Please read the Disclaimer in Part
Xex Alert: This chapter carries a major NC17 alert, but then, if you read "Learning the Ropes," there's probably not much more I can do to offend you. ;)
Xenite Disclaimer for Part Four: Sadly, no virgins were sacrificed during the production of this fanfic. ;)
Gabrielle's version of her and Xena's first meeting was considerably more animated and lively than Xena's, but just as bittersweet. Luther smiled as she described it, but he could see how it hurt her to tell it, and he moved from his chair to sit beside her on the bed and take her hand.
"You know, you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," he told her awkwardly. Gabrielle nodded and squeezed his hand gratefully.
"I know. But I want to, you know, I mean, it's nicer to think about the good times. It's been so ... hard lately."
"Surely you and Xena will work things out," he said. "I mean, you two are ... well, it's like nothing I've ever seen before. There's got to be a way."
"I know, that's what I keep telling myself," Gabrielle sighed. "And 'be patient, be patient.' But it's not so easy sometimes. I just feel like, I have to do *something* ... you know ... something besides just sitting around in my room wondering where she is all the time." She grimaced at her feet.
"Maybe there *is* something else you could do," Luther said slowly, listening, but the CD had moved on to the next track. Gabrielle was lifting her head and frowning slightly at him.
"Well...." and he told her his idea. At first she resisted, mostly out of politeness, but he could see the hope building in her eyes.
"No, no, I couldn't. It's too much."
"It's not too much," he insisted. "Believe me, they won't even notice."
"And I could repay them," she suggested tentatively. He shrugged.
"Sure, if you want."
"But what about my play?" She frowned slightly and answered her own question. "I guess they can do without me for a day or two. It's still a few weeks till we open...."
"They'll understand," Luther said. "It'll probably be easier on them, in fact. I bet they're sick of you always hanging around," he teased gently. Gabrielle gave him a shove.
"They are not! I'm not really that bad, am I? Oh...." She turned serious again, relief relaxing her features. "Do you really think - that would be so wonderful. I can't ever thank you enough for this. If it really works out-"
"It will," he said firmly. Gabrielle gave a little shriek of delight, bouncing slightly on the bed.
"Ooh! Now I'm getting all excited ... thank you, thank you thank you!"
"It's not necessary," he laughed, infected once again with her cheer as she bounced up and put her arms around his neck in a grateful hug. Then abruptly she put her mouth to his, and he felt her breasts pressing against his chest; his breath caught in his throat, and his entire body responded. The whirl of sensory memory returned, heating his body past endurance as he tasted her lips, but he managed to summon the strength to seize Gabrielle's upper arms and hold her away from him. Their panting mixed together in the air. Gabrielle's eyes were wild, her face flushed.
"Save it," Luther told her hotly, and she blinked hard, once, and nodded. He felt her tense body relax in his hands, and he let go. Gabrielle went limp, sitting back from him.
"It's okay," he said, but now he wanted nothing more than to get her out of his room before his stamina gave out. "I'll take care of things on my end. You should go get ready."
"Yes...." She got to her feet, looking around with a vaguely befuddled air. Luther stood and guided her to the door.
Gabrielle paused in the hallway, her expression clearing, and gave him a piercing look. "Thanks," she said emphatically. "I mean it."
"You're welcome," he said. "And so do I." Gabrielle smiled and turned away. He watched her walk down the hall.
Then he turned too, and went back inside his room to ... handle things.
It was nearly a week before the young Xena was able to swallow her pride and seek out Lao Ma. By then, her mother's money was long gone, she had fought numerous minor street gangs -- earning herself a reputation as a vicious but indiscriminate enemy -- and the youth shelter had kicked her out, saying it only housed those who were actively looking for jobs and attending school. None of the locals seemed to want to join her in a new gang, and she was at loose ends.
Lao Ma's name was heard everywhere she went; apparently the woman was quite the champion of so-called lost causes among the local teenagers. Everyone had a story about a friend or cousin who had been arrested, strung out, scared, tired, beaten ... somehow Lao Ma found them, took them in to her "rehab center" (as everyone called her fencing school, which she ran out of her home), and when they emerged they were whole again -- physically, emotionally. And they had a new passion: almost always fencing, but sometimes karate, Tai Ch'i, or even chess. They became once again productive members of society.
