XENA'S GOWN

by roc-it scientist
rabbit133@juno.com

Copyright by roc-it scientist, 1997

Author's note: A special thank you goes to Sonia Barrera, one of the best writers I know, for her extraordinary edit of this story.

I stood in the doorway, just watching her sleep. A sleep, unlike my own, untroubled and uninterrupted by nightmares or memories. My eyes caressed her, taking liberties I would not permit myself were she awake and aware of my vigil. A blanket covered her, but did not hide the dip of her waist that rose into womanly hips, or the way her backside was accentuated by the fetal position in which she curled.

A shadow fanned out across the pillow, a shadow that I knew to be red gold, a soft treasure I longed to sift through my fingers more than any coin of any realm.

I looked down at my hand, a traitor that revealed my desire with its trembling, and knew I could not join her in the comfortable looking bed tonight, though it was our usual practice to reduce expenses. I sighed at the loss of this all-too-rare luxury of sleeping indoors and turned away, intending to spend yet another restless night in the barn with my horse Argo.

But that heartfelt sigh, deeper than I realized at the time, had revealed my presence.

"Xena?" She whispered in a sleep fogged voice.

"It's late, Gabrielle. Go back to sleep."

She turned over and faced me, still swaddled in the blanket. "Where were you?"

"Walking." An unsuccessful effort to regain control of my yearnings.

"You're tired. Come to bed and get some rest."

And resigning myself to another night in which I fought sleep, fearing what would be revealed if I let down my guard with her so near, I wearily sat in the room's only chair. I removed my armor, boots, bracers, greaves, and carefully stacked them on the table, more to facilitate a quick getaway from her in the morning than because of any concern for organization or neatness. Still clad in my leather shift, I stood and started toward the bed.

"I laid out a nightgown for you, Xena. You'll sleep better in a change of clothes."

A nightgown. An even frailer barrier between us than my leather tunic. I held it up in front of me. "Where did you find a nightgown that would fit me?" She started to reply but I interrupted. "Oh, your cousin."

She mumbled a half-hearted explanation of her relationship to her cousin (something about thirds and twice removed) and how she acquired the gown. The details, relayed between several yawns and a stretch, were barely intelligible.

It had been impossible to feign enthusiasm for our encounter with Harmodius. He and his friend Aristogiton were transporting a wagonload of trade goods from Athens to Potidaea. Gabrielle and Harmodius had spent the evening gossiping about friends and family about whom I knew nothing, leaving me to converse with Aristogiton who replied in unfriendly monosyllables all evening. I excused myself to check on Argo's welfare much earlier than was seemly.

"Xena."

"Hmmm?" The sound of my name from her lips interrupted my retrospection, and I returned my attention to the gown. "Gabrielle, you shouldn't have ..."

"Just put it on and come to bed."

>From her emphatic tone, I decided it would be best not to scold her for spending her hard-earned dinars on me and quickly changed. The nightgown was woven of something soft, and I couldn't help but run my calloused hands over the material indulgently. "Thank you Gabrielle, it's very nice."

She slid back toward the wall to make room for me as I eased into the bed. That my feet hung over the edge was no concern for me -- I worried only for its lack of width. Even with my friend back against the wall and on her side, there wasn't half a hand's breadth between us. I could feel her body heat radiating from under the thin blanket.

"Maybe I should sleep on the floor. This bed isn't very big."

"No ... stay." Her hand darted out from under the blanket and grabbed my arm before I could sit up. "I ... there's plenty of room."

I shrugged. "If you say so. Goodnight, Gabrielle." I clasped my hands and folded them behind my head. And stared at the ceiling as she eased closer and rested her head on my shoulder, snuggling up next to me. I tried to distract myself by counting imaginary sheep, horses, warlords -- but I was made acutely aware that she was still awake by the fluttering of her eyelashes against my upper arm and could only keep track of each delicate brush against my skin.

"Gabrielle, close your eyes and go to sleep," I admonished, forcing sternness into my voice. "And quit hogging the blanket: it's cold in here."

She sighed dramatically, moved even closer, and put her arm around my waist, pulling the blanket over me. The rearrangement brought about a surprising revelation.

"Gabrielle ..."

"Mmmm?"

"Gabrielle ..." I whispered, "where is your nightgown?"

Her only answer was to grip my waist tighter and move closer. Warm breath against my neck and the tickle of her hair under my nose registered faintly against the soft pressure of her breasts pressing into my side.

"Uh ..." My astonished and inarticulate response.

"Xena..." She raised her head and looked into my eyes. "I don't feel much like talking." She brushed my lips with hers, then whispered against them. "Do you?"

Caught. Trapped in her gaze, unable to move, unable to breathe ... until her kiss, her parting lips imparted life again. My heart, a lifeless rock before she came, threatened to beat through the wall of my chest.

I thought this surely must be a dream. Slowly, I brought my hands from behind my head. Fearing I would regain consciousness at the first touch, I tentatively stroked her hair. She did not vaporize or transform into some horrible variation on a memory from my dark past. No, she was very real beneath my hand, and with her lips on mine, she consumed my past, my present, my future, becoming my only reality.

She moved her hands from around my waist and pressed against the bed to shift higher up my body. The weight of her breasts sliding over my chest pulled a moan from my very depths. She swallowed it with a passionate kiss, her tongue meeting mine. She buried her hands in my hair and pressed closer.

She used her lips and tongue to tell me things that audiences for her bardic talents would never know, a knowledge that could not be conveyed with spoken language. Her communication was for me alone.

I was drunk, giddy from the heady wine of her kisses. How else to explain how I allowed her to trap my arms at my sides by pulling the nightgown below my shoulders. How else to explain that I believed for a few precious moments that my breasts could produce a lactate expression of my love for her as she suckled. My body arched, straining to give her more of itself, the gown she'd given me tearing as a result.

She relented and sat up. She tugged at the nightgown, making me understand that she meant to have me naked. I got out of the bed, pulled the garment off and threw it aside carelessly. Later I would retrieve it, keeping it among my most prized possessions until the threads rotted from age. But at this moment I was transfixed by the vision before me.

Light from the rising moon streamed through the open window, casting a gentle blue light across the bed where this woman Gabrielle waited, gloriously naked and smiling in welcome. The moonlight revealed her soul, and there was passion there, but there was more -- there was joy. The meeting of our bodies would not be that of indulgent friends. She loved me. I rushed back to her, gathering her in my arms.

I wiped a solitary tear from her cheek with my thumb and started to speak of the dangers of loving a warrior, a warrior with many enemies, a woman with a past. But before a single syllable passed my lips, she silenced them. She caressed my face, then drew me down to kiss her again. Intoxication ...

I covered her body with my own and realized that despite my greater experience in the sexual realms, I was a stranger to this country. A strategy, a plan to explore every inch of it, swept through my mind but was soon lost. I was caught up in a storm of emotion and physical sensation that drove all rational concepts from my consciousness. Simply knowing this woman had changed me, but the consummation of our love was a metamorphosis.

To this day, I have no words to describe our lovemaking, how she moves, what it does to me to touch her ... the sounds she makes when she surrenders herself into my hands. Oh, I could tell you what we do -- I could even show you our favorite positions -- the details are meaningless. She and I together make a whole, the completion of mind, body, soul ... fate. It is a rare and precious thing.


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