After The Return

by Marion D Tuttle

Disclaimers: You know this as well as I do by now... I don't own Xena, Gabrielle, Hercules or any of the Gods mentioned in this story. The storyline and idea are however mine. There is mention of several events from episodes in season three, so it would be helpful for understanding
some of the events that take place here if you had seen the shows mentioned here.

Sex disclaimer: Yep there is a loving relationship depicted between two consenting adult women, and yes it does get graphic in parts. So if that bothers you, I suggest you read something else, otherwise enjoy.

Sleep seemed to elude the young woman that tossed and turned on her bedroll. She had not been able to sleep since her return from the other side, well not the other side really, for she had never truly been dead, just in a suspended state.

When she had run between Xena and Hope, pulling her evil daughter into the firepit with her, she had fully expected to die. Regret had not entered her heart until her eyes had looked into the crystal blue gaze of her friend. The pain she had seen reflected in those beautiful eyes
had felt like a dagger in her chest.

Her heart had broken in that moment as their eyes had locked just before she fell backwards, calling Xena's name. Even as her feet slid from the stones, she could she her friend's heart shatter before her and she knew she would never forgive herself for everything she had done.

She arose and looked down at the sleeping woman that was her best friend and an ironic thought occurred to her. 'Funny, usually Xena is the one plagued by nightmares from her past while I sleep like a rock. It's almost like we've switched places.' Her thoughts continued on, 'Xena may have done some evil things in her past, but it was me that brought the ultimate evil into this world.'

She was still mystified by the events of the past few days, everything that had happened before her 'death' was clear. But, the events that had taken place since still made little sense to her.

Just before the fire had claimed her, she had felt Hope pulled from her arms and she was snatched back from the life claiming flames as her daughter fell to her death. At first she had thought it was an attempt by Dayhok to save the evil child they had created. Her confusion was compounded when she turned to see Zeus himself standing before her. She was just preparing to ask what was happening when she saw Ares appear beside his father. The rage she felt towards the God of War for all the pain his interference had brought propelled her into action. She rushed towards him, no longer caring if she lived or died. She wasn't entirely certain that she wasn't already dead and in Tartarus to pay for all the wrong choices she had made. "Ares you traitor! I should......."

Zeus stepped between the two of them. "Gabrielle, things are not always what they seem. Listen to me."

The young bard was not really in a mood to hear any excuses, but something told her she was in no position to argue her point right now. She took a step back and nodded her head.

"You don't know this, but you owe my son your life!"

This was a little more than Gabrielle's overwrought senses could handle. "What!? He had joined Dayhok and Hope in their plan to overthrow you, his own father, and all the other Olympian Gods to take over the world. Don't you know that?"

The King of the Gods took a steadying breath. Normally he would not tolerate being questioned with such insolence, much less by a mortal. But there was something about these two women that intrigued him. The bard standing before him showing her bravery to him, and the warrior above grieving what she believed to be the loss of her best friend. They had both put their lives on the line more than once to help his son Hercules, so he allowed them certain liberties. "Ares is not the traitor you believe him to be. While it is true that my eldest son has not always acted in a way that I would approve of..." his gaze fell on the God of War, who's head surprisingly was bowed. "In this instance, his actions are completely in accordance with my wishes."

Gabrielle felt her confusion mounting. "Let me explain it to you Gabrielle." Ares spoke for the first time since he had appeared. "Hope had to die or the world would have fallen to Dayhok. Xena, as much as she wanted to, could not kill Hope. Her desire to rid the world of your daughter was overridden by an even stronger emotion. Her hatred of Dayhok and Hope for what they had done to you, her innocent little bard." He almost spat the last words out.

"Bottom line, Hope fed on hatred. The more Xena hated her the stronger she became. If Xena had killed her, the hatred would have given Hope the final victory because it would have destroyed Xena and brought Dayhok into the world, then he would have been unstoppable."

Tears began to well up in Gabrielle's eyes. She had struggled to keep Xena from falling into the darkness again and her own flesh and blood had nearly brought the warrior down.

Zeus picked up the thread of the story. "Hope could only be destroyed by someone that had loved her and that was you. That was the reason that Ares called in the debt you owed him. We could not allow Xena to try to kill Hope, it would have destroyed us all."

The pieces were beginning to fit, but there was still one question left unanswered in Gabrielle's mind. She turned back towards Ares. "I understand you wanting to save your own skin, but why would you want to do anything that would help Xena? You yourself have devoted a good deal
of time to trying to destroy her."

