Every once in a while Xena could really take pleasure in the company of men. Like this once, for example. She was in a tavern halfway between Potaedea and the next town and had bumped into a bunch of soldiers that were on their way home from a mission and celebrating their safe return. They were drinking, laughing and joking light-heartedly about incompetent leaders, fast horses and luscious women. Xena joined them and was enjoying herself. It felt like old times. The good part of old times, to be more precise. However, she noticed, the jokes about the luscious women did not make her laugh as much as they used to. Especially since… she had fallen in love with one.
There, she had finally admitted it to herself. The young blonde had captured her heart. For quite some time, come to think of it. She had emotionally grown so much lately, it was hard to see her as a child anymore, and hard not to notice how beautiful she had become. But of course it could never be. The girl was young and innocent. Xena felt responsible for her happiness, her training and her future. A future without danger and death around every corner. A future with a safe home and a bunch of kids, perhaps. Xena would take care of her until the young bard would find a suitable husband. Even though leaving her behind would mean leaving her heart and soul behind. She sighed. Right now the gorgeous blonde in question was visiting her family. Gabrielle's father did not approve of Gabrielle's lifestyle and even less of the tall dark Warrior Princess she was travelling with, so they had decided that Xena would wait in the next town for her companion. No need to mess up a family reunion. It was not Xena's jug of ale anyway. She took another drink and joined the easy banter again, thankful for the distraction.
Back in Potaedea, the young bard
sighed too. She would never be able to convince her father that it was
her own free will, and her right, to travel around with Xena and
live all the adventures other people could only dream about. Neither could
she convince her mother that she did not need a husband, not from the next
farm, nor from the next village and not even from the city of Athens, thank
you very much. In fact, she did not think she would ever want a husband
at all. The situation made her feel worn-out and she longed to be with
her friend again. She decided against staying for dinner and got her horse
ready to leave. Her sister Lila, who was the only one to understand, or
at least accept her feelings, accompanied her out of town, walking beside
her, much like Gabrielle always used to walk beside Xena.
"I think they act this way because they miss you," Lila said breaking the awkward silence.
"Yeah well, the way they act will only drive me away further, longer and sooner!" Gabrielle fumed.
"I miss you too," Lila said softly.
"I know, little sister. That is why I keep coming back to visit."
"Thanks," Lila said.
"Maybe one day you will want to join Xena and me for an adventure?"
"I think I would like that! Do you think Xena would mind?"
"I think I could talk her into it," the bard smiled with confidence.
"You mean a lot to each other, don't you?" Lila looked up to her older sister.
"The world," Gabrielle answered simply, from the bottom of her heart.
"Do you love her?"
"Yes." Gabrielle said honestly.
"Like a sister?" her sibling inquired.
"There's only one person in the world that I love like a sister," she teased. "Her name is Lila."
"I mean, uhm…" Lila persisted.
"I know what you mean. I love her like a lover." Gabrielle confessed.
"Does she love you that way too?" Lila asked. She did not seem to be surprised.
"I don't know," Gabrielle sighed.
"Do you mean you haven't told her how you feel?"
"No, I haven't."
"Don't have the guts."
"But Gabby! You are so courageous!"
"Not in this matter, I'm afraid." The bard admitted.
"I'm scared she's going to leave me behind. Besides, she can take her pick from quite a line of suitors, why would she choose a young, inexperienced farm girl from Potaedea?" Gabrielle smiled sadly. "I am no competition."
"Yes you are! You are the bravest, smartest and sweetest person I know! And if she is half the smart-ass you always say she is, she can see that!" Lila was working herself up.
"Forget it, Lila, she thinks I'm a child."
"Oh, well, she can't keep thinking that forever". Lila replied.
"My point exactly. I'm going to stick around until I've grown up and she notices."
The two sisters parted with a big hug and Gabrielle followed the trail trough the mountains that she knew so well, after her warrior friend. She looked forward to seeing her again and enjoyed the early spring air and the scenery along the way.
The track led her along a small brook
that lay some twenty feet below.
