Radiant Night
by: de Bonheur

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle et. al. belong to MCA/Universal, and are used without intent for commercial profits. The author's copyright does not extend to said characters.
Notice: The author retains all rights automatically attached to the creation of this work.
Warnings: This is a work of alternative fan fiction and may be offensive to some readers. Caveat emptor.

The late summer sun poured its light through the windows and across the bed, slowly drawing the sleeping form from Hypnos' realm. She reached for the familiar warmth, the smooth muscular body out of sheer habit, only to find a handful of pillow. Sighing softly, she slowly opened her eyes.

The rest of the room was still in shadows. Green orbs were soon captured by a spectrum of colours cascaded through the shard of crystal her sister had hung up by the window. It was as if having one's own personal rainbow, and Gabrielle liked that.

Lila. The bard shifted her gaze to the bed across the room...

*Ah, she's up already.*

*Hmm... Xena is most likely up, too. I wonder what she's doing... Hiding in the guest room, maybe.*

The bard still was not sure whether their trip to Poteidaia was a good idea... She would not have minded staying in Athens for the Greater Panathenaia and maybe even entering the poetry competition; but Athena's birthday or not, she had no doubt her warrior would go insane getting stuck in crowded Athens for a whole moon.

Then again, being with her family might have the same effect on her friend, the bard mused. Sure, Gabrielle's parents were grateful to Xena for rescuing them from Draco, and they tried to be cordial. Even Lila attempted to be friendly with her. However, whenever they were together, the discomfort surrounding everyone would get so thick, one would need a cleaver to chop through the air.

Still, it was her warrior's idea. Indeed, Gabrielle had wondered briefly if Xena had read her mind when she suggested the visit. As, having been away for so many moons, the bard was missing her family. She was grateful for her friend's thoughtfulness.

*I just wish...*

Her thoughts were interrupted by quiet voices and sounds of movements in other parts of the house. The bard let out another soft sigh, nipped the idea of rolling over and sleeping some more, and crawled out of bed. She intended to rescue her warrior from whatever (she didn't even want to venture a guess) as soon as possible.

. . . . . . .

Gabrielle found Xena in the stable sitting on a haystack, with patience and tolerance she reserved only for a selected few, answering the barrage of questions from her inquisitive little sister. Lila sat so close that their shoulders were touching and the warrior was crowded in against the wall.

*Poor Xena. Gods, how she must have felt when we first started travelling toge... when I insisted on tagging along...*

The mighty Warrior Princess looked to the bard like a trapped rabbit; and her expression was priceless. Then there was that brilliant grin that carried a fusion of emotions that only the bard could read, that surfaced spontaneously the moment she walked in... Gabrielle couldn't decide if she should feel warm and fuzzy all over or pained.

After countless soft-pedalled excuses and equal amount of placation, Gabrielle finally convinced Lila not to accompany them to wherever they were going...

. . . . . . .

The midday sun shone down on them at the beach, and the ocean breeze passed softly, as the two friends strolled along the sand, turning over starfish and seashells with their toes, sharing long moments of companionable silence.

*It's interesting that I don't feel the need to ramble on around Xena anymore... In fact, sometimes it's like she could read my thoughts and anticipate my queries... my needs... without my...*

Gabrielle felt a subtle tug around her shoulders. She paused in her stride and turned to face her warrior. Xena looked around a little to make sure they were alone, then enveloped the bard in an affectionate embrace.

*Ahh... and how I need this.*

She let out a breath of utter contentment and sank into the familiar warmth, letting the closeness between them drive out the tension she was feeling...

"Feeling better, my bard?"

"Yeah, much. I missed being alone with you."

"Yeah... and I, with you."

"Sorry about Lila earlier."

"It's okay, she's a good kid."

"Yeah, bet she was making you crazy."

A small, good-natured chuckle and a squeeze.

"Not having you beside me when I wake up is driving ME nuts though," Gabrielle thought out loud.

Strong arms clasped her tighter into the gentle heat, relaying concurrence, and something else.

Eternal moments later, limbs unclenched, but keeping their hold. Fingers drifted upward to trace arched dark brows, fluttering eyelids, soft cheeks, eliciting a genuine smile that caused her heart to quiver everytime...

