by C Paradee
Xena and Gabrielle and any other characters mentioned in this story belong to Universal/Renaissance and whoever else has an interest in Xena Warrior Princess. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story is a little different from my usual fare but it serves an important purpose for me. I wanted to write a traditional X/G story but I was having a tremendous amount of trouble visualizing the characters I wanted to write about after some of the events of the last season.
I felt Xena and Gabrielle had some serious issues to address and *I* needed for them to do that. So this is sort of like a prologue to any traditional stories I write.
This is a story about two women who are in love. It is not graphic, but subtext is maintext in any story posted on this site.
Spoilers For Season 4:
This story does makes several references to events that occurred during the fourth season.
Special thanks to Lunacy for her helpful feedback.
Questions and comments are welcome.
© August 28, 1999
Gabrielle looked at the strong broad back of her soulmate and prepared to verbalize the words she never thought she'd say again. Xena's deeply tanned skin appeared bronze in the moonlight and her long midnight black hair flowed over her shoulders and onto her back. She watched the gentle play of the muscles in Xena's arms as she struck the flint against the rock to start the campfire.
She had purposely waited for Xena to be facing away from her. Gabrielle knew she would never be able to look into those compelling blue eyes and say what she knew she had to. Closing her eyes tightly, she refused to think about how empty her life would be without the comforting presence of the warrior. Gabrielle had no doubt that once she made her request, Xena would be gone from her life forever.
Gabrielle took a deep breath preparing to speak when a sharp pain coursed through her stomach. Oh gods, not now. Not when she'd finally worked up the courage to say what she had to. She knew her body was rebelling at the unrelenting stress placed on it by her decision.
A small spark started the twigs smoking and the dry tinder quickly caught fire. Gabrielle knew she had to hurry before Xena turned around.
Rushing the words, her voice no more than a whisper, she said, "I've decided to go home to Poteidaia." Gabrielle quickly looked at the ground, but not in time to miss the slump of her partner's shoulders.
Xena felt her whole world crash down around her when the barely audible words reached her ears. Her heart pounding painfully, she took a deep breath trying to still the sudden shaking of her hands. Unable to imagine life without the bard and frightened at the prospect, she balled her hands into fists and pressed them hard against the top of her thighs, the pressure causing enough pain to allow her to focus her thoughts.
She really couldn't blame her. After all the things that had happened to her young partner during the last year, why should she want to stay with her? She had asked things of her soulmate she had no right to. And Gabrielle had paid the price for her callousness.
Unable to turn around and look at Gabrielle and be reminded of just how hard the last several moons had been on her, she finally reined in her emotions enough to say neutrally, "Fine. If that's what you want." Standing in one fluid motion, Xena left the warm bright light of the campfire and melted into the darkness.
Gabrielle wiped away the tears that had started tracking down her face. Xena never left camp anymore without saying anything. She knew she'd be upset but she had to do this. She had almost gotten Xena killed a couple of times. How could she live with herself if anything happened to the warrior because of her? Xena had lost part of her focus when she fought and now frequently got wounded and had even been bested once. Gabrielle knew she was the cause of that.
A hitching sob cut through the air. What had happened to her? She had become more of a hindrance than she had been when she first met Xena. Yeah, she was a great partner all right. She even threw away her staff. What had she accomplished by doing that? She had refused to watch her partner's back and Xena had to work twice as hard trying to protect her. Shaking her head, she wondered how her reasoning had become so flawed.
Gods knew she thought it was the right thing at the time, but she knew better now. Gabrielle had thought long and hard about that. She knew she was good with a staff. Very good. She could even hold her own with Xena. Not beat her, but put up a pretty formidable defense. Gabrielle had never used the staff for killing. She was always careful to try and aim for vulnerable body parts and pulled her hits when striking areas of the body that could be fatal.
So what was the purpose of throwing away her staff? Gabrielle knew the answer now. She had thought if she threw away the only weapon she carried that could kill, then maybe all the pain would go away. Maybe she wouldn't hurt so bad anymore. Maybe she could forget that horrible day and the others too. It hadn't worked though. Instead she had placed their lives in jeopardy over and over again by repeating mistakes. She didn't deserve to travel with Xena anymore.
Gabrielle rested her arms on her knees and placed her chin in her palms and looked off into the darkness in the direction Xena had gone unable to see the trees for the tears in her eyes.
Self loathing and despair enveloped Xena. She walked blindly away from the soft light of the campfire into the darkness. It was where she belonged. Who had she been fooling with that line about the greater good? She had twisted the greater good to suit her purposes on more than one occasion. And her soulmate had suffered.
About a mile away from camp, Xena found a clearing and sat down, her back supported by a tree. She ran a hand across her face and realized her eyes were damp. Snorting, she thought derisively, what are you crying about? If you had taken care of Gabrielle and respected her beliefs it would never have come to this.
