Scenes From A Relationship
General Info: Yes, this is one of those 'first times' fan fiction offerings, but I just can't seem to resist. While this story does have some dark overtones it also has a smattering of comedy as well - file it under entertainment only.
Any and all offerings, burnt or otherwise, can be directed to me at ArdentTly@yahoo.com
Gabrielle sat on her sleep fur, legs crossed, humming a little tune. She had just finished mending one of Xena's sleep shirts and brought her head up to watch as the warrior performed the nightly ritual of sharpening her sword. Arching her eyebrow, the young woman wondered just why there is anything left of the damnedable thing. 'Should be a toothpick by now', she mused. However, she'd gotten used to the sound and now found it rather comforting. Even the smell of the oil that Xena used to clean her armour was somewhat soothing. The rhythm and flow of their lives had become somewhat routine; she would prepare supper while the warrior removed her weapons and armour, setting them aside for mending, sharpening and polishing after their meal. Tonight had been no exception.
'We're like some old married couple.' Her brow creased and Gabrielle felt her belly somersault. It was true; they shared everything, their hopes, dreams, fears and...love.'
The lovely flitting her insides had just been enjoying suddenly came tumbling down. She wanted more, needed more.
Xena furtively watched as the bard turned, and stuffed the fabric down into the saddlebag. They'd both become very settled and comfortable with each other over their years together, and the warrior wondered how she had ever existed without the happiness and contentment in her life. Truth be known, she pondered darkly, there was no goodness in her life before Gabrielle, only death, pain and destruction. She knew the images of a thousand deaths, the cries of a multitude of wounded, and the look of the children left behind would never be fully erased. She paused mid stroke, lost in her painful memories. Gabrielle turned, and saw the dark emotions play across her friend's face and wondered, 'would she ever be free from such a horrible past?' Clearing her throat, she moved closer, and put her hand on the warrior's knee.
Xena blinked once, gave herself a shake, and looked down at the small well-formed hand lying just past the top of her boot. They could have so much more - if only. Sighing, she pushing her unrealistic hopes away. The softness of the bard's hand and the touch of it on her face left her feeling uncomfortable; dealing with needs that could never be realized was something the warrior dealt with each and every day. 'If only.' These troubling thoughts came so often to her now and Xena was finding it harder and harder to ignore her body's response to the woman's presence. Although she craved the young woman's close proximity it was akin to walking the gauntlet; surviving it was never a sure thing. They had shared their feelings for each other many times over the years, and yet neither one had truly acknowledged the depth of such emotions. Xena knew what she was feeling, but was rather uncertain as to just how far she could go in sharing them without scaring her friend off. After all, if the known world knew just what the demure bard meant to her just how safe would the woman be? Life as a warrior was hard enough but trying to live down the life of a murderous ex-warlord on top of things was bound to get her killed, sooner or later. Did she really want to subject Gabrielle to that?
The blonde looked up at the warrior and smiled gently. Inwardly, she was shaking. Every time she touched Xena there seemed to be a spark pass between them. How could Xena not see it in her eyes, her touch and her voice?
"Xe...." The bard coughed to clear her throat, waited a few seconds before her emotions were settled, and then began again. "Xena, have you ever wondered what our lives would have been like if you hadn't been right outside Poteideia five years ago? I mean, I just can't see myself as a housewife, can you?"
Xena reached down and cupped the bard's chin. Not a day went by when she didn't wonder about that very thing. Would Gabrielle have been happier, married with children, her life settled and safe? 'Hades,' she thought, wiping her hand slowly over her face. "Well, actually...I can see you nicely settled down, a coupla kids running around driving you crazy." She smiled at the image and pinched the woman's cheek.
"Well I for one am really glad you came by, Xena. I never would have seen the world, met so many interesting people in my life and well, I'd miss this. Us."
The warrior arched both eyebrows and let her hand drop.
"Even if you didn't settle down and have kids, you could have been a well known poet by now...rivaling even Homer. You know you could, Gabrielle. I've always regretted that, being responsible for holding you back." Xena suddenly found something very interesting on the tip of her boot, anywhere but in the sea green eyes of the woman she loved more than life, certain she'd see the truth of her regret.
Gabrielle pushed her torso between the warrior's strong thighs and placed her hands on the woman's upper arms and waited until the blue eyes locked onto her own. Shaking her head, she spoke slowly, "Xena, you have no idea that you're the inspiration for any talent I might display, do you?" She paused and reached a hand up to the side of the warrior's face. "You've made me the strong person I am and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I'd if I were any place else but by your side I'd never be as happy as I am right now."
A furrow deepened over the warrior's brow. "But all the traveling, all the rotten places we've had to stay, the murderers and thieves, not to mention the lack of money, the cold hard...." Her voice seemed to disappear in her throat, all thought vanishing as she felt a soft warm hand move over her lips.
"Stop, Xena...none of that has ever mattered to me. You once asked me how many times I was going to follow you into battle. Don't you see, Xena? I'm here because I want to be, because I can't imagine my life without you." Gabrielle paused, suddenly unsure of what she wanted to say. 'It's now or never,' she thought and taking a deep breath, she went on.
"Because I...I love you."
The bard's sweet voice seemed to settle over her like a nice warm blanket. Although she rarely mentioned the bard's prowess in the art of barding, it made the warrior's chest swell with pride at just how easily the words came tripping off the woman's tongue. Such mastery of the spoken word, painting images with a few sentences. Suddenly, the warm feeling she was experiencing came crashing down on her. 'What did she say?'
"Did you say love...as in, 'I love you, share my bedroll' or just 'I love you like a best friend?''
The flush that slowly crept up the neck and then spread across the cheeks of the woman kneeling before her gave Xena hope. So many times over the years they'd professed their love, but it had always been diluted and certainly not fully expressed.
She tried to catch the bard's averted eyes, and watched in amazement as a small tear trickled down the woman's tan cheek. Her hand shook as she brought it over to capture the drop.
"I love you Xena, with all my heart."
A million thoughts ran through the warrior's mind, and she felt such joy, such hope. Perhaps after all this time she could truly have what she wanted most in the world: someone to love her as much as she loved them. For although she knew Marcus had loved her dearly, the feelings she had for him were nothing in comparison to what she felt for the woman before her.
Ten long years she'd been a warlord and soldier of fortune, and she had loved hard and fast, never giving anything for the most part, but always taking. Borias knew this and had decided to take what she was offering in hopes that she'd give more as time passed. She hadn't. The idea of love, family and a future, had been totally alien to her. Her skills as a warrior, a military tactician, and a force to be reckoned with, were just beginning to be formed, shouldering aside any capabilities she might have had as a giving and nurturing woman. Her priorities had been very clear-cut: power, conquest and the spoils of war. Nothing else had mattered. Until a young wisp of a girl came into her life, that is.
"Gods, Gabrielle," she said with a catch in her throat. She rubbed the back of her hand roughly over the woman's wet cheek and blinked rapidly. "Don't cry." Her normally hidden emotions threatened to bubble up, and Xena fought to keep control. Didn't matter how stoic she was in her day to day dealings with the typical riff raff, wounded villagers or assorted warlords, she just couldn't resist letting her defences down when it came to the bard. And if Gabrielle was weeping, well, it was game over.
Both women leaned forward, their forehead's touching, and rested for a moment. Slowly, the warrior brought up their entwined fingers and laid a very soft kiss on each digit. Xena marveled once more on just how small and soft the bards' hand felt in her own large and callous one. With eyes tightly closed, afraid that perhaps she'd misunderstood things, the tall brunette held her breath. Then feeling her own hand being caressed, she slowly opened her eyes. Gabrielle moved her hand to the side of the warrior's face, and began to trace along the jaw line up to Xena's earlobe with her fingertips. The look they shared was definitely more than one of friendship. The warrior trembled at the soft touch and began nibbling at the bard's hand, her tongue snaking out to run along each digit.
Gabrielle watched in fascination, her eyes wide and throat suddenly gone dry as she tumbled into azure depths of desire. Although she'd heard about the 'look' that Xena had, and the way other's would react when she used her sexual magnetism, she was totally unprepared for her own body's response to it; drawn like a helpless moth to a flame that burned brighter than a million stars. Swallowing deeply, she leaned in and placed a soft kiss on the back of the warrior's hand. The fears she'd wrestled with earlier seemed foolish now; everything between them seemed so right, so easy, and so natural.
She'd always loved Xena's hands; somewhat large with tapered fingers but both strong and soft at the same time. She felt her face grow warm as she watched her friend's full lips part revealing the soft pink tip of her tongue. Feeling a shudder run through her, Gabrielle moved in slowly, intent on feeling those soft expressive lips against her own. She was unaware that her lower lip was trembling but the warrior was all too conscious of the scene unfolding before her. Was Gabrielle trembling from need or fear? Was she unsure of taking their friendship to the next level? Did she know just what she was in for?
These thoughts ran hither and yon through Xena's brain until she was consumed with feelings of doubt and guilt. She closed her eyes and tried to slow the rapid beat of her heart and get a grip on her emotions. Just when she thought she might have things back under control Xena felt such softness, such tenderness, almost like the sensual feeling of silk playing against the surface of her skin. Peeking through a veil of lashes her breath caught as tender lips caressed her own. 'Not a dream,' was the mantra that played incessantly through her head...'not a dream.'
