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Liquid Fire

by Ms Mil Toro


"I told you they would come," she heard the voice say.

The inn was empty and quiet, the only sounds coming from the large wash basin where a young woman hunched over washing away stains and muck from glasses and plates. Her apron was smeared with food, ale and wine from her daily labours. Usually, she was industrious and efficient but on this day she rinsed the plates indifferently not worrying if the paying customers were happy with the service. Her long wait was over. She had a second chance. She had bided her time and now the moment she long awaited had finally arrived. The plan was about to begin.

She heard them enter as the strong warrior boots scraped against the floor of the inn. Lighter footsteps accompanied the heavy boots. The clanking of leathered armour perked up the woman's ears. She knew these two women would come. One a young woman bard, the other, a warrior woman. A Goddess in her eyes. The warrior goddess was strong, powerful, alluring and dangerous. Yes, dangerous if crossed, but the woman didn't care. She would get so close to the flame that her eyebrows would singe because she had to have her, and yes, she would have her. The little bard wouldn't be strong or clever enough to stop her. And Xena wouldn't be able to stop herself.

Chapter One

Gabrielle closed her eyes and faced up into the bright sun and shiny blue sky, the water brimming her round face. She lay perfectly still in the calm lagoon and floated weightlessly atop the quiet waters. Xena undressed on shore. Gabrielle had never been happier. These were the times she loved best when out on the road with Xena. Just her and Xena alone together. No barbaric scum, no Ares, no formerly betrothed people, no evil blonde Xena-wannabes and most importantly, no Joxer. No. Just Gabrielle and Xena alone. Together.

She spied Xena gracefully wading into the water. To Gabrielle, no one was more alluring or gorgeous, not even Hercules' half sister Aphrodite. A languid smile spread across her face. Her body peacefully floated on the placid waters as she waited for her Warrior Princess to swim to her. A rush of water startled her as Xena leapt up from the calm waters beneath her creating a mini tidal wave. Gabrielle lost her balance cursing Xena as she sunk underwater.

"Xena! You nearly scared me to death!" Gabrielle sputtered.

"Didn't you see me swim over?" Xena teased, an innocent smile on her face.

Gabrielle laughed and slapped the water at Xena. She could never stay mad at her cherished companion. She wrapped her arms around Xena's waist, drawing her in close. "You are going to pay for this later," she threatened into the top of the warrior's breasts.

"Oh yeah? I'd like to see you try", Xena laughed and extracted herself from Gabrielle's arms and raced back to the shoreline. Gabrielle splashed after her.


Gabrielle sat writing by the fire as Xena checked the wear and tear on her leathers.

The bard peered up from her scrolls and watched Xena meticulously mend the tattered edges. She debated asking a question.

"Xena, when you trained with the Amazons, did you ever, you know, get involved with any of those women?"

"What do mean 'involved'?

Gabrielle giggled, "You know, romantically."

Xena frowned. Gabrielle sighed.

"Why do you ask me that?"

"Well, I was just wondering for a poem I'm writing," Gabrielle was surprised that Xena might actually answer her question.

Xena focused on her handiwork.

"I know I'm not as experienced as you," Gabrielle prodded. "You know I never knew two women could be together like this, like we are. I know when we visited the Amazons before, there were a few of them that were couples but before that, I never knew anybody."

"That's because your village had to reproduce," Xena grinned trying to make light of the question. She hated talking about her past. It was best to stay in the present.

Gabrielle, can you just tell me exactly what you need to know. Stop trying to dance around it." Xena had no patience with circling questions.

"Okay. How many women were there, " she paused, "before me?"

Xena sighed. She finished with her leather and neatly folded it next to her armour at the foot of their bedroll.

"A few," Xena answered curtly. She stretched out her long legs on the blanket and propped herself up with her elbow.

"Was there ever a time when a woman was in love with you and you didn't feel the same way, that maybe you weren't attracted to her or something?"

"Maybe, I don't remember," Xena didn't like the direction this conversation was taking, what was Gabrielle getting at, anyway?

"I'm just curious, Xena. This is all new to me. What about a woman that was like, jealous of you and tried to hurt you through other people,?" Gabrielle's eyes gleamed with excitement as she tried to make a grand tale out of Xena's former loves. "I want to write a poem about unrequited love with a touch of revenge and jealousy and an all consuming lust for somebody."

"You mean like Callisto?" Xena winced, she hadn't meant for that name to slip out.

Gabrielle suddenly got serious, her eyes downcast. "Well, not quite that deranged, but kind of like that. She was in love with you, wasn't she, Xena?" she searched Xena's eyes for confirmation.

Xena gazed past the fire, remembering back to Callisto's bizarre obsession with her. "I suppose you could say that but it was twisted and maniacal, and I would never call her fixation, love."

"Yeah, you're right, but I guess sometimes I have a little green monster that screams inside of me whenever someone shows the slightest interest in you. I want to rip their heads off."

My precious bard, you'll never know how close some people have come to me lopping their heads off, Xena reflected. She cringed at the thought of her own insane jealousy.

"Listen to me, Gabrielle," she started. "You know I've had a turbulent past and I've been with a lot of men in my life. And some women as well. You'll never really know how much you mean to me because I'm not good with words. It's hard for me to say what I feel. But those people are in the past but, you, you're here with me right here and right now. All I can say is, I've never have been so completely happy with a person, a woman or man as I am with you. It's like we're soulmates," Xena stopped afraid to go much further. Her emotions had a way of getting out of control when she spoke with Gabrielle this way.

Gabrielle grinned from ear to ear as her face lit up, "Really?! So I'm not crazy to think of you as my 'other half'. Hey, my 'soulmate', I like that. That I could use in the poem."

"Come here, my little bard, you can write that in the morning," Xena patted a spot on the bedroll next to her.

"Okay, okay, you win," Gabrielle added, "this time."

"Gabrielle, you know I don't like to stop in every little village we pass-------" she stopped in mid sentence as Argo lurched forward and stumbled into an open hole in the road. As the horse struggled to maintain her balance, her hoof slid across an embedded rock and she rolled over onto her shoulder hurling Xena to the ground. As she scrambled to get up, Xena noticed Argo limping badly off her front hoof.

"Xena!, are you alright?" Gabrielle gasped.

"I'm fine," she barked as she raced over to Argo's side. The mare whinnied as Xena grabbed her reins and tried to console her. "It's alright, you're going to be fine. It's just a sprain," she said soothingly over and over until the horse was calm enough for Xena to examine the extent of her injury.

