Disclaimer 1: The characters Xena, Gabrielle and Argo are owned by MCA/Universal and they own all rights to them. I only borrowed them for this story. The rest of the story is mine.
Disclaimer 2: This story is NOT subtext, it is main text. It is written on the assumption that these two women are in love with each other. Nothing graphic, just a future assumption. So if this offends you, head somewhere else.
Author's Note: This story takes place just after the episode, Sins of the Past. I’ve always thought that there was an immediate connection between our battling duo. I mean why else would Xena agree for anyone, let alone someone who didn’t even know how to defend themselves follow along. So this is how I think things between them.
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“I think I’ll start a journal.” Gabrielle watched as Xena pulled out her sharpening stone and grabbed her sword, sitting across from her at the fire.
“A journal?” Xena set the stone to her sword and began the rhythmic motions to sharpen it.
“Ya know, to chronicle our adventures together.” The sound of the stone sliding against the sword filled their campsite and made Gabrielle smile. They’d only been traveling together for a few days but somehow, the sound of Xena’s nightly ritual had become a soothing and welcome aspect of her new life.
“Hmm.” The sound was simple and noncommittal.
Despite their short time together, Gabrielle felt a slight thrill run through her at having been able to keep the dark warrior involved in the conversation. She wasn’t known for being very vocal.
“You don’t think it’s a good idea?” As of yet, Xena had never told her one way or the other that any of her ideas were bad. Unless of course said idea placed her in some kind of danger. No, for the most part Xena had pretty much let Gabrielle go her own way in many things. It was one of the things that Gabrielle found herself pleasantly surprised by. That she could, in large part, start making her own decisions.
Xena shrugged. “It’s an idea.”
Gabrielle reached into her bag and brought out her writing supplies and laid them next to her as she contemplated her traveling companion. “You know, you’re not all that talkative.”
Again there was a shrug. “Not much to say.”
“Guess not. Well, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll just sit here and write in my journal.” Gabrielled took the scroll in her hands and proceeded to simply stare at it for several moments, the sound of Xena sharpening her sword fading to the background and she contemplated the blank surface before her.
She ran her fingers across the writing surface, feeling a slight shiver of anticipation run through her at the thought of putting down her thoughts. A wistful smile crossed her face as she let her mind wander to the possibilities of just what to write about.
There was sudden silence as Xena stopped sharpening her sword.
“What’re you doing?”
Gabrielle turned to her, her smile somewhat infectious and shy at having been caught daydreaming.
“I just love a fresh scroll. The way it smells, the way it feels, so fresh and crisp. I love the way they look too; it’s blank, empty. Just waiting for that first drop of ink, for that first idea to be formed and put down into words. With this in my hand, I’m like a god able to create something from nothing. It’s so exciting, so thrilling so…so…” She trailed off at a loss for words to explain the thrill that writing something new gave her.
Xena smiled slightly, returning to her sword.
“I’ll just take you’re word for it.”
Gabrielle grinned somewhat sheepishly as she unrolled the scroll once more and laid it across her lap.
“Sorry I get a little carried away sometimes.”
Xena shook her head slightly. “Hmm.”
The night is cool but pleasant and the stars are clearly visible in the inky black of the night sky. I’m sitting next to the fire listening to the sounds of nature and a sword being sharpened nearby, writing in this, my journal. I’ve decided to keep one apart from my scrolls. This way I can add my feelings and observations apart from whatever adventures we might end up running into.
Adventures. Just the thought of that word sends a thrill down my back. After all the time that I dreamed of leaving Potedia, I’ve finally done it. I’m not really running away, I mean technically I am but it’s only because I just don’t fit in there. Someday, after I’ve seen the world, maybe I’ll go back. For now though I’m traveling with Xena the Warrior Princess.
That sounds strange even in my own thoughts. That a simple farm girl like me could possibly be traveling with someone like her. She’s a legend; granted this legend is not really the good kind. Despite what she might think, I have heard stories. But I can’t possibly believe that the person in those stories is the same one sitting at the campfire sharpening her sword.
Those stories seem so blood-thirsty, so dark and violent. And while she might get violent when it’s called for, I just can’t see the warlord that everyone speaks of. All I can see is the woman who saved me and the other women from being sold as slaves.
That’s right, she saved me. She came out of nowhere and beat the snot out of Draco’s men unarmed and in a simple shift. She told me later that she had come there to bury her armor, her weapons and hopefully her past. I wonder if there was something more to that; as if maybe she’d come to bury herself as well. I may never know.
