A Soul Reunited (Part 1)
The noonday sun shone down brightly upon the lush green valley, warming the air without being unbearably hot. A mild easterly breeze gently stirred the tree leaves and made ripples across the surface of the small pond in the center of the wide field. Not far away, two women relaxed peacefully under the shade of a large oak. At least, one was.
Gabrielle looked across to Xena who was still grumbling after nearly an hour. "Xena, why don't you just let it go?" she asked, hoping to cheer up her friend's dour mood.
Xena grunted once and continued to gripe, "Fifteen dinars to cross over a river? That's ridiculous. What did they call it, `bridge tax? Hah! Robbery's more like it."
Earlier that morning, the pair had crossed over the Thelonian river which marked the border between Buranass and Durosca. They were surprised to learn that the toll for crossing the large causeway was a hefty sum of fifteen dinars.
"You know, we could've gone around." Gabrielle commented as she popped the last of her dried mutton into her mouth.
Xena looked over to her and said angrily, "I told you it would've been an extra two days to go around."
Gabrielle frowned and looked off towards the road. "It's not MY fault," she said softly.
Xena sighed as she saw the hurt expression on her friend's face. "Way to go, idiot," she thought to herself. She stood up and walked over to Argo where she reached in a saddle bag and pulled out a small bundle. Smiling, she walked over and sat next to Gabrielle.
The bard continued staring in the other direction, pretending not to notice the warrior's presence.
"Hey," Xena said softly. Gabrielle still didn't respond. "Look you're right. It wasn't your fault, and I shouldn't have taken it out of you. I'm sorry," she said sincerely.
Gabrielle still didn't turn her way, but Xena grinned as she saw her smile slightly before pouting again. She'd known the bard long enough to figure out that she was just trying to make her feel guilty. "Look, I've got something for you," she held out the bundle.
Gabrielle looked sideways at her and finally unfolded the cloth, revealing a large bunch of grapes. She looked back up to Xena, "Is that it? You think you can just throw food at me and that'll make up for everything?"
Xena smiled, "Yeah, pretty much."
Gabrielle couldn't hold back her own smile. "Thank you. But when did you buy them?"
"Earlier this morning at that vendor's stand," Xena frowned again before continuing, "Before we crossed that STUPID bridge."
Gabrielle let out a pained gasp and took Xena's hand. "Look, you didn't have a choice. They had at least fifty soldiers garrisoned there and we didn't want to fight our way through all of Durosca. So please, as a favor to me, don't bring up the bridge again. Okay?"
"Okay," Xena replied, looking back towards the small pond. "Does this mean you forgive me?" she asked softly, feigning a pout herself.
Gabrielle smiled, "Yes, I forgive you." She leaned over to plant a quick kiss on Xena's cheek.
At that instant, Xena turned to say something to her, and was shocked to find herself kissing Gabrielle on the lips. They both pulled back slowly, staring silently at each other. They soon both looked away, however, feeling uncomfortable. Not because of the feelings that each felt towards the other, but because each thought they saw those same feelings in the other's eyes.
Xena reached over and pulled off a few grapes. They sat quietly for a while, enjoying the silence. Gabrielle soon felt Xena tap her on the arm and followed the woman's gaze to a large stag grazing just beyond the pond in the field bordering the forest. The animal chewed contentedly for several minutes and then stopped as it raised its head high, sniffing the air. Suddenly, the animal bolted and disappeared into the tree line.
"I wonder what scared him?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena grinned, "He probably heard your chewing."
Gabrielle smirked back at the woman. "I suppose you..."
She stopped in mid-sentence and jumped to her feet as a deep roar came from the forest, echoing across the shallow valley. She looked over, wide-eyed towards Xena. "What was that?" she whispered.
Xena was busy trying to calm Argo. "I'm not sure. Come here," she instructed. Finally settling the startled horse.
"Get on Argo," she said, looking towards the forest's edge.
"What about you?" Gabrielle asked with concern as she allowed Xena to help her into the saddle.
"I want to check that out, but I want you on Argo. If there's any trouble, take off and head for that small village we passed." She drew her sword and ran towards the other side of the field, in the general direction the roar had come form.
Gabrielle watched as Xena looked back once and then disappeared behind several trees. Frowning, she weighed the possible consequences of what she was about to do. She slipped off Argo and retrieved her staff near the tree she'd been sitting against. She turned back to the animal."Now stay put, okay?" She stroked its muzzle once and headed off after Xena.
Xena crept cautiously through the semi-dense woods, stopping occasionally to listen for sounds of movement or search the ground for traces of passage. She soon found the tracks of the stag. Being that they were very far apart, apparently it had been at full sprint. She froze suddenly as she heard a branch snap from somewhere behind her. Leaning back against the tree, she listened as someone, or something, approached closer. She held her sword in both hands as she raised it slightly.
She let out her breath and rolled her eyes as she heard Gabrielle's whisper. She mumbled a curse to herself and walked out from behind the tree, startling the younger woman.
"There you are. Now don't get mad. I thought maybe you..."
She stopped as Xena lightly clamped a hand over her mouth. "Be quiet," she whispered before removing her hand. "I thought I told you to stay with Argo?"
Before Gabrielle could respond, another guttural roar resonated through the air, this time much closer. Xena smiled slightly as Gabrielle moved close to her, looking around nervously. She placed a hand on her shoulder. "Gabrielle, I want you to go back near the road."
"Fine, come with me," Gabrielle insisted as she took Xena's hand in hers. "Either way, I'm staying with you."
Xena sighed once more, "Okay, but stay behind me and keep quiet." Maybe it was best that Gabrielle stay close so that she could keep an eye on her.