"Gabrielle, her ankle is badly sprained. We'll have to go back to that village. I want to find Argo some shelter. Looks like you'll get your wish."

"I'm sorry, Xena, I didn't want to stop that badly." Gabrielle was near tears.

"I know," Xena noticed Gabrielle's glassy eyes for the first time, "Oh I'm sorry, I know it wasn't your fault," she gave the bard a comforting hug and turned in the direction they came. "Let's just get going, okay?" By retracing their trail, the village would take a half day's journey.

By late afternoon, Xena and Gabrielle approached the village. Xena re-examined Argo's leg and noticed the mare was still favouring the sprained ankle. They guided Argo to the stables for food and water and some much needed rest.

They entered the inn seeking accommodations. The inn was quite ordinary with a long counter in front and the main eating and drinking area off to the side. A second room, the cooking area, adjoined the main room. An elderly woman greeted them. Her grey hair was tied back in a ponytail and several loose strands fell around her face. She wiped her hands on a well-worn apron.

"We'd like a room for the night and a meal ," Xena announced.

"Sure," she called across the room. "Missy, get these nice women two plates and some tea," the elderly woman obviously owned the place.

A young blonde girl turned away from the wash basin to face Xena and Gabrielle.

"Callisto!" Gabrielle hissed.

With lightening quick speed, Xena withdrew her sword steering Gabrielle behind her, "What are you doing here?" her eyes narrowed, her face steeled against danger.

Callisto smiled and raised her hands in surrender. "Oh Xena! You don't need that sword. I'm unarmed. I'm not a warlord anymore. I work here in this inn as a humble servant." Callisto's voice was soft and disarming.

"Yeah, right," Gabrielle said behind Xena, her staff at the ready.

Xena refused to put down her weapon, not trusting Callisto's sincerity. "How did you come back? Which one of the Gods put you up to this?"

"Now, now, ladies behave yourselves," the older woman stepped in front of Xena, bravely shielding Callisto from the woman warrior. "Another one of your former cohorts, Callisto?" she glanced over her shoulder. "How many enemies did you make, anyway?" she asked rhetorically.

"My name is Lusanica," she said to Xena. "I own this place. This girl needed a job and I heard she was a former warlord but she says she wants to mend her ways and live the quiet life. Everybody deserves a second chance. Now, please put down your sword," Lusanica stood with her hands on her hips determined not to move.

Xena's eyes never left Callisto. She was sure this was a trick. "Okay, I will, but first, come out from behind that counter so I can be sure you're not armed." She tilted her head towards Gabrielle, "Search her for weapons. Thoroughly."

"I'm not armed, Xena, honest," Callisto sighed and voluntarily moved from behind the counter to be searched by Gabrielle.

"There's no hidden weapons, Xena," Gabrielle declared.

"It's true, I'm trying to mend my ways. You turned yourself around, why can't I?" Callisto smiled warmly.

Xena reluctantly returned her sword to its scabbard. Puzzled by Callisto's apparent honesty, she decided to wait to see what happened. After all, she had changed and it wasn't so long ago that many people thought that would be impossible for the Warrior Princess.

"Okay, we'll stay. We are hungry and we do need to stay here for the night." Xena moved to a table in the corner with her back against the wall.

Callisto retreated to prepare the plates of food and tea.

"Gabrielle, I don't want you out of my sight for one second. Stick close to me, she's up to something, I just know it," Xena whispered.

"Don't worry, Xena, I'm sticking close by. Is it just me, or is she even more scary when she's so nice?"


Lusanica approached their table, "Your room is upstairs, the first door on the left. Holler if you need anything and Callisto will get it for you. I didn't know her from before and I know she has a lot of enemies, but she's been nothing but a nice sweet girl."

Gabrielle choked and coughed.

"How long has she been here?" Xena queried not taking her eye away from the doorway Callisto exited.

"Two, maybe three full moons, I guess. She's a hard worker, what more could I want? I've become like a second mother to her. And I don't mind reclamation projects. I'm sure she's really sorry for what she did in the past and she's trying to make up for that now." Lusanica leaned over and lowered her voice, "Please, be nice, that's all I ask. You can stay the night and then go on your merry way. Then you never have to see Callisto again, okay?"

Xena nodded, "All right, I'll behave, but I'm not taking my eyes off her."

"Suit yourself. Well, I have some chores to finish up, it's quiet now but the room will fill up soon enough." She climbed the stairs.

They're here! They're here! They're here! And the Xena Goddess looks as ravishing as ever. Oh why couldn't she be the one to search me for weapons? She's such a spoiled sport letting the little brat do it. No need to worry, however, Xena will be touching me soon enough and begging me for more. She's suspicious now but by tomorrow she'll be so much as mushy clay in my hands. Oh by the Gods, how I love that woman.

"You have to be careful now, Callisto, don't get overexcited, you could get careless," a voice warned her. "Xena is a very clever woman. She's very suspicious by nature and she might figure out your plan before it comes to total fruition."

Oh no, Callisto shot back. This plan will work. She has no idea. She doesn't know that I knew she was coming. If she figures it out at all, it'll be too late. By then, she will be mine. Xena will be all mine.

Callisto leaned over the food and drink and surreptitiously spilled a couple of drops of liquid into them. She would make sure Xena ate and drank plenty.

Chapter Two

Xena and Gabrielle returned from upstairs and strolled into the main room. After finishing their mid day meal, they spent all afternoon unpacking, checking on Argo and discussing what to do about Callisto. A few patrons glanced up from their dinner plates as Xena surveyed the large room but quickly returned their gaze to their food. Xena secured a table in the corner with her back to the wall to keep a watchful eye on Callisto.

"Gabrielle, why don't you go tell some stories. It'll distract everyone, and I'll be able to keep a better eye on Callisto," Xena suggested.

"Sure, Xena, are you...."

Xena cut her off.

"Wait," her eyes hardened as Callisto approached their table.

"Can I get you anything else? More food, more tea, some port maybe?" Callisto offered demurely, the perfect servant.

"No port for me, but how about some more food and tea," Xena suggested, surprised she was more hungry than usual. She turned to Gabrielle. "How about you? More food?"

Gabrielle shook her head. "I'm fine, maybe just some tea,"

"Coming right up," Callisto smiled sweetly.

Gabrielle sat stunned. If she didn't know better she'd swear that Callisto was an innocent and virginal local farm girl. Her stomach lurched at the thought. It unnerved her to see Callisto sweeter than molasses and humble as pie. However, she was sure Xena would be able to figure out what she was up to. As for herself, she would go tell her stories and keep an open eye on Callisto, just in case.

