Author's Note: Sorry it took so long for me to write this! I've been getting sick all month, so I haven't really been in the mood to write. I hope this pleases you enough that you'll forgive me for being such a lazy bum!
Warning: There is another kissing scene in this one. Also, it contains a little bit of Joxer. If you can't stand either... well... the Joxer bit is really short, but if you can't stand the kissing, then move on.

Xena wasn't aware of time as it passed her by, never noticing as the sun was pulled out of the sky by Apollo's speeding chariot. The hours had simply went by unnoticed by the warrior sitting by the river. Her mind was still focusing on the events that had occurred with her younger companion.

She couldn't believe that she had allowed a simple accident to destroy the tight control that she always had over her emotions. One accidental meeting of their lips, and the bottle that she had kept her feelings for the bard in for so long was shattered. There was no doubt that her relationship with the young woman was in the same state.

'I don't know. She seemed to be enjoying it just as much as you were,' a small voice in her mind pointed out.

'That was just wishful thinking,' Xena, always the pessimist, reasoned with herself. She had to admit, though, even if she had acted without thinking her actions through first, the experience had been very enjoyable. She just hoped that she hadn't just destroyed her friendship with the bard by acting on her impulse. Not after they had been through so much together.

Over the last year, Xena had learned that there was more to the bard than she first thought. When she had first met the girl, she knew that the girl loved to talk. When they had just started traveling with each other, it had gotten on her nerves; she hadn't been used to so much chatter at one time. Over time though, she had learned to listen carefully to the girl's words. For one so young, she was usually very insightful, which surprised the warrior.

Xena had also learned that the blonde was a hard worker and determined to learn all that she could. She had been worried when the bard became an Amazon princess, but it seemed that the position of power simply gave the girl the chance to improve herself in order to help defend others. The warrior had to admit that she had become quite skillful with the staff and that she was very proud of the girl. She never said it in as many words, but she was sure that the girl knew her feelings already. Hades, Gabrielle seemed to know her better than her own mother did. She also believed in her more than her mother had.

When they had gone up against Callisto for the very first time, the bard had been able to pull a promise out of her that, at the time, she didn't think she was capable of keeping. She had promised that, if anything ever happened to Gabrielle, she wouldn't turn into a monster. At first, she had brushed the girl off; but then the bard was so persistent in making her promise that Xena had finally given in and gave the bard her word. Her word was almost tested when she thought she had lost Gabrielle in that healing temple in Thessaly. It was around that time that she began to realize that her feelings for the bard ran stronger than friendship.

As she had stood over her friend's frighteningly still body in that temple, Xena had felt as if something had been ripped out of her chest and torn into shreds. She had never fought so hard against the fates until that night. She could also never recall a moment when she was as happy as she was when Gabrielle came back to her. The bard had left the Elysian Fields, the paradise for heroes, for her. It shouldn't have surprised the warrior when Gabrielle told her that she was the reason she had come back. The bard was always putting the warrior ahead of herself. She even went as far as to do things requested of her that most people would consider insane.

Twice, the bard had done everything in her power to get Xena back to her brothers and mother in Amphipolis. The first time Gabrielle had had to deal with her death, she had fought through a warlord's camp in order to get her body back. Xena had never seen the younger girl fight like that afterwards.

Every time Xena thought about her second death, she felt extremely guilty. Whereas Gabriele had fought to come back to her in Thessaly, Xena had simply given up and passed on. She never thought she would hear such tortured thoughts coming from the younger woman once she died.

The bard's feelings had fought between sadness, anger, and loneliness. Some of the angry thoughts that Xena had heard had hurt far more than any wound could. But the loneliness she had felt emanating from the bard was the worst. She hoped she would never have to be the cause of that loneliness again.

"Xena?" The familiar voice of the girl she had just been thinking about pulled the reminiscing warrior out of her memories. When she looked up, there was no one there; but she could hear the footfalls of her companion coming from the surrounding trees. As hard as she tried, Gabrielle still couldn't master stealth.

The warning of her friend's presence gave the warrior two options: say nothing and allow the bard to pass her by; or call out so that Gabrielle could find her. Before she could come to a decision, fate seemed to make one for her.

"There you are," the warrior heard the younger woman say as she watched her stumble out of the vegetation of the forest. "Leave it up to you to come back to the river when you're sulking." Xena was about to object and say that she wasn't sulking, but thought better of it. She wasn't in the mood to lie to the bard.

"Didn't I tell you that I'd be back?" she asked instead, feeling that it was a safe question that wouldn't get the bard going into a rant.

