This Is a First-Time Story

by Temora

Disclaimer: I have heard it said that sooner or later every bard writes a First-Time story. This is my answer to that. <g> I don't own anything here, except for the random way in which words are strung together. And looky! A story came out of it! This tale is about the mostly overlooked moments, and contains nothing gratuitous unless you count the dialogue. And the concept. Oh, and the execution of the concept. <g> Hope you like it! Thanks, as always, to Kam. Feedback is gratefully received and always answered at:


Let me make a confession right from the outset. As your narrator, I have certain rules I must abide by. I'm just the teller of this tale, not the star. (sniff) I must not interfere. I must not change the course of actual events. I must avoid exposure to temperatures greater than 30 degrees Celsius, because I find that such heat impairs my rational judgement. I must, above all things, refrain from grandiose and sweeping statements about the power of love to redeem, because one must always tell what one knows, and I have not had the pleasure of being so redeemed. This will not, however, stop me from interjecting at any point in time that I deem necessary, with comments of the generally annoying (and occasionally redundant) kind.

And now that we have been introduced, I have something else to tell you. You may not like it, but I am bound by the annals of truth to say so. This is a PG story. There will be no melting of cores, no heaving of bosoms (except for one woman who Xena hurls a goodly distance - she is rather well-endowed - so I suppose that could qualify), no mumbling against heated bronze skin or the pressing of lips anywhere below theŠ

Well, you get it.

This is a story about all the First Times that led up to the First Time Š all the myriad of reasons why one bard and one warrior discovered that there wasn't anybody else in the Known World as perfect a fit for them as each other.

And so Š on with the tale!

The First Time that Xena realised Gabrielle was much kinder than other people was about two months into their travels. (To be fair, if Xena had been looking for it, she would have noticed it far earlier than that, but then as we know she can be rather unobservant about these things)

They had been walking for what Gabrielle considered to be a really long time. Well, Gabrielle had been walking. Xena had been riding and listening to the bard's latest story. It involved Amazons, since they had not long left the Amazon Forest, and since Gabrielle was now (as much to her own surprise as anyone else's) an Amazon Princess. What Gabrielle did not yet know about Amazons could fill a scroll, or, in this case four hours worth of non-interrupted talking time.

Xena rode, and every now and again she made 'hmm' noises of the warrior sort. Occasionally she muttered something non-committal, so Gabrielle's lengthy epic was punctuated by things like:




"Eh." (This was not the question kind of 'Eh?' - more the sort of sound one makes between slightly parted lips when one is thinking about something else)

Since this was all Gabrielle ever wanted from the warrior - acknowledgement - they were both happy and so made it to the village of Trampolos without major incident.

Xena, (who had been hiding a rather full bladder with a grimace for the last few candlemarks), made directly for the outhouse behind the grotty tavern. Not normally one to crave the creature comforts when an obliging field would serve the purpose, we must wonder why she decided to wait until reaching the village. As that isn't the point of this little vignette, let's move on, shall we? (I am also not to be held accountable for character inconsistencies)

Gabrielle followed the warrior, still chattering. "And then the sacred Amazon sisterhood bound together in a mighty oath - that for generations they would Š oh. That's a long line, isn't it, Xena?"

And it certainly was. Xena eyed with annoyance and growing discomfort the trail of slack-jawed tavern patrons who were waiting to use the (and I use this word lightly) conveniences.

Gabrielle didn't miss a beat. "Anyway, that they would come together in times of all strife to protect the might of Artemis and her warriors and -"

While the bard was waxing lyrical, a woman emerged from the bathroom stalls and was weaving her slightly drunken way down past the line and back towards the tavern. A trickle of sniggers wove with her. As she passed the warrior and bard, Xena saw that the hem of her skirt was bound up at her waist at the back, exposing her (rather unattractive) undergarments to all and sundry. (Tobias All and Josef Sundry were the town baker and town Hero respectively, and both were in line. Go figure)

Xena was about to call out to her when, still talking, Gabrielle stepped sideways and unhooked the skirt with a graceful movement. It was done so quickly that even Xena blinked. The offending article dropped quietly back into place, the woman didn't notice anything, and Gabrielle continued to speak as if nothing had happened.