Xena kept one eye on Gabrielle and one eye on Callisto. She observed the former warrior wander from table to table. She did her duties without complaint. Whenever a patron, usually a man, got out of line, she smiled demurely and put him in his place. Remembering Callisto's razor sharp tongue, Xena imagined where she told them to stuff their wandering hands. Periodically, she would come to Xena's table to offer her a port. Xena declined every time. She wanted to stick to tea for tonight. She would need to maintain all of her faculties to counteract whatever devious plan Callisto was concocting.

Gabrielle's voice soon dominated the room. At first only a few townsfolk were interested in her stories but soon she had the entire room holding their collective breath as she weaved fantastic tales of mythic adventures. Xena was even mesmerised by her lilting voice, her golden red hair, her cherub face and her muscular arms. After a while, she wanted to drag Gabrielle away from the speaking area, sweep her off her feet, take her upstairs to their room and make feverish love to her. Settle down, Xena scolded herself, Gabrielle's almost finished. The growing moistness between her legs forced her to shift uncomfortably in her chair.

She wondered how she, Xena the Warrior Princess and Destroyer of Nations, deserved someone so alive and full of light and love while her own tortured soul remained full of dark demons from her past. Not on more than one occasion she thought that Gabrielle would be better off without her. Xena was afraid she would somehow taint the bard's bright soul and that Gabrielle would eventually pay for it in Tartarus. Oh well, at least we would still be together, she thought morbidly. Isn't that what Callisto once teased her about, spending an eternity in Tartarus together?

"Can I get you another tea?" Callisto offered as she picked up Xena's near empty mug.

Abruptly Xena grabbed Callisto's wrist, "What are you up to, Callisto?" she demanded low enough for only the blonde to hear.

A forgiving pleasant smile crossed Callisto's face as if she'd never killed so much as a fly in her entire life. She glanced down at the steely grip Xena maintained on her wrist.

"You still don't trust me, do you? I'm sorry, I really want to put our past behind us. Believe me, Xena, I've changed."

Xena relaxed her grip slightly but didn't let go, "Who let you out of Tartarus? Which God?"

"It wasn't a God, Xena, it was my Guardian Angel. Now let go of my wrist. I may be reformed now but I don't put up with violence from anyone, including you." Xena let go.

Callisto leaned over, her ample breasts threatened to spill out of her peasant dress, She whispered in Xena's ear.

"You know, Xena, it's a shame you can't put your suspicions and demons behind you to let some forgiveness into your heart. You could learn a lot from your bard friend over there. There isn't a malevolent bone in her pretty little body, is there? But you? You're even wary of her, of her love for you. She's everything you think you want and yet? You close your heart from her because you're convinced that no one could love you. Just like you're skeptical that I'm not capable of changing to the side of good. You changed. Or have you? Is that why you don't believe me?"

Callisto stood up straight. "Now would you like another cup of tea?"

Xena, too stunned to speak, just nodded as Callisto sauntered off. It took a few minutes for her to regain her composure, her face flushed hotly. Slowly her breathing returned to normal as she realised she had been holding her breath when Callisto had been so enticingly close. She had fought a strong inner desire to slam Callisto across the table and ravish her body like so much raw meat.

What is the matter with me? Xena berated herself. Why was she lusting after Callisto? She shivered as warm chills crept slowly up her back.

Maybe Callisto is right, she thought. Maybe she was too damn suspicious for her own good. Maybe she could allow Gabrielle past the fortress surrounding her heart. How ironic, she mused, Callisto instructing her on the matters of the heart. Actually it was a relief to see her act a little more "normal". Xena noticed a flash of anger cross her face when she snatched Callisto's wrist. It was the first time Xena had seen any real emotion from the blonde warrior.

Xena's patience ran out. She strolled up to the speaking area with a purpose.

Dumbstruck, Gabrielle watched as Callisto leaned over and whispered something in Xena's ear. What could she be whispering? she wondered. She knew Callisto had been flirting with Xena all night and yet she knew Xena wouldn't fall for that old trick. But this time, whatever Callisto whispered made Xena blush. Imagine, her brave Warrior Princess blushing? Xena? Who could fight off 10 men practically in her sleep? Unless it meant Callisto was getting to her. Gabrielle knew Callisto had the hots for Xena, anybody with a brain could clearly see that. But Xena had never once shown an inkling of attraction for her at all. Up until now. Xena was blushing.

Gabrielle began to falter in her spellbinding accounts. Her words rambled and she steadily disintegrated into a mindless chatterbox. Gratefully, she saw Xena earnestly making her way towards the speaking area.

Gabrielle raced up to the room and hurled the door shut. Xena was moments behind her but not soon enough to prevent the door from slamming in her face. She sighed before she gently opened the door and entered. Gabrielle was already getting undressed, her clothes scattered haphazardly around the room.

"Gabrielle," Xena tried to coax an explanation out of her. She had no idea why the bard was so incensed. The bard remained tight-lipped and angrily pitched the dinars she had made from her evening's work on the bureau beside the bed. She rummaged through their packs shuffling the contents around as if that would explain everything to Xena.

Xena sat on the edge of the bed waiting for the volcano to stop spewing lava. She could barely stifle her mirth as she noticed that Gabrielle had stripped herself down to her boots. It was the only outerwear she had on and usually it was the first thing she took off. She hadn't expected their first night in the inn to go like this, not after all that lustful pining Xena sat through downstairs. It took all of the strength of Hercules to restrain herself from seducing Gabrielle before she was ready. Xena warred within herself as she patiently waited for Gabrielle to calm down.

Xena removed her breastplates and wandered over to Gabrielle's side. The bard would not face her as she kept her back turned while searching through their sacks for nothing in particular. Xena put a hand on her shoulder, "Gabrielle, please, tell me what happened, did I do something wrong?" Gabrielle whirled around to confront her.

"Oh you don't know, do you? You think I don't see things? I may be younger and more naive but I'm not an idiot!" Gabrielle's face was contorted with rage. "You! and that woman! What does she want, Xena?"

"I don't know, Gabrielle,"

"Xena, I saw you. Did you think I didn't notice her flirting with you all night?" Gabrielle demanded. She mimicked Callisto. "Xena, can I get you some food. Xena, can I get you some port. Xena, Xena, Xena....." she mocked. She turned away from Xena and sat down on the other side of the bed. She concentrated on taking off her long forgotten boots. They landed on the floor with a thud.

