Lovers in Doubt
by StarWarrior (Rie)

Xena and Gabrielle had been arguing ever since Xena had managed to get the girl out of prison. If the prince had had his way she would have stayed there until she rotted. Thank the gods that be that the King still owed Xena a favor or two.

"Do you think for a moment he would have believed it?" Gabrielle said angrily, remembering how condescending the prince had behaved towards her.

"You know you should have told him," Xena's lips were set in a hard line. "Given him the benefit of doubt."

"Why?" Gabrielle pursed her lips and shook her head. "It would have been a waste of time." She glared angrily at the warrior woman. "I wanted to get back to you...not play wet nurse to him!"

"It was your duty to be with him. We had agreed to help!" Xena spoke through clenched teeth.

"Ya," Gabrielle glared. "Well he didn't deserve to be told. I'm -"

Xena interrupted. "By not telling him, you could have gotten him killed." Xena faltered as she stumbled over her greatest fear. "It could have gotten you killed!" She stood up. "Did it make you feel good?" "You played him like a fool! She rubbed her hands through her hair and sighed. "I thought I knew you better than that." She looked away. "I guess I was wrong."

Gabrielle protested. "B...but I-" she froze, unsure of what to say. The accusation was as unfair as anything else that had happened in the last day. She was trapped between anger and tears.

Xena leaned against a tree and continued to stare at Gabrielle. She couldn't reconcile the young woman's actions with the girl she'd known for the past two years. It was contrary to everything Gabrielle had ever been. Finally she spoke and her disappointment in the bard was made abundantly clear with every word she said. "You are a bard. One of the best bard's I ever heard. You could've found a way to convince him that you knew what you were talking about. Instead you jeopardized everything." Her eyes hardened as she lifted them to stare at her friend...her lover. "I don't know you anymore." Her eyes softened as she let her fear shine out briefly. "Why? Can you at least tell me why?"

Gabrielle sat quietly trying to find the answer to Xena's questions. She still thought it unfair to blame the failure on her, but she knew she'd acted irrationally. The question was why? Why had she let her personal feeling interfere with a mission and such an important one. She'd put her desire above two kingdoms. But Gaia, the man was a prick. I'm glad the wedding's off. That girl deserved better. She was a true Princess and acted accordingly. I hope she finds a true prince. Gabrielle wasn't sure she could answer her friend. And what if Xena hates the answer? She'll leave me. Gabrielle bit back the tears. What if she finally realizes she belongs with someone else...I know she can have anyone she wants...from a god to a pauper they all fall in love with her...even her enemies.

What could have allowed her to let the prince get in such a state? Her heart fell as a frightening thought entered her mind. What if Gabrielle had fallen for that idiot's charms? She was still naïve enough...and half the men - boys really that she'd fallen for before had the same boyish looks as this one did and all of them were looking to be mothered...just like him. Xena shook with sudden fear. It would explain why she found a way to stop the wedding. Xena eyed the bard with trepidation. When Gabrielle hadn't answered right away she'd felt her world shake, the longer they sat in silence the more she felt the walls start to crumble. The beautiful person sitting across from her was retreating...I knew she would eventually leave me...what we had was too good to last too good to be true...I never should have let her in...She bit back her tears and waited with a stoic look on her face.

Gabrielle looked with sad eyes at Xena. "When you say I jeopardized everything..." she looked away afraid of what she might see in her lover's eyes. "...did you mean our love?" She had to know, losing Xena's love was the one thing she feared everyday.

Xena startled. She hadn't expected Gabrielle to ask her that. The answer was out before she could think. "NO!" She shouted the word emphatically. Then embarrassed by her display tried to explain herself. "No," She said quietly. "Never question my love for you." She strode over to the younger woman and lifted her chin to stare at bright green eyes, eyes that were brimming with unshed tears. "I love you...all of you and I always will." She brushed a finger across the smaller woman's check and leaned down to
capture her lips.

Gabrielle melted into Xena.

Xena pulled back shakily, but instead of letting go, wrapped Gabrielle up in her arms. "Does that answer your question?" she gave the younger woman a half smile.

Gabrielle nodded, unable to speak. The warrior had taken her breath away with the gentlest of kisses. She stood bathing in the warmth of Xena's embrace. "I'm sorry." She murmured the apology against Xena's armored chest.