"Šand that when a land in turmoil cried out for a heroŠ"

Xena had stopped listening, however. She was gazing at the bard with what seemed to her at the time was interest (but in actual fact was a stunned kind of wonder). Not only had she restored the woman's dignity to her, she had done it unthinkingly, whilst otherwise occupied, without a thought of making it a public spectacle or looking for gratitude. It was simply second nature to the bard. A small thing, but vastly telling. And it just happened to be the First Time Xena had been 'told'.

One of Gabrielle's first times came a few weeks after that, just when she was getting truly used to her new role in Xena's life, and becoming comfortable with the patterns and routines this established. (If an alarming amount of this routine included getting up at a time of day which Gabrielle groaningly referred to as "half a candle in the morning", well, that was just a cross she was going to have to bear)

It was a few candlemarks before this usual time, when Gabrielle was woken from her slumber by something other than cold water in her face or the tip of a warrior boot in her ribs.

She was stunned.

Xena was crying in her sleep.

The bard scooted out from under her bedding, shivering at the night air, and quietly crossed the campsite to sit next to the slumbering warrior. A little tentatively (for Xena was still new at this best-friends thing, and Gabrielle had no desire to be stuck through the ribs with a breast dagger by a half-asleep Warrior Princess), she stretched out a hand and rested it gently on her friend's head.

The warrior's sobs quieted slowly. Her cheeks were smudged with dust and tears, and every now and again a hitching breath escaped her. Gabrielle sat there for a while, blinking the sleep from her own eyes. She didn't move her hand, didn't stroke the long, tangled, dark locks (though she really wanted to).

It was the First Time Gabrielle realised that the warrior could cry.

Until now, Gabrielle had suspected not only that the warrior didn't cry, but that she actually couldn't - as if there was some kind physical reason preventing her. It seemed to the highly-strung bard to be the only reason to explain the marked absence of tears.

And so on this night, she sat until the dawn broke, with her palm laid gently upon the sleeping head of her best friend, and thought about this for a long time. And so it was the First of many Times that Gabrielle would sit thus, sometimes murmuring soft words about nothing, sometimes just holding the warrior's hand.

The next day, Xena, who had actually woken some time before dawn and decided to say nothing, instead drawing a strange comfort from the girl's presence, discovered something. She had braced herself for the inevitable breakfast questions - why was she crying, what was the matter, etc., and was completely surprised to receive none.

"Did you sleep well, Gabrielle?" she asked finally, when the curiousity got the better of her.

The bard, with bruised-looking eyes, replied, "I had an interesting dream," and smiled softly, almost to herself.

Satisfied no questions were forthcoming, the warrior (who really didn't want to talk about it) relaxed. And pondered something. It was the First Time Xena realised that Gabrielle understood her far better than she thought. And Xena kind of liked that knowledge.

The First Time Xena realised that she loved Gabrielle (although not in that way - that would come later still) was an otherwise very uneventful day. Normally, profound revelations like that are accompanied by some great event, some stunning calamity or heartfelt declaration. This day, they were taking some time off (something Gabrielle had insisted they do, on pain of threatening to sing show tunes non-stop), and had been doing Absolutely Nothing. This was driving Xena batty.

At the present moment, Xena was sitting idly with her back against a log, watching Gabrielle dig a hole in the sand. The shore they were on was very pretty; Xena had already explored the entire circumference of the lake. The water was fresh, clear, and invitingly warm; Xena had already spent two hours swimming and two more fishing. The trees near the lake were perfect for climbing; guess who had discovered that? And if pressed, Xena could have told you that there were exactly three caves of decent size within a twenty minute walk from here, and that a family who inexplicably worshipped Philiopololys the Spartan God of Gongs and Bass-Fishing owned a small house behind the hill across the lake. If you pressed still further, she could have told you that it had rained within the last fortnight in this area (the high tide mark told her so), that this particular kind of waterweed was not good for eating, that if you shouted from the top of that rock over there the lake gave you back exactly three and a half echoes, and that the right amount of pressure on your ankle would turn your foot blue after several minutes.

(What she could not have told you was why Gabrielle was digging a hole. So that's why she was watching.)

"No, no!" squealed Gabrielle quietly to herself, dropping a little piece of stick into the hole, "please do not put me into the Dungeon, for I am afraid of the dark and of small places also!"