Suddenly her mare tripped badly and Gabrielle was totally unprepared. She fell down the steep slope, bumping her head into a rock on her way down. She must have been out for a while, because when she regained consciousness, she found herself in the ice-cold water. It was not deep enough to drown in, but she realised she had to get out fast or else she would die of cold. The weird thing was, that she did not feel any pain or panic. In fact she didn't care much either way. She did feel extremely tired and the only thing she really wanted was to go to sleep. Her movements were slow and uncoordinated. With her last efforts, she crawled onto the bank and then passed out again.
Over at the tavern, Xena suddenly
got a very creepy feeling. Something was wrong, very wrong. She looked
around the place. No, there was no threat here. Something had to be wrong
She got up, threw a few dinars on the table and whistled for Argo.
"Pay for my drinks, fella's", she called as she sped outside and vaulted onto the bare back of her waiting horse. If anything had happened to her bard…
She raced back along the track to Potaedea that she had taken earlier that day. Less than half a candlemark later, she saw Gabrielle's horse stand aimlessly on the trail.
"Gabrielle!" she called, panic sounding in her voice
No reply. She quickly scanned the surroundings and spotted Gabrielle's body down the steep slope.
"Gabrielle!" she called again, at the top of her lungs, but still got no reaction.
In a few heartbeats Xena was down at the river, waded through and scooped up her chilled friend. She examined her quickly for broken bones and felt for a pulse. She found one: very slow and irregular. The bard was barely alive and her heart would surely stop beating if Xena did not manage to warm her up fast. Her lovely features were purple with cold.
"You'll be alright, Gabrielle, I'm here. Hang on." Xena tried to calm her own terror. By the Gods, Gabrielle hardly breathed at all! Xena somehow made her way back up to the track with the girl in her arms.
"Argo, I need you to warm up Gabrielle, so that I can gather wood for a fire. Stand quite still, alright?"
The palomino snorted and seemed to understand. She stood perfectly still, while Xena put Gabriele's limp body face down on Argo's back, her head resting on the horse's hindquarters, her frigid limbs hanging down lifelessly along her panting sides. Xena covered her friend with her blanket and she took the horse by the lead in search of a convenient place. Gabrielle's horse followed with a limp.
"Where are hot springs when you need one?" Xena thought. "Well, that would heat Gabrielle up too fast anyway." A cave would have to do, and she found one shortly. Leaving the horses, she hurried off into the woods to collect firewood. With luck she would get a fire going and take Gabrielle into her arms before the spasms would start, that she knew would come with warming up.
When she returned with enough wood, she felt under the blanket for Gabrielle's pulse and noticed it was a little stronger. The girl was obviously profiting from Argo's considerable warmth. She decided to take time to put on a kettle to boil some water and put several herbs in it. Then she took the saddle, spread out the bedroll and lifted Gabrielle off her horse, blanketsand all, and put her down near the saddlebags.
"Sorry, old girl, I'll make it up to you," she said. Argo snorted again and trotted off to find her own water and grazings.
Xena stripped the small blonde of her wet clothes, then undressed herself, covered them both with the blanket and curled up behind Gabrielle. She wrapped her arms around her freezing friend and pulled Gabrielle's chilled back against her. She knew her own body warmth was the best temperature, although to Gabrielle it would probably feel like she was burning her skin against her friend. This was the best she could do to help her.
Slowly and still subconsciously, Gabrielle started to moan. Xena held her tight and covered up her head, so she couldn't waist any warmth. The warrior gently felt her pulse, that was becoming stronger and more regularly now. It was going to hurt like Tartarus when the bloodstream returned to super cooled limbs, Xena had to be careful not to touch any. She could only wait now and see that Gabrielle would not hurt herself shivering violently.
Her body temperature rising ever so slowly, the bard started to tremble uncontrollably. With it returned some consciousness. And pain. Terrible pain. It felt as though her limbs were on fire. And she could not stop the vehement shaking of her body, although it hurt like Tartarus.
"Oh Gods, Xena!" She groaned in anguish. Had she noticed that Xena had come to get her?
"Shh, it will be alright, my love. Try to lie still; I'll take care of you." The term of endearment had slipped out involuntarily and it startled Xena, but she didn't think Gabrielle would have noticed. She held the girl tight, firmly but gently.
Gabrielle's teeth clattered. It would be best if Xena could get some warm fluid into her, so it could warm her from the inside too, but she was still quite far off. She could possibly choke. Still Xena wanted to try. She got up on one elbow and poured some of the herb tea into a cup.
