by Cath, Bard
The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others belong in their entirety to Universal/MCA, Renaissance Pictures, and all the other powers that be. No copyright infringement is intended. I wrote this story at the urging of my muse; it should never be used for profit. Please do not copy or cite elsewhere without express permission of the author.
Yep. This story depicts a loving friendship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
Just a little.
To my pals at Netgyrl's Tavern Wall, where this tale made its debut.
"Full often the fighters, drunk with beer, boasted over the ale-can..." - Beowulf
The small figure stepped inside the dark, smoke-burdened tavern and shook a layer of snow from her thick fur cloak. Several heads turned at once when she pulled back the hood, revealing short, golden hair, and a wind-chapped, but comely visage.
Gabrielle gave her eyes a moment to adjust to the dim light, then scanned the room, searching for the party she planned to meet this night. But Xena wasn't there. Instead, the Bard sighted another familiar face - a man sitting alone at a table in the back of the tavern, staring into his tankard.
The young woman made her way through the crowd, ignoring the jests and come hithers of several rough characters until she stood beside the table.
"Beowulf." Her voice conveyed relief and pleasant surprise at finding a friend among the strangers.
The Northern Warrior gazed up, bleary-eyed, and beheld an angel. A wide smile blossomed on his solemn face. Without a word, he stood and folded the angel into a warm, strong embrace. Gabrielle detected the familiar essence of leather. The furs that covered his armor tickled her nose and she fought off a sneeze.
He stepped back and almost tripped over his chair.
"Gabrielle, welcome." Beowulf's voice was low, slightly slurred. Gabrielle knew he had been drinking.
"Where's Xena?" He glanced around the room.
"I'm meeting her here soon, I hope. She's coming from that village over the next hill. Roskilde, I think they call it? She stopped there to arrange passage for our voyage home."
"I know the place. She may not make it here until tomorrow if this storm keeps up."
Gabrielle studied the tavern crowd uncertainly. Even in his haze, Beowulf noted her hesitance.
"Join me for some food and drink. We'll await her arrival together."
Gabrielle gladly accepted Beowulf's invitation. The ale flowed, and the Bard found that she liked it. Soon, she felt almost as relaxed as her host.
Beowulf marveled at the small woman's appetite. In his slightly off-kilter estimation, she had consumed at least a haunch of venison by the time she pushed away from the table and licked her fingers. The Northern Warrior felt his heart beating faster. There was something genuinely sensuous about the way this woman finished a meal.
Afternoon turned to evening. Still, Xena failed to appear.
Beowulf continued to drink, while the Bard regaled him with tales of her Warrior Princess. He found her voice enchanting, and smiled. Gabrielle mistook his smile for interest in the story, and forged on.
Finally, Beowulf realized that he had to negotiate the way to his room, or confront the prospect of spending the night face down at the table. Despite ale-induced dizziness, his gallant nature prevailed; he asked Gabrielle the dreaded question, as politely as he could.
"Do you have a place to... er.... stay tonight?"
The Bard's eyes widened. She seemed a bit lost.
"Uh...no. I was waiting for Xena." Gabrielle looked expectantly at the door, hoping her companion would just stride in as usual.
Beowulf read the Bard's worried thoughts and sought to comfort her. "My guess is that she found shelter from the storm until first light. She can handle herself. And Xena knows you can take care of yourself."
Gabrielle's expression brightened at that vote of confidence from the Northern Warrior.
"It's settled then. I'll see if they have a room for you."
Beowulf's chivalrous offer fell flat as he lurched to his feet, staggered, and sprawled face first onto the floor. In the process, he toppled a tankard belonging to an enormous, blonde Norseman at the next table. Ale soaked the man's furs.
The Norseman growled and rose swiftly from his bench. He reached down and hauled Beowulf upright. The Northern Warrior's apology was cut short when the Norseman threw him onto the table. Pain and humiliation sobered Beowulf quickly and he rolled off the table, landing upright, ready for action.
Before the men came to blows, a small blonde stepped between them, holding both at bay with surprising strength.
"It was an accident. Stop it, now, before this gets out of hand," she ordered. So bold was Gabrielle's move that the astonished combatants stepped apart.
"No real harm done." The Norseman shrugged, then resumed his drinking. "Good woman you have there," he called over his shoulder as Gabrielle helped Beowulf to their table.
"Thank you," Beowulf mumbled to the Bard. She offered him a warm smile in return.
When she had him seated, she issued her second command. "Stay here. I'll check on a room."