"Not destroy her Gabrielle, trying to get her to join me. There is a difference."

"That's your opinion." She turned on her heels back to Zeus. "So what happens now?"

He couldn't hide the fleeting smile that crossed his lips. There was no denying, this young girl had fire. Dayhok had wanted her for her innocence, but he had not counted on her inner strength. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Well that's up to you, although mortals very rarely get this choice, we owe you this much."

She regarded him with a curious look, "What does that mean?"

"I can send you to the Elysian Fields, if that's what you want. Or I can return you to your life, and to Xena." He already knew what her answer would be, but stood awaiting her response anyway. He didn't have long to wait before she asked "Do you mean that? I can have my life back?"

"Just say the word."

She nodded saying, "Yes, I want to go back." Before she knew what had happened, she found herself back at the temple. The sight that greeted her was one that tore at her heart. Xena, standing over Callisto's lifeless body, the dead goddess' blood on her hands and a vacant look in her eyes. The pain she was feeling seemed to radiate from her... taking on a life of it's own. 'Dear Gods I'm so sorry Xena' was the first thought that ran through her mind. She knew she had to reach her friend before she gave in to the pain and the darkness that was trying to claim her.

She called Xena's name. At first there was no response. Either Xena hadn't heard her or thought that her mind was playing tricks on her. This time she called her name again and stepped forward from the shadows. Xena's first reaction was one of shock, quickly replaced by relief as she pulled Gabrielle into a strong embrace. The questions came out in a flood as Gabrielle tried to explain everything that had happened. They both held on to each other, feeling waves of different emotions sweep over them. The one at the forefront was joy to be together again...

That had been over a week ago, and although Xena hadn't said anything to Gabrielle, the bard could tell her friend knew that something was wrong. Gabrielle knew that Xena was being patient and waiting for Gabrielle to tell her what was bothering her. But the problem was, she wasn't quite
sure herself what was wrong.

Those were the thoughts that ran through her mind now as she watched the warrior sleep. Her mind searched for answers. They had gone through so much lately, all the emotions that had been generated by finding out that Gabrielle had lied about killing Hope in Brittina, her resurfacing
and causing Solan's death, Xena's attempt to kill Gabrielle, their trip through Illusia and ultimately finding their way back to each other. So much pain and betrayal on both sides.

The bard could not understand why she was feeling so unsettled. Everything they had gone through had been draining, but the point was, they had gotten through it and become stronger because of it. They had forgiven each other everything. Even the lingering guilt Gabrielle had felt over her betrayal of Xena in Chin had been overcome with the help of Mnyosine, the Goddess of Memory.

Something told her that what she was feeling now was not rooted in past events. They had resolved all of that, so what was it that had her so on edge? She continued to watch the warrior sleep, thinking to herself, 'By the Gods, she is beautiful'. As soon as she realized were her thoughts
had gone, it shocked her. 'Did that really just cross my mind?'

It seemed as though she had been having alot of thoughts along those lines about her best friend for some time now. Before everything that had happened with Hope, Gabrielle had convinced herself that she could handle these feelings without ever letting Xena know. But since her return, everything seemed to have increased in intensity, including her feelings.

Her mind returned time and time again to what Xena had spoken to her before they had entered the temple for their final confrontation with Hope. "Even with everything that has happened in this last year, I want you to know, I still think your the best thing that ever happened to me." Of course she had been talking about their friendship, hadn't she?

Xena stirred in her sleep and Gabrielle looked away. The last thing she needed was to have the warrior wake up and catch the bard staring at her.

Gabrielle met the clear blue eyes of her friend when Xena called her name. 'Those eyes', she thought to herself. No matter how many times she looked into them, she never got used to the effect they had on her.

"Good morning Gabrielle. I'm surprised to see you awake." Xena tried to keep a slightly playful note in her voice. Normally this would not have been her practice. But, she had sensed an unusual amount of tension in her friend since their reunion and she wanted to keep things on a light note.

"Good morning. I thought you might want to get an early start."

Xena found herself searching for a way to get through to her friend. Words had never been her strong suit and she truthfully never cared that much for communication before she had met Gabrielle. But right now, she would give anything to be able to get through to the bard. She was
feeling Gabrielle withdraw from her and felt helpless to stop it.

The warrior had long ago resigned herself to the fact that she had fallen in love with Gabrielle. Although the fear of rejection made her keep quiet about her feelings. When Gabrielle had been returned to her, she had nearly thrown caution to the wind and confessed her feelings. But the distance she felt from the bard had made her hold her tongue. "How about fish for breakfast?", Xena asked, still trying to keep the brightness in her voice.