"Me and Callisto? That's ridiculous," Xena couldn't help but feel a stab of guilt when she recollected her vision of Callisto spread across the table before her.

"It's not ridiculous, Xena. I know she wants you. I'm not blind. You know it too," she accused. "She's always wanted you. I swear she's up to something." Gabrielle cupped her face and screamed into her hands.

Xena sat next to her and gingerly put her arm around her shoulder.

"Gabrielle, even if Callisto does want me, I still have a say in this, don't I? Look at me," she lifted Gabrielle's chin with her thumb and forefinger. "No one. No one could ever take me away from you. Do you hear me?" Xena was calm and reasoning.

Despite her all-consuming jealousy, Gabrielle found herself melting under Xena's loving gaze. She began to drown in her crystal blue eyes. She wanted to be mad at Xena, really angry, but instead Xena's close proximity was unsettling. The statuesque warrior made her want to fall on her knees, part her leather thongs and bury her face between her legs. Nevertheless, Gabrielle was determined to maintain her composure.

"Xena, what did she whisper in your ear? I want to know."

"Is that what you're jealous about?" Xena grinned.

"What so funny, Xena, I saw you blush, what did she say to you?" Gabrielle wasn't going to shrug this one off.

"Sorry, I know it's not funny. It's just that... she said... I know it's hard to believe, but she said I was too suspicious and that I should trust people more, including you."

"Me? Callisto was giving you advice on love regarding me? Yeah right. Xena, she's planning something. I know it. I can feel it. Why aren't you worried?"

"Gabrielle, you're right, I do think she's up to something. On the other hand, I'd like to try to give her the benefit of the doubt. You know it wasn't so long ago that no one could think that I could change. If you knew me then, you wouldn't believe what you're seeing now. Trust me you wouldn't. If Callisto's up to something, we'll find out soon enough. Besides, we should be leaving tomorrow anyway. In the meantime, I'll keep an eye out, I promise," Xena pulled Gabrielle closer to her and gently massaged her arm, enjoying the soft curves of her biceps.

"You promise, Xena?"

"Oh my sweet Gabrielle, yes, I promise," Xena said huskily, her tongue followed a trail along the edge of Gabrielle's hairline. She breathed in the perfume that was Gabrielle and playfully bit the side of her neck. Gabrielle shivered slightly as Xena found her eager lips. She enveloped Gabrielle in her arms and pulled the bard atop her long physique, their mouths never breaking contact. One strong hand massaged the taut muscles of the Gabrielle's buttocks and the other tangled itself through the red head's tresses. Gabrielle tried to remove Xena's leather tunic because her naked body was sticking to Xena's sweltering torso. Xena firmly stopped her. Her body needed immediate release as she could no longer contain the floodgates erupting inside her.

"Gabrielle, please, just hold on to me for a moment," Xena begged, desperate to reach the pinnacle of ecstasy.

Xena imprisoned Gabrielle thigh between her legs. Her slick mound soaked through her undergarments as she thrust rhythmically against Gabrielle. The friction against her clitoris sent her over the edge in a few swift minutes. A surprised gasp escaped her throat.

Gabrielle brushed Xena's sweaty hair away from her face. Her eyes were closed tightly and her chest heaved as if she were in pain.

"Xena, are you alright?" Xena opened her eyes to see Gabrielle's curious face.

"Oh yes, baby, I'm fine. Shhhh, don't talk," she covered Gabrielle's lips exploring the inside warmth of her mouth. Xena rolled Gabrielle over on her back and her wet mouth slid to the smaller woman's neck devouring every pore as if for the first time. The taste of each new conquered area of Gabrielle's satiny skin sent fiery tingles throughout Xena's limbs. She left a wet trail along each of her beloved's arms methodically giving it a thorough tongue massage. A light sheen of sweat glistened over Gabrielle's body as her muscles freely reacted to Xena's feathery touch. Xena's hand massaged one of the bard's small breasts and she hungrily devoured the other soft mound in large gulps, her mouth finally come to rest at the nipple. She pounced on the already erect nipple and bit it tenderly as Gabrielle squealed in delight. Xena's mouth moved to the other breast and gave it equal attention. As she moved her body further down, she could hear the smacking sound of her leather tunic as she peeled it away from the bard's skin. The radiating fervour made it even more slick and overheated but she was too pre-occupied to remove it.

Xena licked her way down Gabrielle's taut stomach and paused at her navel, circling her tongue inside the tiny cave. She continued her tongue bath across the width of Gabrielle's abdomen and steadily made her way to Gabrielle's reddish triangle. Her pubic hairs glistened with sweat and passionate juices. Xena burrowed her nose into the soft downy fur inhaling the intoxicatingly sweet aroma. Erotic spasms assailed her as she could think of nothing but Gabrielle's honeydewed labia enveloping her face. Xena rolled onto her back taking Gabrielle with her.

She lifted Gabrielle's torso above her and settled her soaking vulva onto her groaning mouth. Her strong hands held the bard's buttocks aloft as the Gabrielle's supple thighs surrounded her head. Xena whimpered into the bard's steaming opening and licked enthusiastically. It seemed she had waited an eternity for a taste of her carnal haven, when in fact it had only been yesterday. Her tongue playfully explored the delicate folds of Gabrielle's secret treasures. She dipped her tongue inside and felt the slippery walls expand and contract against her. She stretched her tongue beyond her normal restraint and disregarded the soreness she was certain to feel in the morning.

Finally, she found the rosebud of desire. She flattened her tongue against it and held Gabrielle tightly. Gabrielle quickly began to move in perfect timing to Xena's insistent ministrations. Then suddenly, Gabrielle's body went stiff and Xena slowed down the tempo until her spasms ceased.

Gabrielle glided her way down Xena's body and ardently kissed her mouth. She came to rest against Xena's shoulder.

"What's gotten into you tonight, Xena? You didn't even bother to take off your leather!" Her hand slipped beneath Xena's undergarments. Her fingers came away slippery and wet. "Oooh, and you're so hot!"

"Hmm, you make me hot, Gabrielle," Xena stroked her callused hand along the length of Gabrielle's back. "You know, when you were telling your stories, that's all I could think of, was getting you up here."

"I didn't know telling my stories had such an added advantage."

"Yeah, and I'm not finished with you yet, my precious."

Callisto stood outside Xena and Gabrielle's room and overheard their heated exchange of words. The intermittent silence was soon followed by sounds of passionate love making.

