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The characters Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Argo, and Xenan are owned by MCA/Universal. I only borrowed them for this story. I, in no way, intended to infringe on the rights of the owners of "Xena: Warrior Princess."

This story depicts sexual relationships between members of the same sex and contains language which some may find offensive. If you are one of those people, if you are under the age of 18, or if this type of material is illegal where you live---you should probably skip this one.

This is my second attempt at fan fiction and I hope I’ve managed to write something you’ll enjoy. Please send comments to I welcome them! Thanks to my partner, Crimson Blade, for her creative input and editorial assistance, not to mention her unwavering support.

(c) 1999

by AztecAmazon


The bard walked along beside Argo, secretly glancing up at the warrior riding high on the horse’s back, mesmerized by the way her eyes sparkled in the sunlight. Xena knew they had to hurry if they were going to make it on time. "Gabrielle...," h!er voice tore through the silence. "You’d better ride with me. We have to pick up the pace," she reached down for the bard’s hand and pulled her onto the horse.

"We’ve got plenty of time," Gabrielle, now seated close behind the warrior, insisted. Though she tried not to show it, she had little interest in attending the ceremony.

"You know as well as I do that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. And a unbelievable one at that," she chuckled.

"Oh, Xena, he’s not that bad."

"Gabrielle...we’re talking about Joxer here," she reminded her friend.

"Yes...," the bard conceded. "We are, aren’t we? Can you believe he’s actually getting married?"

" But I guess everyone has a soul mate somewhere...," her mind drifted.

"Yes, everyone...," Gabrielle’s voice trailed off as her head started to swim. Sitting so close behind the warrior seemed to have that effect on her lately. Though she didn’t realize it, she was brushing her fingertips across Xena’s abdomen, gently massaging her taut stomach as they rode.

The warrior’s heart skipped a beat as she concentrated on the movement of the bard’s hands. "Why don’t I walk for a while?," she suddenly blurted out, unable to stand the stirring inside her any longer. "I need to stretch my legs," she offered a lame explanation as she abruptly dismounted. She was more than willing to be a little late if it meant preserving her sanity.

"Look, Xena!," the bard eagerly pointed to an apple tree in the field ahead. "Yah!," she commanded the horse, her stomach grumbling so loudly she could almost hear it over the pounding hooves.

"Gabrielle! Watch out for the...," the warrior’s attempt to warn her came too late. The bard, in her hasty attempt to secure an afternoon snack, had ridden right into the tree branch over!hanging the trail. "Gabrielle? Gabrielle?," she attempted to rouse her motionless friend.

"Xe...Xena?," the seemingly disoriented bard slowly raised up, her hand on her forehead. After shaking her head in what appeared to be a vain attempt to thwart the ensuing pain, she reached out and grabbed Xena’s shoulders exclaiming, "By the gods!"

"Are you ok?," the warrior’s concern surfaced in her tone as she knelt beside the bard. "Let me look at your head."

"By the gods!," Gabrielle repeated, this time so loudly that she actually startled the warrior.

"What, Gabrielle?," Xena instinctively began to scope out the surrounding area.

"Look at those exquisite bosoms!," she exclaimed, placing her hand on the warrior’s right breast. "They’re perfect! I wanna see ‘em!," she demanded, tugging at Xena’s leathers.

"Gabrielle!," her eyes grew wide as she backed away, clearly taken off guard.

"Can’t a girl have a little fun?," the impaired bard snickered, impishly batting her eyes at the warrior.

"That branch must have knocked the Tartarus out of you," Xena said as she helped Gabrielle to her feet. "How many fingers am I holding up?," she asked, flashing four fingers in front of the bard.

"Two!," she gleefully replied. "Two perfect..."

"Gabrielle!," Xena snapped, noticing that the bard’s eyes were still fixed on her chest. "Fingers! Not...not those! What’s gotten into you?" Without much cooperation from her patient, the warrior attempted to assess the extent of her friend’s injury. "No signs of blood. That’s good," she thought aloud. " swelling either, but I suspect you’re going to have a pretty nasty bruise before long. We really should get you to a healer to be on the safe side."

"A healer? Who needs a healer?," !she laughed, swatting the warrior’s backside.

"Are you planning on fondling me all the way to the village?," Xena’s eyes were wide as she skeptically looked at the bard. The Amazon village was nearby and Gabrielle could receive the attention she needed there. As for the didn’t look like they were going to make it after all.

Gabrielle skipped ahead, singing at the top of her lungs. "Look, Xena!," she called out as she ran to the edge of the woods. "A skunk!"

"Gabrielle, don’t get too close," she cautioned to no avail. The frightened critter had already aimed and fired.

"You nasty little sucker!," the bard shouted, shaking her staff at her black and white assailant.

The warrior followed close enough behind to keep a watchful eye but far enough away to avoid the awful stench coming from her friend who was now doing cartwheels through the forest. "Wo!," Xena directed Argo when the bard suddenly stopped in the middle of the road, the horse nearly trampling her. "Gabrielle, what are you doing now?," she sounded exasperated.

"Xena...," she looked serious. "I’m going to level with you. My butt tends to itch when we travel on hot days," she announced, reaching around to scratch her derriere.

"The gods," the warrior sighed, looking to the heavens as though she was pleading for some sort of assistance.

"Like your butt never itches, Xena!," Gabrielle yelled and stomped off in a huff, looking back at the warrior as though she could strangle her.

"Wait ‘til the Amazons get a load of their queen," Xena chuckled to herself.

The remainder of the trip went smoothly with the exception of the brawl the bard had started with a group of traveling peddlers. She had tried to purchase a scarf for two dinars. When one of the merchants insisted that it was worth at least four, she threatened him with her staff, insisting that he w!as a "no good, filthy thief" and that she was going to hang him herself for his crimes. Xena hadn’t shown too much concern during the incident until she saw Gabrielle put the scarf around the man’s neck and drag him toward a tree. Fortunately the scuffle ended quickly when the peddlers, suffering only a few minor scrapes, conceded and headed off in the opposite direction.

"Gabrielle!," Ephiny eagerly embraced her queen. "Gods, you stink," she noted before turning her attention to the warrior. "Xena!," she greeted the warrior with equal enthusiasm. "I didn’t expect you, but I’m certainly glad to see you both. What brings you here?"

"Actually, Ephiny, Gabrielle had a little accident....," the warrior began.

"Ephiny?," the bard interrupted. "Does your butt itch when you walk long distances in hot weather?," she chimed.

The regent’s mouth hung open as her eyes shifted their focus back and forth between Gabrielle and Xena. "Head injury?," she finally guessed.

"Yes," Xena answered, rolling her eyes as the bard walked in circles around them, looking as though she had never seen either of them before in her life.

"Get over here, you two," Gabrielle instructed, pulling on their arms, positioning the regent and the warrior next to each other. "Stand up straight," she ordered, both women tolerantly complying. "Yes...," she placed a finger on her chin as she concentrated aloud.

"What’s she...," the bewildered regent began.

"You don’t want to know," Xena cut her off.

"You both have fabulous breasts!," the bard loudly declared, sparking laughter in the surrounding onlookers. The queen’s mood instantly shifted, an odd calm washing over her face. "You...," she approached one of the Amazon bystanders. Pointing a finger at the woman’s! face, she continued. "As your queen, I demand that you wear a mask at all times."

"Why?," the puzzled woman asked.

"Because...," the queen smirked. "You’re just plain ugly," she said matter-of-factly.

The regent grabbed Gabrielle’s arm, yanking her away from the flustered woman. "Unhand me!," the bard commanded. "I’ll have you tossed into the prisoner’s hut so fast you’ll..."

"Move it, Gabrielle," Xena grumbled, grabbing her other arm and helping the regent forcefully escort her to the queen’s hut. The bard’s ranting and squirming as she struggled to free herself from their grasp quickly forced the two women to carry her, each of them snaring an arm and a leg.

The queen was obviously annoyed at her predicament. Ephiny and Xena were practically holding her captive, refusing to let her leave the hut and refusing to let anyone besides themselves and Nahem, the village healer, enter.

"She’s going to be just fine," Nahem assured the warrior and the regent. "Just keep changing the cold cloths on her head throughout the night and make sure she takes the herb medicine. And, please...," she added, wrinkling her nose, "Have her soak in tomato juice as soon as possible. That’s a powerful smell she’s giving off."

"Nahem?...," Gabrielle, much to her friends’ dismay, began to speak. "Being a healer, you would think you’d know that there are herbs that eliminate bad breath." Her expression was stoic as she looked the woman in the eyes and awaited a reply.

