirty look and walked her friend to her hut. Xena had intended on asking Ep whether she'd seen Kestra. Both women looked so distraught she decided against it. She shook her head and continued on to the practice field.

Solari sat dejectedly on the corner of Eponin's bed. Her eyes were red rimmed and she was in definite need of something to blow her nose. She looked around the room. Eponin came in carrying a water bag and a few rags. She took one look at her friend and tried to pat the woman's shoulder.

"I'm making such a fool out of myself! I'm really sorry, Ep." said Solari, unsuccessfully trying to stop her tears. Eponin sat down beside her and held her close. "Hey, its okay, alright? You to me about it if you want to. I'm not so good at this advice thing, but...well, I am a good listener."

Solari gave her a weak smile and hugged her friend back. The weapon's master suddenly found it hard to swallow. She tried to loosen Solari's arms from around her neck but the woman only held on tighter. Boy, if she wasn't awkward before, she sure was now!

"I guess I really should talk to Eph about this. You were right about that. You are really a good friend, Ep, and I know you listen well. I don't know what I'd do without you." She paused and then looked up into her friends eyes. She wasn't prepared for the smoldering look in her friend's eye. She jerked back in surprise, dropping her arms. Eponin jumped up, heart pounding wildly.

"Um. Um. I gotta go, Solari. Um, do you think you'll be okay now? Can I....get before I leave?" Eponin tried to look anywhere else except the bed. The more she tried not to look at Solari the harder it became. She saw the flustered look on her friend's face and bolted from the room.

Solari sat there, dumfounded. Had she seen passion in those eyes? She threw herself back on the bed and covered her eyes. Life was just getting too complicated!

Kestra was busy going through some intricate drill patterns and didn't notice Xena watching from the side lines. The woman was really working up a sweat, thought Xena. Pretty good at some of those moves, too. She'd better watch that one pattern, though or...She raced over and looked down at Kestra, lying in the dirt.

"You OK?" she asked, offering the woman a hand up.

Kestra grinned and was pulled up. She dusted herself off and explained that she'd been trying unsuccessfully to nail that particular pattern for a long time.

Xena went through the drill slowly, pointing out certain details of where Kestra was slipping up. As she did so, she began questioning the woman about her blossoming relationship with the Regent.

When Kestra told the warrior about her past relationship with Patra, it all seemed to make sense. Kestra was afraid to commit to this new relationship because she was afraid. Afraid that it would be taken away again.

Oh, she knew that Kestra thought it was because she had already given her heart and soul to her first love. How could she give that kind of love again? Xena pondered on that for awhile. She knew there would never be anyone else for her but Gabrielle and that she'd never love again if something ever happened to her bard. But she hadn't been a starry-eyed girl and, she thought, this young woman certainly had been.

First loves were the hardest to get over. The two women sat in the dirt and talked it out. Xena pointed out Kestra's lack of experience in prior relationships before Patra. And maybe this love she had felt for the woman was not being seen in a realistic light. People often viewed dead lovers through unrealistically enhanced memories.

The more Xena talked, the more Kestra was nodding her head. She and Xena were warriors: communication skills were not high on their priority lists. However, an easy camaraderie seemed to exist between them. Xena knew what she was saying was helping the warrior. She just hoped that it would help Ephiny, too. She also hoped that her lover was giving the Regent some good advice and that the two would really work things out. Xena really liked Ephiny. Not only had she proven to be an accomplished Amazon warrior but also a good friend to both she and Gabrielle. And she was turning out to be a first class Regent for the Amazon Nation as well. This certainly made Xena feel better about traipsing all over Greece with Gabrielle, leaving the brunt of the politics to Ephiny.

Just as the two women where leaving the field Eponin stormed onto the scene. She took one look at Kestra and scowled.

"Ah, Xena? Ya gotta minute?" She motioned over to a quiet corner with a jerk of her head. Xena gave Kestra a look and told her she'd see her later.

Eponin kept looking over her shoulder, watching as Kestra moved off. She didn't want that woman any where near her. She had hurt Solari and that was unforgivable.

"I got a problem, Xena, and I need your advice." Eponin said in a rush. She moved from one foot to the other, still glancing over her shoulder. Boy, thought Xena. This was just getting too weird. Who was she to be giving advice? For crying out loud! Which one of the Gods was having a laugh over this? She arched an eyebrow and sighed. Well, she thought, how bad could it be? After all, Ep was just as stoic as she was herself. Must be something for her to be asking for advice. She leaned against the fence and nodded.

"Sure Ep, what's on your mind? You want some help with those wounds?"

Eponin took a spot near the fence and began studying her boots. She opened her mouth a few times but nothing seemed to come out.

"Ah, no. I'll take care of them later. I guess I should stitch up Solari, though."She cleared her voice twice, looking very awkward.

"Damn, this is awkward! Don't know where to start. Whole thing has me flummoxed, ya know?" The earnest look on her face had Xena biting her lip. The blush on Eps face was sure a new look. She cleared her throat and began looking at her own boots. These sensitive chats were going to be the end of her! How did Gabrielle do it?

"Why dontcha start at the beginning?"

"Well, its like this, Xena. Um, you know how Kestra is mooning over Ephiny? Well, its breakin Ari's heart. I mean, she's loved that woman for years but never said nothin. She's been having me kinda spy on Eph. I don't mind tellin ya, I feel really weird about it, ya know?"

Xena snickered when the woman told her about sitting outside the Regents hut, listening to the noises coming from within. That must have been an eye opener, thought the warrior, grinning. Heck, she and Gabrielle could hear those two over their own moaning. And the bard was very vocal herself.

"Solari is really upset about this, and, well, she's looking to me to help her out. Now, I'm finding myself in....well, a weird position here, Xena. I mean, she's hanging all over me..and well, crying in my arms. And she smells so good. And her arms feel so...." She looked up, trying to gauge her friend's reaction to what she was saying.

Xena's forehead was scrunched up. Her arms were crossed over her breasts and she sighed deeply.

"Maybe you're too close to this, Eponin. Maybe you feel like you have to make her feel better when she's vulnerable and...well, just got caught up in it."

Eponin bit her lip and scratched her chin. "Nope. That's not it. I do wanna comfort her. In the worst way. I mean, geez, she really gets my heart beatin, ya know? Whoa, is it getting hot or what?"

"Have you ever talked to her about this, Ep? I mean, isn't this a little out of the blue? How long have you felt like this?"

Eponin stroked her chin thoughtfully. "Look, Xena. Solari and me, we grew up spending a lot of time together, right? We used to rough house together: she busted my arm when we were seven, I wrecked hers when we were ten. We got to know each other's weaknesses, ya know?

She was always fallin for some girl, always setting herself up for a let down. When she got older, she got really obsessive with Ephiny and started begging me to spy on her and the centaur. I knew it was wrong but, hey, I could see how much this whole thing was hurting her. So I did it. Didn't like it then, don't much like it now."

Xena told her about how she felt about Perdicus being in Gabrielle's life. She hadn't spied on the two of them but it sure had made her uncomfortable.

Eponin didn't know just when she'd begun regarding her best friend as more than that. It was just funny to wake up one morning and discover that you'd been looking for your whole life was right there under your nose. She'd begun to follow Solari as she in turn spied on Ephiny. She kept telling herself it was because she feared Solari might harm herself when she realized that Ephiny didn't want her. In truth, the weapon's master had begun to find herself sexually drawn to her best friend. It was to the point now that it physically hurt Eponin to see her with anyone.

"So, why haven't you ever said anything? Why now?"

"Well, you know, I was asking Solari that very question this morning. I thought, gee, I'm one to give any advice, ya know? Can't even tell the woman I love how I feel!"

Xena knew just how hard it was. It had taken over two seasons to be able to open her heart to Gabrielle. Talk about the wrong person to be giving advice!

"So...let me get this straight. Ephiny loves Kestra. Solari loves Ephiny. You love Solari. Is that right? Have I got the picture?"

"Yeah. That just about sums it up. So, whatcha think? What should I do?"

Xena drummed her fingers on her forearm. She sighed at how ridiculous things were getting in her life. Remind me, she thought, not to come here for awhile. All she wanted to do was spend time with Gabrielle and explore their new relationship. It was just too much. Heck, she hadn't even had lunch!