If I asked now, I know she won’t tell me the truth. No matter what she tells me, I know she doesn’t completely trust me. Not that I blame her; trusting the wrong person in her line of work is probably more than a little dangerous. And she’s not exactly the trusting kind in the first place. In fact she’s not really the talkative kind either. I’m lucky if she strings together more than three two-syllable words in a day. Getting information out of her is like trying to pull the fangs off a bacchae; very difficult and sometimes dangerous.
But I’m babbling again. Now I know what everyone might think about this. My following her around is like some kind of misplaced hero worship. She saved me so I feel this powerful need to follow her around like some half-crazed puppy. Well, it’s not like that.
I mean yes, I do feel a bit of hero worship here; who wouldn’t? She came out of nowhere, beat the tar out of a bunch of bad guys, made peace with her home village, including her mother and saved them from Draco. I don’t know a single person in all of Greece who wouldn’t be impressed by all that.
But, the reason I followed her when she left Potedia goes so much deeper than that. Until she came, I was a simple farm girl who could tell stories. I was betrothed to a simple farm boy I didn’t even love and knew that my days of carefree wandering and making up stories were drawing to a close. Soon I would have been expected to settle down into the roll of a housewife and raise a family.
I would find myself faced with days and nights of monotony as I toiled in my home and in the fields. No time for myself, no time for my stories and no time for dreaming. Year in and year out as time passed until one day I’d wake up and find myself an old woman who had done nothing more than what was expected of her. There just seemed such a sense of injustice in that to me.
I have so much more to offer the world and there’s so much more that I want to see. Traveling with Xena will give me the chance to do all of it. My parents never understood and the other villagers just thought I was a strange girl. But Lila, I think Lila understood. I’m gonna miss her so much. Maybe I’ll go back to visit her; I think she’d like that.
I just hope that she doesn’t get annoyed and send me home. I just want to be useful to her. The gods know I can’t fight and I know that I probably slow her down some. I most likely talk too much and little things tend to excite me. I ask way too many questions and I can be kind of nosy. I’m not in very good shape, I snore when I sleep and I don’t know a lot about living life on the road. But I can cook.
Xena was surprised by that; nearly as surprised as I was that she couldn’t. Its kind of strange really. I mean with all of her “many skills”, I find it hard to believe that this one managed to escape her. But if tonight’s attempt at it is any indication, she is sorely lacking in even the basic of culinary skills.
Maybe my cooking will be enough for her to keep me around. Maybe it’s true what they say about the path to fondness going through the stomach. Only time will tell. I for one plan on learning everything that will make me a valuable traveling companion.
Gabrielle finished writing and reread what she’d written. After a moment she nodded, satisfied and rolled up the scroll and stowed it away carefully in her bag. She looked across the fire and watched Xena doing the same with her sharpening stone.
Xena looked at her as she began taking off her armor and laying it by the fire, her sword and chakram lying next to her bedroll.
“You should get some sleep, we’ve got a long day tomorrow.”
Gabrielle shrugged slightly as she rolled out her bedroll.
“I don’t know if I can sleep; this is all so exciting.”
“Hmmm.” Xena walked to the edge of their campsite, watching as Gabrielle tried to make herself comfortable on the hard ground.
“Xena, where are you going?”
“I’ve got to go check the perimeter. I’ll be back in a minute.” She disappeared from one instant to the next, blending into the night without thought or effort.
Gabrielle stared at the spot she’d occupied just a moment before, unable to believe and yet somehow not surprised by Xena’s disappearing act. She made it look so easy. Gabrielle squinted trying to pick her out of the surrounding foliage; looking and listening as hard as she could for any movement. But there was nothing; almost as if the night had simply swallowed her up.
After a moment she gave up and simply lay back, staring at the stars in the sky, looking for familiar shapes. She smiled as she managed to make out the one that she thought looked like a bear, tracing its pattern in the sky with a finger. A sudden yawn took her by surprise. Despite the excitement, she was suddenly very tired.
She traced the bear pattern one more time using the motion to keep her awake for just another moment, knowing it for a silly, childish habit yet still unable to stop. Dropping her hand, she rolled over, her eyes closing.
In moments she was fast asleep, never hearing Xena return to camp to stand over her for a moment, a strange expression on her face. Then the moment was gone and Xena went to her side of the fire and lay down.