The pair continued forward, following the stag's tracks. Xena could make out a clearing a short ways ahead. She proceeded forward, but froze again as they heard another roar. This one sounded different, higher in pitch. She spared a glance behind her towards Gabrielle. She could see that she was frightened. Xena walked to the edge of the clearing, her eyes going wide at what she saw a few dozen yards away. She heard Gabrielle gasp behind her. Without turning around, she reached back and motioned for her to crouch down.
Gabrielle stared over Xena's shoulder at the creature in the center of the clearing. It stood on four legs, about five or six foot high at the shoulder. It currently had its back to them as it feasted noisily on the carcass of the deer they'd seen earlier. She noticed that its hindquarters appeared to be covered in coarse black fur, its legs resembling those of a sheep or ram. She could see, however, that the darker fur gave way to lighter brown fur towards the front of the beast. It also had a pair of dark brown wings currently folded at its sides. The head, or heads, for it certainly had more than one, were busy tearing at the stag. She couldn't make out anymore details from where they were. She leaned closer and whispered into her friend's ear. "Xena, what IS that thing?"
Xena whispered back, "That's a chimera. I didn't think that there were any left."
Gabrielle tensed as she watched one of the heads, black with horns, pop up, cocked sideways as if listening for something. "I think it heard..." She let her sentence trail off as she watched another, much longer, head rise up. She stared, open-mouthed, as the long red-scaled serpentine head extended itself up and over its back, staring around the clearing until it rested its gaze on them. Gabrielle grabbed Xena's thigh as she watched the creature's black eyes focus on her while baring its bloody fangs. It let loose another high pitched reptilian scream.
They watched as the creature tensed its legs and launched itself into the air. The immense membranous wings extended and flapped a few times as the chimera turned itself in mid-air. It landed nimbly on the other side of the carcass, now facing them. Gabrielle found it hard to believe that a creature so hideous and bulky could move so gracefully. She now saw that the third, center, head was that of a lion. She could see that the forequarters were also that of a lion; its front legs ending in huge paws. All three heads were now staring at them. The lion emitted an equally ear-shattering bellow and then returned, along with the serpent's head, to feasting upon the carcass. The goat continued to watch them with dark amber eyes that seemed almost to glow. She whispered to Xena without taking her eyes off the chimera, "Will it attack us?"
Xena was having a hard time concentrating with Gabrielle's hand clamped firmly on the inside of her thigh and her body pressed close. She managed a swallow before answering. "I..don't think so. It's just like most other animals. As long as it isn't starving, wounded, or you don't bother it, it should leave you alone." She watched as the lion and serpent heads snipped at each other before tearing large chunks of flesh from the deer. The goat just continued to stare at them. "All the same, maybe we'd better leave. You'd make a tempting dessert." It wasn't the first time Xena had thought that.
Gabrielle managed a smile which faded when she realized where her hand was. She'd been so scared, that she'd grabbed onto Xena without realizing it. As she withdrew her hand slowly, she wondered why Xena hadn't said anything.
The woman turned sideways slightly, keeping an eye on the creature. "Let's back away real slowly." Gabrielle complied and quietly walked away with Xena close behind. As they reached the edge of the trees, she asked her, "You've seen one before?"
"Yeah, my army had come across one once. I wasn't around at the time and the fools decided to have some sport with it. It killed nearly a dozen of them before they managed to bring it down. You saw that long snake-like head? It can breathe fire, too."
Gabrielle grinned, "Now you're just joking, right?"
"Do you want to go back and provoke it to find out?"
"No! No, I believe you." Gabrielle hastily admitted.
"Hurry up and fill the water skins. I imagine after he's finished with that deer, he'll head this way for a drink."
Gabrielle quickly grabbed the skins near the large tree and proceeded to fill them as Xena stood watching the forest. "I noticed that the goat wasn't eating. Just the other two."
"It's a plant eater just like a real goat. If prey gets scarce, the whole thing can live off grass. Of course, it prefers meat."
Gabrielle stoppered the second skin and the pair walked back towards Argo. "You sure sound like you know a lot about it."
Xena finished lashing the saddle bag and climbed up into the saddle. "I knew someone who did. I learned a few things from him."
"A friend of yours?" she asked, placing her staff inside a saddlebag.
Xena laughed once, "No, I wouldn't say that," she extended a hand down to Gabrielle. "C'mon, I'd just as soon put some distance between us and that thing."
Gabrielle grasped her arm and climbed up behind Xena.
Lately, Gabrielle had been riding more often. While she was sure Argo wasn't so happy with it, she had to admit she liked the feeling of Gabrielle's arms around her. She spurred the animal forward onto the road heading east.
A few hours later, they crested the top of a large hill which afforded them an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. Gabrielle continued walking but stopped as Xena told her to hold up.
"What is it?"
Xena undid a water skin from the saddle and took a swallow. "I want to see if I can find a place for the night from up here," she offered the skin to Gabrielle.
The bard shook her head. "Why are we looking for a spot already? We probably have about four hours of daylight left."
"Yeah, but it's gonna rain and I'd rather us find shelter while we're still dry," she replaced the water skin.
Gabrielle looked up into the sky. It appeared sunny enough, with only a few clouds. "What makes you think it's going to rain?"
Xena pointed towards the east and a dark blue section of clouds near the horizon.
"Oh. You think its heading this way?"
"I know it is. Can't you smell it?" Xena asked as she continued to look over the area.
Gabrielle took in a deep breath through her nose, realizing she could faintly detect the musty odor Xena had meant.
"I see the top of a cliff behind those trees over there. They might have an overhang or a ledge we can use. C'mon."
