The Purest Love
Context: This story takes place in camp on the first and third nights depicted in "Chakram."
WARNING--Spoilers: This contains spoilers for "Fallen Angel," "Chakram," and Seasons 1 through 4. Hows that for comprehensive?
General Disclaimer: You already know they arent mine. Im not doing this for money, only for adoring emails ( email@example.com for those of you who want to start adoring now). I do thank Renaissance et al., the producers and everyone involved for inventing such wonderful women for us to admire, lust after and respect. I also thank LL and the ROC for just being. Theyre a pair of stunning actors who bring life and love to a couple of worthy characters.
Subtext Disclaimers: "The love that we haveits stronger than heaven or hell. It transcends good or evil Its an end in itself Our souls are destined to be together " But their bodies arent? Silly, silly, silly.
However, I do want to point out that my portrayal of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship may be somewhat different from the romantic image of it we've all had heretofore. Certainly it's different from any of the other fan fiction I've written.
Plagiarism Disclaimer: I stole a line from someone, who may or may not have stolen it from the show itself, and I'm fessin' up. It's the line "The love of the Warrior Princess for her horse knew no bounds." I think maybe I took it from the Divine Ms. Viv (La Darkbloom), so it's hers and I'm sorry, but it was too good not to take.
Copyright This is mine, mine, all mine well, except for all the stuff I disclaimed above. Dont plagiarize me and pay me if you find a way to publish it because its copyrighted and Ill hunt you down.
By the gods . But which gods do I swear by now?
Shaking my head, I mentally sidestep that perilous pit of philosophic quicksand and go back to my more mundane brooding.
Shes asleep already, curled like a child on the blanket were supposed to share, the moonlight making her raven hair a fitting backdrop for her alabaster face. Ive never stopped thinking in metaphors when it comes to her.
I lean forward, cheek on my upraised knee and watch her. Her face is smooth and younger-looking, like it often was when Id coaxed her into laughter, telling one of my silly stories. What do you expect? I ask myself. Shes lost a good 15 years of horrific memories. That would bring back the youth of the Sybil of Cumae.
When she doesnt move a muscle for the space of several heartbeats, I begin wonder if shes heard something and is awake, trying to search the area with her senses to locate the sound, but then I realize that this is yet another change and one I should have expected. Xena sleeps the sleep of the innocent nowdeep, still, silent. And utterly defenseless.
That thought makes my stomach clench.
"Were back together," I said to her earlier today, reading the loveand the pain only we can sharein those miraculous blue eyes.
"Always," she affirmed.
Not that she needed to.
I wondered if that blessing would always feel like half a curse as well.
Id always known, on some level. From the moment I saw that lean, gorgeous body, clad in an armor-stained shift, uncoil from the ground and begin to decimate Dracos scruffy slavers, I knew that I wouldnt be content until I knew all about her, until I knew all that she knew.
Now I do.
Or at least I thought I did.
Then I woke up from another death, this time with my memories intact, and looked into the unshadowed eyes of Xena, who had no memories beyond her death.
"Im still a little fuzzy," she told Eli, and as I think back on her holding her broken chakram, asking me what it was, Im hard put not to sob.
Of all things, that awakens her. Not to that stiff, slow-moving caution that is her usual awakening, but to a drowsy, little-girl glance around. When her eyes fall on me, she smiles.
"Hi," she breathes.
I smile back, despite the tears in my eyes. "Hi."
I shake my head. "Im just a little wound up."
"Being resurrected will do that to you," she quirks a grin, suddenly the closest to herself that Ive seen her get. She holds out a hand, inviting, and I cant refuse.
I give a quick look around the campfire at our companions. Eli is furthest away and asleep, both of which please me. Joxer snores stentoriously, and Amarice is gone guarding our perimeter.
She waits until Im settled on my back at her side, then scrunches lower in the blanket and I feel her dark head move onto my shoulder. It feels all wrong and yet so wonderfully right. For an instant, I recall the Roman prison cell and the way her body lay, only half responsive, in my arms. The stars above swim in the tears that flood my eyes.
"Crying?" she asks, echoing my thought. "Dont cry."
I kiss her forehead. "I wont not anymore."
Were silent for a long moment and I remember other nights like this. Nights when I lay in the cocoon of her arms and our love. A night near Tripolis when she was sleeping and I was dying. Death has been our constant companion and now another kind of death threatens my love.
