Content Disclaimer: Nobody gets hurt. Just a little fooling around between adults of the same gender is described in this story. There's some cursing; but nothing that you haven't already seen on a bathroom wall. Anyone who's too young (<18 yrs.), lives someplace uptight, or just don't like stories like this, STOP READING NOW.
Quality Disclaimer: This is a revision of the same story posted earlier on Tim Wellman's site. I felt the characters in the original version lacked compelling motivations. I like it better now; how about you? All constructive critiques are sincerely welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Bongo Bear
I was in a real snit, to put it mildly. I was tired and hungry and still had a long way to go. I had just lost my boarding pass after the bags were already checked in and loaded on the plane. Time was running out and I was desperate enough to call upon a higher power.
So, I supplicated myself to a priestess of air travel at the altar of Customer Service. I begged her to let me join my luggage on the flight that was about to leave in five minutes from the gate a hundred yards away from where I prostrated myself before her. I made offerings of Mastercard, Visa, and American Express to no avail. She looked at me with sympathetic eyes, but no way was she going to violate security protocols and let me on board without the missing pass. I sighed deeply and started to look at the flight schedule to other cities when I heard a voice call out to me.
I turned at the sound and saw a woman sitting in the waiting lounge nearby. She smiled and waved at me. I pointed to my chest, who me? She nodded vigorously, yes you! I walked over to this woman whom I had never set eyes upon before and asked, "Ahh, did you want to say something to me?"
"Yes, I couldn't help but overhear your conversation over there," she pointed to the counter. "I'm going to Vancouver as well and missed the same flight, but for different reasons. Now, I'm on a flight to Bellingham; it's just an hour drive to Vancouver from there. If you get a seat on the Bellingham flight, I'll drive you over. The plane leaves in thirty minutes."
I'm not accustomed to the unexpected generosity of strangers, so I looked her over. Even though she was seated, I could tell that she was tall, taller than me. Her dark hair was gathered in a long ponytail that curled over her shoulder. What really caught my attention were her incredible, deep blue eyes. They matched the indigo denim shirt she wore under her black leather parka. I thought for sure that Mother Nature didn't make eyes like that and that she was wearing contacts. I looked for the tell-tale rings in the corneas, but I couldn't find them.
"Well, are you interested in my offer or not?"
I mentally slapped myself when I realized that I was falling into her eyes. What was she offering me? Oh, yes, a ride. "Yeah, sure. Why not? You don't look like an ax murderer." I grinned at my lame attempt to break the ice.
"That's a relief! I hate to think that people find me threatening. My name is Alexandria, but you can call me Alex," she said as she stood up and extended her hand to me.
"I'm Gwen, short for Guinevere," I said, shaking her hand. A strong grip. I liked that. Some women, when they shake hands, only grasp the fingers and give them a weak wiggle. That always made me feel like they were hiding something because they weren't willing to give all of their hand to me. What else would a person like that hold back? Alex's hand was large enough to encompass all of mine. She shook my hand firmly, yet gently. I could trust her. Completely. What the hell am I thinking, I thought.
"Guinevere is a very old, very auspicious name," Alex observed.
"My mom was a big fan of Le Morte d'Arthur. Now, Alex is an unusual nickname for Alexandria."
"I throw people for a loop whenever they meet me. You know, they're expecting some guy instead of me. Besides, I'm more memorable that way," she said matter-of-factly
No kidding, I thought. "Hmmm, I need to buy my ticket. Will you watch my backpack for me?" I set my heavy pack in the empty seat next to Alex and walked over to the ticket counter. When I returned, she was studying the blueprint tube sticking out of the top of the pack.
"It's a practice sword called a bokuto," I said as I pulled the tube out of the pack and sat down. I removed the protective tube and handed her the wooden sword. "I'm a student of Iaido....."
"....The Japanese martial art of drawing a sword and striking down your opponent in a single stroke," she finished. "By the way, where's your live blade?"
I looked at her quizzically, "My sword's at home. Security would get antsy if I carried on three feet of razor sharp steel. How did you know about Iaido?"
"I'm a professor of military history. Actually, my specialty is Greek warfare, but I keep up with other cultures as well," she said as her hand caressed the smooth wood of the sword's blade.
