XENA�S PRESENT
By Pink Rabbit Productions

Disclaimer: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures and MCA Universal. I'm just borrowing them.

Author's Note: This is set just after the events in A Solstice Carol

A fire glowed off mineral coated walls, while snow slipped to the ground outside the small cave.

A girl, young and pretty, her red-gold hair caught back from her face by a narrow braid, stood in the mouth of the cave, leaning against a chill rock wall. Her blue eyes glittered with curiosity and excitement, as she watched the snow continue to blanket the land. Occasionally, she lifted the toy sheep in her hand, tugging at the tail to make the mouth open. The child�s toy brought a grin every time, and she clutched it against her breast, when the cold brought shivers, and she folded her arms across her chest. Gabrielle heard the soft pad of footsteps, then felt the softness of Xena�s wool and fur cloak settle on her shoulders.

"If you won�t stay by the fire," the warrior muttered. "You can at least stay warm this way." They�d been lucky she remembered the cave when the storm blew in, or they�d still be out in the bad weather, trying to find shelter.

The bard snuggled into the warmth of the cape, breathing in the warm mixture of smells that wafted up from the garment, tantalizing her nose with odors of fur, and smoke, and Xena herself. "Thanks," she murmured, still watching the steady descent of white flakes. "It�s just that I�ve heard of snow, but I�ve never seen it before."

Xena folded her arms across her chest, glaring out at the thickening white with a jaundiced eye. "Nasty, wet, cold...I�m not sure I understand the fascination."

The bard glanced back, her expression understanding. "Oh, come on. It�s beautiful, and you know it."

"Maybe," Xena allowed, sounding as though she�d rather not. "But it�s still cold, and wet, and I bet you won�t be so enthralled when the road is a muddy, icy mess tomorrow."

Gabrielle sighed softly. She loved and trusted Xena, but there were some days she had no romance in her soul. She shifted her shoulder against the stone wall, and felt the press of the carved sheep against her body. A soft smile touched the bard�s lips. Well, okay, so she had some romance, and it popped up at the most unexpected times. "Can�t I just enjoy it tonight?" she questioned.

Xena sighed heavily. She really hated snow, and Gabrielle�s tendency to romanticize everything was endearing, but entirely too alien at the same time. Xena wasn�t used to people who thought of snow as anything but an impediment to a successful campaign. She was still mulling the thought over, when the bard twisted, holding the sheep up to her face, while she made baaing sounds. One dark eyebrow lifted. "What do you think you�re doing?" she questioned.

Gabrielle stilled, uncertain how to answer. Finally, she just shrugged, and gave an answer that precious few people in the history of the world could have given in regards to the warrior. "I was just teasing you."

"Do you realize there are whole nations that would quail at the very idea," Xena noted dryly, her eyebrow lifting another notch.

Gabrielle shrugged and turned back to watch the snow slipping to earth. "Thank goodness I'm not a whole nation." She reached back and tugged Xena's arm around her waist. "Just one redheaded bard."

Xena spread her fingers over her lover's midsection, and pressed her lips to silky hair. "Mmm, thank goodness�even I don't have that much energy."

"Har de har har," Gabrielle muttered, as she leaned back against Xena. She held her toy lamb a little tighter. "But I feel bad�I didn't get you anything."

There was a brief pause, then Xena lifted her hands to Gabrielle's shoulders to gently turn her around so they were face to face. She carefully removed the toy from Gabrielle's hands to set it on top of their things, then cupped the smaller woman's face in her hands. "You are my gift," she told Gabrielle seriously. She dropped her hands to wrap them around her friend's. "The only one I want." She whispered, her breath playing over Gabrielle's face in the moment before their lips touched. She slid her arms around her lover, holding her close as the kiss deepened. "The only one I need," she whispered when their lips parted. Moments later, armor rattled gently as it was lowered to the floor. Fabric and leather followed, to form silent puddles, as bare flesh blended together. The two lovers sank down onto their sleeping pallet, pulling Xena's cloak over them as they snuggled into soft wool, and fur blankets.

"The only present I've ever wanted," Xena exhaled as rested her cheek on the bard's chest, her hands tenderly stroking silky flesh. Surrounded by Gabrielle's warmth, the sound of the bard's heart under her ear, Xena finally had everything she'd ever wanted�.

The End

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