She was hit with memories of the tender looks they had shared over the years, the almost translucent look they'd share when Xena was certain the bard could see into her very soul, and responded in kind, and felt as if a bonfire had ignited within her.
Gabrielle barely noticed as her hands were dropped and the warrior slowly ran fingertips down her rib cage, finally settling around her waist. She did notice Xena's strong thighs embracing her in a forceful grip, as she was pulled closer. She felt the tip of the woman's tongue slide across her lips and moaned as her body responded. It was as if each cell in her body were suddenly on fire, making every nerve tingle with anticipation. She felt her heart beating like a team of thundering horses; her head swimming from the emotional onslaught of a very sexually charged woman. Gabrielle could feel the heat positively radiating off the warrior.
Xena's ardor was at such a level that all she thought of was showing Gabrielle the depth of her love in the only way she knew: with her passion. She'd always been a sensual person, very comfortable with the skills she had as a lover, and very aware of her prowess with those of either gender. No one had been able to resist her sexual charms for long, and the Warrior Princess had always gotten what she set her mind on. She smiled as she thought of the little bard instigating their first time together, rather surprised with her own ability to keep her true feelings in check for so long. It had been hard, that was certain but at long last, finally...
As Xena deepened the kiss, she leaned forward, lowering the bard by the waist until she was flat on the ground. Then, without breaking their kiss, she straddled the woman's hips and moved her hands slowly up to the under swell of the bard's breasts. Oh how she'd wanted this! The idea that her feelings were being reciprocated, finally, unquestionably, was almost enough to finish her off right then and there. Such a burning fire was felt in her lower belly, seeping its molten heat through every inch of her being until Xena felt totally consumed with eroticism. She'd held back these feelings, these desires, for so long and it was like opening the floodgates as she felt the bard move beneath her.
Xena began probing the soft sweet mouth of her soon to be lover; her hands moving up to cover the firm young breasts. She lowered herself completely and worked her hip between the bard's thighs. Oh, how it felt! Even her wildest fantasies couldn't compare to what she was experiencing right now...it had been such a long hard wait...but now, it was all worth it. She wanted to taste every inch of Gabrielle's skin, wallow in the very essence of the woman, surrounding herself with hot pulsating flesh. Now. She didn't want to wait another moment, not another instant; she'd waiting far too long already.
Xena kept sneaking peeks at the woman, reassuring herself that everything was real. Watching the flush come to the woman's sweet face, her moans and heartfelt sighs every time their lips met again was making the warrior quite light-headed.
Gabrielle felt disoriented, short of breath and something akin to...fear. She'd lost control of the situation, and had let the warrior carry her along on a crest of desire, which at the moment, was threatening to completely overpower her. She was simply being totally overwhelmed by the carnality of the situation and felt such uncertainty; her resolve wavering very like a flickering candle in the wind. She didn't want whatever was going to happen to be simply a torrent of raw emotions, hitting them fast and hard and leaving them both weak and somewhat bewildered. More than anything Gabrielle wanted it to be just as the poems she read, which were memorable and full of tenderness with sweet words of love, and talk of a settled future. She had to make Xena understand...she had to stop her.
Xena felt two hands roughly pushing her shoulders, the movement of the woman beneath her turning somewhat frantic and she broke their kiss, leaning back with surprise. "What, Gabrielle, what?" she said between heaving breaths. "Am I hurting you? I want to taste you, feel you sliding against me...you feel so good, I've waited so long, I don't want to stop..."
"Xena! Stop Xena, please! You...you're scaring me...it's too intense..." The bard pushed hard against the warrior's chest until she felt her elbows lock. Xena felt as if she'd been pole axed...'scaring her? Too intense?' She rolled off the woman and lay beside her, panting, trying to quell the fear blossoming in her belly. She'd been certain...hadn't Gabrielle kissed and caressed her hand, her face? Hadn't she told her that she loved her completely? Yet, the look on Gabrielle's face was one of horror and fear.
Xena clenched her jaw, shoring up her emotions once more; yet another sin to be carried upon her already overburdened shoulders. The look of dread cut the warrior to her very soul and she wondered how she could ever make things right again.
"I'm sorry, Xena...but...I thought it would be different", she cried. "I thought you'd be...I don't know. Tender. But it's all happening too fast..." She placed her fingers to her temples and tried to will away the tears. 'It wasn't supposed to be like this!' Gabrielle screamed inside her head. She'd imagined it oh so many times, her nights lately filled with visions of a passionate yet controlled warrior, romancing her, plying her with burning looks, heated kisses, yet never too ardent, never too passionate, letting her decide the speed of the warrior's advance. She rolled over and hid her face in her hands, great sobs of frustration and disappointment racking her body.
'Shite!', cursed the warrior silently, pushing the heels of her palms into her eye sockets, trying to erase the look on Gabrielle's face.
An endless stream of self-hatred seemed to fill her very soul, pushing out thoughts of any bright future she might have had with the bard. She rolled over quickly, jumping to her feet and grabbing her blanket as she made her way back over to the far edge of the fire.
Sitting on the cold ground with her back against a tree, she stared blindly into the flames. Images played through her mind: reaching her hand out, fingers entwined, vowing to never leave her friend, even in death; holding the bard's hand standing at the side of the ship, speaking of all the times the bard had followed her into battle, discovering she did so because of her love for the warrior.
Xena dragged the back of her hand across her eyes and sighed. She watched as the blonde crawled over to her sleep furs and disappeared under the blanket. Clenching her jaw, she removed her breast dagger and began methodically stabbing it into the ground. Each penetration marked a moment lost, a time when she should have used her head and thought about what the bard might want, forgetting what her own libido demanded. "Shite! Godsbedamnit to Hades!" she muttered just under her breath. Couldn't she see how tentative the woman was and how gentle she was being with the big dumb old warrior? Even talking to her, gentling her? Gods...what could she do? How could she make things right again?
She wanted to go to the woman, sweep her into a warm and comforting embrace and yet she knew without a doubt that it wasn't the best course of action. She needed to work things out first. 'I scared her. To see that look of fear and horror...when I only want to love her and spend the rest of my life proving just that. If it takes ten life times...I'll make her see...I'm sorry, Gabrielle...so sorry.'
Gabrielle rolled over scratching her nose and yawning in the morning light. She winced as she pulled out a rock from beneath her bedroll. Arching an eyebrow, she threw it into the direction of the fire pit, and then frowned. Pulling the fur closer around her shoulders, the bard noticed two things: there was no fire, and Xena was gone. She whipped her head around, checking every nook and cranny of their site before getting to her knees. 'Where...?' And then the events of the previous night hit her and she sat down heavily.
"Oh, gods.... Xena, please don't be gone." She sat quietly, each scene of them groping in the dirt playing out in her mind. She saw actions as being very patient and tender, approaching Xena carefully so as not to be misunderstood. She'd played that particular fantasy over and over again; fine tuning it until she was pleased with her performance and confident as to how the warrior would react. Xena would be gentle and loving, very romantic and of course always the patient and honourable lover. However, that isn't quite what happened, and the vision of Xena thrusting against her, pawing at her, made her cringe.
She shook her head forcibly and got to her feet.
Xena wouldn't have left her even if they'd had a quarrel, which they did have, although infrequently. Those brief skirmishes usually ended up with one woman on either side of the fire, both determined not to give in. They never lasted long with the bard usually being the one to make amends. Gabrielle had come to expect it, content to swallow her pride. Xena's communicating skills were almost nonexistent during these times and so sensitive chats weren't something she felt comfortable doing.
Gabrielle suddenly wished she hadn't decided to make fantasy a reality, leaving their comfortable relationship exactly where it had been. She sighed and then began to pick up bits of wood for the fire. Perhaps Xena was out bathing in the nearby stream? Or fishing...yes, perhaps she was off hunting for a nice succulent rabbit. Her stomach took that opportunity to announce itself and Gabrielle groaned. Having started the fire, feeding it until it was a steady blaze, she decided to go down to the lake and look for the warrior. She wasn't too sure what she was going to say but she knew she'd better say something.
Why had things gone so terribly wrong? Gods knew they'd started out just perfectly. Gabrielle thought back to the poetry that she'd read, had even written, regarding romantic love and frowned. Life wasn't anything like she'd imagined when she was a girl in Poteidaia. Thinking she'd matured some since then, the bard was somewhat disgusted to realize just how little she knew about romance and love; in real life, anyway. Forming a few thoughts in her head, she picked up her sleep fur, giving it a good shake, and then folded it by the saddlebags. She noticed Xena's fur remained laid out much as it was the night before, then finally noticed a blanket over by the tree. A cursory glance told the story: the warrior had spent all night there, awake and brooding, waiting for the sun to rise higher in the sky. The bard shook her head at the state of the ground; it had lost its battle easily against the warrior and her ever-present breast dagger.
She rubbed her face and then yawned again; it always amazed her how little sleep the warrior seemed to need. She winced making her way down the path, cursing the rocky terrain.
The warrior sat astride a fallen tree which lay half in and out of the water, her knife imbedded solidly in the wood beside her. She'd removed her boots and had the toes of each foot making lazy circles in the cool water. The warrior's face was set as she finished plaiting the sides of her thick hair. She fingered the hilt on her knife and then blew some of the wood splinters off the log. The time for self-reproach was over; tranquility was her goal now.