"What do you remember about your life, Xena?"
"I remember your smile " she leans back on my shoulder and traces a fingertip over my now-curling lips. "And I remember Argo."
I laugh, unable to stop myself. "The love of the Warrior Princess for her horse knew no bounds."
She chuckles too and raises up, turning onto her side and propping herself on one elbow. Her dark hair falls around her face, making her suddenly more mysterious and more familiar. When her free hand comes to cup my cheek, Im aware of my heart rate stumbling forward even as my smile fades. When that hand slides down my neck and onto my chest, my pulse seems to streamline into one constant beat.
"I remember this," she whispers, low and growly, thumbing my already straining nipple through the new leather of my halter.
I jerk upright, knocking her hand aside, and resume my knee-hugging posture.
"Gabrielle?" she sits up, leaning forward to me. "Dont you want this?"
"II dont think its a good idea," I blurt out, anxious for anything to say.
"What? Why?" her hand comes to my shoulder, then drops away. "Gabrielle? We have, havent we? IIm sure I remember "
I nod. "Yes," my voice sounds so small. "We have. Just not that often." I see her start of surprise and finish the thought with some self-mockery, "At least, not as often as I wanted."
I wonder how much truth I owe this shadow of my beloved, and I wonder if I can stand having only this much of the Xena I love. This may be all I get, I admit to myself for the first time. Confusion mixed with empathy lights the moon-silvered eyes watching me. She doesnt know this, I tell myself, just like she doesnt know the warrior way that used to guide her every movement.
"You " I found my voice gone and took a deep breath. "You were conflicted about the physical side of things." Brief and to the point, but all the more confusing, I realize.
"Conflicted?" she questions as if the word has no meaning.
"You um you felt it was wrong for us to be together physically." This was infinitely more difficult than I ever imagined when I began the explanation. The disbelief in Xenas expression doesnt help. "Not the act itself," I hasten to explain. "You didnt have problems with women loving each other. You just you didnt want me to limit myself to only you." The pain of that argument still rests under my heart. "I think you didnt think your love was good enough or special enough for me. I tried to explain that you wereareall " I shake my head, unable to finish that thought. "You wanted something else for me."
Theres a pause while I study the blanket, even moving my fingers to trace the woven pattern, then she asks, perfectly serious,
"Am I a complete idiot?"
Staring at her wide-eyed, I snort a laugh and feel it turn into near-hysterical giggles. She grins and pulls on my arm, drawing me into her body, her embrace. The teary giggles falter and die against the bare skin of her chest. Her scent teases me and I heave a sigh of stifled lust and unbearable love.
"The short answer? Yes."
"I knew I was crazy about you," she whispers into my hair, "but I didnt think that crazy." Familiar lips brush my hair and her tone changes. "Oh, sweetheart, how hard that must have been for you."
I shrug, but let the comfort sink into my soul. Gods, a Xena who does sensitive chats!
"I was angry with you a lot," I confess. "You rebuffed me so much and it hurt me, hurt my pride. Then, later, when you did suggested anything, I rejected you to get my own back." I shrug again, feeling the arm that tightens around my shoulders. "You pushed me to look elsewhere for physical pleasure, and I wont lie: I did. But you were the only one who the only one " I finish lamely, unable to truly express all the ways in which she is the sole and only person for me.
"How could I ?"
"I dont know," I cut her off, trying to stop scenes that rise up in my memory. "I usually had to drown myself in port when you were with someone else. Even after youd rejected me to the point that Id stopped making advances to you."
Her forehead wrinkles. "But I remember In India and after Ephiny died "
I nod. "We were together. Consistency wasnt a failing of ours," My laugh is forced and hollow. "In India, after Tataka I think she played on that attraction between us so much that we both wanted to to purify it afterwards."
Im not satisfied with that explanation, but she nods and I realize that at least with this she understands every undercurrent. I take a deeper breath, looking away. This next will be so much harder. I didnt think I wanted her after Ephinys funeral; I was so angry with her, and with Ephiny for dying on me, but Xena came to me and she proved me wrong.
"Ephinys death," I shake my head, still not fully able to believe Ephinys death ever took place. "I just remembered how she was there for me when you when I lost you. And then Id lost her without telling her how I felt about her."