"Well. I gotta tell you. Ephiny and Kestra are a done deal, okay? Its best if Solari moves on and gets over her. And, well, if you think you have a chance with Solari, well, you better tell her. I mean, maybe you should talk to Gabrielle about all this. She usually does this kinda thing. I think she'll tell you the same thing, though. Heck, all Solari can say is no, right. Then at least you'll be able to put it behind you, too."

Eponin began to grin. "Hey, what am I afraid of? I mean, I'm an Amazon warrior, right? Hey, I can do this. Right? I mean, how hard could this be. Right?" A light sweat broke out on her forehead. She began tapping her foot nervously.

"Look, Ep. I can't do this for you. You have to do yourself, okay? I'll ask Gabrielle to see how Solari feels about this, though. How's that?"

"Yeah, that'd be great. Thanks, Xena. I mean it." She punched the warrior in the shoulder and walked away.

"Maybe I'll go help Solari with some stitching, huh?"

Xena snorted. She pushed herself away from the fence and slowly walked off the field.

She went over to the dining hut and grabbed some bread and cheese. She palmed a few pieces of fruit and headed back to her hut. Maybe an afternoon nap was in order. With a certain golden red head. A smile spread across her tanned face. Yes indeedy. A nice long, leisurely 'nap'. Definitely in order. She chuckled as she entered the room.

Gabrielle lay on the bed, leaning against the head board. Their eyes met and they both grinned.

"Nap time, my bard?" purred Xena.

"Well, if that's all you had in mind...." answered Gabrielle with a little pout.

Xena growled and made her way over to the bed. She crawled up her lover, straddling the woman's legs. She pulled her down onto the pillow and began placing small kisses on the bard's face. Very slowly, she took the woman's lips in her own and began probing her mouth with her tongue.

It was amazing how fast the two got out of their clothes. And what a long nap they had, too.

Chapter Seven

Gabrielle groaned contentedly, lying between the muscular thighs of the warrior princess. She gently caressed her lover's dark thatch of pubic hair. Xena made slow intricate patterns on the bard's shoulders, kissing her golden hair every now and again. Both women had silly grins plastered on their faces, bodies covered in a light sheen of sweat.

"So.....What did Kes say? They didn't have a spat, did they?" Gabrielle propped her chin on Xena's ample chest and gazed lovingly into her azure eyes. Xena tousled the woman's hair and grinned before responding.

"Na. Actually, Kes is a bit frightened about her feelings for Eph. You know how first loves are. She's kinda blowing her memories of Patra out of proportion. You know, remember only the good things."

"So, she's afraid to commit to Ephiny until she can put Patra behind her, huh?"

"Uh, yeah. Didn't I just say that?"

"Um, yeah. You did. Uh huh. That's what I heard."

"Ok, so I'm new at these wordy answers. Gimme a break, love" she said as she tipped Gabrielle's head up for a kiss.

"Hey, you'll get the hang of this. After all, you've only had to give Kestra some advice, right?"

Xena arched her eyebrow and smirked.

"This was one weird day, Gabrielle. I mean, let's see. First Eph barges in on us and we have to figure out what's going on with her. Then I go talk to Kes to see her side. Then, and this was just too weird, love: Eponin wants my advice on her love life. Hey, I swear it! Anyway, Solari is just a pool of tears over Eph and Ep, well she's telling me she's got the hots for Ari, fer cryin out loud. I mean, really! My warrior mode must need some fine tuning. Do I look like Xena Warrior Therapist to you?"

Gabrielle's body shook with laughter. She rolled off the warrior and landed on the floor. Xena propped herself up on one elbow and gave her 'the look'. This only made the bard laugh harder, tears rolling down her reddened cheeks.

" more....please, Xena!"

"I'm glad you find this so amusing. Hey, I got a reputation to protect here, ya know?" Xena sat on the side of the bed and held her hand out to her lover. She pulled Gabrielle into her arms and lay back on the bed.

"I'm sorry, love. That is just too rich, though. I thought the 'sensitive chats' were my field of expertise." She giggled again and hugged her warrior.

"Yup. And don't think I didn't sic Eponin on you, either. It was really embarrassing to see the look in her eye, Gabrielle. I mean, she's like this gaga-eyed teenager! I never, never thought I'd see that hunk of granite reduced to a love sick puppy." She snorted, missing a knowing look from her lover.

"Uh huh. And who would have thought you could be...such a romantic, MY hunk of granite." she purred seductively at Xena.

A half grin appeared on the warrior's face. She snorted. "Busted, right? Pot calling the kettle black. Ya, well, it's just...different. Ep's always, I dunno, been really detached. I don't think I ever saw her with anyone from the village. Don't think I ever heard any rumours about her and a man, either."

"Wait a minute, Xena. Let's back track here. Are you saying Eponin and Solari..?"

Xena stroked her face. "Yup. I don't know how Solari feels about this but Ep's head over heels. Gonna really hurt her if Ari doesn't feel the same way."

"I knew Solari felt deeply for Ephiny, but I thought it was, well, puppy love. I mean, doesn't she fall in and out of love on a regular basis? At least that's what I heard."

"Well, anyway, you do the chats with them. I don't want to go there. What is it with these Amazons. I wonder if Aphrodite is pulling one of her usual stunts. Or maybe Cupid. Hey, if that kid of his has gotten hold of some more of his Dad's arrows.....That kid is a menace! I'm still having flashbacks over what nearly happened with Draco!" The warrior princess shuddered.

"Well, Xena, if this had been a perfect world, I would have looked at you and not....Joxer! I mean, ewww! He's a nice guy, but....Um, let's change the subject, please." Parts of Joxer's dumb song still found its way into the bard's subconscious. She shuddered and tried to rub the goose bumps off her arms.

"Ephiny is a bit worried, too. She really loved Phantes. Seeing him killed like that...ripped apart by dogs...couldn't have been a nice memory to have. I think she's barricaded her heart away so no one else can hurt her again. I think Kestra has torn down some of them. Tell you what I see. I see a total lack of communication here. They should just sit down and talk it all over."

Xena flipped the bard over onto the bed. "And your form of reference would be....what?" Xena kissed Gabrielle sweetly and continued. "I mean, look at us. We really got with the program right away, right? Didn't drag our feet, huh? Just took us two full winters before we declared our love."

Looking very chagrinned, Gabrielle allowed "Okay, alright. I'll give you that one. We were pretty silly, mooning over each other, afraid to say what we really felt."

Both women sighed deeply, caught up in their memories.

Xena got up from the bed and padded over to the door. She peered out. Almost time for the evening meal. She collected her clothing, which was strewn all over the room, and quickly dressed.

"Hey, bard. Let's go bathe down at the hot springs and then grab us some food. Sound good?"

"Oh, yeah." The woman's stomach grumbled noisily. "Time to feed this particular bard therapist, that's for sure.

Gabrielle arose from the bed and helped her love with the laces at the back of her leather bodice. She looked about for her own clothing. She gave Xena a dirty look, holding up a torn halter top.

"Ahem! A bit boisterous, weren't we? Well, I guess it's time I got a new one. You never did like this colour, did you?"

Xena snickered, hiding her mouth with the back of her hand. "Well...." She left the rest unfinished.

Gabrielle walked over to their saddle bags and quickly pulled out an old shirt of Xena's and belted it at the waist. She smoothed the fabric over her breasts and stood sideways for Xena's opinion.

Xena clicked her mouth and winked at the woman. "Looking mighty fine there, Gabrielle. You might want to adjust those sleeves, though. Here." She removed her breast dagger and trimmed the shirt to fit. She shortened the length as well.

She stood back and appraised her handywork. "Yup. Looks mighty fine."

"I guess this means you don't want this shirt back, huh?" She brought the sleeve up to her face and sniffed appreciatively. "Mmmm. Smells just like you. Nope, you are definitely not getting this thing back."

Xena chuckled and the two left their hut in search of a bath and some food. Both had worked up quite an appetite. And who knew what the rest of the evening would hold?