"Sure, sounds good. I'll get the fire going."

At a loss for anything else to say, Xena headed towards the stream. Her mind occupied with how to get through the walls Gabrielle seemed to be erecting around herself. 'There's a switch', thought Xena. Usually Gabrielle is the one that is trying to get through to me.

Her musings were interrupted by a flash of light that caught her attention. "Zeus, to what do I owe the honor of a visit from the King of the Gods himself?"

He had to hold back his smile. Never had he encountered a mortal quite like this one. He had always had a soft spot for mortals, but this one stood out above the rest. He could see why Ares was obsessed. She had no fear of the Gods or their powers. He secretly admired her courage,
although he would never admit that.

"Xena I am here for two reasons. First, you have been a good friend to my son Hercules. Secondly, but most importantly, all of the Gods, myself included, owe you and Gabrielle a huge debt."

She searched his expression for any hint that this might be some kind of trick to draw her into another one of the Gods' flights of fancy. "I'll ask again, why are you here? You repaid your debt, as far as I'm concerned, when you returned Gabrielle" She caught herself, she had almost said "To me".

Zeus nodded, she wasn't going to make this easy. "The truth is, I still feel there is more to be done here. I usually leave this sort of thing to my daughter Aphrodite, but in this case, I wanted to take care of things myself. You have noticed that Gabrielle has become more and more withdrawn?" He awaited her response. When none was forthcoming, he continued on. "That's alright, you don't need to answer. I can see by your expression that, that is the case. I am here to help you understand so that you can get through the guilt and pain that is keeping Gabrielle from you."

"I don't feel any guilt Zeus!"

"You don't, but Gabrielle does."

This comment shocked the warrior. "Why should Gabrielle feel any guilt? She hasn't done anything wrong!"

"I know that and you know that, but Gabrielle doesn't know that. She still thinks if it hadn't been for her, Hope would never have been born and none of this would have ever happened."

Xena was left a little shaken by what Zeus was saying to her. "Even after everything we have been through? How can she still think that I blame her?"

"She knows that you have forgiven her, just as she has forgiven you... but her feelings of guilt are stemming from the feelings that she has been having for you. Feelings she has had for a long time, but have become much stronger since her return and she does not know what to do about them."

"What do you mean? I am her friend, she knows that..." Xena had an idea of what Zeus was trying to say, but she pushed the thought away. She didn't dare hope that Gabrielle might share her feelings. What if she did approach Gabrielle and she didn't feel the same way? It would damage
their friendship beyond repair in her opinion and she was not willing to take that risk.

"Xena, is it possible that you are unaware of Gabrielle's feelings?" Zeus prompted.

The warrior looked up to the sky and then down towards the ground, anywhere that would keep her from looking into Zeus' eyes.

"What's this? The mighty warrior princess afraid to look me in the eye?"

This brought a rapid response from Xena. "You know that I fear no God Zeus!"

He took a gentler approach. "I know that Xena, you fear no outside force. But what is in your own heart scares you to death." He moved to stand closer to her, as he saw the tension in her muscles start to ease. "You are afraid to reveal your heart, but I am telling you Xena that the withdrawal you are feeling from Gabrielle comes out of fear and guilt. Fear that the feelings that she has for you will never be returned. And guilt that she doesn't think she has the right to feel this way after
everything that has happened."

Xena looked into stormy grey eyes that looked so much like those of his son Hercules. She thought back to when Hercules had first helped her to find her way onto the path of redemption. They had shared a brief intimate relationship, but Xena had felt that she had much to atone for in her life and that she needed to do that alone. He had let her go to do what she felt she had needed to do, but they had remained friends and he had told her that one day she would find the person that would
complete her. The one person that could help her to repair all the damage that had been done to her heart and soul. She had found that person in Gabrielle and she was terrified to say anything.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the strong voice of Zeus. "Go to her Xena, tell her how you feel. You two have been through too much to be stopped now by something as insignificant as uncertainty."

Before Xena could answer him, he was gone. She looked to where he had been standing and two fat trout laid on the ground before her. A voice came to her on the wind. "A parting gift... now go to her." She picked up the fish and headed back towards the campsite.

Upon entering the clearing, Xena noticed that Gabrielle did have a look of hopelessness on her face. It tore at her heart to think that she may be the reason for that look.