My voice thickens in my throat and I sit up again, needing to be further away from Xena, to put distance between my skin and hers. This close to our death that body memory of what happened after Ephiny's funeral still held infinite sweetness. I had memorized it like a story, committing each movement, each shudder and gasp, to memory, to be drawn out and recalled in time of greatest need. "II fought you," I explain, "fought it, but you you knew. You always knew what I needed."
I glance over and shes crying, those slow, silent, draining tears that bleed from her when shes in the greatest pain and it hurts me, too, but I dont want to say "Its okay, Xena," because its not okay; its never been okay that she didnt want to be my only lover as well as my only love.
Silence stretches between us for long moments, then she sits up as well and faces me. Solemnly, she takes my hand and brings it to her mouth. "Im sorry," she breathes. "Im so sorry that I withheld myself from you. That I lied to you. You are the only one Ive truly wanted since the day I first saw you."
There is nothing hidden in her eyes; no past, no demons, no self-hatred, just regret at the time and love lost between us.
"Wanting you is like breathing, Gabrielle," she smiles, just a curve of her lips. "If I stopped, Id truly be dead."
Her eyes watch me, engulf me, surround me as she leans forward until, in synchronicity, we both close our lids and our lips touch.
First kiss, I think. That amorphous world between worlds where I first felt her kiss, first knew that our love could be as physical as it had been emotional, rises up around us, shouldering aside the the reality we've only recently returned to, and I realize that some part of me is always there, always with her there.
"Gabrielle," she breathes, one hand rising to cup the back of my head. The sound of my name on her lips brings me back to her mouth and we kiss more firmly, less carefully. My body trembles as the shuddering tears through me.
It's a warning, a plea, but she's got me already and turns me, lets me slip to the bedroll and hovers over me, blue eyes devouring. Midnight hair spills over me, the first caresses of it speeding along my nerves like lightning. I'm going to lose my senses, I know, and I fight it.
"No." Can that feeble whisper really be my voice?
She stops, voice slightly incredulous, "No?"
I force myself upright and turn, pushing against her shoulder, turning her, making her lie back.
"This way," I explain, reaching for the hem of the maroon tunic she wears. "You first."
A flickering grin crosses those lips that reach for mine. "Like I'm going to argue?" she asks, kissing me before I pull the garment over her head.
I take a moment and sit back on my heels, just looking at her, and she smiles again and strips her skirt and leggings off. With a sinuous stretch, she leans back on her elbows and displays herself to me, her full breasts and in-curving waist, her muscled hips and defined thighs. I feel a welling possessiveness that threatens to choke my breath.
Here is heaven, I think sacriligously, though which faith I'm insulting, I'm not at all certain. If Ares made her mind that of the perfect warrior, then Aphrodite made her body that of the perfect woman. Soft and supple, long and strong, she lies waiting for me, waiting for us, and I feel my pulse pound. My hand falls to her ankle and strokes slowly up the length of shin and thigh to her hip. I've never found silk so smooth in any market in the world.
"You, too," she murmurs, lifting an already-languid hand to hook her finger in the cleavage of my halter and tug.
I fall forward over her on hands and knees and kiss her as she unties the lacings, then her hands are on my back, sliding, caressing muscles she helped form. I move my mouth to her cheek, her chin, the long smooth column of her throat. The breath of a silenced moan stirs the hair by my ear as I suck the tiny Bacchae bite scar into my mouth.
My nipples, hard to the point of painfulness, brush along her breast and I sway closer, teasing us both. Her fingers move to my belt and it falls away, along with the rest of the world.
If we needed any reassurance that we truly were flesh and blood, the impact of my full length of bare skin lying atop hers would have provided it. I feel like I'm drowning in her, immersed in her body until our very bones want to fuse. The first shock of an orgasm shakes me and she whispers a throaty laugh.
"Not so fast, baby. I thought I was first."
The humor steadies me and I give her a grin, then kiss her, hard. "You are first, second, third . I'm looking for multiples here."
Her next laugh is a little breathless as I shift over and free one hand to begin moving along her skin. Her aureole puckers under my fingertip, the pink-brown flesh pebbling with the uprush of blood.
"Gab-ri-elle," she pleads, but I meet the request halfway and her voice cracks on the last syllable as my mouth closes on her breast.
How does she taste? My bard's mind wonders in an instant of clarity. Sweet and salty, but lighter than the essence of her I'll taste lower, the skin of her breast exudes a taste like that indelible scent she carries, and both of them defy description. She told me once, in the heat of another passion, that ambrosia tasted like my skin. I'm certain that she is my food of the gods as well.
