Part 1

(E-Mail Rachel)

"Xeeeeenaaaa......" The name rolled off her tongue like poison.

Callisto watched silently from her perch above the path, silently gauging for the right moment to attack. Oh how she loved this....the tracking, the thrill of the chase. Oh Xena was good alright...."But not good enough" she thought. "I still found you Xena!" she thought and giggled inwardly, an evil grin creeping across her face...a face that belied her true nature. Oh yes, Callisto was quite beautiful...long blonde hair, big brown innocent eyes that hid the devil within...but it was those same eyes that softened just a touch as Xena had come into view. She had puzzled over this before, wondering where the thought had come from, and had pushed it out of her mind without another moments' passing.

Her nemesis rode tall in the saddle, long flowing ebon hair blowing gently in the breeze, crystal blue eyes taking in her surroundings nonchalantly. Callisto was always awed by the sheer presence Xena emitted, enthralled with the amount of unleashed power that was hidden underneath that armor. She watched as Xena rode closer, adjusting her angle of attack in her mind yet again....."Xena, come to me...yeeeesssss, that's it...a little more..." Aforementioned blue eyes snapped to meet hers, and before she knew what was happening, her ankle was caught in a whip and she was being yanked from her perch like a (insert your own cliche here) thrown to the ground, and knocked unconscious. How much later she came to she didn't know, but one thing she did know was she was laying on the ground with her shoulders pinned under Xena's knees.

"Getting a bit soft in yer old age there Callisto?"

"Oh Xena...how I've missed you" she purred as she tried to focus.

"Give it a rest Callisto. Why are you following me...again?" she asked.

"Tsk tsk Xena...since when do I need an invitation? I'm a goddess remember?"

Xena leaned in close, fastening her coldest glare on the blonde beneath her..."Yeah yeah...save it for someone who gives a centaur crap. Why don't you just tell me the truth for once, eh?" she hissed through clenched teeth.

"Well.....I would tell you, but I seem to be in quite a compromising position at the moment now, don't I?" said Callisto.

Xena disentangled her whip from Callisto's ankles and proceeded to tie her wrists together behind her back. She stood and dragged the goddess up to her feet. Callisto stumbled, a tad off balance after her chins' collision with Xena's fist. Xena turned and grabbed the blonde's chin in her hand, looked into those brown eyes and silently chastised herself.

"Looks like I may have hit you a little too hard this time Callisto..."

"What you do mean Xeener?" said Callisto, suddenly noticing her tongue didnt seem to be working that well. She knew what she wanted to say, but it was coming out all jumbled up! Her mouth wasn't saying what her brain wanted it to, and she also noticed that she had to close one eye to see Xena without it being blurry. 'EGADS!!' she thought 'A concussion! Since when do Godesses get injured?'

Xena watched silently as Callisto fell to her knees and proceeded to offer her lunch back to nature.

"Well it's my fault you got like this, so I guess now it's my responsibility to make sure you live through it." She grimaced as she picked Callisto up and helped her onto Argo, who shied a bit, but trusted her master enough not to balk. When she was sure Callisto was settled, she mounted up, and they rode slowly off.

"Xena, are you taking me to shee Hadeesh?"

"Hades?" replied Xena. "Oh nooooo, I'm taking you to see someone far worse, and far more irritating then he could ever be...."

"Noooooo not that..." and Callisto's eyes got very wide..

"Oh yes indeed...I'm taking you to see Gabrielle."

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She awoke hours later. (musta been she thought) They were still riding, but it was dark now. Even in Callisto's addled state, she knew she was in for it. She hated Gabrielle almost as much as she hated Xena (do I really hate Xena?) wait, what was she just thinking about? Oh yes...Gabby. She hated her. Why do I hate you Gabrielle? And she knew the answer. Because Gabrielle made her think...Gabrielle made her feel, and Callisto knew to feel would be her undoing. No, she couldnt afford to have feelings or she would go soft. "Like how Xena is going soft" she thought. Then she thought some more. Hmmmm this could be fun....

"So Xena, how is your little friend Gabrielle doing these days huh? Been any new developments?"

She was startled when her hair was grabbed and her head wrenched back....but the pain was forgotten because then she was staring into these incredibly gorgeous blue eyes. "Wow" she thought, then pushed the thought away.

"Don't you ever insinuate anything you lame excuse for a human being.." she looked deeper into Callisto's eyes...."Or whatever you are now."

"Xena, Xena, Xena. I didn't know you had it so bad for her. Does she know yet?"

"You watch your mouth Callisto" said Xena twisting the hair in her fist tighter and jerking down..."There is nothing like that going on."

"Whatever you say Xena....whatever you say."

And then her world went dark once again...

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Callisto awoke next to a fire, at least that's what her nose told her. ('Hmmm' she thought, 'This is beginning to become a habit...') She slowly opened one eye and then the other. She heard the scratching of a quill and turned her head to see Gabrielle writing on one of her scrolls. She looked all around...no Xena. But she sensed her presence near. Callisto was suprised no one had figured this out before...especially her, since she was so brilliant.