Gabrielle followed Xena as she led Argo down the steep incline of the hill. Reaching the bottom, they turned off of the road and headed towards the stand of trees off to the right. They climbed the smaller slope and soon reached the edge of the small woods. As they pressed on, the ground leveled and the trees grew more sparse. The tree line soon gave way to a clearing of rockier soil which ran parallel to the rock face several meters away.
"Hey look, a cave," Gabrielle exclaimed, pointing to the wide opening in the cliff wall off to their right. "I bet we could stay dry in there."
"Let me check it out first," she handed Argo's reins to Gabrielle.
She watched as Xena cautiously entered the mouth of the cave, sword in hand. She looked down as Argo snorted. Smiling, she reached down and scratched the side of the horse's neck. "She's just being careful." She looked around the clearing as she heard a sound off to her left. "Did you hear something?" The animal only snorted again.
Xena continued towards the back of the cave. Although it was fairly wide, it wasn't very deep. The sunlight entering the wide mouth of the cave was enough to illuminate the whole interior. The ceiling sloped down towards the floor near the rear of the cave. She walked over as she spotted a small pile of brush and straw in one corner. If an animal had used the cave as a den, it obviously had been a long time ago. The heavy animal scent one would expect in a lair was notably absent.
She walked over along the wall, seeing something on the floor a short distance away. Crouching down, she studied the small pellet-like spoor. "Probably hare," she thought to herself. Which was another good sign. If this WAS the lair of some larger animal, a hare wouldn't come anywhere near it.
Satisfied that it was safe, she sheathed her sword and strode back towards the entrance. Looking back outside, she spotted Argo, her reins looped around the branch of a large bush. "Gabrielle?" When there was no answer, she walked over towards the horse who was grazing contentedly on a patch of fine angel grass. "Gabrielle!?" She heard her cry resonate off the rock face and echo briefly. She was now starting to worry.
Leaving Argo, she rushed over towards the left where she'd heard Gabrielle. "Where are you?!" she hollered, pushing her way through several thick shrubs.
"Over here! Come and see what I've found."
Well, at least in didn't sound like she was in trouble. Walking around another large bush, she spotted Gabrielle standing in the shallow end of a small pool. Xena looked over the size of the pool of clear water. It didn't appear large enough to support anything dangerous.
Gabrielle turned back to her, "It's not heated, I'm afraid. But at least we'll have all the fresh water we need."
Xena crouched down and scooped up a handful, bringing it to her lips. "Very good. But next time, just let me know if you're gonna disappear like that."
"Okay. How's the cave?" she asked as she waded out.
"Not bad, if you don't mind sharing it with a minotaur."
"What?!" Gabrielle asked, her eyes going wide until she saw Xena's impish grin. "Cute, real cute."
They walked back towards the cave and Argo where they began unpacking their things. Gabrielle carried an armful towards the cave as Xena started to remove the saddle. After she'd pulled it off and the saddle blanket underneath, she removed the bit and bridle. She stroked the animal's muzzle affectionately and said, "Don't wander too far." Stooping over, she picked up the saddle and slung it over her shoulder. She considered bringing in the blanket, but decide to air it out instead. She passed Gabrielle as she walked towards the cave.
"Looks nice enough. Anything you need me to do?" she offered.
"Yeah. Spread out Argo's saddle blanket so it'll air out," she said as she continued into the cave.
Gabrielle picked up the thick blanket and shook it a few times, trying to knock off most of the animal hair and dust. She walked over and draped it across a low-lying tree branch. Brushing her hands on her skirt, she turned to see Xena walking back with Argo's brush. "Want me to brush her?"
"No thanks. I got it."
Gabrielle let out an exaggerated sigh.
Xena looked at her quizzically as she groomed the nearby animal, "What's wrong with you?"
"What am I supposed to do now?" she asked as she looked towards the sky. "We've still got several hours of daylight left and I'm bored."
"I don't know what to tell you, Gabrielle," Xena said, smiling.
Gabrielle sighed again as she walked off.
"I tell you what. Why don't you start gathering some firewood. Either that or you could see about....," she looked around and realized Gabrielle was no longer there. "Or, you could go goof off," she said, smiling once again.
Argo snorted in apparent agreement.
Gabrielle pushed passed the last of the thick shrubs and walked over to the edge of the shallow pool. Kicking off her boots again, she waded through the cool, clear water. She walked slowly towards the center of the pool, looking down as she watched the water rise up to just about mid-thigh at the deepest point. "Well, looks like I won't be doing much swimming," she said to herself.
She looked down to her skirt, noticing a large dirt stain she hadn't seen before. "How'd that happen?" Looking around and realizing she had about as much privacy as she could ask for, she decided that it was as good a time as any to wash her clothes. She untied her top and pulled it off, letting it float before her on the surface as she reached down and untied the drawstring of her skirt. Slipping her hands under her skirt and underpants, she pulled them down over her thighs and finally stepped out of them. Kneeling down on the soft sandy bottom of the pool, she soaked her outfit, wishing she'd thought to bring the small scrub brush they used. After washing them to her satisfaction, she walked back over to the shore and lay them out on a large rock to dry.
She waded back to the center of the pool and crouched down into the water. Spreading her arms out to her sides, she reclined backwards, allowing herself to float peacefully on the surface for several minutes. Rolling over, she knelt once again and submerged her head completely, thoroughly soaking her long reddish blonde hair. Sitting up, she pulled a few wet locks from her eyes.
Reaching down, she ran her hands over her body. She cleaned herself as best as possible, wishing she'd thought to take some of the bath oil from their room at the Griffon back in Solancia. It didn't take long before her attentions became more deliberate. She turned herself so that she was facing the bushes, in case Xena appeared. Slowly, she brought her hands up and cupped her breasts lightly, softly squeezing them. She worked her fingers up to her nipples, pinching each of them between a thumb and forefinger.