In her lap was a pile of flat stones; Xena found it relaxing as she whipped out one after another, watching and counting as each missile hit the hard surface of the lake. Each time she'd wait until the water smoothed out again, finding the act reminiscent of the teachings she'd learned in Chin, years ago. Funny how such a simple thing could settle the raging heart of a woman of such intense emotions. Each cleansing breath seemed to defuse her anger and self-hatred, allowing her to center and focus on the silent and peaceful movements of the lake. She felt at one with the water touching her, the air surrounding her, and the knowledge that this too would pass.
The passage of time was one thing Xena was well acquainted with. In her daily dealings with the dregs of society the one thing she'd learned was that patience was more than a virtue; it was a way of survival.
Nodding slowly, the warrior re-settled her shoulders and released a slow breath.
"Yeah, it'll pass and then things will go back to what they were." A twitch appeared at the corner of her left eye. "And I can spend the next six years eating my heart out every time she comes near." Another twitch appeared as the muscles clenched in her jaw. Her lips twitched as well as the memory of soft lips slipped like the softest breeze against them.
Xena felt her belly tense as images of them together, arms and legs entwined, began slowly invading her mind. Soon the rocks weren't hitting the surface of the water and bouncing; they were being thrown with such force as to cause birds to take flight, complaining to all that would listen with their sonorous squawking.
Xena tore her dagger out of the wood and jabbed it brutally in and out of the log beneath her.
"Godsbedamned! Why do I always ruin things?"
Gods, how she'd wanted the outcome of the previous night to be different! How could she have misread the bard's actions so badly? Xena blinked angrily as her emotions threatened to overflow. Gazing out across the lake with determination, the warrior focused on the dense mist, and imagined the heat of the sun burning the pallor away...from both the sky and her soul.
Her eyes cleared and she looked down at her shaking hand, white with seething rage once more. And then felt a tentative hand run along the outside of her arm, leaving goose flesh in its wake as Gabrielle came along side of her. Xena closed her eyes and drew in a deep shuddering breath. Holding it tightly she willed the raging lust within her to ease and the molten fire began to ebb. Releasing a breath slowly, Xena turned her head and gazed at the bard. Just the close proximity of the woman seemed to ignite her, and she felt her love for Gabrielle bubbling up. If all she could ever hope for was friendship...but oh, how she wanted more! She knew they'd be so good together; could feel it in her very soul. She pushed the blade of her knife deeper into the rotting wood, and sighed.
Gabrielle had her eyes cast downwards and Xena noticed a trembling begin to radiate up from the bard's fingertips to her own shoulder.
Xena saw a tear slowly seep from one eye, and felt overjoyed to see that Gabrielle felt comfortable enough to approach her, and pleased that she felt there was something worth salvaging from their friendship. After all, if Gabrielle was there it meant she still cared.
The warrior slowly reached up to cover the small hand with her own as it settled upon her shoulder. Then, gritting her teeth, she leaned in and placed a soft kiss over the woman's knuckles. Xena winced as the hand jerked, and then slid from her grasp. She sighed deeply, and then squared her shoulders. Well, it was obvious: the bard hated her.
The muscles in the warrior's jaw twitched spasmodically in her effort to hide the pain. However, Gabrielle seemed oblivious to her condition. All she saw was a grim-faced woman who looked angry at the whole world, including herself. What could she say to make Xena understand? She wanted to go forward, not back. But forward meant taking their relationship to a more intimate level. The previous night had been dismal, and Gabrielle began feeling that small worm of doubt as it worked its way like icy fingers along her spinal cord. What if the tall brunette now saw her as something less than a friend and somehow unworthy to be a lover? She ran her fingers through her tangled strands of her hair, and quickly turned her back. Why had she even thought the warrior might be a tender and loving mate? Hadn't Xena been a ruthless warlord, a conqueror of men and women alike? At least those were the rumours.
Suddenly feeling very small, the bard drew in a shaky breath and thought about returning to Poteideia, about making her way back to the Amazons, about...
Xena's brow furrowed as the blonde turned away, a forlorn breath escaping, as she seemed to pause lost in thought. If she were right and the woman now detested her, even flinching from her touch, why was she still there? She watched as the golden crown dipped and the shoulders sagged in defeat, and then it hit her. She'd always prided herself on being a good judge of character, of being able to read body language easily. How could she miss the subtle hints Gabrielle had dropped last night and then again today? All that was missing was the bard throwing herself into the warrior's arms, asking for another chance.
'Hrrmph,' she thought, feeling as if a two-pound mace had whacked her. She didn't hate her, didn't loathe her...Gabrielle felt unworthy...like she'd failed, somehow. Suddenly feeling as if the world's axis had shifted, Xena felt just a brief glimmer of hope appear in the dark tunnel of her existence. Her past had been very dark without the woman, and she knew without a doubt that her future would be at least as dark and dismal. But perhaps this future she painted for herself didn't have to come into play?
She cleared her throat, whispering "Gabrielle?" Easing off the log and lowering herself quietly into the now calm waters of the lake, the warrior shivered a little as the water rose above her groin. Wading slowly towards the retreating blonde she spoke the woman's name in a louder voice, sweeping the ebony mane from her face, all feelings of uncertainty now gone. The ditch of self hatred and insecurity she'd wallowed in had been gratefully left behind, replaced first with the fires of anger and rage, and then by the soft and loving touch of a small delicate hand. With just that simple act, Xena felt redeemed.
Knowing that she'd scared Gabrielle with an unbridled show of passion, she was determined to attack the problem from a different angle. It would take some time to formulate a plan, to kick-start her tactile mind, and remember just how loving she could, at times, be. There had only been two people in the warrior's life who'd elicited such tenderness; the sweet faces of M'Lila and Lao Ma floated just over her vision as she closed her eyes.
When she opened them, she saw that Gabrielle was waiting, her back still to the warrior. Xena smiled, filling her thoughts with the bard, the scent of her hair, the silkiness of the woman's soft skin, and the small lines around the bard's very expressive mouth. How she longed to taste those lips again; feel them returning the passion of an ardent kiss.
Drawing in a long deep breath, the warrior unclenched her shoulders, and then put her hand on the woman's upper arm. Wiping the smile from her face, she let the expressionless facade drop firmly into place before turning the bard to face her.
"Gabrielle", she murmured, cupping the woman's chin, and waited for the bard to make eye contact. "I'm sorry about last night. I guess I scared you, huh?" She paused, noting the small jerk of the woman's chin. "Didn't mean to. I suppose I let my libido take over." She waited until the bard exhaled and then let out the breath she'd been holding as well.
"Yeah, I guess we both did...well, I'm sorry for making you feel uncomfortable. Maybe I was expecting too much and well we could try..." Gabrielle stopped mid sentence as she watched a slow smile play across Xena's mouth, that luscious, sculpted, tender, very tasty mouth. She gulped deeply and tried to smile. Her weak attempt made the warrior grin wider and soon Gabrielle was smirking in that self-depreciating way Xena found so endearing. "I'm rambling. I should just shut up, right? Okay, I can do that." She raised an eyebrow indicating the warrior should continue.
"I'm not gonna apologize for being very attracted to you. I have very deep feelings for you, Gabrielle. Feelings I've held close to my heart that I've never expressed for quite a few years. Yes, I've lusted after you, but you've taught me how to open my heart and experience all that love has to offer." She waited to see if the bard was going to run. Mentally giving herself two points, she went on. "My physical side has always been somewhat...overpowering...I know that. I'm not really great on expressing the softer side of me." Xena scratched the side of her chin. "It's been awhile."
The bard closed the distance between them, and then placed her hands on Xena's damp leather clad waist. "Then I suppose...you need some practice?" she said coquettishly. Then, feeling emboldened, she moved her torso closer to the muscular one before her and stood on tiptoes to press her lips against those that so enticed her.
Xena let the kiss begin to deepen of its own accord, giving the bard full rein. Finally, she tilted her head to the right, brought her hands around to cup the shapely rear and pulled the woman hard against her. Gabrielle moaned as she felt her nipples come to hard painful points as they brushed against the dark leathers. As she felt the warrior's tongue enter her mouth, she brought her hands up around Xena's neck. It was a very unique experience; the cool water gently lapped at her groin and yet her flesh felt as if it was being exposed to a rising flame.
Part of Gabrielle was shouting 'slow down!' and yet a larger part was urging her onward. The blonde made a quick decision to just let things flow this time. She'd been so worried about the play of things, the orchestration of just where she wanted them to go, that she'd somehow fallen off the stage altogether.
She sighed. Being a bard did have its drawbacks.
The warrior pulled away slowly, playing her hands up and down the smaller woman's lower back. "Too fast?" she asked as she moved them back into deeper water. "Oh, no, no, no." The warrior smirked as the bard bit her lip before going on. "Well, yes. But very nice." The bard shivered again as the water rose past her hips. "Are you cold?" Gabrielle blinked slowly, feeling the intimate moment they'd shared shift in its intensity. Unwilling to let it pass completely, she leaned in and took the warrior's earlobe into her hot mouth. A shiver ran through both women as they each battled their growing need. Steeling her reactions, Xena ran an internal inventory of her body's responses and then began toning each one down to manageable levels.
