by Alex

The characters Argo, Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA and not to me... although I have a nice collection of beanie frogs I'd be willing to trade for them. No infringement of copyright is intended.

Author's note: About five or six years ago, a lonely 13-year-old Trekker wrote to a woman living in Australia whose name and address were on a Pen Pal listing. Although her letter was returned mysteriously, never having reached its mark, the same girl met up with that same woman through a newsletter a few years later. When more pressing matters came to pass, however, she had to abandon that as well.... only to encounter MaryD in the realm of Xenites in 1997! This is just proof to me that it is indeed a small world. And that some people just can't leave each other alone. And that people like me and MaryD tend to obsess over TV... but that aside... thank you, MaryD, for posting this story.

Comments and criticisms are totally and equally welcome.

It's difficult to suppress the warlord's habit to wake when the light heralds another important - even dangerous - day. Now, when time is less crucial, Xena likes to lie in the bedroll for a short while, but there are always things to do - fire to revive, breakfast to start, water to fetch, Argo to check on.

As sparkles of bright sunshine filter through the trees, mottling the ground of the campsite and casting long spidery shadows, Xena disentangles her legs from those of her sleeping companion. The young one makes only a slight, semisomnulent murmur of protest, which Xena quells by rubbing her bare stomach comfortingly.

A smile.

Xena loves that smile, when Gabrielle is half-asleep. It comes to her as easily as a breath and almost as often, sometimes just because Xena has touched her. She's not even conscious of Xena's protective arm across her belly, but she knows it's there.

Gabrielle sighs and rolls over onto her side. Xena can't resist snuggling up against her back for a moment, stroking her stomach and rubbing one foot idly up the bard's calf. Now she sees the rumpled pile of clothing deposited on Gabrielle's side of the bedroll.

("I hope you don't mind, Xena," she breathed huskily, "I'm in a 'right here, right now' kind of mood tonight....")

Was she ever. Xena secretly takes great pride in her ability to please her bard, and great delight when Gabrielle can ask for what she wants. Or needs.

Regretfully she gets out from under the blankets. Gabrielle whimpers quietly, and Xena has to remind herself that there are things to do before they leave this morning. As she looks tenderly at her slumbering lover, she doesn't have the heart to wake her just yet. She can do the chores herself.

Xena picks up another blanket and tucks it lovingly around Gabrielle, worried that she might be cold without the extra body. *Yep, that's all you're good for, Xena... just a big hot dumb warrior to keep me warm,* Gabrielle would say, teasingly. Xena finds herself grinning foolishly at this.

She puts the cooking pan aside, wrinkling her nose at the charred remains of the meat inside it.

("Dinner's burning."

"I don't care...."

"But I'm hungry."

"Well then, here, have an olive." Gabrielle grabbed one from

the bowl next to the fire and shoved it into Xena's mouth. They both laughed as Xena chewed the olive and tried to bite Gabrielle's fingers.

"Never mind, now I'm hungry for something else...." Xena growled, pushing the giggling bard back against the blankets.)

*Oh, Gabrielle... you've taught me how to play again, and I love it so much. I love YOU so much.* She banks up the fire and soon has a strong blaze, with water heating in a pot over it. She goes to a patiently waiting Argo with a feedbag and water, rubbing her muzzle. "Good girl... what a good girl!" she praises. No reason; just because she's Argo. "What do you say we take it easy on the road today, huh girl? We can have a nice run tonight when we make camp again, I promise. We'll chase the wind, how about that?" She combs her fingers through the mane - it won't need to be brushed until tonight, she decides. "And when we get to the coast, you can gallop along the shore. I know you love that." Argo nudges her shoulder as if in agreement. Seawater and sand flying up behind her hooves, coming to a breathless halt...

Xena making love with Gabrielle in the surf...

You're crazy, Xena. Gods, are you ever in love.

She sniffs the wind, at the same time watching Argo's ears perk

up. Rain tonight? Maybe. There'll be no dry firewood, then. She'll have to cut some now and take it with them. "Hard work for you, girl," she apologizes to Argo, selecting a nearby fallen tree and chopping it into arm-length sections.

(Gabrielle took Xena's large hands and put them on her breasts, encouragingly. Xena rubbed gently through the material of her top, her thumbs finding the hardening nipples. Gabrielle arched her back with a sudden-)

BAM! Two neat halves of the log plunk to the hard ground.

Xena sets the next piece of wood on the stump and raises her sword. She takes her time, knowing she can't possibly wake Gabrielle. She smiles, remember the mock threat she'd once used when trying to rouse her sleepy friend. Shouting loudly, "Hmmm... I seem to have run out of logs to split. Hey! There's one over there, under that blanket!"