"I’ll leave her in your hands," the healer shot the bard a look as she exited the hut.

"What?," Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders at Xena and Ephiny who were both standing with their hands on their hips, each tapping a foot on the floor. And they were giving her the same look her mother used to give her when she ate her! pastry before she had finished all of her vegetables.

"What are we going to do with her?," the regent suppressed a chuckle.

"Don’t talk about me as though I’m not here, Amazon!," the bard protested.

"I beg your pardon, my queen," Ephiny flippantly responded. "Xena, I’m going to go get something to eat. I’ll bring something back for all of us," she informed the warrior as she made her way toward the door.

"I’ll stay here and keep her out of trouble," Xena raised an eyebrow.

"Xena," the bard, soaking in a sea of orange and red goo, began. "I don’t ever want to see another tomato as long as I live," she squeezed the ripe sphere she held in her hand, allowing the juice to run down her wrist.

"They certainly smell better than you do," the warrior teased, her laughter ceasing when she felt a thud on the back of her head. "Gabrielllle!," she shouted, reaching around to pluck the organic projectile from her hair.

The bard watched the warrior immerse her hands in the basin of water, wringing the cloth out again and again before finally folding it neatly and placing on her forehead. "Xena?," she peeked out from under the soothing compress.

"Hmm?," Xena murmured, gently stroking the bard’s face with her hand.

"I really would like to see those breasts of yours," she affably requested.

Her face now as red as the apples that had gotten them into this whole mess, the warrior stifled the undulating sensation in her chest and coolly replied, "You’ve seen them before."

"Pleeeease," Gabrielle resorted to begging, her hands neatly clasped together under her chin as though she was praying to the gods.

"Oh, for the love of Zeus," the agitated warrior threw her hands in the air and began to remove her armor, tossing each piece onto the table beside her. Hastily slipping the straps off h!er shoulders, she pulled her undergarment to her waist. "Now will you stop badgering me?," she pleaded as she stood before the bard with her arms at her sides.

"Not ‘til you let me touch them, rub them, knead them between my fingers..."

"I get the point, Gabrielle!," her palms growing moist, Xena stopped her before she could go any further. "What is it about my breasts, anyway," she said under her breath as she slipped her arms back into the straps.

"Xenaaaa...," the bard sang, crooking her finger, gesturing for the warrior to come to her.

"Gabrielle, it’s not going to happen! I know you’re not in your right mind, but Hades, I’ve got to draw the line somewhere," she slumped into the chair behind her, folding her arms over her chest.

"You’re no fun," the bard grumbled, rolling over onto her side, her back to the warrior.

Ephiny entered the hut carrying a tray full of food. "I hope I got something you like," the regent said to Xena, moving the warrior’s armor aside and placing the tray on the table.

"Everything looks great. I couldn’t have done any better myself," Xena sounded appreciative as she joined her at the table, taking a seat across from her friend. "Gabrielle, come over here and eat something," Ephiny urged.

"She’s mad at me," the warrior explained when the bard failed to respond.

"Why?," Ephiny grinned, guessing that the reason behind the queen’s anger was trivial in light of Gabrielle’s new-sprung incorrigible disposition.

"Long story," the warrior sighed, popping a radish into her mouth.

The regent offered an understanding nod as she began to eat. "Ephinyyyy," the bard sang out. "Will you come here?"

Ephiny groaned as she rose from her chair. "Hmm?," she uttered, taking a seat on the edge of the bed.

"Thanks!,!" Gabrielle exclaimed, a wry grin spreading over her face.

"For what?," the regent looked puzzled. "Oh, for the gods’ sake!," she spouted, realizing that the queen was ogling her breasts.

"You two are a couple of prudes!," the bard sharply proclaimed as Ephiny rose to her feet, covering her mouth with her hand in an attempt to conceal her amusement.

"Gabrielle!," the regent shrieked as her bosoms unexpectedly escaped from her top. "Give it back," she put a hand on her hip in an attempt to let the bard know she meant business.

"Nope," the queen replied, clutching the clasp that had once held the Amazon’s tunic together in her hand. Sliding the clip beneath her bottom, she placed her hands behind her head and sighed, "Oh so perfect..."

"The woman is impossible," the regent mumbled under her breath as she removed her now futile tunic. Clutching a blanket around her, she resumed her position at the table.

"Hungry?," Ephiny inquired, noticing that the warrior’s cheeks were bulging. Xena, who had been absorbed in the activity going on around her, suddenly realized that she had forced bite after bite of food into her mouth, all the while forgetting to swallow. "Mmmf mfff mfff," the warrior mumbled, hastily raising her mug to her mouth in an attempt to wash her meal down.

Finally, Ephiny pulled out a chair and offered it to the bard, now gloating as she placed the regent’s unwillingly forfeited property on the chair and proceeded to sit on in. The two women watched in amazement while Gabrielle smiled and ate, looking up only once to request more fish which she did by uttering, "Fish. Now," food falling from her mouth as she spoke.

The warrior and the regent walked along slowly, deeply engrossed in their conversation. Xena squinted, the bright sun assaulting her eyes as it scorched her already bronzed skin. "Xena!n will be fine, Ephiny. He’s been taught well," the warrior assured her friend upon hearing of her son’s expedition.

"I know he will. I just worry about him. I know from experience that being a member of the sovereign is never easy...whether by birth or caste. Either way it’s a big responsibility, especially for a boy his age. But he’s really...Hey!," she abruptly shouted as Gabrielle scurried by. The bard had just ran between the two, simultaneously slapping their backsides as she passed. "How many times has she done that to you today?," she chuckled.

"I’ve stopped counting," Xena laughed, kicking at the dirt with her boot. "But we better follow her. You know what happened earlier."

"I’d suggest we catch up to her and fast," Ephiny agreed, reflecting on this morning’s incident. Several Amazons had approached the regent, complaining that the queen had been roaming around the village, hiding and then jumping out at the unsuspecting women, yelling, "Boo!" One poor woman had actually fallen off her horse.

"Hi, Gabrielle," Xena addressed her as she and Ephiny entered the stables, cringing at the thought of what might come out of the bard’s mouth.

"Oh, hi ladies," the queen replied, continuing to brush Argo’s back. "Ephiny?...," she looked pensive.

"Yeeesss?," the regent hesitantly responded.

"Do horses make you horny?," she candidly asked. "I mean, you know...Phantes and all..."

"That’s it!," Ephiny’s face turned crimson. Xena watched as the regent tossed the bard over her shoulder and hauled her back to the hut, bucking and screaming all the way. "I’ve listened to your rude comments long enough!," she declared, holding the bard down on the bed.

"Get off me!," Gabrielle demanded, Ephiny sitting on her, pinning her under her weight.

Xena stood outside the door listening to the !sounds coming from inside. She was laughing so hard, she held her hands against her stomach in an attempt to ease the pain she was starting to feel as her muscles repeatedly contracted.

"That should do it," Ephiny stepped back, folded her arms over her chest, and glared at the bard.

The warrior cautiously entered the hut, "Is it safe yet?"

"I think so," the regent motioned toward the bard with her eyes.

There sat the queen. Her arms and legs tied to the chair. A piece of cloth stuffed in her mouth. "Ephiny!...We can’t leave her like that!," Xena chuckled.

"I know, but I’ve certainly enjoyed these last few moments," she sighed. "Are you sure we can’t leave her just a little longer?," she added, only half joking.

"I’ll tell you take a break and I won’t untie her until you’re out of range. How’s that sound?," the warrior grinned.

"Thank you!," Ephiny sighed with relief, sticking her tongue out at the queen as she took her leave.

The warrior released the bard who immediately starting ranting and raving, throwing things around the room as she blasted the absent regent. When she had finally worn herself out, Xena managed to convince her to take a nap. Gabrielle looked peaceful resting against the warrior, a smile painting her face as she drifted off to sleep.

Feeling the bard’s warm breath against her flesh, Xena quietly contended with her own tenacious emotions as they tossed about just beneath the surface of her skin.

"Xena? Xena?," Ephiny whispered, trying not to wake the sleeping queen.

"Mmm Ephiny...the gods...Ephiny...mmm yeesss," the warrior moaned in her sleep.

"Xena!," she whispered louder, this time placing her hand on the warrior’s shoulder, gently shaking her as she tried not to imagine what her friend might be dreaming.