Her hands run through my hair, fingertips tracing my ears, as she throws her head back. I look up over the planes of her chest at her as my tongue and lips play against her breast. Her lips are wet, parted, but she's fighting to stay quiet and as I watch, she seizes her lower lip with sharp, white teeth to keep from crying out. If Aphrodite needs a demi-goddess of Sexual Abandon, Xena can pose for the statue.
She senses my stare and her eyes, half-lidded, track to mine. I feel the jolt go through her body as our gazes connect. I've often wondered how I look to her at moments like this. I feel like a divinity, given infinite power just by being allowed to touch my heart's desire. Not breaking the look, I bite down, rather forcefully, on the nipple teasing my tongue. Her sharp cry can't be restrained and I hear her head thump back against the ground. The rush of pleasure from my effect on her nearly undoes my resolve and forces me to the wild, ragged edge of my own orgasm. Shaking, but determined, I shift to her other breast and feel her still, waiting for the bite, so I tease her, tonguing gently, lipping the smooth underside of the globe.
"Gabrielle," she growls softly, hand clenching in my hair.
I arch a brow as she looks down, then dart forward and nip the tender flesh sharply. The jerk of her hips lifts me off the ground as well.
"Gods," she hisses as I keep the hold I have with my teeth, "yes please "
I trace the engorged point with the very tip of my tongue, stealing any coherence she might have managed and her breath begins to sob. She's so ready, I think, so near already. I release her breast, giving it a soft balming kiss, and shift lower. A small sound comes from her as she feels me move, pleasure, anticipation, and disbelief mixed in it. Her face lifts, expression almost overwhelmed.
"Is this what you want?" I ask, my own voice less than steady and a good two octaves lower than usual.
The question wrings another cry from her, and she tears her gaze away.
"Yyes," she swallows hard as my hand makes a pass over the damp curls at the apex of her thighs. "Gab."
Her voice vanishes as I part her, stroking the wetness of her. One long, strong, yet delicate hand touches my hair, brushes my bangs aside, draws my eyes back up her body to the soulful blue eyes that watch me. I hold her eyes as I lower my mouth to that scented moisture.
She bursts like light across my tongue and I shudder in response, eyes closing, senses overwhelmed. I was wrong, I realize. This is what ambrosia must taste like, like the flow of passion stored for me between these quivering, rock-hard thighs.
Xena makes a choked sound, half-rising from the blanket and falling back. Her hands drop and clutch the coarse material in white-knuckled fists. She's so swollen, and I'm carefully to tease, to diffuse, to distract so that there's no discomfort as we quickly build together toward the peak. My left arm circles under one thigh, bracing, as my right hand moves up to stroke below where I lick. Coarse hair, drenched in her essence, parts like the flesh beneath, and I slide slowly inside the woman I love.
I stroke the wet, silken ridges of her inner walls once, twice, and with a strangled whimper, the most beloved sound in her vocal repetoire, Xena loses herself to the pleasure we make together. Her stomach concaves with spasms and her legs jerk closed then open again with another wave, but I hold perfectly still, tongue pressing the twitching muscle while her body tightens against and then releases my fingers over and over.
"I can't " she gets out between clenched teeth.
Can't? I think a little gloatingly, feeling another rolling wave of sensation break along her body. You just did.
"I can't stop " she finishes the thought, raising up to look at me and climaxing again in reaction to the sight.
I pray to those unnamed and unknown gods that she never does.
Camp is fairly subdued this evening. Rising from the dead, being hunted like animals, and killing a god in the first three days of a new life will do that to you.
I feel battered, physically and emotionally, from all that has taken place in the last few days, and though I was the one who wanted to head out for Greece immediately, I slump uselessly beside the fire while Joxer and Amarice argue over who will cook dinner. Joxer can't meet my eyes after his little confession today, but I refuse to think about that now.
Xena finally shoots them a look that resolves it. They all know I'll cook if they get me something to do it with, but the Warrior Princess has decided that we're all getting cold rations. I don't even have the energy to challenge it. I sit, elbow on knee, hand buried in my short bangs, and stare at the flames like an oracle waiting for divine intervention.
Like we haven't had enough of that lately.