Ephiny sat on her bed, holding Kestra's hands in her own. Both women had been talking for at least two candlemarks. It had been hard at first, to get the warrior to talk about her past with Patra. The woman had cleared her throat many times during the telling, the Regent encouraging her with gentle caresses and small words of love.

Kestra had finally gotten it all out. Her heart felt lanced of it's bitterness and sorrow. She looked deeply into Ephiny's brown eyes. She saw only acceptance and love there.

Ephiny had come to quite a few truths with Gabrielle and so was patient with her new love. It had been somewhat liberating to acknowledge that her heart could love so deeply again. Phantes would always hold a special place in her heart. She couldn't look at Xenon and not think of his father.

Both women wanted this relationship to work. They both had respect and love for each other and knew that it would not be just a passing thing. They had both been through too much for that. It was these shared experiences that would bond them closer.

Kestra leaned over and caressed the Regents broad chin with the tip of her finger.

"How'd I get so lucky?" She sealed this rhetoric question with her lips. The kiss grew in passion and was soon being returned with as much fervour. Both women broke off the kiss with a gasp.

Kestra slowly stood and brought the Regent up to stand beside her. Without taking her eyes from Ephiny's face, she began to slowly strip. The Regent began to cover each inch of bare flesh with a caress as each article of clothing was dropped to the floor. Her hands found their way to cup Kestra's buttocks, gently massaging the muscular globes.

She drew the woman closer so that their lips were almost touching. She rubbed noses with her lover but still teased her by not kissing the half opened lips before her. The tip of Kestra's tongue slipped out and slowly traced the Regent's lower lip. Both groaned at the contact.

Kestra stood nude before her lover. She clasped the woman's hands over her heart and closed her eyes. A tiny tear dropped from her eye. Ephiny sniffed quickly, finding her own tears falling unbidden.

"I pledge my heart to you, my Regent. I give my heart, my soul and my sword. I would gladly die for you, should you desire it. All that I have, all that I am, is yours." She dropped to her knees and placed her face on her lovers lower belly.

Ephiny was overcome with such intense emotions. What had she been afraid of? She knew, without further doubt, that this was her destiny.

"Arise, my love. Kestra, I take thee as my royal consort. Will you stand by my side and help rule the Amazon Nation? Would you have me to share your life?"

Kestra's mouth hung open, eyes wide in surprise. She gulped deeply and tried to find her voice. After a few squeaks she grinned and cleared her voice, looking very sheepish.

"Yes, my Regent, my love." They fell into each other's arms and kissed passionately. After a short time they drew apart and both began to talk at once. Much laughter was heard and plans were made. Then there was silence and the sounds of glorious lovemaking.

Xena and Gabrielle sat at a table near the back. Xena held one of the bard's hands as she ate her meal and Gabrielle had one hand on the warriors upper thigh. The bard, having finished her own large plate of supper, helped herself to her lover's plate.

Everyone looked up as the Regent entered. She held up her hands and a hush fell over the room. Behind her stood Kestra, looking very solemn but proud. Solari and Eponin were conspicuously missing from the dinner crowd.

Ephiny cleared her throat. "Sisters, I bring you great news. I have finally decided on my consort. The Amazon Nation shall rejoice in our joining and a great feast shall take place one moon from tonight."

Everyone looked rather surprised and wondered who it could be. Xena gave Gabrielle a knowing smile which was lovingly returned. The bard's hand found its way under the warrior's leather skirt unnoticed by all but a rapidly blushing warrior princess.

"May I present my royal consort: Kestra." The crowd went crazy, coming forward to wish the new couple congratulations on the upcoming nuptials. Xena, standing head and shoulders above the rest, caught the Regent's eye and grinned. Ephiny raised Kestra's hand, tightly clasped in her own, and smiled at Xena.

Xena sat down and lifted her goblet of ale to toast the celebration. Her face softened when she realized Gabrielle was crying, caught up in the moment. Xena drew her close and hugged her. This made the bard cry harder. Momentarily at a loss, Xena could only hold her lover and wonder what she could do to fix what ever was bothering the woman. They had already explored many of the physical remedies to such a problem. Her forehead was scrunched as she pondered her solutions.

As the crowd followed the two betrothed Amazons out of the hut, Xena and Gabrielle were left to sit and ponder their future. Xena was thinking only of the present and near future. Getting the bard to stop crying was paramount. Then having her get the problem out was second. Not letting enemies know of her affection for the bard thereby endangering them both in the near future was third on the short list.

Gabrielle, however, was heart sick because she wanted the same commitment from her warrior that Kestra and Ephiny had.

Was it enough that Xena loved her deeply and was now getting used to showing her feelings for the bard openly? Was it fair of the bard to want more?

As the night progressed the women quietly made their way back to the visitor's hut, each silent and caught up in their thoughts. They lay fully clothed on the bed; the bard lying in the crook of her warrior' shoulder, Xena lying on her back staring at the ceiling.

It would be a long night for both of them. Gabrielle finally fell into the arms of Morpheus many candlemarks later but the warrior greeted the dawn still unable to sleep.

She watched the room slowly fill up with the pink rays of dawn, bathing them in its wake. She looked down on the slumbering bard and felt her heart weep. She was overcome with love for this woman. How she could be so lucky to have her a part of the warrior's life was a question she often asked herself. She knew for certain that she had merely existed before the bard had come into her life. And delusional when she thought she couldn't be happier before they had shared intimacies. Her love knew no bounds and Xena knew then what she should do to mend her lover's obviously bruised heart.

A little smile danced over the warriors lips. Her eyes sparkled and she hugged the bard closer to her. Gabrielle mumbled Xena's name and cuddled deeper into the warrior's embrace.

Chapter Eight

Gabrielle made her way down to the communal hot springs, soap and towel in hand. She was humming to herself, having been awakened by her amorous warrior in such a way as to keep a smile plastered on her face for hours, if not all day.

Ephiny sat in one of the smaller pools, head back and eyes closed. Two of the Regents' honour guard lounged by the side, carrying on some light conversation. The two warriors immediately jumped to their feet as Gabrielle placed her belongings by the side of the pool.

"You may leave us, girls. Just don't go too far. Perhaps you could pick up a wine skin on your way back from your break."

The women looked happy to have the opportunity to grab some breakfast. They had been on duty since daybreak. Besides, their idle chatter was giving the Regent a headache. The lack of sleep the past few nights was really starting to catch up to the woman and trying to carry on a meaningless conversation at this point was just too taxing.

She settled back against the rocks and smiled at her friend as she entered the pool.

"So, Gabrielle, how are you this morning? You look positively radiant. I see that being with Xena seems to agree with you. Although I'm sure you are getting as little sleep as I am these days, you certainly don't show it. How do you do it?"

Gabrielle blushed and fiddled with the soap. Ephiny found this particular affectation most endearing about her friend. The woman was modest, self-depreciating and confident, all at the same time.

"Well, actually, I guess we're just making up for lost time. I mean, we just can't seem to get enough of one another." The bard paused, eyes twinkling. "She really is a woman of many skills."

Ephiny burst out laughing, eyes wide. Who would have ever thought that the wee bard from Poteidaia could be so bold?

"My goodness, woman. You are just too cute for words." She hugged the bard and kissed her cheek. This made Gabrielle blush even harder, remembering the encounter between she, Xena and the Regent last morning. The bard was still feeling quite tingly from her recent love making with Xena.

"Come on. Pass me the soap and I'll do your back, Gabrielle. Then you can wash my hair. Delia and Mordea were positively useless this morning; having eyes only for each other. I'll have to remember not to post them on duty with each other again. Their banter was positively nauseating. Were we ever that young?"

Gabrielle felt part feline, having her back scrubbed just the way she liked it. Xena always seemed to treat her with kid gloves, as if she would break. Ephiny seemed to know exactly how hard to scrub without hurting the bard.

When the Regent was finished she bent over one of Gabrielle's shoulders and placed a gentle kiss on the woman's cheek. One of the bard's eyebrows went up but she said nothing, moving behind her friend and starting on her hair.

Ephiny tilted her head back, enjoying the scalp massage and closeness of her friend. She and Kestra had talked about just how arousing the bard and the warrior princess were to the both of them. Kestra had admitted to currying Xena's horse ever since the couple had arrived. They had both laughed rather sheepishly while the Regent retold of her embarrassing interruption, catching the women making love.

