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Copyright Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and Argo are the sole property of MCA/Universal Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters and the story are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way.

Violence Warning/Disclaimer: This story depicts scenes of graphic violence. Nothing you haven’t seen on XWP but still if this sort of thing bothers you then you may wish to read something else. (Good luck trying to find a warm and fuzzy flower picking type of Xena story.)

Love/Sex Warning/Disclaimer: This story depicts a sexual relationship between two women who love each other. If you are under 18 years of age or you live in a state or country where this kind of story is illegal then do not read any further. If stories of this nature disturb you then what are you doing reading Xena fan fiction. What did you really think that Xena and Gabrielle were just good friends? Yeah right! Get a clue, but still if this kind of story bothers you then you may want to read something else.

Feedback: You love it you hate it you wish my dog would have ate it. Drop me a line.


Xena gazed through the fire at Gabrielle, the soft light of the flickering flames reflecting off the young woman’s fair skin. The bard contently scribing on her latest scroll with a warm pleasant look on her face. Feeling the warrior’s eyes on her, Gabrielle looked up and met Xena’s gaze. Beautiful, deep blue eyes narrowed and a slight smile spread on full lips when Xena spied Gabrielle’s head come up with a curious expression on her lovely face.

"What is it Xena?"

"I was just thinking about how much I love you."

Gabrielle laid her scroll on the ground and moved next to the warrior, placing her small hands on Xena’s strong arm. "I love you too Xena."

Xena looked affectionately at the smaller woman, brushing a strand of her strawberry blonde hair off her cheek with an open hand. Gabrielle instinctively leaned her head at a slight angle to meet the warm hand. She closed her eyes and smiled, letting out a low sigh at the reassuring touch.

"I don’t know what I would do without you. You’ve brought so much joy to my life that I never thought possible."

"You deserve it Xena."

The warrior’s eyes went out somewhere beyond Gabrielle’s shoulder and she seemed to sadden. "Do I?"

Gabrielle knew where this was going. Occasionally Xena’s cruel past came back to haunt her. She gently placed her hands on the sides of Xena’s face guiding the warrior’s eyes back to her own. "Yes you do."

Xena smiled at the look of concern on her lover’s face. "Come on, let’s get some sleep." She said with a gentle squeeze of the bard’s knee.

A few moments later they were lying on a blanket by the fire. Xena on her side with Gabrielle nestled against her. She put her arm around the smaller woman, pulling her firmly to her then draped her thigh over her most beloved.


This was Gabrielle’s favorite time of the day. When she felt her warrior’s muscular body against her own, the warmth of her breath, the beat of her heart, the nurturing of her touch. She leaned back into the taller woman’s voluptuous breasts. Feeling their firmness on her back a low sigh escaped from deep within her throat. She reached down and ran her hand over the muscular thigh that lay across her.


Xena smiled to herself as Gabrielle’s hand glided up and down her thigh. It had only been a few weeks since she had taken her young lover’s virtue and Gabrielle was still exploring and hesitant. Not quite sure of herself yet and desperately wanting to please her more experienced lover. Gabrielle’s innocence intoxicated Xena. Every time that she looked into her questioning eyes or felt her hands tremble as they touched her body it drew the bard deeper into her heart.

Raising herself slightly she maneuvered the petit blonde onto her back. Quick hands removed their inhibiting clothing before she lowered her curvaceous body onto her young lover’s, pressing their soft breasts together.


Gabrielle let out a sharp sigh at the intense pleasure of the warrior princess’s body pressing the full length of her own. Xena’s lips danced across the soft skin of her neck, her warm aromatic breath flowing into the bard’s nostrils mesmerizing her.

"Oh Xena!"

As Xena’s lips found her own, Gabrielle arched and rocked her hips into her more experienced lovers, trying desperately to relieve the insatiable yearning. Xena’s hands played across Gabrielle’s body taking in every sensuous curve. The warrior shifted her muscular thigh and gently spread her young lover’s legs. Gabrielle moaned into her full lips, Xena not allowing her to break the passionate kiss as her leg met Gabrielle’s moistness. The bard began to tremble; moving her hips rhythmically on the larger women’s leg as it was gently thrust into her. Xena drew her attention from the bard’s lips to her neck permitting Gabrielle cries of pleasure.

