After The Crusade

by Marion D Tuttle


Disclaimer: This story takes place directly after the events of Crusader. Although I did like the episode, there were many unanswered questions in my mind. Knowing that we were facing weeks of reruns I decided to write my own ending. This is what happened in my mind.

Sex Disclaimer: As always I write from the view point that these are two women whose relationship transcends the bounds of mere friendship. If this idea or the thought of two women in love offends you, then I am certain you will be able to find something among the other fine stories
that are out there that will be more to your taste.

"Did you tell her about the vision?" The crystal blue of Xena's eyes held the attention of the woman that stood bound before her.

"No I didn't. That would hurt her, and I don't ever want to do that. That's your job." Even in the soft tones the blonde woman used, the contempt she felt was clear. It was obvious that she still believed that her way of handling thieves and slave traders was the right way.

Xena considered saying something else to the woman. One look though and she knew that nothing she could say would matter. The thing that bothered Xena most was that some of the things this crusader had said were rooted in truth.

Turning on her heel she left her standing there awaiting judgement from the local government. Joining Gabrielle they walked away together, neither one of them hearing the words carried on a whisper " I forgive you Gabrielle."

Both women walked on in silence, the recent events calling to mind once again just how different their approaches to life really were. Each woman was lost in her own thoughts.

For the bard's part she placed a large part of the blame for what had happened on herself. 'When will I ever learn?' she thought to herself. 'A few words about "Peace and Light" and I'm a goner. Look at what happened in Brittania with Krafstar. Then I betray Xena in China, in the name of saving her from herself. Because of me Xena nearly got killed ....again. I can't even be mad at Xena for thinking that I might want to stay with Najara. I want to blame her... but given my actions what else was she supposed to think. Especially if she overheard that conversation by the lake.'

Casting a sideways glance at her best friend, she let her thoughts wander on. 'How can I keep telling Xena she needs to open up and let her feelings out when I have been hiding things from her myself. Gabrielle was so totally lost in thought that she was not even paying attention to her surroundings now. 'In fairness though, I didn't even truly know myself what was causing me to feel this way. I knew that something was missing in my life. But until Xena came back and Najara was ready to kill her I wasn't sure of what it was.'

Xena was waging her own war with her conscience. 'How could I have been taken in so completely that I would have trusted her to take care of Gabrielle?' A pang of guilt washed over her. 'Gabrielle doesn't really need to be taken care of, at least not in the way she once did. She's
not that innocent little farm girl any more that needed me to protect her. I changed her, she can never go back to what she was, just like I can never go back... I never wanted the darkness that had ruled my life for so long and twisted my soul to touch her, but it has. Now she has changed forever and it's all because of me.'

They were both tired, but neither of them wanted to stop. If there was one thing they would have agreed on in that moment it was that they wanted to put as much distance as possible between them and the cave where the fight had taken place.

Swinging up onto Argo's back, Xena leaned down and offered her hand to Gabrielle. Pulling her up in the saddle behind her she said, "We'll make better time if we ride."

She prodded Argo into a light gallop, the rhythm of the horse underneath her lulled Gabrielle back into her thoughts. 'I have to tell Xena what I have been feeling. Keeping secrets has always been what has gotten us into trouble before.'

With her resolve in place to tell Xena about the feelings she had been having, she began to relax. Argo's hooves ate up the miles as they pressed on. Suddenly coming upon a stream Xena pulled her mount to a halt. "This will make a good place to camp, it will be getting dark soon. I should find us something for dinner."

Xena slipped from the saddle, helping Gabrielle down she felt her body slid against hers. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts she told herself. 'Fantasies aren't going to help either one of you. Leaving her with Najara was wrong I know that now. But if she is not happy with me, I have to find a way to let her go.'

She was shaken from her thoughts by Gabrielle's voice. "Xena, I have some supplies in the saddle bags. We can make due with that for tonight I think we really need to talk."

There it was, clear and out in the open. Gabrielle had something on her mind. 'Best to get it over with as quickly as possible' she thought 'At least I can see her safely to the next village.' "OK Gabrielle, let me just get Argo settled first."

