Chapter 3

Xena awoke to an empty bedroll. Rising to one elbow she spied Gabrielle standing at the edge of the campsite, staring into the night sky. Wrapping the blanket around her Xena rose going to stand behind the bard. "What are you doing?"

"Just thinking." answered the bard without turning. Without thought she crossed her arms rubbing the palms against them for warmth.

"Here," Xena opened the blanket and stepped forward. Pulling the smaller woman back against her she wrapped her arms and the blanket around Gabrielle. " you're going to freeze to death standing out here with nothing on." Holding Gabrielle close Xena nuzzled against the bard's neck and kissed her gently. The action felt so natural she wondered why she hadn't done it before.

Gabrielle giggled as warm lips caressed her neck.

"So" began the warrior in between kisses. "what has you streaking naked through the forest in the middle of the night?"

"I was hardly streaking through the forest. Besides, I thought you liked me naked."

Xena chuckled and for the first time Gabrielle realized just how much she loved that sound. "Well I'm not complaining."

"Good." laughed Gabrielle.

Suddenly Xena's lips were gone and Gabrielle sensed a tenseness in the warrior's body.

"What's wrong?" asked Gabrielle straining her senses for what sound had alerted the warrior.

"Do you have any regrets?"

"What?" asked the bard having been caught completely off guard by the question. "Regrets about what?"

"About the step we've taken."

Gabrielle spun to face her. "No! Of course not!" then she felt her stomach drop. "Do you?"

The look of fear in the young woman's eyes told Xena everything she needed to know. "No, no regrets at all." To emphasize the point she pulled the smaller woman close and kissed her passionately. As their lips parted Xena whispered huskily. "Let's go back to bed."

"I thought you'd never ask."

Morning found the lovers wrapped in each other's arms. Xena's head rested on Gabrielle's chest and the bard gently stroked her hair till the warrior awoke.

"Morning sleepy head." Teased the bard as Xena rose to one elbow.

"Morning." Smiled Xena as she glanced around. "What time is it?"

"Does it matter?"

Pausing for a moment Xena shrugged. "No, I guess not." She laid back down and began tracing a finger along the bard's smooth stomach.

Gabrielle continued to stroke the dark head resting on her chest. "I never knew you could be such a gentle lover."

"I thought that's what you liked?" teased Xena.

"I do." She smiled. "Most of the time."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Now what?" asked Gabrielle.

"Now we just take it one day at a time."


Xena smiled warmly. "Always."

The end