Disclaimers Sex/Violence: No violence this time. The story does depict the physical expression of love between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 or this is illegal where you live, do not read it. If it might bother you in any way, you have been warned, so you're on your own.
Copyright: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA/Universal.
Dedication: I wrote this a few weeks before Lucy and Rob (a.k.a. the luckiest man in the world) got married. Though I didn't have them in mind when I wrote it, I am dedicating it to them to wish them a long, happy, healthy life together. I hope they find their own private sanctuary, away from all the craziness from time to time. It's also dedicated to all of us. Lucy and Rob have found each other, and Xena and Gabrielle will always find each other in my stories (sorry if that ruins the ending for you). Here's hoping that the rest of us find what they each have, and never settle for anything less.
Thanx: My thanx goes to Bobbie (B.S. Barber), Janet C. (Garnet), Bonn (Beaugrnt) and Laurie for their keen editing eyes and words of encouragement.
Responses welcomed and encouraged at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking back, I believe we had been drifting apart for some time. The occasions on which we would actually talk were becoming less and less frequent. At that point it was as much my fault as hers. We would go for long stretches with no interaction whatsoever before we had even realized our neglect of each other. The irony is so clear now. We were both lost in thoughts that owned us, thoughts that we feared and hid....thoughts of each other. Thinking back I wonder why we never talked about it. Seems I remember wanting to, planning to... There was always some distraction, some excuse... a village to save, an event to attend. We kept moving, kept helping...kept avoiding. To be truthful, it was easier that way. The diversions were good reasons not to face each other. When we did have time alone, our fears got the best of us. Or at least mine of me. Would she hate me? Would she leave me? Is it worth losing my friend? It all seems so silly now. Thanks mostly to that wonderful place....
We were covered with dirt after helping an innkeeper rebuild his business, burned down by a drunken, angry customer. We were both desperately in need of a bath. At that moment, inattentive to anything but the worries that invaded our minds, a bath was our only goal. We proceeded in virtual silence.
The clearing seemed to appear before our eyes. Xena usually told me when we were approaching our destination...yet the place seemed to be as much a surprise to her as it was to me. It was the most magnificent place I had ever felt. That's the only way to describe it. It wasn't simply the majesty of the mountains or the stark beauty of the lake and trees, but a feeling of peace and calm that was almost tangible. It was as if my worries of only moments before had been stripped from me. I tried to recall the thoughts that were distracting me, but they were somewhere just out of reach in my mind.
I realized we had both been standing there, completely still, for a few moments. I turned my eyes toward my friend, wanting to see if she felt it too, or if it was my sometimes overly dramatic imagination. She felt it. I could see it on her face. Actually, it was more like what I couldn't see on her face. It was free of all the worry, anger and concern that were a constant drain on her beautiful features. None of it was there...and she looked completely stunning.
Surprisingly, despite their intensity, I had no desire to vocalize any of these observations of our surroundings. I didn't want to ruin this moment. It was as if speaking would break the magic. Our bodies remained still, drinking in what lay before us. It was like something had guided us to this haven, its peace, which nourished parts of us we didn't realize needed healing. I felt a connection to this place and to my friend. The connection had always been there with her, but there was always so much in the way, so many reasons to ignore it, to run away from it, to deny it. But not now. The place soothed me, rid me of everything but a feeling of absolute serenity. I wondered if she was feeling the same. Just then, I felt her fingertips ever so lightly seeking out mine. Our hands intertwined slowly, delicately, as the connection flowed through us and between us.
Since we had entered the clearing, all of our actions had occurred in absolute sync, without words. It seemed like it had been planned and practiced forever. It felt as if something inside me knew what we both should be doing, what we both were thinking and feeling. She was experiencing the same sensations, I was sure of it. There had been no need for words. Still holding her hand, I led her toward the lake. We still needed that bath, and I couldn't think of a better place. We undressed and entered the water separately. As I entered, I was completely refreshed, revitalized. Although there was a soothing nature about this refuge, there was also an energy coursing through it, through us. We swam, we laughed, we relaxed, and just completely enjoyed ourselves, in almost constant silence.
I looked at her from a few yards away. We both stood still, staring at each other, yet completely at ease. We both knew it was time.
I swam under the water towards her. When I reached her, I placed my hands lightly on her hips and guided myself upward to surface closely in front of her. I pulled her gently down so that we were eye to eye, bodies submerged to the shoulders. I draped my arms loosely around her neck as hers encircled my waist. We both stood, staring. Finally, I broke the silence.
Our faces were only inches apart. I could feel her breath on me. My eyes locked on hers, lost for a moment in an indescribable blue. Her fingertips began to stroke my lower back, breaking me from my trance. I looked deeply into those eyes and asked, "Do you feel it?"
"Yes."she replied softly, never taking her eyes from mine.
I needed to know the truth, to know if it was just the magic in our surroundings. "Is it just this place?"
A slight smile crept onto her face. She took one hand from around my waist and stroked my cheek with a wet thumb. "No. I've felt it forever."
I smiled and nodded slightly, conveying to her that I felt the same. I continued my inquiry, needing words to reinforce what her eyes were telling me. "Are you afraid?"
Without hesitation, she admitted, "Yes."
"Do you want it to go away?"
She paused, her mouth slowly forming into a gentle smile. Her eyes sparkled, more beautiful than the lake. "No. I never want it to go away."
My smile told her I felt the same. Opposite hands went to stroke each others faces, smoothing hair, tracing lips, studying each other with our hands. We learned every feature that we had seen every day over the past two years. We leaned in sync, brushing our lips softly together, lingering. Our fingertips continued their curious explorations, still patient. I remember everything so clearly. What I remember most is how absolutely soft her lips were. We continued our tender kisses for a very long time, pausing occasionally, to admire the beauty we saw in each other. We both felt the need to remind ourselves that it was real. It was. No dream of mine, awake or asleep, had ever been this wonderful, this perfect.
With one last kiss we exited the lake and proceeded to make camp. There was no awkwardness in the silence. There was simply an overwhelming feeling of peace and satisfaction. No words were necessary.
The sun began to set. The play of light and the colors it created served to increase the beauty around us. My love approached and sat behind me, pulling me close between her legs. Her arms wrapped around and rested in my lap. I covered her forearms with my own, and held her hands in mine. Leaning back, I rested my head against her shoulder. I felt her head rest lightly against mine as her arms tightened slightly around me.
I felt her breath on my ear as she whispered, "Just want to hold you...forever...here...like this."
"I...I..." She started to say something, but couldn't. I felt her forehead come down to rest upon my shoulder in frustration.
I turned my head awkwardly, trying to see her face."What is it, love?"
Her head came up slowly, revealing a brilliant smile and closed eyes. "Gods, hearing you call me that feels like...like...healing." She continued softly, "I don't want to go any further right now. I feel so peaceful, so perfectly content. I can't explain it. I just don't want to shatter the moment."
"No need to explain." I placed our right hands over my heart. "I feel the same."
Light touches and easy caresses continued until after the sunset. We curled up on our joined bedrolls to welcome our first night together. We held each other long into the night. Neither of us slept much. We simply looked at each other, comforted each other, feeling free to do so for the first time. Without words, we both realized that we would have this forever.
The next morning we stood in the same location we were standing the day before, when Xena's hand had found mine. We stared at our sanctuary, taking as much of it in as our senses could handle. We regretted having to leave, but knew we had to in order for this place to remain special, to be something to look forward to. We knew we would return to its tranquility... to be cleansed, to be reminded, to give our thanks.
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