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 talks about two women who are in love with each other, even if they haven’t admitted it to themselves or each other yet. Nothing graphic, just an assumption. So if this offends you, head somewhere else.
Author’s Note: This story takes place right after the episode Chariots of War. I have recently introduced a friend to the show (I can’t believe she had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned it. Where was she living, under a rock?). And while I never thought much of this episode, it never broke my top 20, I realized that it would be fun to write something directly after it because of a couple of things said during it. See if you pick out what I mean.
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The day had turned out to be rather mild and pleasant and Xena had decided that they would head north for awhile. Since they were in no particular hurry, Xena was walking next to Gabrielle, gently leading Argo by her reins.
Xena periodically glanced at her traveling companion out of the corner of her eye, not trying to be intrusive. But she was concerned by the young woman’s silence. Gabrielle had been strangely quiet all morning, hardly saying more than a couple of sentences. In fact, if she really thought about it, she wasn’t sure that the girl had said more than three words since she woke up.
And while they hadn’t been traveling together all that long, Xena had never seen her so quiet. At first, it had been annoying, having someone who rarely ever stopped talking traveling with her. During those first few hectic weeks, Xena wondered how Gabrielle stayed conscious when she never seemed to stop to breath. And she still wondered at how she’d been able to resist the urge to drag the young girl back home.
But something had begun to change for her in the last several weeks; something she had never thought possible. Somewhere along the line, not only had she’d gotten used to the girl’s nearly constant chatter, but she’d started looking forward to it.
Xena had become Gabrielle’s sounding board for all the theories and ideas scrambling around inside her inquisitive young mind. And there were a multitude of strange ideas and thoughts inside her head. Strange but still interesting.
But today, all she was getting was silence and it was really starting to bug her. So she walked along racking her brains for ways to start a conversation.
She wondered if Gabrielle was still upset about what had happened a few days before when she’d been wounded saving Darius and his family. They hadn’t really talked about it much and she hadn’t bothered to offer an explanation either. She’d just grunted in her gruff way and, at least in her mind, that’d been the end of it.
But maybe it wasn’t enough for her young friend. So now she wondered if she should bring it up so they could talk about it.
She mentally cringed at the thought. She’d never been one for words when actions seemed so much more eloquent and easily understood. She’d rather walk barefoot through a briar patch than talk about a problem she could just as easily solve by maiming someone.
But that wasn’t going to work here. And being the adaptable warrior that she was, Xena bowed to the inevitable and turned her mind to a way to bring it up in conversation.
You know, it’s not like I meant for it to happen. Xena shook her head slightly. No, that sounded like she should feel guilty for getting wounded in the first place.
I would’ve sent word if I could. By the gods that made her sound even more guilty.
Look I was kind of wounded at the time. Good gods she sounded like a kid trying to explain why she’d been caught sneaking out. Could it get any worse?
What did you expect me to do, crawl to the tavern just to tell you I’d taken an arrow? Xena groaned mentally, wondering just what in Hades’ name was wrong with her. Every sentence she could think of made her sound more and more like she was whining about what had happened.
By the gods Gabrielle, if you don’t say something, I’m going to… She found herself resisting the urge to reach out and shake the young girl until she spoke. She took a deep breath and decided on the direct approach.
“You’re kind of quiet.”
Gabrielle looked up at her, a somewhat distracted look on her face.
“I’m sorry did you say something?”
Xena resisted the urge to just shrug and let the matter drop.
“I said you’re kind of quiet. You all right?”
Gabrielle nodded. “Yeah, I was just thinking.”
“Hmmm.” Xena had thought as much but didn’t point out the obvious. She waited a moment to see if her young companion would say more about her thoughts.
Gabrielle looked at her, a puzzled look on her face.
“What were we talking about again?”
Xena silently sighed, resisting a sudden urge to rub the bridge of her nose. This was really turning out like she’d hoped.
Gabrielle’s face took on a concerned look as she touched Xena’s arm gently.
“You look upset. Do you want to talk about it?”
Xena chuckled softly finding the sudden change of focus rather humorous. Considering that she’d begun the conversation with the intention of finding out what was bothering her companion. She turned to Gabrielle, a devilish grin on her face.
