The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the creation and property of Universal/MCA. No copyright infringement is intended. This work of fiction is solely for the entertainment of the reader. Though the characters belong to Universal/MCA, the idea for the story is mine. The story depicts a mature, romantic relationship between two adult women. The events herein are set immediately after the episode, The Quest. Your comments to Rstlshart@BurningMail.com are welcome.
The Mediterranean sun was nearing the end of its descent. The fragrance of night jasmine was lightly carried on the fall breeze. The funeral pyre set for Xena had burned out several candlemarks ago. Though Xena and Gabrielle were barely beyond the perimeter of the Amazon village, the sounds of preparation for the coronation celebration could be heard. Xena watched Autolycus make his way toward the village where he was to be a guest for the evening.
Xena was seated on a log near the fire, sharpening her sword as Gabrielle took a place next to her.
"What you said to Autolycus, that was really nice of you."
"What I said was true. He's a good man." Xena continued working on her weapon.
"I agree. It's just that you didn't have to tell him, and you did. It was a nice way to say thank you." Gabrielle persisted with her point.
Gabrielle was soon impatient with the silence that ensued as Xena continued with her task. "Uh, Xena, do you think you could take a break for a minute?" Her exasperation obvious in her tone.
Without comment Xena laid her sword and stone on the ground and turned toward Gabrielle.
"Yes, my bard. You have my complete attention."
Gabrielle was surprised at Xena's uncharacteristic compliance and the softness in her voice.
"Well?" Xena prompted her with a slight twinkle in her eyes and the mischievous upturn of one corner of her mouth.
"Well, I was just thinking." Gabrielle stalled searching for words as she shifted nervously on the log. "After all that's happened, .... well, for me it kind of emphasizes that .......... time is precious, you know, and life really is fragile and a person needs to ..."
"Yes, Gabrielle, a person needs to?" Xena thought she was going to enjoy this as the bard was clearly fidgety. She had something on her mind and Xena thought she knew what it was.
"Well, a person needs to........................... I mean, two people need to ..."
"Gabrielle, I'm famished. I haven't eaten in days. Is this going to take long?" Xena knew she was pushing Gabrielle and that when the bard figured it out, there would be a price to pay, but for now she was having fun.
"Xena! I'm trying to say something important here!"
"I know, but I've been dead, and now I'm back and I'm starved!" Xena protested insincerely.
"Okay, Xena. Fine! Just fine! Look, you being dead was awful for me. No, it was worse than awful. It was a nightmare. I love you, Xena, and the prospect of life without you was ....... well, it was ....." Gabrielle's words caught in her throat and tears welled in her seafoam green eyes. Suddenly the playful moment that Xena was enjoying ended and she moved closer to the bard and enfolded her in her arms. Gabrielle's tears fell against Xena's shoulder. Several long moments passed before Gabrielle pushed off and looked at Xena.
"Xena, I love you. It's important to me you know that."
"I do know that, Gabrielle."
"No, I mean, I really love you, Xena."
"And I really love you, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle could feel her frustration escalating again. Gods, Xena is a maddening woman!
"Xena! This is not a dialogue, okay! I am trying to tell you something. I talk. You listen. Understand?"
"Got cha" Xena congratulated herself.
"Geessshhh! Okay." Gabrielle leaned slightly forward placing both palms on Xena's shoulders and looked directly into Xena's crystalline eyes. "I, Gabrielle, Bard of Poteidia, love you, Xena, Warrior Princess. I love you in every way it is possible to love another. I love you as my friend, my mentor, my sister. But, most of all, Xena, I love you as a woman. That is, .................I am in love with you." Gabrielle seemed genuinely spent and paused to inhale and brace for Xena's response. Instead, she was met with silence.
"Well?" Gabrielle was uncertain how to proceed.
"Well, what?" Xena answered with her most innocent expression.
"Gods, Xena!! I just told you I am in love with you! Is that all you have to say?"
"Uh, I'm in love with you, too, .............. have been for a long time."
"Xena! I know you love me! I am talking here about me being in love with you. Did you come back to life with your hearing intact?" Xena's words finally hit her. "Wait a minute ......................what did you say?" Gabrielle was incredulous.