This time, I stopped myself from staring at her graceful hand and said, "I'm an architect. I've just finished a guest lecture on design here in Denver."
"So are you going to Vancouver for another lecture?"
"No, Vancouver's a working vacation; Denver was just work. You promise not to laugh too hard?" Alex nodded. "I like to write on the side. So I'm attending a writers' workshop in Vancouver. When I was in college, I had to decide whenever to major in literature or architecture. I've always had a bent for the written word as well as a drafting and design. I chose architecture for the money, but I never gave up writing for the pleasure."
"I understand. It's good to cultivate many talents: public speaking, word smithing, and sword play," she said as she handed my sword back to me. "Boarding call....let's get in line." She put her hand around my upper arm. I let her guide me out of my seat and into the queue.
" 'Word smithing' to describe scribbling stories is a bit overly dramatic, isn't it?" I said, a little embarrassed by the flourish she gave that part of my life.
She shrugged her shoulders. "It's part of what you are. That's nothing to be ashamed of. The attendant wants your pass," she said as she directed my gaze to the waiting attendant.
We boarded the plane. It was a lot smaller than I had expected for such a long trip from Denver to near the Canadian border. The plane, being as tiny as it was, transmitted every swoop, turn, and sudden updraft directly to my stomach. I held my head between my knees. I knew I was going to hurl into the barf bag I held to my mouth. Alex, seated next to me, rubbed my neck and my back to try to soothe me. She had me sit up, then she grasped my wrist tightly. Suddenly, my motion sickness faded from the full-blown tempest to a slight churning in my gut.
"What did you do?" I asked Alex. She said, "I've activated a pressure point on your wrist. Like this." She demonstrated again. It was like a toggle switch. Hit the point once the nausea goes away. Hit again and it comes right back at you. "Oh god, I'm gonna be sick." She quickly switched off my stomach. "Thanks, I can relax now," I said.
Feeling a bit conversational, I decided to find out more about my unusual traveling companion. "So, what brought you to Denver?" I asked.
"I did some hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Ever been there, Gwen?" I nodded. "It's one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Not too many places have skies as blue, snow caps as white, or lakes as clear." I watched her face intently as she spoke. I could almost see the stormy blue skies over the Rockies reflected in her eyes.
"I assume that you hiked by yourself. Do you like communing with Nature all alone?" I asked.
"I've traveled with a friend in the past, but now I travel alone. I would prefer a companion," she said almost shyly. She looked at me expectantly. I wasn't sure how to respond.
"Please go on. I want to hear about your trip," I said relaxing into my seat. I felt her fingers burning into my hand as she touched me to emphasize a point. Her voice fell into a sing-song that slowly dropped octaves and the volume softened to a low whisper. I stopped hearing any more of her words, as I fell into a light snooze that quickly deepened into REM sleep. I dreamt about Alex, but not Alex.
A tall, dark beauty looking amazingly like Alex walks tentatively towards me. She's wearing what looks like a one-piece leather bathing suit with a matching set of breast armor, gauntlets, and arm bands. She smiles brilliantly at me. I approach her, but she won't let me touch her. I can't hear what she's saying. She leans in to kiss me on the lips. I close my eyes and purse my lips in anticipation.....
"Gwen!" Alex tried to shake me out of the dream. "Wake up!" She shook me hard enough to throw my upper body into the aisle.
"Uuhh, what? Oh, it's you," I said. She said that I was talking some nonsense aloud and she didn't want me to embarrass myself. "What did I say?" I asked warily.
"Nothing intelligible, but the other passengers started to look at you funny," she said.
"Great, thanks for waking me. My ears are killing me. We must be landing." I looked out of the window and saw white. Not just the white of flying through cloud cover, but the white of the ground covered with snow and the white of the sky whose horizon was increasingly indistinguishable as the day came to a close. "Are you sure we can drive through this mess? It looked like it snowed ten feet down there!"
Alex patted my hand, "No, problem. I grew up here and know the area well. Besides, we can rent a four-by-four SUV when we land."