Beowulf began to object. Gabrielle placed her hand firmly on his shoulder.
"Hey, I can take care of myself, remember? And you shouldn't be staggering anywhere just yet, given how much ale we drank this evening."
Beowulf acquiesced. Eyes sparkling, he watched the Bard make her way through the crowd. Her animated conversation with the tavernkeeper was lost in the din, but she did not look happy when she returned.
"Just my luck," Gabrielle groaned, plopping onto her chair. "They're all out of rooms, but he has one space left -- in the stable." She let out a deep sigh. "Oh well, it beats sleeping in the snow, or trying to stay awake in here with the drunks." She gestured around the room, then paused when she realized that definition encompassed Beowulf's current state.
The Bard looked at him sheepishly, at a loss for words.
"It's all right, Gabrielle. I've had more than my share tonight. I forgot myself while listening to your wonderful stories."
"He's charming; cute even." Gabrielle caught herself staring at Beowulf as this thought crossed her mind.
The Northern Warrior returned her gaze, then shook his head. A plan emerged.
"I have an idea. You use my room. It's at the back of the long hallway. I'll take your space in the stable. We both stay warm and dry."
"No, Beowulf. That wouldn't be fair. Besides, given your condition, you might kick off the sleeping furs and catch a chill." The Bard tried to lighten the awkward situation.
Beowulf felt a warm flush upon his face. He forced himself to make a counteroffer.
"We could both stay in my room."
Gabrielle swallowed, then voiced her refusal.
He preempted the Bard's protest with logic.
"One of us can toss a bedroll on the floor. The other can use the bed. I insist. It's either that, or I sleep in the stable. What say you?"
The darkness of the tavern concealed a very crimson blush as the Bard pondered his offer.
"Heck, I've slept among men before...Joxer, Ares, Petracles, Autolycus...well, not all at once," she thought. "Where's the harm?"
Gabrielle conceded. But in her heart, she knew this might be different.
Gabrielle carried her belongings to Beowulf's room and lit the oil lamp, then returned to haul the inebriated hero there as well. He grinned broadly when she allowed him to wrap a muscular arm over her shoulder. They walked unsteadily through the hallway to the door.
The Bard helped the large man into the tiny chamber, kicked the door closed, and sat him on the bed. He started to rise, but she shook her head and pushed him back down.
"Beowulf, I'm going to help remove your boots and armor, then it's up to you from there."
Gabrielle managed to maintain a matter-of-fact tone, despite her accelerated heartbeat and slight breathlessness. She wondered why she was sweating while snow swirled just outside their shuttered window.
"No trouble. I can do it myself," the Warrior stated confidently.
He reached down to remove his left boot and toppled forward. Gabrielle caught him, but his weight and momentum carried them both to the floor. She landed hard on her backside, Beowulf on top of her, his face burrowed into the exposed skin beneath her coat.
Warrior and Bard lay like that for a long, long time, neither knowing what to say. Gabrielle hoped that he had fallen asleep. Beowulf wished himself a thousand leagues away. Then again, he prayed that he could remain in this spot the rest of his life.
"I think we'd better get up now," Gabrielle whispered. "It's cold down here."
"No, it's not," came the muffled reply. "It's soft, and warm, and beautiful."
He moved in small circles, gently caressing her with his mouth and tongue, tasting her. The Bard moaned quietly and reached for him, running her fingers through silken, dark hair; much like Xena's...
She felt the sudden weight of conscience.
"Beowulf, no.... we can't. I can't. It's not you, it's..." The excuses tumbled out. Gabrielle knew she was babbling.
The Northern Warrior rose on his arms and gazed deeply into the green eyes of the woman beneath him. She could not look away. He lowered his head and planted a tender kiss upon the lips of his angel - an angel now debating whether to surrender to her arousal, or to use one of the many defensive tactics Xena had taught her. Gabrielle chose another option; her gift.
"Beowulf, we're both a little drunk and tired. Please. Don't do something you...we...will regret."
"But, Gabrielle, I love...."
She placed a gentle finger on his lips to forestall this declaration.
"You're very special to me, but you of all people must know who holds my heart and soul." The Bard neither begged, nor threatened. She simply stated an eternal, immutable fact.
The man closed his eyes and secured this memory for dreams to come. Her sweet scent, the firmness of her body, hair that gleamed golden in the lamplight... Perhaps the gods were laughing at him.
"Drunk I am, but not insane," he thought.
