This Must Be the Place

Rated NC-17


Pairing: Xena/Gabrielle

Warning:  Very mild bondage and kink.

Disclaimers:  The principal characters are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.  No copyright infringement is intended, and no financial profit is anticipated.

Series:  This story is part of the "Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink" series, which is an alternate timeline for both series.  The first Xena/Gabrielle story branches off after the events in "The Debt."  In this timeline, Hope has conveniently vanished and Solan is still living with the Centaurs.  The stories in the series take place in the following order:
"Forced Revelations."
"Never Let me Down Again."
" . . . But We're Not the Same."
"How Long Till my Soul Gets It Right?"
"This Must Be the Place."
"The Dark Side of my Soul."
"Idylls of the Conqueror."

Summary:  Ares tests Xena to try to demonstrate that her relationship with Gabrielle is making her lose her edge.  The idea was inspired in part by the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Qpid."

Feedback encouraged and welcomed.

This Must Be the Place
by atara
Copyright (c) 1998

Part 1 of 2

" . . . she's already making you soft!  It was bad enough before, but now you'll be totally spineless!  A warrior doesn't need . . . encumbrances!"

Gabrielle awoke to the familar snarl of Ares' voice.  He and Xena were a short distance away, heatedly arguing as usual.  All things considered, Gabrielle thought it prudent to pretend she was still asleep--she certainly wished she still was, with Xena's arm wrapped around her.  She wasn't a morning person by a long shot, and waking up to Ares apparently berating Xena about her relationship with her was hardly the way she would have chosen to start her day.

"You're just jealous, Ares," drawled Xena coolly.  Gabrielle marvelled at how her throaty purr could still send shivers down her spine, while the higher functions of her mind began to process the import of the conversation.

"Jealous?!  Of that blonde piece of fluff?!  I think not," snapped Ares haughtily.  "I just don't like what she's doing to you . . . "

"It's none of your business what she's doing to me, or with me for that matter," retorted Xena with a wicked smile.  "Now don't you have any of your warrior boy-toys to go play with?"

"Xena!" growled Ares, moving closer to her and shaking a finger angrily.  "I'm telling you this for your own good."

"Why?" asked Xena casually.  "You've never concerned yourself about my lovers before.  If I'm not mistaken, you would have gladly included yourself among that number."

"Sex is one thing--and if I wanted you for anything it was just that--luh-uv" he drew out the word sarcastically, "is another.  It'll distract you.  You'll lose your sharpness."

"I doubt it," responded Xena.

"Well, I intend to prove you wrong, princess!" declared Ares before vanishing with his characteristic flashes of light.

Xena sighed heavily before walking back to the blanket where Gabrielle was now sitting up.  "You heard that, I take it?" she asked.

"Most of it, I think," answered Gabrielle.  "Blonde piece of fluff?  Who does he think he is?"

"The god of war," answered Xena with a grin at Gabrielle's tone.  "And he thinks he's still my mentor.  Egotistical, jealous twit!"

"You'd think a god would have better things to do . . . " mused Gabrielle.

"Well I certainly do!" said Xena, pulling Gabrielle to her feet and into her arms for an extended good morning kiss.  "But let's keep our eyes open," she added after they came up for air.  "I don't know what he has in mind."

* * *

After a few days, Ares' threats receded to the back of the lovers' minds.  They were travelling toward Amphipolus to visit Xena's mother, but not making very fast progress.  It was almost impossible for them to keep their hands off each other.  They'd be walking holding hands, and Gabrielle would slide her hand up Xena's muscled arm.  Xena would draw in her breath sharply, turn to Gabrielle and pull her close for a kiss, her hand straying down to cup a breast.  Or Xena would let her hand rest lightly on the back of Gabrielle's neck, and Gabrielle would whirl around, wrap her arms around Xena's waist and reach up to suck her lover's lower lip into her mouth.

It was market day in Amphipolus, and Gabrielle wanted to stock up on some travelling supplies.  Xena slid her arms around her from behind, murmuring, "Watch your back" in her ear, then moved off to stable Argo and head for her mother's, while Gabrielle called out, "I'll be there in less than an hour!"

As she moved toward the stalls, she suddenly heard a voice call out, "That's her!"  This was not a good sign.  She whirled around, staff at the ready, when a group of armed warriors rushed up the street toward her.  Gabrielle swung her staff, catching the first one off guard.  It connected with a satisfying thwack, and the man was down.  One of the attackers tried to run around behind her, and she caught him with a solid, circling swing.  She jabbed another in the chest with her staff, but they were too many.  She was soon surrounded, her arms being jerked behind her, as she was forced to drop her staff.  Her hands were quickly bound, and the warriors marched her off.