"That was hours ago, Xena. I thought something might have happened to you," the young woman said as she took a seat next to the warrior.

"And you thought you would come to my rescue?" she asked, mentally wincing when she heard how harsh the words sounded to her ears. She hadn't meant for them to come out quite like that. The bard didn't seem to get upset, however, and instead placed a gentle hand on the warrior's tense forearm.

"I have to pay you back for all the times you rescue me, don't I?" Gabrielle gave her a smile, although it was hard to see in the dark, before getting closer to Xena. The warrior had the urge to rest her head on the blonde's, but then she remembered that it was feelings like that that had gotten her into this mess in the first place. So, she settled for the fair, young woman wrapping both of her arms around one of hers and leaning against her. The minutes went by with none of them saying a word, the sounds of nature encompassing them as they both fought with their feelings. As Xena stared out at the quickly flowing river, she had to stop herself from giving into those feelings once more.

She had learned a long time ago what happened when emotions controlled someone's actions rather than logic. Her emotions had gotten her crucified. Her emotions had gotten M'Lila killed. While she knew that Gabrielle was too good of a person to even think of doing that to someone else, of betraying someone like that, the old fear would not let the warrior give in to those emotions as much as she would like to.

"You didn't have to run away, you know," the bard said with a sigh, finally breaking the silence. "It kind of ruined the moment." Xena looked down to see her young friend giving her a playful smile. Her heart skipped a beat as she realized what the bard was saying. She really had been enjoying the kiss.

"Gabrielle... You know we can't be together," Xena said, regretting her words when she saw the bard's expression fall.

"I'm not a child, Xena. You don't have to worry about corrupting me if that's what the problem is," Gabrielle told her. Before the warrior could explain, the bard continued. "I mean, I'm nineteen years old. That has to count for something. But then again, if my parents couldn't accept that I'm old enough to make my own decisions, I guess I can't expect-"

The bard was cut off when Xena put her fingers to her lips, successfully stopping them from moving.

"Gabrielle, how many times do I have to tell you that you talk too much?" she asked with a smirk. The bard narrowed her eyes at her, but she was quiet when Xena pulled her hand away, allowing the warrior to explain herself.

"First of all, I stopped seeing you as a little girl a long time ago, so it isn't your age that's the problem," she started off. The blonde was about to say something, but Xena held up a finger, silencing her as she tried to choose her words carefully. "Second of all, I do have... well, I feel something for you. I don't know what it is, but I do know it's deeper than friendship. It's deeper than anything I've ever felt before," she admitted.

'Perhaps that's why it's so hard for me to classify it,' Xena thought as she watched Gabrielle think about her words. Even in the moonlight, she could make out the way the bard's brow furrowed when she was thinking hard about something. It was one of the many things that Xena found attractive about Gabrielle. 'No! Bad warrior!' she scolded herself.

"Well, if that isn't it, then I'm not seeing the problem," Gabrielle finally said, pulling Xena out of her thoughts. "If you're feeling the same things as me, I don't really see why you ran off like that."

"I didn't run off," the warrior objected, only to be met with the bard's version of 'the look', raising her eyebrow as if she were saying 'riiight'. Xena chose to ignore it, preferring to go on to listing her reasons as to why the two of them couldn't be together.

"Gabrielle, you know that every time I've trusted my emotions, I've wound up hurt in more ways than one," she told the blonde. "I've lost everyone I've ever felt anything for, whether it was to betrayal or to death. I don't want that to ever happen to us," she admitted, turning her gaze to the ground as she waited for Gabrielle's answer. She had never told anyone that, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to know what the bard's reaction would be.

"Xena, you're my best friend and the best warrior I know. I think I'm safe," the bard told her, reaching a hand up and gently tilting the warrior's head back towards her. "Don't you think you've proved that you can protect me?" she asked with an impish smile before becoming serious again. "Besides, don't you think I'm scared, too?"

"Every relationship that I've had has ended... well... either the guy ends up dead or he's already taken or he's the son of a warlord," she explained. Xena chuckled when she remembered the warlord's son that Gabrielle had fallen for. She remembered how the girl wouldn't stop talking about him being her tree, as well.

"None of that is your fault, you know that, right?" the warrior asked, going back to being serious again. Gabrielle sighed and nodded her head.

"The point is, Xena, I think everyone's afraid. It just takes a lot of courage to overcome that fear and face the dangers that come with these feelings," she said. The warrior smiled down at the bard, resisting the urge to kiss the blonde hair. "And you're the most courageous person I know," the blonde added, green eyes sparkling with sincerity.