We pulled out of the rental car lot and were on the road to Vancouver in no time flat. Alex drove while I rode shotgun. She tuned the radio to a local NPR station that was playing classical music. Soon she was humming softly to the strains of Mozart's Magic Flute. I leaned back against the head rest and squinted my eyes at the setting sun as it outlined Alex's features.
She concentrated all of her attention on the road because of the driving snow. I took the opportunity to look at her, to really see this intriguing woman. The fading sun illuminated the profile of her face. The planes of her high cheek bones complemented her long, straight nose. Her countenance had a classic beauty that the typical Barbie doll beauty queen lacks. Her face projected strength, confidence, and something else that I bet scared the holy shit out of her students when the mood struck her.
She must have felt my stare, for she said, "What are you looking at, Gwen?" She kept her eyes on the road.
"You," I said brazenly, almost wishing I hadn't said anything at all. "I know I've met you before....." She just smiled enigmatically at the windshield.
Alex turned on the headlights. The falling snow sparkled as it fell through the beams. It would have been a lovely sight if the snowfall weren't so heavy. The visibility was reduced to mere feet once the sun went down. "We'll have to pull over. It's too dangerous to drive in these conditions. I'll park away from the road so that we don't have to worry about a car hitting us in the night."
"Where can we stay? I'm not too thrilled about camping out in the SUV tonight," I whined.
"We'll be just fine in the back. I have camping equipment in my luggage."
I looked out at the heavy falling snow. It was wet and stuck to everything. The wind whipped around what didn't stick and obscured everything else but the small space directly in front of the SUV. I blew out a sigh between my lips. The window immediately fogged. "Damn, we're snowbound."
Alex put down the back seats of the SUV to form a flat surface and laid her sleeping bag across it. "There's only one bag," I said, pointing out the obvious. "I know. We'll have to share. My bag's big enough," Alex said.
How convenient for you, I thought. "I'm not comfortable with that. Why don't you sleep back there and I'll just curl up in the front seat?"
"Don't be ridiculous. Besides, it's much warmer if we sleep together." She shrugged herself into the bag, looked at me, then patted the empty space next to her. I shook my head no. "Suit yourself."
Thirty minutes later, I was freezing and not getting a wink of sleep. Cold moonlight poured through the windshield, dimly lighting the interior. I looked back and saw her shivering a little in her sleep as well. I crawled back there and gently woke up Alex. She said sleepily, "Changed your mind? Come here and lie down."
I took off my heavy parka and snuggled up inside. I laid the parka over the bag for extra warmth. Alex had done the same with hers. I laid flat on my back and peered straight ahead so I wouldn't have to look at her. Like I could actually ignore her. I felt her body heat radiating into my side.
"Gwen, why were you staring at me earlier?" She propped herself up to face me.
"Uumm, no particular reason. You're just interesting to look at." I still stared at the ceiling.
"Uh huh. You said you knew me from somewhere else? Do you remember where?" She caught a lock of my hair and began to twirl it in her fingers.
"Stop that," I said, grabbing her hand. "You just look very familiar; that's all! Is there a point to the twenty questions?" I said impatiently, releasing her hand.
"Maybe..." She put her hand on my stomach and began to rub it in slow circles through the sleeping bag.
"...Like you're trying to seduce me?"
"Who me?" she asked as innocently as possible for her.
"I don't see anyone else here." I rolled over and pretended to search around the cramped loading area of the SUV. She caught my hand and placed a fingertip in her mouth. Then she kissed the palm of my hand before nibbling the sensitive spot on the inside of my wrist. Don't...do...that..." I objected weakly.
"Why not?" she said. Why not, indeed. I couldn't think of a good reason to refuse her attentions. She was beautiful, aroused, and getting me there, too. I was wondering if her suggestion to travel with her back at the airport was a mere coincidence or if it was somehow fated. Why here, why now, why me?
"I can see the indecision on your face, Gwen. A lot of questions going through that hard head of yours." She quickly closed the distance between our lips. "Have you made up your mind, yet?" I responded by rolling her on top of me. "I'll take that as a 'yes'," she said, looking down at my wide open eyes. Her long hair tickled my neck and my nose. She deliberately moved her head so that the soft strands brushed against my skin, making me laugh.