Leading her mount to a small stand of trees that would serve as a cover from the elements Xena talked as she took the saddle off Argo's back. She knew the horse couldn't understand her , but she felt a connection to the mare and it made her feel better at times to bend Argo's ear. "How am I going to get through this Argo?" She scratched the faithful animal as she spoke. "It was hard enough to overhear her say she was missing something in her life. I don't know if I can stand looking in her eyes when she says it." Argo nodded her head, almost as if she did understand her mistress' distress. "Well girl, putting it off isn't going to change anything."

Her heart felt heavy as she turned and headed back towards their campsite. Gabrielle already had a fire started, she had set out a simple meal of dried meat, bread and cheese. A pot with water and tea leaves was warming over the flames.

Sitting on a fallen log Xena began to eat in silence, she accepted the mug of tea Gabrielle offered her. She sat there waiting for the bard to speak and break her heart all over again. 'Damn Najara! Why couldn't she be what she appeared to be. I would be alone now, but at least Gabrielle
would be safe and happy."

"...Xena? Have you heard anything I've said?"

"Oh. I'm sorry Gabrielle..I was just thinking."

Gabrielle sat back slightly, now that she was sure she had the warrior's full attention she nodded "Yeah I know what you mean. I've been doing a lot of that myself lately."

Sensing what was coming Xena tried to steel herself against the pain she knew she would be feeling. "You didn't plan to come back after your mission against Murat, did you?"

She was taken aback, she had been preparing herself to hear Gabrielle repeat what she had told Najara by the lake. Just because the woman had not turned out to be everything Gabrielle thought she was. That did not change the essential fact that Gabrelle felt she needed something that
she was not getting from her life on the road with Xena.

The last thing she had expected was that Gabrielle was going to question her actions. Before she even had a chance to consider what her answer should be she blurted out the simple truth. "No Gabrielle,I didn't."

"Why Xena?"

This was not the way she had foreseen this conversation going. "I did it for you...."

"Don't you dare say you did it for my own good!"

Xena was surprised at the intensity in Gabrielle's voice. Did she detect a hint of anger? Her eyes lowered to the ground "I thought it was what you wanted."

Gabrielle moved to sit closer to her, as she sat down her arm brushed against the warrior. She felt the same jolt go through her that always had every time she touched Xena. Brushing dark hair back from the eyes she loved looking into she said in a gentler voice. "How could you possibly have know what was in my head? I didn't even know myself until today."

The warrior was growing more and more confused by the second. Normally she could read people's thoughts and emotions within moments of meeting them. But the events of the last few month's, Gabrielle's death and mysterious return to her had left her shaken and doubting herself. Now here was the person she thought she knew better than any one in the world throwing her completely off center. "What do you mean Gabrielle?"

"I mean that I have been feeling for a while now that something was missing in my life. I couldn't put my finger on it, it just seemed to be a hole that I couldn't fill. It was like I wanted something that was just out of my reach."

Xena could feel the lump rising in her throat. I know, I heard you telling Najara by the lake."

Gabrielle could see that Xena's eyes were bright with unshed tears. "Was that why you left?"

Not quite being able to bring herself to meet the bard's eyes Xena answer. "Partly, yes."

Gabrielle could feel her frustration mounting. "Damn it! Why do we always end up doing this to each other?"

"Doing what?"

"Not communicating, we always seem to be holding our feelings in, trying to protect each other. From what? Why can't we just say what's on our minds instead of always going out of our way to avoid the issue."

The warrior knew where this was heading, she had always tried to protect Gabrielle. She always made the effort not to reveal too much when she thought it might cause her friend to worry or might place her in danger. The big problem with this, was more often than not Xena's efforts at
protection by omission caused more problems than it solved. She shrugged her shoulder, unable to offer an argument to what Gabrielle had said.

"I don't know what to say Gabrielle your right. It seems the more I try to protect you, the more I end up hurting you."