Kestra had her lover go into minute detail. Ephiny found this hard to do since her brain had taken a separate holiday because of the intense sensory overload. Just thinking about what the two had been doing made her groin clench in response.

"I want to thank you Gabrielle for being there for me. You helped Kestra and I explore our true feelings and I'll never forget it." She closed her eyes and sighed.

"You both mean alot to the two of us. I'm sure Xena's talk with Kes was instrumental in her opening up to me." The Regent turned around and before Gabrielle knew it, was gently kissing her.

"Do you know how important you are to me, little Gabrielle? You've let me see the gentle side of life, the easy joy of friendship, just by knowing you."

Gabrielle felt her cheeks flush once more and tried to avoid her friend's eyes.

"I don't want you to feel uncomfortable, Gabrielle. I don't know why, but I feel the courage to tell you how much I've wanted you. You have blossomed into such a radiant woman, full of confidence and grace. If I've offended you, please forgive me." She lifted her friend's chin and waited until Gabrielle was looking her in the eye.

Gabrielle's heart was beating wildly and she took a shuddering breath. She had always been attracted to the Regent, ever since the woman had explained the relationship most of the Amazons had with each other. Gabrielle had never suspected that women could love each other in that way. The people back in Poteidaia had openly frowned on such behavior and had driven a few unfortunates out because of it. Having her friend explain that it was neither evil nor unnatural had been very liberating for Gabrielle and she felt an immediate attraction to Ephiny because of it. Kind of like a crush, thought the bard. One she had never really gotten over.

Gabrielle's mind spun in different directions, trying to put into words what she was feeling. She dunked her friend's head under water, rinsing the soap from her hair.

"Um Ephiny, I, ah, well, I've always had a...crush on you. Ever since we really started to become friends. I didn't...I never felt the same way." Gabrielle felt like she was going to swallow her own tongue. Her mouth was so dry and she kept having to remind herself to blink.

Ephiny chuckled softly. She hugged the woman to her once then drew back and lay against the stones once again.

"I could see how you felt for Xena. What's more, I could see how Xena looked at you - love and desire all rolled up into one. I may be Regent but I have no intention of giving a particular warrior any excuse to tan my hide. Now that I have Kestra I feel I am no longer a threat to Xena and can express how I feel. Surely Xena is confident in being able to keep you satisfied?"

Gabrielle dunked beneath the water and began to wring her hair out. Her brow was scrunched as she thought of a reply.

"I think both Xena and I are capable of extreme jealousy, Ephiny. We love each other very deeply. There is no one who can bring me to such heights of ecstasy. I've never known such bliss. While I may fantasize about this side of our friendship because I find myself very attracted to you, I would never do anything to jeopardize my bond with Xena. I would never hurt either one of you, intentionally or otherwise." Gabrielle just couldn't make herself look her friend in the eye.

Ephiny rose out of the water, looking very awkward. She grabbed her cloth tunic and ran from the pool. Gabrielle was so surprised that she ended up just sitting there, mouth hanging open.

Xena stepped out from a copse of trees and knelt by her lover. She took Gabrielle's face in her hands and kissed her forehead.

"Gabrielle? It's okay. I'm here and I do understand. I'm sorry, but I overheard everything you said. Please love, look at me." She cupped the bard's chin, the woman's mouth closing with a snap.

"You were, you were spying on me?" she asked quietly. Gabrielle wasn't too sure if she was embarrassed or angry. In the end, she decided to be neither.

"No, not really. I was on my way with the wine skin that Ephiny wanted. I thought maybe I'd join you for a soak when I saw you two kissing. I was, well, surprised, to say the least. Not mad, not disappointed, just surprised."

"Xena, you know I would never betray your love. I'm sorry you had to hear how I felt for Ephiny like this. She was really instrumental in allowing me to open my heart to the thought of two women being able to love one another. Until we talked, I had always tried to deny my feelings, hide them away. I felt so...different, so...bad back home. I wasn't sure of what I wanted, just what I didn't want. I didn't want Perdicus, I wanted you. Ephiny opened my eyes about my true nature and I'll always love her for it."

Seeing Gabrielle looking so forlorn nearly broke the warrior's heart. She quickly stripped off her shift and cradled her lover in the water. The two women hugged each other fiercely, speaking words of undying love, pledging to feel that way forever.

"I've seen how Ephiny always watches you, my love. You'll never know how happy I was when you decided to pick me to give your heart to rather than Ephiny. I thought you only had a crush on the woman. You really don't have anything to be ashamed of, my sweet. I want you to feel you can share anything with me. And that means how you feel about Ephiny."

Silent tears slowly ran down Gabrielle's cheeks as she clung to her lover. "I would never hurt you, my love, not for anything in this world!" Xena slowly stroked the bard's damp hair and tipped the woman's chin up. "The only way you could hurt me would be if you ever stopped loving me. I don't think I could...go on if that happened."

"Never, my warrior." Gabrielle reached up and captured Xena's lips in her own and they kissed deeply. There was no passion per se, only feelings of total acceptance and love.

Ephiny ran into her hut and threw herself on the bed, sobbing uncontrollably. How could she ever face her friend again. What would Xena think of her? Although Kestra had expressed understanding when she had told her lover how she felt about the bard, would she feel the same way, knowing that Ephiny had wanted to act on it and not keep it merely just a fantasy? How could she have misread her friend's body language? The way she and Xena had hugged her that one morning had lead her to believe they may have feelings of reciprocation.

Kestra came running into the room and gathered the Regent into her arms. She had been over at the dining hall when word had reached her that Ephiny had been seen crying as she ran to their hut.

"What is it, Ephiny? Tell me, please."

The Regent only cried harder, burying her face deeper into the pillow. Kestra slowly rubbed her lover's back, murmuring soft words of love, and finally Ephiny was able to tell her what had happened at the hot spring.

"Do you think she'll tell Xena? Was Gabrielle really upset? I mean, did she look like she wanted to strike you?"

The Regent sniffled and sat up. "No, she wasn't like that. She looked really uncomfortable. I've ruined our friendship! All because of lust. Plain and simple lust! Can you ever forgive me? How will I ever face them again?" She burst into fresh tears and hugged Kestra tightly.

Kestra kissed her lover's face many times, telling her not to worry. They'd work it out. Somehow.

Kestra went and got a cool cloth and a basin and wiped Ephiny's face and neck. She waited until the woman fell into a fitful sleep before leaving their hut. Ignoring the curious eyes of some of the other warriors, she headed towards the visitor's hut, a grim but determined look on her face.

She wrapped once on the door frame and cleared her throat. It was only a matter of seconds before Xena bade her enter. Well, Kestra thought, at least my heart is still in my chest, so she can't be thinking of killing me just yet. Gabrielle sat by the table, wiping her eyes and looking forlornly.

Kestra exchanged her weight from one foot to the other. Besides looking quite embarrassed she also looked rather defiant. Xena decided it would probably be up to her to clear the air.

"Kestra. Look, Gabrielle told me what happened at the springs and, really, there is nothing to feel badly about. Please tell Ephiny that there are no hard feelings. I am pleased that she felt confident in our relationship to tell Gabrielle how she really felt. And yes, I am confident that what we have together will never cease. And I don't feel threatened, okay. *We* don't have a problem as far as I'm concerned. Okay?"

Gabrielle sniffed and put on a brave smile. "I'm just as much to blame, Kestra. I didn't mean to blurt out my feelings for Ephiny. I guess....I guess we just got carried away. Please tell her how sorry I am. I'd never hurt her, ever."

Xena looked up at Ephiny entered their hut. She burst into tears and ran to hug her friend. Both warriors looked uncomfortable. Finally, Xena grabbed Kestra's arm and they left. Seeing their mates reduced to puddles of tears made both warriors decidedly uncomfortable.

"Hey, you seen Eponin today in your travels?" she asked Kestra. The warrior looked very relieved that the topic of discussion was being changed. The whole thing was starting to really get too awkward. Kestra was just glad that her lover hadn't gone into how she felt about Xena. That would have been a disaster, seeing how Gabrielle had acted already. She breathed a sigh of relief.