"Huh? ! Ephiny!," Xena looked as though she’d just been caught using the bard’s scrolls to wipe her ass again. Regaining her bearings, she crawled out of bed, careful not to disturb Gabrielle.

"Let’s get some air," the regent suggested, still flustered by what she had just observed.

"Nice clip," the warrior grinned, referring to the new clasp nestled between the regent’s bosoms, assiduously supporting her tunic.

"Like it?," Ephiny chuckled. "She’s driving me nuts!," she abruptly added, her laughter intensifying.

"Good thing we love her as much as we do. Otherwise, we might have to bust on her," Xena joined in her laughter.

The two soon grew silent as they sat on the steps leading to the queen’s hut. Xena contemplated the images that had filled her head while she slept, causing her to wake in a cold sweat. The regent, her elbows resting on her knees, focused on the woman next to her. Xena had always fascinated her. There was just something about her. Something about the way she looked, the way she spoke, the way she carried herself. Such a tender heart embedded in the chest of a legendary warrior. It didn’t seem logical and yet the testimony was sitting right beside her.

"Greetings, ladies! Time for your morning spanking!," the bard announced as she vaulted out of bed.

Xena and the regent, who had been trying to enjoy a quiet breakfast in honor of the fact that they had made it through an entire night without the queen harassing them, rolled their eyes.

"Aren’t you going to say good morning?," Gabrielle pouted.

"Good morning, Gabrielle," the two women spoke in unison, their tone less than enthusiastic.

Looking as though she had just been crushed under the weight of the heavy looks she was receiving, tears began to fall from the bard’s eyes. "Gabrielle...I’m sorry," Xena stood to hug her, !her friend’s tears always managing to tug at her heart strings.

"No! I’m mad at you!," the bard instantly stopped sobbing, turned, and stalked away.

Ephiny and the warrior jumped from their chairs when they saw her fall, the thump resounding throughout the room. "The gods, Gabrielle. Are you all right?," Ephiny knelt next to the motionless queen.

"Come on, Gabrielle. Wake up," Xena’s worry consumed her as she wondered how the bard could possibly handle another blow to the head. She and Ephiny gently lifted her and carried her to the bed. Xena peeled back Gabrielle’s eyelids and looked into her frighteningly hollow eyes.

"Is she going to be ok?," the regent sounded terrified.

"I...I can’t tell," tears welled up in the warrior’s eyes as she tenderly stroked the bard’s cheeks. She felt horrible for having been so impatient with her. After all, it wasn’t her fault she had been acting the way she had.

Ephiny, desperate, soaked the queen’s face with a cup of water. "Gabrielle. Wake up," she persisted.

"Ephiny!," Gabrielle suddenly shouted, throwing her arms around the regent’s neck as though she hadn’t seen her in years.

"Gabrielle," Ephiny, realizing that her friend had been restored, whispered her name as she held the bard close.

"What’s going on?," Gabrielle looked confused. "Xena? What are we doing here? What about Joxer’s wedding?"

"The bad news is, we missed the wedding. The good news is, you’re ok. You took a really nasty blow to the head," she informed her friend.

"I did?," she stared blankly.

"You rode Argo right into a tree branch and...," Xena attempted to elaborate.

"How long ago was that?," the bard asked.

"It’s been a couple of days," the warrior answered.

"Anything interesting happen since then?," the queen! inquired.

"No!," the two women inadvertently shouted. "Nothing of importance," Xena continued, glancing at the regent.

"Nothing at all," Ephiny confirmed as she told herself she would have to get word to the other Amazons that they were not to mention the queen’s recent unruly conduct.

"I’m really hungry," Gabrielle yawned.

"Let’s get you something to eat," Xena smiled, embracing her friend before helping her to her feet. "But I want you to see Nahem after breakfast...just to be sure," she instructed.

Nahem examined the bard carefully before confirming that she was going to be all right. "You must have a hard head," she grinned.

"Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, Nahem," Gabrielle said warmly.

"You’re welcome, child," the healer smiled. "Just don’t overdo it for the next few days," she ordered, waving goodbye to the women upon their departure.

The regent gently moved the cold cloth across the bard’s face, looking lovingly at her friend, grateful that her injury hadn’t been serious. "Do you feel up to going to the springs?," she asked. "A good soak would do you good."

"That sounds wonderful," Gabrielle agreed, slowly sitting up on the bed. "Thank you, Ephiny...for being so good to me."

"You’d do the same for me," the regent replied, dismissing the significance of her deeds. "The springs?," she reiterated.

The two gathered their things and headed across the village. After disrobing, they climbed over the slippery rocks, the regent intently supporting the bard to make sure she didn’t lose her balance.

"This feels incredible," the queen sighed, settling into the spring’s soothing caress.

"Mmm hmm," Ephiny uttered, leaning back against a rock. She felt her st!omach quiver as she gazed at Gabrielle who now had her eyes closed, a look of contentment washing over her.

"Would you mind rubbing my back?," the queen asked, twisting from side to side in an attempt to stretch the aching muscles.

"N...not at all," Ephiny answered, moving behind the bard.

Gabrielle released an almost inaudible moan as the regent moved her hands over her back, gently massaging her soft skin. "I’ll do yours when you’re done," she sighed, causing Ephiny’s heart to skip a beat.

The regent focused on the soft skin, watching as shimmering droplets danced across the bard’s back. " are things going between you and Xena? Still enjoying your travels?," she asked, wondering whether or not Gabrielle’s relationship with the warrior had progressed, but not wanting to appear as though she was prying. It had always been apparent to her that the two loved each other. She didn’t understand why they both seemed to conceal, even from each other, what they had obviously felt for so long.

"Good. Things have been going great," the bard answered reservedly.

"You’re happy then?," Ephiny probed, detecting the reluctance in her voice.

"Yes, I’m very happy traveling with Xena. I lo...enjoy her company," she stumbled over her words. "Turn around," she instructed, shifting positions.

The regent groaned as the bard’s hands made contact with her flesh. "You’ve always had talented hands," she sighed, yielding to the caress as Gabrielle’s fingers skillfully manipulated the muscles in her back.

"Mind if I join you?," the warrior appeared next to the spring, kneeling to dip her hand into the water, playfully splashing the two women.

"Not at all," Ephiny willingly welcomed her.

"I’ve been running Argo. He needed the exercise," she said as she removed the last of her clothing and waded toward them.!r

Gabrielle, continuing to work on the regent’s back, caught herself staring at the warrior’s body. Quickly averting her eyes, she asked, "We’re planning on staying in the village for a while longer, aren’t we?"

"Yeah, I don’t see why we can’t stay a few more days," Xena answered. "I could really use one of those," she stated, referring to the massage the bard was administering to the regent.

"I give a decent back rub myself, you know," Ephiny replied.

The warrior repositioned herself in front of the regent who gently moved Xena’s hair to the side. "You’ve got to learn to relax," Ephiny contended, noting the tension in the warrior’s muscles.

"That feels great," Xena managed, trying to ignore the fact that she had just felt the regent’s breasts brush against her.

"How are you feeling, Gabrielle?," the warrior asked.

"Fine. Much better."

"Good. We were really worried about you for a while," she told her.

"Yes, we were," Ephiny leaned back, speaking softly in the bard’s ear.

"Well, you don’t have to worry anymore because I’m just fine," Gabrielle smiled, grateful for their concern.

The three women soaked a while longer before making their way back to the hut. Gabrielle immediately went to work on her latest scroll while Xena and the regent embarked on a fishing expedition.

"I’m so glad you and Gabrielle are here. Of course, the circumstances under which you arrived could have been more favorable," Ephiny addressed the warrior as she cast her line into the river.

"As you know, Gabrielle isn’t always the most graceful person," she chuckled. "But is good to be here," she said, removing a small fish from the end of her line. "It’’s good to see you again," she smiled warmly.

"Missed me, huh? Couldn’t stay away a moment long!er," the regent bantered.

"Actually, we did miss you...both of us," Xena professed. An awkward silence transpired as the warrior ran her hand across the regent’s shoulder and down her arm.

Ephiny studied her friend’s hand briefly before looking up again. "I’ve missed you too," she seemed overwhelmed by the warrior’s sentiment as their eyes locked.

When they were finally convinced that they had caught enough fish to appease the bard’s voracious appetite, the two slowly ambled back to the village, taking in the brilliant sky as the sun sacrificed itself to the will of twilight.

"Are you sure you two don’t mind coming with me?," Ephiny asked as she saddled her horse.

"I’ve missed Xenan. I can’t wait to see him again," Gabrielle placed a warm hand on her friend’s shoulder.