"Oh Xena, oh Gods Xena!" Gabrielle called out as she arched hard onto Xena’s smooth thigh, pulling her close and burying her head in the warrior’s neck as she was swept by an overwhelming climax. Xena tenderly kissed the young women’s ear and cheek as she shuddered in her arms. When the bard’s breathing finally returned to somewhat normal she released her hold on Xena and lay back looking into loving eyes.

"By the Gods Xena, that was so amazing!"

"I’m glad you enjoyed it." Xena answered still holding Gabrielle in her nurturing arms.

A playful smile washed across the bard’s lips at the serene look on Xena’s face. It made her heart soar to see the warrior so contented.

Xena raised one eyebrow and looked questioningly at her. "What is it?"

"I just love to see you like this. So happy, I always want to make you happy Xena. "The smile faded and was replaced by a look of pleading sincerity.

Xena’s eyes narrowed at the sudden seriousness of Gabrielle’s features. Reaching down she placed her hand on the side of the bard’s face and gently kissed her. "Gabrielle nothing could make me as happy as you do. You mean everything to me."

Emotion welled in Gabrielle’s eyes as she spoke. "I love you Xena."

"I love you too Gabrielle."

For a moment they both said nothing and just enjoyed the closeness.

Xena was the first to break the trance. "We better get some sleep. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover tomorrow."

"Don’t you want me to take care of you?" Gabrielle asked with a concerned voice.

Xena chuckled before replying. "I think you were intense enough for both of us."

Gabrielle smiled. "I can’t help it." She said self-consciously. "Are you sure don’t need me to take care of you?"

Xena Tugged at their blankets, pulling them over the bard’s shoulders. "Yes I’m sure, we’ll have plenty of time for that later. Right now though we need sleep."


Moment’s later Xena was back on her side with Gabrielle nestled up against her sound asleep in her reassuring arms. For a long while Xena contently watched her young lover’s peaceful sleep while listening intently to the woods for any unnatural sounds. Finally satisfied that they were secure she drifted off to sleep. As asleep as she ever was, her subconscious still keenly alert to any danger.


The morning mist hung in the air and shrouded the campsite giving an eerie dimension to the surrounding forest in the low light. Gabrielle woke from the chill air and scanned the camp. Feeling a slight childish unease at the ghostly scene, she rolled away from it and clung tightly to the sleeping warrior, snuggling her head into the larger women’s ample breasts.

Xena’s lips pursed in a tender smile as Gabrielle bore into her and made little sleepy noises. She was about to get up and start her morning routine when the bard had rolled over and buried her head contently in her cleavage. She decided to allow them just a bit more rest not having the heart to wake her angelic lover.

When Gabrielle woke again the mist had lifted and her nostrils caught the familiar sent of wood smoke and hot tea. Sitting up and wearily stretching she smiled at Xena who was sitting across the fire from her.

"Good morning." The bard said sleepily.

Xena grinned at the ever-present smile on Gabrielle’s face. "Good morning."

Xena poured two cups of tea and maneuvered herself onto the bard’s blanket, handing her a cup of the steaming brew.

"I don’t have to ask how you slept." The warrior chided with a wry expression.

Gabrielle couldn’t stifle a giggle. "I had quite a night, a tall beautiful warrior had her way with me."

"Really, lucky her." Xena commented through a playful smile.

Gabrielle answered the smile with one of her lovesick expressions she was so handy with the past few weeks, then took a long drink of the hot herb tea. "How long do think it will take us to reach Altiera?"

"We should get there a few hours after night fall. That will give us a good opportunity to scout the village undetected." Xena replied finishing the last of her tea then hastily getting to her feet and holding out a hand to Gabrielle. "Come on sleepy head we’ll eat breakfast on the road."

Gabrielle reluctantly took the out stretched hand and was hoisted to her feet just in time to steady herself. Xena’s strength never ceased to amaze her; the warrior could set her atop of Argo as easily as she did the mare’s saddlebags.

A few minutes later they had broke camp and where on the long meandering road to Altiera. Xena rode silently on Argo as Gabrielle kept stride at her side.

"Tell me again why this warlord Valkarr wants the Altierian’s medallion." Gabrielle asked not being able to stand not hearing her voice for more than a few minutes.