"You're all flushed. Let's get you out of those clothes." She picked herself up, then pulled me to a sitting position. As she kissed me, she slowly unbuttoned my flannel shirt. She bent down and placed her soft lips on my exposed skin as each unbutton came undone. The wet kisses left a trail of goose bumps. By the time the trail led to my navel, I was ready tear the rest off myself. I kicked away the top of the sleeping bag, then leaned back so I could unzip my jeans. Her hands beat me to the zipper. She pulled the jeans and underwear off in a single motion and was tugging at my socks. "Leave them be," I said panting slightly. She looked at me with a questioning eyebrow. "I don't want to get cold feet."
She smirked at the unexpected humor. "All right. The socks stay put." Her voice grew husky, "Is your foreplay as good as your wordplay?" Before I could answer, she pushed me back into the bag and straddled my hips. Since she was facing the front, the moonlight struck her full in the face. The effect left me breathless. Her brilliant blue eyes, glittering with an internal fire, were set in her pale face like sapphires lying on white satin. She held my gaze and began to murmur softly in a foreign language. Ancient Greek? My lids grew heavy as the rhythm of her voice swept me into delicious unconsciousness. The last thing I remembered were those dazzling eyes.
A tall, dark beauty named Xena walks tentatively towards me. She's wearing her usual one-piece leather battle tunic with a matching set of breast armor, gauntlets, and arm bands. She smiles brilliantly at me. I approach her, but she won't let me touch her. I can just barely hear what she's saying. She leans in to kiss me on the lips. I close my eyes and purse my lips in anticipation.....
"Gabrielle, please look at me," Xena said. Gabrielle opened her eyes and saw her lover for the first time in a century. She hugged the warrior tightly and sighed 'Xena' into her shoulder.
"Little one, I'm glad to see you, too! I'm sorry it took so long to make contact, but your host is a little too reserved, repressed even." Xena caressed her bard's hair as she spoke.
"You mean she actually resisted your charms?" Gabrielle asked with a touch of surprise.
"Yeah, can you believe it? I had to seduce then hypnotize her before I could bring you out."
"Are you sure she's a descendant of mine? She seems so different. She doesn't even look that much like me. Her hair is a darker blonde, almost a mousy brown. And she's taller..." Xena stopped her bard before she could tick off any more points.
"Gabrielle, she has your most endearing qualities: propensities for speaking, writing, and whining," Xena said with a very big grin.
"Very funny. But really, she seems a little like you, too. Especially the affinity for swords and a stubborn streak. Could it be that she's a descendant from both of us?"
"Possibly, that could explain why the Fates practically dumped her in my lap. I had almost given up since it had been so long, yet there she was. Just standing there at the airport."
"Hmmm, if she is descended from you as well as me, be careful not to piss her off."
"I don't piss people off any more," Xena said defensively. Gabrielle dropped her chin and cocked her eyes skeptically. "Okay..not as much as I used to."
"Just teasing. Seriously, how do you plan to explain our situation to her? I can take over her body now that she's asleep. But will she share when she's fully awake?"
"Don't know. But for now, let's take full advantage of the situation," Xena said as she bent her head to finish the kiss.
The rays of the morning sun reflected off the snow drifts and directly into my face. I tried to pull the sleeping bag over my eyes to block out the light, but there wasn't enough slack. I cracked one bleary eye open, then coaxed the other one awake. Stretching out above my head, I felt the soreness of my arms and legs. I sat up in sleeping bag and looked down at my still sleeping companion. Alex's lips were slightly parted in relaxation. Impulsively, I reached down to caress the side of her face and brush my fingers lightly across her moist lips. She involuntarily closed them on my fingertips. I quickly withdrew them, not wanting to wake her.
I looked around and noted that the snow drifts covered half of the SUV. The doors of only one side could be opened. Fortunately, it was on my side. I fished out my discarded clothing from the corner, dressed, and went outside. Sunlight sparkled on the snow, rendering the landscape an almost blinding white. The pine trees were softly outlined with only a few green branches poking out of the white blanket. I breathed in the cold, sharp air and bent down to wash my face with the clean snow. This isn't so bad, I thought. What am I nuts? I'm in the middle of the frigging woods! With a very strange, but fascinating woman. Well, I can't do anything about it now.