"Yeah, I’d like to see him myself," Xena smiled. "You ready?," she asked as she mounted Argo.

"Let’s go," the regent jumped on her horse, returning the warrior’s smile.

The three women traveled all day, stopping at dusk to set up camp in a clearing not far from the river. Xenan had journeyed, along with some of his father’s relatives, to the Centaur colony on the other side of the mountains. He had a great deal of responsibility for a boy so young. His mother worried a lot and hated being so far away from him, but she knew he was in good hands.

The rift between the two Centaur colonies had caused much despair, and now the time had come for them to reunite. Xenan, being a Centaur prince, was required to journey with his kinsmen as a gesture of his people’s noble intentions.

The bard worked diligently building the fire while the regent and Xena caught trout for dinner.

"Those look great," the queen noted when Xena handed her a string of fish. "I’ll need so!mething to clean them with though and I can’t seem to find our knife," she added, eyeing the chakram strapped to the warrior’s waist.

"Oh no," Xena said, wide-eyed. "Not my chakram again. It reeked for days last time."

"Here," the regent chuckled, handing the bard her dagger. "I’m going for a swim. Want to join me, Xena?"

"Gods, yes," the warrior agreed, wiping the sweat from her brow. "It’s hotter than Tartarus today."

Ephiny sank into the refreshing embrace of river as it enveloped her bare form. Xena waded toward her, the regent getting an eyeful of the warrior’s exquisite physique. "This feels incredible," Ephiny stated before disappearing under the water. The two women soaked their weary bodies until their skin started to shrivel.

"I could really go for another rubdown," Xena grinned.

"You got it," Ephiny made her way to her and placed her hands on the warrior’s shoulders. Again and again, she doused her back with the cool water, gently running her hands over her flesh, massaging her prominent muscles. Distracted by something grazing her ankle as it floated by, she didn’t notice Xena turn around. Her hand emerging with yet another palm-full of water, she reached for the woman, her fingertips gently landing on Xena’s breast. Silently, the two stood facing each other, the regent’s hand lingering on soft skin.

"I...," Ephiny jerked her hand away as she started to speak. "I...umm...oops," she nervously laughed.

"My back, Ephiny. Not my tits. I’m going to have to start calling you Gabrielle if you’re not careful," Xena laughed, trying to rescue the regent from her embarrassment.

"Time to eat!," the bard’s shout hastened the end of their revelry. The two woman made their way to the shore, snatching up their clothing. Once they were dressed, they headed up the incline toward the camp where the!y ate their meal to the sounds of the bard’s voice as she wove one of her infamous tales.

The women could see the Centaur colony in the distance. "I don’t want him to think I’m checking up on him," Ephiny sounded troubled.

"But you are checking up on him," Gabrielle pointed out.

"Well...yes. But he doesn’t have to know that," the regent replied. "We have to act nonchalant. Like this is merely a visit and nothing more," she insisted.

"All right, Ephiny. We get the point," the warrior chuckled.

"Good," the regent sounded appeased as she nudged her horse with her heals and trudged forward.

The three, upon entering Centaur territory, immediately sought out Sharack, the Centaur leader. The regent entered the hut alone. "I’ve come to see my son," she stiffened her jaw, pushing her shoulders back, not knowing how her presence would be received here.

"You must be Ephiny," he extended his arm. "It’s good to finally meet you," he stated. "Xenan’s a fine boy. His presence here has brought us great joy."

"And the peace talks?," the regent cautiously inquired.

"We’ve signed the agreement. We stand again united with our brothers," he answered proudly. "We knew if they had meant us harm, they would have never sent their prince here," a slight smile surfaced on his face as his eyes shifted toward the door.

"Mom?," the young Centaur stared at the Amazon’s back. "Mom!," he exclaimed when she turned around. Ephiny’s eyes filled with tears of both joy and relief as she wrapped her arms around her son.

"Xenan," she sighed, hugging him tighter. "How are you?,'94 she looked serious as she searched the boy’s eyes.

"Fine, Mom. I’m having fun here," he assured her through a huge grin.

"I have a surprise for you," she whispered in his ear.

"What is it?!," he excitedly asked.

"Xena and Gabrielle are here with me. They wanted to see you too."

"Where are they?!," he eagerly shouted.

"Right behind you," she pointed to the warrior and the bard, now standing just outside, peering through the door.

Slowly, the young Centaur turned, catching a glimpse of the two. He quickly made his way over to them, blushing when each planted a kiss on his cheek.

"You’ve been busy," Gabrielle noted.

"Just a lot of important stuff to do right now," he replied, seeming accepting of his position and the duties that came along with it. The regent beamed with pride, taking note of how much her son had grown during the past months.

"I’m sure you’re doing a fine job," Xena mussed his hair. "Ephiny?," she addressed the Amazon. "Mind if I take Xenan out for a while? I hear he’s pretty good with a bow and arrow and I was hoping he could give me a few pointers," she winked, knowing that the regent had a lot of questions for Sharack.

"Yeah!," Xenan erupted. "Can I go, Mom?"

"Sure," Ephiny easily agreed. "Be careful!," she called out to her son who was already headed toward the field.

"I’ll have him back soon," Xena assured her, offering her a tender look, a look that the bard hadn’t failed to notice. Gabrielle was happy to see the two women growing so close. After all, they were the two most important people in her life.

"Thanks, Xena," the regent gently glided her hand across the warrior’s back.

Gabrielle listened attentively as Ephiny and Sharack engaged in discussion. Hanging on every word, she took mental notes so she coul!d document the historic occasion in her latest scroll.

Ephiny stood silently behind the bard, her heart skipping a beat as she watched her friend. Unaware of the regent’s presence, Gabrielle gently kissed the sleeping Centaur.

"You love him, don’t you?," Ephiny said quietly, her eyes resting on her son’s youthful face.

"I adore him," the bard smoothed Xenan’s hair with her hand.

"He feels the same way about you," she put her arm around the queen. Like many times before, she found herself overwhelmed by her friend’s tenderness. "We haven’t had much time to talk," she noted.

"No, we haven’t."

The two sat outside under the stars reminiscing, both of them keeping an eye out for Xena who had gone out for a ride. "Are you really doing ok?," Ephiny asked, gently stroking Gabrielle’s forehead with her index finger, her brow furrowed as she sought the truth.

"I’m fine, Ephiny," the queen reached for her friend’s hand, squeezing it tightly as she spoke. "I wish we could spend more time together. I hate being away from you," she confessed.

Ephiny couldn’t help but notice the troubled look on the bard’s face. Sometimes she thought she knew her friend better than she knew herself. Something was bothering her. Something the regent couldn’t quite make out. "Gabrielle?," she paused, biting her bottom lip. Taking in a deep breath, she continued, "Are you sure you and Xena aren’t having problems?"

"No. No, we’re fine. Why do you ask?," she looked puzzled.

"You just seem...troubled. Is there something you want to talk about?"

The bard turned her head away. She could feel the regent’s questioning eyes piercing her skin. She didn’t know what to say. Tartarus, she wasn’t even sure what she was feeling. She only knew that the same feeling that rele!ntlessly descended on her whenever she was close to the warrior was making its move on her now as she sat next to her friend. And this was, by far, not the first time she had felt this way when they were together. Some sort of battle ensued inside her as she felt Ephiny’s hand on her cheek gently guiding her, turning her eyes to meet her own.

"Ephiny...," the bard whispered her name and then fell silent, placing a trembling hand on her friend. Her fingers traced a path across the regent’s cheek, to her forehead, gently brushing a strand of hair from her face.

Ephiny closed her eyes and focused on the sensation of the queen’s touch. Realizing that she was beginning to drift away, she abruptly opened her eyes again, concentrating on the bard’s expression. She looked dismal. Weary. Lost. What was happening here? What was she having such a difficult time telling her? "Gabrielle...what’s wrong?," she whispered, concerned by the pained look on her friend’s face.

"It’s just that...noth...nothing," she stammered.

"I know you, Gabrielle...and this is far from nothing," she moved closer.

A tear etched a line down the bard’s cheek as she spoke, "Ephiny, thank you for caring but...but I can’t talk about it right now. I’m not sure...I don’t even know...," her words trailed off as her tears persisted.

"Are you sure I can’t help?," the regent asked, her heart aching for her friend.

"No, I’m not sure...about anything," Gabrielle admitted. "I only know that I can’t talk about this right now."

"I understand," she whispered, embracing her queen. "Just know that I’m here if you need me."