Xena smiled.

"I don't care," rumbled the bard in a deeper voice, waving a bigger piece of stick, "for you have despoiled the fair maiden Lila of Potadaeia, and for this you must die a Horrible Death! Until you Expire!" (Naturally, Gabrielle was not aware that Xena could hear her, for if she had been, she too would have died a horrible death, this one from embarrassment)

Xena bit her lip to stop from laughing.

"Please, please!" continued the oblivious bard happily, "I promise to mend my ways and help those in need and never to treat women with disrespect ever again, even whilst under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs!"

Xena had to leave. She got to her feet and dashed quickly into the trees, where she covered her mouth and howled with laughter until there were tears in her eyes. And somewhere in the middle of all that laughter came the sudden, sure knowledge that she did love Gabrielle like a best friend. Like a sister. Like a Š (yes?) sister. (Sure) It was funny, really. She started laughing as Xena: Warrior Princess, possessor of best friend held at arms length, and finished laughing with a sort of warmth in her chest that had not been there for a very long while. Something about the guileless, happy, oh-so earnest face of the bard as she play-acted on the shore like a child had worn down the last of her defences. She loved Gabrielle.

And that was the First Time she realised it.

The First Time Gabrielle discovered that Xena really had a sense of humour was not long after the henbane incident. The bard blushed with embarrassment whenever she recalled the rather telling (but absolutely honest) declaration she had made about her friend's beauty in the cave.

It was a few weeks after that day, when Gabrielle had been trying to make a new sort of stew that the apothecary in the last village had told her about. Since this necessitated letting the stock boil until it was almost bubbling over, she had succeeded in making quite a mess of herself.

As the stew simmered, she went down to the river to wash herself off, and found the warrior knee-deep in the muddy water, simply standing there.

"What are you doing?" Gabrielle asked, crouching at the edge to rinse her arms.

Xena (who had not been doing anything in particular and now searched desperately for something warrior-like and mysterious to say) said, "Listening to the water," in a mysterious and warrior-like voice.

Gabrielle smirked. "And what is it telling you?" (Gabrielle had by now worked out when Xena was pulling this act and it gave her tremendous pleasure to know that the warrior was doing it for her benefit)

"Ah," intoned Xena darkly, cupping a hand around her ear, "it say Small Bard Who Wash In Me Miss Spot On Ass."

Gabrielle chuckled so much that she overbalanced and found herself face down in the mud. Xena, roaring with laughter, waded ashore and pulled Gabrielle to her feet.

The bard stood there, dripping and gasping, mud clinging to her hair, running down her face in thick rivulets, spitting with annoyance.

Xena looked at her for a second and then suddenly exclaimed, "By the Gods!" And fell to the ground, the back of her hand across her forehead.

"What?" spluttered Gabrielle.

"You Š are Š BEAUTIFUL!" crowed Xena, in an exact and uncanny imitation of Gabrielle.

And then she began to laugh.

After her initial shock, Gabrielle laughed too. Xena had managed, in the way that only Xena could, to let her know that what she had said was okay. And she was never embarrassed about it again. (That was also the First Time Xena had discovered a way to tell Gabrielle that she was beautiful without being self-conscious about it. She was rather proud of herself for rather a long time)

It was quite a while later when Gabrielle found out for the First Time that Xena was vulnerable and that the bard was a comfort to her. Until then, she had been content to be a friend, a companion, but she hadn't thought of herself as somebody the warrior needed in her life. (Xena could have told her differently, but then again, Xena never would, would she?) Xena didn't need anything.

Except, on this particular night, to down seven jugs of ale all by herself.

Gabrielle had never seen Xena drunk, so she relished the experience, realising (correctly) that she might never see it again. Xena did not divulge the reason for her sudden urge to drink (Cyrene could have told you that it was the anniversary of her brother's death) and Gabrielle didn't ask, but suffice it to say that the Brass Monkey Tavern had never seen the like, and never would again.

Xena danced. She sang. (It was the First Time Gabrielle had heard her sing too, and was unprepared for the punch in the gut the warrior's sultry voice had delivered to her) She was funny. She was talkative. She was companionable. She arm-wrestled for fun.