"I heard you, my bard." Xena was completely calm and would not be ruffled. She was enjoying this way too much. It took all of her strength not to take this beautiful woman into her arms.
Gods! Gabrielle thought, again searching for a manner of explaining her feelings that could have some impact on Xena. By this time, any reaction would be welcome. Did she just say she was in love with me, too?
Gabrielle cupped Xena's chin in her palm and lowered her voice. Xena saw the firelight reflected in Gabrielle's eyes. It was all Xena could do to suppress her breath when Gabrielle leaned into her.
"Xena, I am completely serious here. I want you. I need you..............as a woman, I need you. I've struggled with these feelings a long time. I know what I want and need, and it's you. When you died, my world collapsed. I had plenty of time to think along the road to Amazonia and my biggest regret was never being honest with you. I was..............afraid. I realized that because of my fear, I may have lost the chance for both of us to ...................."
When Xena saw the tears fill Gabrielle's eyes once again, she gently lowered the bard's hand from beneath her chin and closed the short distance between them. Somewhere during that briefest of journeys, Gabrielle instinctively closed her eyes and in the next bated breath felt Xena's lips softly against her own. Xena's hands were firmly around Gabrielle's waist and she carefully pulled her into her arms. Gabrielle felt as if she were drowning in a tidal wave of emotion and desire. Her next conscious awareness was of Xena's tongue exploring the frontiers of her lips and she tentatively parted them to welcome her.
"Gods, Gabrielle, I do love you." Xena confessed raggedly as she covered Gabrielle's sweet lips with her own. A tremor of heated want shook Xena and after a moment she ended the contact, pulling back.
Startled, Gabrielle looked at her in disbelief.
"Xena?" Gabrielle searched the warrior's face for any clue as to what she was feeling. Had this been a mistake afterall?
Abruptly, Xena released Gabrielle and stood. She took Gabrielle's hand and held it for a moment.
"I have urgent business with Ephiny. We'll talk more later."
"Xena!" Gabrielle protested incredulously as she jumped to her feet. She stood defiantly in front of Xena to block her departure. She could not find the words to form the thoughts to make an argument to dissuade Xena from leaving. She was bereft as she watched Xena retrieve her sword and sheath it. Xena turned and held out her hand to the bard. "Come on, it's dinner time, and I have to find Ephiny. It's okay. Really."
"Oh, no, Xena! No you don't! You are not walking off from me. We are going to finish this!"
Xena assessed the situation and sighed. She smiled and lowered her voice to just above a whisper and stepped toward Gabrielle, their faces inches apart. Xena tilted Gabrielle's chin upwards and their eyes met. "Gabrielle. Trust me. We will finish this, just not here and not now. The reason I want to go and see Ephiny is because you are the Amazon Queen and she is your Regent. I want to ask her for you. I mean, I want to ask her for your hand. I want to marry you, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle felt her knees weaken and for a moment wasn't certain she would remain standing. She did know that her heart was at the point of bursting. This was as close to an emotional rapid as she could imagine, swirling, tumbling, crashing. Xena sensed her imbalance and took her lovingly into an embrace. Gabrielle released the tears she had been holding back and Xena stroked her cheek lightly.
"Ssssssshhhhhh. It's okay, my love. It's all going to be okay. You'll see. I just need to do this in a proper way. It's not as if you're some peasant girl, you know. You are the Queen of the Amazons." Xena cajoled the bard lightly.
Gabrielle turned her tear stained face upwards toward Xena who wiped away the wetness with her thumbs and kissed her lips with abject tenderness. While Xena could recall moments of overwhelming passion with Marcus, M'Lila and Lao Ma, she could not remember the depth and quality of tenderness she felt for this young woman who she only recently realized she had loved at first sight.
"Gabrielle, I love you, darling. I have always loved you. I've been a fool. I hope you'll give me the chance to make this up to you. I need you too, and I do mean in every way. I've thought of little else for a very long time, but I've been too much a coward to face it. I was afraid you'd leave me. I never stopped to think it was possible you loved me in the same way." Xena took Gabrielle's hands in her own and brought them up to her lips to kiss her palms. She sought Gabrielle's eyes, green and brilliant even in the dark night. "Nothing and no one is more important to me now than you and our future."
