EIGHT BALL, CORNER POCKET
Disclaimer:The characters of Xena, Gabrielle et al belong to the folks at Universal/MCA, I just borrowed them for awhile and intend no copyright infringement or other damage. Everything else is mine and I would appreciate it if you let me know before you borrow anything.
Violence: Nah, not really - after all murder and dismemberment are sort of frowned on in the 20th Century. Still, Xena, being Xena is going to be a little physical regardless of when she lives.
Subtext:Yep, but nothing explicit, stuck to PG-13 for this one, but if it's illegal where you live, or if it offends you find something else to read. If you're not of legal age where you live... it'll keep.
First-One:Right, this is my first piece of fan-fiction, so if reading someone's first piece scares you as much as posting it scares me, skip this one. However, feedback is always very cool. Just ...be nice. I didn't mean for my first piece to be Uber-Xena, but Calliope struck and the rest is as they say...the future.
Pronunciation:The names in this story are of Gaelic origin. Aieron is pronounced much like Aaron, and Siona is pronounced like a cross between Shawna and Show-na,
No beer molecules were harmed during the writing of this, but the pool balls are a little bruised (lack of conditioning I guess)
The darkness of the bar's doorway drew Siona and before she realized it she had entered the hazy room. Women stood idly by barstools, some were glancing at the dance floor, most stared fixedly at their drinks. A few of the hardier souls braved the atmosphere and engaged in halting conversations; conversations that would probably improve as the evening wore on and the amount of alcohol consumed grew. Siona inhaled deeply, drawing the mixed odors of the bar into her lungs, smoke mingled with sweat and stale beer, producing a pungent aroma that made her want to sneeze.
Siona continued her survey of the bar. It looked like many of the others she had visited over the last week. The requisite pool table, complete with contestants wielding their cues like Sir Lancelot might have wielded a sword in defense or pursuit of his fair lady, occupied a far corner. Dark walls punctuated with small neon signs extolled the virtues of Rainer Stout, MGD and of course Budweiser 'King of Beers'. Ashtrays interspersed with empty beer bottles and partially empty rum and coke glasses littered the bar and surrounding tables. Music throbbed from the DJ's booth, bouncing off the walls and echoing into the sparse crowd. It was early and the room wasn't yet half full, by eleven thirty or so it would be packed, the dance floor teeming with eager celebrants of rhythm and flesh.
As her eyes continued to drink in the colours and textures around her, Siona's body began to sway in time to the music. Her sea green eyes came to rest on the far wall, entranced by the candle flames flickering off the surrounding brick. Now that's something different. The entire back wall and adjoining alcove resembled a haphazard masonry pile cemented sloppily together by a hasty child. Candles were nestled in the resulting grooves and grottos; wax ran down the wall and hardened in lava like patterns.
Her eyes followed the lines of stone to the alcove, past the pool table and its combatants, and suddenly her breath caught in her throat.
Raven hair cascaded over broad shoulders; strong hands played absently with a beer bottle. Siona's knees felt like they were going to buckle.
What the hell was that... seven nights she had been crawling through bars, absorbing what her editor called atmosphere, but this, this was ... what... Siona quickly turned her head lest the woman notice her stare.
So focused was she on recovering her composure, that she failed to notice the butt end of the pool cue until it was far too late. "Oomph..." and suddenly Siona found herself sitting on the floor of the bar anyway.
And then the light from the candles was blocked, looking up Siona stared into the angry, flushed face of - 'oh my God she's huge,' Siona swallowed, her mouth suddenly very dry, - the tallest woman she had ever seen.
Siona was unaware of the gathering crowd, so intent was the writer on the large muscular woman with short-cropped gray hair, who was staring menacingly down at her.
"Clumsy, doll, very clumsy", the low, angry words cut through Siona and she started.
"I'm sorry," she ventured, crossed her fingers for luck and smiled brightly up at the denim-clad woman, "my dancing is much worse".
A laugh went through the assembled women, followed by a sudden quiet - no one had ever talked to Gwen that way. Relief broke through the women as Gwen reached a hand down to the pretty strawberry-blonde sitting so unceremoniously on the floor.
"Hurmphh..." snorted the woman as she bent down to effortlessly pull Siona to her feet. "Dance floor is that way." She pointed with her free hand. Unfortunately for Siona, she chose that moment to steady herself by grasping the ledge above her and dumping the contents of a pitcher of beer onto the large woman's head.
