Gentle Passions
By S Derkins
August 2, 1998

Disclaimers and such: Why bother? We know I don't own 'em! On with the story

Special Thanks to A: May your deepest wish come true some day.

The Bard awoke. Her wounded left shoulder throbbed painfully and still burned from effects of the poisoning she had lived through. Gabrielle shifted carefully, wincing from the sharp pain that shot through her upper torso. She ignored her body's protests and sat up slowly, gritting her teeth. Once up, she exhaled and forced herself to relax her clenched jaw. The wounded woman breathed in tiny, soft pants, unwilling to take a full breath for fear of the pain it would cause. Once her body began relaxing, she looked around.

From her position from the barn's loft, she took in the sight of the devastated barn. Between the invading army and Xena, the unfortunate building had taken a lot of damage. Slats on the walls were missing, arrows remained embedded throughout the walls and doors, and a large gapping hole was in the roof. Late afternoon sunlight poured inside, crisscrossing with narrow sunbeams that entered between the slats of the lower walls, highlighting dust motes as they lazily drifted through the air. A faint breeze coming from the open roof tickled the fine hairs of her arms. She shivered slightly and looked down.

Xena was still asleep, surprising the Bard. Her friend usually didn't need much sleep-but then again, it wasn't often she took on an entire army on her own either. Gabrielle smiled at the sight of her dearest friend curled into a childish ball, her head resting against a tucked hand. Dark lashes fanned sun-kissed cheeks and her lips, often held in a stern formation when not smiling, were softly parted. The corners of her mouth were upturned sweetly. The Amazon Bard leaned over carefully; her gaze enraptured by the temptation to place a kiss on the curled corner, but stopped herself from giving in. Sighing in resignation, she tore her eyes away from Xena's lips, returning to her silent watching.

Gabrielle allowed herself to feel the warm glow that would often accompany her secretive Warrior-watching. She had often awakened in the night and indulged in watching her friend sleep, taking in the sight of the intense woman vulnerable with her defenses down. Sometimes she would take a lock of Xena's hair in her fingers, enjoying the fine texture of the dark hair. It was the only touch she allowed herself during those times, afraid of waking the slumbering Warrior.

Fear of Xena's waking kept her from letting it go any further than that. The Bard didn't think her friend would be angry-that wasn't what prevented more touches-but the fear that Xena would…

*Would what Bard? Look upon you with suspicion, disgust, or rejection? That she would rebuild the walls of the past and hold you at arm's length once more? That Xena would be embarrassed or uneasy? What do you fear? *

Gabrielle sighed. She didn't know how her best friend would react and that was what kept her from kissing those sleepy lips. She even kept her longings tightly controlled, fearing they would become bold if she gave them free rein. All she allowed herself was admitting the feelings that stirred her heart. Lost in her musings, she didn't see Xena open her eyes when she woke.

The Warrior felt the soft heat from her nearby friend. She knew before opening her eyes that it was Gabrielle. No one else could approach her in her sleep and live to tell about it. Xena opened her eyes and glanced at her friend, wondering if something was wrong. Seeing deep sadness marring her youthful face, the older woman felt her heart plunge. Worriedly, she reached out her hand and placed it on Gabrielle's knee, making her friend jump and gasp painfully.

"I'm sorry, are you alright Gabrielle?" she asked as she sat up and leaned closer in worry. Gabrielle avoided her eyes by looking away. Xena noted a flush tingeing her fair cheeks. Was she running a fever? Xena reached out her hand and cupped the warm skin of the Bard's cheek. It was warm but not fever hot. Her friend didn't look at her.

"What's wrong Gabrielle? Talk to me," she pleaded. Xena waited with bated breath until the smaller woman finally turned her green eyes towards her. Green eyes captured her own, making her feel something akin to the sensation of falling at the contact. Everything else disappeared as Xena looked into vulnerable eyes. Those moss-green eyes spoke without words or explanations-they didn't need them.

Xena's heart pounded loudly in its attempt to break out from her chest and her held breath burned her lungs as she leaned closer. Inch by painful inch, the Warrior drew nearer as she prayed Gabrielle wouldn't pull back. Now a scant few inches away, she searched her friend's eyes one last time and only saw acceptance. Xena relaxed slightly and lowered her eyelids before ridding the distance between their mouths.

She brushed her lips softly across Gabrielle's waiting mouth. Xena hesitated, terrified and elated all at once. The smaller woman not pulling away gave her a little more courage and she whispered another butterfly kiss along the Bard's fuller lower lip. A welcoming return of the act eased her tension and she shifted her body closer. She placed a strong thigh on Gabrielle's right side to support her weight and wrapped her arms protectively around the smaller woman before continuing.

Savoring every second, they never rushed their languid exploration. Soft forays defined their gentle passions. Slow, bone-melting caresses came naturally but weren't the focus between them. Their concern was the slow dance of lips and tongues and nothing else mattered but finally expressing the love between them fully.

The kiss ended when Gabrielle wasn't able to contain her joy any longer and she burst into tears. Xena wasn't worry that she did anything wrong-she felt the same way. The Warrior pulled her small friend into the crook of her neck and held her protectively, shedding a few tears of her own into reddish-blond hair.

Finally, the tears ended and Xena looked down at Gabrielle's exhausted features.

"Sleep now, little one. I'll watch over you," she promised. Green eyes drifted shut and breathing slowed as shimmering blue eyes looked to the sky in silent gratitude.


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