"Only Today Remains"
by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "Only Today Remains" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
This story is an attempt to bring back a little of the Season 2 Gabrielle. Many of us miss her.
"Gabrielle, what would you think about taking a day off and just staying here, tomorrow?"
Xena was hoping for a better reaction than she got. Only a year ago Xena would've been treated to a beautiful smile from Gabrielle, her eyes full of anticipation and playfulness at the thought of spending a day off with her best friend. Maybe even a bit of uncontrollable jumping around, like a child who can't quite contain her joy.
Instead, Gabrielle looked wary, as though Xena was just testing her.
"You don't mind?" asked Gabrielle.
"No! We're not needed anywhere urgently, are we? And this is such a beautiful spot."
"OK," said Gabrielle, without much enthusiasm.
"Oh, Gabrielle, where are you?" thought Xena. "If I could turn back time "
"I've got an idea," said Gabrielle.
"Oh, never mind, you won't want to do it."
"C'mon, tell me."
"No, it's stupid."
"Just tell me, Gabrielle."
"No, forget it. Never mind."
Xena came very close to losing her temper, and said, slowly, carefully, "Gabrielle, please just tell me what you were thinking."
"I was thinking it would be a good idea to just stick to the present, tomorrow. Only talk about the day as it happens. Nothing about the past, and leave the future alone, so only today remains."
"What are we going to talk about, all day?"
"Who says we have to talk at all, if we don't feel like it?"
"You're gonna be silent all day?"
"I never promised that," said Gabrielle.
"OK," said Xena, "good idea. The past is dead. Only the present exists."
"And even the future," said Gabrielle, "ain't what it used to be."
"It will be a relief not to speak about the past," said Xena. "Especially the recent past."
Gabrielle looked down at her hands and arms, and Xena could tell that she was definitely thinking about the recent past. Gabrielle shuddered as though she could still feel the bruises and the rope burns.
"Damn it," thought Xena, "why did I have to say that?"
"Here's another idea," said Gabrielle. "While we're at it, suppose you and I just met each other for the first time tomorrow?"
"C'mon, it'll be fun!"
"Gabrielle, I'm too old for these childish games."
"I think you're problem is, you never had a chance for enough childish games in your life."
"So we're two complete strangers who just happened to wake up right next to each other?"
"It could happen."
"Alright. But if we're needed somewhere, if there's an emergency or if someone shows up that we know, the game's off. OK?"
"Great!" said Gabrielle, and smiled a little smile. Nothing even close to what she was capable of. Nothing even close to the sort of playful, loving, adorable smiles Xena remembered from only a year ago. But it held promise.
Tomorrow could be a good day.
Xena awoke first, as usual, and was up gathering more wood for the fire, getting water from the stream, and checking their supplies to see what they could put together for breakfast. She didn't bother to put on her leathers, but wore her shift.
Gabrielle woke slowly, stretched adorably, and looked at Xena curiously.
"Good morning!" said Gabrielle. "Not that I mean to pry or anything, but who are you and what are you doing here?"
"My name is Xena. Some call me the Warrior Princess."
"If you're a warrior, where's your war?"
"Even warriors get a day off, sometimes."
"Were you sleeping next to me?"
"How could anyone resist sleeping next to you?"
Gabrielle smiled and looked at Xena coyly.
"Well, that seems to be kind of taking liberties, wouldn't you say? You don't even know my name."
"Let me guess. Your name is Myrtle."
"You kind of look like a Myrtle."
"How about Gertrude? Hortense?"
"My name is Gabrielle. I'm a bard."
"A bard! So these are your scrolls over here?"
"Let's see what you have on them, today."
"No, you don't want to see."
"Sure I do. Tell me what's written on your scrolls, today. Tell me a story, today."
"If a warrior can take a day off, so can a bard."
"I see. By the way, Gabrielle, you have a very impressive vocabulary. You know a lot of words."
"Yes. Tell me, did you happen to learn all of those words today?"
"No, but I'm using them all today."
"And this name you're using. Gabrielle, is it? Did you choose that name today?"
"Yes, I did. As soon as I got up, I decided that today my name is going to be Gabrielle. How about you?"
"Same here, but I was up a lot earlier, so I had time to choose a much better name. If you had only gotten up earlier, you could've been Xena."
Gabrielle smiled, and Xena thought, "She is like the dawn. The sunrise is humbled before her."
The two of them grinned stupidly at each other, and Gabrielle got up and said, "Well, as long as you're here I suppose the least I can do is make you some breakfast."