On a whim, I went back to the SUV and pulled out my sword and a sweatshirt. A few drills would loosen up those sore muscles. I stepped out into a clearing a few yards from the SUV and changed into the sweatshirt. I finished the first seven kata and was meditating about the past day's events when I heard the car door slam shut. I heard Alex's feet crunch through the snow toward me. I felt her arms around my waist as she whispered in my ear, "Good morning, I slept like a rock. How about you?"
As I turned around in her arms, she met me with a brief kiss. I pulled her arms away from me and stepped back a little. She seemed alarmed by my cool reception. "I may as well have slept on a rock; I hurt all over. On top of that, I'm missing out on the workshop, which is already paid for. I'm sleeping in the woods like a goddamned bear. And from the looks of the SUV," pointing to the half-buried vehicle with my chin, "and of the road," pointing in the opposite direction to the non-existent paved surface, "I'm going to have to go through this again!"
"You're certainly acting like a bear. Come on....was last night really so bad?" she asked as she caressed my face. I started to brush her hand aside, but decided to just hold it between us instead.
"Actually, I don't remember very much about it. I just felt unusually sore this morning." I rubbed my lower back to ease a knot.
"At least you can't see the teeth marks on your...." Alex clamped a hand over her mouth to shut herself up.
It was my turn to raise eyebrows. I twisted to glance down at my hip pocket. "...On my butt? No, you didn't!" Alex just stood there with a huge toothy grin on her face. "Aah, you did!" I threw up my hands in exasperation.
"Hey, I've been vaccinated!" Alex said defensively, though still smiling. I cocked a skeptical eye at her.
At this point, I was very unhappy camper. I pushed my index finger into Alex's chest, slowly backing her into a tree.
"Whatever *possessed* you," Poke.
"To bite me," Poke.
When she couldn't move any further, I looked up into her eyes, "Much less my butt!" Poke!
Looking down at me, she gently pulled my irate finger from her bosom and kissed it. Then she said, "For someone who's not much of a morning person, you're asking very astute questions."
"Huh?" I retrieved my hand to rub the back of my neck, "Things are going on that I don't understand. What exactly happened last night? I feel like I've been through a marathon."
"I'm not surprised considering that Gabrielle and I did give your body quite a workout last night," Alex said carefully, watching my reaction. It was simply, "Who the hell is Gabrielle?"
She sat me down and told me the long sordid tale of her illustrious ancestor, Xena the Warrior Princess and the love of her life, Gabrielle, the famous bard of Poteidaia. I never heard of either of them. She explained how their souls were forever intertwined and therefore fated to be together. Throughout the centuries since their deaths, their souls have inhabited the bodies of a select few of their descendants. I'm supposed to be a descendant of Gabrielle for sure and possibly even Xena. Once inhabited, their descendants lived together much as their progenitors did in life. Alex finished her story with a beatific smile. "We're so relieved to have found you, Gwen. You're just perfect. Just perfect."
"Great, I'm perfect for what? Look, I don't share your enthusiasm. I'm not even sure you're completely sane. You're Xena's descendant and she's supposed to be you now? Let's say for the sake of argument, that what you've told me is completely true...."
"It is," Alex interjected.
"...And I'm supposed to let Gabrielle take over my body, so you two can live in bliss the rest of my life?"
"That's how it usually works," Alex nodded her head. "You understand now?"
"I understand that neither of you two have considered the rights of the people you inhabited." Alex looked stunned at my words. "When Gabrielle took over, where was I, where was my soul?"
"Your soul was still there. You were just unconscious for the whole time."
"Do I have to be unconscious for her to take over completely?"
"Yes. But she can keep you conscious. In that case, you would experience everything as if it were happening to someone else," Alex answered.
"Then I might as well be dead! If I let her take me over forever, she'd be living *my* life. I like my life. She can't just take it over! Both of you lived full lives, fuller than most, centuries ago. I have the right to live my own life."
"But we're destined to be together forever! The gods have ordained it. You can't refuse to let Gabrielle live again through you."
"Oh, yes, I can. Even if she lets me remain conscious, I won't have my own will. She'd still control everything. I'd just be aware of being trapped in my own body."