It's working! It's working! I knew it would, she exclaimed to herself. The plan was perfect and coming along nicely. Not that she ever doubted her Guardian Angel but sometimes she could never tell with some Gods. They might say or do anything to get what they wanted. After all the dull and boring circumstances she had to put up with to ensnare her beautiful Xena Goddess, this was definitely going to be worth it. Not even Xena was immune to the effects of the Guardian Angel's devious spells.

Chapter Three

Xena's eyes were closed but she was wide awake. Gabrielle was sound asleep and curled up at her shoulder, her arm draped across Xena's stomach. Xena had tuckered out the poor bard and she had fallen asleep much too early. They had made love several times but Xena still could not be satiated. She wasn't sleepy at all. She could think of nothing but the raging desire within her loins. It was as if Aphrodite herself possessed her. She felt a passion to devour Gabrielle and a passion to devour Callisto. What was it about Callisto anyway? She had to admit on the rare occasion she wondered what making love to the narcissistic maniac would be like but most of that had been inspired by Callisto's fiendish pre-occupation with her. Still, in many bizarre ways it soothed her ego. She wondered how enjoyable it would be to have Callisto grovelling at her feet. During her warlord days, she thought nothing of maintaining a few of her bed partners as strictly love servants. Most were men but there were a few women as well. Callisto had that same glint in her eye.

Oh, why was she succumbing to this torture, Xena berated herself. She carefully disentangled herself out of the Gabrielle's arms not wanting to awaken the slumbering woman. She needed to go for a walk. Maybe she could practice with her sword and work off some of her excess energy. She needed to do something.

She found a small clearing outside of town that surrounded an abandoned Athenian temple. The soft light of the full moon and brilliant stars revealed a half destroyed alter and a few remaining haphazard boulders. Xena began practising her sword exercises. She stretched out her muscles feeling the adrenaline and endorphins surge through her. Now that she didn't command an Army and Gabrielle distracted her from using violence most times, she didn't use her sword as much as before. However, she felt it necessary to hone her skills and although she hated to admit it, the exercises relaxed and comforted her. Droplets of sweat formed on her chest and trickled beneath her armoured breastplates.

She heard a twig snap and in an instant, she grabbed the person from behind and flung a body over her shoulder. A blonde mass of hair landed on the ground and Xena's sword was at her throat.

"Xena, I'm unarmed!" Callisto cried in anguish. "I didn't mean to scare you!"

Xena noted a flicker of fear pass through Callisto's eyes. She liked Callisto being afraid of her. She had never revealed her fear before. "Sorry," she said unconvincingly and put away her sword. Xena leaned over top of her former arch enemy, her breath coming in short gasping bursts. The wispy ends of her long black hair brushed along Callisto's shoulders. She debated on letting her up not wanting to let go of the power she held at that very moment.

"You can have your way with me if you want to, Xena. You're so beautiful, Warrior Princess." Callisto said beneath her, her arms stretched above her head, her lips parted expectantly.

Xena studied her glowing chestnut eyes, her pouting full lips, her dark eyebrows, her blonde wild mane. Callisto moved her hands to Xena's thighs and seared an imprint on both sides. Between her legs, Xena's moist mound buried itself firmly against Callisto's washboard stomach. Xena felt herself sinking closer to Callisto's sensuous lips. She wanted to smother those seductive lips and quell the hunger that inflamed her. She wrenched herself away from Callisto and sat up. Oh my stars, what about Gabrielle?

"What am I doing?" she heard herself say out loud.

"Nothing you haven't been wanting to do since forever," Callisto sprang upright in an instant. She licked the side of Xena's neck, lightly grazing the fine hairs that stood on end. Xena's shoulder slightly lifted against her will, her body not at all responding to the commands of her mind.

"You've desired me from afar for a long time, haven't you?" Callisto breathed tenderly in her ear. "I can take care of you Xena. Your little friend, she's inexperienced, isn't she? You have to teach her everything. You won't have to teach me, Xena. Your every whim will be my desire and I will take you places you never dreamed possible. Don't you want someone to take control, Warrior Princess?" Xena moaned involuntarily.

"Yes, my raven haired beauty, I could do that, I could. And I would refuse you nothing." Callisto's hypnotising soliloquy shattered Xena's collapsing defences. Her skin melted under Callisto's kisses. She could not think clearly. Think of Gabrielle, her mind tried to protest and resist. No, not Callisto. Yes. Callisto's tongue was insistent, fiercely driving her mind to flee her body.

Callisto twisted Xena around to face her. Her lips closed over Xena's and her tongue attacked the open orifice. She shoved Xena to the ground and climbed atop the bigger warrior woman. In a frenzied rush, she removed Xena's leather tunic and her own peasant dress. She licked her neck and bit at her earlobe. Xena's hands roamed freely grasping Callisto's buttocks closer. She felt the wetness between Callisto's legs soak her thigh and pondered what the taste of her would be like. Her own juices were overflowing and she could barely harness her need to take over. She tried to push Callisto's shoulders down but the blonde warrior rebelled against Xena's direction. Xena wondered if she would go completely mad with unfulfilled yearning.

"Yes, my sweet, you want something, don't you?" Callisto tongue dipped into Xena's inner ear. "Tell me what it is, my Warrior Princess, tell me what you need,"

"Ahhh," Xena's verbal responses were even more muted than usual.

"Don't wanna talk right now, hmmm? Oh but you will, my Princess, you will." Callisto shifted her weight and parted Xena's legs to find a boiling inferno. Her fingers mischievously separated the slippery folds and contours of Xena's nether lips. She inserted one finger and Xena's entire body arched up to meet her. Her legs reflexively spread out wider.

"My, my, we are rather anxious aren't we, Xena?" Callisto inserted another finger and Xena groaned loudly as her hand instinctively grasped Callisto's urging her to thrust more fully inside her.

Callisto bit the side of Xena's neck nudging her that much closer to the edge of the abyss. A guttural groan escaped her lips.

"Xena, now my sweet warrior. What exactly is it that you want me to do? I can't understand a word you're saying. Hmm, you can actually speak words, can't you?"

"Please...." was all Xena could manage.

'Well, that's one word. But I told you, my sweetness, you will have to tell me what you want. I'm having trouble distinguishing between a grunt and a groan." Callisto's fingers remained inside Xena but she kept them still. She moved her mouth to Xena's left breast arousing the nipple to erection.

"I can't...." Xena whimpered and tried to thrust her hips to envelope more of Callisto's fingers but the younger warrior collapsed her thigh over Xena's hindering further movement.

"You can't what, Xena. Do you want me to stop?"

"No! Don't stop!"

