DISCLAIMER: Xena Warrior Princess is the property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Della Street
Xena rested on a boulder while her horse drank from the nearby stream. She looked up at the sky, calculating how much time she had before the sun went down. She could make it, she decided. Pretended to decide, actually. She knew she would keep going, regardless.
She would be getting back a day earlier than she had expected. The scouting trip, while necessary, had still been three long days of silence. Silence she had occasionally prayed for in the past, but now found unbearable. For days, she had heard nothing but the thud of Argo's hooves along roads and fields, and the crackle of fire at night. No chattering on about nothing, no complaints, no stories. No one telling her everything would be all right. Xena took the reins and mounted, nudging the horse forward. "Let's go."
There were still a few hours of daylight left when Xena guided Argo to the front of the inn and jumped down. "I'll be back," she said, patting the horse's neck. She took the stairs two at a time and pulled open the door to their room, not caring whether Gabrielle was decent or not. She wanted to hear her voice.
The room was empty. Xena looked around, but all of their things were gone. She stood for a minute, considering, then headed downstairs.
"I thought I asked you to keep an eye on her."
The innkeeper stood immobile, his back pressed against a wall, his front pressed against metal plates and leather. Somehow, his closeness to this beautiful woman did not give him the feeling he normally would have expected.
"You didn't tell me to keep her prisoner. What was I supposed to do?"
"Who was he?"
"I don't know." Xena's lip curled, and he stammered, "A warrior. She wanted to go with him. She--"
"They had their arms around each other. I assumed . . ."
Xena's eyes bore into his. "I want you to tell me everything you remember them say or do."
She pinned him tighter against the wall.
"OK, OK. Uh . . . She went outside for a walk. When she came back in, he was with her. They had their arms around each other."
"Where were their arms?"
"He had his arm around her shoulder; hers was around his back. Geez, you want every little detail?"
She stared at him.
"Oh. OK. No problem." He thought harder. "They sat down at a table and talked. I went over there once with some bread and wine--"
"Wine? Who ordered that?"
The innkeeper waited for another question, but Xena remained silent, and he continued his recollection. "They were talking about leaving."
"What'd they say?"
"She said she'd have to be back by tomorrow evening, that her friend would worry if she wasn't here. He said that was fine . . ." His voice trailed off.
"I, I . . . don't exactly remem--"
Xena's hand came up to his collar, and she pulled his face to hers. "My friend was right, you know. I am worried because she's not here. And when I'm worried, I tend to take it out on people. So I hope your memory improves pretty fast."
He shut his eyes, his survival instincts telling him she wasn't going to like it. "She said they could have a good time until then, or something like that. She gave up your room for tonight, and they left."
Xena released him, concealing her surprise. For some reason, she felt her face getting hot, and she turned away. The keeper stood in place, waiting for the woman's next orders.
Her mind went down several paths. Gabrielle was a grown woman. If she wanted to spend the night with a warrior, a man, it wasn't any of her business. Xena had certainly done more than her share of it. Not lately, though. Lately she hadn't felt the same need as she had in the past. She was content to spend her time with Gabrielle. It was enough to feel Gabrielle leaning back against her as Xena braided her hair some mornings, taking longer and longer lately as the braiding became more intricate. Then, eyes closed, she would lean back against Gabrielle as she returned the favor, her hands working gently with the long black hair. Those same hands would sometimes wash the dirt from her back and neck, sometimes massage her shoulders after a long day.
Xena didn't want physical contact with anyone, but if Gabrielle did, that was her right. It wasn't any of Xena's concern. She would just stay at the inn until Gabrielle got back tomorrow.
No she wouldn't. She turned back to the innkeeper.
"Do you know which way they went?" she asked, more subdued.
He started to shake his head, confused by the change in the woman's demeanor, then remembered-- "Wait! I think I can help you. Follow me."
They emerged from the back room and the keeper walked over to a teenaged boy sweeping the floor. "Craeus, do you remember the blonde girl that's been staying here?"