"Oh, Xena, I love you, too. I wouldn't change a thing. Everything we've been through has brought us to this moment." Gabrielle fought unsuccessfully to hold back the tears and they began to slowly creep over the edges of her long eyelashes.
"I need to speak with Eph about all this. Don't be angry with me, okay?"
"Uh, are you possibly forgetting something?" Gabrielle recovered sufficiently and stood left arm akimbo while tapping her right foot impatiently. Xena intuited immediately this was a test question. Her mind scrambled for the correct answer, the glint in the bard's eyes offering little clue as to the penalty for a wrong answer. The fact was that Xena had been through so much in the past days that she was exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually and felt no match for Gabrielle's wit. Yet, her single focus was her bard, being with her, possessing her sexually, and offering herself completely in return to this woman she had come to love so deeply and need so desperately. Beyond that, Xena couldn't have found her way to Amphipolis without a map.
"I'm forgetting something?" She stalled as long as she could.
"Gods!" Gabrielle looked up entreating divine intervention. She quickly closed the short distance between them and challenged the confused warrior. "So, you're off to ask Eph, but is it possible you're putting the cart before the horse? Pretty sure of yourself, huh, my warrior? Though Gabrielle couldn't resist chiding Xena, she was soon back in Xena's arms and they held each other tightly, savoring the moment. Xena could feel Gabrielle's sweet breath on her neck and a shiver surged through her. Gabrielle's tongue traced Xena's delicate earlobe. "I'm just giving you a hard time, my warrior. I want nothing more in life than to be with you, Xena."
"Oooooohhhh, gods." Xena felt her resolve rapidly slipping away. Gabrielle sensuously ground her hips into the warrior's thighs as her warm breath possessed the entirety of Xena's erogenous lobe. "Oh, Xena, I prayed so hard for ..."
Notwithstanding her most honorable intentions, Xena could not turn back the tidal wave of desire that swept through her, engulfing her entire body. Feverishly her hands sought the ties in the front of Gabrielle's woolen top. Gabrielle responded by seizing Xena's forearms to keep her at her prey until her mission was accomplished while instinctively lifting her firm thigh abruptly to pound into Xena's surprised center.
"Oooooohhh, gods." Xena's breath was ragged and speech was an exquisite effort.
Xena entwined the leather laces in her long fingers and yanked the front of the green top from Gabrielle's body. Gabrielle's firm, full breasts spilled into the night and were rescued from the cool air by Xena's warm hand and hungry mouth. When Gabrielle's knees buckled, Xena closed her right arm tightly around her waist as she continued to devour Gabrielle's breast.
The crack of the kindling on the forest floor was so slight that Gabrielle never heard it. Despite drowning in her consuming want of Gabrielle, Xena's astute sense of hearing registered an intruder. Xena responded by tearing her attention from her lover who she positioned herself in front only after unsheathing her sword. With her left arm she held Gabrielle safely behind her.
"Who's there? Show yourself!" Xena demanded as she surveyed the perimeter of the small campsite. Gabrielle leaned against Xena's back and was intoxicated by the familiar and soothing mixture of Xena's scent and her leathers. She was panting and near breathless.
Two young Amazons, neither older than twenty summers, stepped into the clearing. The taller of them spoke haltingly. "Your Highness? Warrior Princess?"
"Yes?" Gabrielle answered her from behind Xena. She cleared her throat in search of her voice and stepped out from behind Xena, her top partially restored and her arms folded in front of her in what Xena thought a sad attempt to appear nonplussed.
" I'm Adrian. The Regent sent us to inform Your Highness, and you, Warrior Princess, that the Queen's Lodge is ready and at your disposal and that the coronation banquet will begin soon. The Regent also said that we were to assist you in whatever you required."
It was then that Xena and Gabrielle noticed the rhythmic drumming from the nearby village. Indeed, the coronation celebration was beginning.