For the first time Gabrielle was actually starting to see the problem from Xena's point of view. She knew now that the only way they were going to get past this point was to talk it out. Everything, no holds barred, she just had to make Xena see that. Gabrielle had been dealing with the feelings she had and wondering if she had any right to have them, and Xena was still haunted by the demons of her past. "I think I have an idea of what you have been going through, because I have been going through it to. Even though we talked about everything that happened last year and we forgave each other. I don't think we forgave ourselves.

The thought was not a foreign one to Xena, there were still nights when she was plagued by the nightmares of what she had done to her best friend. What surprised her was hearing that Gabrielle still harbored feelings of guilt. "I know your right, at least that's a part of it for me. But I have felt for a long time now that you were searching for something. I saw the way your face lit up when Najara talked about opening a hospice. That is not something I can give you...."

Holding up her hand to silence her, Gabrielle said. "Everything you said is true Xena, but like I said earlier. I have felt something missing for a long time, but today it became clear to me what that was, it was you."

Those words caught Xena's attention more than any that had passed between them thus far. "What do you mean it was me? I've always been right here."

"Yes you have, you have been my best friend, my protector, my teacher even my enemy for a short time. You were everything except the one thing I wanted and needed most... I can't really blame you for being confused,because it's just becoming clear to me. The one thing that I want from you more than anything..."

Color flushed the warrior's cheeks, she suddenly felt like she couldn't breath. She leaned closer so she could look into the sea green depths of this woman's eyes. The woman that had captured her heart and had it beating so hard at the moment she could feel it slamming against her ribs. "What Gabrielle? What is it you want from me?"

All her command of the language as a bard failed her. All that she had held inside for so long came out in a rush. "I love you Xena, I know we have said that to each other before. But what I'm trying to say is that I am in love with you. It all became so clear when I saw you hurt, I couldn't let her kill you...Not just because you were my best friend, but because if you had died it would have killed me to lose you.

This admission caused tears to flow unchecked down Xena's cheeks. "When I woke up and found you gone, I thought you had made your choice."

The pain Gabrielle saw in Xena's eyes went straight to her heart. In that moment she realized 'She loves me too, I have to handle this just right. There's been more than enough pain and misunderstandings already.' She told the warrior. "My only concern when I saw how badly
she hurt you was to get her away from you. I told her what she wanted to hear to get her to leave. I knew if I didn't get her out of there she was going to kill you. I told her that I would stay with her, that your dark side scared me. I had to make her believe that I wanted to leave you behind and move on with my life. So I told her that even though I knew I needed to move on I could never live with some one that had killed you."

Being a woman that took action Xena had never been at a loss in her life, she always had a plan, but what Gabrielle had just told her left her not knowing what to do next. Here was the woman that had found a way inside the carefully constructed walls Xena had built around her heart all those years ago baring her soul to her. Xena had been in love with Gabrielle for a long time, the truth of the matter was she could not remember a time when she hadn't loved the little blonde. She had held back though, she had believed Gabrielle could never feel that way about her. She had never wanted to expose this woman, that to her was the very light in her life, to the inner darkness that still raged within her and that she fought to control every day. Her thoughts were interrupted by
Gabrielle's voice.

"I do have one question though. If you thought I had already made up my mind, when you woke up what made you come after me?"

"After Murat told me the truth about Najara I knew I couldn't leave you with her. Even if you didn't want to come with me..."

Gabrielle closed her eyes and took a steadying breath. They had both been through so much. She wondered briefly if they would ever be able to find a way past all the pain and truly be together. Her doubt didn't last for long, the bottom line was that she and Xena were fated to be together. It wasn't going to be easy but she knew it would be worth it.

Bringing her hands to the sides of Xena's face she gently stroked her tear stained cheeks. I knew it the moment you walked back into that building. I took one look at you and knew what I had been missing. Even if Najara had been all that she seemed I would have walked out of there with you. I was terrified when I saw you take that beating. No one has ever gotten to you like that before."

"I guess I was distracted, I thought I'd lost you."