The boy smiled enthusiastically. "Oh, yeah. The one with the great--"
"Nevermind that, Craeus," the keeper interrupted, laughing nervously to Xena. He turned back to the youth. "You were outside when she left with the warrior. Which way did they go?"
"South. On his horse."
"On his horse?" Xena asked.
"Yeah, she got up behind him, and they headed down the south road."
Xena turned to the keeper. "Thanks," she said apologetically.
Xena crept up to a small campsite. Sitting alone by the fire was a warrior in full uniform, with nicely trimmed light hair and beard. Good looking, she supposed. She scanned the area, quickly spotting her own saddlebag, Gabrielle's purse, then -- Gabrielle's clothing.
Xena breathed through her nostrils for a moment, trying to calm her rising emotions. It was none of her business, she told herself again.
The warrior began to whistle, and unconsciously Xena's face twisted into a snarl. Whistling, was he? Like Gabrielle was just another conquest. 'I don't think so.'
He heard Xena's approach too late. One arm was around his throat, fingers gripping tightly, while another forced his elbow behind him painfully. "Where is she?"
Xena shifted her weight slightly to apply more pressure, but she had underestimated his quickness. He yanked her arm forward and rolled to his side, causing Xena to lose her grip on his elbow and pitch forward. She landed on her back, rolling out of the way as he tried to land on her. He reached out and caught her leg, but received the heel of her other boot against his head.
"Ow! All right, that does it!" His mood now matched hers. He lunged toward her and caught Xena's arm, swinging her around. He let go, but instead of seeing her fly through the air he felt himself tumbling forward with her, her hand firmly gripping his sleeve. They landed in a tumble, scattering food and water containers, sending a cloud of dirt into the air.
In a flash Xena was on top of him, one knee pressed down on his chest. He looked up into eyes filled with inexplicable anger and surged backward away from the madwoman, only to find he had backed into the fire pit.
"Yikes!" The woman let him roll on the dirt to extinguish the flames, then immediately resumed her attack. Still on his back, he felt his head jerked upward, saw her hand pulled back in a fist--
"Hey, Meleager!" Gabrielle's shout came through the trees. "I want you to meet my friend tomorrow. It's Xena. I think she'll like you."
Gabrielle emerged from the woods a moment later, clad in a long, thick robe. She halted, surprised to see a second figure standing next to Meleager.
"Xena!" Gabrielle's eyes widened with pleasure, which evolved into confusion as she looked around the campsite. Or rather, what used to be a campsite. "What happened here?"
The warriors glanced at each other. "Whirlwind," Meleager said in a serious tone. "A real freak," he added pointedly. Xena jerked her head sharply toward him.
"Really?" Gabrielle's inspection strayed to the fire pit, ashes and bits of wood strewn everywhere.
"Yeah, there was a big wind, all right," Xena said.
"Don't worry, kid - I managed to keep the fire from spreading."
"Yeah, rolling around on your back was a pretty inventive way of putting it out," Xena said.
They stood facing each other, adrenalin still pumping.
"Are you OK?"
"Yeah--" "I'm fine--" Meleager and Xena spoke at the same time, then stopped and glared at each other again. They swung around to face Gabrielle, and smiled through their teeth.
"This is so great!" the bard gushed. "You two have a lot in common, you know," she said over her shoulder, walking over to her clothes. She stepped over a smashed apple, then paused to examine it, puzzled. She looked up again, but Xena was checking something on her breastplate and Meleager was gazing off into the forest, whistling softly. "I'll be back," she called, carrying her clothing into the woods.
"Want me to come with you?"
"No, you stay here and talk to Meleager." Gabrielle ambled off.
"Hey, you attacked me, remember?" Meleager said. "What was that all about, anyway?"
"Gabrielle is my friend."
"She's a sweet young girl."
"She's innocent and vulnerable."
"Are we talking about the same girl?"
Xena grabbed his collar. "At least she was innocent," she said menacingly.
"Whoa! You've got the wrong idea here. I wouldn't --" He scrunched up his face. "Gabrielle is like a little sister to me. She was there when I really needed some help a while back."