Gwen bellowed in rage and Siona found herself once again sitting on the floor. 'Oh oh, now I've really stepped in it.' Siona had been very careful not to stand out in any of the other places she had been to, preferring to observe from the darkened corners. And now every eye in this place was focused on her, waiting and watching.
Aieron watched the unfolding drama with growing amusement, Gwen was in fine form tonight, and unless she missed her guess the petite woman on the floor was in a whole heap of trouble. Gwen was a veteran of the bars, who believed to be in control she had to out butch everyone else, Aieron had watched the older woman collect her little army of like minded dykes and prey on other newcomers for sport before.
Then the face of the woman on the floor lit up with a smile that made Aieron hold her breath, but it was the fallen woman's voice that left her feeling incapable of drawing another. 'She's beautiful,' Aieron's gaze took in the curves of the young woman sprawled on the floor, studying her body's contours, watching the emotions dance across her creamy skin. And then Aieron felt like she was falling into that smile. She watched transfixed as the smaller woman flashed a smile at Gwen and apologized.
"My dancing is much worse". Gwen reached down to help the woman to her feet
Aieron started, brought back to herself by an angry bellow, and the sound of beer dripping onto the floor of a suddenly quiet corner of the bar.
Tension snaked through the bar, coiled and ready to strike. 'She almost charmed Gwen out of that chip on the shoulder,' mused the well-muscled woman in the corner as she stretched her legs out in front of her.
Someone laughed and that sealed it. The large woman yanked the smaller one to her feet roughly, "You stupid little cunt..." Gwen shoved her roughly into a pillar, twisting the front of her shirt. Suddenly, Siona was scared, and angry.
Siona flushed and felt the tears begin to well up, "I ...I'm sorry " she stammered, "I did..." Gwen shoved her into the post again forcing the air out of her lungs and cutting off the rest of her apology. The larger woman leaned in close, breath coming close to Siona's ear, so near that their cheeks were almost touching.
"This is my table, my bar and no one plays me for a fool and gets away with it." Gwen ran her free hand along the side of Siona's top, lingering near the swell of her left breast before continuing downward. "Time to settle up".
Siona sucked her breath in sharply at the unexpected contact, fear shining in her eyes. Without warning the large woman's grip loosened and a low voice cut through.
"Play nice Gwen," the tone carried a level of menace to match her captor, combined with what Siona thought was humour.
A strong hand forced Gwen's hand away from her neck, Siona's eyes followed it up a tanned arm toward broad shoulders and unexpectedly found herself looking into the deepest blue eyes she had ever seen. Her attention was drawn away from her rescuer with her tormentor's next words.
"You gonna fight me for her Aileron?" she sneered, "Didn't think you were interested in the rest of us mere mortals, or bits of clumsy trash". The women around her snickered
Aieron backhanded Gwen's left ear and Siona nearly fell to the floor again as the bully released her grip. "I told you to be nice Gwen, and I ain't going to tell you again".
Siona felt the heat of the tall woman next to her, searing the side of her body where the woman had supported her weight to keep the writer from falling.
She could feel the rage coming off Gwen in waves, read the challenge in her rescuer's eyes and stance. She swallowed and began to speak "Hey, how..."
A snarl from the bully cut her off. "Shut -up, this is between me and her," pointing at the woman with the flashing blue eyes.
Aieron knew she had to be careful, Gwen was drunk, angry, and embarrassed, completely backing her into a corner was probably not a good idea. 'In for a penny...' "Yeah, I'll fight you for her Gwen. Inside or outside?"
A gleam came to the bully's eye. "There", indicating the abandoned pool table.
Aieron was the stuff of legend in the woman's bars, tales abounded about how long she could control the table, about conquests of the hero worshipping neophytes. It was said of her that she could clear table off the break, balls caroming off the surrounding rails with a deadly precision before dropping into waiting pockets. And now Gwen was going to take her down a peg. She never played against any of them, just sat in her alcove watching. Occasionally they'd hear stories that she had played at a men's bar or been spotted playing alone at Peacock's, but those tales were rare and considered somewhat apocryphal. No one remembered actually seeing her play. Gwen cracked her knuckles in gleeful anticipation.