Coming over to sit by her friend, Xena lowered the two fish to the ground. She could tell by Gabrielle's actions that she was trying to avoid meeting her gaze. "Gabrielle I think we need to talk."

The bard finally looked at her friend. 'Xena wanting to talk', she thought to herself. 'This is it. She has figured out what I've been thinking about and she's going to tell me she's leaving and never wants to see me again.' Turning back to stare at the dancing flames, Gabrielle braced herself to hear the worst.

"What's on your mind Xena?"

"Well I'm not sure where to start. I have noticed a withdrawal in you lately. You seem to be pulling further and further into yourself everyday and I don't know what to do."

This was not what Gabrielle had expected to hear. That Xena was disgusted with her, maybe even hated her for what she had been thinking and feeling. But to hear this confusion coming from the warrior took her by surprise. "What do you mean Xena?"

"I mean that you have been very distant and I can tell that something is wrong, but I don't understand what. I feel helpless and I can't understand how, after everything that has happened, you can push me away."

There was something in her voice and eyes that made the breath catch in Gabrielle's throat. The pain that was reflected there was like a dagger in the bard's heart, did Xena think this was her fault?"

"Xena, what I am feeling has nothing to do with Hope and Dayhok, at least not directly. Although everything that has happened has brought feeling to the surface that have been hidden for a long time. I've just been afraid to say anything."

The warrior had to fight to keep the tears out of her eye's. "Your afraid of me?"

Gabrielle rushed to reassure her, "No not of you... never you Xena. I know that what happened on that cliff will never happen again. That wasn't you, you were blinded by grief. It's just that what I've been thinking may be something that would make you hate me." She covered her eyes with her hands, unable to look at Xena anymore.

"Gabrielle don't you know by now that there is nothing in this world that could make me hate you?" She moved to give the bard a reassuring hug and was surprised and more than a little hurt when Gabrielle pulled away. She worked to keep the edge out of her voice when she said. "Alright, this has gone on long enough Gabrielle. Ever since your return I have had the sense that something was bothering you. I tried to be patient because I knew that you had been through a lot. But, I want you to tell me what is wrong right now!" She put a gentle hand under Gabrielle's chin and brought her face up to look into pools of green awash in tears. In a softer voice she said again, "Tell me."

The tears spilled down over her cheeks as she looked into eyes that rivaled the blue of the skies in their intensity. "I don't know how to tell you this."

"Start at the beginning. Remember what we promised each other in Illusia? No more secrets."

She swallowed hard and searched for the right words. "Xena I have had feelings for a long time now. I thought I could deal with them, before everything happened... But since I came back, I just can't go on like before."

Xena found herself holding her breath. Could what Zeus have said be true? Did she dare hope that Gabrielle might return her feelings? "What kind of feelings Gabrielle?"

"I have told you that I love you...."

"I love you too Gabrielle, you know that."

"But the truth is that I am in love with you. I have been for a long time now." She buried her head in her hands again.


"I know that you are probably disgusted with what I just told you Xena. I'll get my things and go..."

She pulled Gabrielle into a strong embrace, "You are not leaving me Gabrielle... you aren't going anywhere."

The bard had prepared herself for several responses, this had not been one of them. She felt the warrior's arms around her and for the first time since she had acknowledged her feelings to herself. She began to dare to hope that everything might work out after all. "Xena what are you saying?"

"What I'm saying is that I love you Gabrielle and yes I do mean that I am in love with you... I feel the same way you do and I can't stand the thought of my life without you in it."

Gabrielle thought her heart was going to flow over with happiness at the words she was hearing. The woman that she loved beyond reason was telling her not only did she understand her feelings, she returned them.

Her arms came up around Xena's neck as she pressed herself as close to the warrior as she could get. She lifted her face intending to say something and found her lips pressed firmly against Xena's. At first the kiss was soft and seeking, but it quickly turned into something more. Xena's tongue requested and was granted entrance into the warm cavern of Gabrielle's mouth. The bard felt a warmth spreading through her body. Xena was the first one to pull back, her fingers tenderly tracing the contours of Gabrielle's face. "I have wanted to be with you for so long. But I don't want to rush you into anything you might not be ready for."

Gabrielle leaned forward and captured Xena's lips in another kiss. "I am more than ready to be your lover Xena, and yes I am aware of all that it means."

The look that came into Xena's eyes was one of complete and utter joy. Zeus had told her the truth, her bard did love her and wanted to be with her. She held Gabrielle against her while she let her hands wander across the bard's body. Drawing a gasp from Gabrielle as she lowered her
to the ground, covering her body with her own.