"I didn't expect her to fight back, Timon," whined one of the injured men.

"Shut up!  The war god ordered her captured--are you going to complain that you were bested by a mere girl?"

The warrior shut up quickly.  When they reached the outskirts of the village, Gabrielle saw that they had horses waiting.  The one called Timon hoisted her up on his own steed, and the group quickly rode out of town, ignoring Gabrielle's protestations.

* * *

Xena was sitting and sipping a drink with her mother, while keeping an eye on the door.  "I wonder what's keeping Gabrielle," she muttered, when she suddenly recalled Ares' threat.  "Gotta go check on Gabrielle," she explained, before rushing out the door.  Cyrene sighed; her daughter was certainly not the most restful visitor, and she hated to admit it to herself, but she still felt wary around her since the incident when the Furies had driven Xena mad, and Xena had threatened to kill her.  Still, she thought this relationship with Gabrielle was a good thing.  Cyrene knew her daughter's dark side was never all that far from the surface, and she hoped Gabrielle would help temper it.

Xena jogged toward the marketplace.  No Gabrielle.  But she almost tripped over Gabrielle's staff, lying in the road where she had been forced to drop it.  She snatched it up and hurried over to the closest stall.  "The girl who was holding this," she demanded, "can you tell me what happened to her?"

The young shopkeeper nodded, explaining that Gabrielle had been nabbed by a group of armed warriors, and he indicated the direction out of town.  "It was happening so fast," he apologized.  "I don't think any of us knew what to do."

Xena nodded in acknowledgment.  "Do you have any idea where they took her?"

"A young warlord named Timon took over that old fort on the hill.  He's building a temple to Ares.  His men buy supplies in town sometimes."

"Shit!" exclaimed Xena.  "Thanks for your help, friend," she added, flipping him a dinar, "for your family."  Always useful to cultivate a source of information.  "One more thing--could you send someone to Cyrene's house and tell her I had to leave?  And have them take this staff there, please."

Xena jogged toward the village stables and got Argo, then galloped off in the direction of the hilltop fort.

* * *

Gabrielle was thinking furiously, as her kidnappers rode out of the village, but there didn't seem to be anything she could do.  She was outnumbered and unarmed.  The group followed a trail uphill to a small but well-defended fort.  There was a construction site nearby.  "What's that?" she asked, curious even in adversity.

"A new temple to honor the god of war," replied Timon reverently.

Figures . . . , thought Gabrielle to herself.  At the fort, she was hustled down a passageway to a cell and locked in.  "Hey!" she yelled.  "You have no reason to hold me here!"

"We follow the orders of Lord Ares," intoned Timon.  "You will be given food and will be kept safe, as long as you don't give us trouble."

"Great!" muttered Gabrielle to herself.  She sat down on the straw bedding that had been provided, wondering, What next?  After a couple of hours, some food was brought and a full water skin.  Otherwise there was no diversion.  Gabrielle knew she had to pass the time and stave off panic, and she spent her time reliving the early days of her new relationship with Xena as declared lovers.

* * *

As Xena rode, she was suddenly intercepted by a woman running toward her in a hurry, calling, "Xena!  Warrior Princess!  Please!"

Xena reined in Argo, and snapped, "What is it?   I'm in a hurry."

"Our village," began the woman, "down that road, is going to be attacked.  The warlord Timon sent a messenger demanding a sum of money to go toward the construction of the new temple to Ares.  We don't have that kind of money in Thea.  He's threatened to kill us all."

Shit! reiterated Xena to herself.  She understood the trap.  Ares was trying to prove to her that her love for Gabrielle was a weakness, one that would undermine her abilities and distract her from her goals.  Thus, he had Gabrielle kidnapped, while setting up a situation Xena wouild be unable to ignore.  Set up or not, the danger to Thea and to Gabrielle was real.  Human life meant little to Ares.

"When did they want the money by?" asked Xena.

"Tomorrow morning.  Just after dawn.  The messenger said Timon would send his warriors to collect it, and if it wasn't there in full  . . ."

"I understand," asid Xena.  "Simple extortion.  They don't really care about the money.  They just want to steal all the food and materials they can, while practicing their skills on people who won't fight back."  There was a barely contained fury in her voice.

"Will you help us?" asked the woman.  "We don't know how to fight back, ourselves."

"Yes, of course," said Xena.  "But I need some time to think of  a plan."

