You'll pretty much have to guess the timeline all on your own. :) I was feeling a little weird and this is what I came up with, I hope you like. Any comments are welcome and great appreciated at the e-mail address provided.
This is dedicated to my wonderful online friends and family: Eptalk -Love is universal and music is life! Martman - I am officially adopting the title here, I'm a SoulmateTexter! Nightsong - distance means nothing with a friend like you, thanks for caring so much. I love you. Pixie and LA - I count myself lucky to have the support of my big sisters, late congratulations here on your anniversary and on your impending life together: You are an inspiration and an example to me. And finally to my best friend D - To whom I still owe a letter and a debt of gratitude I can never repay.
At the midday hour, the tavern was relatively busy. A dozen voices could be heard in the background engaged in steady conversation, noisy laughter or shouted orders for a meal. Up to their arms in business, the barmaids made their rounds among the sweaty and dirty customers, taking care to stand just out of reach of their unapologetic attempts to fondle and grasp.
The large door to the tavern opened to admit a traveler just passing through the small village. Shaking off her cloak and hair of the snow that had been falling outside, the stranger made her way to a small table in the back of the room, silently aware of the attention she had gotten once inside. Sitting down quickly, her back to the wall, she considered a wet ring of ale left on the gnarled oak. Thoughtfully, the figure ran her right thumb through the spot, spreading it out around the general area on which it lay. Her face was calm, and preoccupied in this small action as she waited to be served.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see a large, intoxicated brute of a man pointing her out to his buddies and then making his way to where she sat. He was no more than two feet away when she suddenly lifted her eyes to glare at him. Her eyebrows furrowed and her lip curled slightly to the left in challenge to his presence. Had the tavern not been so noisy, the drunk would have sworn that she was growling at him. Looking her over, then back to her unwelcoming expression, he decided it was probably best to leave things be.
And so he did, quietly walking back to his table amongst the jeers of his friends.
The traveler smiled a small smile of satisfaction and simply crossed her legs. She had dealt with his kind far too many times in her life.
Just then, the door of the establishment opened once more and a young girl walked timidly inside, carrying a small bag. Her long flowing skirt and light blue blouse were covered by a white woolen shawl, barely drawing the attention of the proprietor and his guests before they all turned their heads back to their food or conversation. The young woman didn't seem to care, as the bright smile on her face refused to leave and she made her way to the counter.
"Hi," she said cheerfully, "I'd like to get something to eat, please".
The barkeep looked at her with a combination of confusion and annoyance as he continued to clean his mugs with a handcloth. With his unkempt and grimy appearance it was a wonder that people didn't think to turn away from what food he could offer.
"Look, I'm real busy over here. Wait until one of the wenches is free and you can make your order out to HER."
"OK," the girl agreed amiably. "I'm so hungry I could eat for three!"
"Yeah whatever, missy. As long as you can pay for it, that makes no difference to me." Considering the conversation over, the man turned abruptly towards the backroom to fill out another customer's order.
The young woman shook her long blonde hair out of her eyes and muttered to herself. "Well, that was pleasant."
"If you like that," said a voice behind her, "You'll LOVE the crawling speed at which they bring your meal."
Turning to see who had spoken to her, the girl's eyes fixed on a lean but muscular woman sitting at a table by the bar. For the second time that day, the traveler smiled and beckoned for the young woman to join her.
"C'mon over here. Trust me, it'll be awhile."
Keeping her eyes to the table, the little blonde sat down and deposited her bag on the floor by her feet.
"What's your name?"
The girl looked up to notice the friendly look on the other woman's face.
"I'm Gabrielle. I'm waiting for a friend of mine to meet me here for lunch, but I guess she'll be delayed a bit longer." She wanted to ask the stranger's name but was still wary of even speaking to her.
"Well, nice to meet you Gabrielle. Tell me, are you a farmer's wife?" The traveler looked down at the girl's clothes meaningfully.
She blushed. "No, but close. I'm a farmer's daughter. I'm originally from Potiedaia..."
"Ahhh, I've heard of the place. Nice little town, lively as well as beautiful. So what are you doing so far from home?" The traveler clasped her hands together and rested her chin on them to listen to her new acquaintance.
"My friend and I are journeying through Greece helping out wherever we can. Times are hard and a lot of people are in need of someone like...like my friend."
"And what is it that you both do?"
Gabrielle's smile grew at having an audience for her storytelling skills.
"You see, my friend has a violent and terrible past. She seeks redemption from the evil she has done by fighting for the greater good. She saved my village from being ransacked by the warlord Draco and in turn saved me and the other village girls from being taken and sold as slaves."
"She?" the other woman raised an amused eyebrow.
"Yes," Gabrielle said with obvious pride in her voice. Her name is Xena..."
"Wait, don't tell me, 'The Warrior Princess?'"
"Exactly," the young woman grinned. "You've heard of her then?"
"I think there are very few people who have not heard that name once in their lifetime. She is said to be the best of fighters in this land. Are you her apprentice or her partner?"
Gabrielle's smile faded a little. "Neither, really. I'm her best friend. I'm afraid I'm not very good in battle situations."
The traveler nodded in understanding. "Well, you could learn from Xena what you need to know. She could teach you how to use the sword."
"That's just it!" The girl scowled to herself. "She doesn't want me to pick up the sword because it makes me a target. To tell you the truth, I am really not that fond of the idea of taking a life."
"Have you ever killed, Gabrielle?"
A pause followed the question before the blonde-haired woman looked down at the table and at her hands.
"No," she said quietly.