She leaned sideways slightly, placing her left hand on the sandy bottom after removing an inconveniently placed rock. Spreading her legs wide, she slid her right hand along the inside of her thigh, letting it come to rest over her pubic mound. She traced the tips of her fingers up and down the edge of her vulva, taking in a long deep breath. Cocking her head back, she slowly inserted two fingers into her, cooing contentedly.
Xena carried another armful of branches back to the cave. Looking down at the sizeable pile, she figured they had more than enough wood to last the night. She wiped her sweaty brow with the back of her arm. Aside from gathering all the firewood, she'd also set several snares. Stretching, she walked over to their things and picked up a water skin. She made her way back outside as she took a long pull from the skin. Squinting, she looked up towards the sky, watching the low clouds quickly pass over from the east. She heard Gabrielle returning.
"Still think we'll get rain?" the bard asked.
"Yeah, eventually," Xena replied, still looking up. She took another swallow from the skin as she finally turned around. The water came right back out, however, as she spotted Gabrielle's nude form not far away. She bent over, hands on her knees, as she coughed and tried to get the water out of her windpipe.
Gabrielle walked over and pat her on the back, "Hey, you alright?"
Xena, her face about a foot from Gabrielle's crotch, suddenly felt a little dizzy. "Yeah,....I'm okay," she said hoarsely. Still bent over, she watched as Gabrielle walked over towards the cave. Straightening out slowly, she couldn't stop staring at Gabrielle's rear, her eyes tracing along the bottom of her firm buttocks, watching as the sides dimpled as she walked. "What is she up to?" she thought to herself, wondering how long she'd been holding her breath.
Gabrielle soon came back out with a blanket under her arm. "You think you got enough firewood?" she asked sarcastically.
Xena turned away, hoping Gabrielle hadn't seen where she was staring. "Umm...I'd rather have too much than not enough."
Xena looked back over her shoulder and watched as Gabrielle spread out the blanket on a flat expanse of rock, preparing to lie down. "Uh..Gabrielle? Where are your clothes?"
"Over there, hanging up to dry. I didn't want to put `em on while they were still wet," kneeling on all fours and facing away from Xena, she straightened out the corners of the blanket.
Xena turned and was rewarded with an unobstructed view of everything. She felt a lump rise in her throat as her pulse quickened. "You're not gonna walk around like that, are you?"
Gabrielle lay back on the blanket, propped up on her elbows, facing Xena with her legs slightly spread. "Why not? You're the only other person for miles around. It doesn't bother you, does it?"
"No!" Xena replied, much too quickly and much louder than what she'd intended. "No, it's..uhm...no." She managed to draw her eyes off of Gabrielle's body long enough to look her in the face. Which, she realized, was a mistake as she caught Gabrielle's innocent look, eyebrows
raised and head slightly cocked sideways. "I...have to...um." she pointed back towards the cave and finally managed a hasty, albeit awkward, retreat.
Gabrielle shrugged and lay back on the blanket, stretching and enjoying the sun's rays on her bare skin.
Xena paced back and forth in the cave, water skin still in hand. She took another long drink and then splashed a generous amount onto her face. Walking over slowly, she made her way towards the mouth of the cave. Peeking around the corner, she spotted Gabrielle, still lying on her back, hands resting behind her head. Pressing against the rock wall, she stared hungrily at the woman's body, imagining her fingers running over her friend's breasts. She could see Gabrielle's nipples were erect, probably from the cool breeze which was running through the clearing. One thing was certain, it definitely seemed to be getting warmer in that cave. Her eyes made their way downward over her stomach, finally coming to rest on the patch of fine blonde hairs between Gabrielle's legs. She could see them stir slightly from the same breeze. Sighing, she wondered to herself how many times she'd dreamed of that small silky area of Gabrielle's body.
She quickly turned and walked back deeper in the cave. Balling her fists at her sides, she clenched her teeth and tried forcing her heartbeat to slow down. "This is ridiculous," she said to herself quietly. "You're a grown woman for Zeus' sake. Get a hold of yourself." Bracing herself, she took a few deep breaths, and walked confidently back out of the cave. "Gabrielle, I'm..gonna..." She let her words trail off as she saw that Gabrielle had flipped over onto her stomach with her head resting on her forearms. Her long reddish-blonde hair stirring gently across her back. Her eyes were drawn once again to Gabrielle's rear.
"Yes?" Gabrielle asked, smiling sweetly as she looked back towards Xena over her shoulder.
"Damn!!" Xena screamed silently. "I...uh," she made a quick about face and marched just as quickly back into the cave.
Gabrielle stared after her. "Xena's certainly acting a little strange," she thought as she lay back down.
Xena continued her silent tirade as she paced back and forth once again. She shook her head as she said disdainfully, "Xena, 'Warrior Princess', 'Destroyer of Nations' who's fought armies, the undead, titans, monsters, and Gods alike, has been trapped in a cave....by one beautiful, nude woman. If Ares could see me now."
She glanced over towards her saddle, arching an eyebrow, her grimace changing slowly to a smile. She walked over, crouched down, and pulled out her small leather pouch. She reached in and withdrew the rod from inside, feeling the moisture under the leather between her legs. She frowned as she realized she certainly couldn't do what she had in mind in there. She briefly considered going elsewhere, in the woods maybe, but decided against it. She couldn't risk Gabrielle coming to look for her. Cursing silently again, she tossed it back inside and replaced the pouch under her saddle. She stood back up and realized she had to do something to get her mind off of her friend. She stooped and pulled the coil of twine out of another saddle bag. She walked back towards the mouth of the cave, all the while saying to herself, "Just don't look at her. Just don't look...."
