Xena awoke to the sound of gentle breathing and a soft pressure on her chest. For a moment, she was disorientated and she stiffened instinctively, alert to potential attack. Then, all at once she relaxed, becoming aware of the feel of breath against her neck, the tickle of hairs under her chin.
She looked down at their intertwined bodies. There was no way that they could have been lying closer to one another. Xena was on her back and Gabrielle lay across her, head tucked under her chin, arm flung across her stomach, legs tangled up together. Xena brought her own arms up and wrapped them around Gabrielle, squeezing her tightly, revelling in the pleasure that simple closeness brought.
Gabrielle began to stir then, to slowly claw her way towards wakefulness. She moved with little snuffling sighs, burrowing into Xena. The hand on Xena’s stomach began to move in lazy, soothing circles. For her part, Xena was running her fingers over Gabrielle’s back. To be able to touch like this and not be afraid of what it might mean, of what Gabrielle might think was wonderful to her. One of her hands had found its way to Gabrielle’s hair and she lazily began to twist golden strands around her fingers.
Gabrielle raised her head then and looked up at Xena with a grin. ‘I love it when you play with my hair,’ she said.
‘You do?’ Xena replied, thinking of all the times she’d idly stroked it or brushed it in the past.
Gabrielle nodded and then added ‘I love that I can say that now.’
Xena’s grin was just as wide as Gabrielle’s. ‘I love that you can say it too. I love that I can tell you hhow beautiful you are, I love that I can do this.’ And with that, she spun them over so that Gabrielle was on her back on the bed and Xena was hovering above her. Then their lips came together in a clumsy, half-awake, good morning kiss.
When they pulled apart, Gabrielle giggled and whispered ‘If we wake up like this every day, maybe I’ll become a morning person after all.’
Xena smiled and kissed her again. The kiss was deeper this time, more focused somehow as they both started to wake up. Soon Gabrielle’s tongue was gently probing and Xena eagerly parted her lips to let her in. Without thinking, her hands began to travel lower, until they found soft breasts and then lower still, over stomach and hips. Only then did she remember what she was doing and stop.
‘Xena?’ Gabrielle asked, perplexed. ‘Oh please say you’re not having second thoughts again?’
‘Never, sweetheart,’ Xena said and kissed her to prove the point.
‘Then, what’s the matter?’ Gabrielle didn’t wait for an answer. She was kissing Xena again, her own hands travelling lower this time.
‘Nothing’s the matter,’ Xena said, but she pulled away again. ‘I just think we should talk first.’
Gabrielle groaned in frustration and mock annoyance. ‘Since when did you get so talkative? What happened to tall, dark and silent? Little Miss Action?’ She was reaching for Xena again, but Xena gently gripped her wrists and held her still.
‘She travelled with the love of her life who knew a few things about words.’
Gabrielle stilled of her own accord now. ‘I’m the love of your life?’ she said.
‘Nah, there’s this other bard in Thebes...’
For a moment, Gabrielle’s face fell, then, when she caught Xena’s mischievous expression, she squealed in exasperation and threw a pillow at her. The two of the ended up in a laughing heap on the bed, Gabrielle braced above Xena, laughing helplessly. She ducked down for a kiss and Xena let the kiss linger for a few moments before she sat both of them up again, completely serious now.
‘Gabrielle...’ Xena said.
At this new tone which was entirely devoid of playfulness, Gabrielle sat up straighter and moved so that they were facing each other, not touching for once.
‘Yes, Xena,’ she said, trying her best not to laugh.
Xena could feel a laugh rising in her own chest too, but she fought it. ‘Gabrielle,’ she said again. ‘You are the love of my life. You’re the other half of my soul. If we’re going to be in a relationship, then it’s going to be serious. This isn’t some casual fling for me.’
‘It isn’t for me either, Xena. Did you think...?
‘No,’ Xena said hastily. ‘No, I didn’t. I know you’re serious about this. I just wanted to make sure that you knew I was.’
‘You’re serious about everything.’ Gabrielle said, and then cast a sideways glance at the pillow she had thrown. ‘Or at least you used to be.’
Xena had a feeling they were about to get sidetracked into a pillow fight again, so she tried get the conversation back on track. ‘What i’m trying to say is, I want to take this slowly.’
‘Xena!’ now there was real frustration in Gabrielle’s tone. ‘I’ve been flirting with you for four entire years! We’ve already taken it slowly!’
‘I want to take it faster than that. It’s just...’ And she paused and looked Gabrielle in the eye. ‘I want our first time together to be special, to be somewhere which ours, not on this island.’
Understanding was beginning to dawn on Gabrielle’s face. ‘Because you’ve been with so many other people here.’ It was a statement, not a question.
‘Exactly. Does that make sense?’
‘Yes. That makes perfect sense.’ And Gabrielle drew her in for a kiss which was sweet and slow and lingering and didn’t demand anything further. ‘Will you let me plan it though? Our first time together, I mean. Will you let me choose somewhere special?’
‘That sounds like a plan,’ Xena replied and kissed her again. ‘but I have a plan too.’
‘What’s your plan?’ Gabrielle asked.
‘Let’s get off this island.’