Gabrielle was waiting when Xena returned to the cave. She was sitting by the fire, aimlessly poking it with a stick. As soon as she saw Xena, she tried to look busy, but nervousness was etched onto her every feature. Xena took a deep breath and hoped that her own nervousness didn’t show. She knew that she needed to at least seem calm for Gabrielle’s sake.
‘I got some fish,’ she said, holding them up.
‘Good...er...I’ll...er...I have some herbs in my bag somewhere which I could stuff them with or I could maybe make a sauce and we have those sweet roots which we dug up. I could fry them. And there’s the nutbread we picked up in that village a while back...’
As Gabrielle reached over to take the fish, Xena caught her by the wrists. ‘Sweetheart,’ she said ‘we don’t have to do anything you’re not ready for.’ Gabrielle’s pulse beneath her fingers was rapid, her breathing shallow.
‘I’m ready,’ she whispered and there was sincerity in her eyes.
‘Ok,’ was Xena’s quiet reply. She kissed her then, full on the mouth. The kiss was slow and gentle and demanded nothing. ‘I’m nervous too,’ she said softly as she pulled away.
Gabrielle flashed her a smile and took the fish over to the frying pan. ‘Maybe dinner will calm us both down,’ she said.
‘Maybe.’ Xena moved across to the other side of the cave and laid out their sleeping furs, blushing a deep shade of crimson as she did so. Sleeping furs had never looked so suggestive.
Later, much later, after they had eaten dinner and drunk a little wine, they sat beside each other in front of the campfire, both a little lost, uncertain as to how to proceed. Xena could feel the moment slipping away from them. It was now or never.
Taking a deep, ragged breath she stood and held out a hand to Gabrielle. Without hesitation, Gabrielle took it and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. Her palm was clammy and Xena could feel her pulse quickening.
‘What happens now?’ Gabrielle asked, voice cracking with nerves.
‘Well,’ Xena said ‘we could go to be bed and get an early night...’ She stepped closer then and put a hand on either side of Gabrielle’s waist, gently running her fingers up and down the smooth skin of Gabrielle’s sides. ‘...or we could go to bed and not get an early night...’
She heard a sharp intake of breath from Gabrielle and then the younger woman had closed the distance between them and caught Xena’s mouth in a kiss.
‘I guess you chose option two then,’ Xena whispered as they pulled apart.
‘Seems that way,’ was the reply as Gabrielle kissed her again.
And then, finally, after four years of waiting, they let their emotions guide them. They felt their way by instinct, falling into one another, becoming surrounded by one another. Their bodies came together as one and, as they did, their souls reached out and caressed each other, joined at last as only true soulmates can be. Finally they felt complete.
High above the earth, in the drafty, echoing sky-chambers of Olympus, Aphrodite shivered. This time, it wasn’t from the cold; this time, it was a shiver of happiness as she felt true love begin.
There was a movement beside her and she turned to see a sheepish looking Hermes, holding a pair of golden sandals. ‘I think these are yours,’ he said.
‘Keep them,’ Aphrodite replied.
‘But sis, you won the bet.’
‘Keep them,’ she repeated. ‘Getting those two together was reward enough.’