Gabrielle stretched lazily as she spotted Xena exit the cave once again, this time carrying a roll of twine.
"I'm going set a few more snares. I won't be long."
"You need some help?" she offered.
"No!" Xena replied, again too quickly and too loudly. "Keep an eye on everything." The last thing she needed was Gabrielle, the wood nymph, frolicking naked along side. Just as she reached the tree line, she took a last glance back over her shoulder and walked right into a tree branch. Shaking the leaves out of her hair and face, she looked up to see Argo staring at her. "What are you lookin' at?"
The mare just snorted and went back to grazing.
Xena kept walking as she talked to herself. "Build a few snares and get your mind off of her. No problem."
A few hours later, she made her way back towards the cliff. She looked up, noticing the clouds were becoming darker and more numerous as dusk was fast approaching. The wind had also picked up some. She watched as the treetops swayed gently with the breeze. She stopped a moment to scratch Argo's side. "If it gets too bad tonight, we have room for you inside." She walked back towards the clearing and froze as she stepped from behind a tree. "Oh for the love of Hera," she mumbled to herself.
Gabrielle was still nude, lying on her side with her head propped up on her hand. She seemed to be playing contentedly with a small pile of pebbles before her. "Uh, Gabrielle? You'd better put your clothes back on. It doesn't pay to dry them if you leave them out to get rained on." She figured that seemed logical.
Gabrielle stood and stretched, causing Xena to turn away. She walked over and pulled Argo's saddle blanket from where Gabrielle had hung it earlier. She then made her way for the cave, being careful not to stare at Gabrielle as she dressed. She threw the thick blanket into a back corner and started picking some of the branches out of the large woodpile.
"Did you set some snares?" Gabrielle asked as she came in, laying out her blanket neatly not far away.
"Good, we might get lucky."
"Might get lucky!?" Xena thought to herself. If only half the snares she'd set actually caught something, they'd have enough meat for a week. She turned around and was glad to see Gabrielle dressed again. She walked over towards the mouth of the cave and started pilling the wood for the fire a few feet in. "Do me a favor and catch the flint."
Gabrielle walked over to the saddle and pulled out the small stone. She crossed back and handed it to Xena, "Here ya go."
"Thanks." Xena soon had the fire going, it's orange light bathing the interior of the cave as the light from outside grew dimmer. She walked back over to their things to pick up the flint when she noticed Gabrielle's underwear draped over the saddle. She looked back to Gabrielle, who noticed her staring.
"Something wrong?" she asked as she placed another branch into the fire.
"Uh...no." She picked up the stone and pulled their food sack out from the large saddle bag. She walked back over towards Gabrielle and the fire. "Hungry?"
Gabrielle nodded, smiling up at her.
Xena smiled back affectionately as she sat across from her.
The pair enjoyed a modest meal of dried beef and legumes which they roasted over the fire. The wind continued to pick up gradually and the sound of distant thunder could occasionally be heard. The moonlight from outside, at one time plentiful, became dimmer as the clouds grew more numerous.
Xena threw a few more branches onto the fire and then leaned back to retrieve the other waterskin from near her saddle. As she turned to reach for the last piece of meat on the spit, she noticed Gabrielle doing the same. The two smiled at each other momentarily before Xena told Gabrielle she was welcome to it.
Smiling sweetly, Gabrielle broke the piece in two and handed Xena half. She took the waterskin and emptied the last of it. She then reached for the other one, "I'll go fill these up before it starts
As Gabrielle started to rise, Xena caught herself staring between the bard's legs. Hoping for a glimpse of something, knowing that she wasn't wearing anything under her skirt. Her efforts were rewarded as she briefly saw a flash of the silky blonde hairs she'd seen earlier that afternoon. Her gaze followed Gabrielle as she exited the cave. Sighing, she closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. She gathered the remaining peapods and carried them outside. Looking around, she spotted Argo under a low-hanging ledge. She walked over towards the animal and held out her hand. As the horse happily chewed the spongy vegetables, Xena scratched her behind the ears. "Well, looks like you've found a nice spot for the night." She looked off in the direction of the pool. "I may end up joining you out here if Gabrielle keeps it up."
Argo snorted in between bites.
Xena looked down and smirked, "Yeah, I know it's not her fault. Geez, I didn't come out here for a lecture." She stroked the horse's muzzle affectionately. "Good night."
She walked back into the cave, sitting once again near the fire. Reaching back, she pulled out her whetstone and chakram and looked up as Gabrielle returned with the full skins.
"Boy, the wind's picking up out there," she commented as she placed the skins next to their belongings. She walked back to her spot across from Xena.
Xena once again found herself staring somewhere she knew she shouldn't. It didn't stop her however. She watched as Gabrielle plopped back onto the ground, leaving one leg folded in front of her, resting back on her left palm. Her right elbow lay draped over her raised right knee. Xena fought the lump rising in her throat as she watched Gabrielle's skirt rise up her thighs, giving her a generous view of what she'd hoped only to get a glimpse of. She looked up to Gabrielle's face. The woman was staring into the fire, seemingly mesmerized. Xena slowly looked back down under her skirt, watching as the firelight shimmered off of the patch of soft hairs. After allowing her gaze to linger much longer than she'd intended, she brought her attention back to her chakram. After a few strokes of the stone, she looked back up to Gabrielle who was still staring into the dancing flames. They sat in near-silence for a while, the only sounds being that of the wind whistling passed the mouth of the cave, the crackle of the fire, and the occasional scrape of the whetstone on metal. Gabrielle eventually broke out of her trance, raising her hand to her mouth as she yawned.