"So the big dumb warrior does know how to speak, does she?" Callisto crawled back up to Xena's mouth and buried her tongue inside. She plunged her fingers deeper into Xena's dark triangle and began a steady movement of unforgiving torment.

"Now Xena," Callisto again breathed into her ear, her voice melodically lighting the dark caves of desire Xena harboured. "I know you want more, but you will have to tell me so. And I mean in verbal words, out loud. I want you to tell me what you want."

"More, please..."

"You have such a way with words, it's so mono-syllabic. Did you learn that on the battlefield, Warrior Princess?"

"Uhhhhh," Xena once again tried to motion Callisto into action with her body.

"You know you want this, Xena. You can't deny me," Callisto said harshly. "So what is it? You don't get anything unless you tell me, my exquisite beauty."

"Please, Callisto, put...another... one inside me...,please."

Callisto inserted a third finger as her eyes gleamed at the controlling power she held over Xena. Xena's body bucked against Callisto's hand frantically racing against time to reach the apex of euphoria.

"Oh yes, Xena, this is what you want, isn't it? To be completely at my mercy? I could just stop and you would be so disappointed, wouldn't you?"


"I know, I know, you were going to say don't stop, right? Don't worry, I won't stop, my luscious warrior. But before I send you over the precipice, you must first answer my original question, Xena. What is it that you need?"

Xena forced out the words like boulders up a cliff. She was so tantalising close. "Please, Callisto...put your hand...inside me....all the way...." Xena immediately regretted saying it. She had never ever spoken that desire aloud to any of her vast array of lovers.

Callisto's eyes flashed as she balled her hand into a tight fist. She cautiously entered Xena's overflowing mound and felt the steaming walls collapse around her. They contracted and expanded as she re-built the momentum gained from her fingers' penetration. She delicately guided her arm to match Xena's steady rhythm. She worked her small fist in and out gently at first, but then more zestfully as Xena bucked and writhed in perfect timing to her continuous strokes.

"Yes, Xena, take it from me," Callisto's commanded. "I bet you would never let your sweet little innocent bard do this, would you?"

"Oh shut up, Callisto! Just take me! Take me! Yes!" Xena wailed as Callisto's hand filled her being to the core. Callisto viciously bit into Xena's shoulder as her body thrashed and swayed to the rollicking wave of ecstasy that left her exhausted and spent.

In one fluid motion, Xena sprang out of bed, clutched her sword and aimed it directly in front of her to defend against an invisible attacker. Her breathing was ragged and uneven and her heart pounded in her chest as she spun around in all directions of the quiet room. Her matted hair stuck to her forehead and her cloth tunic was drenched in perspiration. The only sound besides Xena's panting breath was Gabrielle's light snoring. Briefly, Xena envied the bard's ability to sleep through a Cyclops' roar.

Gradually, her breathing returned to normal as she replaced her sword back in its scabbard and sat timidly on the edge of the bed. She hunched over as she tried to recollect the nightmare she'd had. The memory escaped her like the retreating tide at mid day. She wiped at her brow to no avail as her entire body was soaked with sweat. She crossed the room to the wash basin and rinsed her face with the cool water. As she dried her arms and face with a dry towel, Xena caught a glimpse of first light at the window. She decided she wasn't going to sleep again today. Her weariness distracted her from noticing the teeth marks on her right shoulder and it was soon discreetly covered by her leather tunic. She quickly dressed and gave Gabrielle a soft kiss on the forehead before she headed downstairs.

Chapter Four

Gabrielle instinctively reached across the empty space next to her. Xena always awaken before her but, no matter, Gabrielle habitually reached for the warrior anyway. The even comfort of a sturdy bed reminded her of where they were. Oh yeah, that's right, Callisto's downstairs, she remembered.

Memories of Xena's wild love making flooded her mind sending tingles throughout her limbs as she marvelled at the uninhibited passion Xena shared with her. Xena was usually a very passionate lover but last night she was much more desperate as if they would never make love again. Gabrielle had to admit it excited her beyond her wildest dreams and a wave of renewed desire washed over her as she reminisced how many times Xena brought her to climax. A new record, she beamed.

Gabrielle dressed and began packing their belongings. Thank the Gods they would be leaving this place today. She was eager to distance Xena and herself from the new and improved evil blonde warrior. She still was not convinced that Callisto had truly reformed but she was sure Xena could handle it. She always did.

She headed downstairs to find Xena.

Xena sat on a barstool at the counter. She had just come from the stables to check on Argo and waited for Gabrielle to wake up from their long night's lovemaking. A sprinkling of patrons leisurely ate their first meal of the day.

"Well, you are both welcome to stay another night, Xena. How about breakfast and some tea?" Callisto's hand covered Xena's igniting tiny sparks of desire throughout the warrior's body. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Gabrielle reach the foot of the stairs. Xena jerked her hand away from Callisto's touch and narrowed her eyes at the blonde warrior.

"Xena, are we going now?" Gabrielle put her arm tightly around Xena's waist and glared at Callisto. Callisto's ignored her not looking away from Xena's icy blue eyes.

Xena turned to face Gabrielle, her face glowed with delight. "Good morning, sweetness," Xena took Gabrielle's face in her hands and kissed her fully on the mouth her tongue exploring with wicked abandon. She engulfed the smaller woman with her muscular warrior arms pulling her in as close as her breastplates would allow. Neither one noticed Callisto seethe with jealousy as she stalked away to get their plates ready for breakfast. More liquid drops spilled into Xena's portion.

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle, we can't. Argo's not ready to leave just yet. I checked her this morning and her ankle is still too sore for her to travel. She will need at least another day of rest so we'll have to stay."

"Xena, I don't want to stay another day. Callisto is scaring me. I don't trust her."

"I don't trust her either, Gabrielle. But we don't have much of a choice. I don't want to risk Argo's injury getting any worse and besides," she lowered her voice conspiratorially and leaned close to Gabrielle's ear, "we can still have a lot of fun like last night."

Gabrielle's giggled as her face turned beet red. "Xena, you are so mean, sometimes."

Callisto returned from the cooking room with two hot plates of food and two mugs of tea. "Are you two little lovebirds going to eat any, uh, food this morning?"

Xena and Gabrielle just stared at each other and laughed. They sat down.

"So what's the plan?" Gabrielle asked once they began eating and Callisto was out of earshot.

"What plan?" Xena monitored Callisto's every movement.

"What plan?" Gabrielle mimicked. "Xena, you always have a plan."

"I don't have a plan," she answered distractedly.

"Uh huh. Since when?" Gabrielle was clearly annoyed that Xena wasn't more distrustful of Callisto's presence.

