By Pink Rabbit Productions

Disclaimer: This is another one of those first time stories, but we both have a lot of fondness for it. Past that the only thing to say is the usual rigamarole. If you're underage, this sort of thing is illegal where you are, or you're offended by the notion of two adult women in love and doing something about it, you should leave now.

I was tired, a little light headed with wine, and moving none too gracefully. The sounds of revelry could still be heard below, in the common rooms of the inn: the aftermath of a successful campaign to battle back a local warlord. Everyone had wanted to buy me a drink, and I had a little more than usual, for once enjoying a little bit of community. Normally, I don't allow myself the license, but it was different tonight. Gabrielle had pushed me into the celebration, and I'd been more than a little surprised to realize I was enjoying myself, trading stories with several warriors from the local militia.

One of them was telling a humorous story of the first time he met his wife, and the black eye he walked away with. I had to admit she sounded like quite a lady.

As if drawn by that thought I turned, and saw her watching, a hint of a smile on her face. She lifted her glass in silent toast, and the gesture warmed some distant part of my heart. It's been so long since I felt this way for anyone. Oh, there've been lovers...beautiful men and women to share my bed...but never my heart. Marcus came the closest, but I think that was based more on an old friendship, than any abiding love.

It would never have lasted.

So, I buried him twice, and sobbed on her shoulder, trusting her to understand the emotions I didn't, myself, comprehend. Friendship, I was learning, is like that.

As time passed, I think I trusted her with every secret I had, and she accepted them all, sometimes listening quietly, and sometimes crying with me. She understood everything I was and had ever been.

Someone pulled me back around, suddenly, slapping me on the back as they all tossed out another round of congratulations. I should have been enjoying the adulation, but all I could think about was her. I glanced over, easily spotting her hair in the crowd. She was talking to some all-too-pretty young man, laughing at his jokes, and smiling prettily...for him...By the Gods, that hurt. I didn't want her smiling for some pretty boy. I wanted her to smile like that for me. A burst of laughter exploded from my new companions, and I abruptly realized I'd lost the thread of the conversation. Without bothering to pick it up again, I made my excuses, and slipped away through the crowd.

She looked up as my hand descended on her shoulder. Was I losing my mind, or did she know I was there before my fingers touched her skin.

Russet brows arched in silent question.

"Uh...Gabrielle...I'm tired...I'm going on up to bed. You can stay...if you want..."

She looked surprised, and lifted a hand, the gesture oddly nervous as she brushed her bangs back. Her shoulders lifted in a hint of a shrug. "I only came for your sake. I know how you hate things...I thought you'd like the support."

A grateful smile touched my lips. "'s appreciated." Even as I spoke the words, I wondered if she knew just how much her friendship had come to mean.

She slipped her arm through mine, and leaned her forehead against my shoulder as we climbed the stairs to the room the innkeeper had lent us. It frightened me to realize how hard my heart was pounding in response to that simple contact...not that the response was a new one. The feelings had been growing for the longest time. Oh, I'd struggled against them, told myself it was just friendship, then chided myself that the lust was merely a matter of being celibate too long. I remember the moment I finally admitted the truth to myself. She was telling some nonsense tale, knowingly deflecting my worries, and making me laugh despite myself. I couldn't deny it anymore. I'd fallen, and fallen hard.

I admitted it to myself, but not to her, never to her. She was too young, with too much ahead of her. I knew I should send her away, let her have the ideal life that she can never have with me...but I couldn't do it. Even if it was only friendship, I couldn't give up that tenuous link between us.

I thought her marriage to Perdicus would destroy me, but then she lost him, and the pain in her eyes nearly destroyed me again. I'd have given my life to bring him back, if it would take the hurt away. I know what it's like to lose someone you care for.

In the room, I fumbled with my armor, tired, and tipsy enough that my fingers were a little clumsy. Gabrielle suddenly brushed my fingers aside, her voice gently chiding as she muttered.

"Here, let me get that."

