Part III

by Marion D Tuttle

Disclaimers: Same old drill, I donít own the characters they are just on loan. No copy right infringement is intended.

Sub text: There isnít any point in calling it that at this point. We have two people in love here that just happen to be the same sex. If that isnít your cup of tea I would suggest you find a different story to read.

This picks up after Xena had left the Amazon village and Gabrielle is getting ready to go out looking for her.

Firelight cast long shadows across the warriorís camp site. Xena sat looking out into the darkness, she wasnít looking for anything. She was just staring out into space. She had been through a gambit of emotions in the past weeks. The death of her son, her rage and burning desire for revenge and then finally the acceptance of the cold void she knew her life was now going to be.

Right up until the time she had looked into Gabrielleís eyes she had still had every intention of ending the bardís life. She had done everything to convince herself that any feelings she had for the younger woman that had once been her best friend and partner were dead and gone. But that one look, when Gabrielle had so calmly offered her life to satisfy justice had changed everything. They veil of hatred that had been blinding her lifted and she saw before her the one person that she loved more than anything in this world. She knew then she would never be able to carry out her plan for vengeance. She almost found herself longing for the days when her heart was no more than a block of ice and the only reason she allowed other people into her life was for what she could get out of them. But Gabrielle had changed all of that, she had taught her how to feel again. For that Xena both thanked and cursed her. She had felt great joy because of Gabrielle but right know the despair she fel t eclipsed everything in her life and that despair was because of Gabrielle too.

The warrior had come to realize that her blaming Gabrielle for her sonís death had been a mistake. True Gabrielle had lied to her but without Ares clouding her judgment and pushing her towards revenge she could see the truth for what it was. Gabrielle had not been trying to hurt her. She had been responding to her own maternal instincts. All she was doing was protecting what she believed to be an innocent child, her child. Still she knew there was no chance for a life with Gabrielle now she had hurt the bard to deeply and she was sure that Gabrielle could never forgive her. Even if she could Xena knew she couldnít go on as they had been she would only end up hurting the bard again. That was the despair she felt, finding the person that could be the love and light of her life only to destroy that with her own actions.

Her senses sharpened, she could tell that she was no longer alone. She could see no one but her instincts told her she was being watched, and by whom. She couldnít believe that Gabrielle was standing in the shadows just outside her campsite. At first she tried just ignoring the fact that someone was there. She thought if she waited long enough Gabrielle might just give up and go away. Then the thought occurred to her that there was no way that was going to happen, the bard was stubborn. She decided that there was only one way to end this. She used almost the same words she had used when she faced Gabrielle earlier. "You must have something you need to say to me or you wouldn't have gone to the trouble of finding me."

Gabrielle stepped from the shadows "Xena we have to talk."

The sound of her friends voice made her breath catch in her throat. She had to get control of herself. part of her wanted to fall on her knees in front of Gabrielle and beg her forgiveness for what she had put her through. She wanted to tell her that she was wrong, that she know Gabrielle was not at fault for anything that had happened but she couldn't. She had made the decision that she had to get away from Gabrielle before she caused the young woman any more pain. She had convinced herself that everything that had happened was her fault if she hadn't been so blinded with her hatred of Caesar there never would have been a reason for Gabrielle to go to Brittania with her. There never would have been an encounter with Dayhok and there never would have been a Hope to kill her son. She had blamed Gabrielle but it all came back to her in the end and for all the pain she had felt Gabrielle had suffered too. No she had to convince Gabrielle that their was no future for them, at least no t together. "What could we possibly have to talk about?"

"Please don't do this Xena."

Xena struggled with keeping her emotions in check. She couldn't let what she wanted get the best of her now. She tried telling herself that she couldn't let the bard back into her heart, but that wasn't exactly the truth. Gabrielle was there, firmly entrenched in her heart and she always would be. But that was her burden to bare. If she allowed Gabrielle to see what she was feeling she would hurt her again and again. The warrior told herself she could never stand to see the pain she had caused her love again. She would rather make a clean break and give Gabrielle the chance to get on with her life and be happy. Maybe she could finally find the person that could give her everything she deserved, everything Xena couldn't. "Don't do what Gabrielle?"

'At least she used my name' thought the bard. For the first time that she could ever remember she was at a loss for what to say. She had rehearsed everything she wanted to say the whole time she was following Xena's trail. As she had stood in the shadows watching the warrior she had felt the now familiar ache in her chest. She had admitted her love to Xena, granted it had not been under the circumstances she would have choosen but that had been taken out of her hands. She had dreamed of telling Xena the truth and having her warrior tell her that she had felt the same. That of course hadn't happened, still she had seen something in the warrior's eyes. Xena clearly had her walls up and she was not going to make this easy. But Gabrielle was determined that she was going to get through to her warrior. She was going to make her understand they were meant to be together. They had both made so many mistakes and let too many things get in the way. She knew she had to make her wo rds count. "Don't act li ke you don't nothing matters."

"But that's just it, nothing does matter anymore, not to me. Solan is dead and you and I are...." She cut her words off.

"You and I are right here. If there was anything I could do to change what happened I would. I'm so sorry for what happened Xena. I regret not telling you the truth from the start, I'll always carry the guilt for that."

"You shouldn't." The words slipped out before she could stop them.

Xena had turned from her to hide the tears that were threatening to spill from her eyes. "I shouldn't? I can't help it Xena, I do feel guilty I guess that's part of the reason I offered my life to back in the village." Seeing a slight shake in Xena's shoulders Gabrielle saw her opening. "Don't get me wrong, I don't have a death wish but I wanted to give you justice. I have to ask Xena, why? I saw it in your eyes, I stood there ready to pay for my crimes against you and you didn't take vengeance against me." She hated pushing Xena like this but she had to make her admit her feelings. "I think it's because you feel the same way I do."

