Both women, now submerged, tousled and battled to gain control over the other. Xena, her arms free, was able to latch onto Gabrielle's upper arms and pry her off, kicking her legs free at the same time. They each floated, vertically positioned, upwards and although they were gasping for air, Gabrielle stubbornly held Xena's neck. The warrior struggled for dominance, once again entangled in the girl's arms and legs. Her hair completely draped her face, so not only was she fighting this untameable octopus, Xena fought for some good old oxygen. Taking wet gasps of air, the warrior held the smaller woman's waist and attempted to push her away. That only caused Gabrielle to hold on tighter. So, Xena did the next best thing she could think of. She moved her hands, specifically her thumbs, into Gabrielle's armpits and began tickling her.

Immediately, the bard detached herself from the taller woman. She laughed hard, swallowing water, and retreated to shallower waters to regain footing. Free from the tentacles that were Gabrielle's, Xena dunked her head into the water. She whipped her head back, her long black hair flipped rightfully into place. Gabrielle continued to cough out water and also burped out air she had swallowed too. Her companion doggy paddled to the energized bard and sat in front of her quietly.

The moon reflected against the calm surface, illuminating the young woman's wide and exaggerated smile, "Hi." She raised a brow, standing by for Xena's response –or actions.

Xena shortly replied, "Hi." She took hold of Gabrielle's hand and pulled her back to the deep end, so she could stand and be fully covered by water. Gabrielle kicked her legs and utilized Xena's strong grip to keep herself afloat. "Did you have fun drowning me?"

Gabrielle bit her lip, nodding her head, "Yeah."

"Even though you basically drank your dinner?"

"Mmm..." she let go of the warrior's hand and held her shoulders instead. The bard felt a tingle ripple through her body as the woman wrapped her arms around her waist. The warrior pulled her waist into her, so it only made sense for the bard to also gently wrap her legs around her. "Actually," Gabrielle closed the distance between them, "...yes, I did." Unlike her earlier deathgrip, the bard gently folded her arms over one another behind Xena's neck. The blonde rested her head on the warrior's shoulder.

Good Gods above, I swear I could just fuck... hmm. Xena inwardly griped, feeling the bard's slick, toned, delicious... Gabrielle's breasts were on her own, and the place she so wanted to feel was against her abdomen. She let a growl escape her throat, held her closer, and distractedly kissed the bard's neck. Xena allowed her lips to linger and the urge to bite the girl's shoulder caused her body to tense.

"What was that?" Gabrielle chuckled at the unexpected growl and rigid warrior. This could all be perceived as entirely innocent. Being shorter of the two, she took advantage of her friend's height. If she decided to stand, the water would engulf her head. The short blonde shifted, pressing herself closer to the already stewing woman. Another frustrated groan came from her. "Why are you snarling Xena?"

Mulling over the same thoughts she had earlier: if this were someone she did not care for, it would not be as quiet as it was now. Xena restricted her hands from moving lower to the bard's buttocks. She kept herself from biting the girl's neck and shoulder, leaving red blemishes on her skin. And although she desperately wanted to, Xena definitely did not slip her fingers into Gabrielle.

The warrior lied through gritted teeth, "I sense..." Xena formulated a vague lie, "...something."

"Sense what?" Gabrielle pulled away from the warm body. "What are you—"

"What's that?" She may as well use the woman's fears against her to get out of this... sticky situation.

Her face contorted, "What?"

"Gabrielle," Xena removed herself from the intensely passionate environment, "... don't panic, but there's something with us in the water."

The bard agonizingly checked the area for any movement, watched for a figure to lunge and attack. Her imagination kicked in and she envisioned a large serpent-like beast with dagger sharp fangs shredding her to pieces.

"There's nothing in the water," she reassured herself aloud, trying to get back into Xena's arms. "C'mere Xena. Get back here!" Gabrielle instructed. "Xena!"

The warrior shushed her and pretended to hear a threat, when (really) she was just intensifying her companion's worries. "Stay where you are and don't move." She commanded as she swam towards the middle of the river. Xena grinned devilishly, diving down, acting as if she had spotted the beast. Then, pretending that she had actually captured the monster, she started to splash around violently.

Rigidly, Gabrielle stayed in place as commanded. Really, she should have taken off to the decidedly safe, dry land. But she refused to leave the battling warrior's... far side. Then again, the bard's fear of the dark and the terrifying serpent kept her at bay. The thrashing stopped and it became still –very quiet. Xena disappeared from view. Gabrielle's voice hitched when she shouted her name. And she yelled again. Nothing.

