Changes of Heart: Reservations
by CN Winters
See part one for disclaimers. Write the bard at email@example.com
Upon finding the academy and getting August registered for the upcoming poetry competition in two weeks, the group made their way to the inn. Before they set foot inside, however, Eponin pulled Gabrielle to the side.
"Mind if I speak to you?" she asked, gently capturing Gabrielle's arm.
"No not at all," Gabrielle answered.
Xena steadied her breathing. No jealous fits. Not now. Give her space. Calmly. Quietly. "We'll see if they have any rooms open," Xena offered as she lead Eve and August inside. Gabrielle gave a nod then turned to Eponin.
'What is it?" Gabrielle asked.
Eponin looked unsure of where to begin. "I know you'll be staying with Xena tonight."
"Actually I hadn't considered where I'd be stay but in truth you're probably right. Xena and I -."
"Are giving it another shot. I know," Eponin finished. "I don't want to get in your way Gabrielle."
Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She closed it again and tried once more, unable to find the right words. "I feel bad in a way," she finally muttered.
"Why?" Eponin asked. "I knew the score."
"I feel like I used you," Gabrielle answered, unable to look at Eponin.
"You did use me," Eponin replied. That made Gabrielle look up. Instead of the scowl she was expecting Gabrielle found the amazon grinning. "And truth be known I used you too. That's what friends do Gabrielle. They use each other. They use their strength, their faith, their laughter and even their tears at times when they need it most . . . I 'hid out' in that little town for so many years until you came along. You got me out into the world again. I used you as a crutch to come out. And I know that you used me as a test in your love for Xena. I'm not bitter about that. Disappointed yes," Eponin chuckled in a carefree tone. "But not bitter . . . Friends want what's best for each other. As much as I hate to admit it the best thing for you is Xena, warts and all. I just hope she does right by you . . . and not just because I wished I could be your lover . . . it's because you're my friend."
Gabrielle was on the verge of tears. "I'm glad I have friends left . . . After being gone all this time I think about the people Xena and I knew Autolycus, Salmoneus, Minya," Gabrielle smiled bittersweetly. "All of them wonderful people. All of them friends that I might not ever see again . . . Hell with all this business with Eve I haven't even made it home. My parents could be dead. My sister . . ." Gabrielle couldn't finish and Eponin didn't let her. The ex-amazon could only imagine what it felt like to lose 25 years of your life without a trace. She held the bard close and kissed the top of her head.
"I think your next trip should be home Gabrielle. Find some closure on all this," Eponin advised tenderly.
Gabrielle wiped her eyes. "It will probably be Amphipolis first," she answered. They would hit that town first before traveling southward to Poteidaia. "Cyrene, Xena's mom . . . I wonder if she's alive."
Eponin smiled warmly, "Well if she's anything like her daughter I'm sure the old gals still around and kickin'."
Gabrielle smiled too. "Will you come with us?" she asked.
It was Eponin's turn to look around. "Like I said I'm not bitter, but I don't want to be the third wheel in your personal life. You'll have a lot of catching up to do with Xena and your daughter. I think I'll bow out gracefully," she added, finally meeting the bard's eyes.
"I understand," Gabrielle nodded. "But I have to ask . . . What will you do?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe stay here in Athens, keeping August out of trouble. Perhaps find another amazon tribe and settle down. Who knows? Maybe I'll travel the countryside helping innocents along the way," she grinned playfully. "All I know is I won't be hiding anymore . . . thanks to you."
"Come on," Gabrielle said leading Eponin into the inn. "You're gonna make me cry again," she teased. They walked in arm in arm, to see the trio sitting at a small bar. August seemed to be eating as Xena and Eve were . . . arguing? What on earth are they arguing about? Gabrielle wondered.
Eponin gave Gabrielle her space and walked over to August as Gabrielle took a seat between bickering mother and daughter.
"So anything new?" Gabrielle said casually, hoping one of them would bite.
"I want my own room tonight," Eve announced.
Gabrielle turned to catch the tail end of Xena making a disapproving facial gesture at their daughter. Of course Xena tried to play it off as if she had something stuck in her teeth but it didn't fool the bard.
"Okaaaaay," Gabrielle answered, unsure of what was transpiring. "Any reason why? Hot date tonight?" she teased.
"No," Eve answered. "I just think that you and mother could use sometime alone is all. I mean let's face it. You really haven't been alone since you got out of Ares deep freeze. I think you might need it is all."
"Time alone?" Gabrielle asked her daughter. "Hmmm . . . I guess so. Do you have a problem with that?" she asked Xena.
"Not at all," Xena grinned. "We're just running low on funds is all and I didn't want to be presumptuous to think you'd want a room . . . alone . . . with me."
Gabrielle couldn't contain her chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Xena asked.
"You," Gabrielle answered. "You sound like a bashful bridegroom."
Eve started to chuckle too but Xena just grinned and played it off.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Xena answered. "You two go ahead and laugh it up. I can't help that I worry I might offend you."
"Xena," Gabrielle answered putting her hand on top of Xena's that sat on the bar. "Say whatever is on your mind. If you offend me I'll let you know. It's not like I'm gonna take your head off." Xena looked guiltily into her stew at the expression. "Sorry. Poor choice of words, okay? I didn't mean anything by it."
"I'm sorry for hitting you Gabrielle," Xena said looking over to Gabrielle.
The bard tightened her hand around the warriors. "I know Xena. You've told me every day since we've met again. And I know each time you say it you truly mean it. But you have to move on here okay?"
"She's right," Eve piped in gingerly. "Gabrielle felt terrible about what happened between us. And I've forgiven her. I think you need to find forgiveness in yourself."
"I don't think I'm ready to do that Eve," Xena answered before turning back to Gabrielle, "I don't ever want to forget it. I want to be reminded so it never happens again," Xena added.
"You don't have to forget it," Gabrielle offered. "Just try to realize that I forgive you."
"I'll try but I can't promise anything Gabrielle."
"That's all I can ask of you Xena," Gabrielle answered. "Just try your best . . . okay?"
Xena nodded and the trio finished their meal with minimal chatter. As night fell, August and Eponin retired to their room. They felt it was safer if the amazon bunked with the young woman in case of would be prowlers. True to her word, Eve made her way to her room for the night, leaving Xena and Gabrielle down at the bar.
"How ya feelin'?" Gabrielle grinned. A grin that refused to leave thanks to the amount of ale she had consumed.
Xena pursed her lips, looking around the room, nodding her head soundly. "Drunk," she answered.
Both women erupted into a fit of giggles. "I just pray nothing BAD happens tonight," Xena confessed in a whispered voice. "No warlords, no vengeful gods, nothing . . . BAD . . . I don't think I'm up to a battle at this point."
"Perhaps we should get the warrior princess to bed then."
Xena could hear the seductive tone in the bard's voice. She loved it and feared it all at once. She'd pray she'd hear Gabrielle speak to her this way again but she didn't want it to be drug induced. The alcohol was doing most of the talking tonight and Xena knew that wasn't what either woman wanted or what they needed. Jumping into the sheets would be the cure for all that pent up need but she didn't want anyone hating anyone in the morning.
"I thought you said we should take things easy; slow," Xena challenged as she swayed slightly on her barstool.
"I can go slow," the bard said before capturing the warrior's earlobe in her teeth. "and I can go easy," she added as she proceeded to nibble on Xena's jaw line.
Xena cleared her throat and yelled to the barkeep, "Check please!"
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