The bard was comforted by the words, but saddened at the same time. Not knowing what to say, she suggested that they get some rest. Tomorrow they would leave the colony and journey back to the Amazon village. Maybe she was just tired. !Maybe her emotions were playing tricks on her. She didn’t know and, right now, she couldn’t handle trying to decipher all that she was feeling. The only thing she was sure of was that the most important thing to her was ensuring that her relationships with both Ephiny and Xena remained intact.

The warrior stumbled over Gabrielle who was, by now, snug in her bedroll on the floor. "You awake?," she asked the bard in a hushed tone. Gabrielle, though she had heard her, offered no response. Unable to sleep, her mind immersed in thought, she closed her eyes tightly. She couldn’t face Xena now.

After looking in on Xenan and Ephiny, Xena spread her bedroll on the floor next to the bard’s. She watched Gabrielle’s chest rise and fall, taking in the bard’s image. Releasing a pronounced sigh, she moved closer to the queen, easing her way toward her. Tenderly kissing her cheek as she wrapped her in her arms, she inhaled the soothing aroma of her skin.

The warrior woke from her dream, the same dream she had been having over and over again for weeks. The dream that made her knees weak. The dream that made her passion rise. The dream that sought to drive her over the edge. It didn’t take long for her to realize that one of her hands was desperately gripping the blanket while the other had somehow wandered underneath Gabrielle’s tunic. The softness of the flesh beneath her hand beckoning, she allowed her finger tips to linger briefly on the bard’s firm nipple before carefully freeing her hand.

Gabrielle, still not asleep, suppressed the groan lodged in her throat. Quelling the urge to let the warrior know she had felt her touch...and that she longed to feel it again..., she rolled over. Squeezing her knees tightly together, she cursed the fiery sensation between her thighs as the woman behind her put an arm around her waist and pulled her close.

Ephiny! stood over the two sleeping forms, noting the warrior’s arms around the bard. "Rise and shine!," she bent down , yelling in their ears at the top of her lungs. Within seconds, she had both a sword and a fighting staff pointed at her chest.

"Ephiny! What was that all about?!," Xena was furious.

The regent, realizing what she had just done, blushed. "I...I really don’t know why I did that." One hand covering her mouth, she looked genuinely appalled.

"Don’t ever do that again," Xena gritted her teeth.

"I..I won’t. I promise," she assured her.

"Why are you yelling, Mom?," the drowsy young Centaur rubbed his eyes as he approached the regent.

"I was just...umm...joking with Xena and Gabrielle," she offered. "Sorry I woke you all," her apology was sincere.

The three women had breakfast with Xenan and Sharack before Ephiny was forced to say goodbye to her son again. She wept as she rode away from the colony, Xena and the bard following closely behind.

The regent remained quiet as they traveled. She missed Xenan already and was growing increasingly worried about the bard who looked eminently vacant as she walked along behind them.

"Let’s go for a swim!," Gabrielle’s vivacity suddenly reappeared at the sight of the river.

"It is hot," Xena noted, glancing at Ephiny in search of her approval.

"Yeah, let’s stop," the regent agreed.

Ephiny found herself entranced by the sight of the warrior washing the bard’s back, though she wasn’t sure why. What was happening to her? Where had these feelings come from and, most importantly, when were they going to subside?

Gabrielle let out a quiet moan as Xena’s hands moved up and down her back, the warrior struggling to keep her thoughts from drifting. "Lower," the bard whispered. Xena complied. "Lower," s!he whispered again, sending the warrior’s hands to the area just above her buttocks. "Right there," Gabrielle sighed, leaning into her.

Ephiny, growing restless, gathered her clothes and set out to collect wood for the fire. She had agreed with Gabrielle’s suggestion that they camp here for a few days. Her head was so cluttered that she thought the tranquillity of the forest might bring solace.

Though she was losing her mind as her desire consumed her, Xena continued to indulge Gabrielle, assiduously tending to her back, each stroke of her enchanted hands surging through the bard’s body. Mustering her courage, Gabrielle took a deep breath, and made the move she had successfully managed to defy for so long. The warrior tried to conceal the desirous expression on her face as the bard reached for her, kissing her softly at first and then exploding, her tongue delving into the reaches of her mouth.

Stunned, Xena placed her hands firmly on Gabrielle’s back, determined to keep them from roaming over the bard’s naked body. She had wanted this to happen, yet she had never allowed herself to believe that it actually would. Savoring the taste of the bard, she surrendered, her knees buckling beneath her.

"You two are going to shrivel up like a couple of dead rats!," Ephiny called out from the riverbank. She had done it again. She couldn’t believe it. Why had she interrupted them? Why had she felt the need to say anything to them at this particular moment? What in the name of Zeus had gotten into her?

The three women sat next to the fire, none of them uttering a word. Xena listened to the sound of stone connecting with her sword as she sharpened her blade. She glanced at Gabrielle and the regent occasionally, but only when she knew they weren’t paying attention to her. Placing her sword on the ground beside her, she finally spoke, "Ephiny, walk with! me."

The regent stood and headed into the woods with her friend. "You alright?," the warrior asked once the two were alone.

"Ye...yes...why?," her voice trembled slightly.

"Both you and Gabrielle have been acting as though..I don’t know...You both seem really distracted."

"I’ve sensed that Gabrielle’s had something on her mind," the regent was determined to shift the focus off herself.

"And you?," Xena stopped walking, raising an eyebrow as she studied her friend’s eyes.

"I...I think I just miss Xenan," she looked down at the ground.

"You sure that’s all?," Xena placed her hand on the regent’s chin, gently raising her eyes.

Ephiny heard her heart pounding in her ears as she stood there, under the warrior’s questioning gaze. "She...she kissed you...," she heard the words come out of her mouth before she could stop them.

"Yes...she did," the warrior smiled slightly, confused by the expression on the regent’s face.

"I wondered when that would happen," Ephiny attempted to return her friend’s smile.

Xena cleared her throat, a pensive look sweeping over her face. "Are you sure you’re ok?," she reprised.

"I’m fine," Ephiny managed a faint smile. "And, Xena...," she looked warmly at her friend. "I wish you and Gabrielle the best."

"Thank you," Xena sounded uneasy. "But, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure...I mean...she kissed me. That’s all I know for certain."

"She loves you," the regent told her through a heavy sigh, her chest tightening around her lungs.

The warrior grew quiet as she averted her eyes, looking to the tree tops. Unable to pinpoint the reason for her reticence, she threw her arm around the regent’s shoulders and began to walk in the direction of the campsite. Ephiny walked next to her, her arm around the warrior'92s waist, leaning into her as they made their way back.

The three women turned in early, Xena and Gabrielle on one side of the crackling fire, Ephiny on the other. When the regent was asleep, the bard turned to the warrior. "Xena?," she said quietly. The warrior turned on her side to face her. "I...umm...," her words trailed off as she moved closer to her.

"Goodnight, Gabrielle," Xena whispered before tenderly kissing her.

"Goodnight," the bard uttered, dizzy from the warrior’s heart-stopping kiss.

After gazing into each other’s eyes, searching for answers in the alluring spheres for what felt like a lifetime, the two finally drifted into sleep, Xena’s hand gently resting on the bard’s.

"No, Ephiny. You’re not going to do this," she told herself as she stood looking down at her slumbering companions. Gabrielle was sleeping soundly, her head on Xena’s chest, snoring so loudly that the regent wondered how the warrior ever managed to get any rest. "Just walk away, Ephiny," she instructed herself. "No need to make another scene..."

"You yell in my ear again and I’ll toss you in the river," Xena opened one eye as she warned the Amazon.

"Morning, Xena," the flustered regent said through a mischievous grin before dashing back to her own bedroll.

"Ephiny?...What are you up too?," Xena chuckled as she sat down next to her.

"Me?," she replied, pointing to herself, attempting to look as innocent as possible.

"Well, I’m sure as Tartarus not talking to your bedroll."

"What makes you think I’m up to something?"

"Let’s just say I’m not used to waking up to someone standing over me talking to themselves," Xena stretched out on the ground, resting her head on the Amazon’s lap. "Well?," she persisted.

"Ok, you caught me. I was..I !was...trying to figure out how to make Gabrielle stop snoring," Ephiny answered, dragging her fingers through the warrior’s ebony tresses.

"So what was it you were telling yourself not to do?," Xena continued to pry.

"Wake you, of course," she winked at her friend.

The warrior laughed under her breath. "Alright, you win...this time. Should we surprise Gabrielle with rabbit stew for breakfast?," she asked, letting her off the hook.