Gabrielle's heart slammed against her ribs until she thought they might break from the force. She hung on to Xena as if her life depended on it. The heat infused every part of her body as her desire built to a fevered pitch. Xena continued to stroke her body through her clothes. "I want to feel you Gabrielle, I need to touch you."


Xena began to remove the bard's clothing, slowly placing a kiss along every inch of skin as she exposed it. Fire seemed to dance along every nerve in the bard's body. Everywhere Xena touched her seemed to burn with desire.

When her lips first touched Gabrielle's breasts, Gabrielle felt as though all the air had been pushed out of her lungs. "Xena I love you ...I need you now."

The desire Gabrielle felt was mounting with every second. Xena had stripped her of her clothes and started to lean back. "By the Gods, don't leave me now!"

"I'm not leaving you love, I just want to get rid of this leather so I can really feel you." Xena got out of the confines of her armor and leather and returned to Gabrielle's open and waiting arms.

Their lips were welded together with all the passion and love they felt for each other. Xena's hand moved down Gabrielle's body until it moved between her legs, her fingers slowly entered the bard. She wanted to move slowly, Xena knew that her lover was not a virgin after her wedding night with Perdicus. But her experience was limited to that one night.

Gabrielle's hips bucked up against Xena's hand. "Take me Xena...please."

"I don't want to hurt you...."

"Your not hurting me Xena, I want you."

The warrior pressed her fingers the rest of the way into the warm flesh of her lover. "Your so wet Gabrielle."

"It's all your fault! You make me this way."

Xena's hand moved within Gabrielle faster and faster until the bard's breath was coming in short ragged gasps. Gabrielle grabbed onto Xena's shoulders, feeling the tension building in her body.

"Oh yes.... Xena... that feels so good.."

"Hold on to me Gabrielle, I'm right here."

The power of her climax took over her body, sending waves of pleasure coursing through her. Her entire body began to shake. "Xena..."

"Come for me my love. Thats it, let it go now."

She allowed the sensations to wash over her body. What she had experienced with Perdicus on their wedding night had been pleasant, but it was nothing compared to what Xena was doing to her. Her body felt like it had been turned to liquid fire. Her breathing slowly returned to normal as Xena tenderly cradled her in her arms.

"I love you Gabrielle."

"I love you too Xena. I want to make love to you, but I'm not sure I know how."

"Just do whatever feels right to you Gabrielle, any way you touch me will feel good."

Pressing Xena onto her back, she rolled until she had covered the warrior's body with her own. She trailed her lips across the warrior's throat and down to her breasts. The sharp intake of breath from Xena encouraged Gabrielle on in her actions. Her lips covered Xena's nipples, first one and then the other, drawing a deep response from the warrior.

"Gods Gabrielle I love the way you touch me." Words were becoming more difficult for her with every passing second. "You ...make me.. feel ... so.. good.."

"I want to make you feel even better Xena."

Her hands moved over all of Xena's body, repeating the same motions Xena had used on her. Xena began to feel like every nerve ending in her body had caught fire. It felt like Gabrielle's hands were everywhere at once. She held her lover in a strong grip. It was true that Xena was not
lacking experience when it came to matters of sex. But it suddenly came to her, with startling clarity, that this was the first time she had ever made love with anyone.

"Gabrielle please.."

The bard sensed the need in her lover. She lowered her hand to touch the very center of the warrior. The contact brought a sharp gasp from Xena as Gabrielle moved her fingers to swiftly enter her. Arching her hips to meet the welcome invasion, Xena was filled with an overwhelming love in her heart.

Gabrielle increased the speed of her movements, bringing Xena closer and closer to the edge. Just as the warrior was about to go over, Gabrielle captured her lips in a kiss, feeling Xena scream her release into her mouth.

They held on to each other until their heartbeats began to slow to normal. Gabrielle gently stroked the hair back from Xena's eyes as she rained light kisses across her face, while Xena stroked her back. Slowly they both drifted into a blissful sleep.

>From the height's of Mount Olympus, Zeus and his daughter Aphroditie stood at the portal watching the two women.

"I always knew those two belonged together", she said to her father.

"As have I daughter, things are finally the way they belong."

Zeus waved his hand, slowly dimming the light from the portal. After the Goddess of Love had left the room, he glanced one more time at the fading image. "Thank you my friends, I will never forget what you have done."

The End

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