Title: Another Kind of Quest - part 1/? (part 1 can be read independantly)

Author: KateKane

Fandom, pairing: Xena Warrior Princess, Xena/Gabrielle (femslash)

Rating: PG for now... but aiming for NC17 eventually.

Disclaimer: Don't own either of the women, I'm just borrowing them - but I solemnly promise to treat them to a happier ending than their original producers did.

Spoilers: This story takes place immediately after and draws from the episodes Destiny and The Quest (2.12 and 2.13).

Summary: Although Xena has been brought back to life, Gabrielle is haunted by what happened and unable to sleep, until Xena comforts her. As the trauma slowly subsides, other emotions previously undealt with begin to surface... First time story, and then some.

Author's note: Thanks for all the feedback! I've been dying to get back to this story, but totally flooded with work. But here is part 2 - shorter and with less interaction, but hopefully you won't have to wait too long for part 3 and more action...

Please post new feedback here: http://katekane.livejournal.com/1710.html?mode=reply

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ANOTHER KIND OF QUEST - PART 2/?:

The warrior princess' body seemed to adjust to waking life before her mind did. While the part of Xena that made her Xena was still lost in a dream, her skin was already taking in her surroundings, sensing the change on a pre-verbal level. Her nose and ears followed next, registering the somehow familiar, yet unexpected smell and the accompanying rhythmic breath, a little to fast to be her own.

Something was definitely out of the ordinary, and trained as she was to react to these things even in her sleep, she started to regain her consciousness. Her highly alert body urged her to.

Most people would wake up with a loud gasp in a situation like this, but Xena had learned to control even this part of her daily routine - if her internal alarms had been set off by a bunch of thugs, then letting them know that she knew of them could be fatal. So she reached her fully waking state without as much as fluttering her eyelids. And she remained motionless as she tried to read and interpret the signals sent by her body.

It didn't take long. She had indeed been woken by someone's unexpected presence, but is was no vengeful warlord or enemy from the past. It was Gabrielle.

She had finally found a way to rest - with her arm wrapped around the warrior princess' waist and her head buried under her chin. Xena's body had noticed the weight pressing down on it, and her nose had picked up the familiar scent of the bard's strawberry hair. No wonder. She was only an inch from burying her face in it.

Lifting her head only a little, so as to not disturb her sleeping friend, Xena gazed down at the young woman clinging so closely to her. Her hair was spread out like a halo across Xena's chest, strands of it tickling her ever so slightly at the cape of her neck. Her face was relaxed with slightly parted lips and a childlike softness to it, giving away the fact that Gabrielle was more than ten years junior to the warrior princess.

When they'd first met, Xena had initially read Gabrielle's insistence on tagging along as childish stubbornness. She had been oh so wrong. Gabrielle may have been young and headstrong, but even back then she had her heart in the choices she made, and she had endured. More than just endured, Xena corrected herself; Gabrielle had in fact become an invaluable part of Xena's life and even managed to save it a few times - both in the literal and more abstract sense. She'd become her best friend.

'To me our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could...'

The internal echo of an awkward and thinly veiled declaration of love she'd once made to the young bard forced a sigh past the warrior princess' lips.

Gabrielle had become more than her best friend. Xena loved this woman with her whole heart, and, truth be told, with her body, too. There was no denying it, and she felt herself secretly wishing that the context of their entanglement at present were a different one.

Gabrielle's closeness made Xena's limbs hum, as if electric current were flowing through them, and perhaps it had been there all along; this very physical compatibility. Perhaps it was part of the reason why this unlikely friendship had been formed in the first place, why Xena in spite of herself had invited this young woman into the centre of her life. In any case it had taken Xena uncharacteristically long to catch on to the not so platonic overtones of her affection for Gabrielle. When she eventually did, she had deemed her lust for the girl utterly inappropriate, because at the time she had been just that: a girl. Fresh out of small-town Potadeia and hopelessly naïve. From day one Gabrielle had acted as if her new found friend's dark past never existed, holding Xena in the sort of high regard you reserve for an idol or a mythical teacher, not an actual imperfect human being. Her boundless trust had had a healing effect on Xena and slowly picked apart some of the walls she'd built up around her, know doubt about it - but the very same trust had prevented Xena from adding a physical dimension to their relationship. It would be taking advantage of and possibly polluting the finest thing about her friend, something unforgivable. So Xena had decided right from the start, once her ulterior emotional motive surfaced, to never act on her desire.

Unless...

Since that first meeting years back the bard had become an amazon queen, been wed and widowed, saved Xena's life and watched her die twice. She'd even, for a moment, been dead herself. Xena had put that girl through so much, an she had kept her spirits and integrity intact through all of it; she'd picked herself up from so many falls and marched on smiling.