"You mean we’re going to eat something besides fish?," the Amazon joked.

"Let’s hope so," Xena stood, offering a hand to the regent.

"So let’s hunt," she said as the warrior pulled her to her feet.

The Amazon released the arrow, watching as it flawlessly achieved its mark. "Rabbit stew it is," she smiled at the warrior. "Xena? You in there?," she asked, noticing her friend’s remote expression.

"Ye...yeah...nice job," she finally replied. She found herself staring at the regent with wonder, suddenly taken in by her friend’s countenance. It wasn’t that she had never noticed before. But there was something about the way she looked as at that moment as she stood there with her weapon in her hand. Cunning. Illustrious. And positively radiant.

"What? Do I have something on my face?," Ephiny swiped at her brow with the palm of her hand.

"There’s nothing on your face," the warrior mumbled as she retrieved this morning’s breakfast. "We’d better start cooking. Gabrielle will be awake before long."

"Do I smell stew?!," the bard exclaimed, jumping up from her bedroll. "I knew it!," she shouted, peering into the pot. "Is it almost ready?"

"Yes, it’s almost ready," Xena informed her. "Sleep well?"

"Don’t I always?," she gave her a quick kiss. "Morning, Eph," she pecked t!he regent’s cheek. "Do I have time for a swim before we eat?’

"Yes," Xena nodded. "Go with her if you want, Ephiny. I’ll stay here."

"I think I will. Do you mind, Gabrielle?," the regent asked.

"Yes, Ephiny, I mind. You see, I own the river now and there’s just not enough room in it for the two of us," the bard teased. "Of course I don’t mind! Come on," she smiled.

The bard and the regent sat next to the river, drying their hair in the sun. "Now that was refreshing," Gabrielle sighed. "I love being near the river. It’s so peaceful. I like to listen to the water while I’m writing."

"It is seemed to really be enjoying it yesterday," Ephiny grinned.

"Oh...I guess you did see that...," her voice faded as her thoughts wandered back to the kiss she had shared with the warrior.

"Did I say something wrong?," the regent watched the smile on her friend’s face slowly fade.

"No...not at all," she spoke in a soft voice as she tried to convince her.

"Why won’t you talk to me?," Ephiny sounded hurt.

"It’s not that I don’t want to," the bard tried to explain. "It’s’s that I can’t."

"Can’t or won’t?"

"I...I’m not sure...," she wasn’t lying.

"Gabrielle, I can tell something’s really getting to you. Maybe I can help. The worst that could happen is that you’ll get whatever it is off your chest," Ephiny slid behind her, wrapping her arms around the bard’s waist.

Gabrielle’s throat felt tight as she turned to look at the Amazon. "Eph...," she attempted to speak, only to find that she couldn’t concentrate. The regent was so close she could feel the gentle breeze of her breath coming to rest on her cheek. "Ephiny...," she tried again, rising to her k!nees to face the regent. "I...," her lips brushed the Amazon’s while the stillness around them bellowed in their ears. Gabrielle slid her hand across Ephiny’s cheek. The regent, wrestling with herself, gently touched her lips to the bard’s and then pulled back slightly, concentrating her gaze on the queen’s eyes. Gabrielle cautiously moved forward, this time lingering before sweetly kissing her again and again. The regent held her breath for a moment before giving in, captivating her mouth with her own. Their kisses were slow and deep as they sank into each other. Pressing against the Amazon’s chest, the bard coaxed her onto her back and settled gently on top of her, continuing to relish the taste of her lips. Ephiny cautiously reached for Gabrielle’s tunic, slowly releasing the loosely tied strings. Her passion rising, she moved her mouth down the bard’s neck, at last welcoming her breast in her mouth. "Xena...," the queen uttered, pulling away from the regent. "We have to get back," she delivered the disappointing blow, instantaneously annihilating the moment.

"Yeah...Xena...," Ephiny exhaled loudly as she brushed the dust off her clothing.

The two climbed up the hill, both having a difficult time steadying themselves, their legs suddenly feeling like they had been transformed into something far too frail to carry their weight.

"Feel better?," Xena asked upon their return.

"Huh?," Ephiny uttered, catching a glimpse of Gabrielle who looked as though she might pass out at any moment.

"The swim? Did you enjoy it?," the warrior clarified. "You two are getting to be really strange," she rolled her eyes and proceeded to served the stew.

The Amazon’s frustration mounted as she sat in the clearing muddling over what had happened between her and Gabrielle earlier. She caught a glimpse of her horse out of the corner of her eye, secure!d to a tree, her belongings already packed and strapped to the animal’s back. She had left the campsite when Xena and the bard decided to take a walk and, as far as she knew, they still had no idea she was gone. She hadn’t traveled far before deciding to stop and reconsider. Leaving this way could irreparably mar her relationships with both women, not that staying didn’t hold the same potential. She didn’t know what she should do.

"Don’t leave," Xena’s voice startled the Amazon. "Stay...please," her face looked pale as she climbed off Argo’s back.

"What do you care?," Ephiny snapped, regretting the remark the instant it rolled off her tongue.

Knowing that the Amazon’s statement was merely an attempt to hide her pain, the warrior approached her. "Please stay," she repeated, the regent taken aback her unusually meek demeanor.

"What’s happening to us, Xena? To all of us?," she whispered, shuffling the leaves beneath her boot.

"You haven’t figured it out?," Xena sat close beside her.

"What do you mean?," she appeared lost.

"I saw you and Gabrielle this morning...on the riverbank," the warrior admitted.

"I’m sorry, Xena...I...," her tears stifled her.

"Ephiny...," the warrior cut in. "Do you love her?" The Amazon didn’t answer. "Do you love Gabrielle?," Xena repeated, this time more forcefully.

The regent rose to her feet and stiffened her jaw. Choking back her tears, she lifted her head and glared at the warrior. "Yes...," she poignantly declared. "I love her." Anchoring her feet to the ground, she waited, poised to contend with whatever happened next.

Xena reached back for her sword, the Amazon listening to the hiss it made as she pulled the weapon from its sheath. Without hesitation, Ephiny drew her own blade, pointing it at the warrior. She didn’t want this to happen. Sh!e didn’t want to battle it out with one of her most cherished friends. Though she knew she was capable of spilling her blood, she wasn’t so sure she could live with herself if she did. Xena slowly raised her weapon, releasing a cry of outrage as she threw it to the ground at the Amazon’s feet. "I won’t have your blood on my hands!," she shouted, more hurt than angry. "Do you honestly think I could hurt you? Do you?!," she continued to rant while the regent looked on, still wielding her sword. "The gods, Ephiny, you mean more to me than that," she managed through clinched teeth as she turned her back to the Amazon, tears building behind her eyes.

Deeply moved by the warrior’s passionate concession, the regent released her grip on her sword. Stepping over her blade, now lying dormant in the dust, she moved toward her friend. "Xena...," she placed an unsteady hand on her back. "The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you."

"What do you suggest we do now?," the warrior replied, burying her emotions.

"I’ll go," she whispered. "Take care of her, my friend," she kissed Xena’s cheek before turning toward her horse.

"Ephiny," the sound of the warrior’s voice stopped the regent in her tracks.

"Don’t you think Gabrielle deserves to have some say in this? From what I’ve seen, she obviously doesn’t know which one of us she wants."

"Are you suggesting we vie for her affections?," the regent sounded almost amused.

"That’s exactly what I’m saying. Let Gabrielle make the choice," she maintained.

"And you’re willing to go along with that?"

"I can’t think of a better way to handle this, can you?"

"Compete for her...," she thought aloud. "I can live with that," she extended her arm to seal the agreement.

"I knew you had your eye on her," the warrior declared with a win!k of her eye before mounting her horse and heading into the woods.

"But do you know I’ve got my eye on you too?," the regent mumbled under her breath.

Xena forged ahead, not letting on that her keen ears had picked up on the Amazon’s final remark. She coaxed Argo into a gallop, briskly moving through the trees until she reached the top of the hill. The light of the full moon reflected off the surface of the still water, illuminating her meditative expression. "By the gods...," she whispered. "She does love me. But she also loves Gabrielle...," she continued to think aloud. "I’ll have them both if it’s the last thing I do," a sly grin transformed her face as she mapped out her strategy.

"These are for you," the warrior handed the bard a modest arrangement of wildflowers.

"Xena! They’re beautiful!," she gushed.

"I thought you would like...," Xena fell silent at the sight of the regent, trudging up the hill carrying a bouquet that was so large she was barely able to see around it.

