DISCLAIMER: Xena and Gabrielle are owned by a whole lot of people that aren't me, sadly. This little piece of nothing much, really, was my first XWP fic as well as the first ever fic I wrote that got posted on the net. ^-^
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson
The darkhaired warrior sat absently stroking the small braids in her hair, lost in a for her uncharacteristic pensive moment.
Such simple, trivial little things, braids. Xena liked having her hair done up, as impossible as that was to admit the feared Warrior Princess couldn't likely go around and admit to something so _girlish_, now could she? Talk about ruining your image.
But she did like it, it was comfortable and neat, and she always did like neat, and it kept her hair out of her eyes in a fight.
The warrior snorted derisively at herself. Yeah right. And the person who does those braids has nothing at all to do with the reason she liked it so much, nu-uh.
A soft sigh escaped Xena's lips.
Gabrielle's touch in her hair, her closeness Those treasured, stolen moments of relaxed, safe, closeness. To be able to have her that close without fearing that _this_ is the time she'd lose control, _this_ is the time she'd go to far. And lose the one person that was her very world.
It was hard, so very hard, to keep those feelings locked away. Not to reach out and simply take the talkative little bard in her arms, and keep her there.
Not that Gabrielle was aversed to physical expressions of affection, rather the reverse the girl seemed to thrive on those casual touches, the errant hug or caress.
Which of course meant a world of trouble for the dark warrior, since none of the walls she'd erected in her soul could keep the bard out. And no experience in her long, lonely existance had ever prepared her for falling in love.
There, she'd at least admitted it to herself, Xena thought wryly. It was rare that she managed to think those words, much less speak them out loud. And yet she had, on rare occasion, managed to do just that, to that lovely creature that meant everything. It was strange how such a bright person as Gabrielle never seemed to understand Xena's words for what they really were, but the warrior thanked whatever force at work for that small but all-important favor.
'The moment she realizes, it's all over', Xena thought darkly to herself. No amount of friendship would be able to keep Gabrielle at her side once the girl knew the true depth of her 'friend's' feelings. And once that wedge of fear, of revulsion, was between them, Xena would well and truly have lost her. Even if Gabrielle tried to stay after that, nothing would be the same.
And nothing could hurt as much as seeing that distance in those guileless green eyes.
So years of self-inforced control and steely determination kept Xena's secret safe, and that all-important young bard in her life. Or at least until someone else would come along, and offer Gabrielle so much more than Xena ever could. And Xena would once again be alone.
Another soft sigh escaped, and long fingers absently ran across the forgotten sword laying in the warrior's lap.
That was fine with her, wasn't it? As long as Gabrielle was happy, as long as Gabrielle was safe What did she care what happened to herself?
And yet Alone. The word tasted bitterly to her now, like an ocean of unshed tears.
Alone? Never to see that smiling face again? Never to hear that sweet voice call her name? The crushing pain that erupted in her chest at the mere thought of losing her companion made it hard to even breathe, so Xena stood, intending to distract herself from those pointless thoughts somehow. But what would she do?
What would she do?
From the other side of the fire, a pair of green eyes noticed the distraught expression on the normally so stoic face as Gabrielle returned to their camp.
Quickly the expression was gone, as the warrior realized she was no longer alone, and the ever-present calm façade was put in place.
'Oh no my warrior, you're not fooling me.' Gabrielle thought with some concern. Even so she kept a cheerful little smile on her face. "Hey."
"Hey yourself." Xena couldn't help but to smile, looking at those mesmerizing green eyes.
A hand on her shoulder. Can't you feel how I shiver from your touch? *sigh* Gods, I'm so tired.
"You look tired."
Too surprised to object, and Gabrielle knew it.
"Didn't think I could tell, huh?" Spoken with a smile, earning a cautious shrug in response.
"Ah, but I'm quite skilled at reading your warrior mask these days, so "
By the gods, I hope not! "What?"
A wry chuckle from Gabrielle.
"Here's a novel idea, how about we just snuggle up by the fire for a bit. Huh? I promise I won't bite." Another contagious smile from those lovely lips.
"S..snuggle? Oh! Uh, sure Gabrielle." Snuggle, right, get a grip warrior! That's not what she meant, and you know it.
Xena watched, unmoving, as Gabrielle gathered their bedrolls together and brought them next to a boulder closer to the fire. And continued to watch as Gabrielle turned, locked eyes with Xena, and waited. And waited.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes and sighed in an exaggerated way. "Xeena!"