Xena released him. "Sorry."
"So, are you just the guardian of young girls' virtue, or are you two . . .?"
She avoided his gaze. "Of course not. Like you said, a little sister."
"Well, at least I know where she learned about fighting. Your reputation is impressive."
"So's yours. Over 800 men killed at Laguria, I hear. So what's that, about 200?"
"Yeah. Just about what you did at Corinth."
They looked at each other, silently honoring each other's feats, and felt their earlier tension fading.
Gabrielle re-emerged from behind the trees and handed Meleager the robe. "Thanks. Have you had anything to eat, Xena?"
"That means no," Gabrielle explained to Meleager. She walked over to their saddlebag. "I've got some bread in here . . ." She drew out a smashed loaf, then peered inside the bag. "Now, how did that--"
"I've got some venison," Meleager offered. Xena started to decline, but the warrior raised his hand. "I've got plenty." He stepped over to the pit and worked on reviving the fire.
Xena looked over to see Gabrielle gazing at her, smiling. She turned away quickly. Sometimes when Gabrielle looked at her like that . . . She shook her head almost imperceptibly to clear her thoughts.
She heard a noise and felt Gabrielle's arms around her, soft blonde hair pressed against Xena's chest. Xena returned the embrace awkwardly, placing her hands on the smaller woman's waist.
"I missed you," Gabrielle said softly.
"I missed you too."
Xena glanced over Gabrielle's shoulder and noticed Meleager watching them. She rolled her eyes, embarrassed by the display of affection. Meleager laughed, and put a generous piece of venison on the fire.
Gabrielle continued to press against the taller woman, who stood stiffly. Xena could remember the first time her companion had turned to her like this, seeking comfort when Death took Talus. Xena had been caught by surprise, unable to prevent the contact, uncertain what to do. Gabrielle was a physically expressive person, and over the months Xena had gotten used to being touched often, had even found herself reaching out to the other woman. But lately she had become increasingly uncomfortable with such physical intimacy.
"You're so tense. Let me give you a massage."
"No!" Xena spoke more abruptly than she intended. "I just need some rest."
"If I'd known you were coming back today, I would have kept the room. I just thought I'd stay out here with Meleager. Saved us five dinars," Gabrielle said, smiling hopefully.
"It was a good idea." Xena slid a hand up her friend's back.
"At least we could have had a bed."
Xena broke the embrace. "It's OK. Really." She strode toward the fire, leaving Gabrielle standing there, staring after her, uncertainty on her face.
Gabrielle grinned. Just as she had predicted, Meleager and Xena seemed to hit it off, sharing stories about battles, talking about mutual friends and enemies, exchanging current information about political changes and unstable areas. It had been a wonderful evening. And occasionally she had seen Xena look over at her, those beautiful blue eyes meeting hers briefly before glancing away again.
She handed a blanket to Xena, waiting until she lay it down, then placed hers next to it. Meleager had excused himself for a brief stroll into the woods.
"Don't do that."
"Don't put it that close."
Xena reached down and moved the other blanket. She straightened up to see a hurt expression on her friend's sweet face. "It's safer," she said gently.
Gabrielle remained silent, then said quietly, "You've never done that before."
"Look, I don't want Meleager to think I let you sleep that close." Well, it was partly true. "He'll think--"
"He'll think what?"
"He'll think I'm not worrying enough about your safety."
Xena looked over at her. She couldn't stand to see Gabrielle unhappy. She stepped forward and laid a hand on the smaller woman's shoulder. Gabrielle turned around instantly and put her hands on Xena's waist, smiling up at her. Xena returned the smile, moving away when she heard the crunching of Meleager's boots.
Later that night, Xena lay awake, looking at but not seeing stars in the clear sky. She moved her head and saw Gabrielle asleep, still too close for Xena's comfort. Xena knew all too well now what she was feeling, and hoped desperately that it would pass.
Meleager left them the next afternoon, on his way to a rendezvous. He strode over to Xena, and they clasped arms. "Glad to know you," he said. Xena nodded, and Meleager glanced over at Gabrielle, who was shaking out Xena's blanket. "I owe her," he said. Xena waited. "I want her to be happy."