"I think I'll turn in for the night," Gabrielle said as she started to rise.
"Thank the Gods," Xena thought to herself, having quickly averted her gaze when Gabrielle first stirred. She watched as the woman rose and then stumbled over to the far wall, cursing quietly. "Gabrielle, what is it?" she asked, putting aside the chakram and whetstone.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow," she took in a deep breath through clenched teeth as she braced herself against the stone. "My leg's fallen asleep. I'm okay." She let out a small moan as she felt the pins and needles sensation spread along the length of her left leg. She tried putting some weight on it, but the unresponsive leg may as well have been made out of wood.
Xena rose and walked over to her side, wrapping an arm around Gabrielle's waist. Placing Gabrielle's left arm across her shoulders, she helped her over to the blanket she'd spread out earlier. "Here, sit down."
Gabrielle eased down onto the blanket with Xena's help. Resting back on her palms, she watched as the older woman massaged her left leg. The dull pain began to disappear as Xena continued to work her way over Gabrielle's knee. The numbness was replaced by the feeling of Xena's strong fingers working over her skin. As she watched her friend's hands slowly work up her thigh, she bit her lower lip, barely suppressing a moan. She wondered if Xena would still be doing this if the woman knew she wasn't wearing any underwear.
"Feeling better?" Xena asked, trying to keep her voice steady. It wasn't easy knowing her hands were now less than a foot from Gabrielle's uncovered crotch.
"Uh..a little," Gabrielle said softly, desperately not wanting Xena to stop.
Xena continued to massage her leg, amazed at the self-control she was able to muster. She imagined running her left hand along the inside of the younger woman's thigh. She felt confident she could make Gabrielle forget all about her leg, and pretty much anything else. If only... She slid her hand upward slowly, but stopped herself before she'd gotten very far under Gabrielle's skirt. She quickly stood and walked over to the fire. "You should be fine. Why don't you get some sleep. I want to go check on Argo," she hurried out of the cave before Gabrielle could reply.
Gabrielle watched as Xena walked out into the night. Keeping her eyes on the entrance to the cave, she spread her legs and brought her right hand down between them. After letting them linger momentarily, she brought her now-wet fingertips up to her lips. Gently licking them with her tongue, she issued a cross between a giggle and a moan, wishing Xena had continued for just a few moments longer. Turning over on her side, she balled up the spare blanket she used for a pillow. She briefly considered pulling the blanket over her, but decided she was warm enough. Letting out a frustrated sigh, she lay on her side, wondering how she'd ever get to sleep in the state she was in.
About twenty minutes later, Xena was still pacing outside the cave. She looked up at the night sky and the dark clouds passing by quickly overhead, their edges illuminated by the hidden moon. She looked over towards Argo, still under the rock overhang. "Well, I guess it's safe." As she walked back towards the cave, she laughed as she realized that earlier she'd been afraid to leave it. And now, she was afraid to go back in.
She walked in slowly, being careful not to make any noise in case Gabrielle had fallen asleep. She looked farther in and spotted her, lying on her side. She reached down and gathered a few more branches which she threw onto the fire. She picked up the whetstone and replaced it in a saddlebag. She placed the chakram over the saddlehorn, staring once again at Gabrielle's underwear. She cocked her head as she heard the familiar sound of Gabrielle's snoring. Grinning, she sat back down next to the fire, figuring she would eventually calm down enough to get to sleep herself. Quietly, she removed her cuirass and leather skirt, placing them near their things. She then removed her shinguards and bracers. She turned back and stared into the fire, watching the flames dance erratically.
A short while later, she looked back towards Gabrielle, having heard the woman moan softly. Throwing the stick she'd been holding into the fire, she rose and walked over towards her, watching as she stirred slightly. "Probably having a nightmare," she thought to herself. She crouched next to her, looking down affectionately. She brought her hand up to Gabrielle's forehead, gently brushing aside some of her reddish-blonde hair. She was about to gently shake her awake when Gabrielle moaned again. Xena stopped herself, a puzzled look crossing her face. Something about the woman's moan had struck her as odd; there was no hint of distress to it. She studied her a bit longer, watching as Gabrielle turned slightly. Her eyes went wide as Gabrielle moaned yet again. She stood quickly and backed away several steps as she realized that Gabrielle was having a very passionate dream. As she walked back to her spot near the fire, she heard Gabrielle let out a lingering sigh.
"Great, like I need THIS," she muttered quietly. She looked over, watching as Gabrielle turned onto her side and rubbed her legs together. She felt her pulse quicken as she continued to listen to Gabrielle make sounds she'd never heard from the woman before. She tried ignoring her, which became increasingly difficult as Gabrielle's moans became louder and more frequent. She rocked back and forth on her heels as she watched Gabrielle again. Her own breathing became more rapid, matching the rise and fall of her friend's chest. She bit her lip as she watched Gabrielle's hand slide down over her breasts. She stood up and began pacing once again, the whole time with her eyes locked on Gabrielle. She felt herself rapidly growing wetter. Part of her wanted to shout and wake the woman up. Another part wanted to wake her in a much different way. She took a few hesitant steps towards Gabrielle but stopped as the woman began to whimper. The sound sent a shudder through Xena as she herself let out a moan which had more to do frustration than anything else. She walked back over to her saddle and pulled out the small leather pouch from underneath. Reaching in, she pulled out the rod, realizing there was only one way she'd get any sleep that night.
