Disclaimer 1: Don't own ‘em, wish I did cause Xena wouldn't have gone out like that, let me tell ya!
Disclaimer 2: This story is told on the premise that these two women are in love with each other. Nothing graphic, just declarations of love. If this offends, I feel very, very sorry for you. Please go out and have a chocolate milkshake cause I don't know of anything else that would help!
Author's note: This story takes place after the events of the episodes The Quest and A Necessary Evil. I am a firm believer that this was the moment when neither one was willing to let things continues as they were before. I mean Xena could hear Gabrielle's thoughts for crying out loud. And I am also a firm believer that Xena came back because of Gabrielle and the pain she was feeling.
However, having said that, I realized that the events of A Necessary Evil followed far too closely to Xena's rebirth. And that any serious discussion that these two were going to have would have to come after Valesca had been taken care of.
And of course, knowing the two people involved I think that they might have had a hard time broaching the subject. The gods know that Xena is just so talkative. So, here's how I think the walls finally fell between them.
The lyrics that I included at various points are from the song Anywhere by Evanescence. I found this song by accident one day while surfing on youtube.com. There is a beautiful video of Xena and Gabrielle there using this song that completely captures their relationship and what they mean to each other. I strongly urge all of you who read this to check it out as it inspired me to sit down and write this! It's at the following website.
If you can't access it there, I have it imbedded at my webpage at:
www.myspace.com/perky262003; just scroll down and it's on the bottom on the left.
As always, feedback is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Flamers can go jump off a cliff!
Dear my love, haven't you wanted to be with me
And dear my love, haven't you longed to be free
Xena awoke to sunlight dancing on her face and she frowned as she opened her eyes. The sun shone in through the window, its gentle light dancing through the trees. Surprised that she had slept so far past dawn, she reached a hand out across the bed only to find the space next to her empty and cool. The frown deepened as she realized that somehow, Gabrielle had left their hut without waking her.
She sat up, getting out of bed and rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she crossed the large room of the Queen's hut. Her armor was in the corner, right where she'd left it and her weapons were near the bed. Even in the middle of the Amazon village, she still felt the need to be prepared. And the events of the last week had only reinforced that habit.
She looked around the room as she splashed water on her face and wondered just how long Gabrielle had been up and where she'd run off to. It was not like her traveling companion to rise before she did; more often then not, Xena was the one to rouse the sound sleeping bard. And it was even more unusual for Xena not to be awakened by her once she did rise.
She donned her armor quickly and efficiently and decided that maybe she should go find her. Then, maybe they could grab some breakfast together. The gods knew that they hadn't managed to spend a great deal of time together recently. And she was beginning to wish they were out on the road and well away from Gabrielle's well meaning and well intentioned Amazon sisters.
She left the hut to see that everyone else had started their day. The village was bustling with a great deal of controlled chaos.
She bounced down the stairs and grabbed the first passing Amazon she saw.
"Have you seen Gabrielle this morning?" She sighed when the Amazon simply shook her head and ran off. Thinking that maybe the bard was eating, she headed towards the communal cooking hut, keeping all her senses peeled for the young Amazon queen.
She popped her head into the kitchen area to see Eusta and Caith bustling away. "Hey, has Gabrielle been in here yet?"
Eusta nodded. "She came in real early for something to drink and then ran off. Last I knew she was on the west end of the village overseeing some new project Ephiny wanted to start."
Xena gave her a nod and a small grin. "Thanks Eusta." And then she was gone, heading towards the west end of the village.
As she walked along, she found herself pausing for a moment to admire the view around her. What she saw lifted her somewhat sagging spirits. Gone was the burnt debris, the piles of rubble and destroyed buildings. In place of the shattered remnants of the village stood newly constructed buildings and homes, erected by a people too proud to know when to quit. And encouraged by a queen far too determined and stubborn for her own good.
Injuries too had been minor; most were little more than cuts and bruises with a few broken bones thrown into the mix. There had been one death but given what could have happened when faced with a newly made rampaging goddess, Xena felt extremely fortunate.
She started walking once more, even waving as several Amazons greeted her by name but didn't stop. Things were finally returning to normal and it was time that she and Gabrielle had a serious talk and today was going to be the day. The final repairs were being finished and the last injured Amazon had been released from the healers care. Now she could turn her attention to helping her friend recover from the emotional pain of the past week.