Xena pulled back to look at her friend. "Because of what you didn't do, or because it hurt me?"

"Whew. you don't pull any punches do you?" Gabrielle stalled.

Xena raised a single eyebrow.

"Okay." Gabrielle gave in. "I was wrong." She admitted to both herself and Xena. She hadn't wanted to be wrong but she was. Silently she added but I am glad I did it! She looked lovingly at Xena before closing her eyes to remember the past day on the road with him. She shuddered. It had been horrible. He'd kept prattling on and on about nonsense things and then he tried to tell her about Xena! As if he knew her intimately...that had been the last straw. She'd been unable to restrain herself. She'd plotted to humiliate him...and she had. Even now a slight grin came to her face as she pictured the man's face when he woke to find himself standing naked in the village square.

"You still think it's funny!" Xena stared surprised at Gabrielle.

"Xena! If you'd been there you'd understand." Gabrielle was a bit exasperated.

"Gabrielle! You were supposed to be escorting the Prince to his wedding while I provided a suitable distraction. Instead you let an entire village catch their future ruler naked!" She threw her arms up in disgust. "What's to understand?!"

Gabrielle turned away. She closed her eyes and finally told Xena the truth. "I was jealous."

"Jealous?" Xena's face twisted in shock. Still not understanding where the jealousy came from ,or why Gabrielle did what she did, she attempted to ease the redhead's fears. "Of what? Of him? That pip-squeak? How could I want someone like him when I have you?" She let the wonder show in her voice. The man in question had nothing except power, and certainly Gabrielle knew her well enough to know she didn't crave that kind of power anymore...hadn't sense before she'd met the younger woman. She paused, no reaction from Gabrielle.

Xena stepped closer to Gabrielle and placing a hand on her waist attempted to turn her love towards her. Gabrielle resisted the slight touch. Xena stopped but left her hand in place. "Why?" She asked gently. "Have I done something to make you question my love?" She squeezed the younger woman. "I thought I made my intentions quite clear before the first time we ever made love."

Gabrielle stood facing the woods. Her bare midriff burned where Xena's hand rested. How could she believe in the warrior's love when she insisted on leaving her behind half the time. If nothing else the prick had awakened her to just how little knowledge of lovemaking she had. He'd been quite explicit with his descriptions of things done in a bedroom...things she'd never dreamed of. And Xena was quite experienced, compared to all her past lovers she was a little girl, and Xena was bound to tire of her

"Gabrielle?" She questioned softly, taking another step closer. "Talk to me." She demanded in a seductive voice.

Gabrielle trembled. Gaia don't do this to me. She prayed silently closing her eyes and reveling in the feel of Xena's breath on her neck.

"Gabrielle." Came the whisper again.

She tried to stop the tremble...she leaned back into the warrior woman, unable to resist and delighted as Xena's other arm came up to cradle her closer. I'm sorry." She whispered.

"It's okay." Xena murmured. The reason for the sadness forgotten as she held her love close.

"No, no it's not all right." Gabrielle struggled to explain. Xena deserved her explanations...she was always so patient.

Xena turned the now willing girl to her, and placing a finger on top of Gabrielle's lips whispered, "Hush." A smile lighted the blue eyes that looked down upon green orbs holding them captive until an answering fire looked back. Slowly she lowered her head and claimed the lips for her own.

The two women pulled back breathless, flushed, need spreading out within both their bodies. Xena kept her arms around Gabrielle as the younger woman looked up into her eyes. She wanted to abandon the conversation and satiate herself with the beautiful woman the fates had sent her way, but looking into the emerald-green eyes she knew she needed to listen to Gabrielle's explanation first, or they might never have peace. "Now tell me." She smiled encouragement at the bard.

Gabrielle grinned shyly at her love. It really was hard to put into words what she wanted to tell the warrior woman. If she handled it wrong Xena would retreat. "I know I shouldn't have done...let him do that to himself, but I was so angry..." her voice trailed off. Green sparks flew from her eyes. "You should have heard him...the things he said...about you...I wanted to hit him." She paused and looked at her lover. "But I didn't." She grinned impishly. "I just led him down a path where his true inner self would be revealed to all that mattered to him. " She rushed on. "And really what harm? The oracle said if he
changes within the people will know and accept him when the time comes or him to rule"

"That doesn't explain why." Xena said calmly. Wondering what the prince could possibly have said that so upset her friend.