"Hey, a swim?"


Loosening lacings, tugging at leather and other items of clothing, playfully touching each other... The pair promptly lost themselves to the moment, of being with each other. Just the two of them.

"Last one in is a rotten goose egg!" Declared the warrior, after a stolen kiss which turned breathless.

"Hey, no fair!!!" Gabrielle gathered her wits, struggled out of her briefs and sprinted after the tall woman.

And ran straight into waiting arms when Xena unexpectedly stopped and turned around. They tumbled into soft wet sand and warm waves together.

Eyes still closed from the shock of the descent and the splash, Gabrielle seized the warrior's lips and tasted the ripe figs which they had picked and brought for lunch. The sweetness of the juice mingled with the violet and marjoram scent of her partner sent all the bard's senses right off the charts.

*Gods, I could do this forever,* both souls reflected.

Eventually though, they had to come up for air. Reluctantly the two friends peeled themselves off each other and the ocean floor, and waded out into the sea...

Her skin tingled with a pleasurable sensation as she pushed forward in the water. It was invigorating. Gabrielle immersed her being in the whirling environment.

Ducking beneath the surface, the fair nymph swam the short distance to the rock nearby, and pressed up onto the flat warm surface. She lay down and let the sun caress tenderly the moisture off her skin. As she watched her warrior.

Gazing out, Gabrielle found herself flustered by the heat, the aura of sensuality in the dark beauty's movements.

Xena pulled her tall frame through the water with powerful strokes of her arms and legs. Graceful, as if she were born of the ocean, to the element. Long arms reached out in front and pulled forward, each stroke causing her to appear smaller and smaller. Yet, somehow, it drew the warrior closer and closer toward the bard.

Gabrielle thought about those powerful arms which held her and the shoulders which cushioned her head when she slept. Then she realized just how accustomed she had grown to the intimacy, the security, and just how much she had missed them, when sleeping in her old bed, in the room she shared with Lila as they were growing up.

It also reminded the Amazon Queen of the last time she slept alone...

*Agh! Come on Gabrielle, get a grip, it's been only two days. You see her everyday and you know she's only in the room next door at night.*

Then the bard recalled the many nights she awoke in Xena's death grip, holding her, as though in fear of Gabrielle slipping away while she slumbered. The blonde worried then about how her friend was dealing with the short separation.

They were odd, some of the emotions she had experienced toward the warrior and their relationship. Passions and sentiments that she had never before felt toward any other person or object. The bard had long given up trying to figure any of them out and just accepted things as they were.

Gabrielle reminisced with fondness the night when they had crossed the boundary of "just friends." She had feared it would forever changed for the worse their relationship, but her anxieties have yet been proven well-founded. She hoped it would remain so.

The experience was pleasurable, awakening, clarifying and defining. Yes, she had loved Perdicus. But that attachment was very different. Their loves, their relationships; they were completely beyond comparison. She also wanted neither to measure nor label either.

Still, toward the small dark form floating in the glorious glittering blue platter of the sea, her heart called out.

*You are the other half of my soul. Just you. Always you.*

As if heeding her summons, her thoughts, the warrior changed the direction of her strokes. The wave swept over and carried her under, finally casting her onto the boulder where Gabrielle was sunning.

Meeting radiant blues which overshadowed even the bright sky and shimmering waves, her heart raced.

And. Two souls entwined. ...

Squinting at the ocean sparkling in the afternoon sun, the friends realized they had been on the shore for hours.

Yet, Gabrielle could not resist enjoying the luscious lips a little longer, and put her hands on both sides of the sun-kissed face and pulled her close. ...

At long last, they lay side by side, gazing into each other's eyes.

"Xena, I'm going to tell them."

"Gabrielle, you don't have to."

"I know, but I want to."

"But Gabrielle..."

"Shhh... I love you..."

"And I, you."

They melted into each other again, and it was a while before they emerged from the kiss.

Irresolutely, the pair slid off the flat rock and into the water. Lingering, the two suspended their swim back to shore with joyous moments of darting beneath and tickling each other, nipping and grabbing playfully, and eeling away before one could catch the other.