Xena looked upward through an opening in the leaves to the sky. She remembered the game she used to play with Gabrielle about naming the shapes of different groups of stars. It had been so long since they had enjoyed such simple things, and now they never would again. She lifted a hand to her face and roughly wiped away the tears.
Xena laid her head against the rough bark letting her thoughts drift back in time. They had been working hard at rebuilding their relationship and they were making progress. It had been a slow painful process. Then she'd lost Gabrielle.
The moons she thought Gabrielle was dead were the worst in her life. She searched for her everywhere but had not been able to find her. Xena remembered the sense of loss and the cold, lonely nights around the campfire. But she kept her promise to Gabrielle. She didn't surrender to the darkness.
Xena remembered the relief and happiness she'd felt when she finally found her soulmate in the forest. It had been a bittersweet reunion though, because she'd had to tell her about Hope.
Xena knew she had been given a second chance and had blown it. They had only been back together a few moons when Caesar and Pompey decided to use Greece for their own personal battlefield.
Self reproach churned brutally through her mind. You asked her to give up everything she believes in and lead an army. Oh yeah. You justified it real well didn't you? After all, she was the most qualified person. You didn't give a damn about what it might do to her. You could have asked Flanagan in the first place. But deep down you knew she'd do it if you asked her, and she did. When you finally came to your senses and realized what you'd done, it was too late. She'd lost her identity and her belief in herself.
Standing up, Xena walked around the clearing. Everything had gone downhill after that. It had become painfully obvious Gabrielle was lost and unfocused. Xena had been willing to do anything to help her partner and had tried to be supportive, but she hadn't known how. Without the guiding light she had come to depend on from her partner, she became unfocused and started making errors in judgement and was of little help to the bard.
Finally, by some miracle, they had gotten through it and were back in Greece. And now Gabrielle wanted to go home.
Gabrielle stood up and walked over the saddlebags. She pulled out a new scroll and ran her hands over the parchment. It felt strange. She hadn't written anything, even in her private scrolls, since the day Phlanagus died. After changing into her sleeping attire, she sat down on the bedroll and picked up the parchment, smoothing it out. With the clear strong lines that marked her script, she wrote her soulmate's name at the top.
They had quit communicating on the deep level they used to. Even after all the terrible things they had been through, they had always talked. Well, she actually did most of the talking but Xena contributed in her usual way with few words, but more than that wasn't necessary. They had understood each other. It wasn't like that anymore, though. It wasn't Xena's fault. Gabrielle knew she had been lost and because of that she couldn't seem to convey her thoughts anymore.
She wanted her soulmate to understand why she was leaving. Gabrielle began writing and the words that had been trapped for so long flowed freely. A couple candlemarks later, exhausted, Gabrielle paused. It was then that she noticed some of the words were smudged, the victims of the small salty drops of water that had fallen onto the parchment. Reading what she wrote, she set the ink to parchment again and continued.
Xena stayed in the clearing through the darkest part of the night. She wanted to ask her partner to stay with her, but knew she didn't have the right. Gabrielle would be better off without her. It was time to think of Gabrielle for a change. When the sky started to lighten, she began to slowly make her way back toward their camp carefully cordoning off her emotions and forcing the black thoughts of life without the bard to the back of her mind. She began rebuilding the walls around her heart that Gabrielle had broken down long ago.
Reaching the edge of the forest, she looked out over the camp. Gabrielle looked like she had fallen asleep sitting up. Next to her lay a scroll. Xena was surprised. Her soulmate had not touched a scroll for moons.
Walking quietly over to the bedroll, she picked up the scroll and laid it aside. Taking hold of the fur, she lovingly covered up her partner resisting the urge to touch her. She walked over to the other side of the campfire and sat down on a rock watching the woman she loved more than life itself, sleep.
Xena sighed. She had really thought things would improve once they reached their homeland, but instead Gabrielle had become more quiet and withdrawn, and as a result, she had too. They hadn't encountered any problems and had made very good time. Xena snorted to herself. She wished now the trip had taken much longer.
Glancing over at the scroll Gabrielle had been working on, Xena became curious. What had prompted the bard to pick up the parchment again? She had urged her to write on many occasions, but her partner had steadfastly refused.
She had always respected her soulmate's privacy, but what if the scroll could give her some clue about why Gabrielle had chosen to leave her now, after all they had been through? A desperate need to understand her partner's decision overcame Xena and she stood up and walked over to the scroll. Picking it up, she returned to her seat on the opposite side of the campfire.
Ignoring her conscience, and feeling guilty, she unrolled the scroll and momentarily froze. It was addressed to her. Her heart pounding, she began to read.
Xena felt like her heart was in a vise that kept tightening. This was so wrong. Gabrielle was trying to take all the blame for everything that had happened. Oh gods. She thinks she's putting me in danger. After everything I've done, she is shouldering the responsibility again.
But then, why wouldn't she? She carried you for a long time and when she got lost, instead of carrying her, you got lost too. Lot of help you were. But it was the last paragraph that tore the barriers she had put up right back down again.