"You know, I haven't seen her or Solari since yesterday. Last I saw, both women were sporting fresh wounds from the practice field. Did you know that Eponin tried to get me into a knife throwing contest? Do I look suicidal to you?" The woman shook her head and chuckled.

Xena said nothing and continued to walk towards Solari's hut. She felt badly that it looked like the woman wasn't going to reciprocate any of Ep's feelings. Eponin really did deserved to be happy.

Xena knocked on the door frame and tapped her foot impatiently. Kestra stood away from the hut, arms crossed over her chest. She tried to look bored but was, in fact, a little uncomfortable with the possibility of a confrontation with either Solari or Eponin. So far, this day was turning out to be rather unsettling.

Funny noises were coming from the room. The warrior peeked her head inside and quickly backed out. She had a bit of a grin on her face as she motioned for Kestra to follow her quietly.

Kestra's face silently asked the question. Xena put her arm around the woman's shoulders and they walked away, back towards the visitor's hut. Xena had this goofy look on her face and perhaps a new appreciation for how Eponin had felt the other morning.

Xena put her head close to Kestra's and told the woman what she had seen.

"You're kiddin! Really? Well, I'll be a horses ass!" Kestra slapped the warrior princess on the back and the two guffawed loudly, thinking of the look on their mates' face when they heard the news.

As they passed by the healer's hut, Nadri stuck her head out and gave them a dirty look. Damn warriors, she sneered. Just what was going on in this village anyway?! People acting lovey-dovey, using each other for punching bags, crying all over the place! Things sure had changed from when she was a warrior! Bunch of cry babies, she sniffed. She grabbed the next patient by the scruff of her neck and gave her the once over.

"Geez! Its just a broken arm, fer cryin out loud! Be an Amazon not a wimp, wouldja!"

A wave of uneasiness flowed over the waiting Amazon's who quickly decided to either set their own bones or stitch each other up rather than face the healer in the mood she was currently in. Life was just too short for that! Besides, any fool could be uncomfortable. No fools waiting around here, nu uh.

The last thing that the departing Amazons heard was a string of expletives coming from the healer's hut.

"Hades, when I was your age we used to practice stitchin each other up just for the fun of it! By Hera's tits, woman! Yer leg bones just stickin out, yer not dyin. Get back in here, you! And the rest of ya: quit yer bellyaching or I'll give ya somethin to really complain about! Why, I remember one time.........."

Chapter Nine

Xena and Kestra made their way back to the visitor's hut, head's together as if sharing a ribald joke. Many of the onlooking Amazons had never seen the Warrior Princess look quite so relaxed. While this change was not an unwelcomed one, it did make them feel uncomfortable. Who knew the warrior was actually human?

There were many rumours regarding her parentage: some felt she was really the daughter of Ares. Others believed her sire was Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Her strength and prowess were just truly beyond the realm of reality. In any case, they all agreed that she was indeed a goddess, regardless of who her father was.

Gabrielle and Ephiny sat facing each other on the bed. They held hands and sobbed out how sorry they both were about the whole incident.

Ephiny was the most affected by the possible loss of Gabrielle's friendship. The woman had become more than a good friend, more than a sister. What she felt for the bard was more than desire, although, that was certainly there. She felt their souls must be connected somehow.

Gentle hugs and smiles slowly turned into soft kisses and caresses. Gabrielle murmured how much she loved Xena. Ephiny replied in kind. Their kisses began to deepen. Not wanting to scare her friend, the Regent let her take the lead, gratefully surrendering to the woman.

Gabrielle held the Regent's face in her hands and kissed her deeply. She mentally compared these lips to those of Xena's. No comparison really, she thought. She dipped her tongue between Ephiny's lips and was rewarded with the Regent's equally demanding one.

A moan escaped both their lips as Gabrielle lay on top of the quivering Regent. Ephiny slowly brought her hands up to the bard's breasts and kneaded them gently.

Gabrielle began parting her friend's hips so that she lay nestled between them. Her hips began pumping a slow rhythm, eliciting gasps from Ephiny.

Gabrielle broke off her kiss as she felt two pairs of eyes on her. She raised her head and both women took in the sight of their warriors in the doorway, eyes lustfully taking in the sight before them.

Xena moved close to the bed and whispered words of love and acceptance to Gabrielle. She gently stroked the bards back, kissing her neck and shoulders. Gabrielle propped herself up on her arms as Xena reached around and began to untie the laces of her shirt.

Gabrielle quickly divested herself of her clothing and gazed into her warrior's eyes. Xena leaned over and kissed her deeply. Ephiny looked over at Kestra who slowly made her way from the doorway. Her warrior gulped audibly, feeling as if her legs were made of stone.

Seeing her lover cup the bard's breasts once again made Kestra's knees wobbly. Xena slowly threw off her leathers and took Kestra's hands in her own.

"Kestra, it's okay. I think we are all okay with this. Do you want this? If you feel uncomfortable about this, well, you could just watch." Xena looked at the warrior and gave her the well-known lopsided grin.

Kestra's head popped up, her gaze moving from Ephiny's up to Xena's. She shook her head and slowly took the warrior into her arms.

"Gods, how I've wanted this. I..." Her words were cut short as her lips were covered by those of Gabrielle's ardent warrior.

Their kisses came in an earnest barrage as they both tried to disrobe Kestra. Soon they stood breasts to breasts, lips still locked, hands exploring each other.

Kestra was only one hand shorter than Xena and was just as muscular. Their foreplay began to resemble a contest of wills, each knowing a tender touch was not what they wanted or needed right now.

Xena propelled them both against the wall of the hut and used the nearby chair to prop Kestra's right leg up. She placed a well muscled thigh between the warrior's legs and ground into Kestra's pubic bone. Kestra responded by biting Xena's lower lip and roughly massaging the woman's breasts.

Xena's eyes darkened with lust as she looked over at the bed. Ephiny was now as naked as Gabrielle, both women's legs tangled as they rolled passionately on the bed.

Gabrielle suddenly found herself on her back, the Regent covering her breasts with kisses, pulling her nipples gently with her lips. The bard groaned and looked over at Xena. Xena was savagely biting Kestra's neck as she pumped her fingers into the woman. Kestra had her head back, teeth bared, hands tangled in the warriors jet black hair. She began pushing Xena's head farther down her body. Soon Kestra's breasts were being squeezed together in an effort to get both nipples into Xena's hungry mouth.

Gabrielle felt her knees being drawn up as Ephiny slowly parted her nether lips and began to slowly tease her with her tongue. Listening to Kestra's moans of desire was pushing Gabrielle closer and closer to the edge of her orgasm.

Suddenly, Xena wrapped Kestra's legs around her waist and brought them both over to the bed. She dropped the woman onto the bed and pushed open Kestra's legs. As she twisted the woman's nipples,she knelt between her thighs and quickly inserted two fingers into the woman's sopping vagina. Kestra threw her head back and moaned deeply.

"Yes, Xena. Fuck me."

Xena's eyes never left those of her bard. Each brought a hand towards the other and soon their fingers were entwined. Gabrielle's eyes began to close as Ephiny's efforts picked up in tempo.

Xena felt a hand snake up her leg and massage her buttocks. The warrior locked eyes with the Regent. Ephiny's mouth never left her busy work as she gazed longingly into Xena's eyes. Both women exchanged silent words of the promise of things to come.

Xena felt her arm practically pulled from her shoulder as Gabrielle reached the pinnacle of her orgasm. The bard arched her back off the bed, eyes clenched shut as she grunted out Xena's name.

The warrior princess began to thrust forcefully into Kestra, bending to take the woman's nipples into her mouth. She pulled at them harshly with her lips, taking them between her teeth.

Watching her lover cum for Ephiny was such a turn on that Xena's thighs virtually ran with her juices. Kestra grabbed Xena's shoulders and shouted out loud as she flew over the precipice into her own orgasm. She lay shuddering as both she and Gabrielle held hands, trying to catch their breath.

Xena slowly withdrew her fingers from Kestra and drew the Regent up against her. She placed her wet fingers into Ephiny's mouth. Soon they were both licking Kestra's essence from Xena's hand. Xena drew one of the Regent's legs up and wrapped it around her well muscled stomach. The other leg soon followed as both women dueled each other with thrusting tongues.

