by Alicia Christian
"I will not pay that much for a horseshoe," said Xena.
"Then you will do without," said the merchant smugly.
"Fine, but know that you are robbing me, and I don't like to be robbed."
"Maybe we can make a deal," the merchant said acknowledging the tone in Xena's voice.
When Xena had just finished shoeing Argo Gabrielle rushed in.
"Where have you been, Gabrielle? It's time to leave."
"Xena, is there any way we can stay the night?"
"Why? We have places to go, people to help. There's nothing here."
"Xena, I met someone."
Xena frowned. That was certainly the last thing she wanted to hear. "Whom did you meet?"
"A man, his name was Erik. He was complimenting me and then he was gone. But the strangest thing was I think he knew who I was."
Xena knew immediately who it was. Erik the sorcerer lived near here. And he was infamous for his appetite for women. There was no way Xena was going to let him have her Gabrielle. Wait a second, what was she thinking? Gabrielle was not hers, she never would be.
"So can we stay?"
Xena wanted more than anything to say no, to get away from this place. But she couldn't. She didn't want to deny Gabrielle anything she wished. Even if she was breaking her own heart in the process.
"Fine, we can stay."
"Thank you," Gabrielle said as she kissed her on the cheek. Xena expressed the normal look of disgust although inside she was feeling quite differently.
"I'll go get us a room," Gabrielle said heading toward the inn. "Oh wait, Xena. By the way, there's to be a celebration tonight. You can meet him then." Gabrielle strode off toward the inn, leaving Xena to think.
She loved her. She knew that now. It had taken her a long while to admit to that but she finally could. She began to notice her feelings every time she looked at Gabrielle. She felt a longing for her she hadn't felt for anyone in a long time. When Gabrielle would sleep, Xena would watch her wanting only to hold her in her arms. But she knew Gabrilelle didn't want the same. Why would she? She was a young beautiful girl. She could have any man she wanted. She could have Erik. He was rumored to be extremely handsome. He would probably win her heart, but what then? Would Gabrielle leave her? Xena knew one day this would happen but she still wasn't prepared. That was very unlike her to not be prepared for something. But when it came to matters of the heart who was ever prepared?
Xena turned to see Gabrielle staring at her with a look of concern. "What?"
"Are you okay? You looked like you were a million worlds away. What were you thinking about?"
"Nothing, Gabrielle. I need to take a bath." With that she walked past Gabrielle toward the inn. Shaking her head, Gabrielle followed her.
After her bath Xena got dressed and lay on the bed trying to shut out thoughts of Gabrielle with a man, Gabrielle leaving her, it was all too depressing. She looked up and noticed Gabrielle undressing. She closed her eyes and lay back. The best way to get over her is to stop thinking about her. Completely. She needed to do that. She needed to realize she could never have her.
"Xena," Gabrielle called from the tub.
"Come in here and talk to me."
Oh great, thought Xena. This'll really help me get over her. Xena got up and walked in where Gabrielle was bathing.
"What's up?" she asked.
"Do you think maybe he's a sorcerer?"
"Yes, Gabrielle. I know him. He is Erik the Sorcerer."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't think it was important that I knew him."
"Xena, when are you going to be able to let me into what goes on in that head of yours?"
If you only knew, Xena thought. "Gabrielle, I'm going to lay down. Wake me when you're ready to go to this festival."
Xena lay back down leaving Gabrielle to wonder why her friend was acting so strange. There must be more to this Erik than Xena was letting on. Either way, she would find out tonight.
When they arrived, they found a table to sit at. While Xena waited, Gabrielle went off to find her mysterious Erik. It wasn't long before she heard a familiar voice behind her.
"I see you're good at keeping your promises, princess." Gabrielle whirled around to see Erik standing there grinning.
"Yes I am. Come here, I want you to meet someone." They walked over to where Xena was sitting. "This is my friend Xena. Xena, Erik."
"Enchanted," said Erik. "I've heard much of you, but have not until now had the good fortune to meet you."
"Your reputation preceeds you as well," Xena could have kicked herself as she got the last words out. She was doing a great job of playing it cool, coming off looking like the jealous girlfriend.
Erik only smiled," I see. Gabrielle, we must dance."
"I'd love to," she said turning to look at Xena to see if it was okay. Xena only looked out at the nearby brook. She couldn't make eye contact with Gabrielle right now. She was afraid she would give too much away.
"Your friend Xena's a tough one, huh?"
"Sometimes she gets in her moods where social contact's the last thing she needs. It's hard for her to like people because she's very guarded. I guess she has to be though, being a warrior princess."
"Yes, I guess she does. So let's talk about you. How long do you plan to travel with the warrior princess?"
"As long as she needs me. I would do anything for Xena. Really it's difficult to imagine my life without her."
"Don't you want a family? Children?"
"The strange thing is , I don't yearn for anything. I'm happy now. I try not to think about the future."
"So if I asked you to marry me and live with me in my humble home you would choose life with Xena over me?"
"Erik, I hardly know you. Why would I marry you?"
"I'm talking about the future. When you've known me long enough."
"Ah, but I told you I don't think about the future."
Xena watched them dance and laugh. She wanted more than anything to be out there, holding Gabrielle. Stop it. She wasn't going to think about that anymore. She needed to get over this. She needed to regain control of her emotions. Losing that was where a warrior princess got in trouble. She looked up in time to see Gabrielle coming in her direction. She then made sure to keep a disinterested look upon her face no matter what Gabrielle said.