"Let's go for a swim."
Xena began to move them farther away from shore so that neither one could touch the lakebed.
"How about you just laze on the surface here while I go hunt up some fish?" The idea of the warrior leaving her at that moment didn't sit well with Gabrielle and she tentatively moved one leg up and wrapped it around the warrior's upper thigh. "No, don't go." Xena took in a sudden breath as she felt small sharp teeth pulling at her lobe. She growled deeply and pulled her head away from the bard's hungry onslaught.
Things were progressing better than she'd hoped. Not only had she made points and was moving forward, but had regained almost all the ground she'd lost the night before. Although having no illusions about becoming the stalwart, and somewhat romanticized fairytale hero in one of the bard's epic poems, she was willing to make an effort to get as close to the mark as she could. Was she up to it? She gazed into the earnest face of the woman she loved and decided that yes, even if it meant making the supreme sacrifice of getting in touch with her sensitive side, it was all worth it.
Gabrielle looked at the woman and saw her rising passion. Part of her trembled with uncertainty at the prospect of where things were going. Was she truly ready to open the door to her soul and let the warrior walk in? If she continued on the path they were on now she was certain to find out...and in a hurry.
Swallowing deeply the bard moved her legs from around Xena's torso. If she didn't want a repeat of their last encounter she would have to get a grip...on herself as well as the warrior. Placing a trembling finger on her friend's lips Gabrielle leaned in and kissed her nose. "Slowly, Xena...slow down. We've got the rest of our lives. I want this to be special."
Xena exhaled and then pushed them closer to land. "Slowly, yes...very slowly", said the warrior, passion coursing through her. 'Oh by the gods, but she is tempting me!' she railed at herself. She was determined not to mess things up this time; determined to let the bard lead them and set the pace. But it was so hard! Gabrielle seemed bolder by the minute, and the warrior wondered just how far she'd take things.
"You seem to have something in mind, Gabrielle. Almost as if you've seen this...us...in some sort of dream, and are acting it out. Tell me about it." She watched as the woman's eyes widened. Then a small grin played on the blonde's lips and Xena knew she'd been right. 'Just what did the woman have planned,' wondered the warrior.
"Well, I have pictured us together, Xena, but I thought you'd be like the romantic soldiers that come in and save the fair maiden from certain death. Wooing me with flowery words, heroic deeds, and then, well, we'd ride off into the sunset."
Xena quickly covered her mouth to stifle the snicker.
"What?" Gabrielle frowned.
"Well, soldiers are rarely romantic, Gabrielle. Mostly they live from day to day doing their best not to be killed from sheer boredom. If they're very lucky, well, they get into battle and die from festering wounds. I suppose that could be considered 'romantic', but..."
The blonde rolled her eyes.
"And then of course, you have those of us who escape our twisted but oh so romantic past as boring minions, and go on to be reviled and feared as warlords. I suppose that could be considered romantic, too. And as for those fair maidens, I've captured a few as the spoils of war in my day. Their romantic lives included being treated like slaves for the most part. They survive from the scraps left at the table, but only after even the lowliest of soldiers has had his meager share. And after the warlords had used these half-starved women for their pleasure, of course. Most times they were left behind to tend to the wounded and dying. If the camp was overrun while the soldiers were out pillaging, then they were either enslaved or murdered along with the wounded; simple casualties of war. In the end, their romantic little life expectancy was about ten months."
Gabrielle's eyes widened.
"So, I'm being unrealistic?"
Xena nodded and then kissed her hand. "A little, yes."
Then she turned and waded towards the large half-submerged tree.
"There are very few things a soldier can afford to clothe himself with, Gabrielle. Honour should be number one, but that's a rare commodity. A dreamer doesn't last very long, so it follows a romantic fool wouldn't either."
Squeezing her hair out, the bard followed and watched as Xena removed her knife from the trunk. Her brows furrowed as she saw the deep slash marks and gouges and was reminded of just how violent her friend truly was. How very immature she was to think Xena could be romantic, poetic...
Xena watched a look of sorrow pass over her friend's face. Replacing her dagger, she reached over and kissed the soft, but slightly blue skin of her...
'My what? I know Gabrielle wants me just as I want her. She has a rather stilted view of the realities of life, but she'll come around...won't she?' While the thought of ever truly expressing herself to the blonde had been, at best, a desired figment of her imagination, Xena was finding it hard to just put everything back into Pandora's Box, and forget the line they'd crossed. Surely, the bard would reciprocate? Xena's brow furrowed as thoughts of not only their friendship, but also their future, went up in smoke, too. Resettling her emotions once more Xena smiled bravely and then patted the blonde's shoulder as they entered the campsite.
"How about really getting that fire going? I'm sure you're hungry, and I know I could use a bite myself."
Gabrielle watched as the woman threw her head back and then wrung the moisture from the dark tresses. 'She really is a goddess.' Tearing her eyes from the warrior, the blonde swallowed with a click and then began fussing about the camp.
"Yeah, that sounds good. You didn't happen to see any fish back there, did you?"
Xena chuckled and then shook her head.
"No, I'm sure we scared them away with our thrashing."
A faint blush began to spread over the younger woman's cheeks as she remembered how bold she'd been. While she hadn't known exactly what to do, it had seemed to illicit a favorable response when she'd snaked her leg up to encircle the warrior's lower torso.
Maybe she should be more physical, combining poetry and action? She stroked her chin in thought.
A loud growl pierced the air and Xena snorted.
"Well, I guess that's my cue. I think rabbit or Guinea fowl should do nicely for breakfast."
Gabrielle cursed her demanding belly and turned her head to reply but the warrior had already left.
"Whoa, bard. If you want to actually live a fairytale then you'd better head back to Poteidaia. The realities of the here and now are that you are dealing with a very passionate ex-warlord, not some fop who will shower you with eloquent words and deeds." Rubbing the corner of her mouth in thought, Gabrielle continued to push twigs into the growing fire as she pondered the situation more thoroughly.
Wiping the blade off onto a nearby leaf, Xena grunted with satisfaction and then buried the offal.
"Not too shabby. I might even get a bit of this one." Hefting the rabbit carcass, Xena put it at about 2 or 3 pounds. Well known for her ravenous appetite, hunting for the bard was always a challenge. The warrior arched an eyebrow as she thought of other appetites the young woman might have that would be equally as challenging.
Putting two fingers to her lips, Xena found herself reliving the hot passionate kisses she'd enjoyed the night before. And then she shook her head. No, that will never do.
Gone were the days when as a warlord, she could and would just take the bounty, whether it was offered or not. Xena felt her blood rushing past her ears as feelings of pure carnal lust poked and prodded at her sense of control.
"Can't take them, so she has to offer them to me. And just how do I get her to give 'em up? Her mouth says slow but her body says go."
Pushing her lips out in concentration, the warrior began thinking of some romantic things that might help win the blonde over. "Hey, I can be romantic, and do the bard thing."
Clearing her throat, she winked at the rabbit, and then went on.
"Your eyes are like the glowing sea phosphorus that gleams from still pools." Xena nodded her head admiringly.
"Yeah, that's nice." She gave the carcass a pat.
"Your shapely ass...no, no...buttocks. Yeah. Your shapely buttocks.
The shape and beauty of your eyes
Sets my heart a flutter
The softness of your silken thighs"
Xena stopped in mid step, and began hitting her upper thigh with the rabbit.
"The softness of your silken thighs...is smooth like rendered butter." An eyebrow shot up into raven tresses.
"Oh yeah...that'll just sweep her right off her feet."
She began pacing once more.
"Reduces thought to clutter...better. Not perfect, but better.
I long to hold you in my arms
And cover you with kisses
To share with you my darkest charms
And the passion it illicits
Oh, I like that one! Hey, not half bad for an ex-warlord." She patted the soft fur of the rabbit again, and then tried to commit her ditty to memory.
"Now, was that 'The beauty of your size'...gods, I've gotta start paying more attention to what I say. Hey, I could come up with a really good one and never know it. How does Gab do this all the time?"
She brought the bunny up eye to eye. "Who'da thought making things rhyme would be so hard?" Xena thought of the reams of poetry and stories they had stashed in the saddlebags and her appreciation for the bard's talents rose a notch or two.
'So, more poetry and less ardency, huh? Hmmm...well...I guess I can give it a try.'
Hefting the rabbit by the ears, the warrior chortled. "Gabrielle is gonna love you. Gotcha, caughtcha, now I'm gonna skin ya."
Gabrielle sat on a rock by the fire and planned her next move.
"Just as soon as Xena comes back...I'll...I'll..."
'I'll what? C'mon, Gabrielle. You're the bard here. Write a scene, flesh it out...'
"Flesh. Oh gods." She remembered just how nice and strong and warm and soft and...Shaking her head quickly, she sent the image of both of them in the water away. She had to think clearly, and that image was just not helping.
"Well, let's see. I'll..." She swallowed deeply, thinking about just how very physical the warrior was. And passionate. That look in Xena's eyes had all but set her skin aflame. And that was before she'd even touched her.
While Gabrielle had spent many nights dreaming of Xena making love to her, she now saw that the patience and tenderness she'd envisioned was not who the warrior was.