Gabrielle tried to deny it, even tried to play it all off, saying that all she really needed was time. But Xena wasn't fooled. Something was still deeply troubling her friend. And it was something that she was still hesitant to talk about, something that surprised Xena a great deal.
It happened their first night together after her resurrection. They wanted to camp outside the village for some privacy but the Amazons, Ephiny in particular insisted that they sleep in a comfortable bed. So they'd commandeered the Queen's hut, sitting outside of it, talking quietly about nothing important until well after dark.
Xena had simply sat on a bench, sharpening her sword just enjoying the sensations of life around her. There'd been no desire to sleep or to eat despite the fatigue and hunger she felt. Those desires had been overwhelmed by the simple need to sit and feel once more. And so she had sat there for what seemed like a long time, honing her blade and reminding herself of everything she missed about being alive.
Gabrielle sat with her for a time keeping her company but upon seeing a long jaw-cracking yawn come from her friend, Xena suggested she head off to bed, saying she would be there shortly.
Gabrielle nodded sleepily and stood as another yawn escaped her. She reached out and touched Xena's arm for a moment and in the next, enveloped the taller woman in a fierce embrace.
Touched Xena returned the embrace without thinking, simply enjoying the moment of quiet between them. And after a moment, gently nudged the bard off to bed. Several moments later, the sound of soft snoring came through the window, its delicate rumble picked up by her sensitive ears. She smiled slightly as she paused in her sharpening to listen to a noise that she had never thought to hear again.
Xena smiled slightly, giving her sword one last pass and stood there for a moment staring up at the stars. Feeling an urge to reach out and trace patterns in them as she and Gabrielle had done so many times before. The thought brought a smile to her face; those times seemed like a lifetime ago.
Another gentle snore drifted to her ears and she decided that maybe she should probably head off to bed herself. So putting her sharpening supplies away and with sword in hand, she walked into the hut to sleep her first night of sleep since she'd died.
She walked into the room just as Gabrielle awoke screaming, her face and body bathed in sweat. Panicked, Xena dropped her sword and nearly leaped over to the bed. She reached out to touch Gabrielle gently and the bard jerked upright and away from her hands.
"Gabrielle, it's me. I'm here. It's all right, you're safe." She grasped the shaking woman firmly, trying to pull her out of the nightmare she was obviously trapped in.
Gabrielle turned at her voice, her red-rimmed eyes nearly obscuring the dark circles underneath them. She trembled slightly as she reached out to touch Xena's face. "Xena?"
Xena smiled, touching the hand on her face. "Yeah, you okay?"
Gabrielle's hand dropped and she nodded, swiping a hand across her face as she tried to compose herself once more. "Yeah, just a nightmare."
Xena got a damp cloth from the nearby stand and gently wiped the bard's pale face. She had a pretty good idea of just what had caused the nightmare and felt a new surge of guilt at causing her friend pain.
"Some nightmare. Sure you're all right?"
Gabrielle nodded as Xena set the cloth aside. "Yeah, I am now."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Gabrielle shook her head, shuddering. "No, not tonight. Tomorrow when it's light out, I promise."
Xena understood and silently removed her armor and crawled into bed. She reached out and pulled the bard against her side, offering comfort and rubbing her back with a soothing motion as she closed her eyes.
"Come on, let's get some sleep. No more nightmares tonight, okay." She felt Gabrielle nod and then she drifted off herself a few moments later a vague fearful thought of just what Gabrielle's nightmare had been about following her down into the darkness.
There had been no more nightmares, but they also had not managed to talk about it either.
Xena was broken from her thoughts as her ears picked up the familiar sound of Gabrielle's laughter. She headed in the direction of the sound and came upon a group of Amazons standing near the young Queen. She was close enough to catch part of the conversation.
"This looks like a great spot. Double check with Ephiny first though. She might know of a better one."
The Amazon bowed slightly, flashed the bard a smile and dashed off.
Xena smiled slightly at the look of near adoration and hero worship she could see on the young Amazon's face. Then Gabrielle turned, flashing her own smile and for a moment, Xena well understood the adoration on the young Amazon's face. She was pretty sure she had nearly the same dorky expression on her face at that moment.
Gabrielle stepped closer, touching Xena's arm and without thinking, Xena let her own hand come up and touch her shoulder.