She stopped as she made her way towards the mouth of the cave. Reaching down, she threw another handful of branches onto the fire. Looking back once more over her shoulder, Xena walked outside, the sound of a passionate groan by Gabrielle filling her ears. If she had stayed in the cave a few seconds more, she would've also heard Gabrielle moan her name.
Xena pushed past the last of the large bushes and walked closer towards the pool. Stopping a short distance away, she placed the stone rod on a large flat boulder nearby and quickly began to undress. She stooped and unlaced her boots. Kicking them off, she slid the leather straps of her armor over her shoulders and pushed the tight leather down over her chest, waist, and thighs, finally stepping out of it. As she tossed the armor in a pile over her boots, she briefly considered going into the water. Shaking her head, she figured she may as well wait until she was done.
She tilted back her head, running her fingers through her long, dark hair. She remained still for a moment, relishing the feel of the wind against her bare skin. She slowly lowered her hands down passed her neck and onto her breasts. She closed her eyes as she rubbed her now-erect nipples with her palms, moving her hands in small circles. Cupping the undersides of her breasts, she gently squeezed them together as she took in a deep breath.
She climbed onto the slab-like boulder, stretching across its smooth flat surface. A shallow depression in its center seemed to cradle her body lovingly. She let her hand travel from her breasts, over her taut abdominal muscles, and down between her legs. Using the fingers of her left hand to spread her labia wide, she rubbed the length of her vulva with the fingers of her right. After a few moments, she managed to pull her hand away long enough to raise the wet fingertips to her mouth, savoring the salty flavor as she realized it had been building since that morning. She returned her hand and continued to diligently stroke herself, remembering the feeling of Gabrielle's hand held tightly on the inside of her thigh. She rolled her head to the side as she quickened her hand's pace. She spotted the rod lying close by. She thought about reaching for it, but decided not to. She needed a quick release and her fingers were more than capable. Bringing her feet close together near her crotch, she spread her legs wider as her right hand deftly continued its work. She brushed her fingertips back and forth over her erect clitoris, her chest pumping faster as her breath came in quick pants. She squeezed her breasts together with her upper arms as she fondled herself even faster. She let out a ragged moan, relieved she didn't need to worry about Gabrielle hearing her.
"Gabrielle," she whispered the name in between breaths. She recalled the way the younger woman had looked stretched out on her blanket earlier that afternoon, the way the sun bathed her firm body. She pictured the curves of her breasts and the softness of the fine hairs between her legs. She also remembered Gabrielle's beautiful and innocent smile directed back at her over a bare shoulder.
That image was enough to send Xena over the edge. Her body went rigid as she came, letting loose another drawn out, animal-like moan. She bit her lower lip as the strokes of her right hand became slower and more deliberate. She could feel the wetness trickling out of her and collecting below. She raised her fingers to her lips once again, delicately rolling her tongue over their tips. Her eyes still closed, she sighed blissfully. She continued to rub herself slowly with her left hand as she gave attention to her breasts with her right. She let her breathing and heartbeat slow somewhat before reaching over and picking up the rod. She slowly lowered the smooth wand, tracing it between her breasts and over her stomach. She gently rubbed its edges over the length of her labia, feeling her arousal level rise once more. Slowly, she slid the rod into her as she let out another contented sigh. Breathing heavily again, she moved the rod back and forth, feeling the resistance as the walls of her vagina contracted slightly, trying to pull the hardness back into her. She flipped her head to the side, removing a few windblown strands of hair from her face. She gently pinched her clitoris with her left hand as she continued masturbating with the rod in her right. As her hand began to move faster, she let out a slight wail, not even noticing the loud thunderclap from overhead which resonated off of the high rock face.
Gabrielle snapped awake as the booming sound echoed through the interior of the cave. Sitting up, she smiled as she recalled the dream she'd been having. The details themselves faded away even as she fought to remember them. The intensity of her dream, however, made evident by the dampness between her legs, remained clear enough. She wondered briefly how long it would take her to get back to sleep. She'd never had a dream like that about Xena before. Fantasies? Yes. The Gods alone knew how many. But never an intense dream like the one she'd just had.
She looked around the interior of the cave, finally noticing that the subject of her passionate reverie was missing. She called out the woman's name, but there was no answer. Standing up, she frowned as she felt the wet spot on the back of her skirt. Couldn't be helped now, she supposed. She saw that the fire still burned, the wind fanning the flames into a drunken dance. She walked out of the cave slowly, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. The moon provided enough light through the clouds overhead for her to see ably enough. She looked over to the left and spotted Argo standing under a ledge. "I don't suppose you know where Xena is, do you?" The horse just stared at her blankly. "Thanks, you've been a big help."
She started heading for the pool, figuring that was as good a place to start as any. She doubted Xena would be out checking snares this late at night. She walked through the dense underbrush, cursing quietly as a stray branch brushed against her face. Her thoughts returned to her dream. Try as she might, she couldn't remember most of it now. Just, that it had been very nice. She paused for a second as a thought ran through her head. If Xena had gone to the pool, it obviously would have been to bathe. She continued on. This time, however, moving with as much stealth as possible. She felt her heart beating faster as she struggled to slow her breathing. The thought of watching Xena bathe, unseen, gave her the courage to continue. Just a glimpse might insure her of a repeat of the dream she'd had earlier. Stooping over, she crawled slowly towards one of the large bushes growing near the clearing's edge. Not worrying about dirtying her clothes, she lay down behind a small dirt mound. Moving forward slowly, she peeked between the low branches of the shrub towards the pool. She could see the rippled surface of the water clearly, but no Xena.
