Act VII – in which Gabrielle finally gets what she wants.
No words came, only unintelligible vowels as Gabrielle punched the edge of the oak table with her hand. She put her pounding fingers in her mouth. The pain was sharp and concrete, but not nearly enough to distract her from the feeling of having been rejected at her most open and vulnerable.
It was unfathomable. She would swear Xena had felt the same as she did or at least felt something. Her unsteady gaze, her rapid pulse – they were hard evidence. So by the gods, why did the warrior princess run out like that?
Was the idea of redefining their friendship, expanding its frames, really that unthinkable to her? Was the Virgin Goddess Syndrome that strong? Strong enough to make someone oblivious to the glaringly obvious: that Gabrielle was worldly and so head over heals in love and lust with Xena that she couldn't even think in full sentences anymore.
The latter was almost the worst of it all. She was a bard and would normally vent through storytelling, but her yearning for Xena never brought stories to life. It was wordless and amounted to no more than dizzying noise in her head along with a body screaming for attention.
That's how she felt right now. Being walked out on in Calonike's most seductive attire ought to have the same quenching effect on desire as a bucket of cold water thrown in the face. Yet Gabrielle's body was burning and begging for release. She was physically hurting between her legs and had to fight the urge to let a hand disappear under her dress just to take the edge of. It was tempting, but she knew from experience that the effect faded in comparison to the feeling of emptiness accompanying it.
After a while – much longer than it could possibly take to feed Argo – Gabrielle got up and began to wander about the room aimlessly until something caught her attention. A glimpse of reflected moonlight, a fast and familiar motion pulling her towards the open window.
And sure enough.
Below, in the middle of the courtyard, Xena was busy. She was not feeding her horse, no, she was doing sword drills. Dragging high pitched noises out of nothing but air as she swung her sword wildly, chopping a pile of defenceless logs to bits and pieces.
Obviously, Xena had to stay in shape, but Gabrielle had long ago noticed the link between the warrior princess' mood and her need to fight, even when there were no bad guys around to beat up. Her mood always rubbed off on her style. Right now she was attacking the wood with fierce strokes that would definitely leave her arms and shoulders sore. Gasps of exertion escaped her with every impact; her jaw and neck were tense and would most definitely add to her collection of muscle infiltrations.
What was currently taking place in the courtyard had nothing to do with constructive drills. It was simply Xena's way of venting.
While Gabrielle's words and stories caught in her throat for days after another unresolved encounter with the warrior princess, her friend could simply go out and beat up thugs or logs and return an hour later, happy as a lark and completely at peace with herself.
Gabrielle sent Calonike and Lysistrata an uncharacteristically grumpy thought. Some advice they'd given her! Of course their method would fly right past someone like Xena. The warrior princess might become emotionally and sexually frustrated, and Gabrielle could swear her attempt at seduction had had some effect on her. But little good that did when Xena could sublimate anything in a cascade of sword strikes.
"The men of Athens, Sparta and Corinth might give up anything, including their weapons, to get laid. Xena's more likely to give up anything to get her weapons," Gabrielle mumbled to herself.
And although the words fell out of her own mouth, it was as if another person whispered an idea in her ear in that moment: In Xena's case the principles behind Lysistrata's successful strike would have to be turned upside down. It was obvious, in fact, and a small, optimistic smile snuck onto Gabrielle's face as she pulled on a shawl and ventured out into the night.
"Someone stole my sword!" Xena threw the door open and slammed it behind her with equal force. "And my chakram!"
"Well, a good evening to you, too," Gabrielle replied from the window without turning around. She was wearing the same feather light dress as before, but had let her hair down.
"I only left them for an instance while I washed up and now they're gone!" The warrior princess stomped back and forth.
"I know," Gabrielle said quietly, still glancing out the window.
"I can't believe this could happen to me on a completely ordina-" Suddenly the pacing stopped. A moment of total silence. "You… what?"
Gabrielle turned to face her friend and was know partially sitting on the windowsill. "I know," she repeated.
"How do you know?" Xena asked impatiently. "Did you see who did it?"
"Not quite." Gabrielle contemplated her friend for a moment before stating: "It was me."
"You?" The warrior princess blinked repeatedly, unable to understand the implications. "Well, then give them back to me."
"Nope," Gabrielle said. "Not until I get what I want."
"What are you talking about? What do you want?" The words fell fast and gracelessly from the normally stoic woman and her body language was frantic. A stark contrast to Gabrielle's controlled calm.
The young bard in the window slowly put one thigh across the other and in doing so lifted the edge of her dress until it revealed even more than before. "What do I want?" Her fingertips caressed the sill. "You."