"You were up early."
Gabrielle grinned slightly at the gentle ribbing. "I'm a little surprised by that myself."
"I'm a little amazed that you managed to get up without waking me."
"I didn't want to wake you. You looked so tired last night and I thought you could use the sleep."
Xena smiled as her arm dropped around the bard's shoulders and they began walking back towards the center of the village. She felt an arm come up and wrap around her waist and simply let it stay, enjoying the contact.
"I can sleep when I'm…" She let the sentence trail off, feeling the bard stiffen. She turned, seeing the stricken expression cross her friend's face and mentally kicked herself for her callous words. "Sorry, that was a bit harsh."
Gabrielle took a deep breath and shook her head. "Don't apologize, it's just an expression. I shouldn't let it bother me."
Xena stopped walking, forcing Gabrielle to face her as she spoke. "But it does Gabrielle and I know it's not the only thing." The bard remained silent so Xena continued. "I talked with Altara yesterday. She released the last Amazon from the healing hut around dinner time yesterday. And, I've also spoken with Solari and she said that the last of the repairs should be finished today, with or without our help."
Gabrielle nodded a pleased expression on her face, "Sounds like everything is back to normal."
"Seems that way." She crossed her arms and gave the young Amazon her best, no nonsense look. "So are you ready to talk?"
"About?" Gabrielle replied innocently.
Xena simply quirked an eyebrow, not having to say a word.
Gabrielle smiled slightly, a slightly chagrined look flashing across her face. "Yeah, I know stupid of me to think that you wouldn't remember."
Gabrielle shivered slightly, crossing her arms over her chest. "They're just nightmares Xena. They haven't bothered me since that first night."
"Gabrielle, what are they about?" Her tone was gentle but firm.
Gabrielle took a deep breath, gazing off into the distance as she spoke. "Flash backs, mostly of you getting hit by that log and then dying in Niklio's hut." She turned to look at Xena, a strange, unreadable look on her face. A tear slowly slid down Gabrielle's face as she spoke.
Xena resisted the urge to reach up and wipe it away, feeling her heart clench at the pain and fear in her friend's voice. "Why didn't you tell me about any of this?"
Gabrielle sniffed loudly, angrily wiping the tear away. "What good would it do Xena? You're back, it's just going to take my brain a little longer to get over you dying is all."
Xena draped her arm across the shorter woman's shoulders once more and began leading her through the village. "Well, if it helps, you can keep using me as a pillow at night."
Gabrielle chuckled as she gave Xena a hug. "Sometimes I'm really glad you're so understanding. It'd be really embarrassing if I was so touchy feely with someone else."
Xena smiled and then her face grew serious. "So other than the nightmares, are you all right?"
She was quiet for several moments, lost in thought before she answered. "Okay, I guess. This was a little scary. People have hunted me before, but only to hurt you. No one's ever hunted me before. How do you deal with it?"
Xena smiled. "I've had longer to get used to it I guess. Besides, with my violent tendencies only the real idiots keep trying."
Gabrielle chuckled. "You've got a point there."
Xena chuckled along with her and they walked in silence for the next few minutes. A sudden thought occurred to Xena and she turned back to her shorter companion with the idea. "Listen, why don't we take a break for a few days, give you a chance to catch your breath."
Gabrielle smiled and nodded. "I'd like that."
"So where would you like to go?"
Gabrielle shrugged, nodding at someone who greeted her as they passed. "Could we just stay in the village for a few days? I mean we did just spend all of that time and effort to help them rebuild. I'd like to enjoy it for awhile."
Xena smirked slightly knowing full well what would happen if they stayed in the village. "All right but if you stay, they might decide to throw a party."
Gabrielle snorted softly. "Yeah right, like Amazons need an excuse to do that. I think they're planning to throw one whether we stay or not."
Again Xena smirked. "Probably, still wanna stay?"
Gabrielle smiled, "Absolutely."
They stopped in front of the food hut and Gabrielle's stomach took that moment to roar loudly at her. They both chuckled at the familiar sound.
"I'm guessing you haven't had much to eat yet."
Again the chagrined look flashed across Gabrielle's face. "No, not really."
"Come on, let's get the monster fed. Then we can go find Ephiny and Solari." She led the bard inside.