"I'll have to rethink my scenario a bit more, now that I've seen just how sexual Xena really is." She bit a nail in thought.
Gabrielle closed her eyes and remembered how those lips had felt on her neck, how the larger hand had felt on her face, on her mouth, her thigh...
Clearing her throat with a squeak, the blonde moved her hand quickly away from her own upper thigh and jumped to her feet, giving Argo a guilty look. The horse snorted as Gabrielle began running her hand over the mare's back.
"Oh, this is so funny, huh? Is she always so passionate about everything? I mean, she attacks life, every portion of it. But when she gets, well you know, passionate, she gets so intense and her eyes turn this sapphire blue. Why haven't I ever noticed that before?" The bard remembered all those nights when she first began traveling with the warrior. What she initially perceived as brooding ferocity was really passionate vigor. She shivered. "Whew! Okay, so maybe that intensity scared me a little. Or a lot."
She began chewing her lip in thought.
"But Xena really liked it when I was bolder. And I'm not a young girl traveling with an ex-warlord; I'm a woman. But I can't just expect her to treat me like a woman if I'm acting like a child. So..." The blonde wiggled her fingers suggestively.
Xena walked back into the camp holding a nicely dressed rabbit and a freshly plucked Guinea hen. She smirked as the bard's belly announced itself again. Knowing the blonde as she did the warrior had felt it prudent to get something besides Br'er Rabbit, just in case.
"...gods, I could eat her alive."
"Whoa! Hands off the horse, savage woman whose eyes are bigger than belly. We can't eat Argo...she's too tough and besides, she's the love of my life."
Argo brought her head up and nodded, taking a deep breath of her mistress' familiar scent. She snorted twice, and bumped the blonde softly against the shoulder.
Gabrielle turned around slowly, a smile playing on her lips.
"Love of your life? Her? What do they say? 'A warrior and her horse make strange bedfellows'?"
Xena coughed, and then smiled.
"Well, I have done many things on my horse, gone many places and experienced...many things." Hiding a smirk, Xena thought it best to just move on. "Actually, I'd have to say that you are the love of my life, Gabrielle."
A sigh caught in the younger woman's throat at just how romantic her friend was being. Xena really could be very gallant and charming when she chose to be.
"'Have to', huh?"
Xena smiled crookedly. "Ya might not rank right up there with Argo, but..."
Gabrielle swatted the woman's belly as Xena moved towards her.
"And she doesn't steal the covers, either...or snore...or..."
Xena placed both hands up in defense as another strike scored on the front of her leathers.
"Hey," she complained half-heartedly. "Is that any way to treat someone who just brought you breakfast?" Xena chortled as she held up both carcasses teasingly.
The blonde smirked and tried to grab the nearest menu item.
"Uh, uh, uh. What'll ya give me for it?" she taunted.
The warrior's eyes widened as her vision was filled with a sparkle-eyed bard, just before her lips were covered in a searing kiss.
Xena could feel herself letting go. Images of just seducing the bard, and taking what she wanted, what they both needed, filled her mind. Her hands came up slowly, but she resisted the urge to fondle the sweet flesh pressing against her, closing her eyes tightly instead.
"Whoa..." She had to stop, to step back, before things got too carried away again.
Gabrielle watched as Xena's eyes popped back open, very pleased that she could render the sexual dynamo speechless, if only for a moment.
An easy feeling settled between them as they began preparing their meal.
It took a good hour before both women were done cooking and eating their fare. The warrior smiled as she surveyed the remains of their meal. Gabrielle was still picking tiny pieces of flesh from what was left of the rabbit, oblivious to anything, her happiness evidenced by the low toneless humming Xena was becoming accustomed to.
Finally, Gabrielle covered her mouth barely suppressing a burp. "Oh, that really was delicious. Thank you."
Xena smiled and leaned over, wiping the grease from her friend's chin.
"So, getting that extra critter was a good idea after all, huh?"
Gabrielle burped loudly, and the warrior laughed as the younger woman's face turned red.
"Oh, excuse me. Yes, it was a very good idea."
She looked up into the sky, noticing it was getting late, and poked Xena in the shoulder.
"I guess that will serve as either an early lunch or a late breakfast. Shouldn't we be..."
Xena smirked. "Oh, so you're telling me you won't be hungry in two hours?"
"Thought so. Well, might as well go down to the lake and check it out."
Gabrielle frowned. "Are we staying longer, then?"
"Well...I thought it might be a good idea if we took a break from being the good guys for awhile." She cleared her throat. 'And perhaps I can woo you with some poetry, bard. Lessee...how did that go?
I long to fold you in my arms
And smother you with kisses.'
A sly smile came to her lips as she envisioned the blonde all but swooning over her oratory skills.
The blonde arched an eyebrow at the somewhat lecherous smile the warrior was sporting. If they weren't being good, then it followed they were going to be bad. 'Hmmm.'
Xena blinked and looked at the bard out of the corner of her eye. "Besides, clean water is nearby, there seems to be plenty of game, and we have good shelter against the elements."
The bard smirked. "Not to mention the good fishing."
Xena blinked innocently. "Now, we don't know that. Yet."
The blonde yelped as she was literally swept off her feet.
"Xena, put me down!"
"Oh, I will. I think I'll just use you as bait. Here fishy, fishy, fishy!"
Gabrielle began to struggle as the warrior's long strides ate up the distance. And then she felt one of Xena's hands began to tickle her side.
"No...No! Stop...please, stop!"
Suddenly, it wasn't funny any more as the brunette noticed a certain tone of voice coming from her friend. She dropped the blonde carefully down on the sand and stood back, uncertain as to her next move.
"I'm...I'm sorry, Gabrielle."
"You know how ticklish I get." She said breathlessly.
Xena stood there feeling foolish. She'd thought to make the bard feel a little more comfortable before launching into her sensitive/romantic scene. Although an accomplished orator, the warrior felt totally flummoxed when it came to performing in front of this petite woman. She could recite Lao Tsu's Rules of Engagement to a hoard of battle-worn seasoned tougher-than-nails men but felt her belly tighten with fear at the mere thought of sharing her romantic side with Gabrielle.
She bit her lip and then tried to find something interesting across the lake. Perhaps Gabrielle would relax a bit more if she were quiet. Yes, quiet might be just the ticket. Xena stroked her jaw pensively, and then moved it from side to side. When was the last time she'd yammered on like this?
"Gods, I can take anything but tickling!" Gabrielle bent over, hands on her knees, and slowly caught her breath. Taking a quick sideways glance, she could see Xena was erecting her usual stoic exterior. The bard felt foolish, having nipped the easy camaraderie they'd finally gotten back to after the...incident. If only Xena hadn't tickled her.
Each woman stood silently on the bank, the air becoming somewhat electrified with the ebb and flow of their intense emotions.
Gabrielle twisted the fabric on her skirt, goading herself into some sort of action. If boldness turned the warrior on, well, perhaps it would be best to do something of that nature.
Xena caught the worried look as it played across Gabrielle's face, and wondered if they were back to square one. It had taken the better part of the morning just getting past some of the awkwardness, and now...
She kicked herself for her foolish behavior earlier. She knew the bard was ticklish, but not that ticklish. She sighed deeply and silently cursed her thoughtless hands.
Well, if she wanted to get the woman back into her arms, she was going to have to make amends. 'Poetry. Yeah, sweet words and patience would win the day. First, she'd rock the fortifications with a bit of rhyming, and then...
Her mind went blank as her thoughts came to a screeching halt. 'And then what?' It had been a very long time since she'd entertained the idea of a relationship, and even then romance was a somewhat one sided affair at best.
She chewed the inside of one cheek as she thought of her last encounter. An eyebrow arched as images of the Hestian gardener came to mind. 'Yep, her knowledge of summer squash had come in handy.' The affair had been short and sweet, ending when the 'virgin' had wanted more of Xena's time. She could still see the look on the priestess' face that morning when she'd caught them in the barn.
Xena stifled a snicker as she remembered how terribly relieved Leah had been when she'd found out no sheep were involved.
The warrior moved a little farther down the beach as a large fish broke the surface of the water. Oh, she could almost feel its wriggling body between her fingers. Her thoughts naturally flowed back to the Hestian as memories of their time together popped into her head. No, there certainly hadn't been any romance on her part. The woman had been in the right place at the right time for the warrior to take to bed. Was she even capable of sustaining a serious relationship?
'What had her name been?' Short, blonde, bluish/green eyes, compact petite figure...her brow furrowed as she realized just how similar the woman had been to a certain bard.
She sighed again. 'Why go for the copy when you can have the original, fool?' And the original was just a few paces from her, too. 'How did that poem go?'
Gabrielle heard Xena sigh a few times and realized that her window of opportunity was closing. The warrior was putting distance between them, and she could see Xena was just not happy. Checking her clothing and cleavage, the mild mannered Poteidaian became a sexually charged woman not to be denied.
'Well, here goes nothing...'
Taking a deep breath, Gabrielle closed the distance between them, and then launched herself at the warrior, catching Xena totally by surprise.
Both women went down in a heap, and Xena winced as the back of her head came into contact with the surface of the beach.
Gabrielle had been in the midst of latching onto the warrior's exposed neck when the woman yelped in pain.