"Oh Xena," Gabrielle said as she sat down. "He's wonderful, really. But then again he is a sorcerer. It's probably a spell he put on me."
"That's great Gabrielle." Great, she had sounded sarcastic.
"Xena, what's troubling you. You haven't been the same since we got here."
"Gabrielle, don't worry about me. I'm not your concern." Okay, good going on the playng it cool bit. She was doing a great job. Why didn't she just blurt out that she was jealous because she was secretly in love with her.
"How can you say that? You'll always be my concern. You're my best friend."
"Exactly Gabrielle, and that doesn't last forever." Xena stomped off into the woods before she could do anymore damage.
Just as she left Erik sat down noticing the hurt look on Gabrielle's face. "May I ask you what's wrong?"
"It's just Xena. She's upset about something and she's taking it out on me."
Erik thought to himself. He knew the warrior princess was in love with Gabrielle. He could feel that. What he didn't know was how Gabrielle felt about her. Gabrielle hadn't yet dealt with her feelings. She probably didn't know if they existed. So he was faced with a dilemma. Should he help the two women get together and lose the chance of being with Gabrielle. Or should he use it against them to get her. He knew Xena would leave without a fight. She would never admit her feelings to Gabrielle unless she was sure the young girl felt the same. Always a dilemma involved in everything.
"Yes, I'm sorry, I was just thinking."
"What should I do?"
Erik looked at her. She was so innocent, so good. He had once been that way himself. The years had been plenty cruel to him and helpened to harden his heart. But seeing Gabrielle made him yearn for his boyhood and his innocence. And he decided to help her.
"Gabrielle, I'm going to do something I haven't done in a long, long time."
"I'm going to go the honorable route. I'm going to help you."
"Erik, I don't understand."
"Gabrielle, how do you feel about Xena. Know that you cannot lie, I will know."
"What do you mean? She's my best friend. I love her."
"Yes but is there anything more? Do you feel anything stronger than friendship?"
"I don't understand this line of questioning."
"Gabrielle look into your heart. Can you imagine being without Xena?"
Gabrielle thought for a minute. Without her? She'd never really thought of that possibility. It was then that she remembered the kiss, and how she had felt when Xena had kissed her that one time in a man's body. They had never discussed it, and Gabrielle had dismissed it as a friendly gesture. But she had forgotten how she had felt when her eyes were closed and she could actually feel Xena's lips.
"Okay, I see what you're getting at. But she doesn't want me, Erik. She doesn't need me like I need her."
"You're wrong you know."
"How do you know?"
"She'll never tell you Gabrielle, but I have a way in which you could trick her into telling you."
Gabrielle smiled. "I'm listening."
Xena sat on a boulder and proceeded to throw stone after stone into the brook. She would lose her for sure now. Gabrielle wouldn't put up with her cruel words for long. Not when she had Erik and his wonderful compliments. She threw another stone and watched it skip along the brook. Oh, what was she to do? How did she get this far gone? She sat still for a moment hearing something. There it was again. Someone was coming. Xena prepared for battle.
"I need to talk to you about something important."
Xena braced herself. "What's that?"
"Xena, I've decided I will burden you no longer."
Xena's body tensed. "What do you mean?"
"I'm going to stay with Erik."
"I figured as much Gabrielle. That's fine. I'm not going to argue."
"Unless, that is, you want me to come with you."
Xena wanted so badly to tell her everything she felt right now, in this instant. But it would only make Gabrielle's choice more difficult and it would serve no other purpose except to make herself look like a fool.
"Tell me Xena. Tell me you want me to stay and I will. I need only a word and I'll do it."
"Go, Gabrielle. Live with Eric. You were never meant to live a life like mine anyway."
"How can you be so heartless?" Gabrielle yelled, getting angry.
Xena was confused. "I don't understand. I told you to go."
"How can you not care whether I'm with you or not? How can you dismiss me just like that without even another thought? "
"Oh Gabrielle, you don't understand."
"I understand this. I understand that I love you and I can't imagine my life without you. Erik sent me down here with a plan. A plan to simply tell you I was staying and see if you argued or got upset or anything to acknowledge that you felt something for me. But I see nothing. No I am not staying here, I never would leave you. But now I have to decide what I do want to do, because it's clear I am not needed here with you." Gabrielle ran off toward the village, unable to control her sobs.
Xena sat there on her boulder, astonished. Gabrielle loved her. She wanted to be with her. And she was ruining everything with her silence. Why could she not just tell her? Why had she not stopped her? Xena threw one last stone into the brook and followed the path Gabrielle had taken.
She found her in their room at the inn. She was lying on the bed still sobbing. Xena lied down next to her and put her arms around her holding her tight. She then whispered in her ear, "I love you. And I don't ever want to be with anyone else."
Gabrielle turned over with tears in her eyes looking up at Xena. She then began to laugh.
"What are you laughing at? I just confess that I love you and you laugh at me?"
"No, I just realized that I lost a bet."
"And what bet was that?"
"That Erik's plan would work. I didn't think you loved me."
"Gabrielle, I've loved you for a long time now." Xena leaned down to taste the lips she had longed to kiss for so long. Gabrielle met her halfway mouth open inviting Xena's tongue. And then Xena pulled away. "Was the crying part of the plan too?"
"It was all part of the plan. Erik's brilliant."
"Erik's brilliant, but it's you I love." Gabrielle finished as she once again kissed the lips she too had longed to kiss for so long
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