"Gabrielle, there's nothing to plan. We'll be gone tomorrow and we'll put Callisto far behind us. And besides, think about it. If she is up to something, how did she know we would be coming here? We're only here because Argo was injured and are you forgetting that we passed by this village two days ago. She could have tried something then, don't you think?"

"Do you always have to be so logical, Xena?" Gabrielle was still not convinced that Callisto had transformed into one of Hestia's Virgins. Usually she trusted Xena's judgement, but she had a bad feeling about this one.

"Can I get you anything else?" Callisto's hand rested lightly on Xena's shoulder. Xena shuddered slightly but did not remove the intruding hand.

"No, nothing for me," Gabrielle answered numbly, her eyes directed at Callisto's offensive gesture.

"We're fine, Callisto," Xena answered succinctly.

Gabrielle's eyes threw a hundred daggers at Callisto's back as she sauntered away from their table. "Xena, why did you let her touch you like that?" she demanded.

"Like what?" her face unexpectantly flushed pink as the memory revived a new surge of lust.

"Xena, I don't believe it, you're blushing again."

"I am not!" she nearly shouted.

"Yes you are. What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing!" Xena gritted through clenched teeth. She hated having personal disagreements with Gabrielle in public.

"Xena, I'm going to go a few merchants and get some supplies and when I come back I hope I don't find you in the sack with that evil bitch! And if she lays another hand on you I swear I will kill her with my own bare hands and you won't be able to stop me!"

Perplexed, Xena's mouth hung open as she watched the irate bard storm out of the inn.

Gabrielle strutted angrily down the main walk of the village. Several merchants peddled their wares but she didn't see a single face. She saw nothing but Callisto's hand on Xena's shoulder. Shopkeepers and merchants were so much background noise as she wondered what in Hades was wrong with Xena. Xena blushing? Twice in two days? Xena never ever blushed. And since when did Xena ever allow anyone to get near her shoulder without having a broken wrist in return? Especially Callisto. Callisto, the woman who nearly killed Xena with a poison dart. Callisto, the woman who maliciously killed Perdicus merely to get back at Xena. Callisto, the woman who took over Xena's body and tried to kill her mother. Callisto!?!?

"ARRRRHHHHHH" she yelled and shook her fist at the sky. Many villagers turned around and stared. Embarrassed, Gabrielle chuckled and quickly moved on. With renewed determination, she decided she would have to find out what Callisto was up to by herself.

Chapter Five

When Gabrielle returned to the room, Xena was nowhere to be found. The inn was empty as it was in between the mid day and the evening meals. She decided to try the stables to look for Xena as she bounded down the stairs. She caught a glimpse of Calllisto leaving the inn through the back door. Her eyes lit up.

Gabrielle discreetly followed Callisto back to her quarters. She was terrified that Callisto would catch her or even worse, that Xena would find out she didn't trust her judgement. But she couldn't ignore Xena's unusual behaviour and Gabrielle knew that for the moment she would have to embark on this search alone. She seemed to be the only one thinking clearly right now. As she arrived at the hut, she overheard Callisto speaking with a woman.

"I told you she would be mine. I told you!"

"Callisto, that was only the first stage of the plan, there is still another woman ahead of you, remember? You're celebrating much too early. Love is very fickle and unpredictable."

"Oh no, she's not getting away from me this time. I know she is mine now, she will not get away. I love her and I must have her."

"Callisto, you know that she is only overwhelmed by the liquid fire-----"

"Don't you say that! She loved me last night, didn't she? Didn't you see her beg me, beg me to take her? And then I put my mark on her!" Callisto gleefully clasped her hands together.

"It was only a dream, Callisto, I put you there to help her along, remember? Or are you forgetting where you would be without me?"

Callisto waved her hand, "Dream scheam. I put my mark on her. Yes I did," Her eyes glazed over in hatred, her voice icy cold. "I will have to murder that little bard, she's the only thing that stands in my way. But it will have to be an accident and then Xena will turn to me in her grief."

"No! You promised me, no killing or did you forget our bargain? I rescued you from Tartarus with an oath that you would not kill anyone. You would work out everything through love and forgiveness."

"Aphrodite, you are such a fool. No more a fool than your brother Ares, I suppose, but a fool just the same. Did you really think I could change my evil heart? Yes, I love Xena but it's not like your kind of love, Aphrodite, all that mushy, gooey, squishy kind of love you offer."

"And what kind of love is it, Callisto?" Aphrodite recoiled with growing apprehension, not quite sure how she would return Callisto back to Tartarus now.

"It's an all consuming love, an overpowering rage to possess," Callisto's voice contained little inflection, her eyes focused off into a vacant realm. "I simply must have my Xena. She will be in my possession like a beautiful butterfly captured in a covered glass. I will study her, analyse her, admire her silky colourful wings. Then I will wait until the butterfly has nowhere to go, nowhere to fly. Then there will be no air left in the glass and I will watch the little butterfly wings come to rest and fly no more. Finally, I will uncover the glass and slowly pull apart those lovely delicate wings-----"

"Stop it! Callisto, stop it right now!" Aphrodite shouted.

"Oh and are you going to be the one to stop me? You? The Goddess of Love? We both know you won't...can't do it, Aphrodite. Maybe you'll get Ares to do it for you, hmm? Admit defeat to the God of War? Ha! not in a million moons!" Callisto threw her head back and roared with laughter.

Aphrodite disappeared from the room disgusted that Callisto was being so uncooperative.

Gabrielle staggered back to the inn her heart pounding in her ears. Callisto and Aphrodite? Pieces of their conversation chased her fiendishly through the woods. Murder the little bard...a butterfly captured in a jar...simply must have Xena...put her mark on her...liquid fire?

"Xena!" Gabrielle hollered.

Chapter Six

Xena patiently waited at the counter for Callisto's return to her servant's duties. The teeth mark on her right shoulder was the single factor that convinced her. Gabrielle had babbled on about Callisto and Aphrodite and liquid fire and markings and murder and possession. At the time, Xena's thinking had been foggy and unfocused. But the physical proof of the mark swiftly brought her back to her senses. She ignored the driving sensations in her loins willing them be silent. With great effort she brought them under control. The liquid fire must have been hidden in that damned tea.