Siona looked from woman to woman, watching how intently each was focused on the other. A pool game, I'm the marker in a pool game, she was incredulous, and we say men suffer from too much testosterone, there's enough in this room to impregnate a village full of Amazons.
She watched as a smile tugged at the corner of the tall woman's full lips and she raised one eyebrow and said, "High ball, low ball, called shots, flukes back to the spot." The dark haired woman paused, the smile fully breaking across her mouth, "Doubles."
A loud murmur rippled through the gathered audience. The bully looked on the verge of exploding. Aieron added, "You chose the playing field, I choose the game." Gotcha, she inwardly chuckled.
Gwen looked as if she were going to protest, then a malicious grin twisted her mouth "You think baby dyke there even knows what a pool cue is?" she laughed, tasting victory.
The crowd of women gathered behind them laughed with her and egged her on. "There's only one stick you probably have a clue what to do with, and there aren't any of those in here honey".
Siona felt her face go flame red, as she caught the implications of the bully's jibe.
"C'mon Jazz, rack'em, teach miss high and mighty a lesson or two eh." Gwen grinned again, "Maybe we can teach doll face here some new lessons too!" This last comment brought more sniggers from the watching women, and Siona felt her face flush even deeper crimson.
"Aieron", a calm voice accompanied by an extended hand ventured toward her. The hand was warm in hers, and sent tingles up her spine as they touched.
She looked up the woman and whispered, "Siona."
For the second time Aieron felt herself drowning in sea green, as the girl returned her gaze. Confused, she shook off the feeling beginning to niggle at the corner of her brain - so familiar, those eyes. "Can you play?" Aieron inquired softly, not wanting to embarrass Siona.
"Nope," and then a smile broke across the younger woman's face, lighting up her eyes, "but I bet I'm about to learn. Quick."
Aieron answered her smile with one of her own and then turned to Gwen. "Give us half an hour, she's not familiar with our...rules." Siona smiled inwardly at the remark, rules indeed.
"You could have all night and you still couldn't teach her to play." The crowd laughed at this, aligning themselves with the predicted winner, like a wolf pack. "I've got others things to do - fifteen minutes ought to be plenty to explain ...rules, even to a blonde." More laughter.
Aieron took Siona's hand and guided her to the rack where the bar cues were kept and selected a cue of moderate length, and only slight warp for her new partner and another for herself. Siona felt the other woman's touch go through her like a shock…it confused her…felt old and right and new all at the same time.
The writer absently took the proffered cue, her mind swirling with a mixture of apprehension and excitement. With her hand still burning from the other woman's touch her eyes took in Aieron's form, feeling something akin to deja vu, as she watched the older woman move around the table. Watched the calm sure way Aieron moved, she seemed to possess an economy of motion and a level of alertness that reminded her of a predator, yet her eyes fairly danced with mirth. I can't keep my eyes off her. She looks at me and my knees turn to rubber, and those eyes. They're so blue and it feels like they're looking straight into my soul - what do they see there? What does she see when she looks at me? Why does my blood burn when our bodies touch - what's happening here?
Her hands absently moved over the cue stick, her body delighting in the feel of the smooth weight she held. As she continued to handle the cue, her mind began to calm a little, focusing instead on the comforting feel of the length of wood in her hands. She smiled to herself, I knew this trip was going a little too smoothly, but what a story this was gonna make. A marker in a game I've never played - boy I have all the luck.
Aieron moved over to the table and placed the cue ball behind the line, centered on the rail. She bent over the table and showed Siona how to place her table hand and hold her body. "Now you," and motioned for the smaller woman to take her place at the table.
Siona could sense Aieron's presence behind her, causing her hairs to stand on end. She swallowed, research, that's all I was here for, a little authenticity, but now, she was reacting to this woman in a way she had never reacted to anyone in her whole life, not even Peter and she'd been married to him.
When she felt the other woman's hands on her arms and her trunk press against her back she nearly jumped. She let the strong arms of her teacher guide her movements and listened to Aieron explain the rules as she continued to demonstrate the motion of the cue.
When Aieron thought she had the basics she plunked the cue back in front of her pupil. "Hit it level and in the center, where I've smudged chalk, firmly and quickly, like this." Aieron watched the girl strike the cue ball, Natural form, handles the cue as if it were an extension of her arm. Wonder if she realizes how beautiful she looks, standing there with that determined look on her face. For the first time Aieron thought they might just pull this off, and smiled at Siona.
