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No Matter What

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“Do you remember...anything?”

Xena looks over at Gabrielle, that disconcertingly blank face once more peering at her for clarification. As though Gabrielle is the one with the answers.

“What do you mean?” Xena says. It’s late, and yesterday they were dead, and now they’re camping out in the lookout tower of some fortress, on the run from the faithful followers of this region’s War God. How quickly the world spins, constantly hurling new things at them. Such as Xena’s recent memory loss.

“So much of our history is wrapped up in war and fighting,” Gabrielle says, hugging her knees to her chest. “Do you even remember how we met?”

“Of course,” says Xena with a smile. “I was passing through your village and you wanted to travel so badly you followed me all the way to Amphipolis!”

Gabrielle chews her lip. “That’s only half of it.”

“Well, I don’t remember the other half, then.” She seems frustrated. She seems hollow.

“Do you remember -” here Gabrielle pauses, afraid to give too much away in case the answer is no, “- us ?”

“I said ‘always,’ didn’t I?” Xena says, smirking and moving a little closer to her. All day there have been moments where she almost seemed normal, where there was more intensity in her eyes and fire under her tongue. Those moments went as quickly as they came. Sprawled across her bedroll, Xena keeps her gaze fixed on Gabrielle, and the intensity stays.

Gabrielle smiles softly and uncurls, lying down next to Xena. Centimeters away, she whispers, “I love you, Xena.”

“I love you too, Gabrielle,” Xena says, and with enough time for a quick breath, she presses her lips hard to Gabrielle’s.

Oh, gods. Yes. She hasn’t felt fully alive since she came back to life, and the second Xena’s lips touch hers, it’s like every nerve in her body wakes up. As though her own body is remembering just how much she can feel . It’s always like this with Xena, but now. Especially now. She feels like she’s on fire.

“Gods, Xena,” Gabrielle whispers, pulling back. Her hands, acting of their own accord, move to Xena’s waist. “Do you feel that?” She shivers as Xena cradles her neck, fingers brushing through her short blond waves.

Xena deftly moves over her. “Just like I remember,” she says, as though it’s been a long time since they’ve done this. Chronologically speaking, the last time they made love was probably just a few days ago. In a different, truer kind of reality, it’s been a lifetime.

Gabrielle’s fingers feel the soft fabric of Xena’s new tunic. Her body underneath it is much more supple than it is under her leather armor.

She needs to stop dwelling on the differences between this Xena and the one she’s known up to this point. It’s the same woman, she thinks, and this is proof. The way Xena kisses her, how she takes Gabrielle’s bottom lip in her teeth just hard enough, just enough to make her breathe a little heavier. She kisses like Xena. She makes the same noises Xena does, breathes in and out through her nose while her lips stay unrelentingly on Gabrielle’s.

But part of it still feels like cheating. So much of Xena is missing, how can she possibly fill in all the gaps?

“Show me what else you remember,” Gabrielle breathes as Xena’s lips descend to her neck. She needs proof, more proof that this is her Xena. If they cannot get Xena’s memory back it will be a terrible tragedy, but it won’t be enough to make Gabrielle leave her. Nothing could make her leave.

Together they wrestle Gabrielle’s shirt off, and Xena’s mouth is on her nipple before the cool air can reach it. Gabrielle stifles a moan, unsure of how much noise might carry in this stony fortress.

Everywhere Xena touches comes to life again and again, like waves over a rock, like bubbles surfacing from hot water. She feels as though she may dissolve entirely under Xena’s tongue. There are worse ways to die - this she knows from experience. And heaven is not nearly so exciting.

The pounding of her heart is a constant reminder that she is very much alive. And so is Xena. She hasn’t had the chance to process it, and now certainly isn’t the time. She pulls Xena up, pressing their chests together as they kiss softly. Their hearts beat alongside each other, and Gabrielle is sure she feels them begin to beat in unison. Xena slips her arms behind Gabrielle and holds her in a long embrace.