Xena pulled a sharp rock out from under her buttocks, and tried to figure out what was going on. Had they been attacked? Had the woman fainted?
Jumping almost straight up into the air, Gabrielle stood there with indecision. Should she just apologize and blame it on clumsiness, or...
Gabrielle chose the latter and pounced on the warrior again, who quickly deduced they were under attack, and rolled both of them into the water. Usually, there would have been no problem with the warrior defending them both, but as she'd left her weapons back at the camp the best defense was flight.
"Keep yer head down, Gabrielle!" She dunked the smaller woman's head back under the water as she quickly scanned the area for trouble.
The bard struggled, and then came up gasping and sputtering.
Finally deducing there was no attack actually taking place Xena let the woman go. She arched an eyebrow in confusion as the bard glared at her, and then watched quizzically as she stalked back to shore.
"What the heck was that all about?"
Gabrielle turned, her jaw set, eyes narrowed, and fists bunched, but said nothing. It didn't help that the object of her ire was exiting the water like some Oceanic Goddess.
Xena slowly wrung out her hair and squeezed her bodice a little, checking to see her breast dagger was still in place.
"C'mon, Gabrielle...spill it. Did you see something, or..."
"Forget it. Just...forget it."
Xena frowned as the blonde stomped back towards the camp.
"Hey, you look like a drowned ra..."
She coughed as a pair of green eyes pinned her where she stood.
"Well, ya do...but a cute drowned rat." She hurried after the bard, hopping from foot to foot in an effort to release the gallons of water from her boots.
"Hey, wait up! Gabrielle? What's wrong?"
The silence stretched out over the campsite, much as the mist had over the lake, and the women sat brooding, each tangled within their own thoughts.
Argo snorted against the drying clothing and gave the two women a baleful look as they huddled under blankets on either side of the fire. Her coat twitched as the sun went behind some clouds and the temperature began to dip. She sniffed the air deeply and then moved back under the tree bows.
Xena sat watching the flames flicker and the wood crackle. She sighed darkly, and then glanced at her friend. How had things gone downhill so fast? While the memory of the bard's sweet kisses were still tingling across her lips and brain, the warrior could feel a cold distance sprouting up between them.
Gabrielle sat fuming. She kept sneaking glances at the warrior, and knew by her grumpy demeanor that her dismal attempts at spontaneity and boldness had done nothing to improve her disposition. The distance between them grew.
What could she say? What could she do?
The smoke swirled up, carrying small cinders of living fire, and the warrior watched as they spiraled back down, cold and lifeless. She poked the embers and watched the scene repeat itself.
The light from the fire cast funny shadows as the afternoon began to dwindle into early evening.
"So." She began haltingly.
The blonde looked up and watched as the warrior shrugged off her blanket and began to work on her weapons.
Gabrielle frowned, wondering just what Xena was going to say. And then it hit her. The warrior looked very uncomfortable. Perhaps she had decided they shouldn't continue to travel together? A sinking feeling gnawed at her gut, and Gabrielle felt her gorge begin to rise.
Xena leaned forward as the woman's belly began making funny squeaks.
"It's getting dark, so I'd better go and catch something for supper." She pulled at her shift and then nodded; it was almost dry. "You...um...you said fish, right?"
Gabrielle swallowed deeply, and tried to mention that she wasn't really hungry, but by the time she'd gotten to her feet, Xena was almost out of sight.
"I wish she wouldn't do that." She grumbled, as the fading light all but swallowed her friend up instantly. She pulled the blanket closer around her shoulders, and then reached for their saddlebags.
It wasn't very long before the campsite was organized once again, with the bedrolls nicely shaken and repositioned. Gabrielle wondered if Xena wanted her bedroll on the other side of the fire, but decided to keep them the way they had always been; together.
Heaving a painful sigh, the blonde paced back and forth, trying to understand why things weren't working out. Xena seemed to like it when she was bold but when she acting that way everything was mess. Gabrielle had thought being spontaneous might help her in that department, because as a rule, she was more methodical and tentative when it came to expressing herself sexually.
God's knew it had taken almost all night before she'd even let Perdicus move beyond the kissing stage. And then...She shuddered at the memories, and rubbed her hands briskly on the hem of her shift.
Down by the lake Xena watched as the moon slowly rose, bathing her in partial light. The clouds had increased, and there was now a rather daunting bank of them filling the sky. Her nostrils flared as the scent of rain was detected. The leaves of the nearby trees danced in the light breeze, their undersides turned towards the coming rain.
With ear cocked carefully the warrior stood perfectly still waiting for supper to announce itself. She pursed her lips as she thought of bringing a large fish in as a peace offering.
'That and some poetry. Yeah, if nothing else, maybe we can just go back to being friends. I'd settle for that right about now.'
She snorted and then cleared her throat.
"Now, what was that poetry? 'Your eyes are like the glowing sea scum caught in the back eddy of still pools.'" She scratched her chin. "Yeah, that sounds about right."
With a whoop and a holler she lunged forward and then threw a very large bass onto the bank along side the other smaller fish.
Although the temperature of the water was a lot colder, and the sky a lot darker than it had been only four hours earlier, Xena felt neither discomfort nor worry about any nighttime denizens. She felt totally at ease with her surroundings. Her thoughts were filled with memories when she and her two brothers would spend the evening looking for nightcrawlers and other wigglies, so that their nights could be spent fishing in the sweet solitude their time away from the village provided.
"Why aren't things as simple as they were back then? Back then, I would have simply looked into her eyes and kissed her passionately, leaving little doubt as to my intentions. Now things are so complicated!"
She splashed the water in frustration, and watched as the slivers of the reflected moon shivered around her.
Xena reached down and touched the surface of the water gently in a sweet caress.
"As golden as the moon's rays are, as shimmering as this reflection is, neither can compare to the halo of radiance that adorns my beauty's fair head."
She splashed the water again. "Damn! What did I just say? It sounded so good. I'm gonna have to start carrying parchment around with me pretty soon."
Gabrielle watched from behind a tree bow, the darkness completely obscuring her presence, as Xena sat back in the water and began mumbling. The bard strained both ears trying to figure out just what the woman was saying but found it impossible. Dropping to her hands and knees she began inching forward until she could hear the words more distinctly.
"Okay warrior, start poeting. Gotta get it right and then maybe I can lull a certain blonde into...what am I saying? If I wanted to seduce her, I could, that's never been an issue. If I just wanted sex...not that I don't want it...gods, it has been far too long as it is...well, I would have just taken that tavern wench last week. No, you don't want her...so find a way to win her. Oh, Gabrielle."
Xena closed her eyes momentarily, the faint scent of the bard filling her nose, and then shook her head in frustration.
"C'mon! Get with the program, ya big dumb warrior. If poetry is what she wants and needs, then poetry she'll get. Now how did that go...?"
The blonde's heart seemed to be clenched in a tight fist as she realized her friend was trying to woo her in ways she herself had thought were impossible for the warrior. She was trying to be romantic, and thoughtful. Even if it were only some limerick, it would be from her heart.
Her lower lip began to tremble as she realized the depths of the other woman's love. She could see that Xena was struggling, and perhaps she'd been expecting too much.
She opened her mouth to announce her presence, and then snapped it closed again as she heard Xena composing a poem in her honour.
"I long to hold you in my arms and cover you with kisses
To share with you my dark desire and fulfill all of your wishes.
Yeah, I really like that."
So did Gabrielle, who sat all but flummoxed amongst the pine needles and breathlessly awaited more of the same.
"Your eyes are like the glowing sea scum caught in the back eddy of still pools."
Gabrielle squawked as she attempted to remove her tongue from the back of her throat.
Xena jumped up quickly, and then cursed herself for leaving her weapons behind once more.
"Godsbedamnit!" She quickly popped her breast dagger out, and then slowly made her way back to shore, eyes peering carefully, and senses finally back up to full alert.
"For crying out loud, poeting is not only hard work but dangerous, too. Never even felt a stranger's presence. Godsbedamnit. If he's gotten down to the water, chances are he's already been to the campsite. Gabrielle."
And then visions of her worst fears were allayed as the object of her worry stepped carefully out of the shadows. The woman had gotten back into her damp clothes and stood in the waning light, shivering.
"What are you doing sneaking around in the dark?"
The blonde coughed and then cleared her throat. "First of all, I wasn't sneaking, I was...well, I came looking for you when you didn't come back right away."
Xena said nothing, but the smirk on her face left no question as to why she figured the bard would come looking for her. Dinner.
"Hey, I was worried..."
Xena arched an eyebrow as the woman averted her eyes, and then laughed as a deep grumble betrayed her true motive.
"And...and second of all, my eyes are like green stagnant pools of iridescent slime?"
Xena's eyes went wide realizing that her feeble attempts at poetry had been overheard. What in Tartarus had she been thinking? She wasn't a poet! While certainly capable of rousing a garrison of soldiers into a wave of mindless patriots under her flag it was quite a different prospect to use those very same skills to...
One eyebrow came up. Why? Why was it different? Perhaps she should attack the problem from that angle instead. Xena mentally rubbed her hands together.
Gabrielle watched as Xena replaced her knife, and struggled to shore, looking rather pensive.
