Standard Disclaimer: Okay, here goes . . . Xena, Gabrielle and most of the characters in this story belong to USA Studios, Ren Pic, Universal, Oxygen, and whoever else still owns a legal piece of the Warrior Princess. I only borrowed them for a tale. This is but one of the ways I, personally, would have liked to see the series end. This story starts after the episode ĎMany Happy Returns.í No copyright infringement is intended. This story is gratis for all who wish to read it.

 

Itís All About Love (aka Give ĎEm What They Want)

 

The path was becoming a familiar one, and even though Xena tried to keep their destination a secret from Gabrielle, it was soon more than apparent that they were heading toward Amazon country.

"Okay, what gives, Xena? Why are you being so secretive?"

"I thought I would try to surprise you, but itís a little difficult when there are only so many ways from where we were to where we need to go." She smiled lovingly at Gabrielle. "Letís make camp and Iíll fill you in on what I had in mind."

As the warrior and her bard dismounted from their horses, Xena looked suspiciously over her shoulder, searching for something elusive. "Do you . . ."

"Yeah . . ." Gabrielle answered before the question was finished. "It feels like someoneís observing us, yet I donít get the feeling that there is anyone in the woods but us."

"Precisely. Itís an odd sensation. Yet, Iím almost comfortable with it. Kind of like Iím out of my own body watching what weíre doing. Is that what you feel?"

Gabrielle nodded her head as they looked around. The woods were silent save for the song of the wind dancing through the trees and the movement of the wild things that lived in the area.

As they set up camp, the two women continued to explore the region with their eyes, knowing instinctively that they would find nothing to validate the feeling of being watched. Talk was kept to a minimum while Xena was starting the fire and Gabrielle was preparing their dinner.

By the time they sat down to eat, the uncanny feeling had disappeared and normal conversation could be resumed.

"So, whatís this all about, Xena?"

Rubbing her hands together, the warrior took a deep breath and then looked into her loverís eyes. "Iíve been doing some serious thinking, Gabrielle. Weíve done so much for the Greater Good, yet we hardly ever get a chance to just live our lives like normal people. I know I used to dismiss your desire to settle in one place and put down some roots, but I think itís time we did that . . . find a place to call home . . . donít you agree?"

"Agree? Are you really asking if I agree?" Gabrielle practically threw her plate on the ground as she grabbed her lover and hugged her tightly. "Gods, Xena, Iíve been waiting for this conversation for years." Her expression turned solemn as she searched her partnerís face. "Are you sure youíre ready to do this?"

The smile on Xenaís face melted any concerns the bard might have had. "Absolutely. We canít go around kicking ass on a daily basis forever."

"So, I take it you have decided living with the Amazons . . ."

"No, I didnít decide anything. The decision is to be made by both of us. I just thought we might start in that direction and then if you agreed; yeah, I love the country around the Amazon village. I think we could be happy there."

Gabrielle gathered up the dinner plates and utensils and put everything in the pot of water she had brought up from the nearby lake.

"Letís take a walk." Xena held out her hand and the blonde eagerly took it. Xena gathered Gabrielle close to her as they headed toward the lake. "Sometimes when I look at the woman youíve become, I find it hard to imagine the Gabrielle who first started traveling with me all those years ago."

Gabrielle smiled as she reminisced, "I can remember it almost as if it were yesterday when I said, ĎYouíve got to take me with you, and teach me everything you know. You canít leave me here.í"

"Do you remember the first time you got up on Argo behind me?"

The bard giggled, and nodded her head, "Uh, huh. And I remember thinking how exciting a life I was going to have, traveling with a warrior princess." She looked up into eyes that adored her. "Understatement, huh?"

"Yes, I would say it was."

They had reached the lake and Xena reached down on the ground and picked up a handful of stones. Gabrielle watched as the warrior began skipping the pebbles across the still water.

"You donít know how much this means to me, Xena."

"Yes, Gabrielle, I do." She sat down on the waterís edge and motioned for Gabrielle to sit beside her. "We should be in Amazon territory by mid day tomorrow, then we will finally be able to stop wandering. We might even decide to start a family."