A warm hand rested on one of hers and she looked up to meet the stranger's compassionate eyes. "Nothing to be ashamed of, it's no great accomplishment and infinitely burdens the heart." The voice was low, and richly toned.
Gabrielle's smile reappeared though smaller. "I only wish that I COULD fight and defend myself. I think I'm only endangering Xena's life by leaving her to worry about my safety all the time. She has these dreams where I get killed and she wakes up frightened and worried about being alone."
The traveler still held the young woman's hand as she looked at her carefully. "You love her very much, don't you?" Gabrielle's eyes widened first in shock, then fear.
"Well, of course I do. She's my best friend; we look out for each other. She's fun to be with once you get to know her, and she's nothing like the bloodthirsty villain people say she used to be. She's funny, warm and even sweet."
The other woman smiled. "I meant that you love her as more than a friend."
The girl stared at the table, looking a though she would cry from shame or guilt.
Watery green eyes looked up at her. Wondering for the hundredth time how she had gotten herself into this conversation and why she trusted her heart's secrets to a total stranger. She thought she should go sit somewhere else, but something about her new friend made her sit still. An odd sense of familiarity.
"Yes, I do love her. I'm IN love with her. I've never felt this way about anyone, not even my fiancé from back home. I don't understand and I know it's wrong-"
"No Gabrielle," the traveler gently interrupted. "It's not wrong. Love is love, and the way of the heart unmistakable. Love can never be wrong regardless of what form it comes in. Do you know if she feels the same for you?"
The blonde gave the woman opposite her a defeated smile. "No, I don't think so. She's barely got time to think of herself above the people we help, why should I be any different?"
"You said earlier that you look out for each other. Did you ever stop to think that you are the closest friend she has? I'm sure she appreciates the way you stay by her side and soothe her from her nightmares..."
Gabrielle raised an eyebrow. "How did you know that?"
A smile. "Call it a lucky guess. Look, the point is I don't believe that she doesn't care for you. And if you were a useless liability, wouldn't she tell you so? That she loves you back...I can't say. But if you love her, than wait and see what happens. Don't change anything to please her - just be yourself. I'm fairly sure THAT'S who she likes, as a fried or otherwise."
Grinning, the girl took her hand back from the stranger's and used it to push back a lock of hair. "Well, she must like me enough not to have kicked me out a long time ago. Though I think she gets fairly close to doing it everytime I start a new story about her." She grinned mischievously at the thought.
Her companion mirrored the quirky expression. "And a bard too, huh? If you want my opinion, I think she's both flattered and touched that you would want to tales about her. Watch her face the next time you tell one and se for yourself. I have a friend myself who is the same way when I talk about her - flustered and menacing. But I know she likes it, that I care enough to represent her character like that in a story".
"I didn't catch your name earlier," Gabrielle remarked with a questioning look.
Before the traveler could respond, the door opened and a tall, dark-haired woman walked in stomping her wet boots on the floor of the tavern. Gabrielle's acquaintance noticed how it took the leather-clad warrior but a short scan to lock shimmering blue eyes with mossy green.
"Xena, hey!" Gabrielle got up to greet her friend. To her surprise and delight her friend walked up to give her a warm hug.
"Ugh, you're cold! And it's not like you've been gone forever," she teased.
"Long enough," said her friend in a deep and meaningful tone. Before she would say anymore, she looked briefly at the traveler sitting at the table Gabrielle had occupied. Shaking her head after a moment of unexplained confusion, she let her right hand rest on the small of the young woman's back. "I hate to be rude, but we've got to go."
"Where to?" Gabrielle couldn't contain her excitement.
"We've been invited to King Faros' castle about a candlemark away from here. After we took care of things and I saw to the imprisonment of those con men, he asked that we stay there for a couple of days till the storm blows over. Do ya mind?"
Xena grinned at her best friend, who just poked her arm.
"Mind? Why would I mind? Let's get going."
"What about your food?"
"I never got a chance to order. Like my friend over here told me, everything comes at a sad pace."
The stranger smiled as she noticed the attention in the warrior's eyes for her small companion. There was no mistaking the caring and tender look that passed between them whenever their eyes met. They would be just fine.
"Well, have a quick journey then, and take care of yourselves." She stood up to shake their hands. "Gabrielle, Xena."
"Goodbye." Verdant eyes shone gratefully. "You take care as well."
Together, warrior and bard stepped out into the frigid weather to be on their way. The traveler watched them with a sense of warmth and nostalgia. Finally, one of the barmaids came around to offer her some port. Just what she needed to shake off the chill that had settled on her since she had stepped into this gods forsaken place. She closed her eyes and took a long draught from her mug.
"Yup, pretty soon you'll be one of the big drinkers."
The stranger looked up to see a familiar woman with dark raven hair and eyes the color of melting winter ice. A big grin lit up her face as she bent down to deposit a slow, lingering kiss on the smaller woman's lips. She was just as beautiful and as tender as the day they had first fallen in love, not too many years ago. When the repentant and the youth had found each other and let their hearts entwine as one.
"Are you all ready to go Gabrielle?"
The traveler smiled and caressed her friend's face.
"Anywhere, as long as we go together, Xena."
*Author's Note* Yes, someone was feeling nostalgic and I had to let this one scenario play out in my head: What might Gabrielle have thought of herself if she had the opportunity to view her life as it was before chaos ensued? Or maybe I had no real reason for writing this except to revel in fluff. What do you think? *Grin*
As they say, love conquers all. I sincerely hope that if love finds you or you have already found her, that she will stay with you always.
alt fic index <> homepage