"Gabrielle should be the one talking to you. She's much more persuasive than I am," Alex said worriedly. "Gwen, I love you. You've got to understand!"
"Alex, Xena, whoever you are... we just met yesterday. You can't possibly love me. You love Gabrielle. You made love to Gabrielle last night, not to me. You've used me for your own selfish pleasure." Alex winced at that comment, but continued to listen.
"You easily seduced me and I probably even let you. I might even come to love you someday," I said as I stroked her hand. "But Gabrielle will always have your heart. Not me, not the person I really am. Remember how you hated how the gods meddled in your life. You're doing the exact same thing to me. You and Gabrielle will just have to work something else out." I turned, grabbed my coat, shirt, and sword, and stomped back to the SUV to get warm again. The look on Alex's face was like I had just killed her best friend. Maybe I just did.
Alex followed me back to the SUV. She grabbed my shoulder and spun me around to face her. "I need Gabrielle by my side. I can't go on living alone like this." Alex was practically pleading with me. A tear welled up in her eye and threatened to roll down a perfect cheek. I automatically reached out and brushed away her tears. She caught my hand and held it to her cheek. Oh god, I groaned inwardly. I snatched my hand away before she took anymore liberties.
"All right, don't get all mushy on me. I thought you were the tough one, Alex."
"Actually, that part of my personality has mellowed a lot. Before Xena merged with me, I was a real wuss. You know, a sentimental, simpering romantic. Her darker personality gave me some balance."
"So it is possible to 'merge' the souls in a body rather than have one dominate the other?"
"No, not really. The dominate soul still controls the body. But sharing the body is more like a merger if both souls want it. I wanted and needed it. It's only a problem if the original owner fights the process. Then it becomes possession," Alex's eyes narrowed slightly.
"Are you threatening me?" Rising up to the challenge, "I got news for you, kiddo. If I've inherited bits of both Xena's and Gabrielle's personalities, I'm stronger than either of you individually. Don't misunderstand; I'm sympathetic to your loneliness."
"As I am to yours," Alex said catching me by off-guard. Holding me by my upper arms, she asked gently, "Gwen, you have your life, your career. But do *who* do you have? How do you wake up in the mornings? All cold and alone? Just like your nights?" I opened my mouth to wordlessly respond, how could you know? Her blue eyes shined into mine. "Who is your soulmate?"
I stood there dazed like a deer in headlights. How did she know what I've needed, wanted, all my adult life? Somehow, she knew about the one-night-stands where I sought temporary relief, only to wake up alone in the morning. She knew that sometimes I cried myself to sleep hugging a pillow, wishing it were a lover. I looked down into my heart and found the answer.
I told her the truth in a quiet voice, "No one."
"That's where you're wrong. I'm right here," lifting my chin so she could see my eyes. Alex reached out to touch my chest. The warmth of her fingers seeped through. "I can help fill that emptiness. We're not being selfish at all. What Gabrielle and I had when we were alive is a gift we bestow on our descendants: the gift of eternal love. You'll never be alone again."
Long minutes passed while I considered what she said. Taking a deep breath, I began slowly, "I suppose....we could come.... to a mutual agreement. There are some things about Gabrielle that could bring balance to my life."
"Yeah, like you could use some lightening up," Alex quipped, a smile turning up a corner of her mouth.
"Hmmph," I sniffed. "She could help me with my writing. Yeah, that's it. Make me more empathic. Who knows, Gabrielle may learn a few things from me." This could work, I thought. "Just because she's dead doesn't mean she can't learn new tricks. But I don't want her messing with my swords. Let's make a deal."
Alex and I dug the SUV out of the snow drift. The highway plows eventually came through and we were able to get back on the road again. Alex dropped me off in Vancouver. When we parted, she gave me a deep kiss that lingered for hours later. I told her that I wanted to see her again, very soon.
I think this compromise will work out just fine. I'll spend time with Alex because I want to. After all, she is hard to resist. Alex will have to learn to love me for who I am, not who she wants me to be.
Gabrielle will live vicariously through me, but without direct control. Her influence will be subtle and only with my approval. Gabrielle will just have to deal with the fact that I'm driving and she's riding shotgun. Good gods, was that noise my stomach? I wonder what passes for nutbread around here.....