It isn’t a surprise.
The feel of her lips on your lips, when her mouth finally (f i n a l l y) finds yours, somewhere between the night’s deepening shadows and the light cast by the fire’s orange glow.
You had seen it coming for months now.
Watched, first as the idea settled about her - like a soft rain before the dawn, when she’s still cocooned in the blankets she stole from you in the middle of the night, blissfully unaware of the change on the wind - then traced the dizzying patterns it made as it danced around the edges of her thoughts. A whisper - shy, fleeting, impossible - ghosting across her mind, planting seeds in the fertile fields of her imagination.
Of course, you knew the moment the idea took root. Deep and strong. Saw the way her gaze would fall wistfully upon you when she thought you weren’t looking and, then, the way her pulse jumped in her throat and her eyes sought frantic purchase elsewhere when you made it obvious you were. Noted the way she was suddenly very taken with your mouth. When you were eating or drinking or talking - but, especially when you were worrying your bottom lip in concentration. Watched with hungry delight as her tongue played unconsciously across her own in sympathetic need.
Knew she had made up her mind - even if the knowledge was still revealing itself to her - when, at day’s end in the quiet of your camp, a faraway look stole from her face the careful mask she had recent want to don and left in its place a lazy smile to tug at the corners of her mouth. Knew, with breathless and impatient certainty that behind eyes made soft and distant from distraction she was seeing fields full and vibrant with the blooms of possibility.
After that, well, it was only a matter of time.
So, it isn’t a surprise. Her mouth hot on your mouth. Her lips sliding across your lips. Her fingers combing through the soft hairs along your neck. It isn’t a surprise because you saw it coming. Prayed to the gods (to. the. gods!) that it would arrive, swift and sure on Hermes’ wings. Because you’ve wanted this since… well, maybe since you first laid eyes on her, but definitely since she first smiled your way and you felt it catch in your belly.
And now here it is finally. Finally . Months after you left her in death, only to return in spirit and pull her into that plane that exists somewhere between the living and the dead. When her eyes were wet with the untamed emotions of her devastated heart, and all you could think to do was try to soothe her anguish with a promise and the slow brush of your lips against hers. Months after you returned to her and your life together - for good this time, for better or for worse, you had said without saying - and everything went back to the way it was before your accident outside Cirra. Only everything had changed.
It isn’t a surprise. The kiss.
Instead, the surprise comes in the weight of it. This moment. The way your heart is tumbling and soaring and aching all at once. You wonder if it will ever hold a steady rhythm again. The feel of her against you as she leans over and across your body, pulling herself up and into your mouth. Her muscles coiled tight, corded and made powerful from the sheer force of her desire for you. The fit of her mouth against yours, the graze of her teeth, the brush of her nose. One hand at your neck, thumb coaxing shivers from the soft skin beneath your ear. The other hand kneading the leather at your waist with no thought to the bruises she’ll undoubtedly leave behind.
Oh, by the gods! But if you only knew. The way it would finally feel . Your head is swimming - languid and lovely - and you feel yourself slipping under. Her pull heady and hypnotic. And now that you’re caught in her undertow you don’t know if you have the strength in you to ever surface again. You’re not sure you even want to.
Because: it’s never felt like this . Oh! You’re no stranger to the slick slide of skin on skin. Mouths and lips and tongues. You’ve tasted all manner of kisses in all manner of ways from all manner of lips, but nothing as sweet as what her demanding little mouth is doing to you now.
And that’s the real surprise. The masterful skill of her lips as they tug perfectly at yours - playful and pert and with such practised ease. She, the farmer’s daughter from Poteidaia, with the stars and the moon in her eyes and a tall tale quick on her tongue - who followed so brazenly after you in the dead of night. And now, barely removed from her girlhood years. You doubt she’d need a second hand to keep count of all the mouths she’s mapped. You’d have thought she’d be clumsy or coy. You didn’t count on this confidence. And yet…
It hits like a jolt. The white hot desire that floods your veins. Licking up and down your spine like her velvet tongue licks its way into your mouth. She times the slip of it past your lips with the slip of her hand to the bare skin of your hip where it meets your thigh. Nimble fingers teasing the crease of your skin. And you wonder when her hand found its way under your skirt. Until her lips draw your tongue into her mouth and all thought is lost.
And suddenly it’s not enough . You need her on you and in you and all around you. And there’s nothing graceful about it. Your desperate movements. Your wild, wanton hunger. The fire in your blood. And you’re pulling her from her spot beside you on the lonely log across from your campfire. And she’s sliding into your waiting lap as you slide the two of you to pool on the ground in a tangle of limbs and desperate longing. Her teeth gently grazing your upper lip as the log slipping away beneath you grazes your legs.