Tears filled the green eyes of the bard sitting silently next to her warrior. Totally out of character, she found herself utterly speechless as she leaned into her lover and let the tears of joy trickle down her face.

They sat quietly, the sounds of the night birds permeating the air and the soft kiss of the breeze upon their faces as each of them pondered what the adventure of living for themselves would hold in store for them.

Finally, Xena broke the silence. "We should get back to camp and get some sleep. You donít want to be exhausted when we get to the village; you know they will want a celebration."

"Itís the Amazon way," Gabrielle added.

Once they were settled around the fire, sleep came quickly.

********************

Xena awoke before the break of dawn and began packing up the camp. She waited until the first rays of the sun were visible before awakening the sleeping beauty still snuggled in her bedroll.

"Youíre going to sleep away the day," the warrior chided as she shook Gabrielle gently.

Instead of her usual, "Iíll rise, but I refuse to shine," Gabrielle opened her eyes immediately and wiped the sleep from them.

"You wonít believe the dream I had last night."

"I imagine that statement is my cue to say . . . and what dream was that?" The warrior smiled at the disheveled blonde. "Could we say good morning first?"

"Sure, good morning, Xena." She lifted her face to receive a quick kiss on the lips. "But, I need to tell you about this before I forget it. Maybe I should write it down?"

"Tell me, then youíll remember it enough to write it down later."

"Okay."

"But can you start on breakfast while youíre talking?"

"Sure, sure." Gabrielle looked around and started taking the morning food out of the saddlebags. She noticed that Xena had cleaned up the dishes from the night before and had put most everything that wasnít needed for breakfast away already. "You go ahead and sit down. I can talk while I make breakfast."

Xena smiled and shook her head. "Of course you can. You can talk and do everything."

"Very funny, Warrior, just listen. I had the weirdest dream last night. We were both in it, but we looked really different." She received a confused look from her mate but ignored it. "Not that we looked different, but our clothes and our surroundings were different. We were both wearing long pants and funny shoes that had white ribbons holding them together. We were sitting on a comfortable looking piece of furniture, but the room was lit from a light source different from any Iíve ever seen. The strangest thing was that we were looking at one of the walls and it was covered with moving images of . . . of us!"

"Moving images of us?"

"Yes. I saw you kiss me just like you did on my wedding day, and then the image shifted to that time when I died, that war between the Thessalians and the Mitoans, when we met Marmax. You were there pounding on my chest trying to bring me back." She stopped and smiled at her mate. "You know, Xena, you never did tell me all that transpired while I was in between worlds. You were crying and yelling at me ĎDonít leave me, donít leave me, wake up, wake up.í Xena, what I watched was so touching and so real. I felt like we were back there again, going through all the anguish and pain and love. The love came through so clearly in my dream in every scene that was flashed before my eyes."

She looked over at her partner with tears glistening in her eyes. "I guess I didnít realize that you loved me that much way back then. I knew how much I loved you, but you were so poised, so good at hiding your emotions."

There were also tears in the warriorís eyes as she remembered back to a time when she had almost lost Gabrielle because of her decision to take the shortest route to Athens. Perhaps it was the first time she showed just how much she really cared for the young woman who had chosen to leave her village and travel with a complete stranger, but she remembered also that she didnít give a damn about anything except Gabrielle coming back to her. Now Xena was intrigued by this almost futurist dream.

"Was there more?"

"Yes," Gabrielle affirmed. She placed a plate of food down in front of Xena, sat next to her with a plate of her own, and then continued with her story. "There were more flashes of memories . . . maybe that was what the dream was, just a lot of memories, but it seemed like something so much more . . . I saw what you had to go through to help me the time when I was to be Morpheusí bride. Gods, Xena, that isnít one of my memories, it would have been one of yours, but I saw everything. I saw you battling your own evil self to get through the door to help me, I saw you go through your own pain and suffering to keep me from being taken." She then gave Xena a look that held more love and compassion than almost any look she had ever given her.