"Well, this was a waste of time," she thought to herself. Just as she was about to rise, she heard a sound off to her left. Leaning over, she peered again through the branches and nearly gasped aloud at what she saw, her eyes going wide as saucers. Xena lay not more than twenty feet from her on a large boulder. She felt her heart beating heavily in her chest as she watched her best friend, the woman she loved, pleasuring herself. Almost with a will of its own, her left hand moved down between her legs as she moved sideways on the small dirt hill. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. Of course, she'd known about the rod since she'd found it almost two months earlier. But to actually see Xena using it. She managed to swallow with some difficulty as she traced her eyes along Xena's body. She heard the woman let out another long moan which sent a shiver along her spine. The table-like boulder Xena was perched on was slightly inclined with the woman facing her way. She watched as Xena worked the slender rod back and forth, causing her body to rock and her large breasts to sway. Gabrielle managed to somehow restrain a groan as she worked her fingers between her own legs.
She felt her heart skip a beat as she saw Xena rise, propping herself up with her left arm. She watched as the warrior opened her legs wider, keeping the left one straight and the right one bent. Gabrielle slid two fingers into herself, matching Xena's pace as the woman continued to slide the wand inside of her. She listened to Xena's sounds of passion, not knowing how much longer she would be able to keep quiet herself. She watched as the woman removed the rod and brought its slick surface up to her mouth, running her tongue along its length before placing the majority of it in her mouth. Involuntarily licking her lips, Gabrielle brought her own wet fingers to her mouth and imagined it was Xena she was tasting and not herself. Xena returned the wand between her legs and continued to masturbate. Gabrielle felt her body shudder as she watched Xena raise one of her breasts to her mouth, lowering her head and taking the nipple between her lips. Gabrielle's fingers worked feverishly now as she felt herself nearing release. Keeping her eyes locked on Xena she used both hands to fondle herself. She let out a light whimper as she came, shutting her eyes tight. As the first wave swept over her, she ducked back down behind the small hill, resting her head on the ground. She brought her legs together, bent at the knees, as her fingers continued their work in between. Her heart felt as if it would burst. She clenched her teeth as she tried to stifle another cry.
Xena suddenly froze, remaining absolutely still. She felt sure she'd heard something. She placed the rod back on the boulder by her side. She listened intently, cocking her head slightly towards where she thought she'd heard the noise. She may have imagined it, but she'd grown to trust her senses over the years. And she was always one who'd rather err on the side of caution. She squinted her eyes as she scanned the bushes and shrubs edging the clearing. It may have just been a hare, or the wind. She watched the branches sway with the strong breeze.
She smirked as she reached for the rod and thought to herself. "Well, I guess it was..." Her eyes went wide as she saw a shadowy figure moving just beyond the brush, heading stealthily towards their camp. Xena cursed to herself as she rose quietly. "No telling how many of them there are. They could already be at the....Gabrielle!" Xena panicked as she cursed herself this time. Gabrielle was probably in danger, and here she was, whacking off without a care in the world. She edged closer to the bushes and promised to chide herself more later. Moving quietly, she spotted the figure again through the dense shrubbery. Aside from him being shorter than her, she couldn't make out any other details between the darkness and the thick foliage. All modesty aside, she bolted forward and dove through the branches, tackling the startled figure and pinning him underneath. As she straightened, crouching over the struggling figure with her fist cocked back, she was startled when she recognized the familiar long coppery hair. "Gabrielle?" she asked softly.
The woman didn't say anything as she stayed in a fetal position with her arms covering her head.
"Gabrielle, what are you doing?" Xena asked, hesitantly placing a hand on her arm, hoping she hadn't hurt her. When the woman still didn't respond, Xena pulled her up to her feet despite the woman's struggles. "Gabrielle, look at me. Are you okay? Say something."
As the woman finally, slowly, looked up to her, Xena could see that she was on the verge of tears and frightened. She shook her head slowly as she looked back down to the ground. "Xena, I'm so sorry. I'm...sorry."
"Gabrielle, what's wrong?" She managed to gently pull the woman's chin up long enough to see she was crying now. "What IS it, Gabrielle?" The woman only continued to shake her head and apologize profusely. She looked down and realized she was still naked. "Look, Gabrielle... Gabrielle?" She gave up trying to get the woman to look at her. "Go back to the cave and wait for me. I'm going get my things. I'll be back in a second. Okay?" She watched as the woman took off in the direction of the cave.
As she walked back through the bushes, she pondered over Gabrielle's condition. Why was she so upset? Not upset, she corrected herself, she seemed frightened, of her. She walked over to the boulder and quickly stepped into her armor, pulling it up and sliding the straps in place. As she bent over to get her boots, she realized how sticky her hands were. She walked over and crouched near the pool, rinsing them in the cool water. As she straightened, she realized that Gabrielle must have caught her masturbating. Gabrielle probably woke, saw that she was gone, and went to look for her. "Damnit!!" Xena cursed quietly as she shook her head. This was the perfect end to a perfect day. As she walked back over to the boulder, she still couldn't understand why Gabrielle had been acting like she had. Sure, she'd probably feel embarrassed. Xena thought that Gabrielle may have even teased her about it. But Gabrielle, for some reason, had been scared to death. It didn't make any sense. She stooped over and slid on one of the boots, followed by the other, as she tried to make sense of what had happened.
She stopped suddenly. Reaching down beside her, she sat back upon the slab as a sobering thought entered her head, "Was Gabrielle watching me?!" She raised a hand to her chin as she thought about it. "Could that be it?" It would explain why the woman had been so afraid. A jumble of feelings flooded through her mind as she hurriedly tightened her boots. As she quickly headed back towards the cave, she felt the rain as it began to drizzle. She also saw a lightning flash out of the corner of her eye which was followed by the roar of thunder not far away. It looked as though it might be a rough storm.
Continued - Part 2