She settles astride you. Knees gripping your waist, painting the skin in the hallows below your hips purple with her excitement. Driving your body back against the log you just abandoned. You think you had bones once - strong, reliable - to hold you upright. But, they’ve melted under the heat of her pressed against you. And if it weren’t for the tree trunk at your back and her lithe body trapping your own against it, you’d be a puddle beneath her.
Instead, all you feel is the slow trickle of your own want puddle beneath you . Not the rasp of the bark’s bite on the back of your upper thighs. Or the bruises left behind by greedy hands marking you as hers. Even the flames leaping high into the night sky from the fire at your side pales in comparison to the furnace she so expertly stokes within you.
She shifts above you and tilts her head, adjusting the angle of her mouth against yours, and suddenly her tongue is tracing new and dizzying patterns along the roof of your mouth. And the sides of your cheeks. And the undersides of your tongue. And your eyes slipped closed at the first feel of her lips on yours, but even in the darkness - your sight only a shadowplay cast by your heightened senses - you can still see the black dancing around the edges of your vision. A prelude to the sweet oblivion of unconsciousness.
Except, you prefer the sweet oblivion of her - above you and in you and all around you - and so you use every last ounce of strength left in you to push against the riptide of her arms and her mouth and her want. Not that you wouldn’t gladly drown in the swells of her delicious curves, the salt on her skin, the wild sea-green expanse of her beautiful eyes. You would give yourself over to that fathomless deep in a heartbeat. But first you want to revel in every agonizingly exquisite moment as she robs you of your last breath and the last of your resolve.
Only, everything is happening much too, too fast.
You’re not sure who pulls away first. But one moment you’re lost in the eddy of her kisses and the next she’s staring down at you, the ghost of a smile on her lips and in her eyes, while your chest heaves in a gasping plea for air. You feel feral. Heart hammering against your rib cage, blood buzzing through your veins, hot and hungry. You can only imagine that you look it, too. Feral. Unhinged. And your mind’s eye conjures up an image: pupils blown wide, lips full and wet, hair tangled from curious fingers, heat from the memory of her pressed against you blazing a trail across your skin. A perfect picture of a woman undone. Made mad from desire and touch and yearning.
And, by the gods, if she doesn’t look perfectly unaffected. Just the hint of a flush caressing the tops of her breasts, creamy skin lust-dappled in the soft glow of the firelight - the only tell-tale sign that you didn’t just lose yourself in one of your favourite fantasies while you were sharpening your sword. Her hands linger on your shoulders, long free of the armour that usually rests there, and she watches you while her fingers trace their way across your collarbones, then drift down to trail lightly along your sternum. Her face carefully composed. Unreadable.
You swallow hard. Cant your hips beneath hers. To tease - yes, of course, to tease - but mostly in desperate search of relief. And you can’t make your tongue - still tingling from the feel of hers against it - form the words you want to say. Not that you’re one for words. No, you’re a woman of action. So, you wait for the right moment to act. And in the meantime, you stare at her in breathless wonder while she scrutinizes you in a disarmingly impassive fashion.
When she finally finds her voice her tone is indignant and, the stars above as your witness, her words make you giddy .
“You kissed me.”
She’s so serious. And you know you should be serious too. The horizon you’ve shared with her these last few years is listing wildly and not just because her kisses have made your head spin. These are new waters you’re heading into together - uncharted and risky, even if the course is inevitable - and you know it’s not the time nor the place to rock the boat, but you can’t help yourself. You delight in every opportunity to needle her. She is, by far, the most beautiful sight you have ever beheld, but, by the gods, if she isn’t downright incandescent when she’s provoked.
Naturally, you can’t help but goad her now too.
“No, you’re the one who kissed me.” You arch your brow in a silent challenge. Only the curl of your lip betrays the mirth you feel building in your chest. You refuse to yield any ground, though, and wait, instead, for her to take up your little game.
“Before, Xena. You kissed me . Before . Did you think you could just kiss me and then go on like nothing had happened?”
The colour’s in her cheeks now. Her voice pitched higher. Jaw set and determined. And in an instant she is blistering to the touch, her simmering annoyance rapidly evaporating the careful control she so expertly possessed until you found a weakness to exploit. A new tension shoots through her body. The languid sweep of her back snaps into a rigid column under your steady hands as each vertebrae in her elegant spine stacks one atop the other. And you know she’s ready for a fight. You’re happy to oblige.