* * *
Left to herself in her cell, Gabrielle reminisced about that night a few weeks ago when she and Xena had admitted their feelings went beyond friendship.  They had come together laughing, but their full attention was quickly taken up by the moist fullness of each others' lips.  As Xena had pressed kisses on her mouth, Gabrielle had parted her lips.  Understanding the invitation, Xena responded, and their tongues engaged in a slow dance.  Gabrielle had melted into Xena's arms, relaxing into the hand that was entwined in her hair, lightly grasping the back of her neck.  One long, delicious kiss succeeded another, until they moved the slightest bit apart, so Xena could trace Gabrielle's lips with a finger, gazing on her face in wonder.  "You're so beautiful, Gabrielle," she had murmured.  "I've been hoping this would happen for so long, but I was afraid it never would.  You're sure this is what you want?"

"Yes, Xena," breathed Gabrielle, sucking the tip of Xena's wandering finger into her mouth and circling it with her tongue.

"Oh!" Xena half-moaned, half-exclaimed.  But Xena had apparently had no intention of letting the teasing go only one way.  She lowered her head and began tracing a line along each of Gabrielle's closed eyelids with the tip of her tongue and was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath.  Gabrielle had then tilted her head back, requesting another kiss, which was granted.  At the same time, she felt a hand begin lightly stroking her breast through the fabric of her bodice.  Xena had paused for a moment looking at her, and the hunger in her green eyes had apparently been affirmation enough.

Xena carefully lay Gabrielle down on the blanket, kissing the hollow of her neck and the soft flesh that swelled out of the bodice.  She had then sat up slightly, saying, "It seems to me that you're wearing entirely too much."  Her voice had been low and urgent, even as it teased, and Gabrielle felt it flow over her like rich honey that slid over every tingling nerve.

"What are you going to do about it then?" Gabrielle had gasped weakly.  She was becoming more and more overcome that it was Xena touching and kissing her like his, her hero, her warrior princess, her best friend, and now her lover.  She had wanted this for so long that the fulfillment of her desires seemed overwhelming, surreal.

"This," replied Xena, skillfully unlacing Gabrielle's bodice.

"You must have a lot of experience unlacing women's clothing," remarked Gabrielle slightly breathlessly, trying to maintain the slightest illusion of teasing distance and control.

"I have a lot of experience with a lot of things," purred Xena in a sultry voice, "but there's no one else, woman or man, whose clothes I'd rather be unlacing."

Soon Gabrielle's breasts were bare, and Gabrielle had felt a new self-consciousness. Silly, she had thought, it's not as though we've never seen each other naked before; we've even bathed together.  But Xena had never let her desire for Gabrielle's body be so evident before.

She had gathered a breast in each hand, caressing with her fingers, while lightly rubbing the nipples with a back and forth motion of her thumbs.  "You seem to like this," Xena had teased.  "It's not that cold out."  Gabrielle had flushed slightly, feeling embarrassed at all the blatant evidence of her lust for this woman with whom she had travelled for so long as friends. Wait till she gets lower, thought Gabrielle; I'm sure I'm already wet.  Coherent thought soon vanished, as Xena lowered her mouth to one breast, while still caressing the other with a hand.  Gabrielle felt light kisses on her nipple, followed by a tongue circling it slowly, again, and again, and again.  Xena was apparently willing to take her time, still making tight circles around Gabrielle's nipple, while Gabrielle marvelled at the way the sensation seemed to flash along her nerves right to her groin.  She had felt a pressure building up inside her , and her hands involuntarily clutched and unclutched handfuls of Xena's lustrous hair.

She was beginning to be aware that her pelvis had begun a slight rhythmic rocking motion, as still Xena's tongue circled her nipple with a maddening slowness.  Suddenly Xena sucked her nipple into her mouth vigorously.  The sensation of being encircled by Xena's firm mouth sent a ripple of pleasure through her.  After a few moments of this, Gabrielle had been surprised by the jolt that vibrated through her groin.  She cried out, then as she opened her eyes, she saw Xena smiling at her triumphantly.

"Xena," Gabrielle had whispered.  "I didn't know I could . . . from just that . . . "

"I have many surprises for you, sweetheart," said Xena gently, still smiling.  "There are a lot of ways I can make you feel good.  But you're still wearing too much."

"What about you?" Gabrielle had demanded.  She had felt self-conscious about being naked, while Xena was still dressed.

"Fair enough," replied Xena, her mouth crooked in a wicked smile, her eyes glinting with delight.  She had lightly leapt to her feet, pulling Gabrielle up with one hand and beginning to tug off Gabrielle's skirt.  It was only after she stepped out of it, naked, that Xena had begun removing her armor, and then the leather dress.  Gabrielle had sighed in pleasure and awe; she had long been aware what a stunning sight a nude Xena was, but the sight never failed to take her breath away.

