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Disclaimer: Theirs, not mine, yadda yadda.
No subtext, yet. Give them time - they only just met.
That First Night
by Lela Kaunitz
The first sound of a footfall brought her instantly awake, and by the time the girl from Poteidaia had finished gathering her blankets, Xena was fully alert and watching her.
"What are you doing?"
"It's cold." Gabrielle stood with her arms full of bedroll, shivering a little in her thin white chemise.
"I'm a light sleeper." Xena said curtly. Leaving it at that, she pillowed her head on her arm, and closed her eyes.
Seconds later, the girl dropped blankets on her side of the fire. It seemed she still intended to sleep at the warrior's side.
Xena's withering glance failed to wither.
"The chattering of my teeth would probably keep you awake anyway," Gabrielle said cheerfully, as if an explanation would help. "At least now we'll be warmer."
"Warmer," the warrior echoed, in faint disbelief. Her reflexes were honed to draw steel at the crack of a twig, and this village girl thought it a fine idea to sleep close to be warmer...
"I don't snore." More explanations?
"You don't sleep." She closed her eyes again, rolled over, burying herself in the blankets in a manner that, on anyone else, would have verged on sulkiness.
Gabrielle arranged her own blankets, laid down, and snuggled herself against the warrior's back -
Xena shot out of bed with a squeal she disguised as a hiss of distaste.
"If you are COLD, take my blanket! Add more wood to the fire! But do NOT curl up against me - or I can't promise you won't find my sword at your throat!"
Gabrielle looked startled, green eyes wide. "I-"
Realising she was bristling, Xena took a deep breath and hunkered down to the girl's eye level, holding up her forearm. At certain angles, the firelight reflected whitely on a myriad of scars. "I'm a warrior, Gabrielle. I've spent years learning how to kill without a thought. It's not an instinct you lose overnight."
"But it's something you could learn?" Gabrielle reached up her own hand, wondering at the tan, scar and callus of the warlord's hand in comparison with the pale softness of her own. "I mean if you ..."
They both saw the tensing of muscle, the moment of decision, as Xena chose to allow the touch. Gabrielle's hand fit like a child's in the warrior's palm.
"... wanted?" she finished, lamely.
She was icy cold against Xena's warmth, and along the length of her arm, Xena could feel her shivering.
Without releasing her hand, Xena slid slowly back beneath the covers, drawing the blankets over them both.
She pulled the girl close, feeling that small, shivering body spooned against hers, and slid an arm around her waist. Something - protectiveness, tenderness - stirred, and she bent her head to kiss Gabrielle's hair.
"Go to sleep, Gabrielle," she said gently, covering the girl's soft hand with her own.
It was not long before Gabrielle's breathing fell into the slow, regular patterns of sleep.
Xena's free hand crept out, seeking assurance that sword and chakram were in easy reach - a warrior's instinct that would not be denied - then curled back through Gabrielle's fingers beneath the blankets.
Finally, with the girl's head comfortably heavy against her shoulder, the warrior sank into a deep and dreamless sleep.