"Xena, I saw something else flashing on that wall last night. I saw a story that you never confided to me. Either that or I have more of an imagination than even I can conceive I have."

Another questioning look on the warriorís face set the bard to explaining.

"Remember when we stopped that desecration of the Fateís Temple?"

"Yes."

"And then when you gave that young soldier a chance to live and made him promise to throw down the sword?"

"Y-e-s."

"Xena, I saw the why that you never told me about. When you hugged me that day and I asked you what it was forĖyou had told me, ĎFor being you.í I never understood that answer, yet I really never pursued it either. Xena, you had the opportunity that day to live your life over again, to never have been the evil Xena you despise . . . you had the chance to save Lyceus from dying." There were tears not only in Gabrielleís eyes but in her voice as well. "But you didnít?"

"Had I chosen that path, Gabrielle, you would not have been the person I love today. You would not have been able to teach me about the Greater Good and so many other things. I made the right decision that day, believe me." She smiled and wiped a tear from her loverís face. "Tell me the rest of your dream."

"Well, I also saw visions of that time when your spirit was in Autolycusí body and kissed me. The only thing that was different about the scene I was watching was that you only kissed me for a very short period of time. I remember explicitly that the kiss was much more passionate that that. I do believe that was the first time you ever kissed me in such a fashion. I still get dry in the mouth when I think about it, and butterflies in my stomach."

"Okay . . . continue."

"Letís see, where was I . . . oh, yeah . . . all the scenes I was visualizing had to do with our relationship, our love for each other. I didnít see any of the bad times, so it was an entirely pleasant dream, even if it was disconcerting. And . . . the two women who looked liked us seemed to be enjoying the viewing as well. The last scene I saw was our reunion after I had jumped into the pit with HopeĖgods, Xena, reliving that was . . . well, letís just say thatís another dry-mouth moment. It brought back all the joy of that reunion. And I think it was another first. I do believe that was the first time you ever called me Sweetheart."

"Tell me more about the people in your dream, Gabrielle."

"The people, yeah, it was just the two of them, and even though they looked like you and me, they had different names. I think you called me Reneé, and I called you something silly likeĖLucy. Iíve never heard of the name Lucy, have you?"

"No, and thank you very much, Iíll stick with Xena."

Gabrielle looked at her warrior and laughed. "I knew youíd say that!"

Come on letís get this mess cleaned up and be on our way. We can discuss your dream while we travel.

The day progressed quickly and the dream had awakened the desire to reminisce in both the bard and the warrior. The was no lapse in the conversation as they drew on their past experiences. They related to each other feelings that had not before been discussed as to when each of them realized just how much the other meant to her.

As mid-day approached, the Amazon village came into view. They thought it strange that they had not been greeted upon entering Amazon territory but then realized that they might just have been left to travel unobstructed because the Amazons already knew who they were.

When they approached the queenís hut she immediately confirmed their thoughts.

Varia greeted them with open arms. "Gabrielle, Xena, welcome. Weíve been expecting you. The scouts were told to give you privacy. What brings you here?"

Gabrielle greeted Varia and then turned to her mate. "Since it was your idea, Xena, why donít you tell Varia why weíre here?"

The warrior gave her partner a raised eyebrow and slight sneer before greeting the Amazon queen. "I suppose the only way to explain our arrival is to blurt it out. Weíve decided that itís time for us to settle down and find a place to call home. If itís okay with you and the rest of the Amazons in the village, we would like to make this tribe our own."

The look on Variaís face was bittersweet, and the bard could see that the queen was going to have a difficult time with her answer.

"Listen, Varia," Gabrielle chimed in. "We only want to be part of the tribe. I donít want to be queen and Xena doesnít want to be the champion of the village. We merely want a place to call home. Weíre tired of living like vagabonds."

The queenís demeanor softened and a genuine smile took the place of the one that had been plastered on her face. "Well, then I guess the village is in need of a celebration to welcome two of its own home. But you do know, Xena, that you will have to become a full Amazon to live here."

Gabrielle watched for her loverís reaction to the queenís statement. That had been one topic that they had not discussed on the way to the village. She was pleased with Xenaís reply.