"Gabrielle? Gabrielle? Oh there you are!," she strained to get a glimpse of the bard through what appeared to be hundreds of flowers. "Here," she offered them to her queen, who promptly accepted the gift and scurried off to place both arrangements in water. "Oh...hi, Xena!," the regent grinned at the sight of the perturbed warrior, taking note of her competitor’s inferior efforts.

"Hi, Ephiny," Xena grumbled. "Leave anything for the bees?," she cracked.

"As a matter of, I didn’t," the regent responded before lending her assistance to the bard.

The grumbling warrior watched the two women meticulously place each bloom, cackling away as they worked on their masterpiece.

"Help! Somebody!," the bard shouted in despa!ir.

Xena and the regent instantly appeared on the riverbank. "Gabrielle! Where are you?!," the warrior tried to follow her voice.

"Xena! Get me down!," she pleaded.

"What in Tartarus are you doing up there?," the warrior asked, surprised to see the bard dangling from a tree branch high above their heads.

"I was only trying to get a better view of the river!," the terrified bard responded.

"I’m coming, Gabrielle!," Ephiny called out, leaping into the air. She latched onto a low-hanging vine and scurried hand over hand toward the top of the tree.

"Oh no you don’t," the warrior said under her breath. "Ayiyiyiyiyiyi!," her battle cry rang out as she flipped through the air, landing on a branch just above the regent’s head. "I’ve got her," she smirked, swinging out over the Amazon, landing expertly on the branch which supported the bard. "Hi, sweetie," she peered down at Gabrielle, moving her eyebrows up and down.

"Xena, this is no time to be charming!," the queen shouted. The warrior swooped down and effortlessly retrieved the bard, planting a huge kiss on her lips.

"On second thought, charming is good," Gabrielle sighed, kissing the warrior again. Xena ran her hands over the bard’s body, digging her fingernails into her firm buttocks, making sure the Amazon got an eye full. Out of the blue, Ephiny swung by on a vine and grabbed a handful of the warrior’s hair.

"Ouch! What’s wrong with you?!," Xena erupted.

"You had something on your head!," the regent, now safely on the ground, called up to her.

"Yeah, my hair!," the warrior snarled.

Ephiny studied the clump of coal black hair in her hand as she sawed away at it with her dagger. She ran her fingers over the lock, staring at it with wonder before carefully tucking it between her breasts.

The !bard held tightly to the warrior as the horse increased its speed, the wind cooling their sun-baked skin. When they reached the meadow, Xena tugged on Argo’s reins, commanding the animal to stop. "This looks like a good spot. What do you think?"

"It’s nice," Gabrielle sighed, climbing off the horse.

"I have a surprise for you," the warrior informed the bard as they lay next to each other on a blanket.

"What?," her curiosity peaked.

"Wait right there," Xena walked over to the horse and grabbed her saddlebag. "Close your eyes," she said, sitting next to the bard. "You’re really going to like this," she whispered as she teased the queen’s lips with the fruit.

"Is that a strawberry?," her mouth started to water as she bit into the delicacy. "Sweet Aphrodite! Where did you get strawberries?!," she enthusiastically asked upon opening her eyes.

"I have many skills," the warrior raised an eyebrow, feeding the bard another berry. "You’re incredibly sexy when you eat strawberries," she whispered, boldly lapping at the juice on the queen’s chin.

Gabrielle found it all too easy to submit to her kiss. "May I?," Xena asked her permission to remove her tunic.

"Ye..yes," the bard stammered, watching the warrior’s hands fumble with the strings on her top. Xena slowly removed the queen’s garment, feasting her eyes on ample breasts.

"Wait," Gabrielle uttered before the warrior could kiss her again. She reached up, gently removing the warrior’s breastplate before lowering the straps from Xena’s shoulders, sliding her undergarment down to her waist.

"That’s better," Gabrielle whispered as Xena lowered herself onto her, a fire igniting between them as flesh encountered flesh. Their kisses grew frenzied, the bard exploring the warrior, following a trail of strawberry juice with her tongue. "I was hop!ing to end up here," she grinned, gently nibbling at the warrior’s nipple.

"I was hoping you would too," Xena growled. She watched with anticipation as Gabrielle bit into a strawberry, spilling the juice onto her breasts, letting out a quiet moan when the bard finally descended on her, devouring her peaks with her hungry mouth.

Distinctly aware that her own need was rapidly augmenting, the warrior could see the sky spinning overhead. "Ga...Gabrielle...," her breathing was strained. "I...," her eyes suddenly opened wide as she fell silent mid-sentence. "Ephiny...," she said quietly.

"What?," the bard abruptly sat up. "Xena...," she sounded bothered as she looked out over the meadow. The regent sat perfectly still on the back of her horse, her eyes fixed on the two women in the distance. Both warrior and bard scrambled for their clothing, but it was too late. The Amazon was gone.

"This has to end," Xena mumbled, jumping on Argo’s back. "Gabrielle! Meet me back at the campsite!," she called out as she took off after Ephiny.

"Ephiny! Stop!," she called out once the Amazon was in sight. The regent drove her horse harder, flying across the terrain. "Ephiny!," she yelled again, desperately trying to catch up to her. When she finally managed to get alongside her, she tried again to convince her. "You can’t leave like this! You have to listen to me!"

"You’ve said enough, Xena! Leave me alone!," the regent bellowed above pounding hooves.

"The gods, Ephiny! Please! At least hear me out!," she persisted.

"I’ve destroyed our friendship, Xena! Betrayed your loyalty! There’s nothing left to say!," she pulled ahead.

"So this is the way you treat someone who loves you as much as I do!," Xena screamed, abruptly stopping her horse, watching as the regent disappeared in a cloud of dust. "Dammit!," she dismoun!ted and paced back and forth, clenching her fists.

The rumbling sound fell on her ears as tried to figure out what to do next. The sound of a horse heading in her direction. "Thank the gods," she said aloud at the sight of the regent, now making her way back to her.

"What did you say to me?," Ephiny gasped for air as her horse halted next to the warrior.

"I said I love you," Xena looked up at her, hoping she wouldn’t recoil.

The regent’s jaw dropped as tears streamed down her cheeks. "You do?," she managed through disconcerting emotions.

"Come down here," Xena chuckled through her own tears as she summoned the Amazon off her horse. Nervously, she reached for the regent, now standing in front of her. Ephiny appeared at once ecstatic and terrified as the warrior gently guided her into her arms, their lips merging in a soul-searching kiss. The regent had thought this moment would never come. She had been so certain that she had lost both Xena and the bard.

"We need to talk to Gabrielle. It’s time," Xena whispered, kissing the Amazon softly. "Will you go back with me?," she asked, afraid the regent would deny her.

"Do you think it’s best?," Ephiny hesitantly asked, nipping at the warrior’s bottom lip.

"I know it is," the warrior assured her.

Having agreed to return with Xena, the Amazon felt her stomach churn as they neared the campsite.

"I’m going to start this discussion the only way I know how," the warrior began. "By telling you both exactly what I’ve been feeling lately," she said nervously.

Gabrielle and Ephiny, aware that Xena was notorious for keeping her feelings to herself, couldn’t believe their ears. The both sat eminently still, staring at the warrior as though she had just declared herself a Hestian Virgin.

"Gabrielle...," she turned! to the bard. "I’ve loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you. I’ve always wanted to be with you, to share my life with you. And I admit that I’ve hidden my feelings well. I thought that burying my emotions would somehow protect you...from what, I’m not sure. But I know now that I was wrong. The truth is...I love you with all of my heart. Not as a sister. Not as a friend. As a lover, a soul mate," she stroked the queen’s cheek, wiping away a tear.

"Xena, I...," the bard attempted to respond, but was interrupted by the warrior, who was now more determined than ever to say everything she needed to say.

"There’s more...," she inhaled deeply. "Ephiny...," she faced the regent, her heart rising to her throat as she wondered how the bard would handle what she was about to disclose. "We’ve been friends for a long time and I want you to know how much I value that friendship. But I also need for you to understand that my feelings for you have changed. My love for you has changed...," she paused to contemplate her next words. "Now I realize that I love you as I love Gabrielle. I want you as I want her. I need you as I need her," she confessed.

The regent smiled warmly, swallowing the lump in her throat as she caught a glimpse of the bard. The silence that ensued following the warrior’s account was deafening.

"Gabrielle...," Xena ‘s heart was raging in her chest as she knelt next to the bard. "I need to know how you feel about what I’ve just said," her hands trembled as she waited for her response.