"So do I."
"Then open your eyes, Xena."
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said defensively. Obviously Meleager had seen through her, could see her feelings for Gabrielle. She leaned down and pulled her horse's saddle belt tight, then turned back to him. "You don't have to worry. I would never do anything to hurt her."
Meleager started to reply, but closed his mouth again as Gabrielle approached. He held his arm out, but Gabrielle ignored it and hugged him instead, smiling. "I hope we see each other again."
"We will, kid," he said, touching her chin. "In the meantime, you take care of yourself."
He nodded to Xena and mounted his horse, heading down the road.
"Isn't he great?"
Gabrielle looked at her.
A bright smile radiated from the bard's face.
Xena looked at her for a long moment, then shifted her attention back to the saddle.
Xena stripped and dove into the water. She swam smoothly out to the middle of the lake, knowing Gabrielle wouldn't follow her out that far. From the corner of her eye she saw Gabrielle wade out from the shore and closed her eyes, shutting out the image of the fair skin. She dove under, letting the water flow over her, cooling her skin, wishing it would cool her blood.
She floated quietly with her eyes closed, sun warming her skin. Water splashed onto her face, and she righted herself. Gabrielle grinned and splashed her again.
"You'd better think about this, Gabrielle," she warned.
The grin widened.
"I'm trying to have a bath here."
"And I'm trying to have fun."
"I think I need a bath more than you need to have fun."
"I don't. We haven't had fun for a long time."
Xena took in Gabrielle's playful countenance, then her eyes wandered down the young woman's throat to the top of her breasts, which peeked out of the water. She felt her pulse rising, and tried to keep her face expressionless as Gabrielle paddled closer to her. Xena wanted to touch her. It would be so easy . . .
She turned to swim further out, but Gabrielle jumped on her back, giggling. Xena smiled in spite of herself and leaned back to dunk her passenger. She straightened back up, grinning as Gabrielle sputtered.
"Now let me have my bath," she ordered, disengaging Gabrielle's hands from her shoulders. She turned around and found their bodies touching. Gabrielle pulled her hands free and draped her arms around Xena's neck.
"What's with you today?" Xena said gently, reaching for the hands again.
Gabrielle pouted. "You were gone forever."
"I think I should have stayed away longer." Xena was becoming increasingly anxious to remove herself from the scene. One more touch, one more adorable look, and she was going to make a terrible mistake.
She felt the smaller body press against her, and summoned her remaining resolve. "I mean it, Gabrielle. Don't touch me!" she said, louder and harsher than she had intended.
Gabrielle stared at her, stunned. She pulled her arms back, then whirled around and splashed as quickly as she could toward the shore.
Xena closed her eyes, shaking her head, and went after her friend. She stepped onto the bank and started for her clothes, but stopped when she heard a noise. Gabrielle crying. Xena's throat tightened. She walked over and saw Gabrielle sitting on the ground, hunched over.
She put a hand on her shoulder, but Gabrielle jerked away. "I'm sorry." Xena searched for words that would get her out of this mess. "I . . . haven't felt well since I got back." She could see that she had Gabrielle's attention. "I'm going through a hard time right now."
Gabrielle looked up at her, concern overshadowing hurt feelings. "What's the matter?"
She didn't want to lie to Gabrielle, but she couldn't tell her the truth. She sighed. Suddenly she felt very tired, and she dropped down next to the blonde woman on the grass. Nothing was coming to her.
"Xena?" She felt Gabrielle's hand on her knee, and looked down at it. The hand was abruptly withdrawn. "Sorry."
"I . . ." Xena looked at the earnest face turned toward her, and shook her head. She started to stand, but felt a hand gently tugging at her.
"Please tell me what's wrong. Is it something I've done?"
"No, never," she said softly.
"Then tell me. Is there anything I can do for you?"
"No." Xena nearly laughed. "I think I just need some . . . companionship."