Xena had laughed at the look on Gabrielle's face; Gabrielle figured she was quite aware of the effect she had on people.  She had then lightly hooked her foot around Gabrielle's leg, making her lose her balance, and pulling her down to the ground, half lying on top of her, and covering Gabrielle's mouth with her own, before Gabrielle could make a comment.  At the same time, her hand was lightly tracing circles down Gabrielle's body, from her neck to her stomach and below.

She had let her hand rest on Gabrielle's reddish curls, and Gabrielle had parted her legs immediate in response.  "You do want this, don't you?" Xena had marvelled.

"Uh-huh," gasped Gabrielle.  Desire was running through her on burning wires, and she was losing interest in conversation very rapidly.  Xena's eyes had been bright with need and hunger, as she slid her hand between Gabrielle's legs.  "Oh, yes," Gabrielle had moaned, as Xena's fingers had expertly parted her lips and begun stroking her clitoris.  Gabrielle had pleaded, "Please . . . more . . ." and Xena had increased the pressure until Gabrielle groaned and shuddered, overcome with another climax.

"Please take me . . . inside," she had asked, when she caught her breath.  Xena had lifted her eyebrows slightly; apparently she hadn't expected Gabrielle to be quite that eager.

"Whatever you want, love," she had murmured, then slid two fingers inside Gabrielle.

"I'll take you up on that!" said Gabrielle breathlessly.  She had been very, very wet by that time, and Xena's fingers slipped easily in and out.  Gabrielle was rocking her pelvis in response, and felt herself gripping Xena's fingers more and more tightly.  "Yeeesss XE-NAH!" she had wailed as she came again.

Xena had cradled her in her arms, kissing her again and again.  When Gabrielle's heartbeat and breathing had slowed enough for her to form words, she had said, "You said 'whatever I want'."

"Um-hmm," nodded Xena.

"I want to kiss you everywhere.  I want to taste all of you, Xena."

"You won't get any argument from me," returned Xena, lying back on the blanket.

Gabrielle had been overwhelmed with the thought that Xena was lying here, at her disposition. She had kissed Xena hungrily, probing her mouth with her tongue.  She licked the hollow in Xena's neck, then fiercely sucked on one nipple, while squeezing the other.  "Hold that thought," Xena had gasped, and Gabrielle sucked all the harder until the woman she loved groaned aloud and thrashed beneath her in climax.

Gabrielle had then moved down between Xena's parted legs.  She kissed her lightly, inhaling her lover's aroma.  Suddenly worried, she had glanced up, saying, "Um, I've never done this before."

"Don't worry, Gabrielle," Xena had reassured her.  "Trust me, you're driving me wild."

"Really?" asked Gabrielle, pleased with herself.

"Really," answered Xena.  "But you'll drive me crazy if you keep talking!"

"Right," Gabrielle had answered, before lowering her head.  She had hesitantly begun licking at Xena's clitoris, then trying out a circular motion.  It seemed to be working.  Xena was breathing faster and moaning quietly, her back arched, bringing herself closer to Gabrielle's mouth.  Suddenly inspired, Gabrielle had tried penetrating her lover with her tongue; Xena's reaction suggested this had been a good idea.  She had arched even more, spreading her legs wider, as Gabrielle's tongue moved in and out.  She had then gone back to her lover's clitoris, licking hard and sucking it into her mouth, and Xena had howled in ecstasy.

"Come here!" Xena had declared affectionately, pulling Gabrielle up into her arms.  "For a beginner, you have a lot of potential."

"I'm glad to hear it," replied Gabrielle, snuggling against Xena's breast.

"You'll have to practice, of course, to keep up your technique," remarked Xena.

"Oh really?" Gabrielle had asked. "What a hardship."

Gabrielle sighed, curled up on the straw matting in her cell, remembering.  Once they acknowledged their feelings, they had hardly been able to keep their hands off each other, although Xena had not, despite Ares' suggestions, lost any of her sharpness.  Her reflexes and fighting skills were as superb as ever, when needed, but when she and Gabrielle retired for the night, she was a tender and thorough lover, as she and Gabrielle explored each other's bodies, learning all the ways of pleasuring each other.

Pesky gods! Gabrielle thought to herself.  She should have known their idyll would be interrupted by something or the other.  It wasn't surprising that the interruption came in the form of Ares.  She would have to be strong and not let Xena's love for her become a liability.

* * *

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