I was surprised to see that her hands weren't much more graceful than mine. She'd drunk very little at the celebration, nursing one mug of wine for the entire evening, so it wasn't the alcohol. She'd fought alongside me, so she had to be as tired...that must be it...simple exhaustion. Lost in my own scenario, I couldn't back off, and look at things from her point of view. I'd fantasized about seducing her a hundred times. It never occurred to me that she might have a few fantasies of her own. I'd seen the looks of appreciation she'd turned on the good looking men who crossed our paths, watched her experiment and flirt as she tested her newfound confidence as a woman.

After she lifted the armor away from my shoulders, I reached back, intending to loosen the laces that bound my leathers in place, and somehow managed to make the knots that much tighter. I heard Gabrielle's soft sigh, the subtle one that she only uses when I've annoyed her in some small way and she doesn't want me to know.

"I'll do that," she murmured as she ducked around behind me.

Another soft sigh as she struggled with the laces. "Sometimes," she muttered thoughtfully, the warmth of her breath, on my back, sending a shiver of awareness down my spine. "I'm amazed you managed to dress yourself before we met."

I didn't know quite what to say to that, so I just stood there, silently enjoying her attention. Occasionally, her fingers brushed my back as she freed my leathers, and I couldn't help but notice that her fingers were cold. In romantic tales, they always talk about warmth and heat, but they were cold and shaking gently. Muttering something under her breath, she leaned closer, and, for the briefest moment, I almost thought I felt her lips against my flesh. I still don't know if it was a brief flight of imagination, wishful thinking, or real.

I'll have to ask her when she wakes.

When the leather parted under her hands, I felt the softest brush of her thumbs against my shoulderblades and the warmth of her breath on my skin. My throat tightened, and it was suddenly hard to breathe. My lungs compressed as I gasped raggedly. She had to have heard that, and I could only hope she thought it was caused by the alcohol. I was terrified of what might happen if she knew the truth. Would she politely push me away, gently tell me it could never be. I knew she'd never willingly hurt me, but that didn't mean she wanted the same things I did.

Her hands were still cold, but the shaking seemed to have intensified, and I glanced back, worried the wine might have left her ill. I was surprised when green eyes lifted to meet mine. Fear. By the Gods, she was afraid, and I didn't understand why.

My heart stopped as we stood staring at each other.

She blinked suddenly, breaking the tenuous contact as she pulled back, her voice trembling as hard as her hands.

"What am I...I don't...."

By the time I turned, her eyes were closed, dark lashes fanning across her cheeks, brows knit in an expression of confusion. She lifted a hand, making a calming motion, though, it seemed to be for her own sake and not mine. She was hurting, and I couldn't dare to hope for the cause. Her palms were faintly damp as I curved my fingers around her hand, tugging her back. "What is it?"

She shook her head, straight, white teeth scraping over her lower lip. "I...uh..." Another shake of the head, and I could see her throat muscles convulsing as she swallowed hard. Her chest was pumping as though she'd run miles. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly between pursed lips, and worked a hand through her hair in a gesture I'd learned to associate with times of emotional turmoil. "I don't...know...what to..." She paused, and an unnatural stillness entered her muscles, as though she'd made a decision, and it took all of her willpower to follow through on it. "I love you..." the admission was so softly uttered, that, for a moment, I wasn't sure what she'd said. It was odd, but the whispered words seemed to calm her, and her hand relaxed within mine.

For a moment, I couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't even think. I don't think my heart even beat. I don't think I was aware of anything except the painful pounding of my own heart until Gabrielle pulled her hand free of mine, backing away as she muttered.

"I shouldn't have done that...stupid...stupid...." Her eyes swept up, meeting mine. "I'm sorry, I...I didn't mean..."

Paralyzed by the weight of my own emotions, I was helpless to stop her when she spun away, low imprecations tripping off her tongue with rhythmic intensity.