Xena sighed before repeating what she had told the bard just the day before when the frantic Altierian messenger had approached them for help. Knowing that the bard could probably recite it word for word.

"Legend has it that when the Altierians first settled their village they built a lavish temple to Aphrodite and had their most skilled craftsmen sculpt the most beautiful likeness of her that she had ever seen. She was so taken by the statue that she gave the villagers a gold medallion with an inscription written in an ancient dialect that when deciphered bestows the wearer with the ultimate mortal power and riches. There was a catch though."

"Knowing Aphrodite why am I not surprised." Gabrielle added sarcastically.

"Did you want to hear this or not?" Xena growled, showing her customary lack of patience for small talk.

"Yes, yes, sorry please continue."

"Only someone pure of heart can decipher the medallion to honor the sprite of true undeniable love."

Gabrielle though it over for few moments working it over in her mind. "Considering the conditions do you really think he can decipher the medallion?"

"He must or he wouldn’t be going to all the trouble of stealing it, regardless we can’t take the chance." Xena replied somberly.

Gabrielle turned to Xena and gently placed her hand on the warrior’s thigh sensing unease in her. "Is their something else?"

Xena reined Argo to a stop and looked down into concerned eyes. "Yes…." She took a deep breath trying in vein to relieve the anguish of horrific deeds done long ago.

Gabrielle tenderly massaged the warrior’s leg. "What ever it is Xena its alright. She let a moments pause pass before speaking again. "Is this what was bothering you last night too?"

Xena simply nodded then took another deep breath before responding. "My army and I were looting villages near Colonus when I first met Valkarr. He had just raided a village I had my eye on when we rode down on him and the small band of cutthroats and thieves he was leading. They were no match for my army and he knew it so he tried to deal his way into keeping some of the take. He argued that since he had saved me the trouble of looting the village he was entitled to a fee for his trouble. I told him that I didn’t make deals, I demand and I take. Knowing he didn’t have any choice he simply nodded his compliance and then signaled his men it was time to go while they still could. He was just about to mount his horse when I called him back to me. He tried to run when he saw me unsheathed my dagger but before he could I had him, dropping him to his knees. I drew the tip of my blade across his cheek leaving a long cut from his right ear to his chin."

Xena paused for a long moment starring off into the forest trying to find some peace in its tranquility. Finding none she continued. "After that all the other warlords in the area were eager to serve without trying to make any bargains. I never saw or heard of Valkarr again until yesterday." Xena stole her eyes away from Gabrielle’s her shame becoming unbearable.

Gabrielle felt the warrior’s pain as if it were her own only seeing it in the eyes of the one she loved most made it worse, much, much worse. After a soothing bit of silence had washed over them Gabrielle laid her head on Xena’s thigh and looked up at the mounted warrior.

"Xena…" she said tentatively. "I know that there’s nothing that I can say that will erase your pain, but you’re not that Xena anymore. This Xena has saved more lives and villages than the other one ever destroyed. This Xena is the most passionate caring person I have ever known, you just half to know how to look past all the armor." Gabrielle smiled then suddenly and warmly. "No pun intended."

A smile ever so slightly crept its way onto Xena’s face until she couldn’t fight back the laughter any longer. "Thanks."

Gabrielle gleamed. "Anytime."

The soft morning light radiated off the bards strawberry blonde hair which fell loosely around her shoulders framing her lovely face and trusting green eyes. Their laughter faded away into the surrounding forest as they where both swept up by the same desire in the same intimate moment. A moment born of closeness rarely felt by two people, a moment of the kind felt by only a fortunate few. Xena’s hand found the side of Gabrielle’s face, caressing the back of her head as she leaned down and pulled the smaller women into a long, lingering kiss.

Gabrielle stood frozen for a moment after Xena had broke the kiss her lips still pursed. As awareness came over her she blushed up at Xena who was watching her amused already upright seated with her hands crossed on Argo’s saddle horn. "I….ummm."

Xena was enjoying herself but she knew that they had to make up some time. Reaching down she pulled the bard up onto the saddle in front of her. "This is a first."

Gabrielle craned around in the saddle to face the larger women. "What?"

"You at a loss for words."

"I was just memorizing the moment for a scroll I’m working on." Gabrielle knew it was weak but it was the best she could come up with just then.