She stared at the stars for a few moments, the familiar shapes of constellations leaping out at her as she traced them with her eyes. She felt a strange smile cross her face as she picked out the one that she’d always thought looked like a dipper. Without thinking, her hand reached up and she used the tip of her finger to trace its shape in the night sky.
The smile still on her face, she let her hand fall as a gentle snoring began from her traveling companion. She glanced over to the other side of the fire but could only make out the reddish hues of her companions hair against the low light of embers coming from their fire.
She had no idea what possessed her to let the girl come with her. She was loud, she couldn’t fight, she talked too much and she snored. She asked too many questions, and questioned too many things. And if the truth be told, Xena thought she’d end up getting into a great deal of trouble, even without the danger of traveling with a certain ex-warlord.
But Xena admired her spirit. The girl had saved her, twice; it was that simple. Her mother had given her over to the mob to be stoned, or worse and she’d been prepared to take it. The gods knew that she deserved whatever they decided to do to her.
But this mere girl had stepped in and saved her from their vengeance, nearly making herself a target as well. Using nothing more than some logic and her own wits.
Xena had recognized her of course. Even if she’d never seen her face, or the shade of her hair or eyes, she would have known her in a crowd of a thousand others. That kind of strength and courage were hard to mistake even if seen only once. And Xena had seen the girl’s courage firsthand; the first time that Gabrielle had stepped forward and saved her; albeit unknowingly.
Xena wanted to do good. She desperately wanted to redeem herself and make up for the errors of her past. But after leaving Hercules, the true weight of the undertaking had hit her with all the subtly of a racing chariot. She found herself at a loss of just how and where to begin. And worse, she had no idea if she even had the strength to take the next step.
So, she found herself wandering, trying to find and keep to her new path. But that morning in the clearing she had come to the conclusion that she just wasn’t strong enough; not anymore. The weight of her deeds had been heavy on her heart and she couldn’t shake the darkness that filled her soul.
So, in a moment of despair, she simply gave up. She buried her weapons and her armor, prepared to sit and wait for whatever would come next. How could she have known that her despair would be interrupted by the sudden appearance of a group of slavers herding up their latest victims.
When Xena witnessed one of them step forward, offering herself to save her family and the other villagers, she had felt something rekindled inside her that she’d thought dead and buried. A desire to fight, a wave of anger so intense it made her soul burn with barely suppressed rage. So she had stepped forward, acting on it, using it to save the villagers and begin the exorcism of the demons of her past.
Afterwards, with the anger gone and faced with grateful and yet fearful villagers, she wondered if it had ever really truly been as she’d thought. Or if it had simply been a moment of weakness on her part. A simple lack of control brought on by a resurgence of the darkness in her soul. She simply didn’t know.
But whatever it had been, whatever had caused her own despair and her reaction to the slavers, she knew one thing. On that morning, she’d been prepared and expecting to die. In many ways she might even have welcomed it.
Then a light had appeared in the darkness of her soul and given her a new purpose, a new reason to fight. She had no idea where that light had come from or what had brought it. But it was something she was not willing to give up again.
And with it had come a newfound friend, unexpected, unwelcome but no less appreciated. So she would hold onto that new light, protecting it with her very life in necessary and she would protect her new friend as well.
No matter that she talked too much, asked too many questions and snored; no matter that she was afraid of Argo and would only ride when absolutely necessary; no matter that Xena well knew there would be times when she would probably feel the urge to strangle the young girl herself. She would see that Gabrielle stayed safe.
She knew deep down that this was more than a simple need to protect an innocent. Otherwise, why had she let the young woman talk her into letting her come with her? Why hadn’t she fought harder or simply said no? She should have simply dragged the bard hopeful back to her backwater village and placed her into her parents’ hands. But she hadn’t. Why?
Xena couldn’t explain it and she didn’t even want to try. If there were larger forces at work here she was just going to ignore them. No one, not man or woman, not the Gods, not even she the fates themselves controlled her life. She would see to that.
And if Gabrielle had decided to spend her time following after a soul-blackened ex-warlord, who was she to argue. It was her choice after all. Besides the girl could cook. The gods knew she was severely lacking in that regard. So far she was lucky she hadn’t poisoned herself yet with her own attempts.
Chuckling softly to herself, she turned on her side, her back to the fire and closed her eyes. A moment later she slipped into the realm of Morpheous, the strange smile still on her face.