THE BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES
(or what happened between the episodes)
For Disclaimers, see "Looking for Trouble"
2.9 The Gift
(post "A Solstice Carol")
G: "Look, if we can change the king's mind without changing his anatomy, think of the example it'll be to the children."
X: "Gabrielle, the eviction notice is set at . If we don't stop it, these kids are out on the street."
G: "I know, but it will work."
X: "And what if it doesn't?"
G: "We clobber him. Please, just try it my way -- just this once -- In honor of the Solstice?"
X: "All right -- if it means that much to you."
and later . . .
G: "I don't have a gift for you."
X: "Gabrielle, you are a gift to me."
-- A Solstice Carol
It's morning. I know this because I can feel a block of sunlight coming through the window, warming my face. My eyes, however, are not inclined to open, just yet, nor does my body have any motivation to move. I'm surrounded by Xena, her skin pressed firmly against mine. We're both naked, and the sensation is unspeakably delicious. She's got her arms and legs wrapped around me from behind, and miracle of miracles, I'm pretty sure she's still asleep. I can feel her slow, even breathing -- a slight trickle of warm air against the top of my head.
I think I've died and gone to Elysia. This is by far, the best Solstice, ever. She's been so sweet to me, ever since Ares gave her her body back. We've been like a couple of goofy love-sick kids, which I guess we are. This is all new to me, this being in love thing, and judging by her behavior, I think it is for her, too. She's usually so coordinated, always a picture of grace, but she walked right into a tree branch the other day! No good reason. Just -- bam! Smacked her own self in the head. When I asked her what happened, she said she got distracted.
I looked around and couldn't see anything that would warrant her losing all track of where she was walking. Just a tree-dotted meadow with a few sheep across the way. When I pressed further, she started mumbling something about cute bards in short skirts who really shouldn't walk in front of her if they are going to walk 'like that.' I am going to get some mileage out of that one -- Xena walking into a tree because she was distracted by my backside.
Of course she got a bump on her forehead, which required me to find some cold water and a rag, and to kiss it and make it all better. And that led to kissing a few other spots in the process. It's like being in a happy fog, all the time. So much of our focus these past few weeks has been on being physical with each other -- we can't seem to stop touching each other, and sometimes if we're walking along and we're alone, she'll just stop, and pull me under a tree, and we spend half an hour kissing like crazed people. More evenings than not, we end up making love after dinner, and many of our mornings are pretty spectacular, too.
She's such a gentle and attentive lover. I think I knew she would be like that, at least with me. Not like I have much to compare her to, but I certainly have no complaints. She loves me with her heart and soul, not just her body, letting me in on levels I know no one else has ever been allowed. She won't let me be shy, immediately putting me at ease if she thinks I'm feeling unsure of myself. And that -- that has given me a lot of freedom, and a sense of self-confidence to explore, and feel completely safe in her arms, knowing she accepts and loves me on every level.
But there's more to it than the physical. There's a lot of pillow talk mixed in -- snuggling together and getting to know each other in a way we never did before, just sharing all kinds of stories about ourselves -- our childhoods, our families, our dreams. Her story is a lot more complicated than mine, and I still know to tread lightly at times. I sense there are many topics or questions that might not be welcome, and I try not to pry. But she is opening up to me, and it's been nice hearing her thoughts, and getting to know what's going on inside that beautiful head of hers.
We still chase star patterns, and look for pictures in the clouds -- we still have that kind of fun, but now we talk -- really talk -- and that's brought us closer than I ever dreamed possible. We've been playing together for a long time, but now it seems like we play every chance we get -- playing chase and tackling each other, having tickle fights and pillow fights, even just messing with each other.
Like the other day, I was sitting under a tree writing in my scrolls, and I kept feeling drops of water hit my legs and arms. I'd look up for the rain clouds and there was nothing to be seen. This went on for a while and I finally stood up, hands on my hips, ready to yell, 'cause it was making me angry. Then I heard her laughing. I looked up and there she was, perched way up on a branch over my head, peeking out from behind the leaves. She had one of our water flasks and had been up there the whole time. Of course, when I shook my finger at her, she dumped the whole thing on me. Then I started shaking the tree trying to make her lose her balance, and she did a flip, landed behind me, swatted my behind, and took off running. Which led to me chasing her, and her turning and tackling me, and me wrestling her until I was sitting on top of her, tickling her mercilessly. Then she flipped me over in the tall grass, and that led to something really, really nice on a lazy warm afternoon.