Xena stood up and laid the scroll on the ground near Gabrielle. She walked into the forest again, her mind full of conflicting emotions.
Gabrielle woke up and immediately sensed the warrior was not in the camp. She looked around the camp trying to figure out if Xena had come back at all last night. Seeing her scroll, she realized she must have fallen asleep while writing. When she sat up, the fur fell from her body and she smiled sadly. Yes. Xena had been back. She got up and picked up the scroll and put it in the saddlebag.
Getting the flask of water, their soap and some linen, she cleaned up as well as possible without the luxury of a stream or lake nearby. She had just finished donning her clothes when Xena emerged from the tree line carrying something in her hands.
"I thought you might like some breakfast," Xena said, handing Gabrielle the basket she had formed from twigs to carry the berries she found.
"Oh. Xena. Thanks." Gabrielle said, a smile breaking out on her face until she was overcome with a mind numbing sense of loss that almost took her breath away.
Xena saw her partner's face go pale and was at her side in an instant. "Are you ok?"
Gabrielle took a deep steadying breath and said, "Yeah. I'm fine." Plucking one of the berries from the basket, Gabrielle bit into it. The rich juice flowed into her mouth, but she had no appetite.
"Mind if I join you?"
That brought a small smile to her partner's face. "Oh course not."
Xena had spent the early morning hours deep in thought, the words on the scroll imprinted on her mind. She had expected to find out that Gabrielle didn't love her enough to stay with her anymore. And she wouldn't have blamed her. But that is not what the words on the scroll said and Xena knew she had to take some kind of extreme measure to stop their parting. It would kill both of them, if not physically, emotionally.
Sitting down next to her partner, she turned to face her. "We need to talk."
Gabrielle looked at Xena surprised. She knew it was probably about her leaving and her heart felt heavy. Xena never instigated the serious conversations. She had always done that.
"Xena, you can't talk me out of it," Gabrielle said, looking at the gentle movement of the leaves on the tress.
"I read the scroll you wrote last night."
Gabrielle tried to work up some anger at the invasion of her privacy, but couldn't. She had written it for Xena anyway. What was the difference if she knew now instead of later?
"If you read it, then you should know there's not much to talk about," Gabrielle said quietly.
Xena took at the troubled face of her partner. Gathering her thoughts, she asked, "Do you mind if I hold your hand?"
Gabrielle looked up, startled. Gods, it really had come to this, hadn't it? With a wan smile, she said, "No. I'd like that."
When the larger hand gently grasped her own, Gabrielle had to fight back tears. The comfort afforded by that simple contact, which had been missing for so long, struck her to the depth of her soul.
Xena began speaking, her voice low and calm, belying the emotions running rampant through her mind. "Gabrielle. I'm sorry for betraying your trust in me."
"What are you talking about?" Gabrielle asked, genuinely puzzled.
Xena met the questioning green eyes with her own. Softly squeezing her partner's hand, she said, "I've always loved the optimistic way you had of looking at things. You always tried to find a peaceful alternative, no matter how great the odds were."
The warrior paused, trying to find the right words. "I asked you to give up the very things you stand for when I asked you to lead the villagers to war. And it wasn't the first time either. That was so wrong."
"Xena. Wait. I didn't have to lead the villagers. I knew you were right. I was the most qualified. It was the only solution."
"No it wasn't. You would have been just as effective advising Flanagan. I know that now. I didn't lose my focus because of you Gabrielle. I lost it because of what I had done to you."
Gently brushing a wisp of hair that had blown into her soulmate's face, Xena said, "I knew I didn't deserve your trust anymore. That's why I tried to leave you twice. You wouldn't let me. Even after all I had done to you, you never lost faith in me."
Gabrielle reached up and wiped away a slowly falling tear from the warrior's face. "But I did something worse. I quit trusting you. I listened to strangers and placed more value on their words that yours."
"I understood why you did that and I don't blame you. I've been thinking about this a lot Gabrielle. I let you shoulder responsibility for decisions I made that you had no control over. That was wrong."
"I had choices. I made them. You can't take responsibility for that Xena. We both made mistakes." Gabrielle felt some of the weight lift from her shoulders at the truth of her words.
Looking away from her partner, Xena sighed. "Yes we did." And how I wish I could change that, but I can't. Turning to face her soulmate, Xena said, "I love you Gabrielle. In the scroll you said you still loved me. Is that true?"
Gabrielle closed her eyes briefly. Was there ever any doubt? No, she had never stopped loving her partner. "Yes Xena. I love you."
Xena searched for the right words to express the depth of her feelings. "Isn't our love worth another chance?"
Gabrielle looked up into the captivating blue eyes and saw the love reflected back at her. She felt a faint flicker of the optimism that had eluded her for so long.
Pulling her soulmate into a hug, she said, "Yes, it is. We're worth another chance."
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