I can't keep pretending that I don't even know you
And at sweet night, you are my own
Take my hand
They walked into the hut and Xena noticed that Ephiny was all ready there, eating alone. She and Gabrielle grabbed something to eat and headed over to Ephiny's table.
Ephiny looked up in surprise as Gabrielle and Xena sat across from her.
"Hey, I was wondering where you two had gotten off to."
Gabrielle dug into her food with gusto, her appetite still not managing to hinder her ability to talk. "Just finishing picking out the location for the new storage hut you wanted."
Ephiny nodded, pushing her nearly finished breakfast aside. "Good, one less thing on my mind."
"Glad I could help. So what's on the agenda for today Ephiny?"
Ephiny shrugged, thinking. "Well, there are a few minor issues with a couple of our neighbors."
Xena spoke up for the first time, "Anything serious?"
Ephiny shook her head. "No, mostly just updating treaties and renegotiating land rights. Its pretty boring stuff actually."
Xena shrugged and turned her attention back to her food.
"I'd like to take a look if you don't mind." Gabrielle shoved the last morsel into her mouth as she finished speaking and began eyeing was left on Xena's plate.
Ephiny watched the bard in amusement. "Sure. Then there're the plans for the party in a couple of days."
Gabrielle snorted as she snagged a piece of cheese and popped it into her mouth. "I told you they'd throw a party."
Xena shrugged ignoring the theft. "I never said they wouldn't."
Gabrielle gave her a quizzical look, snagging another piece of cheese as she did so. "All right fine, whatever you say."
Xena turned her attention to her shorter companion, handing over the rest of her plate as she did so. "As I recall I was the one who said they'd probably throw a party. You were the one who said they just needed an excuse."
Gabrielle chuckled. "You're splitting hairs again.
"Yeah well only one of us can be right. And since I've got the better track record…" she drained her cup as she watched Gabrielle ate the rest of her breakfast.
Ephiny watched the entire exchange in bewilderment. "If you two are done, I can go on."
They both turned to her and Gabrielle nodded. "Oh please, by all means finish."
Ephiny gave a wry grin. "Thank you. As I was saying, there are the preparations for the party in two days. And we were thinking that since that night falls so close to one of our minor festivals to Artemis, we'd like to combine the two and just celebrate everything all at once."
Gabrielle nodded, eating the last piece of bread, her stomach finally full "sounds good."
Xena sighed. "Sounds like a real pain in the…"
Gabrielle slapped her arm playfully, startling Ephiny "Xena."
Xena rolled her eyes. "Well what do expect me to say?" She turned to look at the regent. "Come on Eph, when it comes to festivals and parties you Amazons don't do minor."
Gabrielle was still confused. "Which means?"
"This means that this party just got a whole lot bigger."
"And as our Queen you get to officiate in some of the rituals and judge in some of the competitions." She gave the queen a grand smile.
Gabrielle groaned softly as she realized just what the party meant for her. "Why do I get the feeling that this is going to turn out to be a real pain in the…"
"Gabrielle!" Xena did not slap her arm, but her tone of voice was enough to stop the bard.
She grinned sheepishly at Xena, an impish twinkle in her eye as she changed the subject. "Look, now that that's all settled, I'm gonna go find Eponin; now that things have calmed down a bit I think its time I took her up on her offer to spar."
Xena smirked at her knowing full well why Gabrielle was seeking out the Amazon's weapons master. "And you call me competitive."
Gabrielle sat there with an innocent look on her face, her arms crossed over her chest. "And just what's that supposed to mean?"
Xena shrugged, looking around the room casually, ignoring Ephiny's startled gaze. "Nothing, I'm sure you just want to spar."
Gabrielle snorted slightly. "Right, I'm really buying that one." Her finger reached out and poked the taller woman in the chest. "Spill Princess."
Xena, somewhat pleased that she was playing along pretended to confess. "Fine. I think you just want to show her how much you've improved since we were here the last time."
"You make that sound like a bad thing?" Xena and Ephiny both laughed. "Besides, with you as my sparring partner for the last season, how could I do anything but improve?" Gabrielle stood to leave.
"Well have fun and don't overdue it. You seemed a little stiff yesterday."
Gabrielle laughed. "Yeah well I was the one hanging over the lava pit earlier this week. That'd make anybody tense."