Xena raised one eyebrow at her but decided to let the bard off easy. Gabrielle leaned back into the Xena’s well-developed chest and let out a comfortable sigh her ever-present love sick expression back. Xena gently nudged Argo’s sides starting them back down the road at a trot. As the mare took to the road her thoughts shifted to Valkarr and what wait for them in Altiera. Gabrielle nestled in her arms sighed with contentment, momentarily breaking Xena’s concentration. She leaned forward and tenderly kissed the top of the bard’s head before losing herself again in her plans. The mare’s hooves striking the road were only sounds to be heard as they rode towards the night.


Part Two

Bathed in darkness the small village of Altiera seemed peaceful enough. Its log hewn buildings cloaked in a blanket of night, broken only by the soft light that poured from the open windows and door of the towns only inn. It’s drunken patrons laughter shattering the stillness of the cool night air. From deep within the shadows of the forest Xena’s trained eye scanned the village.

"I don’t see any sign of Valkarr’s men. Do you think he’s already taken the medallion and left?" Gabrielle asked from Xena’s side.

"No he’s still there." Xena answered not shifting her eyes from the village inn.

"How can you tell?"

"Because simple villagers don’t wear broad swords under their shirts."

"I don’t see any… wait a minute. I guess you don’t miss much."

"A lesson hard learned, believe me."

"I probably don’t want to know do I?"

"No you don’t."

"So what’s the plan partner?"

Xena gave her friend her best, yeah sure ‘partner’ look while she thought of a way to involve her but keep her out of harms way.

"Take Argo and ride into the village, go straight to the inn and convince the owner to let you perform. Once you’ve drawn a crowd of Valkarr’s men tell them one of your long drawn out stories."

The bard furrowed her brow at that. "My long drawn out stories! Don’t you mean one of my very involved, well detailed stories."

"Ah… sure that’s what I meant." Xena corrected herself with a slight grin. She paused before continuing taking a moment to enjoy her friends sensitive nature.

"Then what?" Gabrielle asked prodding the warrior to continue.

"Then while you have most of Valkarr’s men distracted I’ll go to the temple and sneak in through the sky-light and take Valkarr and his guards by surprise."

"Okay, good plan."

"Okay, thanks!" Xena said with a tenacious grin."

Gabrielle just gave an exasperated expression then unsteadily mounted Argo and made her way to the village inn.

Xena watched her friend’s progress from the shadows until she reached the inn. Seeing that the bard had made it unmolested she began to make her way through the trees circling around the village to the temple moving from shadow to shadow.

The temple sat at the head of the village. A dozen guards lingered complacently at the two large wooden doors. Xena frowned disapprovingly at their lack of professionalism. Her men would have known better or at least they would have been afraid to have her catch them acting in such a manor.

A few moments latter another one of Valkarr’s men joined the guards at the temple speaking excitedly and pointing towards the inn. The bard had drawn a crowd. Xena smiled approvingly. All but two of the guards left for the inn and an exciting tale of warlords and warriors, maidens and mythical creatures. Xena’s smile widened. It never ceased to amaze her how much men were like children when it came to a good story. She circled around to the rear of the temple and made her way to the front in the lee of the building. Peering around the corner she saw the two remaining guards standing only a few feet from one another engrossed in a conversation. Bored soldiers on boring duty. Xena moved casually between them encircling her arms around their shoulders.

"Having a nice night boys?" She asked smiling at them.

The two grinned broadly taking in Xena’s ample cleavage.

"It just got a whole lot better!" The one on her left stated while the one on her right reached for her. Just before his hand reached her breast Xena’s vise like grip found sensitive nerves in both their necks. Unconsciousness took him a second after his partner and they hit the ground in a heap one atop of the other. Xena threw the unconscious guards a distasteful look then went back to the rear of the temple and carefully scaled the wall. Her hands and feet finding purchase in the grooves of the ancient stonework. Silently she moved to the large circular skylight and peered over the edge. She could see the scene clearly. Valkarr was seated at a worktable near the altar, completely absorbed in an old weathered book. The medallion hung loosely around his neck on a golden chain. Four other men loafed about the room. Xena waited until the one closest to the skylight meandered beneath its large opening and then leapt over the edge.