Gabrielle looked uneasy, searching the recesses of her mind for an answer. She hesitated, trying to absorb what was happening, fearing that she might somehow hurt one of the women. "I love both of you," she finally revealed. "I want to be with you," she looked at the warrior, "...but, Xena...," she sounded desperate. "I can’t let go of my feelings for Ep!hiny," she sobbed, clearly overwhelmed by her dilemma.

"I don’t expect you to, Gabrielle," Xena looked into her eyes.

The warrior held her close assuring her that everything was going to be alright. "Ephiny?...," she addressed the regent. "I need to know how you feel."

The regent knew the question was coming. And, now that it had, she found herself at a loss for words. "I...want...," she tripped over her words. "I want you to understand that I love you both," she finally managed. "But I...I don’t want to come between you," she said softly.

"Ephiny...," Xena moved in close. "Gods, Ephiny," she whispered, a pained look on her face, before finally kissing her. Both concerned with how the bard might react to seeing them...this way, they somehow managed to push their anxieties aside, each yielding to the other. Their worry subsided when the warrior felt the warmth of Gabrielle’s hands on her back as the queen removed Xena’s armor. Xena pulled back slightly from the regent, both women focused on the bard’s expression.

"Don’t stop," Gabrielle whispered, sending them back to each other. She watched them while she disrobed the warrior, her yearning heightening. When she finished her task, the bard knelt on her knees next to the two women. Xena, her flesh now exposed, softly placed her hand on the back of the bard’s neck and guided her lips to her own. In the midst of the heated kiss, the warrior reached for the regent, pulling her closer. Ephiny felt her heart stop when Xena gently tuned Gabrielle’s head toward her, urging them into a passionate kiss, looking on as the regent covered the bard’s mouth with her own.

The warrior moved her lips over Ephiny’s shoulders while she removed her tunic. From behind, she cupped the regent’s breasts in her hands, tenderly stoking, lost in the kiss now shared by the two women she adored. Gabrielle placed her hands ov!er the warrior’s, joining her in her exploration as Ephiny removed the bard’s top and embarked on a journey of her own.

"Gods, you’re beautiful," Ephiny whispered in Xena’s ear at the sight of her unveiled form. Breathing heavily, the warrior slid the last of the regent’s clothing off her body, pressing against her, both women dwelling on the wonder of the other’s inviting flesh.

"Gabrielle...," Xena whispered. "I want this to be the most memorable moment of your life," she whispered, gently guiding the bard onto her back, delivering tender kisses to her breasts.

"It is," the bard sighed as the regent and the warrior lay beside her, both tantalizing Gabrielle’s breasts with ravenous tongues and blazing lips.

Xena relished the bard’s body, taking in her splendor. "I want to please you," she whispered as she moved between Gabrielle’s thighs. She looked up at the regent, her lips barely touching the bard’s moist folds. "Come here," she beckoned. The regent joined the warrior and together, they focused on the bard’s pleasure, sharing in her desire as they continued to exchange fevered kisses. When Xena felt Gabrielle start to give, she moved close beside her, conquering her mouth with her own as she caressed her breasts, the regent continuing what she and the warrior had started together. Xena ran her hand over the bard’s alert nipples, across her abdomen, and finally, between her legs. Ephiny continued to savor the taste of her queen as she watched Xena enter her. Gabrielle moaned softly, the movement of her hips overwhelming the warrior. The queen’s motions intensified before her muscles constricted. "The gods," she whimpered as her body grew tense, unbridled furor surging through her.

The three women lay next to each other exchanging tantalizing kisses, their hands roaming free over each other. Sitting up, resting her back against a rock, Xena coaxed the regent into her !arms. Ephiny leaned against her, feeling her breasts against her back. Xena nibbled on the regent’s neck as she spoke, "I’m so glad you didn’t leave." Slowly, she reached around, running her hand along Ephiny’s thigh before pressing firmly between her legs. "Relax. I want you to enjoy this," she whispered, moving slowly, deeply into her. The regent arched her back, thrusting against her. She had yearned for this. Longed to surrender herself. Needed to feel the touch of the women she loved so much.

"I’ve..wanted...this...for so...long," she confessed through ragged breaths as Gabrielle teased her nipples with her tongue. "Yes, Ephiny. The gods, yes," Xena groaned as the regent’s need ascended. Ephiny raised her hips as the bard settled onto the ground, gasping when Gabrielle’s mouth made contact with her glistening flesh. Xena firmly massaged Ephiny’s breasts, gently biting at her neck until the regent screamed with ecstasy as wave after wave moved through her. Her body quaking as the bard consumed her, she turned her head to the warrior, welcoming her tongue into her mouth.

Both Gabrielle and the regent sat next to the Xena, gazing down at her as she lay between them on her back. They took turns kissing her lips, nibbling on her breasts, stirring her desire. "What did I do to deserve you two?," she sighed as the bard ran her fingers through her hair.

"It’s not what you do," Ephiny said softly. "It’s who you are," she offered her a warm look and an even warmer kiss.

"I never thought I’d find someone...anyone who could forget my past long enough to grow to love me," Xena whispered.

"You’re not the person you once were," Gabrielle reminded her. "Maybe someday you’ll learn to forgive yourself as others have forgiven you. I want to help you do that...if you’ll let me. We both do," she smiled at the regent.

"We all make mistakes!, Xena," Ephiny responded, caressing the warrior’s shoulder.

"What I’m trying to say is that...," Xena closed her eyes in an attempt to hinder her tears as they threatened to fall. "I’m so grateful for your love," she finally managed.

"You’ll always have our love, Xena," the bard sighed, grazing her teeth across her nipple. The warrior moaned as her arousal reemerged. Ephiny pressed her lips to hers, warmly rediscovering her. "The gods," Xena moaned, her need growing urgent. Gabrielle shifted, kissing both women before taking the regent’s hand in her own, guiding it between Xena’s thighs. The bard kissed the warrior passionately as both she and Ephiny entered her at once, the regent’s tongue moving wildly over Xena’s breasts. The warrior quivered as the sensation filled her, "Gods yes...deeper...yeesss." Sacrificing herself, she let go, giving herself to them in a way she hadn’t thought possible before this moment. Clutching at the blanket beneath her, she closed her eyes as her pleasure transcended. A quiet moan emerged in her throat, growing louder as her body gave way. Ephiny tenderly kissed the bard’s cheek when she noticed the tears glistening in her queen’s eyes as her emotions overpowered her. The warrior erupted, thrusting against probing fingers while Gabrielle, trembling as the intensity of the moment washed over her, ravaged Xena’s mouth with explosive kisses.

As the warrior descended, the two women moved closer to her, the regent tenderly touching her lips to Xena’s forehead. Still trying to catch her breath, the warrior spoke, "Is this real?" For a moment, she found herself wondering if this was just another one of her dreams.

"More real than anything I’ve ever known," Ephiny smiled, pulling both women closer.

"I could spend the rest of my days with the two of you," Xena said softly. "If that’s what both of you want...," she unea!sily waited for a response.

"When I was alone with either of you, I always missed the other," Gabrielle admitted, resting her head on the warrior’s chest. "I never thought that...this was possible. I’m so glad I was wrong," she smiled. "I couldn’t be any happier than I am at this moment."

"I always knew you two loved each other," Ephiny kissed the bard’s cheek. "What I never knew is that either of you loved me...not like this," tears sparkled in her eyes.

"Do you know now?," Xena asked tenderly, stroking her cheek with the tips of her fingers.

Unable to speak through the lump in her throat, the regent smiled and nodded, assuring the warrior that she did.

"It’s the three of us then?," Xena held them tighter.

"I wouldn’t have it any other way," the bard answered.

"Ephiny, are you sure this is what you want?," Xena ran her hand over the regent’s back.

"More than I’ve ever wanted anything," Ephiny whispered.

The three slept through the night, lost in each other’s warm embrace. After trading good morning kisses at the break of dawn, they wrapped themselves in their blankets and headed toward the river. Gabrielle watched Xena and the regent as they let their cloaks fall to the ground. Grinning from ear to ear, she placed a hand on each of their chests. "The gods! You both have fabulous breasts!," she exclaimed, a familiar glint in her eye.

Ephiny’s eyes grew wide, "Gabrielle? You didn’t?.......Did you?"

The warrior was obviously stunned as her gaze shifted from regent to bard. "Son of a bacchae," she mumbled, shaking her head in disbelief.

The End
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