"No." I wasn't even certain I'd spoken the single word, until she froze in place. "Not stupid." I slipped my arms around her shoulders, struck once again by the difference in our heights as I pulled her into the protection of my arms. She was stiff and shaking, uncertain how to respond. "Not stupid at all...idiot," I breathed, feathering kisses over the silky hair at her temple. I felt the rigidity leave her muscles, and tucked a finger under her chin, bringing her head up. Her lips were soft against mine, and she tasted of the sweet wine she'd drunk mixed with something that was uniquely her own.

Now, it was my hands that were shaking.

When the kiss finally broke, she buried her face in my neck, wrapping her arms tightly around my waist. Her hands were gently caressing as they spread over my back, and I felt the brush of her lips against my collarbone.

It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. A yawning chasm loomed before us, promising heaven or hell. Take that step, and there was no going back, no matter whether it was right or wrong. It could bind us together, or destroy what we already had, and we both knew it.

I buried my face in her hair, massaging her back with soothing strokes. "Are you sure?"

There was a soft burst of hysterical laughter, muffled against my skin. "I'm not sure of anything anymore...I thought I loved Perdicus..." She shook her head slowly, and I could hear tears in her voice as she continued. "But that wasn' wasn't love..." She tipped her head up, lifting a hand to brush her fingers along my cheekbone, then drew my head down. The kiss was slow and sweet, a vow, a promise of things to come.

We were both breathing hard by the time it broke.

Gabrielle leaned her forehead against my sternum, her bangs fluttering across my chest. "I don' do..." she admitted breathlessly.

"It's okay..." I soothed, though I wasn't feeling any calmer. I might know more about the mechanics, but on the emotional level, we were equally lost at sea. "There's no hurry." When we broke apart, it was only so I could remove my loosened leathers, and boots, carelessly tossing them aside. When I looked up, it was to find Gabrielle sitting on the edge of the bed, silently watching me. She'd stripped off her boots, but was otherwise dressed. She reached up to loosen her shirt, but I settled my hands over hers. "I told you, there's no hurry." Still wearing my shift. I leaned down, mouth finding hers as I joined her on the bed.

"But, I thought..." she husked against my mouth.

"Shhhh," I soothed, drawing her to me.

We stretched out together, touching and caressing as we traded long, leisurely kisses. This wasn't about the fastest route to the physical release of orgasm. In fact, it was as though neither of us wanted that to happen any time soon. We were enjoying the slow building sensual pleasure of kissing, caressing, the slide of flesh against flesh. Sometimes, there was laughter, the gentle teasing of two people who know each other better than they know themselves, and sometimes there were whispered endearments, followed by long stretches of silence as we found better things to do with our mouths than talk. It was the difference between having sex and making love. Clothing was loosened, then became a thing of the past a piece at a time, until nothing separated bare flesh.

"I love you," I whispered for perhaps the thousandth time. It had become a litany for both of us, binding hearts, as well as bodies together in the darkness.

The rich sensations built slowly, sending bolts of heat through my veins, and making Gabrielle arch against me with soft moans of pleasure.

Finally, there was no more delaying the inevitable. Every nerve ending in my body was buzzing with energy, and Gabrielle's hips thrust against my hand, following my touch in the search for more contact. I pressed my fingers harder, and felt her do the same as our lips met again. I tasted her low cries, drank in her sweet breath, and knew she was doing the same.

Poets describe the moments of sexual release in any number of ways, but I'm no poet. All I can say is that I dreaded the end, and, at the same time, I wanted the soul melting sensations to wash on past, so I could start climbing that mountain all over again. It was like being in the Elysian fields, and wanting to keep moving, so you could see every part of them before it occurred to someone that you really belonged in Tartarus.

Long minutes later, we lay together, bodies still trembling with the pleasant aftershocks. Gabrielle hooked a thigh over mine, and rested her cheek on my shoulder. We traded more slow kisses, but we were both too tired to hold out for long. Besides, we both knew there'd be time for more later.

That was hours ago.

She's sleeping heavily, and it's not easy to resist the urge to wake her, but I do, then sit and watch, wishing I knew what comes next.

I guess I'll find that out tomorrow.


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