In that moment their eyes locked, all the hurt and betrayals fell away. There was nothing in the world that mattered to them but this space in time and each other. Gabrielle moved closer until their lips were nearly touching. Their breaths mingled together, it was almost like both of them were afraid to move any closer and break the spell.

"Gabrielle, you know if we take this step there is no turning back from here. If I make love to you it is going to be forever for me."

"For me too Xena, you are what I need to make me feel whole. You already are a part of me." With that she closed the small distance between them. Their lips making contact for the first time felt like lightning passing through both of them. Xena's hands moved up Gabrielle's sides and around to her back, pulling her closer. They stayed that way for what seemed like an eternity. Their lips coming together in kiss after kiss. Softly at first and then more and more demanding.

Both women could hear the roar of their blood pounding in their ears. Xena surprised Gabrielle by standing and picking her up in one fluid motion, never breaking the contact of the kiss. Looking around, her eyes settled on what she had been searching for. Cradling Gabrielle against her she walked over to a soft thick bed of moss. Laying the bard down she covered her smaller body with her own.

Xena looked down with tenderness at the woman that was about to become her lover. She was prepared to ask Gabrielle if this was what she really wanted, but when she saw the look of unmasked desire in those green depths she knew. Gabrielle wanted this as much as she did. She did feel compelled to tell her "I'm never going to be an example of 'Love and Light' in the world, but I promise I will always try to do what is right. I will try to never hurt you again."

Touching the face that had haunted her dreams she answered "I know that you aren't some paragon of virtue Xena. You are a flesh and blood woman that has both inflicted and endured more evil than any one human being should ever see. That is what I love about you Xena, it's easy to be good when you have endured nothing. But even after all you have been through the good in your heart has remained and emerged."

Pulling Gabrielle closer to her she whispered in her ear "I don't know what made me think I could leave you."

"You can't, we belong with each other. We are a part of one another."

Their light caresses became more and more urgent. "I need to feel you Gabrielle." Strong hands began expertly unlacing the front of the bard's shirt. Once the cloth barrier was removed, full breasts sprang free. They where greeted by willing lips that had been denied this pleasure
too long. Gabrielle's heart beat hard against her ribs so hard that Xena could feel the rhythm against her own breasts.

Her tongue worked against a nipple that was growing harder with each passing second. Gabrielle arched her back while her hand pushed on the back of Xena's head, drawing her closer and doing everything she could do to increase the contact. Every touch to her breasts sent shock waves
of pleasure along her nerve endings. She could feel the wetness pooling between her legs. Her experience with sex was limited, she wasn't sure exactly what she was yearning for. There where only two things at this point that she did know for sure. There was a pressure building up inside her that needed to be released, and Xena was the only one that could give her the release she so craved.

She felt the belt that held her skirt in place loosened and removed, to be swiftly followed by her skirt, breeches and boots. Xena sat back on her heels, taking in the sight of Gabrielle's nude body. The fading light from the setting sun gave her skin an almost incandescent glow."By the Gods, you are beautiful."

Gabrielle smiled up sweetly at her. "Where have I heard that before?"

"Yeah but I haven't been eating drugged nut bread." Xena joked back.

Gabrielle's expression grew more serious "Well I'm not under the influence of anything now but those eyes of your's, and I still think you are the most beautiful woman ever created." Her smile returned. "Not to mention the fact that I think you are WAY over dressed."

Xena looked down at her own body, covered by leather and armour. "Well what do you think we should do about that?"

Gabrielle sat up enough to reach for the buckles that held the warrior's armor in place. She had performed this particular task many times before, but this time she felt more...desire to have the armour out of the way. Once the brass breast plates had been removed, she paused. The
hunger showed in her eyes as she began to push the leather straps down Xena's arms. Next she pushed the bodice down, baring the warrior to the waist.

Brushing her hands against the gift being offered her, she marvelled at the texture and feel of Xena's skin beneath her fingers. The nipples she touched hardened on contact.

Xena may have started out as the one in control, but that was rapidly changing. She didn't even notice her weight being shifted until she felt cool earth against her back, and the weight of Gabrielle's body pressing down on her. Her hands ran across Xena's body as, in quick movements she removed the rest of Xena's clothing until she was as naked.