"Thank you, Adrian. Tell Ephiny we'll be along shortly and if we need anything, we'll be sure to let you know." Xena dismissed the young Amazons and Gabrielle was only too relieved. Suddenly the absurdity of the moment pierced the cocoon of the intense emotional turmoil of the last few days and the two simultaneously broke into laughter. It was a much-needed catharsis. Gabrielle was the first able to speak. "So, how much do you think they saw?"
"I don't know. Want to ask them?"
"Of course not!" Gabrielle looked at Xena in disbelief. "Gods, do you think they're going to tell Eph?"
"Dunno." The warrior shrugged nonchalantly.
"How embarrassing, Xena!" Gabrielle's attention was on re-lacing her top.
"Hmmmm, does this mean we're finished?" Xena's blue eyes sparkled as she watched Gabrielle intently.
"Huh?" She just pulled the last bit of leather through the eyelet.
"I mean, are you going to leave me like this?" Xena protested disingenuously.
"Oh, ...... I think we probably do need to get into the village. I mean, if we don't turn up soon, Eph herself might come for us."
Xena was enjoying this. "Oh, I see. Now let me understand this, my queen. When I wanted to find Eph, and you were, .................impatient...................you took advantage of me. Now you want to find Eph and I am definitely feeling impatient ................................ so, can I take advantage of you?" Xena was very pleased with herself but only half-kidding.
Gabrielle completely surprised the warrior with a firm smack on Xena's backside. "A good warrior is an obedient warrior, and an obedient warrior can be the queen's pet."
"What?" Xena shrieked. Anticipating a swift response, Gabrielle stepped out of Xena's arms' reach.
Gods, I love this woman. Xena thought as she reached for her and came up empty, much to Gabrielle's delight.
"Okay, seriously, Gabrielle. Before we go, just one more thing."
"Okay, I suppose I owe you." Gabrielle stood with her legs spread and assumed a regal posture. Gabrielle watched in disbelief as Xena knelt on one knee in front of her and looked upward until their eyes met, seafoam flowing into crystal blue arctic pools.
"Gabrielle, Bard of Potedia, Queen of the Amazon Nation, will you honor me by becoming my wife? Will you remain my light and my source, enduring my shortcomings and forgiving my faults? I promise you a worshipful love, Gabrielle. I will provide for you and protect you, celebrate you, care for you and support you. I will be your lover and your friend and I promise to do my best to continue to grow as a person to deserve you."
The silence was almost tangible. Gabrielle could not hear her own thoughts for the pounding of her heart.
"Will you be my wife, Gabrielle?"
Xena waited, not certain how long before Gabrielle finally spoke, the silence broken only by the drums from the village.
"Gods, Xena, who's the bard here?"
"Gabrielle ... "
"No, my turn." She placed her hands on Xena's shoulders. "I am already yours. I was yours from the first moment in Potedia. You rode in and that was that, Xena. My fate was sealed. My only question is whether you truly me. If you do, then by the gods, claim me and possess me. Do with me what you will. I will be your companion in the daylight and your comfort and refuge in the moonlight. Turn my longing into relief and my loneliness into joy. I will give you bliss if only you will allow yourself to love and be loved. Darling, please, will you do this for us."
As Xena looked into Gabrielle's eyes, her face now offset by the moonlight, she felt her soul quietly spasm within her. Surely her prowess as a warrior was widely known and she had fought warlords and armies to submission, conquering villages and territories, at first for evil, and later for good. She had little respect for the gods and feared them even less. But Xena knew she was no match for this woman who had likewise claimed her in that first meeting. M'Lila and then Lao Ma began her on the path to Gabrielle, but their influence could only prepare her for the possibility. Even their love could not guarantee her future. It occurred to Xena that perhaps somewhere in the depths of Gabrielle's eyes she could find the answer, that somehow what was in Gabrielle's soul would be reflected there for Xena to see and comprehend. Perhaps. Suddenly Xena appreciated the beauty of silence and the absurdity of speech and she stood, taking Gabrielle into her arms. The night breeze hummed through the trees as she felt Gabrielle's breath against her breast and realized that the peace she had sought for so long was safely in her arms.
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