Xena splits the last log, but her blood is still racing eagerly from her work. She thrusts and parries, sparring with an imaginary opponent. Leaps nimbly atop the stump, taking a few quick stabs at the air. Concentration, Xena. Precision. Accuracy....

("Yes," Gabrielle hissed as Xena's lips found that sensitive spot behind her ear. "Mmm... oh, that feels... perfect.")

Xena returns to the campfire, still grinning and feeling refreshed from her exertion, and pours some of the boiling water over a spoonful of herbs in her cup. She'll make some for Gabrielle later. She sits down on a log to catch her breath and watches her lover sleep, her eyes widening as Gabrielle rolls over again, exposing one breast.

("Xena," Gabrielle whispered wryly as the last of her clothing was tossed to the ground. "Why on earth do you stay cooped up in that armour all day long?"

"Because," Xena said, crawling back over the bard again, "It's so much fun to take it off at night.")

Xena takes another sip as she reflects on this sight. Wasn't it one she'd looked upon countless times in her adult life? Different faces, different bodies. Men, women... some special, some not. But she always woke up first, always had to deal with the consequences of her actions alone in the cold early morning. Sometimes she had found herself paralyzed with fear when she realized the face was one she didn't know.

(Gabrielle traced her fingers over Xena's cheekbones. "You're so beautiful.")

How many times had she drifted painfully awake, hung over, unable to remember what had happened? Terrified by the depth of bite marks and scratches on the body sleeping beside her?... She shuts her eyes tightly.

(Xena grazed her teeth over Gabrielle's nipple - lightly, gently.

"Harder, please," the bard begged.

"Are you sure I'm not hurting you?")

Other times, a slave woman, brought to Xena's tent to satisfy her needs for a night or two. She made it a point to be off at the exercise field by the time the captive woke up. Don't look in the eyes of a woman brought to your bed. Don't let her love. Don't let yourself love. You can't afford it. Just take.

(Xena brought her stroking hands down to Gabrielle's thighs. The bard moaned and turned her head to the side. "No, Gabrielle," Xena said, kissing her softly, "Please, look at me. I want to see your beautiful face." She drew her fingers along the wet curls as she lost herself in the twin jewels of sea-green, glistening with desire.)

And then, occasionally, there had been the aching, sickening feeling deep in her stomach in those early hours, when remembering was even worse than drunken ignorance: regrets, so many of them. Fear of falling. Cursing herself, the Fates, Aphrodite - anything to make it go away. Anything to put it all back the way it was before! Why did I do it? Gods, why did you let me do it?

("Let me do it this time," Xena insists before Gabrielle can move to reciprocate. "I want to taste you." Gabrielle moans at the low, seductive voice, then again at the feel of Xena's sensuous tongue fluttering against her warm folds and flicking the tiny bud. Xena sighs in appreciation as she massages Gabrielle's sex deeply with her mouth, reveling in the whimpers and moans.)

A part of Xena waits apprehensively each morning for that familiar, gut-wrenching feeling to grip her stomach, as she observes the bard under the blankets. It never does. Only twinges of longing...

(They kissed passionately, between quick breaths, as they moved against each other, Xena's thigh firm and steady against her lover's soaked centre. "Xena... sweet Aphrodite, I'm almost there...." Xena doubled her efforts, her heart soaring as she listened to Gabrielle's breath coming faster.)

... and excited shivers, anticipating the fall of night once again. The excuses and the sins in the dark, made shameful by the light of day, are long past. With Gabrielle, the light and the dark make no difference. Her hands, her lips, her eyes, her beautiful soul... all shine just as brightly, without compromise or deception, when Helios begins his journey across the sky.

("Xena!... please... h-hold on to me," Gabrielle gasped. Xena wrapped her arms under the bard's shoulders as she rocked rhythmically, Gabrielle's cries of release and the feel of blunt nails on her back bringing her over the edge. "Gabrielle... oh, love...")

Xena sips her tea quietly.

("Mm - Xena... my gods," Gabrielle sighed. Xena laughed deep in her throat as she kissed the bard's ear.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing, just...."

"What?" Gabrielle's curiosity was piqued.

Xena looked up from her delightful task. "Well, sometimes I just stop and realize," she said, suddenly flashing a manic grin...)

"You love me," Xena says again to her sleeping partner. She allows herself another moment, watching the girl smile again.

They have to be on their way soon.

"I hate to wake you from whatever dream you're having,

Gabrielle. But I promise you... one day I'll make your life a dream."

And with a gentle shake, she offers the morning to her love.


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