Xena, before she halted all movements and nosedived beneath the surface, gulped all the oxygen she could fit into her lungs. She followed the sound of her companion's repeated calls and panicked movements. Once she was close enough, Xena blindly gripped her fingers around a limb. Making contact, Xena reached out with her other hand and held the girl tightly.

Her lungs and throat jumped out of her mouth, squealing in fear. Her soul temporarily left her body too. When the beast somehow bit both sides of her hips, Gabrielle slapped the water viciously. The water impeded her speed as she attempted to strike the jaws that bit her. The slow movement, however, allowed her to feel Xena's emerging body.

Again, she sputtered out water, her eyes blanketed by black hair. She chortled heartily with her head thrown back, grasping the shorter's woman's hips, nearly passing out from laughter.

She admitted it was funny, but in that frame of mind, she was quite irate. Gabrielle repeatedly smacked the warrior on the arms, her chest –she didn't care where her hands landed. "By Zeus, Xena!" The woman receiving the slaps continued laughing, "You know I'm afraid of the dark!" Gabrielle pushed the warrior on the chest.

Xena didn't expect the powerful push to her chest, so she fell backwards. She reemerged, pushing away her hair, "Payback's a bacchae, isn't it?"

Gabrielle snarled. It was her turn to pinch the warrior princess. And that's what she did. She pinched Xena above her left breast and splashed her too. "Yeah, you're a bitch!"

Very rarely did the bard swear; however, considering what she had done, Xena completely understood. She was still chuckling, but quieted down as she neared her, closing the distance between them. "All right, all right. I'm sorry," She hugged her, "...okay?" She seized her elbow and led her back to shore, "Let's get out of the water, I think we've had enough fun."

"You've had enough fun." Gabrielle grumbled.

Xena pulled the pouting girl along. "Come on Gabby."

They headed back to camp with their dinner. As Gabrielle prepared their meal, Xena slipped her undergarment on. The fish, seasoned and looking very succulent, waited for the warrior. And as she sat on the bedroll, not taking a bite of fish in respect to the chef, Xena sighed in relief at her abilities to dodge her savage approach to lovemaking. When Gabrielle rejoined her, sitting closely to the warrior, they enjoyed the fish Xena had caught and her preparation of the meal. The companions discussed their plans for Amphipolis and how Xena celebrated the festival with her brothers.

After Xena had brought up her and her sibling's pranks, Gabrielle shared that she was surprised the warrior had any funny bone left in her after years of ruthless and violent battles.

"I met someone that was able to make me realize what really matters." Xena stared at her dinner, not wanting to make eye contact. "You were that someone." She trailed off.

Gabrielle rested her chin on the hesitant woman's shoulder, "Xena," the dark-haired woman looked into the sparkling green eyes, "I'm happy that I was able to do that for you." The bard leaned in and kissed her on the nose. "You've done the same for me."

She feigned disgust, wrinkling her nose, but her features softened. She smiled at her and, in return, pecked the bard's cheek.

"However, you took advantage of my fear old lady."

Her jaw dropped, almost into her dinner, and Xena scoffed, "You tried scaring me first missy."

"To distract myself from my own fear. You're braver than I am!"

Xena shoved her friend with an elbow, "That doesn't mean I don't get scared."

"But to fake an attack, and to pretend that the serpent ate you..." Gabrielle huffed, "...I was terrified that I had lost you!"

"The serpent?" Xena wrapped an arm around her waist, "And, in my defense, you attempted to drown me." She set aside the fish, "So you were intentionally trying to lose me."

"That's different."

"Different?"

"Yes, different, Xena."

"How is that different?"

"Because I was the one drowning you," her eyes glinted, "...not someone or something else." Gabrielle missed the warmth of the warrior's arm. She chuckled when her friend shoved her again.

"Wow, Gabrielle, that's so very sweet of you. To think of my safety that way?" Xena crossed her arms, turning away from her. "And I thought you cared."

She placed her head on the warrior's thigh, laying down, gazing up at the stoic face, "I do care. I care enough to take you out quickly and without your suffering."

The warrior knew she was kidding around, but she would play out her pain with a little acting. "Gabrielle!"

She had no idea how it happened because it happened so quickly, but Gabrielle was now pinned beneath the warrior. "Ca...cwah? What?" The bard stuttered, struggling to free her arms, kicking her legs. "Xena?"