Gabrielle just watched, and drank it all in, and didn't notice the way the warrior's eyes would turn to her every now and again, search her out, reassure themselves of her presence. (And if she had, she would have shrugged it off) But late in the evening, when her eyelids were beginning to droop, and she was nodding off at the table, she reached across and patted the warrior's arm.


"Mm?" mumbled the sodden warrior.

"I think I might go up to my room now, okay?"

Xena looked up at this, and there was the barest hint of panic on her face. "Why? What for? I mean, why?"

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow. "The usual reason. I'm sleepy."

"Nononononononono," slurred Xena, catching hold of Gabrielle's hand. "You juss need a little walk is all. Come on outshide and you'll wake up in no time."

Gabrielle shook her head. "I don't want to wake up. I want to sleep."

Xena let go of her hand. "I don't wanna wake up either," she announced loudly, "but I don't get a choice do I? Every bloody day I gotta wake up and nobody asksh me if I want to or not. Stay."

(The last word was spoken very differently from the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence had been slurred towards the direction of the scarred oak table, but the last was said with what was almost a pleading look, directly to the bard)

This visibly confused Gabrielle. (Xena had always been able to knock her for six, but this display was new) "Of course," she soothed gently, "of course I will."

"Come outside with me?" asked Xena quietly, and Gabrielle stood without a word. She followed the swaying warrior through the doors of the tavern and let herself be led a little distance into the surrounding forest.

"You see?" inquired Xena, waving a hand at the trees. "Do you see?"

Gabrielle glanced warily around; there was nothing but them and the darkness. "Xena, what am I supposed to be looking for?"

Xena came very close to her. "The monsters," she whispered, slow, heavy blinks displaying her vividly red eyelids. "They mostly come at night, you know. D'you see them?"

Gabrielle was a little worried now, and she took both the warrior's hands in her own. "No," she said quietly, "I don't. Do you?"

"No," said Xena, and did something that turned Gabrielle red with shock (and that Xena would also turn crimson upon remembering the next day) - put her arms around the bard and held her close, desperately. She mumbled into red-golden hair, "It's because of you, doncha know? When you're not with me, they come. Wherever you aren't, there are monsters. Stay."

Gabrielle wrapped her arms tightly around the warrior and drew in a deep breath, fighting back her tears. "Xena, of course I'm going to stay. Of course I will. Not just now. Always."

Xena gave a great, gasping, half-sob at this, and trembled in her embrace. Gabrielle's eyes filled, then overflowed. "You'd have to pay me to get rid of me," she told her friend fiercely, "and nobody could afford my asking price. Not in a million years. Get it? No more monsters, Xena. I promise you."

"Getitgotitgood," slurred the warrior, and pressed her lips to Gabrielle's forehead.

And then she passed out. Gabrielle (after she had stopped crying), had a devil of a time getting the warrior up to her room. (That night was also the First Time they shared a bed at a tavern, Gabrielle being quite unwilling to leave Xena to her own devices, or, to be honest, to take her arms away from their present position: wrapped around the warrior as she slept)

In the morning, an unusually stoic Warrior Princess had a realisation of her own. It was the First Time she had let herself be weak and Gabrielle be strong. (Really, 'let' had not come into the equation, though Xena would be damned if she would admit something like that aloud)

The First Time Xena realised that Gabrielle wasn't afraid of her in the slightest came as rather a shock. Now, in Xena's life, she had met a lot of people who liked her, indeed, even some who loved her Š but never met a person who wasn't just a tiny bit afraid of her, whatever else they felt. She had always assumed that Gabrielle felt it too, just hid it better than other people had.

This was proven to be false one night not long after the tavern incident when they were camped outside Tripoli and lying on their backs, staring up at the stars. They had taken quite a beating that day, and between the two of them were sporting a vivid array of colourful bruises and various aches. One of the men who had graced the point of Xena's sword that afternoon had come upon his end because of a throwaway taunt. Xena really, really hated to be teased. And Gabrielle knew it. So it was with faint surprise that Xena later went over the contents of the following conversation in her head.

"Would you rather be a bird or a horse?" asked Gabrielle lazily, stretching. (This was an excuse to get a little bit closer to Xena, because the First Time Gabrielle realised she loved her friend had already come and gone, plus she was a naturally huggy person whose reserves were currently depleted)

"Where did that come from?"