"Companionship? What about us?"
She smiled slightly. "I mean a different kind of companionship, Gabrielle."
A pause, then, "Oh." She stole a glance at the bard, who was staring at the ground.
A long silence passed, then a quiet voice spoke. "Are you sure there isn't anything I could do for you?"
Xena replayed the words in her head. What was she saying? She turned her head and met Gabrielle's gaze, staring into deep green eyes. The silence was broken only by the beating of her heart, growing faster the longer they looked at each other. Gabrielle tentatively laid her hand on Xena's thigh, and the warrior closed her eyes, fire spreading through her body. She opened her eyes again, and spoke in an even voice.
"Gabrielle, do you understand . . ." She couldn't articulate the question.
"I understand." Gabrielle moved her fingers on Xena's thigh. "I want to give you companionship. I really want to."
Xena regarded her closely. She hoped her friend really did understand, but she couldn't go back now either way. She slowly leaned in and kissed soft lips, her eyes closing at the touch. Gabrielle reached a hand behind Xena's head, caressing her neck, drawing her closer, a little noise of excitement coming from her throat. She understood, all right.
Xena pulled back, the delicate hand still resting on her neck. "Lie down," she said, seeing Gabrielle's eyes flash, hearing her breathing accelerate. Gabrielle's first time. Xena smiled. She had once wondered, after one too many pints, how it would be for Gabrielle the first time. Now she'd know.
Her heart pounded as she lowered herself to taste Gabrielle's lips again. Those lips had pressed against her shoulder when she needed it, after reliving the horror of fiery deaths. They had spoken words that comforted her, made her laugh, made her fall in love. Xena ran her tongue across them, enjoying their softness. After a moment, her tongue slipped inside, probing deeper until it touched Gabrielle's. Gabrielle gasped against her mouth and grabbed her shoulder. Xena gently moved the small hand onto her breast, and heard Gabrielle's breath catch again. She raised herself slightly and Gabrielle grasped her other breast, fondling them, squeezing, feeling their firmness. The throbbing of Xena's heart spread throughout her body as Gabrielle eagerly caressed her breasts, still locked in a passionate kiss, receiving urgent thrusts of Xena's tongue.
Xena pulled away and sat back on her heels, panting. She needed to regain control. This was Gabrielle's first time, and she had to be careful. Fingertips brushed against her stomach, getting her attention. She gazed down at that beautiful face, seeing the love she always saw there, and now something else. Lust surged through her, and she lowered her head to Gabrielle's breast.
She caressed the firm body beneath her while her mouth alternated between Gabrielle's breasts, her hand seeking out every part of that soft skin, drying occasional drops of water remaining from the lake. She could feel tension throughout Gabrielle's body, matched by labored breathing. She slid her hand between Gabrielle's legs.
Gabrielle moaned, her hips unconsciously stirring, waiting . . . Xena moved her fingers, and within seconds felt Gabrielle clutch at her, delicious convulsions racking her body. Xena watched the closed eyes, the intensity of emotion on Gabrielle's face as she experienced joyous release. Gabrielle sighed and finally lay back, still breathing rapidly.
Xena knew it wasn't going to take much to bring her own desire to a climax. She pressed herself against Gabrielle's thigh, then decided to give her friend another new experience. She lay back and started to reach for Gabrielle's hand, but Gabrielle was already there, exploring her warmth.
The warrior held out as long as she could, trying to focus on the look of fascination and concentration on her lover's face. At last she couldn't take it any more and she closed her eyes, back arched, ecstasy flowing over her. She heard Gabrielle utter a small cry as the waves overtook her, one after another, and she groaned, settling back onto the ground.
Gabrielle nestled against her and they lay together quietly, the bard's fingers absently trailing up and down Xena's arm. Xena looked at her, smiling at the excitement she saw from this new facet of their relationship. She rolled over and looked into warm green eyes.
"One of the things you're going to learn, Gabrielle, is that we can do this for hours at a time. You might as well learn that right now." Gabrielle's eyes lit up, and Xena lowered herself for another kiss.
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