Xena wasn't sure whether it was the bard's words or the look in her eyes that broke the cage that she had on her feelings, but the next thing she knew, her lips were meeting Gabrielle's in a much more graceful kiss than the first one they had shared. All of the warrior's fears melted away as she turned herself so that she was in a much more comfortable position. She gently pulled her arm away from Gabrielle's grip and wrapped both limbs around the smaller woman's waist, the bard mimicking her action.

As the kiss deepened, Xena could feel a strange, burning sensation rushing through her body. She quickly decided it wasn't a bad feeling, enjoying the warmth that was spreading through her. She had never experienced it with Caesar, or any other lover she had been with. She had to wonder if Gabrielle was feeling the same thing.

In an attempt to make the bard feel the same thing she was, Xena gently lowered them down to the ground, never breaking the kiss as she unwrapped her arms from Gabrielle's waist and used her hands to support herself as she leaned over the bard's body. Judging by the fact that she could feel the younger woman smiling against her lips, the warrior figured it was the right decision.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard someone tries, they can't go without air forever. So, even though they wanted to continue, Xena and Gabrielle broke apart. They both had to catch their breath after such a long time without air.

"Wow..." Gabrielle said after she finally recovered from the kiss. "That was... I mean... I can't even find the words to describe it," she stammered. Xena smiled down at her before nodding in agreement. There was a silence surrounding them as they stared into each other's eyes, neither sure of what to do next.

"So... want to do it again and see if you can find the right words?" Xena asked with a rare, playful smirk.

"Do the gods live on Mount Olympus?" she replied with a grin before leaning up and wrapping her arms around the warrior's neck, pulling her in for another kiss. Before they could go too far into the kiss, however, they heard something that made both of them groan at the same time.

"Joxer the mighty roams through the countryside. He never needs a place to hide. With Gabby as his sidekick, fighting with her little stick. Righting wrongs and singing songs... Being mighty all day long. He's Joxer... Joxer the mighty!"

"You have got to be kidding me!" Gabrielle muttered under her breath as she lay back on the ground with a thud. "Talk about your bad timing."

"Yeah," Xena growled as she rolled off the bard, just as Joxer came into the dark clearing by the river. Both of them glared at the bumbling warrior, but he didn't seem to notice.

"I thought I would find you two out here!" he exclaimed, the goofy smirk on his face visible even in the moonlight. "But, what are you two doing lying on the ground?" he asked.

"Well Joxer..." Gabrielle started off, "normal people like to sleep when the sun goes down."

"Oh..." The man stared at them for a few moments before he caught sight of Xena's glare. "Oh! I bet you're wondering why I'm here, right?" The warrior nodded, cueing him to explain. "Well, I was thinking to myself 'I know Gabrielle told me that her and Xena would be coming this way. Maybe they need a strong man to protect them.'"


"Yeah, Gabby?"

"You got kicked out of the inn, didn't you?" There was no answer from the bumbling warrior, which gave Xena and Gabrielle all the answer that they needed. The bard rolled her eyes before standing up, Xena getting up soon after.

"Come on, idiot. We have a spare bedroll you can use," the warrior told the man before leading the way through the forest, back to the camp.

Once they reached the campsite, Xena pointed towards one of the bedrolls that was already laid out on the ground and told him he would be sleeping there. It just happened to be Gabrielle's. This earned the warrior a glare from the bard. There was no way she was going to be happy sleeping with Joxer. Xena rolled her eyes before nodding towards her bedroll, raising an eyebrow. Getting the idea, Gabrielle smiled and walked over to the indicated bedroll and laid down, Xena joining her soon after.

The warrior smiled when the blonde rolled on her side and rested her head on her shoulder. Soon, she felt the bard's arm cross her stomach before Gabrielle placed a kiss on her neck.

"I think I figured out the right word," the smaller woman whispered so Joxer couldn't hear her. "Breathtaking."

The End

Ending Note: So, I hope you all liked it. I tried really hard to make the kiss seem less cheesy than most, but I don't think it worked very well. Hahaha. Also, for those of you reading any of my other stories, that is as close to a sex scene that I will ever get. I'm kind of a prude... I also hope there wasn't too much reminiscing in the story, but I was trying to kind of delve into the feelings of the warrior and bard, and how they had expanded over the two years traveling together.
Another Note: If you're reading Darkening Rays of Light, I will try to have a chapter up for that one as soon as I can. Like I said, I've been sick so I'm not really in the mood to write.