Gabrielle smiled. "Man cannot live on beating up warlords alone, Xena."

"What about woman?"

A faint sigh. "Play along, okay?"

"Fine," said Xena. (who secretly loved Gabrielle's games but for some reason felt obliged to protest them as unseemly) "Horse, then."


"They're powerful. And primal."

"Primal?" asked the bard in surprise. "I didn't know you knew that word."

"Of course I know that word!" protested Xena, injured.

Gabrielle cleared her throat. "Well, it's just, I've never heard you say it before. You spend a lot of time with a person, you think you know the limits of the vocabulary they use."

"I do not have a limited vocabulary!" objected the warrior, ire rising.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "That's not what I said, Xena."

"Yes it was!"

"No, it wasn't," insisted the suddenly pragmatic bard. (Oh, how she was enjoying this) "And it proves my point."

"You have one?"

"You misunderstood a simple sentence and you can't see why I'd be surprised to hear you use a descriptive word like 'primal'."

Xena glared at her. "Was that you saying I have a limited vocabulary?"

Gabrielle smothered a smile. "Whatever, Xena."

"Because I know lots of words!"

"Okay. I know," agreed the bard, maddeningly reassuring. (By the gods, was she enjoying this)

But Xena was on a roll. "Umm Š flagellationŠ"

"Huh. Figures."

"Gamut! Do you know that one? Gamut?"


"Stymied!" crowed the warrior with satisfaction. "Now there's a good word."

"Yeah, but can you use it in a sentence?"

There was a short silence. Then: "Shut up."

A while later, Xena had managed to inch her way just a little bit closer to the bard, and now her cheek was sort of touching Gabrielle's shoulder. (This was because Xena used to be a huggy sort of person, and if we're on the subject of reserves, hers had been depleted a good ten years back, and now she had lost the art of asking for them to be refilled. So she had to be sneaky about it)

"I've never understood why you read so much," said Xena, apropos of nothing at all.

Gabrielle tilted her head a little. "It's like Š well Š it's like breathing, Xena. There's nothing I love more."

"But what's so good about it?" sniffed the warrior (who had been rankled a little by the 'nothing' remark). "Just scribbling on a scroll and things that aren't realŠ"

Gabrielle was aghast. "Don't you see, that's why it's magical! Because it all came from someone's head! Because somebody can express themselves with such, such, clarity of thought, and make stories come alive, and make unreal things breathe and live, and, andŠ"


"No!" Gabrielle was warming to her subject now, and the heat rose in her cheeks. "You have to stop dismissing things automatically just because you're not interested in them. You can't just assume that makes something no good!" (Though Gabrielle didn't know it, she had just hit on a point that was closer to the bone than either of them realised. This showed more than anything why she was the perfect foil for the warrior's hardness. She just Got her. You know?)

"But you waste so much time reading in the evenings when you could be-"

"EXCUSE ME?" interrupted Gabrielle. "I waste my time reading when I could be what? Finding something more to your liking to occupy myself? What would you suggest? Sword drills? Hunting? Gods-damned chakram practice?"

"Talking to me," admitted the warrior sheepishly.

Gabrielle deflated immediately. "Oh Š oh, well that'sŠ" She trailed off, appeased. (And inwardly rejoicing) Suddenly a mischievous smile appeared on her face. "Why, Warrior Princess, I do believe you're jealous!"


"You're envious of parchment!" crowed Gabrielle, tickled to death and more than a little delighted by the realisation.

"Am not," the warrior muttered unconvincingly. (She was)

"That's why you kicked my scroll bag last week!"

"Did not." (She did)

"Xena, Destroyer of Literature!"

"Shut up."

A long while later, Xena, who could not really understand why she was not peeved at her friend - both for teasing her and for besting her - lay back against the bard and sighed. She had given up the pretence of space, and now had her head on Gabrielle's stomach, stretched out on the bedroll like a lazy cat. Gabrielle's fingers were trailing softly through her hair (and Gabrielle's happy smile was more luminous than the moon, but Xena couldn't see that).

"Gabrielle, why did you-"

"Because I'm not afraid of you, Xena," replied the bard softly.