When she sets Gabrielle back down, she also moves away. Gabrielle begins to pull her back, until she realizes that Xena is motioning for her to take her skirt off. She obliges, lifting her hips and kicking it off. Xena smiles and climbs back on top of her.

“Try and keep quiet,” she says with a sly look, and Gabrielle knows this is a challenge. Xena kisses her lips once, her neck once on each side, her breasts, her navel, each of her hips, and Gabrielle’s legs widen as Xena hovers her lips over the place Gabrielle wants them most.

“Xena, please,” whimpers Gabrielle. Xena laughs softly, and Gabrielle thinks, egomaniacal daughter of a bacchae . And then Xena’s tongue is on her clit, and she thinks, she’s earned her ego , and then she doesn’t think anything at all. She presses the back of her hand to her mouth to stifle her moans and presses her other hand into Xena’s shoulder. When Xena shallowly inserts a finger, she cries out, and Xena does it again, deeper and deeper with each thrust, her lips still wrapped around Gabrielle’s clit. It does not take long before Gabrielle’s whole body seizes up as an intense orgasm courses through her, leaving every bit of her tingling.

“Good job,” Xena says, sliding back up the bedroll and pulling Gabrielle into her arms.

Gabrielle is too tired to tell her that she could say the same to her. Xena kisses her forehead, strokes her hair, lets her lean her whole body’s weight onto her.

They lie together for a while, Gabrielle naked in her lover’s arms. She comes out of her haze the moment she realizes that Xena is still fully clothed. She tugs Xena’s tunic up lazily, and Xena shifts over to remove it.

“Do you want me to…?” Gabrielle asks, a question she always poses her lover. Sometimes Xena is not in the mood to be touched, would rather give than receive. On those days, Gabrielle kisses Xena’s back, strokes her arms, but stays away from the more erogenous parts of her body. Xena tells her that Gabrielle’s pleasure is her priority, that if Gabrielle is satisfied then Xena is, too. Gabrielle has come to accept it, but her hands are always hungry for Xena’s skin. Some days, that hunger just won’t be sated.

Today, though, Xena slides her bottoms off and straddles Gabrielle. “Yes,” she whispers, and Gabrielle can feel her wetness sliding against her stomach. She leans down to kiss Gabrielle again, her hips rocking. Gabrielle pushes her hips up to meet Xena where they are joined. She knows Xena can’t come, but she wants to draw her lover’s enjoyment out for as long as possible.

Xena sits up, un-self-consciously arching her back and giving Gabrielle’s fingers full access to the toned expanse of her stomach. She wonders if Xena even remembers where any of her scars came from, or if this knowledge, too, has been stolen away from her. She traces a long-healed-over burn mark on Xena’s stomach from when she cauterized her own arrow wound many years ago, at the very beginning of their friendship. Then she moves her hands and tries to think of other things.

“Xena,” Gabrielle whispers, grabbing Xena’s thighs, “let me - I want to -”

She pulls Xena’s legs toward her shoulders, and her lover gets the idea right away.

“Yeah,” she says, and there’s a brief moment where their bodies aren’t in contact, and then Xena’s knees are on either side of Gabrielle’s head.

“Yeah,” Gabrielle echoes, and she holds Xena’s hips as she eases her body down onto Gabrielle’s mouth.

This Xena tastes the same as the Xena she loves, and that’s all the further proof she needs tonight. She kisses Xena’s clit, cups her ass as Xena once again begins to rock against her.

Other than keeping her head elevated, Gabrielle doesn’t have to do much work in this position. She holds her tongue firm and lets Xena roll her hips against it. When her neck gets tired she pulls Xena’s hips down closer to her mouth, causing Xena’s legs to spread further and giving Gabrielle all the more access to her swollen vulva.