Kestra had taken up the Regent's spot between Gabrielle's legs and was gently inserting two fingers into her hot vagina. Xena lay the Regent beside the bard and covered the woman completely with her body. She gently kneaded the woman's breasts as she rocked her hip against Ephiny's center. The Regent tightened her thighs around Xena as she thrust herself forward to meet the hard surface of Xena's thigh. Both women began grunting.

"Oh, yeah. Oh, like that. Yeah." moaned Xena as she watched Kestra's fingers disappear deeply into her lover. Kestra took in Gabrielle's clit and began to lavish it with her tongue. Gabrielle was lost in a world of ecstasy. Her head thrashed back and forth as she searched for Xena with one hand. Xena took the bard's fingers and slowly fucked them in and out of her mouth. Gabrielle opened her eyes and with one look of connection between them, came with a final shudder and lay still. Kestra brought herself up to lie on the woman, slowly pumping the bard's leg between her own thighs. The bard took the woman's breasts into her shaking hands and began sucking the nipples, slowly, tenderly.

Xena snaked both hands between the Regents legs and inserted two middle fingers from each hand, the others laced tightly together. Placing the weight behind her hands, she began rocking back and forth into Ephiny. The Regent tangled her fingers into her own hair as if trying to ground herself. Her eyes looked wild, her mouth open as she breathed in shallow gasps. Kestra yelled once as her second orgasm washed over her.

Knowing Ephiny was close to coming, Xena began murmuring gentle words of encouragement. As Ephiny's muscles began tightening around Xena's fingers, the warrior withdrew one set of fingers, leaned forward and began nibbling the Regent's neck. Xena ground the palm of her hand into Ephiny's clit and she wiggled and pumped her fingers in and out.

As the woman began arching herself off the bed, Xena bit into the soft skin between neck and shoulder. Ephiny's hands flew out in front of her, grasping at something, anything to hold on to. Kestra's body replaced that of Xena's as she held her lover closely until her climax was finally over.The Regent found her face being covered in sweet kisses. She opened her eyes and found herself lost in the grey eyes of her beloved. Their kiss deepened and both lay curled up in each other's arms.

Xena slid slowly up over Gabrielle. The warrior found her face taken between the bard's hands. "I love you. So much, Xena." Xena kissed her gently and rolled her lover over so that she lay in the crook of her shoulder.

The bed was covered with four sweaty women, very satiated women, each one having at least one hand interlocked with another's. Deep sighs of satisfaction came from all of them. Words of love and acceptance were exchanged from them all as they snuggled closer and molded to each other's form. It was as if each woman were an intricate piece of a richly shaped puzzle.

As each of the other three women fell into an easy slumber, Xena looked down at her Gabrielle. She kissed her softly and watched as Kestra and Ephiny murmured words of love. Somehow it all just felt right. Xena felt no remorse for letting Gabrielle take them into this love fest. She knew she and the bard shared a love that went beyond the merely physical.

Xena's thoughts began running through the possible implications of what they had all experienced. She felt her bond with Gabrielle deepen. That she had felt comfortable enough to share her need for Ephiny made Xena realize how much trust Gabrielle had placed in her. She had opened her heart to possible ridicule and Xena would not disappoint her.

Xena started to make plans for their future. Now there was a strong bond between the Amazons and their future Queen. Whether Gabrielle wanted to stay at some point and rule this nation was a moot point. Xena would find it hard to stay in one spot but would do so, should Gabrielle desire it.

She decided to make her position in Gabrielle's life more permanent. She kissed her love once again and started to prepare the words of love she would use to propose their joining. Her heart was full of love for this woman. All she wanted for the rest of her life was to awaken each morning in the bard's arms.

She never thought she would be lucky enough to feel this way. To have the woman she loved and desired more than life itself return such feelings was so overpowering to Xena. Her throat spasmed and a small sob was wrenched from her as she realized just what she had in her life. Only one thing remained to be done and as soon as Gabrielle was awake, she intended on rectifying it.

Chapter Ten

Ephiny awoke to light kisses. She slowly opened one eye and peered out, trying to distinguish who was doing what to whom. The room was bathed in soft moon -light, the only sounds being moans from, well, it did sound rather like Xena.

Never having heard the warrior in the state of receiving loving, both Kestra and Ephiny stopped what they were doing and inched closer to the sounds.

Xena lay on her back, legs draped over the side of the bed, with her hands holding the crown of her bard's head.

"Oh, Gabrielle. That is sooo nice. Yeah, right there. Oooh. You are so good at this." Xena purred. She chuckled deeply and began to gyrate her pelvis into her lover's mouth. Gabrielle greedily soaked up every bit of moisture the warrior was putting out.

It was apparent by the sounds that the bard knew just what she was doing. Had, in fact, mapped this area so well that she knew every crook and cranny.

Ephiny and Kestra listened, wrapped in each other's arms, as the bard brought her warrior closer and closer to climax without letting her fully experience it. Xena's moans became frenzied.

"Please....Gabrielle....I need!" She shouted. Gabrielle only slowed the pace of her ministrations and lay her face on the woman's lower belly. She slowly snaked out a hand and grabbed a body. She didn't know which one, and didn't much care. She positioned the person where she was while she came up and straddled Xena's face.

"Xena. I want your mouth on me. I want you to taste every bit of me. I want to cum all over your face. I'm gonna show you just what you do to me - how much you turn me on." Xena reached over and grasped her lovers hips and slowly brought her hot center down to cover her mouth. Just as she was inserting her tongue into the bard, she felt a pair of wet lips surround one of her nipples. It was too dark to tell which one of the others was doing what. She groaned.

Then someone spread the warrior princesses legs and began to tease her opening with first one and then two fingers. Xena found herself unable to control her hips as they lifted off of the bed, her buttock muscles clenched.

And still Gabrielle rocked her center back and forth onto her lover's questing tongue. The bard's movements became frantic and her senses exploded as Xena squeezed her nipples roughly. She fell to the side, hair in her face and kissed Xena deeply. She rolled off and lay beside her, panting, trying to catch her breath once again.

The bed creaked as the bard moved away. Xena couldn't distinguish any forms in the twilight - only shadows. It was such a turn on to have someone doing something so intimate but not knowing who it was.

A mouth replaced the plunging fingers at Xena's center. The mouth lavished full attention on her clit and then its tongue darted here and there, investigating, tasting and consuming every inch, eliciting deep moans from the warrior. Her jaws tightened as she felt both of her arms being held down on the bed. Her shoulders tightened, breasts growing fuller, nipples tauter. So close to the edge, almost there....The tongue was withdrawn. The lips moved away from her breasts. She lay there panting.

"Gabrielle. What..." There was no answer. Only the soft whisper of bodies moving over each other. The warrior heard a funny strapping noise. She raised her head up, trying to locate the source of the noise. The hands holding her arms gripped tighter.

Suddenly, Xena's knees were forced up and her hips were spread. Someone held her ankles close to where her hands were. Then there was a body, slowly inching its way up her torso. She felt two hands grip her face and then Gabrielle. She knew her by her smell, her touch, her breath. Gabrielle kissed her deeply, wantonly. Putting as much passion and love into each kiss as she could manage. Hardly a breath could be had between these soulful kisses.

Gabrielle began drawing back but Xena held on, demanding more of the same. Soon it was the bard who was dizzy and breathless. She knew she'd never get done what she needed to do if she broke down and let Xena take command.

"Love. Let me go. I'm still going to be here. Just busy elsewhere. I need you to let go, love. I want to give you this. Just for you. I love you, Xena."

The warrior felt the lips and mouth return to her sopping apex. Just as she was reaching the pinnacle once again, she felt Gabrielle's body between her legs. Her ass was cupped, cheeks spread and then....she was entered. Fully. Her shock was complete.

"What the..." she stammered. Gabrielle's mouth descended upon Xena's left breast and began to tease the nipple as her hips slowly pulled away from between the warriors legs. Then Xena was filled again. The hands holding her arms and legs withdrew, leaving her clutching the bed, unable to do anything but hold on.