Xena sat up and stared. "How did you-"

"Because IŠ" Gabrielle trailed off. "I don't really know how I knew. I just did." (And that was the truth. It was the First of many Times that the two would be able to read each other's minds, and a right handy little skill it was, too) She patted her stomach. "Now come back here."

Xena made a mock grumbling face, and lay back down. The bard resumed stroking the warrior's hair. They didn't talk for a while, then Gabrielle said, "I knew you wanted me to do this, too."

"Shut up."

Now I've told you about a lot of Times, and a lot of Firsts, but these were merely the tip of the iceberg, as they say. I could tell you about the First Time Xena discovered that whenever Gabrielle touched her it made a shiver race up her spine, or the First Time Gabrielle realised that she mentally compared every man she met to her "best friend". I could wax lyrical about the First Time Xena was watching Gabrielle as she chattered away and was suddenly overcome by the urge to kiss her (something she later literally slapped her own face for), or the First Time Gabrielle really understood that she would never be in love with anybody in the world who was not Xena, because that was an impossible thought.

Perhaps I could even tell you about the First Time Xena decided that she couldn't remember what she had spent her evenings doing before Gabrielle came along, or the First Time Gabrielle (Accidentally. Sheeyah. Right) abandoned her own bedroll for good and moved in with the warrior. Or the First Time Xena grasped that there was a balance to everything in the world and that Gabrielle was hers, or the First Time Gabrielle plucked up the courage to address Xena on the subject of her newfound FeelingsŠ wait.

What was that? Did I just hear a yell from the back of the room? You want what? The bedroll story? Sorry? Oh! Of course. You want the Feelings story. Of course you do. Everybody always wants the Feelings story.

Never let it be said that I am not a nice Narrator. You should see some of the other stories I've Narrated. They weren't nearly as much fun as this one. I did some corporate Narration for Salmoneus that had me nearly dead of boredom. And those Godsdamned Grimm brothers. Never shut up, they didŠ

Huh? Oh yeah, Feelings. Well. Like I said. Never let it be said that I'm not a nice Narrator and don't give the people what they want. Here you bloody go thenŠ

The First Time Gabrielle decided to discuss her feelings with the warrior went something like this. (Have you ever noticed that it is always Gabrielle who addresses these issues first and never Xena although we all know that the warrior has been secretly harbouring the very same fantasies for as long, if not longer? This principle had held true for the 'We Should Share A Bedroll To Save On Luggage' discussion, the 'We Don't Really Need Two Rooms At Taverns' discussion, and of course, Xena's secret favourite, the 'It's Easier If You Wash My Back For Me' discussion)

So it was a few months later and all the leaving-of-Xena's-for-husbands-which-one-didn't-really-love-well-not-in-that-way-anyway kind of thing had been put behind them. It was one of those perfect summer evenings when you don't actually mind the light sheen of sweat that covers your body because it isn't stinking hot, just hot enough to make you feel all kind of sultry and wish that somebody was playing blues and somebody else would give you a beer.

But what Gabrielle was doing on this perfect summer evening was watching Xena drill. She hadn't watched her drill much lately, because as fascinating as it all was as a showcase for Xena's Skills (of which there were Many), it wasn't anything the bard hadn't seen a million times before. Plus, after a while, even Xena lost her mystery when you saw her land on her ass sixteen times while attempting a new kind of flip. (And Gabrielle didn't enjoy being disillusioned in this way)

On this particular evening, the bard had perched herself upon a nearby stump and been avidly watching as the warrior stretched all those limber limbs of hers in many and varied ways, before rushing madly about the clearing in what looked like a fight with herself.

After a while, Gabrielle cleared her throat. "I noticed something lately, Xena."

"Oh yeah?" asked the warrior from halfway up a tree.

"Mm. I thought about some stuff, and then, well, there it was, clear as day."

"Oh yeah?" asked the warrior from all the way up the tree.

"Yeah." Gabrielle paused, unsure whether to proceed.

"Like what?" prompted Xena from the opposite side of the clearing where she was doing handstands.

Gabrielle took a deep breath and decided to go for it. "Well, Xena, I've been having these vaguely Š proprietary feelings about you, and I don't quite know what to make of them."