Gabrielle took out some sausages and started cooking them in their one frying pan, along with some biscuits to sop up the grease. When they were done, Gabrielle took out an orange for herself and tossed one to Xena.
Xena caught it in one hand and peeled it over the fire with her breast dagger. Gabrielle peeled hers with both hands. They both began to eat, and Gabrielle finished first.
"I don't think I want the rest of my orange," said Xena. "Do you want it?"
"I don't know if I should accept gifts from a stranger."
"It's your orange."
"Oh, but you might've slipped a little something on it. But I think I can trust you."
Xena came over and sat next to Gabrielle. She took one orange slice and held it in two fingers, approaching Gabrielle's parted lips. Gabrielle's tongue curled out and tasted the orange slice, then Xena pulled it away, and smiled.
"Maybe you can trust me and maybe you can't," said Xena.
"Oh, I think I can trust you. You look like the kind of person I could trust all the way to the end of this world and part of the way into the next."
Gabrielle arched her back and leaned forward to receive the orange slice. Her tongue flicked out to taste it again. She waited until Xena put the slice in her mouth, then closed her lips and kissed Xena's fingertips. She smiled.
"At least," said Gabrielle, "that's my opinion of you today. It might change in the future."
"The future? What that?"
"Oh, the future is something that happens when it's not now."
"But it's impossible for it to be not now."
"That's true," said Gabrielle, and leaned forward to receive another orange slice, and then another. There were no more slices, but Gabrielle didn't sit back. She kept leaning forward expectantly.
"All gone," said Xena.
"Oh, that's too bad," said Gabrielle, and pouted.
"Has anyone ever told you you're very cute?"
"Well, you are. You're adorable."
Xena stood up and backed away from Gabrielle.
"So tell me, are you traveling with anyone?" asked Xena.
"Yes, I am."
"You presume a great deal. What makes you think I want you around?"
"Because you're a good person. But even a good person sometimes needs a bit of a reward for being good."
"And you're my reward?"
"No. The reward isn't you or me. The reward is us. The reward is this little space between us, and the time we spend together. The reward is today."
"I realize this is completely crazy," said Xena, "because we just met each other, but I think maybe I love you."
"It took you long enough to say that. We've known each other over an hour."
"So tell me, traveling companion, what are we doing today?"
"I thought we might hike up the side of that mountain," Gabrielle said, pointing. "There's a nice trail that goes up the side. We can get as close to the top as we can before lunchtime, eat lunch and then come back down."
So they put together two lunches and put them in Gabrielle's backpack, and started out together.
"Before we go," said Xena, "I just have to know one thing. You're not the type of person who talks incessantly, are you?"
"No. I talk just exactly the right amount, and no more. You're not the sullen, moody type, are you? You don't spend a lot of time brooding and obsessing over everything?"
"Not as long as I have something else to concentrate on."
"Like watching the most adorable, wonderful woman in the world and listening to her sweet, lovely voice, and hoping to occasionally get a laugh or a giggle out of her."
Gabrielle blushed a little.
"Thank you, Xena."
"Who says I'm talking about you?"
They started up the mountain together and hiked for several hours, Gabrielle pointing out everything she knew about the local flora and fauna. When the sun reached its halfway point they unpacked their lunches and sat down to eat. A stream ran down the side of the mountain, and the women took off their boots and dipped their toes into the cool water as they ate. The roots of a large tree provided a perfect nest for their bodies. When they finished, Xena leaned back into the tree, and Gabrielle leaned back into Xena.
"What a perfect, beautiful day," said Gabrielle.
"Beautiful," said Xena.
"I love you, Xena."
"Well, that took you long enough."
"I've just been making my mind up about you. I don't like to make snap judgements."
"No? So you're not the type of person to see a warrior fighting several armed men, and suddenly decide you wanted to spend the rest of your life with that person?"
"No. I wouldn't do that. Not today, anyway. Not unless the warrior were really special, with a lot of potential to be a great person and do a phenomenal amount of good in the world."
"And you can see a person's potential in a second, can you?"
"Depends on the person."
"And what do you see in me?"
"I see that you and I have the potential to hike back down this mountain and back to the campsite. Beyond that, who knows?"
"You're not much of a seer, are you?"
Gabrielle turned her head and looked Xena deep in those beautiful azure eyes.
"I'm seein' everything I need to see, right now," said Gabrielle.
Gabrielle turned back and leaned into Xena. Xena closed her eyes and felt Gabrielle against her, and her soul seemed to pulsate with love for this wonderful woman.