Xena sneered at all of the above. But she figured she could play the game, pretend to go along with it, and dupe the old bird into fixing her up, feeding and housing her until she could find a gig.
And Xena had another problem too. One that she had been trying to deny, but which was getting harder and harder to ignore. One that she suspected Lao Ma would be able to solve. Or at least, so she hoped.
As she left behind the outskirts of Chicago and headed into the flat, featureless expanse of the Midwest, Xena thought back on that day and winced at her own youthful stupidity. It had taken her far, far too long to learn the art of not repeating her mistakes.
Gabrielle sat by the window, staring out with unseeing eyes at the clouds. Like Xena, she was being visited by a flow of memory too powerful to resist. Like Xena, her memories were bittersweet; like Xena, she couldn't help but marvel at the heedless naivete of her younger self.
"Xena," she had said one day, as they sat in Xena's room taking a study break, "are we friends?" The taken-aback look Xena gave her was so absolute that Gabrielle laughed aloud.
"Come on, it was a simple enough question. I mean, we do all the stuff friends do. We hang out together. I go to all your matches. I talk about all kinds of stuff, and you listen, God knows why sometimes, and sometimes you even talk too, and w-"
"I guess we're friends," Xena had replied, cutting in as she often did when the redhead began to babble. "I don't have much experience with that kind of thing." She gave Gabrielle a piercing look. "What are you really asking me?"
"Um...." Gabrielle fidgeted, twisting her fingers together, trying to stall, but Xena just kept looking steadily at her. "I've just been wondering why ... I mean, we've known each other for a few months now ... why you haven't ... made a move on me."
Xena's jaw dropped, and Gabrielle saw with a curious satisfaction that she had succeeded for the second time in as many minutes in rendering the other woman speechless. "What?" Well, almost speechless.
"I mean, I know you like women," Gabrielle said matter-of-factly, "and you know I know. And, well, I've never ... done that myself, but it's not like I'm a virgin or anything. You know that too."
"Yeah," Xena agreed gruffly, not looking at her. Gabrielle studied Xena's profile for a moment before asking the question that had really been on her mind.
"Don't you want me?"
Xena's head came up, and something flared in her eyes, but she said nothing. She looked away again, quickly hooding her expression. Gabrielle could see her hunting for words, but none came.
Summoning her last reserves of courage, the young redhead flung herself halfway into Xena's lap, grabbing the other woman before she had a chance to react and pressing her mouth against Xena's. Her friend's lips were surprisingly soft and warm, and Gabrielle gave a small squeak of excitement, twining her hands in Xena's silky dark hair. Xena responded with an intense passion that startled Gabrielle, opening her lips and deepening the kiss, strong hands coming up to wrap around the poet's waist and lift her more fully across Xena's thighs.
But it lasted only an instant before Xena regained her control and pulled away, her hands moving up to Gabrielle's shoulders to push the smaller woman back, breaking the contact. Gabrielle gazed at her, panting, throbbing to her core. Her lips felt swollen and impossibly hot.
"It's not - You don't want...." Xena began, and it was Gabrielle's turn to interrupt.
"I do want. I want you to command me." Her groin twitched with excitement at the sound of the words. "I want you to -- to order me around. I want to be naked with you, and I want you to ... Oh God, Xena!" Her sentence disappeared from memory as the other woman's hand trailed down from her shoulder, across her heaving breast, brushing the nipple on its way down to her waist. The material of her blouse bunched in Xena's hand, pulling out from her jeans with a single tug.
Gabrielle had to lift her arms so Xena could pull the blouse off, and this happened so quickly she lost her balance, both literally and figuratively. She teetered backwards, but Xena steadied her, one hand reaching behind her to flick open the clasp of her bra, while the other was sliding hotly across Gabrielle's bare waist, tugging her closer. The bra sprang free, and Xena's fingers were hooked into the beltloop at the small of Gabrielle's back, and in a single motion the dark woman swung her younger friend around, landing her on her back on the bed and flipping over to cover her, a hot wet mouth descending on one puckered nipple. Gabrielle cried out in surprise and pleasure, her back arching strongly, her mind shutting down as her entire body responded with a vengeance to Xena's omniscient tongue.