"Meet you here for lunch?"
"Yeah, sounds good."
"Try not to eat the entire food hut before I get here."
"Funny, real funny, just see if I save you anything good." Then she was gone.
Xena turned to see Ephiny watching her with a strange look on her face. "So, you seem completely recovered."
She shrugged. "Yeah, I am. And it looks the village is none the worse for wear either."
Ephiny chuckled. "We're hoping that things start to calm down now but with you two around who knows."
"Speaking of the two of us, I'd like to talk to you for a minute."
Ephiny leaned forward, her expression serious but open. "Sure, what's up?"
Xena felt a little silly asking Ephiny for permission to stay but she pushed on. "We'd like to stay for a few days, if that's all right." She twisted her hands together as she explained. "Gabrielle needs some rest, some time to get her balance back. This whole mess has bothered her a lot more than she's been letting on. I think we could both use some peace and quiet."
Ephiny sat up a little straighter and snorted softly. "Like she even needs to ask, like you need to ask, you're both welcome here whenever you might need a place to stay. She's our Queen and this will always be her home. You be sure to tell her that later."
"I will." She was pleasantly surprised by the open ended welcome.
She nodded, looking around a bit at the suddenly crowded hut. "It's kind of sensitive. Is there some place we can talk?"
Understanding, Ephiny stood. "Yeah, sure, follow me."
We're leaving here tonight
There's no need to tell anyone
They'd only hold us down
Ephiny led Xena to the throne room which was deserted at that time of day. "So, what's on your mind?" She indicated pull up a chair.
Xena sat down, her eyes never leaving Ephiny's face. "Gabrielle."
Ephiny did not seem surprised by the topic. "Oh?"
Xena leaned forward in her chair. "I need you to level with me Ephiny. When I died, how bad was it?"
Ephiny took a deep breath, letting it out in a rush and studied her hands before answering. "Xena, I'm not sure I'm the one to tell you…"
Xena held up her hand. "Ephiny, please I've tried asking her but she just blows me off, acts like there's nothing to it. She's hurting still, I can see it. She won't let me in and I don't know what to do."
Ephiny hesitated only a second longer. "She looked terrible. And not just because she wasn't sleeping she'd stopped eating too. I know it couldn't have been for long, but you know how she is. She just runs everything off and she had almost no reserves to start with. So it didn't take long for her to start looking bad. She was so gaunt, so frail looking. I was sure that a stiff breeze would knock her down."
Xena nodded. "I noticed that when I was fighting Valesca."
"We got her eating again by bullying her, hounding her and yelling at her. We got through somehow. But she was having the most horrific nightmares. She'd wake up screaming night after night. I don't think there was a single Amazon here that wasn't woken by her screams." Ephiny shuddered at the memory. "After the first time, she spooked everyone so bad, that I took to sleeping in her hut. When she woke from the nightmares, I'd hold her and let her cry it out. The first night that you were back was the first night that she's slept all the way through since you died."
Xena sighed hating the pain her friend was going through. Especially since it seemed the nightmares she'd been having since Perdicus' death had worsened. She'd been witness to that herself.
"If I'd known that I wouldn't have kept her up so late talking. I knew she was taking it hard but I had no idea she was taking it that hard. And she didn't really sleep through the night then either; she had a nightmare than too." Xena sighed, resting her head in her hands, trying to rub the tension out of her head.
Ephiny reached out, touching her arm. "Don't beat yourself up over it Xena, you couldn't have known."
Xena shrugged. "Habit."
"Well, she should be all right now." She pulled her hand back. "You're back now."
Xena nodded. "About that, I just wanted to say, thanks for your help. I don't think we could have done it without you."
Ephiny waved a hand at her. "No need Xena. You've helped us out when we needed it and you helped me. I'd say we're even."
Xena shrugged, pressing on. "Still. And thanks for taking care of Gabrielle. I'm glad she had someone to turn to."
Ephiny smiled slightly. "She's easy to care for isn't she?"
Xena nodded. "Yeah, she is."
Ephiny reached out, touching her arm once more. "Just do us a favor."
Xena looked at her wryly. "What's that?"
"Don't die on her again for awhile all right?" Her tone was light, but her face was set in serious lines.
Suddenly somber, Xena nodded. "I'll see what I can do."
To be continued
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