Xena begins making low noises, sounds of deep satisfaction that Gabrielle loves coaxing out of her. She knows they are nearing the end, that soon Xena will become over-sensitive and frustrated and she will ask Gabrielle to stop.

Instead, Xena’s voice pitches up, and she says, “yeah,” an encouragement for Gabrielle to keep her mouth where it is. Gabrielle moans a little into Xena, her own body already aching again to be touched, but she stays where she is, eager to continue to please her warrior.

“Yeah,” Xena says again, her voice still quietly raising in pitch. Gabrielle runs her hands along Xena’s thighs, scratches her nails along the undersides where she knows Xena is sensitive. Xena’s voice pitches ever upward, and she takes on a breathy timbre that Gabrielle has never heard before.

She should be concerned, because this is uncharacteristic of her Xena, but all she can think is, Oh my gods, she’s going to come .

Xena’s hips become frantic, and Gabrielle feels it, the beginning of a long and beautiful orgasm, something she has never before been able to coax out of Xena, though not for lack of trying. She keeps her tongue right where it is as Xena grinds down on her, her voice high and breathless-sounding.

For almost a minute, the warrior rocks against the bard’s mouth, making noises Gabrielle has always wanted to hear her make. When she finishes, Gabrielle can still feel her twitching, the aftershocks of her orgasm leaving her sensitive and shaking.

Xena unstraddles Gabrielle’s face and collapses onto her back, still gasping for breath as she recovers. Gabrielle rolls over and throws her arms around her, whispering, “Xena, that was incredible.”

When words come to Xena, she says, “It was.” And then she looks at Gabrielle, that darkness still in her eyes, and with an alluring smile she says, “I want you to do it again.”

“Oh gods, yes,” Gabrielle breathes. “Right now?” Xena nods and lets Gabrielle climb on top of her and pin her down for a kiss. “Tell me what you want,” Gabrielle says, looking deeply into Xena’s eyes. “Anything.”

Xena’s gaze on her is unwavering. “Use your hands,” she says, her voice breathy and pleading. “I want to feel you inside me.”

She spreads her legs, and Gabrielle, not one to look a proverbial gift horse in the mouth, reaches down and obliges. Immediately Xena starts making those noises again, lifting her hips to meet Gabrielle’s hand, letting Gabrielle know that this time she wants it fast and hard.

She pauses for just a moment, straddling Xena’s thigh so that she can punctuate every thrust with the movement of her hips. “I want to see you come again,” Gabrielle whispers. Xena moans.

With each thrust, Gabrielle’s clit rubs against Xena’s upper leg, and she imagines that she is actually inside Xena, sliding in and out, filling her warrior as together they fill the room with the echoes of their frantic fucking. She groans, this vision of herself taking Xena so clear in her mind.

Does Xena know? Does she know that she’s Gabrielle’s? Gabrielle has offered herself up to Xena over and over, but she has never dared to ask for Xena to give herself over to her completely. For a long time she thought it just wasn’t the nature of their relationship - that theirs was a different kind of give and take. But when she looks at Xena now, she sees the warrior princess surrendering herself to Gabrielle completely.

There’s a light in Xena’s eyes beyond the darkness that’s always there - a level of love and vulnerability Gabrielle has never seen before, not even during their tenderest moments. In this moment it’s as if they can read each other’s very thoughts, and Gabrielle knows Xena feels it, too.

“I love - fuck , I love you,” Gabrielle says, close to sliding off of Xena’s thigh, which is slick with her own arousal.

Xena reaches up and touches her face, brings her down for a kiss. The tenderness of the gesture does not match the frenzied pace their hips have taken in their desperate climb toward release, but somehow it fits them.

“Gabrielle,” Xena pants, “ Gabrielle .” She is so close, and still trying in vain to keep her volume down. Gabrielle curls her fingers and says, voice low, “Let them hear you.”

Let them know you’re mine.