She may still have youthful features, Xena thought to herself, but she's no girl anymore.

And therein lay the small glimmer of hope for something more than the innocent embrace they currently shared. Well, not entirely innocent, as Xena could feel her body react to it, inappropriate or not. And she couldn't help but slide an arm around her friend's sleeping form, letting her hand rest lightly on the bard's curved hip.

Gabrielle was no longer an eager student tagging along like a baby sister or puppy, she was now in most respects Xena's equal. And thus, freed from the dark shadow of problematic power relations, they could in fact become lovers. Only, given their history and age-difference, Gabrielle would have to be the one to make the first, unambiguous move.

Lost in thought, Xena automatically caressed Gabrielle's hip through the thin cloth, drawing little circles with her thumb and index finger. At times she was almost certain her feelings for the bard were mutual. There had been moments dripping with subtext; lingering gazes followed by averted eyes, awkward silences and slightly flushed cheeks. Even last night, in spite of Gabrielle's sleep depravation, she had sensed a brief flash of something undefinable in the bard's eyes.

Yet there was nothing solid, nothing to convince her beyond any doubt that she wasn't simply projecting her own emotions on to the younger woman. And certainly nothing to assure her that the bard was equally, consciously aware of the signals she was sending.

Except, perhaps, one episode... While Xena was dead she had overheard a conversation between Gabrielle and Iolaus, who had found the bard watching over Xena's coffin. The warrior princess had once suspected that Gabrielle harboured romantic feelings for Hercules' travelling companion, but, although the bard had been happy to see her old friend that morning, all she had talked about was Xena. All the things left unsaid between them. And when Iolaus had encouraged Gabrielle to elaborate on what exactly she would've wanted to tell Xena, her response had been: 'How empty my life was before she came; and all the lessons I learned; and that I love her.' The last words had been added after a moment of hesitation, and Gabrielle had almost choked on them. If Xena's heart had not been still at the time, the bard's admission would have made it skip a beat. After that Xena had ignored her own rule once and from beyond tried to communicate to Gabrielle how she felt about her: Using Autolycus as a medium, she had kissed her. But, although her friend hadn't pulled away at the time, she also had not brought up the kiss at all since then.

Gabrielle was beginning to stir in Xena's light embrace. Unlike the warrior princess, she never woke swiftly and discreetly - not yet as damaged as me, Xena thought grimly. Little grunting sounds left the bard, as she nestled her nose into the warrior princess' collar bones. Her unruly hair tickled Xena's neck, a welcome distraction from the fact that Gabrielle was alternately opening and closing her hand, as if gently kneading Xena's waist and stomach. Xena's abdomen was already beginning to feel like soft dough, and the sensation was rapidly spreading to more dangerous areas. She was going to have to wake the bard really soon, or this would get out of hand.

Fortunately, the bard lifted her head in that very moment and gazed at Xena with sleepy eyes.

"Good morning," Xena said with a smile.

"You're awake already?" Gabrielle winced at the sharp daylight.

"Well, it's hard to sleep with you drooling on me."

Gabrielle's half-closed eyes instantly widened, an expression of sheer horror on her face. "I didn't. Did I...?"

Xena let friend sweat for a second, before she laughingly added, "no, you didn't."

"You...!"

Mimicking a wrestling move, Gabrielle, already partially on top of Xena, gave the warrior princess a tight squeeze accompanied by a playful look. They regularly mock-fought, and it didn't mean anything, but this time the context was much more intimate than usually. And as Gabrielle's thigh slid in between Xena's legs, a small, treacherous gasp sneaked past the ever composed warrior princess' lips.

The bard froze right there and then, and the two stared at each other in silence, Xena painfully aware of Gabrielle's leg and its point of contact. Torn between wanting to break the touch or intensifying it, Xena remained dead still leaving the outcome up to her younger friend.

"I..." The otherwise chatty bard seemed at a loss for words, opening and closing her mouth and fluttering her eyes for a prolonged moment, until she abruptly untangled herself from the warrior princess and got up on her feet. "I better make some breakfast," she concluded, avoiding eye contact, but Xena didn't need it. Her friend's cheeks were burning red, and as Xena followed her lead and rid herself of the blanket, she felt more certain than ever that she had not been imagining or projecting things. Gabrielle wanted her, too. The question was if and when the bard would find the courage to admit it.

* * * * * END OF PART 2 TO BE CONTINUTED IN PART 3 * * * * *

Author's note: Love it? Like it? Loathe it? Would love some feedback!

Please leave it here: http://katekane.livejournal.com/1710.html?mode=reply

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