Costus was bored. He’d been guarding the temple for two days without so much as a harsh word from the peace loving villagers. He was beginning to doubt weather Xena would even show up. He never really believed all those stories of her changing her ways. Xena helping poor villagers, yeah right!

Just then he heard the sharp whooshing sound of something falling. He looked up just in time for his face to meet Xena’s boot heel. Costus crumpled on the floor unconscious. Even as Xena was drawing her sword the other three guards wheeled on her. The first one rushed in recklessly wielding his sword. Xena’s blade came down hard on the careless guard’s weapon, knocking it from his hand. The next swing of her sword was less forgiving, slicing a deep gash from the man’s left hip to his right shoulder. It was a terminal wound. The unbelieving warrior stumbled backwards then fell to his knees. The last thing he saw before blackness over-took him were the merciless ice blue eyes of the warrior who had killed him.

The next two were more cautious after watching the slaying of their comrade. They approached from the sides, flanking her then they charged thrusting their swords. Xena’s boot came up into the man on her rights solarplexus knocking him on his back gasping for air, while at the same time she thrust her sword into the charging warrior on her left’s abdomen. It was such a fast, unexpected move that neither had time to react. The man knocked back on the floor started to slowly get up while his less fortunate friend slide dead off of Xena’s bloodstained sword. Xena strode casually to him not taking her eyes off Valkarr who had been watching disbelieving, hatred burning in his dark eyes. The battered warrior dragging himself of the temple floor had made it to his knees when Xena’s boot struck him a wicked blow to the head knocking him sprawled o his back unconscious.

Valkarr cursed his luck. With the help of the ancient book of dielicks used by the Gods, he was sure he could dechiper the strange text on the Altierian medallion. After two days of study though the text had proved much more elusive then he had ever dreamed it could be and his efforts had all come up short of breaking the code. Now his time and luck had run out. Xena doesn’t make deals and she knows no mercy. The revenge he had so carefully orchestrated crumbled before his eyes leaving him with the cold realization of what was in store for him at Xena’s hand. She was moving towards him now with that same cold purposeful look in her eyes that he had remembered from so long ago.

Suddenly all his hatred began to melt away as the long cold tentacles of fear began to embrace him. The scar on his face began to twitch as he nervously stumbled backward. "Stay where you are Xena! I’ve a dozen men outside, one more step and I’ll call them down on you!"

Xena continued on a hint of a smile on her lips. "Go ahead, call them."

Valkarr paled a little then yelled for his guards. Nothing, so he yelled again still nothing.

Xena stopped a few feet away from Valkarr who had backed himself into the masterfully carved statue of Aphrodite.

"You don’t miss a thing do you Xena?" Valkarr stated arching himself back against the statue, trying to put as much distance between himself and Xena as he could.

Xena sheathed her sword seeing that she no longer needed it. Her presence was enough. She dismissed his question and started with some of her own. "Why did you think you could decipher the medallion? You know the legend or you wouldn’t be after it."

"I thought that once I had translated the language I could just grab one of these pathetic, peace loving village women and have them read it aloud while I still wore the medallion around my neck."

"So what happened? Couldn’t figure out the writing?" Xena questioned thumbing through the pages of the book Valkarr had been so engrossed in just moments before, seemingly ignoring him although he knew better.

"No I couldn’t. It seems you have to be pure of heart to even understand this language. Valkarr replied bitterly

"What are you going to do Xena? Take the medallion for yourself?" He paused and let out a short contemptuous laugh. "It would do you even less good then it did me." He stated, an ironic grin growing on his lips.

Xena turned wheeling on him. Something in her face had changed. Valkarr’s grin vanished and suddenly he wished he’d never asked his last question. Xena moved in on him swiftly grabbing his right arm and flinging him towards the temple door. He stumbled for a few feet then caught himself just before smashing into the heavy wooden doors.

"Just take this damn thing and let me go Xena!" He cried out desperately holding the medallion aloft in one hand.

"No Valkarr this time you get to keep your spoils, but I’m not quite through with you yet. We’re going to the inn, you can walk or I can drag you there by your boot heels. The choice is yours."

Xena gestured towards the doors and Valkarr sullenly opened them utterly defeated. He knew it would be useless to resist. If he tried to escape Xena would cut him down with her chakram before he made ten paces. Better for him just to obey and prey she’ll be merciful.