It was almost dusk before they arrived back at the village.

. . . . . . .

Dinner was, by all accounts, a pleasant affair. After all the activities of the day and the neglected meals, Gabrielle and Xena were famished. Hecuba seemed very charmed that her cooking was appreciated by her older daughter's guest.

After supper, the warrior volunteered to help cleaned up in the kitchen, as she did the nights before. However, the bard took the dishes from her hands and excused her from the duties. Gabrielle suggested that Xena have a head start on the evening stroll and promised to join her later. Dark head nodded in understanding.

At the time, the Warrior Princess was grateful that her bard chose to spare her the stress of the situation, and any possible unpleasantness... despite the fact that she would really like to be there for her friend.

Now, in the dark of the moon, alone in the clearing where they first met, Xena wasn't too sure...

Still, she respected Gabrielle's decision to handle things her own private way. The Amazon Queen needn't the Warrior Princess' evaluation nor validation in her actions.

So the warrior resigned herself to the wait.

Xena thought the pacing, the constant movements, would calm the angry flock of butterflies in her stomach. Under different circumstances, sword drills would calm her mind; but, that night, she wasn't entirely certain if she would not accidently hurt herself.

*Why do I let her do this?* She thought frustratedly.

*Because she's her own person, Xena, and you don't let or not let her do anything.* Her reason rapped her clouded mind.

*What are they going to think?*

*How are they going to react?*

*Since when does the Warrior Princess care about how people thought of her?* The dark tresses shook in exasperation.

*What if they don't approve? Then what?*

*Who would she...* The warrior couldn't even finish that thought.

*Aaaagh. You think WAY to much, Mighty Warrior!* She chastised herself.

Awaiting her fate, her mind tried to tell her it was not at all like that one time from long ago when they were back in Poteidaia. Her heart couldn't hear.

Looking out across the horizon, where the stars shone down, Xena had always enjoyed watching with her bard the infinite points of lights, contemplating the different shapes and patterns they made. Tonight, it was a cold and lonely vista to the dark warrior.

Anyhow, Xena was not about to condemn herself to standing there, her heart thumping in her ears, her hands sweaty. So, the furious pacing continued...

Finally, familiar footsteps approached.

"How did it go?"

"Let's leave tomorrow morning. I've already said goodbye to Lila."

"But Gabrielle..."

"No, I've made my decision. If they love me, they'll learn to accept me and accept you... us."


"Just hold me."

The warrior didn't know what to say, so she put her arms on the slight shoulders and gently rubbed them, then pulled the bard closer to her.

"I love you," she whispered, leaning down to kiss the fair woman on the nape of her neck. Feeling trembling digits traced along the back of her hands, up the veins tensing along her forearms.

Moments passed. The small body turned; assuring fingers wound their ways into the warrior's dark locks, guiding her forward; soft, searching lips reaching up to meet hers. Yielding bodies secured in each other's warmth.

. . . . . . .

The next morning, Xena and Gabrielle found the bard's family waiting for them outside the stable.

"Are you sure you don't want to stay longer?" Hecuba asked.

Gabrielle, slightly taken aback but in an instant broke into almost gleeful smile, glanced at Xena, and made the decision. "No, we really should go. You know, babies to rescue, villages to save from raiders, all of that."

"Come back and visit soon, Gabrielle, umm... the two of you." Her father added, facing Xena.

"We will." The warrior awkwardly replied.

*Hmm. I guess she's right afterall.* Another part of her mind chuckled, *When will you learn, you big dumb warrior?*

After rounds of goodbye hugs for and from everyone, including the Big Trapped Rabbit, the two friends embarked on their journey, ready and willing to face whatever the Fates had in store for them.


Spread over my head your raven hair
And bend your face down to me!
Bright and clear into my soul
Pours the light of your eyes.

I do not seek the sun's splendour on high
Nor the radiant garland of the stars,
I only seek the night of your hair
And the radiance of your eyes.

- Breit' uber mein Haupt, Adolf Friedrich von Schack
translated by L. Craig; set by R. Strauss

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