'If I choose my words carefully, arouse her curiosity, her passion...' A steely resolve settled upon the warrior's features, and a confident grin was quickly covered as Xena stroked her jaw.
"I heard what you said..." the bard went on.
Xena mumbled something under her breath, and Gabrielle was torn as to just how she should proceed. On the one hand Xena had really been speaking from the heart and had been genuinely trying to create poetry...for her. But on the other hand Xena had been caught baring her soul, and fumbling while doing so.
She bit her lip and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. No, maybe it was prudent if she not point out a skill the warrior hadn't mastered. Yet.
Xena sighed, and then took hold of the blonde's elbow.
"Look, here's the thing, Gabrielle. I've been thinking about this for awhile, and well we both know how we feel about each other, right?"
The blonde blinked slowly, taken aback at the warrior's direct approach.
Xena rolled her shoulders, and then began pacing back and forth over the sand.
"I'm not a poet, but you are. I've been trying to show you the depths of my feelings, but I'm more of physical kind of person, which scared you off. Okay, well I can regroup, I can adapt."
Gabrielle opened her mouth, and then shut it with a snap as blue flinty eyes bore into her.
"I'm talking here."
The indecisive warrior that had been wandering around in a daze the past twenty-four hours ceased to exist, and Gabrielle felt herself being charmed by the awakening charisma of the former warlord.
"I'm a very decisive type, squaring my shoulders and plowing through the battlefield with one objective in mind: taking what ever it is that I want. And I want you. So,"
The bard gulped, but remained silent.
"So," the warrior continued. "That means I can attack things one of two ways. I can try the passive route; infiltrating enemy lines, camouflaging myself as either a local or as someone who seems harmless and therefore ignored. Okay, I tried that. I did the patient-lover thing. I tried the romance-the-bard thing. I even began second guessing any future I might have with you."
She scratched her upper jaw sheepishly. "That last one was a mistake. Never give up. You set your sights on an objective, you plan a strategy by which you can obtain said objective, and you carry through. You may have to regroup and reanalyze the situation but you never waver from the task at hand."
Gabrielle reached a hand out and pinched her own forearm. No, she wasn't dreaming. This was the most verbose she'd ever seen Xena. Who knew the woman had even heard the caliber of words she was using let alone knew what they meant?
"The other way, of course, is to go the aggressive route; using sheer brute strength and proving my prowess as a force to be reckoned with. Well, we did that too, didn't work either. All right. So regrouping, I've assessed the enemy lines and have decided to send in a barrage of propaganda. Not withstanding my limitations as a bard, I've realized that by sheer will and information, I can bend you to my will, conquer any obstacles you may throw at me, and render any defences moot."
Gabrielle sat down heavily in the sand.
Xena waggled her eyebrows, a confidant lop-sided grin lighting her face up like a beacon.
'Heh, working already.'
"I know you've probably heard all the rumours about my past: that I wooed both men and women into the sack; I was the sole definition of 'depravity' in the quest for all things carnal; just a heartless bitch who just took what she wanted, leaving broken hearts in her wake..."
She peered carefully at the woman sitting in the sand, and seeing her comments neither refuted nor confirmed, soldiered on undaunted.
"...and while some of that may have been true it's neither here nor there, because the person I was had to exist any way she could. I'm sure you'd agree that appearances are important, whether you are the machine moving ever forward or the fuel by which it exists."
Gabrielle's brow furrowed in thought as she tried to follow what the warrior was saying. Something about wooing men and women...
"And besides, the skills gleaned from such encounters have stood me in good stead, both as a military tactician and a successful warlord. What I couldn't conquer with sheer force of numbers I did with intense and unbridled sexuality." The warrior gesticulated madly as she strove to get the points across to her audience.
The blonde was feeling numb as the contents of what the warrior was saying began to seep into her addling brain.
"Do you?" Her fingers curled around the moist grit beneath her, and Gabrielle found herself blinking back the tears.
"Do you, Xena?"
Xena stopped abruptly as the tiny voice became stronger.
She turned and her heart wrenched as a look of pain passed over the bard's gentle face.
Quickly dropping to one knee, the warrior reached out a hand and tentatively touched her friend's shoulder.
"Do I what, Gabrielle?"
The bard's face turned red again as she tried to formulate her question.
"Do you...want to conquer me?"
The warrior's nostrils flared and her hand seemed to burn with the contact of the woman's skin.
Did she want to conquer Gabrielle? Did she want to bend her totally until the bard gave up both body and soul? Did she want the woman in total thrall of her sexual prowess, her wanton desires, and her dark unbridled lust?
Xena sat down heavily in the sand, her face filled with anger and sorrow and...desire. Just exactly what did she want from this relationship? Were her needs and desires too much to ask of someone so obviously inexperienced in the ways of love and lust?
The two sat on the beach, the confusion, the doubt and the frustration ebbing and flowing much like the water that lapped at their legs. The clouds rolled dangerously overhead, mirroring the battle that went on silently there between them.
Thoughts seemed to ramble through the bard as she actually inspected the depths they might actually go to. Was she capable of loving this woman with the same intensity she could see ruled the warrior in every aspect of her life? Was there nothing she wouldn't do, no lengths she would not go to in her efforts to please the woman in every way that she could? Had she actually thought the consequences of her actions through? She shuddered with the memory of the fierce desire that had seemed to pulsate from the woman that night that seemed almost a lifetime ago. Could she give herself totally to Xena?
Gabrielle felt herself responding to the enigmatic woman. Whether it was because of the perceived vulnerability or the promises of wild carnal delights laced with scenes of submission, dominance, or bending to her unconquerable will she didn't know. All she did know was that Xena was going to great lengths to win her.
And then it hit her: why was she resisting? Hadn't the battle already been fought and won that first day when the warrior mopped the floor with the slavers and saved her from unmentionable horrors? And why was she so afraid of going to the next level of their relationship? Hadn't they both risked life and limb for each other time and time again? And hadn't they told each other everything - their deepest and darkest fears, their hopes and dreams, and their enduring love for one another?
Xena moved closer to the woman and then took her hand pensively. Gabrielle picked up a handful of wet sand and let it fall between her fingers. "Please tell me that I'm not just a challenge, just some conquest that you'll get tired of..."
The warrior's hand trembled with the power it took to control her need to scream out her agony. How could Gabrielle think that of her?
"I don't want to win you, Gabrielle. I want..." Her brow creased as she pondered her next words. What exactly did she want?
"I want us to spend the rest of our lives together. I want us to wake up each day grateful for the lives we have, knowing that we're together because we want to be, not because we have to...in whatever fashion that is."
Gabrielle felt her heart skip a beat and clutched the warrior's fingers painfully before dropping both hands into her lap.
"I'm afraid, Xena."
The warrior bit her lip, heedless of the coppery taste that resulted. She knew, deep in her heart, that this moment might one day come: that the bard would realize just how dangerous living along side a violent person such as she would be. And truth be told, the woman had every right to be afraid...but it didn't lessen the blow.
"Can you tell me why?"
Gabrielle blinked away her tears and barked out a short laugh. "How can I ever compete with the people in your past, Xena?" The hesitance was clear in her voice as she soldiered on. "How can I measure up and be everything that you need? I'm just a foolish girl from a hick town who, for one shining moment, thought she could actually wheedle her way past the barriers..."
Xena breathed out a breath and tried to still her fingers by inspecting the loose ties on her knee guards.
"But you did, Gabrielle. You had the nerve to do something no one else would: you hunted me down and bagged me...body and soul." Pushing away a bit of moisture near one eye with the back of her hand, Xena turned to the woman and silently urged the woman to look at her.
"You are everything to me, don't you see?"
Gabrielle finally looked into the eyes of the woman she loved and smiled.
"I think I've always loved you."
Xena snorted quietly. "Why has it taken us this long to get to this point? Think of all the time we've wasted."
Pursing her lips a little, the bard took a small amount of wet sand and let it fall on Xena's leg.
The warrior's brow lifted as another fistful was added to the first.
"Planning on burying me in the sand?"
Gabrielle plopped the contents of her two hands onto the warrior's rapidly disappearing knee.
"Nothing's ever wasted, Xena. If I just dropped ten handfuls of sand onto you every day for five or six years I suppose you'd come to the same conclusion. But being the marvelous tactician you are I guess we can bypass the actual lesson."
Xena's other eyebrow joined the first. "Okay, point taken. So it hasn't been wasted. So," she dragged her index finger through the mess on her leg. "Where does that take us?"
Gabrielle laughed and looked away in such an endearing manner that Xena was hit again with the intensity of her emotions.
"We've said it so many times over the years, haven't we? But when I say it now I want you to know..."
The bard pressed a finger to the woman's lips. "I know. I suppose I've always known, really. I mean, why else would you have kept me around? Friendship is one thing, but...I've been nothing but trouble, an irritating tag along, and a real pain in the..." She poked the warrior's leg. "You can stop me anytime, you know."
One side of Xena's lips twitched. "But you're doing so well, Gabrielle."
"Hey! Am I really that much trouble?"
Xena pushed her lips out and then scratched her chin. "Yep," she said after a few seconds of thought. "But I love you anyway."
Gabrielle's face lit up and she moved so they sat side-by-side, hips touching, in the sand. "Yeah?"