The inn was crowded with Valkarr’s warriors and a hand full of villagers serving food and wine. They were all seated in a large semi-circle around the beautiful young bard who had captivated them with her vivid description of a heroic tale of good and evil. They were so evolved in her tale that not a single one of them noticed as Xena entered with Valkarr. Gabrielle who had positioned herself facing the door stopped abruptly when Valkarr entered the room with Xena a stride behind him. The crowd followed the bard’s eyes as she spied the two enter; more then merely annoyed at the interruption. Then realization washed over Valkarr’s men as they realized they’d been had.

"Nobody moves and nobody gets killed!" Xena stated her voice cold and even. "Gabrielle come here."

Gabrielle made it about half way through the seated crowd when a soldier leaps to his feet behind her grasping her arm. Instantly Xena’s chakram came up.

"Wait! What about the story!" The warrior shouted.

The crowded room mimicked his concern as they collectively shouted "Yeah what about the story!"

A smile crept onto Xena’s face as she lowered her chakram. "Gabrielle will finish the story as soon as I’m done with her. She’ll only be a few minutes."

The soldier holding Gabrielle’s arm nodded his compliance to Xena and released her retaking his seat. Gabrielle quickly closed the distance between herself and Xena.

"Come outside." Xena said shoving Valkarr roughly through the door.

Valkarr hit the ground in a heap. Xena casually strode to him jerking him to his knees by the medallion’s golden chain. Valkarr reached for Xena’s hand trying to free himself from the awkward position. Xena slapped away his hands giving him a warning glance. Valkarr got the message withdrawing his hands to his sides.

"Gabrielle see if you can read this." Xena said holding the medallion level.

"But Xena he’s still wearing it, the legend says…"

"I know Gabrielle just trust me. Now see if you can read this."

Gabrielle had learned long ago that things weren’t always what they seemed when it came to Xena. Trusting her friend’s instincts she knelt down to try and decipher the ancient script.

Valkarr took on a look of confusion "I don’t know what your up to Xena but I swear if I’m granted this power I will not hesitated to use it!"

"I’m counting on it." Xena stated coolly.

Gabrielle took the medallion from Xena’s hand and angled it into the light streaming from the inn’s open door. She smiled as she read the mysterious text "This is amazing, I’ve never seen this script before but its clear as day to me. It says THE WEALTH AND POWER THAT YOU SEEK ARE YOURS FOREVER TO KEEP."

They all waited for a moment for something to happen but nothing did. Valkarr got to his feet furious.

"You knew it didn’t work that’s why you let me keep this worthless thing!" Valkarr spewed as took the medallion from his neck and flung it to the ground.

Xena folded her arms and smiled at him, as Gabrielle looked on astonished. Valkarr grunted something unintelligible turned and started off when he caught sight of a barmaid stepping from the doorway of the inn. Something deep within him changed right then. All his bitterness, all his hate and sorrow drained from him as he was filled with the radiant beauty of the woman in the doorway. He strode to her and took up her hand knelt and kissed it tenderly. When he looked up she was smiling warmly at him.

"You are truly the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Would you do me the honor of having a meal with me?"

The young beauty blushed and nodded her agreement. The two walked arm and arm through the door of the inn and disappeared from sight.

Xena smiled knowingly while Gabrielle looked on at a temporary loss for words.

"How did you know?"

"I wouldn’t say I knew but I had a pretty good idea. Besides when it comes to Aphrodite nothing is what it seems."

"So now what?" Gabrielle prodded.

"Well we don’t have to worry about Valkarr anymore but his men are a different story." Xena said, as the occupants of the inn grew increasingly impatient.

"What are we going to do?" Gabrielle asked concerned.

"I’m not going to do anything but you better get in there and finish that story before they tear the place down."

Gabrielle smiled then and turned to go when Xena’s hand caught her wrist.

"When you’re through we’ll get a room and a hot bath." Xena said seductively, her eyes traveling the length of Gabrielle’s sumptuous body.

The innuendo wasn’t lost on Gabrielle. She moved to Xena slipping her hand behind the warrior’s neck, pulling her into a passionate kiss. "I won’t be long."

Xena smiled playfully "Good you still owe me."

"I do?" Gabrielle asked.

"Yeah, it’s your turn to take care of me."