After we've all eaten, Xena moves about the camp, checking arrangements, settling the perimeter to her satisfaction. The uncoordinated movements and uncertain thoughts of yesterday are gone. Why don't I feel happier about it? Perhaps because I feel like she wasn't given a choice? Perhaps because, once again, she sacrificed her happiness so that I was saved?
In the temple, I couldn't see her face as she faced Ares, but I read so much in the set of her head, the slump of her shoulders. Her body screamed her agony to me the same way it had always radiated her emotions, once I learned to read the signals. I felt an echo of her turmoil. She was losing so much through regaining that side of herself: All the bad memories she had to know were out there, all the death and destruction that we'd all related to her, trying to jog her lost memory, all the hurt she must sense between herself and I. She had to have realized that the guilt she carried like another set of armor would encase her all over again as soon as she picked up the Dark Chakram.
And none of us knew what memories she might lose.
I had an instant to wonder if she thought of the love we'd made the night before. The purest love we'd ever made, unshadowed by guilt or fear or pain. A second first time. And it might disappear with the return of her memories.
But before the thought was fully formed, she'd taken up her burden with the Chakram once more.
After everything was over and we were headed home, she'd paused to murmur ironically, "Thanks for helping me get back to my rotten old self," and I wasn't sure how to take it. It had felt like all the old barriers were back in place.
I find myself replaying that exchange in my head again. It sounded like Xena remembered everything-- her past, our lives together, and all the days since our return. If she remembered it all, then she would recall what she'd told me before we made love. The question was, did she still mean it.
I glance at her and find her watching me. It's one of those looks that I can fall into and I almost do, then she turns her eyes back to the sword and whetstone in her lap. I jerk my gaze away and start breathing again.
"I'm taking first watch," Joxer volunteers, somewhere in the background, and Xena answers him, her voice a low, vibrating caress along my nerves.
"Thank the gods," Amarice mutters, grabbing her sleeping furs and moving to shake them out some way away. "He's driving me crazy. All that lovey-dovey stuff is sickening."
"Amarice," Xena has a warning note in her voice now. "Why don't you go out there and make sure he doesn't fall asleep."
"Aw, Xena," the Amazon whines.
"Go on. It'll make Gabrielle and I feel a lot better, knowing you're there to take care of him."
The redhead stomps off, in a huff, but unable to deny the Warrior Princess anything. I shake my head and rise, moving to the packs.
"Trou-ble," Xena says for my ears alone.
I don't know how to do this, I realize. It's like a play where I know all the lines, but they're all out of order, and if I say the wrong one, the whole scene will collapse. I busy myself with my bedroll.
She waits til I'm settled, then banks the fire for the night and retrieves her own sleep furs. A thousand other nights I would have laid her bed alongside mine, but tonight I couldn't bring myself to do it.
"Something you wanna talk about, Gabrielle?" she asks, back to me, as she pulls the material from the backpack.
"N-- no, Xena," I feign nonchalance. "Just sleepy."
She grunts noncommitally and spreads her blanket to my right. She lies down with another, nearly contented sound, and I find myself unable to keep my gaze from her. She is on her back, hands clasp behind her head, staring up at the stars above us. The dour warrior mask is back in place, but I think I see an edge of softness in the curve of her mouth.
"Was-- was there something you wanted to talk about, Xena?" I question hesitantly.
Blue eyes turn to me and a slow smile curls her full lips. "No, sweetheart, talking wasn't at all what I had in mind."
I remember once when some low-life got a lucky shot in, hit me full in the breastbone, and I lost every breath of air in my lungs. Xena's look and the low purr of sensual invitation make me feel just like that.
She moves up to her left elbow, body curved toward me. "Yeees?"
"Are you Did you just ?"
A calloused finger stops my babbling. "Yes, Gabrielle, I remember everything. Yes, what I told you night before last was true. No, I don't want things to be like they were before. Yes, I love you, and, yes, I would be honored beyond measure if you were my lover as well as my one true love."
I feel my face pucker and will away the tears that I don't want to let fall. There is only one way to play this and I know it now, know it like the beat of my own heart and hers. I launch myself at her, laughing through the tears.
"Who are you, and what have you done with the Warrior Princess?"
She rolls me over, laughing, too, with the same hint of tears in her glorious blue eyes.
"Hey, you wanted the full package," she murmurs, holding me down with gentle hands.
I smile up at her and watch the dark head bend. Her kiss when it comes is as soft and uncomplicated as the dawn, the purest love two complicated people can make. I am home at last.
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