“No. How’s about we talk about your taste in men instead.”
Gabrielle winced slightly and then chuckled herself.
“I knew you were gonna bring that up eventually.”
“Maybe it was because I told you we needed to have a talk about your taste in men.”
Gabrielle scoffed slightly.
“We were on a speeding chariot at the time. I didn’t really expect you to remember.”
Xena gave her a very serious look, only her eyes giving her away by the impish sparkle in them.
“I have perfect recall. You might want to keep that in mind.”
Gabrielle threw her hands into the air.
“What, he was cute and nice. And it’s not like he had a sign on his forehead that said ‘Son of the warlord threatening my friend’. How was I to know?”
“All right, I’ll give you that.”
“Besides, I wasn’t the only one who fell for the wrong type.”
The statement came out of no where and it startled Xena. She stopped walking, her voice quiet and flat.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Gabrielle, who hadn’t noticed that the warrior had stopped had walked a few more paces before Xena’s voice stopped her. She turned to look at the taller woman standing so still behind her.
“A man who’d sworn off violence. Come on Xena, it would’ve never worked.”
Again her voice was soft and unreadable.
“And you know this because?”
Gabrielle shrugged giving the matter some thought for a few seconds.
“You like to fight. You might not like some of the things you do in a fight, you know, when someone ends up dead. But you get a thrill out of it; out of beating up someone else.”
Xena blinked in surprise at the startlingly accurate observation. She’d known that about herself for a very long time. But it was something she tended to keep to herself, presenting the world with a very different attitude. One of I fight because it’s all I know and I have no choice. She wondered how Gabrielle had managed to read her so well, so quickly.
Xena kind of shrugged not really knowing what to say beyond that. She started walking again this time welcoming the silence. She wasn’t really sure she was ready for anymore personal revelations before lunch. She was pretty sure that she’d come close to her quota for the month in fact.
Gabrielle walked beside her in silence again but this time there was a tension between them that hadn’t been there before. After several moments, Gabrielle’s quiet voice broke that silence, trying to relieve the tension between them.
“Xena, does it bother you, what I said?”
Xena thought for a moment and realized that the anger she felt had nothing to do with was said or who said it. It had more to do with the fact that she’d been reminded yet again how close to the precipice she stood on a daily basis.
“No, not really.”
“Are you sure?”
Xena gave her slight smile and shrugged.
“The only thing that bothers me about it is that it’s the truth.”
Gabrielle nodded slightly beginning to understand.
“Sometimes the truth is less than kind to us. Especially when we don’t want to hear it.”
Again Xena stopped walking. She struggled to find the right words to explain what she was feeling.
“It’s not that I don’t want to hear it. It’s just that…” She stopped talking, unsure of how to explain. She wasn’t a bard and words didn’t often come easily to her. She felt Gabrielle touch her arm gently and she looked down to see a pair of green eyes studying her and encouraging her.
It was as if someone had opened a door inside her head and she suddenly found the words she needed to make her point.
“It’s just that there are times I think I’m making real progress but then…” Again she paused but Gabrielle readily took up the rest of the sentence.
“But then something someone says or does something that reminds you just how far you still have to go.”
Xena nodded, smiling wryly.
“Something like that yeah.”
“Xena I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”
This time it was Xena who reached out to offer comfort.
“I know that Gabrielle. But sometimes it’s so easy to see me walking back down that path of darkness. Sometimes I wonder how I can still see the light.”
There was silence for a moment while Xena pondered the darkness she knew still rested in her own soul. She didn’t want to frighten Gabrielle but she wanted the young woman to be aware of just what she was.
She was capable of doing many things, some of them violent and bloody, some of them less so. But it didn’t change the fact that she was capable of doing things that would probably make the god of war himself cringe. She never wanted Gabrielle hurt by that darkness. She’d rather be burning in Tartarus then have that happened.
“I wouldn’t let you do that. I’d find a way to bring you back.”
Xena looked at her, her tone and face serious, hiding her surprise at the statement.
“And if you couldn’t bring me back?”
Gabrielle shrugged not seeming to care about the gravity of the situation.