The blonde smirked in response as the warrior probed a couple of teeth before speaking. Xena never was one for lengthy heart-to-hearts and Gabrielle figured the woman was just about ready to clam up, having banked at least two days grace from the past twenty-four hours alone.
Finally Xena nodded and Gabrielle smiled knowingly. She wondered if the woman would become a little more verbal after they became lovers? Her ears began to burn as the reality of the situation hit her and a flush moved across her face. 'Gods.'
The warrior leaned back on her elbows, crossed her ankles and appeared to be looking out at the slowly receding clouds, all the while watching the bard intensely. Although the bard had certainly shown a more ardent side to her, Xena knew it was all so very new for her.
"You know what?"
Gabrielle brushed a bit of sand off her arm and leaned back. She watched quietly as the warrior picked a few granules of sand and sprinkled them into the foam gathering under her elbow. A few minutes ticked by. Finally gathering up all of her nerve, the blonde moved her hand slowly over and began to trail her fingers over the warrior's forearm.
Gabrielle gasped as her fingers were grabbed and pressed quickly against hot lips.
Xena blinked slowly at the woman. "You realize it's gonna take us forever to get all the sand out. I swear I have sand in places only a really, really good friend could find. You up for that little chore?"
Laughter filled the air and the bard quickly rolled over the woman, covering her completely.
"Heh, well I guess the question of just what we are to each other can finally be laid to rest."
Xena wrapped both arms around the bard and looked up into her twinkling eyes. "What, you mean there's been some speculation? Why would anyone care either way?"
Gabrielle rubbed the end of her nose across the warrior's. "Well, there have been some comments over the years. Hercules for one, and Ephiny's been hinting for quite awhile now."
Xena rolled her eyes. "It's clear both have far too much time on their hands."
"I guess we wouldn't know too much about that, huh? I mean, it's not as if we ever get a vacation..."
Xena rolled over and tucked the woman neatly beneath her and smiled as the shallow water pooled around the bard's head causing her hair to fan out in a golden wreath.
"Well, we do have some time right now. Things have been pretty quiet lately..." Her words were cut off as the bard reached a hand up and covered her mouth.
"Don't say anything more, you'll tempt the Fates!" Looking up and down the beach, the bard sent a silent plea to any god listening that their quiet tranquil moment wouldn't be broken for at least a few hours more...maybe a day?
Xena eased over onto her side and watched as the bard got to her feet, brushing the sand off her short skirt.
"Hey, it's getting cold and dark out here."
"Where ya going?"
Gabrielle pointed back to their camp and then yelped loudly as she was swooped up and carried back into the water.
"Nah, what we need now is water...and lots of it."
Goose flesh raced across her skin as a light evening breeze wafted against her. She shivered and then groaned as she was hugged tightly. While being this close to the woman of her dreams was everything she could ever want it was going to take some getting used to. A shudder of anticipation ran through her.
"I'll warm ya up in no time. But first," Xena eased the woman back on her feet and smiled as the bard's eyes got as big as saucers. "What? You've seen me naked before." And with that she wriggled out of her shift, standing before the woman in all her glory.
Gabrielle nodded blankly as she was coaxed deeper into the lake. Xena's brow creased as she recognized the look: being the predator she was, she'd seen many a prey wear that exact look - the two legged and the four legged variety.
There was no way she wanted things to veer off suddenly as they had numerous times during the past twenty-four hours, so it was back to square one: handle bard with kid gloves was the rule of the day.
"You don't have to take off your clothes, Gabrielle. It's okay, really. It might be easier to get rid of the sand, though."
The bard's lips twitched and although she felt foolish for doing it Gabrielle turned her back and then slowly disrobed.
Xena felt an overwhelming sense of rightness as the blonde removed each article of her clothing. Even though she still had her back turned, Xena could honestly say that the scene was a vision from one of her dearest fantasies: how often had she dreamt of just openly watching the bard, enjoying each dip and mound, freckle and hair on the woman she loved without having to hold it all in and deny it?
Her fingers twitched as she thought of the softness she might soon feel. The air felt almost heavy with both a sense of anticipation and fear. But they'd come this far...Xena wasn't sure exactly how she'd respond if her friend changed her mind at that point.
Squeezing her eyes closed, she stood holding her breath, waiting for the bard to say or do something, anything.
It seemed hours had passed between the time when Gabrielle turned her back on the warrior and finally dropped the last of her clothing. All of a sudden she didn't feel like the confident young woman she was trying to convince Xena she truly was. What had she been thinking? Xena had been with some of the most famous, and infamous, people she'd ever heard of: Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Lao Ma, Hercules...there were even rumours about her dalliances with the God of War himself. How could she ever hope to compete with any of them?
Her lower lip trembled and she felt clothed in the cold embrace of shame. Surely, Xena would take one look at her and see her as nothing more than a foolish child. Who had she been kidding? Her thoughts of enticing, capturing and keeping the great Warrior Princess could never be anything more than mere pipe dreams.
She wanted to run away, hide, and be anywhere else but there. But what could she say to Xena? Perhaps if she explained that it was all a mistake...? Oh why had she ever been born?
Hearing a ragged sigh, the warrior opened her eyes slowly, hoping against hope that the woman wasn't standing there with disappointment written clearly on her face. Never had a day passed when the warrior had doubted her abilities as either a woman or a warrior; she had always been more than confident in her physical attributes and skills in either department. It wasn't a matter of egotism, just a part of who she was.
But now she was feeling rather anxious about how the bard might perceive her. She was after all in her mid thirties and past the point when youth and ability could delay the inevitable passage of time and all the gifts it bestowed. Why, she'd seen and done more in the ten years she raged over Greece than the bard might ever endure in her whole lifetime.
Xena winced as the term 'old war horse' popped into her head.
When she was finally able to open her eyes completely her breath caught as the bard turned around.
"Xena," the bard began tentatively.
The warrior, however, had stepped closer and any words the bard might have uttered were stilled as Xena placed a finger over her lips. Then she moved back a step and just stood quietly, her expression unreadable.
Feeling totally ill at ease, Gabrielle began to fidget, her green orbs darting back and forth as if looking for an escape. Unbeknown to her two darkening eyes were watching every move, ever muscle, and as she placed her index finger between tight anxious lips an almost agonized gasp issued forth.
"Gods, what you do to me."
Two busy eyes stopped their flitting and finally settled on the warrior's lips. Had she just said...? Heat began moving up from her belly and the blonde tried to clear her throat.
"What I do to you?" she squeaked. "Oh, gods." The urge to turn around was great but instead Gabrielle slowly moved her arms up to cover her rapidly hardening nipples.
"Are you cold? Come deeper into the water, Gabrielle. Here, I'll just..."
Two palms were held up immediately. "No! Don't come any closer...I..."
Dark brows furrowed and then Xena bit the corner of her lip.
"I was just gonna rub your arms."
Gabrielle swallowed and then nodded. Clearing her throat again proved to be just as ineffective as it had the first time.
Edging closer to the taller woman, she kept herself from touching the warrior by sheer will. For all intents and purposes she looked every inch an animal caught in the sights of a crossbow. Xena seemed to understand the needed distance and simply let the bard herd her backwards into the water. She shivered slightly as the cool water pooled between her legs.
Gabrielle's focus narrowed as the effect of the water worked it delicious ways upon the bronze flesh of the warrior. The woman's skin glowed and although the bard could detect a slight bluish tinge, there was no doubt in her mind that were she to press her lips against Xena's skin it would be like touching flames.
Tipping her head back, Xena ran her fingers through her wet hair and then stood motionless, awaiting the bard's next move.
"You know you're a goddess, right? I mean, looking at you..." Gabrielle swallowed and then shook her head slowly. "Here I am a bard and whenever you're around, looking at me with those blue eyes...I get tongue tied."
Xena pouched her lips out. "Well, you seem to be doing just fine. A goddess, huh? You took the words right out of my mouth."
She smiled at the resulting blush. "You do that so well, you know?"
Gabrielle bobbed up and down as she tried to maintain a certain distance between them. Pressing her hands to her face she sighed, their cooling touch a welcome relief as the blush deepened.
"Say, that looks pretty hot. C'mere." Wading in closer, Xena ignored her friend's startled look and slipped two fingers down Gabrielle's face.
"I can help that, you know." Gabrielle's throat opened and closed spasmodically and then her eyes fluttered closed as gentle kisses as soft as the breeze meandered their way from temple to chin.
Before she knew it all thoughts of fear, doubt and insecurity vanished. Xena's breath caught as two legs locked around her middle. 'Yeah,' she thought with a grin, 'that's exactly where they belong.'
And then her sight was filled with eyes of sea green.
"Help me, Xena?" Hugging the woman to her, Xena nodded slowly.
"Let's help each other."
Hours were spent searching out every nook and cranny, each granule of sand, and with every new discovery came a smile, a gentle sigh, and soft words, each part making up a song that filled the midnight air.
Even the gods were jealous of such euphonic expression but gratefully they kept their opinions to themselves - for at least a day.
Then it was business as usual: brigands to fight, scrolls to write, and fire balls to dodge. Life on the road with the Warrior Princess was far from boring. And things were just starting to get interesting.
Begun December 6th, 1999 and completed April 9th, 2001. Blame Carla and the Conqueror.