Beowulf had stepped to the brink of losing something precious, but caught himself in time. He rolled away, his back to the young woman. He fought for control and won, then rose to his feet. Gabrielle took the hand he offered; he pulled her up without effort.
"One of us must go to the stables tonight," the Warrior stated brusquely. "And that would be me."
Gabrielle nodded and helped him gather his gear for the short journey.
"I'll see you in the morning," she said as she watched him leave.
Gabrielle spent the night staring at the ceiling. When she joined the other tavern patrons at their morning meal, Beowulf did not appear.
She searched the stables for him. After several inquiries, she learned that he had departed just before first light.
"Well, at least it stopped snowing," she consoled herself as the sun crept across the white blanket that surrounded the village, " and Xena should be here soon."
The tavernkeeper called to her as she crossed the threshold, stomping frost off her boots.
"You the woman who travels with the warrior?"
"Yes." Gabrielle wondered which warrior he meant.
"He left these for you, and paid for your rooms." The tavernkeeper handed Gabrielle two small scrolls.
The Bard sat at a table, drinking warm tea, and unrolled the scroll with her name on it. What she read brought a tearful smile.
A woman of your courage, devotion, and kindness comes along once, if ever, in the life of a warrior. Should you ever need me, send this scroll, and my sword is yours. As is my heart.
The second scroll was addressed to Xena, with a note asking Gabrielle to give it directly to the Warrior Princess. Honoring Beowulf's wish, the Bard tucked the scroll carefully inside her coat.
Xena arrived later that morning. Astonished tavern patrons watched the small blonde literally launch herself into the tall woman's arms.
"Hey, I'm going to go away more often if this is the welcome I get," Xena teased.
"Don't you dare," her companion responded, fighting back tears.
Xena joined Gabrielle at the table the Bard and Northern Warrior had shared the night before. She noticed the young woman's uncharacteristic silence.
"Gabrielle, what is it?"
"I missed you so much, Xena...." Gabrielle paused for a deep breath. "But it helped when I found Beowulf here."
"Yes. We ate dinner together last night and drank too much ale. I told him some stories, and there weren't enough rooms, so we had to share, but we couldn't, ....and, and...he left this morning." Rambling through confusion and misplaced guilt, Gabrielle reached a dead end. The Bard stared at the floor.
Xena sensed what might have happened. She chose her next words very carefully.
"Is there anything you want to tell me?"
Gabrielle nodded. "There's nothing to tell, really," she responded quietly.
The Warrior observed her companion's tired face and red-rimmed eyes. She accepted Gabrielle's statement without question.
"What do you say we stay here for another night and get an early start tomorrow?" Xena hoped Gabrielle would agree. They needed to talk.
"Yes. I could use some sleep." The Bard gave Xena a slight smile.
"Good," the Warrior responded, "I'll see if I can get us a room for tonight."
Gabrielle looked down at the floor, and Xena barely heard her next statement.
"I need someone to hold me, too."
Part 5: Conclusion
Their lovemaking that afternoon began tenderly, even tentatively. As passion grew, Gabrielle revealed a hunger that left Xena breathless, wondering where her tired companion found the energy. Amazement gave way to explosive pleasure when Gabrielle coaxed her to the edge, then guided her over with consummate skill.
Finally, the young woman rolled off her lover and collapsed back on the bed -- a satisfied, lopsided grin splashed across her face, blonde hair matted to her forehead. Xena pulled the sleeping fur over their sweat-soaked bodies.
"The Bard could not get enough of her Warrior..." Gabrielle recited aloud. "Do I dare write that in my scrolls?"
"Isn't it the other way around?" Xena nibbled playfully at her companion's slightly salty neck.
Sweet laughter filled the room. Gabrielle circled Xena's waist with a strong arm and tucked herself just beneath the tall woman's chin.
"How well they fit... Warrior Princess and Battling Bard..." The smaller woman's voice trailed off.
Soon, Gabrielle snored softly. The afternoon light accentuated her serene expression, endearing her all the more to the companion who held her in slumber.
Xena spent a long time enjoying the warmth of her partner's body. Then, she rose quietly and wrapped a fur robe around her bare shoulders. Sitting at the edge of the bed, she reread the scroll the Bard had given her that morning.
I pray that you treasure what you have in Gabrielle, as she cherishes you. Keep her safe and close. Many would steal such a jewel; it would not be given freely, but could be lost through distance or complacency.
Yours in faith,
"I know, my friend. I know." Xena whispered her vow.
Flakes of snow drifted to earth, stark white against the grey heavens. Two warriors, with one heart, felt the evening approach.
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