“Well, technically, it was Autolycus who kissed you. If you recall, I was dead at the time.” You watch a ripple of disbelief play across her perfect features. It makes your belly ache, low and warm and pleasant. You blood is a chorus signing in three-part harmony. And you can’t stop yourself, you wouldn’t if you could. You lob another volley and wait for the thunderclap that you know is building just below the surface. “Believe me, if I had been the one to kiss you, you wouldn’t have waited this long to return the favour.”
That does it.
Her eyes flare bright and dangerous. Turn the colour of flames when you throw copper on a fire. The air cracks around you both and you can taste the charge that lingers there - tinny and sharp - feel it dance along your bare skin, watch the fine hairs on your arms jump in anticipation. She is an alchemist. You are sure of it. There is magic in her marrow, in her words, in her touch, in her love. You were tarnished lead, but in this moment you’d swear she’d made you into the finest gold.
She opens her mouth to let loose an exasperated retort, but your lips are on hers again in a heartbeat, stealing the protests from her throat before she even has the chance to voice them. And, somewhere in the back of your mind - as your long arms gather her to you and your sure fingers divine her body’s most secret desires as they trace along every inch of skin they can reach - you hear a voice, unsurprisingly like hers. Telling you to play fair. To let her take the lead. To give up control for once.
This is her moment, after all. You’ve watched it unfolding all these months. Agonizingly slow and cautious. Watched as she worked so delicately at the endless tangled mess of her affections. And now that she’s here, now that she’s teased apart her heartstrings, followed them to the place where you always knew they would lead, well, you know that that little voice in the back of your mind is right. You should let her be the one to see this through to its natural conclusion. Your brave, beautiful bard.
Only, now that she’s in your arms, now that you’ve gained the upper hand and she’s soft and pliant and yielding, now that you’ve had a taste… you have to have it all.
You are ravenous.
And you know that if you stop now she’ll want to talk, and at the moment all you can think about are all the far more enjoyable things you can be doing with your tongue instead. Like swirling it slow and lazy against hers. Like tasting the excitement lacing the soft sounds you pull from deep within her. Like stealing the breath straight from her lungs, then filling them again with all of the fire you feel for her.
So, you kiss her: hard and full and ardently. There’ll be time later for talking. For whispered confessions and shy questions and fumbled explanations. Right now… right now you just need your mouth hot on her mouth. Your lips sliding across her lips. Your fingers combing through the soft hair along her neck. You need her to know - deeply and profoundly and truly - without words or hesitation, the extent of your adoration for her, your complete and utter devotion.
Your kisses slip from her mouth to her chin. Begin a pilgrimage along her jaw, to the shell of her ear, down the graceful contour of her throat bared so invitingly for you to explore. Then stop to play for a time in the hollow at the base of her neck, with teeth and lips and suction. Trail along the lines of her strong shoulders, across the gentle sweep of her collarbones, before returning again to her lips. No one has ever had lips so soft. Had lips that tasted so good. That fit so well against yours.
No one has ever fit so well.
Your insides are in free-fall now. And your heart is so full it just might burst. And you’ve never paid much heed to what the poets have to say about passion and longing and love. But now you understand that for all of their brilliance and their insight and their pretty, pretty words, for time immemorial and ever after, they will never be able to capture, with any measure of eloquence or conviction, the intensity of your feelings for the woman in your arms. The warmth coursing through your veins. The pure unadulterated joy of the weight of her in your lap. The weight of her against your lips. The weight of her deep within your heart.
You’re not sure how long you kiss her. Time loses all meaning when she’s this close and you’re sharing the same air. But, when you finally pull away - but, oh! Why are you pulling away? Your mouth aches already from the absences of hers! - she looks positively indecent. Lips lush and pink from your attention, eyes misty with the fog of lust, top twisted and crumpled by your roving hands.
And suddenly you realize that you may need to amend your previous assessment of her beauty. She is certainly incandescent when she’s provoked, but when she is feverish with want - with want for you? Well, she is absolutely wondrous.
She is a wonder. By the gods. By the gods.
You stare openly at her again. Because this is what she has reduced you to: a speechless, breathless, swooning fool. And this time, when she looks back at you, there is such an incredible softness in her expression. You fear it might be your undoing all over again. You think you might give anything for it to always be this way. But there’s a twinkle in her eye, too, and you thrill at the knowledge that you’ve met your match. And the spark is glorious.
“Well, you’re no Autolycus, that’s for sure.” She runs her thumb along your bottom lip, leans her body in closer, tilts her head so her lips are just barely grazing yours. “But, I suppose you’ll do.”
Your grin is like the dawn just breaking over the horizon.
And she kisses you again.