Changes of Heart: Truths

By CN Winters

Please see part one for all disclaimers.

"Iíve finished a new poem," August said in a shy tone. "Would you like to hear it?"

"Certainly," the bard grinned, looking up from sharpening her sais. The only sounds to be heard were the chirping of a few crickets and the crackle of the campfire. Nervously August cleared her throat.

"Toned and tan she glistens in the sun. Her body moves like lightening and in battle she never runs. Her hair is golden silk and blows lightly in the breeze and I pray to the gods that someday that sheíll look upon me. And in doing so I hope she sees the truth thatís really there. Of all the friends and faces Iím the one that really cares."

August fiddled with the bottom of the parchment and chewed lightly on her upper lip.

Oh boy. Gabrielleís fingers ran briefly through her growing locks, stopping at her temple to nurse her headache, which suddenly appeared. "August-."

"I love you Gabrielle."

August looked as surprised as Gabrielle did by the omission.

"August youíre a wonderful girl-."

Gabrielle didnít have the chance to continue. Suddenly she was bombarded with the weight of the young lady upon her. Her lips latched tightly to hers. But as quick as the Ďattackí came, Gabrielle had the girl by the upper arms, keeping her at bay.

"Listen to me August . . . please?"

Utter defeat washed over the young girlís face when she realized she wasnít quite as Ďwonderfulí as she assumed. Soon her cheeks became red with embarrassment.

"I got some huge rabbits!!" they heard Eponin say from behind them. The amazon looked at the scenario in front of her Ė Gabrielle with a firm grasp on August and August sitting in Gabrielleís lap. "Should I come back later?" Eponin asked sarcastically at the display before her. I donít believe it. She refuses ME but sheíll take up with thatÖthatÖgirl?

"Itís not what it looks like," Gabrielle explained.

"And it never will be either," August pouted rising to her feet. "Iím going for a walk," she announced and turned heel. "Iím sorry for being so foolish."

"August," Gabrielle called out. "Please stay. I want to speak with you."

"I think you said all you needed to say."

With that Gabrielle and Eponin watched August go into the woods. Gabrielle let out a deep sigh and Eponin smiled.

"Whatís so funny?" Gabrielle asked thoroughly frustrated.

"YouÖyou sexy thing you," Eponin chuckled. "All the women just go mad over youÖmyself included," she winked.

"Well you I can handle," Gabby smiled as she stood up. "August however is a little different."

"Youíre right you can handle me," Eponin said pulling the bard closer by the waist. "Anyway you want by the way," she added in a smoky tone.

Gabrielle chuckled in spite of a rising uneasiness about being so close to Eponin. She cared deeply for Eponin but she knew she didnít love her. At least not the way one should with a lover Ė the way she loved Xena.

"I havenít been Ďhandledí in so long I think Iíve forgot how it goes," Gabrielle joked to lighten the mood Eponin was trying to set.

"Itís like riding a horse Ė once you learn you never forget. And Iíd be more than happy to reintroduce you to . . . Ďhandlingí." Eponinís fingers stroked Gabrielleís cheek and traced a tiny pattern down to her lips.

Gabrielle closed her eyes and against her better judgement she planted a light kiss on Eponin's finger which halted itís movement. Gabrielle opened her eyes and took Eponinís free hand in hers.

"Itís a wonderful offer but as Iíve said-."

"Youíre not ready," Eponin finished. "I understand. These things take time and Iím not gonna push . . . Look, why donít you find the kiddo and do the heart-to-heart chat, okay? Iíll get dinner going." Gabrielle smiled and pulled Eponin down, giving her a light kiss on the cheek. "Whatís that for?" the ex-amazon asked.

"Youíve really been wonderful to me these past few months when Iíve needed it most. Thank you."

Eponin released her hold and took Gabrielle gently by the hand, kissing her knuckles. "No thank you. Iím honored to be your traveling companionÖnow go find your admirer and set her straight."

Gabrielle nodded and started into the woods. She didnít have to go far. She found the young woman sitting on a fallen tree limb, soaked in the moonlight.

"August," Gabrielle called gently. "Will you talk to me now . . . please?"

"I have nothing to say Gabrielle. Iíve already said too much."

"Hey now," Gabrielle said taking a seat next to the young lady, "Thatís a beautiful poem but youíve got the wrong woman. Iím not the one for you, honest. You might not believe that now but itís true."

"Like I saidÖI was foolish."

"No, donít say that," Gabrielle said firmly. "Youíve got a lot of courage to put your feelings out like that. Iíve seen Ďbraverí people carry a torch for years and say absolutely nothing about how they really feel out of fear." Like Xena. "And Iíve cared for people too and couldnít give voice to it." Like me. "So donít ever think for a moment that youíre being a fool for telling someone how you feel, especially when those feelings are full of warmth and light. The true fool is one who never says anything and letís opportunities pass them by, never knowing what could have been. You may win. You may lose. But at least you were in the Ďgameí."

That brought a small grin to Augustís face. "So what youíre saying is that . . . itís better to love and lose than to never love at all."

Gabrielle considered it a moment. "Yes thatís exactly what I mean."

"I should write that down," August thought out loud. "Thatís pretty good. Remind me to put that on my parchment when I get back."

Itís better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all? Yeah that is pretty good. In fact . . . thatís where Iím at now isnít it? I wished things had turned out differently. But in light of it all Iím still grateful for the time we had together. And I realize we both gave all we could to each other . . . this past year just hasnít been enough. And I canít go on being angry with Xena for not giving me something that she couldn't give. I loved. And I lost. But the game was wonderful while it lasted.

"Whatís that smile for?" August asked the bard as she watched the growing smile on Gabrielleís face.

Gabrielle tousled the hair on top of the young womanís head. "I donít think Iím angry anymore sweetie. That has nothing to do with you and I know you have no idea what Iím talking about," Gabrielle chuckled. "But trust me. Itís a good thing." Because if Iím not mad . . . then I can move on . . .where ever that may be...


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