Slowly, Xena brought her hands up and encircled the bard's waist. She felt the leather belt and knew what was being done to her. It was so exquisite, having her lover take her this way. She wrapped her legs around Gabrielle and bent forward, taking one of the bard's nipples into her hot mouth.

Gabrielle slowly withdrew the wooden phallus until almost completely out, then plunged back in. Xena grunted with every thrust. Her hold on Gabrielle's breasts became painful as she tried to ground herself. A growl began in the back of her throat, increasing in volume as Gabrielle's trusts became frenzied.

"Oh gods, oh Gabri....elle! Oh, gods! More, harder, I need....." And with a final scream which was almost primal in its intensity, Xena plunged down deeply into an orgasm that rocked her very soul.

Gabrielle began to withdraw slowly, keeping her body in contact with her lover.

"No. No, Gabrielle. Stay in me. I need to feel you inside me like this."

Gabrielle lay carefully on Xena's chest, kissing her way up to the warrior's lips. "I've wanted you like this for so long, Xena. I don't want you to go looking for something I can't give you. I want to possess all of you, my love."

Xena tipped her bard's chin up and kissed her nose. "I will never, ever, go anywhere looking for love from anyone but you. You are all I want, all I will ever need. I want to tell you..." Gabrielle put a finger to the woman's lips. Xena couldn't see the tears falling but she could feel them as they hit her cheek.

"I was afraid, Xena. I wanted to do this, but...I wanted to make things perfect. Did you...think of Hercules while...while I made love to you?"

Gabrielle found both her hands tightly gripped inside Xena's. "No. Never think that. It was you. Always you. I never loved him. Never. I knew it was you as you penetrated me. Knew it by your smell, touch. Always loved you, my bard." She punctuated each thought with a kiss. Both were soon breathless.

"I need to say something, Gabrielle. Kestra? Ephiny? You are still here, aren't you?"

She heard an answering sniffle. The Regent cleared her throat and replied, "Yes, Xena. We're still here. Gods, that was the most beautiful, touching, erotic, passionate experience I have ever witnessed."

"Well, I need you two again." There was a rustling of bed covers as both women made their way over towards the warrior princess. Both women were up for any request Xena might have for them.

"I want you two to bear witness. I have something to say to Gabrielle and, well, I guess I'm glad it's dark so I don't lose my nerve." She cleared her throat and took Gabrielle's hands to her lips.

"I've never been happier in my whole life. If I had a wish to be granted right now, I think I'd pass. I have everything I've ever wanted. Except for one thing." she paused and gulped audibly. "Gabrielle, I know as future Queen to the Amazon Nation you have the right to choose someone more fitting than me. But...I want you to seriously consider me as your consort. You don't have to say anything right now...just think about it. Please?"

Before she knew it Xena was being engulfed by three pairs of hands, three bodies and three sets of lips. They were all laughing, hugging her, kissing her. Tears began to flow freely.

Kestra and Ephiny hugged the bard as she pushed them off the bed. They left, holding each other closely, unmindful of their nakedness. They ran across the compound to their own hut, giggling like young children.

As it was well past middle of the night, there weren't many who witnessed the dash. However, Nadri, the healer, who had been enjoying the moonlight sipping a cool glass of spring water, did. She grimaced, took one look at the water in her cup and poured it out.

"Yup. Definitely the water. That's it. Hangover or no hangover, I'm drinkin wine or ale from now on!" She threw away her wooden cup and went inside, looking for a wine skin.

Gabrielle was full of so much joy. She hugged Xena to her and planted wet kisses all over the warriors face and neck. Each time Gabrielle moved, she noticed Xena winced a bit and her hips moved.

"Uh, Gabrielle. Your either gonna have to get serious with what you're doing or pull out."

Gabrielle looked quizzically at her, touching Xena's face with her finger tips. Then it hit her as the warrior drew one finger into her mouth.

"Oh. Not quite finished were we? I think that could be arranged, Warrior Princess and future Royal Consort of Queen Gabrielle." Try as she might, the bard just could not keep a straight face and broke down in a fit of the giggles.

"Don't you toy with me, Gabrielle. Either use that thing or let me." She seized her lover around the waist but was stopped when Gabrielle's tongue slipped in between her lips.

"Oh yes. Hmmmm. Just like that." purred the warrior as she began to set the pace.

It was to be a long night. Good thing the leather harness was adjustable, too. There was much discussion as to exactly who's 'play thing' it was. At first, Gabrielle tried very hard not to give out the Regent's name. While at the Warrior Princess' mercy, the bard finally admitted defeat and then enjoyed the most awe inspiring orgasm she'd had in, well, hours any way.

There were no dreams for the two lovers this night. Happy and contented smiles graced their faces as they lay intertwined under a well used if somewhat damp bed sheet.

Note: After years of sobriety, Nadri the Healer gave in and once more succumbed to the power of the grape. Believing the water to be tainted, she drank wine or ale with every meal. Strangely enough, her skills as a healer increased as did that of her stitching. Soon most of the village warriors were sporting what looked remarkably like cross stitching on their wounds. She began giving classes on this and became well renowned for the intricacies of her work. This only went on to reinforce her beliefs that water was only for washing.


The sun was high in the sky when Xena and Gabrielle awoke. Neither woman had moved a muscle while they slept and so were a bit sore and in need of a work out. A quick visit to the bath house sorted Gabrielle out while Xena felt need of colder water - water to be found in the nearby river.

She sat on a rock, wringing her hair out after washing it. Both knees were brought up under her chin as she gazed wistfully out across the water. Life as she had known it was going to change again. Her life had been one long regrettable episode after another. She ran her fingers through her hair, leaning over and shaking it back and forth in an attempt to dry it quicker.

Her 'chance' meeting with a young woman from Poteidaia would forever change her perceptions of how the Fates had a hand in her life. There was no doubt in her mind now that 'they' had interceded on her behalf and had allowed the threads from both lives to intertwine. This did not dilute their strength but solidified it. Without Gabrielle in her life Xena knew without a shadow of a doubt that she would probably be dead by now. Or completely mad with blood lust, carnage and hatred. Letting it all consume her, leaving her with no humanity, nothing but a husk, a reflection of Ares, God of War


She cringed whenever she thought of just how much Ares had controlled her. What a big part of her life she had allowed him to become. She had promised her bard that she would never let herself backslide into being the monster she was. Part of her wondered just how hard that promise might be to keep.

She began dressing, donning her leathers and armour. The first time she had done so since arriving at the Amazon village. Today was special. She would present herself in front of the Amazonia Council and petition for Gabrielle's hand in marriage. She would have to prove herself worthy, both as a protector to the Queen and as a trusted and worthy addition to the Amazon Nation.

After going through her drills, she limbered up and did some stretching exercises. It felt good to have her sword at her back, the weight of her breast armour sitting comfortably around her chest. Truth be known, she felt rather naked without them.

As she walked back towards the village center, she spied Eponin over by the healer's hut. The warrior was lost in thought, a stern look upon her face.

"Hey, Ep. Haven't seen you for awhile. Did you and know, manage to...ah..get together?"

"Don't give me that centaur poop, Xena. I know it was you that was peekin on us yesterday morning. And yeah. We did." The weapon's master leaned back and crossed her feet at the ankles. She drew a contented sigh and closed her eyes.

"So. What're you doing here, Ep. You okay? Feeling alright?"

Eponin opened her eyes and looked rather sheepishly at Xena. She drew her feet in and crossed her arms over her breasts. Slowly standing up, she looked towards the infirmary and motioned Xena to come closer.

"Um, gee, Xena. This is kinda embarrassing. Ya see, Solari, well, she put her back out last night. I guess we were gettin a bit carried away. Saw some friezes up at Aphrodite's temple and she wanted to try some of em. We were doing good 'til we got to the last one. Looked really complicated but Ari wanted to give it a try. I was pretty worn out by then, but, hey, anything for love, right?"

Xena rolled her eyes as Eponin began telling her what had happened. Just as it was getting very explicit, Xena interrupted.

"No, that's okay. Really Ep. I don't need to, or want to..hear any more. Just cut to the chase and tell me how she is. Okay?"

Eponin looked rather disgruntled at this, revelling in the retelling of the story.