I guess you could say, after all the really bad things that have happened to us these past few months, we are having fun, and relaxing, and feeling very much loved, and I refuse to feel guilty about that. We've both made some pretty bad mistakes, and had some horrible miscommunications, between us, and with other people. We're not perfect, and I have to think that maybe, just maybe, we deserve a break, and have finally gotten one. It's nice for things to go right for a change.
I don't think there's anything she wouldn't do for me. That was probably true before we became intimate, but it's doubly true, now. Something has changed, for the good -- she has said we're partners for a while, now, but only recently has she been inclined to consult me when we confront a problem, much less do something the way I want to do it, just because it's what I want.
She gave me a gift yesterday. Okay, two gifts, because one was an actual gift -- a wooden lamb made by Sintecles, just like the one I had growing up. It even baaas when you pull its tail. He's such a talented man, and it was nice to help him find his way back to the things that once brought him joy. And it was wonderful to melt that old king's heart, without so much as drawing a drop of anyone's blood.
She did that for me, just because I asked, and that was the real gift. I wanted to keep the peace on Solstice, and when I asked, she simply agreed. She didn't roll her eyes, or get angry, or just go off and do things her way, my feelings be damned. She honestly listened and agreed to try my plan. And by the gods, it worked! And we had some fun at the same time.
It was really nice, working together to make something good happen for those people. And amazing we pulled it off, given the daze we're both in much of the time. In the middle of all of that -- dealing with the king, and Sintecles, and frightened children, our eyes kept meeting, and we'd smile at each other, like we had some special secret, which we kind of do. I'm afraid if we don't snap out of it, one of us is going to get hurt in a fight. Luckily, both of us seem to be able to focus when we really have to. She's got my back, and I've got hers, and protecting the person you're in love with makes focus in battle all the more important. We've got way too much to live for to let someone take that away from us.
Finally, I open my eyes halfway. The first thing I see is that wooden lamb, sitting on the table next to the bed. We're in an inn -- another gift -- Xena said in honor of the Solstice, we should splurge on a real bed, a warm bath, and a meal we didn't have to hunt and cook ourselves. So we found this place -- quiet, and out of the way, with only a few other guests. And we celebrated, with venison steaks, mulled wine, and they asked me to tell a few stories. Thanks to Sintecles and the king, I had a brand new Solstice story to tell them.
It was the first time I've done my bard thing since Xena and I became lovers, and I actually felt a little shy at first. I'm not sure why. I've told her stories hundreds of times when we're alone, and she's heard me perform in public many, many times. I think she knew how I was feeling, because I watched her intentionally tone down the intensity of her gaze. When she looks at me these days, her entire face lights up, and her eyes glow. It's a very powerful thing between us, and trying to tell a story with that kind of current washing over me was tough to do.
Afterward, when we were alone, she simply and quietly told me how much she liked the story. We had our warm bath, and then she took me to bed, but not to sleep right away. It is, after all, Solstice. I cried afterward. I know it makes her crazy when I do that -- crying in general, that is. I hadn't done that after lovemaking before, but she was extra sweet, and that intense thing was still working between us, and I realized it was my first happy Solstice in a long time. It got to me, and so I cried.
I finally managed to explain what I was feeling, at least I think I did. She knows things at home weren't always so happy for me, growing up. I got punished for teaching myself to read and write, punished for talking to strangers, punished for telling stories. Basically, I got punished if I didn't 'act like a girl.' Xena knows all this, because I finally told her, one day. I try not to bring it up very often, because when I do, there's murder in her eyes, and I know it's on my behalf. And then she feels guilty because it's my parents she wants to murder. I think she gets more upset on my behalf than I do myself.