At that, Xena comes with a cry louder and higher than the one she uses in battle. At the sound and the feeling of Xena’s thigh tensing between her legs, Gabrielle tips over the edge, her moans joining Xena’s. She thrusts her hips hard against her hand, her two fingers pushing deeper as Xena’s walls move around them. Xena’s hips keep lifting, her screams now shrieks, and Gabrielle’s hand is starting to hurt but she can tell she must not stop now.

She moves her thumb to Xena’s clit and presses down hard as Xena rolls her hips into her. With one final cry Xena comes again, coating Gabrielle’s hip in the fluid that comes squirting out of her.

Gabrielle looks down at her glistening midsection, eyes wide.

“I didn’t know a woman could…” she says.

Still catching her breath, Xena says, “I knew it was possible, but I never…”

Gabrielle grabs a nearby cloth and wipes herself and her lover down. She lies back and pulls Xena on top of her. The warrior goes, giving her her full weight. They won’t be able to lie like this forever, but it feels wonderful to be the one to hold Xena, instead of being held.

It occurs to Gabrielle that all their efforts to be quiet went out the door as quickly as the buildup to Xena’s third orgasm. She suppresses a giggle, but Xena feels it wracking her body anyway.

“What?” she mumbles.

“The acoustics in here are amazing,” Gabrielle says. Xena swats her arm lazily.

“I’m in love with you,” Xena says.

Gabrielle’s throat catches. It’s not new information, but Xena has never said it like this. Naked and vulnerable, presenting herself to Gabrielle as if making an offering.

“I’m in love with you, too,” Gabrielle replies. Xena sits up to look at Gabrielle, that light still in her eye. The darkness is gone, and Gabrielle remembers how much Xena has forgotten.

How hollow she must feel, thinks Gabrielle, to know that this moment is significant but not to be able to understand why.

When they get Xena’s memory back - when, not if - will the light still be there in her eyes?

“No matter what,” Gabrielle whispers, more for herself to hear than for Xena.

Xena settles back onto the bedroll, tucking her head in the crook of Gabrielle’s arm. Gabrielle strokes her hair, feels Morpheus begin to pull her into the land of dreams. As she begins to doze off, she thinks about the woman in her arms. Up to this point, Xena has never been able to come in the presence of any other person. Did Xena’s rebirth put new sensations into Xena’s body, making it easier for her to finish?

Or is it the lack of memory?

Gabrielle has thought that Xena’s affliction might be psychosomatic before. Knowing that Xena could get herself off but couldn’t reach that point with Gabrielle was a blow to the ego, to be sure, but assuming it was all in Xena’s head had seemed like wishful thinking up until now. Tonight, though, didn’t seem like a question of skill on Gabrielle’s part. Besides, Xena has told her how well she uses her tongue many times before tonight.

Gabrielle doesn’t know much about psychology, but she knows that the mind plays tricks on a person, making unresolved issues work themselves out through all kinds of channels. If all of Xena’s issues with trust and intimacy stem from her time as a warrior, and those memories are gone, are her trust issues gone, too?

Maybe it would be better if Xena never got her memory back, after all, thinks Gabrielle. How much freer would Xena be? All that history, all that trauma, just gone? Wouldn’t it be kinder to leave Xena as she is now, to let her live a peaceful life at last?

Even as she thinks it, she knows she can’t do that. It’s not what Xena - her Xena, the complete Xena - would want. Gone is different from resolved. Xena’s memories being gone resolves nothing - it only leaves Xena with a hollowness that Gabrielle knows even she cannot fill.

If it means bringing back all that pain, all that heartbreak, all that violence, then so be it. If it means Xena loses her ability to let go, then so be it. She will make her warrior whole again.

Gabrielle pulls her arm out from under Xena’s head and then rolls over to press her chest up against Xena’s back. Tonight she will protect her warrior. Tomorrow she will protect her warrior. Until her warrior is a warrior once again, she will protect her. No matter what.