"You think I should be a shopkeeper?" asked the warrior in confusion, whipping her sword madly around behind her back. "One, two-"

Gabrielle sighed, and changed tacks. "Xena, remember when we were in Marathon last month?"

"Yup Š three, four-"

"Remember that tavern we stayed at?"

"Yeah, what a dive Š seven, eight-"

Gabrielle narrowed her eyes. "Stay with me here, okay? Remember that blonde guy who came over to us Š to you Š in the bar?"

The warrior stopped her mad drilling and for a second her eyes glazed over. (She was not remembering the blonde guy, she was remembering how pretty Gabrielle had looked that night) "Uh Š yeah," she admitted casually, before resuming her jumping jacks with just a little more vigour than was strictly called for.

Gabrielle huffed. "Xena, would you stop that for a minute?"

Xena, deep in a flurry of arms and legs, didn't appear to hear her.

"XENA!" shouted the bard, sticking one hand into the warrior tornado and coming up with a firm grasp on a breastplate. "Stop fizzing around and listen to me for a second, would you?"

Xena eyed Gabrielle's hand curiously, but as the bard made no move to retrieve it, she was secretly rather pleased, and decided not to say anything. She lowered her sword and adopted (what she hoped was) a casual yet inviting stance. "What's up?"

"That man in the bar," repeated Gabrielle insistently. "When he was hitting on you."

Xena had the grace to blush a little. "I don't think he was actually-"

"I didn't like it," interrupted Gabrielle quickly. Her words tripped all over themselves in their rush to be free, and the longer she spoke the warmer her cheeks became. "I didn't like it at all and it was strange because I hadn't really thought much about it before well I had this dream once that I never told you about but then people don't usually discuss those dreams do they but when he was leaning over you all leery like that I had this sudden urge to get my staff and crack it over his head but the thing was I probably wouldn't have stopped there because I had all sorts of plans and some of them involved sharp things and when he put his hand on your leg I nearly exploded right there in the bar and that's when I thought hold on something's weird here and that I'd better go for a little walk and think about things."

The warrior's brow creased. "But you didn't go anywhere."

Gabrielle snorted. "Like I was gonna leave you alone with that sleaze for two seconds. I did my thinking later. It feels like that's all I've been doing lately, so I decided to do some talking instead. AndŠ" and she ducked her head, studying her boots, "ŠI have. Talked. About it. At least, I think I have. I think I did. What do you think?"

Xena cocked her head. "About what?"

"Oh for Š Xena, you Š idiotŠ" That was it. Gabrielle was out of ideas, so she settled for the next best thing.

Before Xena could blink, a pair of hands, apparently belonging to Gabrielle, were tangled in her hair, and a pair of lips, also apparently belonging to Gabrielle, were pressed softly against her own. (Some time later, she would recall herself thinking that they tasted faintly of apples, but for the present moment, she merely summoned up all her uncanny warlord skills and stood there like a bump on a log)

Gabrielle, not under the heavy burden that uncanny warlord skills place upon a person, was free to let her imagination wander. And where it wandered, we shall not follow. (For the simple reason that, being as inexperienced as she was, what Gabrielle was imagining was all quite wrong - some of it hilariously so - a thing she would discover for herself later that night, much to her consternation and Xena's roars of delighted laughter)

For the moment, though, we have that Kiss to discuss. The Very Thorough Kissing had drawn to a close and they both stood a little flushed and a little rumpled before each other. Xena put one hand to her forehead and tapped herself lightly a few times. Nope, apparently still there. Present. Accounted for.

"Well, Gabrielle," said Xena, when she had got her breath back. "Well. Well. Well. Gods. Well, then."

Gabrielle smiled shyly. "Me too."

Xena returned the smile, but with an utterly un-Xena-like toothy grin that made Gabrielle's heart skip a beat. "Does this mean what I think it means?" the warrior asked. (Just for the record, Xena very much wanted it to mean what she thought it meant, although as we all know she doesn't like to spell things out)

The bard laughed. "Considering your definition of the word 'proprietary', let me just make sure you completely understandŠ"

She gathered a handful of warrior and leaned in close.

"Ooer," said Xena happily, a few minutes later.

And so it began. The First Time. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Several of them, actually. But that wasn't until later, and as I have said before, so shall I say again. This is a PG story. (smile)



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