"I'm sorry," she sighed with disappointment, "...but threatening my life like that..." her voice dropped an octave. She brought back old feelings of animosity and violence, memories muddling her mind. When she glared down at the motionless bard, she could tell the woman was worried. Gabrielle was still smiling, but Xena could feel her anxiety. Xena spoke as she moved off Gabrielle's abdomen, to her hips, "I don't think I can trust you Gabrielle."

"This was all horseplay! I was kidding!"

Argo lifted her head at the women's banter. She whinnied at them, signaling the two to quiet down, but they only continued.

"I don't see it that way." Xena lifted the bard's arms above her head. She lowered herself closely to the bard's face, and practically snapped at her, "I can't continue knowing you might try to kill me in the future." Again, she was teasing the bard, but knew she was taking it a bit too far now.

"Xena! C'mon!" Gabrielle pleaded, "Please, I was only kidding! You know I love you."

Xena wildly grinned, holding the bard's wrists with one hand, with her other hand, she let it graze against the girl's hips. She pressed her weight against the bard. "I know I was only kidding too. I just needed to get you into this position."

"Argh!" Gabrielle groaned in frustration, relief pouring over her. "Xena of Amphipolis, Warrior Princess, Destroyer of Nations! Dammit!"

Xena cackled, now engaging in the girl's torture. "I'll make sure to think of your suffering as I proceed to—"

"No, no, no." Realization dawning over the bard. "Please, please, please. Do anything else besides this!"

"Ehh," Xena moved her head side-to-side, deliberating her choices. "...what's the best way to torture you without actually hurting you?"

Ideas zoomed through her mind. She shook her head, not sure of what to say. "I'll go sleep on rocks. Have the bed to yourself?"

Throughout this entire exchange: Gabrielle's attempt to scare the warrior, Xena pinching her; Xena's uproariously funny and successful prank; and most deliciously, the loving embrace –Aphrodite watched from afar. She had reappeared, invisibly, to see where the two would end up since Gabrielle had confessed her earlier frustrations. She was ready to pour some love into their hands, feeling herself raise a hand to zap some magic between them, but her friends had began it on their own. Admittedly, Aphrodite had been feeling quite frisky and knew it was wrong to watch the two engage in intimate activities –especially since they were friends.

But, the signals were strong. After they had roughly immersed each other underwater, they each willingly pushed themselves against another. Aphrodite could sense the burning sexual tension emanating from both women; it radiated outwards and blasted her intensely. And boy, the love and playfulness in the air was heavenly.

"These two have to get the job done." Aphrodite splayed out on a heart-shaped bed, just a hop, skip, and jump away from them. The goddess watched the warrior princess straddle the bard, now sitting up with interest. She shook her head disapprovingly, "No, no Xena. The pleasure center is not in the stomach. Move..." Aphrodite waved her hand, "Yess! There you go Ms. Warrior." She watched as their faces closed into each other. She clapped her hands excitedly, expecting the dark-haired warrior to kiss her. Instead, she nearly fell off the bed when her 'evil' friend barked at the bard. "Ooh, adding a little spice to the brew. That'll appease Gabby's primitive desires."

She ate up their interaction, waiting for them to finally seal the deal. "C'mon, c'mon..." Aphrodite rested her head on her palms, laying on her belly, "That's a ton of feces Xena! Aletheia knows you're not straddling that girl just to tickle her." She snapped her fingers and was now sitting on a wooden pony. "You know you want to ride her!"

Aphrodite bit her lip and chuckled when Gabrielle offered to sleep elsewhere. They all knew they didn't want that.

When Xena shook her head and defended her choice, the goddess was tired of it. They were both playing too much. "Noo!" Aphrodite complained, "Do it now, lick it goood!" Her frustration apparently carried over into the women's buffoonery because now, Xena was standing, unsheathing her sword.

Something threw her senses off the charts, her hairs standing up on end when a zap of some godly power pierced the air. The warrior princess had no clue which god or goddess was trying to interfere, but she wasn't going to risk her and Gabrielle's safety. She got off of the bard and lunged for the sword, taking it out and bracing herself.

"Now, I don't know which one of you is spying, but you better show yourself!"

Gabrielle was standing too, exhilirated by the events that had been taking place. "Someone is spying on us?"