"No Gabrielle you wrong. I just didn't see the point..."

"I really think there's more to it."

"There's not."

Xena still hadn't turned to look at Gabrielle she was  hoping the bard would just give up and leave. She should have known better. "Xena you have been a lot of things in your life. But I do believe one thing you have never been is a liar. Don't start now."

Control was something the warrior prided herself in having a lot of but she was rapidly losing hers. It was breaking her heart to try and turn Gabrielle away but she believed that it was for the best. "Why can't you just let this go Gabrielle? I decided that killing you wasn't going to do any good, it wouldn't bring Solan back...."

"Fine if that's what you want Xena I'll let it go. I'll walk out of this camp and out of your life if you will do one last thing for me."

This got Xena's attention, she had to keep the walls up. She turned towards the bard. "Well you've'e got nerve, I'll give you that. What do you want?"

"Look me in the eye and tell me you don't love me. Tell me that there is nothing left between us. Tell me that you're heart has hardened towards me so much that everything we have been through together means absolutely nothing to you. If you can do that Xena then I'll know there's no point in trying to convince you to save something that no longer exists."

That speech was her undoing. She looked into the same emerald green eyes, wet with unshed tears that had not only seen her through some of the best and worst times of her life but had also haunted her dreams and she knew she was lost. "I can't..."

"That's the second time within the past few days you've said that Xena." Moving closer until they were just inches apart she cupped the warrior's cheek in her hand. "I told you back in the village that I love you and I meant that. I know you love me too or I wouldn't be standing here right now."

Xena could feel the walls crumbling even has she tried desperately to keep them up. "Gabrielle, you don't understand..."

"This isn't about Solan is it? I can tell the anger is gone, I know you. Talk to me Xena we can get through this but you have to tell me what's going on with you." She watched as tears rolled down the warrior's cheeks and she knew she was close. "Please Xena, don't shut me out."

Seeing so much love in the bard's gaze was her final undoing. She reached out and pulled Gabrielle into an embrace. "I shouldn't do this." She said as she savored the feel of her love against her "I'm only going to end up hurting you again."

With those words it came to Gabrielle what this had been about. Xena had been driven in the beginning by her rage and pain at her son's death. The warrior had needed to lash out and she had been the natural target for all of that. It had never occurred to the bard that Xena had, after breaking free of the grip the rage had on her had been trying to protect her by ending their relationship. This wasn't really anything new with Xena, they had faced many tragic events since they had met but time and time again Xena had blamed herself for the ills that had befallen  her. Now she was doing it again. Knowing the problem was over half the battle. "I want you to listen very carefully to me Xena because I never want to have to say this again. The only way you can hurt me is by turning away from me. I love you, yes I have been hurt but I have stayed haven't I? What you need to get through your head is that I am with you because that is where I choose to be. You have never forced me to do anything I didn't wan t to do."

"That's not true Gabrielle and we both know it. I forced..or tried to force you to kill your child when she was born."

Gabrielle couldn't believe what she was hearing her daughter was responsible for the death of Xena's son and here she stood saying that her actions at Hope's birth had been a mistake. "Xena she was evil..."

"I know that but I can't help wonder now if she could have been turned if we had just tried it your way. I was so rigid, I had to do it my way. Maybe if I had listened to you we could have turned her from her dark side."

It almost seemed like they had changed sides on this issue. "I tried that Xena, when I realized who Hope was I told her I loved her. I tried to protect her and she went ahead with her plans anyway even though she knew I was going to be there for her..."

"But she was dealing with being abandoned, or at least the believe that she was by that time. She hated you for leaving her and she hated me because she knew I was the reason you did it. If we had been there from the beginning...." Tears came harder and her voice choked preventing her from going on.

"I can't deny that I have wondered the same thing before." She gently moved her hand under the warriors chin and forced her to look into her eyes "But the fact is we will never know. Yes things might have been different if we hadn't done things they way we did. We can't live in the past, remember you told me once we can't change the past all we can do is try to make the future better. My future is with you." reaching up to brush Xena's hair back she went on. "We both made mistakes, I lied to you and you blamed me for Hope's actions. Let's not put another mistake on top of everything that has happened by leaving behind the greatest thing that has happened to either one of us."

A small part of Xena's brain still told her she should resist, that she should just turn and walk away but she finally recognized that part for what it was. It was her own insecurities that were always there to some degree. But looking at Gabrielle all she knew was that the woman she loved more then life itself was standing in front of her telling her that they belonged together. Never being one to rely heavily on words Xena did what came naturally to her, she took action. She lowered her lips to Gabrielle's, brushing them softly at first and then increasing the pressure. She felt the willing response when Gabrielle opened her lips inviting her in.

They parted slightly and Xena looked for any signs in Gabrielle's eyes that she didn't want to take their relationship to this level. The bard had said she loved her and she believed that she did. But did she really know what she was getting into? She looked, but all she say was love, hope for the future and most importantly forgiveness. She moved back in for another kiss deeper than the one before. For all her intentions of shutting Gabrielle out of her life to save her pain she had ended up right where she had wanted to be, where she knew she belonged in her love's arms. "Gabrielle I..."

Putting her fingers against Xena's lips Gabrielle told her. "You don't have to say a word, it's over."

"How did you know I was going to say I was sorry."

Gabrielle couldn't help but smile. "Because I know you." She kissed the warrior again.

"I love you too, forever." It was finally out there, she had done what she had set out to do. She had gotten Xena to admit her feelings. They had come through the greatest tragedy any two people could face, the loss of their children. After some very rough spots they had come through on the other side, together and stronger.

There was no way to predict what the future would hold for them but the one thing that they were certain of us they would face whatever life would hand them.

The end

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