Gabrielle bit her lip. "No. I guess not." She hesitated but knew if they were to continue her fears needed to be spoken. "Why do you leave me behind?"

"Wha...what? Xena asked confused by the sudden change in direction.

"You always leave me behind." Gabrielle moved away from Xena. "I'll be back. Find a comfortable place to wait for me. I want, I need to be with you." She faced the warrior. "Every time you make me wait behind I sit in fear...fear that you'll never come back." Tears filled her eyes. "Fear that you'll be laying dead or seriously wounded with no one to care for you." Tears spilled over. "Fear that you will find someone to love...someone who fights with you always and can protect you and be there in the midst of battles without you fearing for them." She looked away. "Someone like the prince. Rich, good-looking, and knowledgeable in what a woman needs." Gabrielle wiped her face. "Why would you want to stick with a poor, little girl like me when you get offers like that..."

Xena's ice-blue eyes warmed a little. So Gabrielle hadn't fallen for the prince' charm. She thought she had. "I leave you behind because I fear for your life...less today then when we first traveled together." She walked over to her friend and crouched in front of her. You can't ask me to stop trying to protect you. It's in my nature to protect. I thought I was getting pretty good in bringing you along." She tried a tentative smile. "Ever since you got good with that staff of yours I have worried less, but I will always worry about you." She placed her hands on Gabrielle's thighs. "Okay?"

Gabrielle nodded, trying to concentrate on talk while Xena's hands burned her skin was not easy, but she knew they needed to clear the air. "Did you sleep with him?"

"Did I what?" Xena fell back in shock. "Sleep? With that puppy?" She shook her head as though trying to clear it. "You think I slept with him?" Her face fell. How can she love me if she thinks that...

"He said you did." Gabrielle wet her lips. "He even told me some of the things you did with him." Gabrielle's voice cracked. Fear for the hurt and outrage she saw in Xena's face scared her. "I'm sorry..." She rushed to explain, "It's just he seemed to know so much and I thought maybe you tired of me and my inexperience. I know you deserve so much more." The tears came in earnest now. "I know I'm..." she couldn't continue. She cried hard wracking sobs.

Xena sat where she'd fallen looking at her love in dismay. I know I don't speak often, but how could she think? She shook her head. Her heartbreaking as she heard the bard's sobs. I need to stop this. She
pushed herself up and grabbed the bard, pulling her down into her lap where she cradled the weeping girl in her arms, and murmured tender loving endearments into her ear.

When Gabrielle lay quiet Xena stopped her murmurs and brushing the red gold hair back from the bards face kissed her lips gently. "I love you. I'm not very goods with words and I thought you understood...I want you not anyone else. I've slept with no one else since the first night we made love and I have no intention of sleeping with anyone else. Male or female. I'm yours until you tell me I'm not." She kissed the young woman softly. "Got it?"

Gabrielle lay trembling in her warrior's arms. Eyes red and swollen, but sparkling with joy. "I am yours as you are mine." Came the soft reply. She smiled. "I should have known that man was nothing but a braggart. I guess just couldn't believe you'd chose me over..." She hesitated not sure how to say what she'd thought.

Xena stared down at the young woman Her eyes roving over her face, memorizing each section. She wanted to say something profound, something that would make the young woman understand how important she was to her sanity, but she didn't know how to go about it. Words! She lifted the girl up in he arms and snuggled her in as close as she could. "A long time ago you told me a story about how every one has their own tree in the are my tree. Without you." She shook her head and tears formed in her warm blue eyes.

Gabrielle looked up into Xena's eyes and wondered at the love shining out. She reached up and cupped her cheek. "You need me." A questioning awe in her voice as she recognized the same love in her partner as she had in her heart.

"You are my other half." Xena admitted. "Without you..." her eyes darkened. " would not be worth living."

Gabrielle nodded. Her words caught in her throat. The fear that Xena would someday leave her faded into nothing. She pulled the raven haired head down to her and captured the lips, gasping for breath when the kiss ended. "Enough talk."

Xena smiled. "I concur." She said lowering herself onto the bard.

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