"Come here." Patting at the furs next to where she seated herself.
Hmmm, let's see Next to you, on the bedrolls, to snuggle? Oh I can do that. Can I ever No, stop that you moron! Snap out of it! "Oh. Right."
Sitting down next to Gabrielle and stretching out those long legs in front of her to get comfortable, she had to admit that it was indeed nice to just relax.
Gabrielle scooted closer, resting her fair head against one no longer armed shoulder and put the other blanket over them.
Ever so hesitantly, the normally so assertive warrior put her arm out, to drape it carefully around the shoulders of the younger woman. Her heart was already fluttering in her chest, but she told herself that she could do this, it was no more than a friendly gesture, and surely Gabrielle would think nothing of it. Would she?
The small bard sighed contently at the contact, and squirmed around slightly in Xena's grip, pulling one arm around the older woman's waist in a familiar way. The old ticker was certainly going to be on overtime tonight, Xena decided.
They sat in silence for some time, under the pretense of watching the flames dance in front of them. Xena closed her eyes momentarily, revelling in all the sensations that was Gabrielle so close to her.
'She smells so nice And her hair is so soft, too.' Resisting the urge to bury her face in that red-gold treasure.
'The scent of her All leather, metal, horses and weapons polish, and just that tiny bit that's uniquely her ' Who would have thought she'd come to crave something like that? That she'd find the smell of her tall, stoic companion more alluring than any perfume? Gabrielle shook her head inperceptibly, wryly amused at herself. 'And she's so warm, too.' Unable to resist uttering another soft sigh.
Xena, being not the talkative kind, but also being altogether unprepared for the silence from the woman in her arms, who, on the other hand, usually was of the very talkative kind, was desperatly thinking of what to do. Should she speak? Or was silence the better course of action here?
"Xena? Do you want to talk?"
Innocent green eyes, turned dark and shining by the campfire, looked up at her expectantly. Idly Xena wondered if Gabrielle couldn't feel her treacherous heart beat much too fast under her ear, and what kind of excuse she could give the girl if she asked point blank.
"Huh?" Realizing she hadn't been listening.
"I said, do you want to talk about it?" Concern colored the gentle voice, as well as that sweet face now mere breaths away. "I can tell something has been bothering you today. I just thought you might feel better if you talk about it, but you don't really have to if you don't want to "
Xena's brilliant smile, alone, was enough to silence the young bard, and when that affectionate look got transferred into a strong, tight hug Gabrielle lost the concept of speech altogether. Then the deep, musical voice rumbled in her ear, wreaking even more havoc with her poor defenceless senses.
"'M okay. I've just been thinking a lot, that's all." Expecting Gabrielle to ask, she continued more hesitantly. "'Bout stuff. 'Bout you." Surprised by her own daring, when as far as she was concerned, she most definitely was a coward were her feelings for Gabrielle were concerned.
Noticing the body in her arms start in surprise she added teasingly "Yeah, you troublemaker."
Gabrielle could practically feel the smile against her ear, and the small chuckle that followed as Gabrielle automatically pinched Xena lightly in protest to the troublemaker comment, sent tremors down her shapely form.
"Are you cold, Gabrielle?"
Concerned, Xena wrapped the blanket, as well as her arms, more tightly around her precious bard, drawing her into Xena's lap as she did so.
"Ummm, yeah, I guess a bit." Gabrielle lied, not sure of what to say, only wanting desperatly to stay right where she was, and quite positive that Xena's sensetive hearing would pick up her rampant heartbeat.
"Uh-huh. So why don't we stay right here for now, and I'll keep you warm, hmm? You can go to sleep, it's OK." Gently she kissed Gabrielle's forehead. "And you'll keep me warm, too."
Any protest that Gabrielle would have made died right there, unspoken.
Xena reprimanded herself for doing this, scolded herself that she wasn't being reasonable, angry at herself for taking advantage of Gabrielle in this way But for some reason she just couldn't move a muscle to put the other woman down.
Realizing defeat, she locked up all her inner demons in their usual little cages, allowing herself to relax, and waited for Morpheus to come and invite her to his realm.
And Morpheus found them like that, the small bard curled comfortably within the warrior's strong embrace, forming the figure of oneness in sleep that in waking still eluded them.
May I keep you right here?
Can I just stay? Right here?
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