"Oh, Gabrielle," thought Xena, "you have had some lousy ideas in your life, but this was one of your best. Why couldn't I have found this love to hold on to, back when no, she's right. The past is gone, the future doesn't exist yet. Only today remains. From here on out, we start fresh."
They headed back down the mountain, and by the time they got back to the campsite they were both glistening with sweat.
"You know, I think " said Xena, and leaned her nose into Gabrielle's body and smelled her neck, her shoulders, her back. "I think you smell. I'm almost certain you do. Let me make sure."
Her nose found its way into Gabrielle's armpits, and her cleavage.
"Yeah, you smell sweaty. You need to get cleaned up."
"And you don't?" said Gabrielle, and with both hands moved the straps of Xena's shift down her shoulders.
Xena took off her shift and the rest of her clothes. Gabrielle was quickly out of her top and her skirt, and everything else she was wearing.
"Race you," said Gabrielle, and ran to the water's edge. She had a headstart, but Xena quickly caught up and scooped up Gabrielle and ran into the water. The two naked bodies hit the water together, forming a small cataract of water.
The two of them embraced, they splashed each other, they dunked each other under the water, they laughed. Their heads bobbed in the water and they smiled at each other.
"Race you back," said Gabrielle. Xena let her get yet another headstart, then leaped out of the water after her. Gabrielle ran not to the campsite, but to a large patch of moss nearby, as though she knew the fun was not over yet. Xena tackled Gabrielle, and they both landed softly together in the moss, and Xena grabbed Gabrielle and tickled her.
"You know," thought Xena, "this seems like exactly the sort of thing that Hercules and Iolaus probably don't do. It must be terrible being a guy."
Xena kept tickling Gabrielle, and finally it happened. Gabrielle giggled.
"Oh, Gabrielle," thought Xena, "do it again. It's been so long."
Xena kept tickling, and Gabrielle kept giggling. The sound of the giggle made Xena feel wonderful, and gave her a little flutter in the stomach she hadn't felt in a while. A little shiver of happiness went through her.
"Just let me store this sight in my memory," thought Xena, watching Gabrielle giggling and wriggling on the moss, rolling back and forth, the evening sun coming through the trees, glinting off her beautiful green eyes and her perfect teeth and the drops of water on her naked skin.
Xena stopped tickling and just watched Gabrielle.
Then Xena rolled over and fell back on the moss, smiling up at the sun and the trees and the verdure.
She didn't really expect Gabrielle to pounce on her, but Gabrielle couldn't resist it. She tickled Xena breathless, and they both fell back onto the moss and looked at each other. The love was coming off of both of them in waves, almost visibly.
Gabrielle smiled adorably at Xena, and the happiness of the smile reached her beautiful green eyes, and the eyes sparkled.
"I love you, Xena," she said. "I can't believe we just met today. Are you sure we haven't known each other through thousands of year and hundreds of lifetimes?"
"I'm not sure of anything," said Xena, "except that I don't ever want to be apart from you."
They got up and dressed and made dinner for each other, although nothing they did seemed to matter much to either of them for the rest of the evening. Whatever they did, they did while grinning stupidly at each other.
The day came to an end, and they set out their sleeping sacks next to each other, climbed in and said good night.
Gabrielle leaned over and kissed Xena on the cheek, just as she had that night a year ago after she'd bopped Xena on the nose with her staff.
"Hey!" said Xena. "Gabrielle, people will talk!"
Gabrielle forgot all about the rules of their childish little game.
She said, "Oh, believe me. They talk!"
The next morning they awoke at nearly the same time. They looked at each other.
"Morning," said Gabrielle.
"Morning," said Xena.
But they could tell things had changed because of the day before. No one had to say it.
"You know," said Xena, "yesterday I gave up my sword drills for you."
"Let's see if I can think of someone who once sacrificed even a little bit more than that for you."
They both stood up.
"Thank you for yesterday," said Gabrielle.
"Thank you for that childish little game I thought I was too old for," said Xena.
"We've been through a lot," said Gabrielle, "but I think we're going to be OK."
Gabrielle smiled. It was a smile just as warm and sweet and adorable as any Xena could remember.
"Gabrielle " said Xena, and her eyes filled with tears.
"Nothing. I'm just a bowl of mush. Look what you've turned me into."
"No. Thank you for turning me into a human being."
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, too."
"And I'm just so glad you're back, Gabrielle. I'm just so glad the woman I love is back. For however long it lasts, until I screw things up again."
"Hey," said Gabrielle, "I'm not going anywhere."
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