"She's in love with you, you know." stated Callisto.

Gabrielle's quill and parchment flew into the air, as Callisto's voice startled her.

"DON'T do that again." said Gabrielle, picking up her parchment and searching the area around her for her quill.

"Oh but it's the truth Gabrielle. Xena is in love with you. And that will be her undoing." An evil smirk crossed her features with her words.

"Xena is not in love with me Callisto. Maybe she hit you in the head a little harder than she thought."

"You think? Hmmmmm. But you're in love with her aren't you? Callisto tried to ask as innocently as she could make it sound.

Gabrielle didn't say anything. Oh she tried, but nothing would come out. For the first time in her life she was speechless.

"Well dear, that face says it all....you are." Gods she hoped she was reading the irritating blonde correctly.

"So what if I am. Not that it would be any business of yours to begin with." replied Gabrielle. She sighed. "Besides, it will never be that way for us. I can never tell her how i really feel."

"Really feel about what Gabrielle?" Xena stepped out of the trees into the firelight. Gabrielle's breath caught momentarily as her eyes swept over the warrior. Gods the woman was beautiful!

"Xena! Ummm..oh n-nothing. We were just having a talk." Gabrielle stuttered.

"A talk eh?" Xena's eyebrow raised ever so slightly. "What's the topic?"

"You." said Callisto matter-of-factly.

Xena glared at Callisto. "I thought i warned you earlier about your mouth."

Callisto laughed. "What are you going to do Xena? Kill me?" she laughed harder.

As the arguing and taunting jamboree went on, Gabrielle sat with mouth agape. They had been talking about her earlier! It was harder to hear what was being said now, because Xena had roughly dragged Callisto to the other end of the camp, obviously for a more private conversation. Then she heard the whispered words that stopped time as she knew it...."I won't tell her I love her because I am not right for her." She didn't see or hear anything else after that, she was so wrapped up in the words echoing in her mind. They thrilled her, scared her. Xena did love her. Wow. She didn't see Xena slug Callisto into unconsiousness again, nor did she see her tie her securely to a tree. Then she was aware of a hand on her shoulder...a warm hand....Xena's hand, and she heard her name being called. She looked up, and was all of a sudden lost in the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. She realized somewhere in her mind that it would be futile to try and stop this, especially now that she knew the truth. She knew there was no going back.

"Gabrielle...you alright?"

Callisto was all but forgotten. She couldn't do anything but look into those eyes. So mesmerizing...so...so full of concern and yes, love! Suddenly, it was so clear to her. All she had to do before was look and she would have seen it.

Xena knew something was up. She had never seen this look in the bard's eyes before. 'Or maybe I just didn't notice it?' She searched Gabrielle's eyes again. 'No, I just refused to see it.' she thought. To be honest it was scaring her. By the gods, looking into those expressive green eyes at this moment was unsettling...the passion so evident, but she couldn't tear her own away. Gabrielle reached up and slid her hand into Xena's, gently tugging till Xena was kneeling before her. 'Gods!' thought Xena. 'What is this? Why can't i move?' Followed by...'Where is Argo when i need her?' She watched mesmerized as Gabrielle's other hand came to rest upon the top of the one the bard was already holding, and began to softly caress the one beneath it. It was like fire running across every inch of skin where Gabrielle touched her. Their eyes met again, and this time Xena knew what she saw. It was the same thing she was sure Gabrielle was seeing right now in her own eyes....love.

"Xena..." Gabrielle whispered softly. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Gab...uuuhhhh..." she looked away, then she sighed. "I don't know."

"Xena..." Gabrielle said again. "Tell me now."

It was an order, not a request. Xena knew the fight was over. She swallowed hard, looking up once again to find Gabrielle's eyes searching hers. Well, it was now or never. She found her courage and spoke, and for the first time in her life the words came from her heart....all the words she had wanted to say for so long.

"Gabrielle...." she paused to try and take in some air, of which there didn't seem to be much of right then. Her breath was coming short, her body reacting to the impending repercussions of her words. She looked deeply into those wondrous green eyes that had held her heart for almost four years now, and she managed to continue..."I love you Gabrielle. I have always loved you.

The tears began to well up in Gabrielle's eyes. "I love you too. Just never thought you would return my feelings. But I followed you anyhow, because the thought of being apart from you was too much to bear...even back then."

Xena reached over and brushed the tears away, letting her fingers trace the outline of Gabrielle's face. "You're such beautiful woman Gabrielle, inside and out. How could I not want you?" She leaned closer, stopping a hairsbreadth away from Gabrielle's lips and whispered... "You need to look in the mirror more." Their lips brushed across each others' softly, igniting a fire in them both that had been buried so deeply for so long. Gabrielle whispered back "No Xena, all I have to do now is look in your eyes." They pressed into the kiss, holding each other close and reveling in the wonder of their love.

Continued in Part 2 ----->
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