Her lips and fingers traced warm circles on heated skin drawing deep moans and gasp for air from the warrior. "I want you Xena....."

Xena looked up into the eyes she had lost her soul to. She noticed the slightest hesitation "What is it Gabrielle?" Her greatest fear was that the bard was having second thoughts. If that was the case she needed to know, she would never force Gabrielle. "If you aren't ready for this.."

"Oh I am more than ready to make love to you Xena. I'm just not sure I know how, and I don't want to disappoint you."

Xena breathed a sigh of relief. "Everything you have done so far is wonderful Gabrielle, it feels so good just to have you touch me." A thought occurred to the warrior. "Have you ever pleasured yourself?"

A blush started to creep up Gabrielle's cheeks. "You picked a funny time to ask me that!"

Seeing her love's discomfort Xena rushed to reassure her. "I didn't mean to embarrass you. I just wanted to tell you that whatever has felt good to you is most likely going to feel good to me. Just touch me the way you would like me to touch you."

A smile came over her face, as Gabrielle once again began moving her hands over Xena's body. To be joined quickly by her lips and tongue. She settled her body more firmly between Xena's legs, thrusting her hips forward. She moved until the wetness of their centers were pressed
together. Slightly drawing back, she repeated the movement. She could tell by Xena's reactions that this felt as good to the warrior as it did to her.

Going solely on instinct now, she moved until her thigh was pressed tightly against Xena's core. "Gods Gabrielle your driving me crazy..."Xena panted.

Gabrielle took this has a good sign and kept the pressure steady while her lips traveled a course between Xena's mouth and breasts. Xena had never been so willing to relinquish control in her entire life. She was not lacking in sexual experience, but she had always held a part of herself back from her partner. For her sex had always been used as a tool, to get what she wanted from someone. Never as an expression of love, not until now. Now she found herself wanting to give not only her body but her heart and soul as well.

She could feel her climax coming closer, there was only one other thing she needed and she needed it right now. Guiding Gabrielle's hand between her legs she told her. "I need to feel you inside of me Gabrielle...take me please."

The bards fingers entered Xena, moving back and forth. Slowly at first and then faster and faster until she could feel her lovers' muscles start to tighten around her hand.

Xena was lost in the pleasure she was being given she screamed out "Gab..ri..elle.." Feeling the waves of sensation her body shook with the force of what was happening to her.

Pulling Gabrielle to her she kissed her with a passion she had never felt before. Her desire was rising again, but this time what she wanted was to bring this feeling of Elisyia to Gabrielle. She was the one on top now as she kissed her way along the fine line of Gabrielle's jawline and throat. Gabrielle's increasing pulse pounded against Xena's lips as she kissed her. "Does that feel good to you love?"

Gabrielle swallowed, trying to find her voice. "Dear Goddess.. that is so far beyond good."

Moving to capture a nipple between her teeth Xena grazed it lightly, she knew that Gabrielle wasn't going to be able to take much more. She could tell just a few more touches would put her over the edge. Trying to keep her desire in check she moved lower still on Gabrielle's body. Gently pushing her thighs farther apart she lowered her head. Her tongue snaked out to lap at the nectar that was flowing freely from the bard's body just before her lips closed around the pearl of her desire. "Xeennaa...please!"

Xena didn't need to ask what it was her lover wanted, she knew and was more than willing to give it to her. With the movements of her tongue she gave her what she needed, blissful release.

Crawling back up her lover's trembling body she gathered her into her strong embrace, holding her closely. She looked up towards the stars in the sky while she waited for both of their heartbeats to slow. A feeling of true contentment washed over her as she kissed Gabrielle lightly on her temple. "I love you Gabrielle."

"I love you too Xena now I know my spirit, my heart, my home everything I am ever going to need is right here in your arms."

"I feel the same way my love."

They drifted off to sleep feeling safe in the knowledge that thier search has led them to this place, and where ever their travels may take them. They would find whatever they needed in each other.

The End

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