"Yeah, gotta stay in bed for a week. By herself. Alone. I can't even go and see her! That Nadri keeps givin her wine instead of water. Won't even let me bring in fresh stuff! Ari don't even know I'm there half the time, she's so out of it. When she sees me, all she does is cry and try to get outta bed. So. I've been banished. What am I gonna do, Xena. I mean, five more days?"

Xena found it very hard to keep a straight face, deciding a full retreat was in order. She made some flimsy excuse and rushed over to the visitor's hut. She barely made it into the room before she was shaking with silent laughter.

"Oh, gods, no. Not that damned frieze!" She still had flashbacks about fishing every now and again. It had taken weeks to get the smell out of her leathers.

Gabrielle walked in and was brought up to speed on the comings and goings of the two love birds. They both shared a knowing laugh at the antics of the Love Goddess. They just knew 'Dite was probably laughing herself silly. Probably watched the whole thing. In fact, knowing her, she probably put the whole idea into Solari's head in the first place. Xena shook her head at the whole thing.

"Are you ready, Xena? Do you want to eat something before we have to head over to the council hut? I noticed you missed breakfast." The bard paused, sneaking a look at the warrior princess. "You aren't, um, having second thoughts, are you?"

Xena enveloped her in a fierce hug. She kissed her deeply. "Never. I just needed some time alone. Wasn't particularly hungry. No reason, really."

"Xeeennnnaa. Come on. I know that look. You may be able to fool others with that stoic I'm- too-cool-to-be-mortal facade. Don't pull that on me. It won't work , you know. Now, spill it, Xena." Gabrielle tapped her foot in the dirt, both hands on hips.

"I really love you, Gabrielle. I'm not having second thoughts, or even first one's, really. I'm just kinda wondering what the other villages will say. You know," making a face,"Destroyer of Nations, Conqueror of Half of Greece. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I mean, who am I fooling? I'll never be good enough for you, Gabrielle. No one will ever see anything but a monster when they see me. This will look bad for you. Who's gonna take you seriously with a killer by your side?"

Xena looked so dejected that the bard found it hard not to take her right back to the bed and just ravish her for hours. Not good enough! After all Xena had done in the past two years, if all people really saw now was a monster, then to Hades with them!

"What they'll see, my love, is a strong warrior who is fighting on the side of good. Yes, they may still see a killer when they look at you. Why deny what and who you are, Xena? It's part of who you are. It's what makes you fiercely loyal, honest, courageous and unafraid to take risks." She took Xena by the arm and the two of them made their way to the council hut. "Besides, you'll be MY killer."

Both Kestra and Ephiny had just finished making their pledge in front of the council, naming the next full moon as their joining date. The hall was filled to overbrimming. Feet were stomping and voices were raised in celebration.

As Xena and Gabrielle entered the hall, all eyes were turned towards them. Xena stood a little taller, glaring at anyone who met her eyes. Gabrielle smiled and nodded her way to the front dias, ever the budding politician. Xena stood back as the bard pressed the flesh. As the warrior got near to the front, the crowd made way for her, some murmuring in resentment.

Gabrielle made an impassioned plea for the right of her warrior to make her pledge. As she talked Xena could see the whole room would be eating out of her hand. It was truly amazing to watch Gabrielle work a room. A few well placed jokes, some at her own expense, reduced the tension in the room by at least half.

Gabrielle locked eyes with her warrior and with some fanfare, introduced her to the crowd.

Xena slowly took center stage, looking magnificent in her full and polished armour. Being an accomplished orator from battles past stood the Warrior Princess in good stead.

After a rather stoic plea as to what she could bring to the Amazon Nation with her acceptance as Gabrielle's betrothed, she suddenly had the whole room in the palm of her hand.

As she bent to one knee, Xena removed her chakram and sword and lay them at the feet of the future Queen.

"I pledge these, my heart, blood and very soul to you, Princess Gabrielle. They are yours to do with as you will." She bowed her head and waited.

Tears formed at the corners of Gabrielle's eyes. She willed them back, took up Xena's weapons and held them aloft.

"I, Gabrielle, Amazon Princess by way of caste, do accept these tokens from Xena, Warrior Princess. I accept them along with her very heart, body and soul."

She passed the weapons to a waiting Amazon guard and drew Xena up to face her. She clasped hands with the warrior and they both turned to face the audience.

Ephiny led the cheering as the bard lifted their joined hands. Xena looked at Gabrielle and without missing a beat, took the woman into her arms and kissed her deeply.

The audience gasped. Not that it was out of order, not protocol, but that the Warrior Princess would so brazenly show her emotions. Watching the love the two women had for each other, the audience was held enthralled. Soon every Amazon within the hall was jumping up and down, cheering wildly. Eponin and a few of the others rushed the dias and shouted congratulations to the soon-to-be-joined couple.

Ephiny and Kestra held each of their hands and soon all four were holding their joined hands above their heads. It was a great and momentous occasion. Not only would their Regent be joined with a skilled warrior but their future Queen would be bringing in new blood, someone who, by sheer reputation, would ensure the safety of their boundaries.

The wine flowed freely and a full scale party broke out. There was much merriment and lively banter.

Eponin felt it her duty to challenge Xena to an arm wrestling contest. Even after losing 10 times in quick succession didn't dampen Eponin's ardour. She just wouldn't give up. Seeing the problem, Gabrielle whispered into the healer's ear for a moment. Nadri arched an eyebrow but nodded her head in acceptance. The bard sauntered over to where the two sat, arms locked in mortal combat. She whispered something into Eponin's ear and stood back as the weapon's master jumped up and took off towards the infirmary. Xena stood up, stretched her arms and legs and glared at any further challengers. 'The look' was all it took. Not from Xena: Warrior Princess, but from Gabrielle: Amazon Princess.

Mentally patting herself on the back, Gabrielle led her warrior away from the festivities. Both looked on in horror as Kestra took on all challengers in a knife throwing contest. Ephiny sat at the head table, head cradled in her arms, oblivious to everything around her. The warrior looked at the bard. Both sighed.

"Amazons", they both said together.

As they made their way back to their hut, they passed the infirmary. Eponin was on bended knee, professing her undying love to Solari. The prostrate woman was beyond caring, an empty wine bag looped over the headboard. Eponin, having herself consumed too much of the grape didn't notice a thing.

The bard snorted and poked Xena in the ribs. Although both knew the weapon's master wouldn't remember a thing in the morning, Xena would make sure every detail would be pointed out to her. Graphically. Repeatedly.

After removing their clothing, the two women lay in each other's arms, enjoying the easy love that enveloped them.

"You know, Gabrielle. This is just the first stage. Who know's what kind of challenges they'll dream up for me to pass before I can be seen as being your worthy consort?"

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that, love. After all, I do have an inside contact. And she's already been privy to some of your many skills. I can't imagine you'll find anything she dreams up a trial, can you?" And with that, they kissed, hugged, snuggled and kissed some more. A tickle fest began and ended just as quickly when there was a request from a certain bard for a further show of the warrior's 'many skills'. Then low chuckles and giggles were heard from the visitor's hut before the night air was filled with the sounds of lovers in love.

It seemed to catch like wild fire. The Regent's hut was next, followed closely by the infirmary.

Nadri shook her head. She knew just how busy she'd be in the morning with knife wounds and broken wrists. Yup, she thought to herself. It's in the water. She helped herself to another cup of ale, muttering to herself the whole way back to her hut. She stopped up short when she recognized one of the senior guards loitering by the front door. With a smile and a new wine bag she hooked her arm in Nadri's and the two disappeared into the hut.

Note: Only the sour reputation of the healer was harmed during this story. Solari's back took less time to heal than previously thought due to the workout it got the night of the pledge. Kestra was sporting some nice cross stitching on her arms from her close encounter with more superior knife throwers. Ephiny had a hangover for days, swearing off wine and ale for at least a seven day period. It didn't last. And as for Xena and Gabrielle, well, they went over, in detail, just how many skills the bard hadn't been shown. The whole village soon became accustomed to their daily operatic feats. Argo grew fat from all the spoiling Kestra laid on her.

It was all sweet while it lasted but they knew it wouldn't be for long. But that, as they say, is another story.

The End

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