But this was Solstice, and she shoved that aside, and just held me and let me cry. It felt so good -- all of it -- her loving me, and listeninng to me, and holding me. I don't think she understands how much better my life is because of her. I owe her the world, literally, because she's helping me to see it. She saved me on so many levels. I think I would have just withered up and died if I'd lived the life my parents wanted me to. It wouldn't have been living at all, just existing.
But with Xena, I feel wondrously alive. And now we've added this new dimension to our relationship. Sometimes I think I'll burst from happiness if it gets any better. I've never felt this way before - so full of hope for the future, so alive, and so very loved. That's the gift she's given me -- love and encouragement to be the person I was meant to be. And part of where I was meant to be is at her side.
The sun must be full up now, judging by the angle of the light filtering into the room. Slowly, I roll over in her arms, to face her, and find two blue eyes watching me intently. "Morning." I smile lazily at her.
"You shivered." She frowns.
"I did?" I think about that. Potadeia. Those thoughts will make me shiver every time. She doesn't need to know that right now. Besides, I'm really happy at the moment, and I owe that to her.
"Yeah." She untangles herself from me, just a little, and strokes my hair. "Everything okay?"
"If they got much more okay, you'd have to tie me down." I realize what I've said, the minute it leaves my mouth, and a rakish grin appears on her face. She knows I meant I'd float away. I know I meant that. But there's no point in explaining. She's already gone there in her mind, and she plans to have some fun with me. I can see it in those twinkling, knowing sparkles in her eyes.
"Now THAT could be fun." She laughs, and closes the short distance between us, giving me a most proper good morning kiss. "But since the ropes are in the barn with Argo, I think we can have a lot of fun without them, don't you?" She trails her fingertips lightly across my stomach, creating shivers of a different kind, and before I can think, I'm reclining fully on my back, settled into this nice thick feather bed, with six feet of passionate warrior poised over me, prepared to pounce.
Gods, every inch of me is thrumming in anticipation. She knows I'm extra-sensitive to her touch in the morning, and she takes advantage of it, just one finger lazily circling my breast, closing in on a nipple that is begging for attention. She's just plain evil, taking her time, and then she lowers her head and I arch into her mouth, not even trying to stifle the whimper that escapes.
She shifts, hovering over me, then lowers her body just enough to brush herself completely against me, and it's like tiny lightening bolts all over - the shock of her skin against mine taking my breath away. It feels so good, I wonder if it's possible to die from sensory overload, and I close my eyes, just savoring her touch. She's everywhere at once, her hands all over me, her lips teasing my neck and my breasts, and then she finds my lips again, kissing me with reckless abandon as a powerful thigh slips between my legs.
"Open your eyes," her voice burrs into my ear, causing a tremor that scatters throughout my body, making my stomach dance inside. I force my eyes open and there she is, so close I can see to the bottom of her soul. She braces herself on both arms, rocking against me, and I open up for her, giving her more room.
"Xe . . ." I gasp, but I can't remember what I wanted to say, so I just hold on, rocking gently back against her, matching her rhythm. She laughs lightly, and reaches down with one hand, grasping one of my butt cheeks, pulling me more firmly against her.
It feels so good, I wish I could crawl inside her, or pull her inside me -- something, anything, to get closer. I need more, and I realize there's something I want to give her. Very much so. I reach down and remove her hand, dragging it slowly down between us. "I need to feel you," I whisper.
"Whatever you need, sweetheart." She pulls back with her leg and strokes me gently with her fingers. My hips rise up in response, meeting her, but it's not what I meant. She misunderstands me.
I grasp her wrist and then two of her fingers, squeezing them together. "No. I need to FEEL you."
Her eyes widen and then soften, and she cocks her head to one side, her face one giant question. I push her hair back and pull her face down for a long, slow kiss, while I guide her fingers where I want them. She hasn't been there yet, but I know she's wanted to, badly. I pull back, panting, my body quivering with anticipation. "I need to feel you," I repeat softly.