Xena visibly gulped, but tried to cover it up with a dry laughter. "Don't be silly, now. Just give me the weapons."
"Silly?" The bard arched an eyebrow as she straightened up and let go of the sill. She approached the warrior princess with slow but determined steps. "I assure you, there is nothing silly about it." The room was small and she quickly reached her destination. "I am absolutely serious," she stated, now directly in front of Xena's rapidly heaving chest.
Only then did Xena move. She took a step backwards, away from Gabrielle, but didn't manage to shake off her friend's direct, unwavering gaze. It was accompanied by heavy eyelids and dark expanded pupils spelling out their message to anyone.
But Xena was not just anyone. "Come on, Gabrielle, you know ultimatums never work on me. I get my way in the end if I really want to, I have methods to-"
"To force me to cooperate? You really mean that?" A hint of disbelief snuck into Gabrielle's voice. "You'd rather use your competent fingers to stop the blood flow to my brain than touch me?"
"That's not what I meant." The warrior princess once again stepped back, but this time bumped into the closed door. It was several inches thick and opened inwards so simply leaning against it would not work. She was trapped.
"Then what do you mean?" Gabrielle reached for the edge of Xena's jaw and felt her friend's rapid pulse beneath her fingers. It stirred up her own arousal even further. "Tell me what you intend to do to me, Xena," she stood on tip toes to triumphantly whisper into the warrior princess' ear: "Remember: I've got your weapons."
With her hand she guided Xena's face towards her own until their eyes locked. Her friend's otherwise light blue eyes had darkened considerably and for the second time that night she subconsciously licked her lips. For the second time that night Gabrielle felt absolutely certain that Xena's lips would finally find hers in a searing kiss; that everything Gabrielle felt with her entire being was mutual.
Xena parted her lips – but not to taste Gabrielle's. "I think this city's gotten to you," she said, and while Gabrielle stood still, momentarily stunned by the words, the warrior princess managed to push herself sideways out of Gabrielle's hold.
And that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"It has nothing to do with this city!" Gabrielle yelled, almost shocked at her own outburst. But she couldn't, wouldn't hold her frustrations in any longer. "This – us…" She ran out of words, suddenly unsure of what to say. To Tartarus with Xena's ability to render me speechless! "It started ages before Athens." Gabrielle mirrored Xena's sideways escape along the wall. "So long ago I'm practically losing my mind over it," she sighed, once again reaching for the warrior princess.
Xena skilfully ducked under her friend's outstretched arm and was no longer caught between Gabrielle and the wall. She was free to run, but none the less remained were she was. "The last couple of weeks have been hectic. If you get a good night's sleep I'm sure you'll see things more clearly in the morning, Gabrielle," she tried, slightly short of breath.
"My thoughts have been all over the place for months, because I have been dying to be all over you! However, this – my ultimatum – is as clear as I can make it." Gabrielle took one step forward. "It is not a delusion, it's a physical fact!"
The warrior still didn't move a muscle; she simply stood in apathy in front of Gabrielle who was giving up on words once and for all.
"Feel it!" she said as she snatched Xena's right hand without warning and pressed it between her own thighs. The cobweb-thin cloth between Xena's fingers and Gabrielle's pounding groin was soaked within a heartbeat.
"Now do you believe me?" Gabrielle panted, "Do you understand that I mean this?" She let go of the warrior princess' hand in order to snake both of her own behind her friend's neck.
Xena said nothing. It was apparently her turn to be at a loss for words. She was breathing as heavily as Gabrielle and her hand remained between the bard's legs, but her fingers were completely still.
Gabrielle pulled Xena's face even closer. "I don't understand your hesitation when we so clearly both want this," she said gently. "But I will make things easy for you." She caressed Xena's neck with her thumbs, let them graze along her friend's jaw: "There will be no weapons, no sword drills, no fights…" Her face was so close that the last words were almost swallowed up by Xena's half-open mouth. "…until you take me as your lover as well as your friend."
This time Gabrielle did not wait for the déjà vu. She closed the distance and kissed Xena. The warrior princess responded with a sharp breath, almost as if in pain. Then she returned the kiss with a fierceness giving away the fact that she had been every bit as frustrated as Gabrielle.
The young bard smiled into the kiss and did not mind it one bit when she became the one caught between the wall and a friend whose hand was finally coming to life between her legs. It disappeared, but only to reappear moments later against Gabrielle's thigh fumbling its way to the right side – that is to say, the inside – of Calonike's dress.
END FINAL ACT