“I’d rather not think about that. You know, you’re stronger than you realize. And I don’t just mean here.” Gabrielle gently touched the taut muscles on Xena’s arms. “You’re strong here too.” She touched Xena’s forehead where the third eye was supposed to reside, the eye that opened up directly to a person’s soul. “If you really wanted to come back, you’d find a way.”
Xena smiled slightly, touched by both the words and the gesture. Suddenly she felt a great deal better than she had just a few moments before.
“Let’s hope we never have to find out.” She looked around and a memory of their surroundings surfaced. There was a large pool nearby that was deep enough to swim in. And game in the area was plentiful enough. She looked back at Gabrielle waiting patiently next to her. “Listen, we aren’t in any real hurry and the day’s not getting any cooler. Why don’t we stop for some lunch and a swim. There’s a nice pool nearby.”
Gabrielle grinned and took Argo’s reins from Xena.
“If you get lunch, I’ll take care of Argo, get a fire going and get some water.”
“Deal. Just head over that next rise, you can’t miss it. Be back in a bit.” She jogged off towards a large group of trees leaving Gabrielle behind to walk to their lunch site.
Gabrielle saw to the minor chore of setting up their campsite and getting the fire started quickly and with surprising efficiency given how short a time she’d been doing it. She hummed to herself as she worked, a feeling of satisfaction filling her as she looked around for a moment before grabbing their water skins to refill them.
Having filled them, she sat down near the fire waiting for Xena to come back so she could cook lunch. She gazed into the fire for several moments, her face thoughtful.
She realized that it might be a bit of time before Xena returned from hunting, she decided to write in her journal. She grabbed her supplies and settled down next to the fire again as she began jotting down her thoughts.
She started opening up to me tonight. Kind of out of the blue. Normally she’s so quiet; it amazes me if she says more than five words in a day. And she hardly ever talks about what she’s feeling. Her face is such a mask; I can’t read her at all. I never have any idea what she’s thinking. But tonight, she opened the door a bit; after nearly two months of traveling together.
It’s been such a short time since she was rescued by Darius, just a few days. And no matter what she tells me, I know what happened has affected her deeply. It’s changed her in a way I can’t quite put my finger on, but I think it’s for the better.
The man deserves something far beyond a place in the Elysian Fields for taking in a stranger and nursing her back to health. There’s not a lot of people who’d do that if it meant risking the wrath of their fellow villagers or the warlord that injured them in the first place.
But he did and I think it was a really good thing for her. I know that Hercules started her on her path, but I don’t think she’s ever had a tangible goal before. Or at least a goal that she even thinks she deserves.
Besides her own redemption that is and that’s not exactly something she’ll know about until it’s too late. But now, I think she realizes that the things that other people want, a family, a home, even children, aren’t so far out of her reach.
To tell the truth, I’m surprised that she didn’t stay with him. I know what I said about him and his nonviolent ways. But still, I could see how much see wanted what he was offering to her. I know she wants to atone for the dark deeds of her past; the terrible things she did as a warlord when the darkness in her soul nearly extinguished the light.
I understand that to some extent. I just hope for her sake that she never loses sight of the real reason for doing what she does, because it’s the right, the just thing to do. But then, I guess I’ll be there to help remind her, won’t I?
She stopped writing as Xena came back into camp, a dressed and skinned rabbit in her hands. Gabrielle set her scroll aside and smiled at her partner.
“Hey, looks like you were lucky.” Gabrielle took the offering from her and began preparing it for the fire. She heard Xena behind her splashing in the small lake, washing off the blood from the rabbit.
A moment later, she came back towards the small fire, arms and face dripping wet.
“Yeah, he’s a bit scrawny but he’ll do. Unless of course you’re hungry too. If that’s the case, I could go back and see if I could find a deer or something.”
“Ha, ha. I can’t help it if I was really hungry that time. Besides, I didn’t really eat that much.”
Xena scoffed slightly.
“Really? The innkeeper seemed to think you were trying to cheat him.”
Gabrielle felt herself blushing slightly at the memory. She had managed to eat quite a bit that night.
“Hey, he’s the one who threw in dinner with the room. I’d say it was his own fault.”
“Just make sure I get my share.”
“You make it sound like you never get anything to eat.”
“With you around it is a challenge.”
Quiet laughter greeted her indignation and Gabrielle smiled as she set about making their lunch.
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