Liquid fire. That could mean only one thing. A love potion. From Aphrodite. Typical. But the question was how did Callisto manipulate Aphrodite into releasing her from Tartarus? She guessed Callisto appealed to the Goddess' enormous ego but that ruse seemed all too easy. She didn't think Callisto possessed the subtle charm or charisma necessary to convince the Goddess of Love to break the rules of Tartarus so easily. And why would Aphrodite want to break up the eternal love Xena and Gabrielle held for each other? Unless it wasn't she who did.

Callisto casually entered the back door of the inn and tied her apron around her waist. She spied Xena sitting at the barstool, a mug between her hands.

"Can I get you some tea, Xena?" Callisto asked helpfully.

"No, thanks. But what I'd like you to do is ask Aphrodite if she would be so kind as to give me the antidote," Xena feigned innocence.

Callisto's face transformed into a mixture of hatred and fear. In one swift motion, Callisto deftly reached under the counter for her sword and ripped off her apron. She catapulted herself over the counter to face Xena whose sword was already drawn.

"You're mine now, Xena," Callisto taunted. "Didn't you see the mark I put on your shoulder?"

"That can be scraped off, I'm sure," Xena grimaced. She circled her sword in front of her anticipating Callisto's first move.

In a seething rage, Callisto's sword rose up to meet Xena's. The clanging of metal reverberated throughout the vacant inn. Sparks flew and the smell of heated steel pervaded the room. Out of harm's way, Gabrielle peeked into the room from the front door. The two women battled evenly by mirroring each other's strengths leaving no opening for weaknesses.

Then, Callisto made an unforgiving error and Xena's sword was at her throat. She had a strange sense of deja vu as if she had done this exact same thing very recently. A prone Callisto in a peasant dress, Xena astride her stomach, a pleasurable tingling within her abdomen.

"Go on, kill me, Xena. Then I'll be sure to see you in Tartarus. I couldn't live without you anyway. Do you think you could live without your precious little Gabrielle, hmm?" she cocked her head toward the door where Gabrielle hovered, her staff at full combat defence.

At the mere mention of the bard's name, Xena's hesitancy in killing Callisto disintegrated. Her eyes widened and an unleashed fury overtook her soul as the room around her went black. All she could see was the pale skin of Callisto's throat. She raised the blade above her head and with two steady hands on its handle, pointed it at her windpipe. At the last second, she thought of Gabrielle. Gabrielle, who told her that the only way to end the cycle of hatred was through love. Yes, her love for Gabrielle. She couldn't kill for Gabrielle. Not even this depraved woman.

"Arrrrgggghhhh," Xena screamed as she impaled her sword into the floorboard just inches away from Callisto's neck. Xena heaved and panted as she stared down at the hated blonde warrior whose life she had just spared. The colours of the room slowly crept back into her vision enriching her surroundings. She turned to search for Gabrielle. Without warning, Callisto struck a blow to the side of Xena's head sending her sprawling backwards. In a flash, she retrieved her fallen sword intent on plunging it into Xena's stomach.

"No, Callisto!" Lusanica appeared in front of Xena and took the full length of the blade through her stomach. With a wave of her hand, the weapon vanished.

"It's over, Callisto. You lost." Lusanica's grey hair yellowed, turned fuller and grew in length until it reached the back of her knees. The crone face transformed into an unlined youthful alabaster beauty. The threads of her servant clothes weaved into a bold red robe that contrasted sharply with her pale skin. Her silky golden hair intertwined with the flowing crimson robe as it loosely surrounded the Goddess' startling vision.

"Aphrodite!" Xena and Gabrielle exclaimed in unison.

Callisto dropped to the floor and stared down at her empty hand in disbelief. She gazed up at the Goddess of Love astounded by her luxuriant beauty. A moment of fear passed through her as she now realised she had just made formidable enemies of both the Gods of Love and War. Oops, back to Tartarus, she thought crazily.

"Callisto, go tell Ares he has lost. He will never get Xena back now. If she will not murder for Gabrielle, she will not murder. Tell him the power of love is stronger than the power of hate and war that he stands for. Xena has truly made it over to the other side, the side of goodness and love. She's finished with her days of darkness and hatred. To paraphrase her beloved Gabrielle who once said 'love was helpless in the face of cruelty', I say, hatred is powerless in the face of love."

A single pair of hands clapped in a shadowy corner. A dark figure emerged.

"Ares," Xena and Gabrielle declared in unison.

"Nice speech, little sister, but you know Xena will never completely be yours. She belongs to no one. Well, maybe only that girl. But no God possesses her, why do you think I've chased her all these years. The hunt is everything."

"Love." he said with disgust. "How long do you think her self-control will last? You saw how exquisitely close she came to murdering Callisto. Again. It was in her heart."

"But she didn't Ares, did she?" Aphrodite reminded him. "Now admit it, you lost the bet."

"This time, my dear, this time. Let's go, Callisto." Callisto giggled as they disappeared into the shadows.

Aphrodite turned to Xena. Gabrielle was helping her up to a chair when she spun around and demanded, "Where's the antidote, Aphrodite, can't you see she's still consumed by that liquid fire of yours?"

The Goddess just smiled admiring the girl's pluck and devotion. She produced a small flask and handed it to Gabrielle who quickly forced Xena to swallow its contents.


"Good morning, sleepy head," Xena, as usual, woke up before her companion. She was grateful that Lusanica let them stay another night at the inn. After all they'd been through, she just wanted another loving night with the eternal love of her life.

Xena gently shook awake the snoozing bard. "Did I wear you out again last night?"

"No," Gabrielle opened her eyes and laughed. "Do you want to keep practising until you get it right?"

"Don't tempt me," Xena beamed as she gathered Gabrielle into the comfort of her strong arms. "But we should get going."

"Why? Are we in a hurry?"

Xena nestled her face into Gabrielle's neck breathing in the luxuriant smell of her beloved. "No," she growled.

"Xena, aren't you mad at Aphrodite and Ares for putting you through all that aggravation with Callisto? I mean, they made a bet on you, for Zeus' sake. It must really get boring up there on Mount Olympus."

"I guess I am a little mad at them, but I also learned a lot of truths about myself?" Xena reached for Gabrielle's hand and entwined her fingers with the bard's.

"Yeah? like what?" Gabrielle was curious. She was more angry at the Gods than Xena.

"That I shouldn't keep secrets from you," she enclosed her larger hand over Gabrielle's and moulded the bard's smaller hand into a fist. Xena brought it to her lips and painted it with tender loving kisses.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes and blushed coyly, unable to meet Xena's ocean blue eyes.

"And besides," she added, "I think you're rubbing off on me. My love for you is what stopped my sword. I thought of our love for each other and I didn't want to give it up. I don't want to ever give you up."

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