Siona turned from the table straight into Aieron's smile and stood transfixed.
"You gonna play puppy dog girl or are we going to play." Gwen's sardonic voice broke the moment.
"Flip for break." Aieron reached for her pint and took a long pull.
"Call it in the air," replied Gwen's second.
Aieron looked at Siona, and waggled an expressive brow.
"Tails," said Siona.
It was tails. Siona smirked, caught Aieron's questioning glance and leaned into the other woman to explain, "I'm a modern day bard, a writer...", she paused for effect, " tales", Aieron's return groan was answered by delighted laughter.
"You break," Aieron told her, reaching for the cue. Siona watched the muscles ripple across Aieron's shoulders as she chalked it carefully, still unable to take her eyes off this woman for very long.
Siona looked up at Aieron, suddenly realizing that Gwen wasn't the largest woman - Aieron was nearly six feet tall, over a head taller than she was - and saw a reassuring look in her blue eyes. "Just like I showed you."
Siona leaned over the table, settled the cue in her hands and sent the cue ball speeding toward the racked balls. The impact scattered them apart, but none dropped into a pocket. She looked quickly at her partner. "Good break" she heard Aieron's low voice reassuring her.
Gwen stepped up to the table, chalked her cue, and leaned down. "Two ball, side pocket, one rail". The ball fell into the designated pocket. "You're highballs," she grunted, potting the five and the four balls.
Aieron watched, her face a neutral mask, she's showing off, she didn't need to use any rails for either of those shots. Realizing that this contest had nothing to do with the woman at her side.
The bully lined up on the seven ball and called for it to come back down the table, but it kissed the twelve on the way by, missing the intended pocket by a fraction. It was Aieron's turn.
Aieron stood examining the table, the assembled women watching her eyes dart around the surface, lining up the angles. And then suddenly she stepped behind the cue ball. Pointing at the pockets as she named the balls, she listed them one by one. "Fifteen- right side; twelve - bottom right corner; nine - top right; eleven - top left; ten right side, two rails; thirteen - bottom right; fourteen - top right."
Siona watched Aieron's wrist flick, shooting the cue tip into contact with the cue ball. Watched the cue ball carom off rail after rail, angling precisely, heard each ball drop in succession - fifteen, twelve, nine, eleven, ten, - listened as a hush fell over the crowd --thirteen, and fourteen. Only the eight remained.
Aieron walked around to the left side of the table and prepared to bank the cue ball. "Eight-ball, Corner Pocket." Again her wrist flicked and the cue ball launched itself at its' target, connected, and the eight ball dropped. She looked up at Siona and smiled, and this time it was Siona who nearly drowned in an ocean of blue.
Gwen swore and glared at Siona, then Aieron, shock and disbelief on her face. Oh Oh, it's not over yet, thought Aieron, and then she watched incredulously as Siona slipped her arm through Gwen's, gave her another of those dazzling, open smiles, and asked if she could get her a drink. Gwen looked between the two of them and then shrugged and nodded her ascent.
Siona walked back to Aieron reached out and touched the other woman's shoulder, feeling the muscles ripple under the shirt. "Thank-you for stepping in for me."
Aieron shrugged, looked down at the writer and smiled. "You going to write about this?" She asked teasingly.
"Depends, do I get to do a little more research?" came the laughing answer.
Aieron looked into the writer's eyes, and murmured. "Would this help?" Then leaned forward and kissed her.
Soft lips met hers and after a heartbeat, opened and returned the kiss. Wow, as a jolt of energy coursed between them. When Aieron felt Siona's arms encircle her neck, her hands reached for the other woman's waist and drew Siona deeper into the kiss.
Soft moans reached her ears, kindling her desire. Aieron gently broke the kiss to look at the woman in her arms, oblivious to the people around them. Aieron's questioning glance was met by an answering... rumble?
Siona looked up at Aieron; ready to answer the question she saw forming in the woman's eyes and was interrupted by her stomach. "Excitement makes me hungry," she laughed sheepishly, her stomach rumbling again in agreement.
"The perhaps, my bard, I should take you out and feed you."
"Lead on warrior mine, lead on." As the words echoed in her ears, she heard the rightness in them and reached for Aieron's hand. "Your kitchen or mine."