"Gabrielle, wake up!" she said urgently. "I need you to drink something."
"Come on, Gabrielle, drink something!"
A groan. "S-so c-cold".
"Gabrielle, look at me."
Gabrielle stirred, groaned and indeed opened her eyes.
"I need you to drink a little of this hot tea."
"'Kay…" she muttered her understanding.
But how was Xena going to get the hot fluid into her friend? There was no way she could drink from a mug, shaking the way she did and with clattering teeth.
"Come here." She took a small mouthful herself and placed her lips onto Gabrielle's, who slowly sucked it out of Xena's mouth and swallowed it. She didn't choke, but they did spill some, because of the shivering. Xena tenderly wiped it dry. Gods, Gabrielle's lips felt so cold. Even her breath was cold! Xena took another sip, bigger this time, until they had drained the entire mug.
They lay back down again and the herb tea and Xena's body warmth were effectively heating up the chilled bard.
Gradually Gabrielle's shivers became
less severe and between shivers she was able to relax a bit.
"Hurts….like Hades," she muttered.
"I know. It'll be alright," Xena comforted her. "I'm here for you."
"Thanks", Gabrielle uttered.
In their seasons of travelling together,
they had developed an easy, relaxed companionship, in which they were not
shy to see each other unclothed and they could casually touch each other
or share an occasional hug, without feeling awkward. But this was something
completely different. Xena had never held Gabrielle for such a long time
on end, and undressed no less!
Under normal circumstances Xena never had a large amount of time to think. Being a woman of action, she was used to take life-and-death-decisions in the blink of an eye. Self-reflection was not one of her many skills. Well, not one she practiced regularly, anyway. But waiting, warming her love and willing her to survive this, Xena had nothing else to do. And plenty of time to mull over the beautiful, naked young bard in her arms and her own feelings for her. The scent of Gabrielle's hair, her soft skin against Xena's breasts were making it increasingly hard to keep control of her emotions. She took a decision.
Quite some time, maybe candlemarks,
later, Gabrielle had finally regained a comfortable temperature. She was
still quite sore, though, and not at all willing to leave her warm shelter.
"Could we change positions? You could warm my front."
They both turned over. Gabrielle spooned against the warm back of the tall warrior. She warmed her cold nose, and was that a very cold little kiss Xena felt between her shoulder blades?
"Can I put my hands in your armpits?"
"Sure. Don't tickle."
"And my feet between your legs?"
"Course. Sheez, they are still cold!"
"Yes, compared to you anything is cold. This feels good…"
"Are you feeling better?" the warrior inquired.
"Can we talk?" Xena asked. She didn't have to look at the bard this way. Maybe it would be easier.
"Only if I can stay right here with you," Gabrielle answered.
"Sure. I've been thinking."
"I nearly lost you again." Xena remarked gravely.
"Yeah, you can't leave me alone for a candlemark."
"No, I'm serious, Gabrielle. I very nearly lost you again, and then you would never have known. I would never have told you." Her heart pounded violently.
"Told me what?"
"That I love you. Really love you." Her mouth was dry.
Gabrielle felt a fierce blush of happiness start to glow inside her body, warming her from within.
"Xena, are you serious?" I must be hallucinating, she thought overjoyed. Brain damaged from the cold…
"Very serious. I lay here thinking, while trying to warm you, that you have the right to know. The right to choose whether to accept my love or not, whether to stay with me or to leave me. I will respect your decision." She swallowed hard. It was almost unnatural for her to make herself so vulnerable.
"Oh, Xena!" Gabrielle pulled Xena over on her back, and cuddled up in her arms. A hot ball of ecstasy exploded inside the pit of her stomach. "I don't ever want to leave you! I love you too, you know! It started as hero-worshipping, but it has grown. I have grown. Gods, I've been wanting you to notice me as a woman… "
"I do. And it has been very difficult hiding that from you." Xena admitted with a guilty smile.
"Why would you want to do that?" Gabrielle was puzzled.
"Because I would want something better for you than this life of danger. I was trying to protect you from me."
"Did you notice an ordinary creek almost killed me today?" Gabrielle enquired. "And that you rescued me? Again, I might add!"
"Yes. I noticed. And then I realised that if I lost you again, to Celesta or to some husband, you would never know my true feelings for you. And that you are indeed a grown woman. Able to, and with the right to, choose."