Xena was pinning the smaller woman down with her body, capturing Gabrielle's complete attention with her mouth while her hands slid between them to unfasten Gabrielle's jeans and tug them off. Gabrielle caught her breath when she realized she was fully naked under Xena, exposed completely to her friend's hands, which roamed across her creamy skin almost frantically, as if Xena were hungry to memorize the touch of every inch of her. When Gabrielle realized that this was, in fact, exactly how Xena felt -- that her friend had indeed been wanting her just as badly -- she almost forgot to breathe entirely, her hands reaching, seeking for Xena's shoulders and attempting to pull her closer.
But instead, she heard a low rumbling that she realized was Xena growling -- and the larger woman seized her hands, pulling them over her head and holding them there with one hand. Xena pushed one leg, still clad, between Gabrielle's naked thighs and pressed it upward. The poet felt the coarse fabric of Xena's jeans rubbing against her most sensitive spot, and she moaned again, pressing her hips upward to rub herself against it. Xena looked down at her, and her lips curved upward, but it could not be called a smile. It was more of a grimace, a feral snarl. Her face was flushed. "So this is what you wanted, right?" she rasped, thrusting her leg upward again. Gabrielle moaned yet again, nodding vigorously, feeling sweat-dampened hair brush her cheeks.
"Yes ... yes," she gasped. Xena looked at her, and again came that flare in her eyes which, in time, Gabrielle would come to recognize as the kindling of an intense lust.
"You wanna be ordered around," the dark woman husked. "So here's your first order." She gave her other hand, the one wrapped around Gabrielle's wrists, a little shake. "You leave those hands right where they are. I let go, you leave them there. You move them," and this time it *was* a grin, a ferocious one, "and whatever I'm doing, I stop. Got it?"
"Yes," Gabrielle said again, breathless and nearly senseless with desire. Xena nodded sharply, and suddenly dropped down again, once again wrapping her mouth around a swollen nipple, and Gabrielle felt teeth grazing it. A hand was on her other breast, kneading it, a wet thumb flicking the nipple, and another hand was underneath her, tilting her hips upward to thrust against Xena's leg. Gabrielle realized that indeed Xena had released her hands. But just as that realization was making its way into her brain, she realized too that her friend's hot mouth had left her nipple and was trailing its way across her ribs. Gabrielle's belly tightened in anticipation and she whimpered, twisting her hips from side to side, clenching her hands together furiously above her head to keep them there.
Gabrielle climaxed at almost the same instant that Xena's tongue found her clitoris; she felt as if her entire lower half were drowning, feeling her vulva spasming as Xena lapped up the juices that ran freely from her. She watched, panting, as the older woman sat up, moving one hand to lightly stroke the auburn curls, looking down at her. Xena's jeans were stained darkly wet across one thigh. Gabrielle's legs were spread wide, wantonly opening herself to her friend ... her lover.
"You can move your hands now," Xena said coolly, and as Gabrielle did so, Xena thrust two fingers inside her, watching her twitch and gasp. She was so wet they slid in like lightning, and Xena smiled slightly. Gabrielle watched her, trying to calm her breathing, absorbing her new view of her friend. Xena twisted her wrist slightly, moving her fingers, and Gabrielle twitched again, hovering on the border between pleasure and overstimulation. She reached out with one newly-freed hand and laid it on Xena's knee, giving her a pleading look. Xena smirked.
"What?" she asked, although she clearly knew.
"Xena," Gabrielle beseeched. "Take off your clothes. Let me touch you. Please?"
Xena smiled slightly, and pulled her fingers free from Gabrielle, standing up, putting the wet fingers to her mouth. She gained her feet and moved slightly away from the bed.
"You do it," she commanded, and Gabrielle climbed up eagerly, her knees still weak from orgasm, to kneel naked at Xena's feet and remove her clothing.
Gabrielle paused at this point in her reminiscence, judging it wise not to let her thoughts stray any further. She got up from her seat and walked slowly to the bathroom, which was fortunately unoccupied. She locked herself in and sat on the little toilet, sliding her hand down across her belly. As she did so, she turned her head and caught sight of herself in the mirror. The morose expression on her own face was too much; she turned away, closing her eyes.
After a few minutes Gabrielle emerged from the bathroom, drying her hands on a paper towel, and returned, carefully blank-faced, to her seat and her musings.
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