Her arms were slightly shaking now. Xena didn't care what others thought of her –only Gabrielle's opinions mattered to her. However, taking advantage of their godly powers to snoop in her business where their noses did not belong, mattered. She was frightfully ashamed that one of those intrusive Gods had taken it upon themselves to watch something so intimate between her and the bard.

"I will send you to Tartarus without explanation if you don't show yourself!" Xena demanded again, angrily. "I said show yourself!"

The familiar vanilla and lavender scent overcame both women's noses, and immediately, Xena dropped her sword.

Aphrodite stood before them, her head hanging low, arms behind her back, her foot twisting on the grass. "What's going on pretty ladies?"

Gabrielle fumed, pulling the goddess toward her, "You were spying?"

"Aphrodite, so help me, I will drive this sword through you if you don't tell me—"

"Hold on a moment!" The goddess side-stepped Gabrielle, directing her focus to Xena. She rolled her eyes, pointing a finger at the bard, "Madam Horn... unf..."

"Shut up," Gabrielle breathed.

"Madam..." a glare came from her red-haired friend, "Madam Cranky here told me you two aren't coming to my festival, so I decided to drop by. I'm letting you know Xena, that your mother has promised you a room once you arrive." Her jaw slackened, now crossing her arms.

Xena sheathed her sword, eyeing the bard, then back to the goddess, "Thank you..."

"Y'know, if it hadn't been for Gabsters here, you really wouldn't be able to munch beavers in peace." Aphrodite snapped her fingers, two buff men appearing behind her.

The warrior's eyes widened, "Who gave you the idea that...?"

Gabrielle stood in front of Aphrodite, shielding her. She forgot to ask the warrior what that term meant, but by the look on her face, it probably wasn't good. Xena looked at the guiltily beaming bard, her mouth twitched forming a smile, then drawn out words.

"If it helps, I can leave the hunks behind for you two. Pound some of that pent up energy out of ya." Aphrodite bit her finger, imagining the tryst. "And I can only imagine how—"

"Leave!" Xena whispered. She didn't have to raise her voice to scare the goddess, or even the bard for that matter. The gravelly voice, piercing eyes, and her bared teeth made the two men knock-kneed.

Aphrodite began to offer, "The boys—"

Gabrielle covered her mouth, "I don't think you should finish that sentence. You should go."

Xena raised her brows, pointing her sword at the cowering men behind Aphrodite, "If you two get anywhere near me, you'll know how eunuchs feel."

She stalked away to a pack and pulled out her sharpening tool. The warrior settled herself on a stump behind Argo, away from the goddess and bard, and began sharpening the sword.

Her breathing labored as Aphrodite's words rang through her ears. Xena picked up a lot on her travels: men, women, phrases... positions. And she knew what the goddess was referring to, but how it randomly came about required Xena to piece things together.

The warrior assumed that during her bath and fishing excursion, Gabrielle told Aphrodite about their new plans to head to Amphipolis. Gabrielle had requested the goddess to inform Cyrene ahead of time to save them a room –with no ulterior motives. But they were dealing with Aphrodite. During that time, it was safe to say that the conversation had turned sexual. She was absolutely certain this was what happened. Traveling for almost three years with the young bard allowed them to learn a lot about each other. And Xena knew everything about Gabrielle. That helped her figure out the rest of the story.

Every month, right before the girl's cycle began, Xena could feel the intense stares and lingering gazes. Before Perdicas, Gabrielle's admiration felt... tame. Afterwards –she could only assume it was the experience that changed her– Xena felt like a piece of meat. She wasn't insulted or disgusted by it, but it made it very difficult for her to maintain that angelic perception of Gabrielle. Especially since the girl was so obvious about it.

The warrior had a lot more experience under her belt in regards to sex. However, when it came to the mushy and intimate aspects of relationships, Xena wasn't sure how to tread. It wasn't easy to bare her soul to Gabrielle or relax under the girl's embraces and touches; however, the normally reserved warrior overcame it. They were very close. Gabrielle was the first person she had ever trusted whole-heartedly, without doubts. But Xena didn't trust herself enough in regards to their physical relationship. She'd hate herself if she hurt Gabrielle or made the girl feel less than what Xena thought of her. The warrior couldn't be aggressive in her approach to sex with Gabrielle. The bard was too fragile for that. It was plain wrong to do that to her.

It was too much for Xena. She buffed her sword with her chemise and went over to an opening. The warrior began her drills, swinging and parrying her sword, to burn off steam.