Gabrielle got up on her elbows and very slowly claimed the warm lips of the dark woman. "I feel very grown up," she said suggestively.
Xena raised an eyebrow. "Are you quite sure?" she asked. "Gabrielle, you don't need to prove yourself to me. How do you know you love me that way?"
"Because I know I long to touch these," Gabrielle tenderly stroked her way from one of the warrior's full breasts to the other, erecting both nipples in her trail and sending liquid fire through both their bodies. "And I know I want to do this," she said softly, as she curled her lips around the nearest of the two obviously aroused spots, letting her tongue explain the rest. "And then I would love you to do the same to me," she added as though she were explaining something to a small child, while her hand trailed further south and stroked the shapely loins of her beautiful companion. "Gods, Xena, you have no idea how much I want you. How much I want to make love to you." She rolled onto her naked lover and felt the glory of soft breasts against soft breasts, soft belly against soft belly, straddled one of Xena's legs and relished the feeling. They both gasped for air.
"Well, in that case… " what the warrior was going to say was smothered in a very hungry kiss.
She wrapped her arms around the smaller woman and pulled her close, feeling her weight upon her, caressing her arms, stroking her way down her muscled back, and cupping her well defined butt. She raised her leg between Gabrielle's and elicited a sigh of surprise. Gods, this was bliss!
Gabrielle, still very careful to stay under the blankets, planted a trail of kisses down from Xena's delicious mouth, along her graceful neck, to her awaiting nipples. They both got the full treatment, until Xena was moaning out loud, pressing her breast into Gabrielle's enthusiastic mouth. Gabrielle did not stop her eager discovery of her lover's body. She kissed her way further down the smooth belly and got tantalisingly close to Xena's black curls. Xena willingly opened her legs and Gabrielle slipped her fingers between her sodden intimate folds. Both women took a sharp intake of breath, when the younger woman dove into the slippery soft centre. Ah, this was ambrosia! Xena could tell that Gabrielle was quite inexperienced in the ways of love, but she did her exploring with so much tenderness and passion that Xena was filled with trust. And need! Gabrielle softly licked around Xena's wet core until she got hold of the small nub that seemed to want the most attention. She slipped it into her mouth and suckled gently at first, but encouraged by Xena's moans, redoubled her efforts. She could tell Xena was reaching the summit of bliss as the older woman pulled her head closer and started moaning.
"Oh yes! Gabrielle!, oh YESSS!!" Xena called and inside her lover exploded a ball of happiness that ran through her entire body like lava. Gods, this was so good! Gabrielle felt so honoured that she, of all people, was the one to please the warrior princess in this way. She was quite overwhelmed and stretched out on top of her lover, tears in her eyes.
"Yeah, I am very sure, Xena, I love you this way. More than I can say."
Xena was momentarily unable to speak at all. This was so much more than she had ever dared hope for, so much more than she thought she ever deserved. She cradled her lover in her arms and pressed her close, as though she wanted them to become one. She swallowed hard.
"So you would like me to do the same to you, do you?" Xena finally whispered suggestively.
"Hmm, yes, well," the young bard blushed intensely and suddenly suffered from a touch of modesty. Xena smiled tenderly. Beneath the blankets, she started fondling and kissing the lovely young body of her new lover and caused liquid hunger to pulse through her veins wherever she touched her. Gabrielle moaned with desire. She had yearned for Xena to touch her like this for ages and it had been well worth waiting for! This most definitely was one of Xena's many skills! She pleased and teased Gabrielle in ways the young woman had never imagined possible. Gabrielle shamelessly and noisily revelled in this luxury. She was getting more and more excited until she feared she would burst.
"Oh Xena, please have mercy," she cried. "I don't think I can take any more!" But Xena was not yet ready to end this delightful mission. She carefully entered Gabrielle’s slick centre with two fingers and slowly started moving in and out, making Gabrielle beg for more and more. And still more! Xena did finally show her pity when she skilfully led her to an earth shattering orgasm.
Utterly spent and totally satisfied, Gabrielle fell back into Xena’s strong arms. A languid smile appeared on her now swollen and burning lips.
She sighed: “I have to admit it: you really know how to warm up a chilled girl!”
They both roared with happy, relaxed and relieved laughter.