Her eyes are brimming with desire, tempered with a warm glow on her face that speaks of love to me. She ducks her head, kissing me, then plants kisses and nips along my neck to my ear. And then I feel her slip inside. Gods. The fullness is mind-blowing, in a good way. My muscles spasm around her and she remains still, giving me time to adjust to this new sensation. "You okay?" she rumbles against my ear. I can't respond and I wrap one hand around her wrist, feeling her muscles moving as she strokes me deeply, once. Twice. It feels so good, I can hardly breathe. "I'm not hurting you, am I?" Her fingers still and I whimper at the loss.
"Don't stop." I kiss her neck and then bite her lightly, just a tiny fold of skin between my teeth. She groans deeply in her gut as I suckle at her skin for a moment. Then she resumes stroking me and curls her fingers inside, and suddenly I see shooting stars, sparks of pleasure washing over me.
"Gods," I moan, burying my face against her shoulder and wrapping my arms around her. My hips roll up to meet her motions, and she uses her own body, thrusting slowly, yet forcefully, taking me up higher than I've ever been before. I can't think. I can't see. I can't breathe, yet I'm panting, just holding on, knowing I'm about to free-fall on a current of pleasure like nothing I've ever known before.
"Feels so nice," she whispers, taking my earlobe between her lips and flicking it with her tongue. She trails her lips lightly across my shoulder, teasing my skin, and the combination of sensations sends me over the edge, my body turning almost inside out, rippling and shaking. I can feel her inside, and I'm tight around her, and our eyes meet -- warm currents running between us, and I know she can feel me, sharing this with me.
And then she's holding me. She does this each time, and says things I can't even comprehend, but it works, bringing me back to earth and anchoring me. Her fingers remain inside me, still now, and she smiles down at me, then kisses me languidly, taking her time. Slowly, she slides out and I release a shuddering breath, a part of me wishing she could stay there for a while longer.
We're both breathing hard and I shift, raising my leg in the process. She's still straddling me and she moans softly as I make contact with her. Gods, she's so wet, and I reach up, grasping her hips, pulling her against me, guiding her in a slow, steady grind against my leg.
Her lips are parted and she drops her head forward, her hair tickling my chest, and her weight braced on her forearms. I see a drop of sweat trickle down her neck and I reach up with one hand, pulling her toward me and removing it with my tongue. "You're so beautiful," I whisper in her ear. "I love being with you, like this." I find her lips and we kiss, as her pace increases. Then she pulls back, her eyes halfway open, her body undulating over me in a dance that is pure poetry, speaking of everything we're feeling. Her eyes are on fire, and then they close as her climax hits her. Her face is so full of pleasure, and I feel so much that I can't even describe it, knowing I've made her feel this good.
She collapses against me and our arms and legs tangle, our damp, warm skin making delicious contact as we catch our breath. It feels so good to hold her, her weight on top of me unspeakably wonderful. I rub her back, trailing my fingertips up and down next to her spine, feeling a few more shivers work their way through her body.
At last, she rolls to her back, and pulls me into her arms. "That . . . was . . . " she trails off, kissing my head and running her fingers lightly through my hair, before she reaches down, cupping one butt cheek and lifting me up until our faces are side by side.
I lean in and kiss her, then nuzzle her neck where I've left a tiny mark. "Happy Solstice, Xena."
"Mmmmmm." I feel her relax completely, her chest rising and falling in a normal pattern now, her arms still wrapped loosely around me. "Very happy indeed," she purrs.
"Sleep in?" I peck the end of her nose.
"Oh, yeah." She closes her eyes. "Sweet dreams, Gabrielle."
I laugh lightly and settle down, my head on her shoulder, my leg holding hers in place. The sweet dream is holding me at the moment.
Note: There were two scenes in "A Solstice Carol" that led me to believe X&G were lovers by that time. In the scene where they separate to chase the boy who stole the chakram, when they meet up again, Gab pops out from behind a wall first, and Xena is immediately behind her. X puts her hand on G's shoulder, and they exchange this very brief look -- no words, but it was just the tiniest &qquot;knowing" look. Then when Gab is convincing Xena not to bash heads, they cannot keep their hands off each other - constantly touching each other's arm while they talk. If you get a chance to re-watch it, look for the subtle hints throughout, especially when Xena is looking at Gabrielle. J