"I suppose itís about time I took the oath, Varia. After all, Iím soulmate to the Queen of all the Amazons, I should at least be a part of her tribe."

Varia turned to some of the sisters standing nearby and began giving orders for them to arrange the celebration that would take place later that evening.

The couple got separated while reacquainting with friends and discussing their decision to settle in the area. Soon the small crowd started to break up; the rest of the village needed to be notified of the celebration to be held that evening.

Xena informed Gabrielle that some of the sisters had already offered their services when the time came for the duo to build a hut. "I told them it would be slightly outside the village proper," the warrior confessed to her mate.

"Feeling claustrophobic already, Xena?" Gabrielle asked with a grin.

"No! I just donít want to go from living alone to feeling like weíre living in a closet."

"Quite smart, my Love; itís always better to be out of the closet." She was giggling, but sobered slightly to agree with her warrior. "Living near the village is a marvelous idea, but having some space will be good for us. Weíre much too used to living alone."

"And thatís the way I like it!" The dark-haired beauty bent down and whispered into Gabrielleís ear, causing her to blush. Then she nibbled on her loverís ear while continuing to whisper.

"Xena, people are watching."

"Do we care?"

"Yes, perhaps we should go looking for a place to begin work on that hut! I do like a little privacy." She smiled and gently pushed Xena away.

"Oh, all right," the warrior mumbled. "Letís go in search of a site."

********************

It was almost dusk when the duo returned to the village amid the clamor of excited Amazons.

There was a table within viewing distance of the fire and where the dancers would unquestionably be when the festivities started. Varia was seated on the queenís throne with two lesser chairs situated to her right. She motioned to her friends to sit as they approached.

"So, did you find a spot to your liking?"

"Yes," Gabrielle was the first to reply. "We found a beautiful plot with a marvelous view of the lake."

Xena elaborated on the bardís comment by telling the queen, "It has more than merely a view. There is a huge boulder we can use to dive from into the lake."

Gabrielle shook her head and corrected, "Well, perhaps Xena can dive into the lake; Iím not sure Iím that brave. Itís pretty far up. But it is beautiful."

"I have good news for the two of you. I was very busy while you were gone speaking to the elders of the tribe. It has been decided by unanimous vote that both of you will have full voting privileges in the tribal meetings." She turned to Xena. "After the blood ceremony tonight, you will finally be an Amazon and will be able to take your rightful place at our councils. Being champion to the Queen of all the Amazons gives you privileges.

Gabrielle grabbed her loverís hand and squeezed. It was at that instant that they both had the feeling of being watched again. Rather it seemed like someone else was sharing their bodies with them, like another mind was eavesdropping on their thoughts, their emotions. Xena cocked her head as if listening to someone else speak.

As quickly as it had occurred, the feeling evaporated.

"Iím ready anytime the sisters are to start the ceremony, Varia. I totally agree with you that the consort of the Queen of the Amazons should also be an Amazon herself.

"In your heart you have been an Amazon for many years, Xena; this is only a formality. Without your help the Northern Amazon tribe would have disintegrated long ago. Otari and Yakut would never have become the legends they are today, had it not been for your guidance.

"Sheís right, Xena." Gabrielle agreed. "The Amazons owe you much."

Xena shook her hand as if to wave the conversation off and into another direction.

Varia caught the eye of one of the younger sisters and waved at her to join them. She introduced the woman to her guests. "This is Aello. Aello, meet Xena and Gabrielle."

"My honor," the young woman nodded in respect. "What do you wish of me, my Queen?"

"I want you to go and tell Clyemne we are ready to begin the ceremony."

"As you wish, my Queen." Aello bowed slightly and was off running toward the villageís Shamaness/Healerís hut.

Searching for another face in the crowd, Varia made eye contact with another sister, and again, motioned for her to join them. "This is Marpesia; she is one of our best archers. It will be her arrow that will fly high at your ceremony to signify your initiation into the tribe."

After introductions, Marpesia sat quietly beside the queenís chair awaiting the time when her performance would be required.

"Clyemne should be here momentarily. I think you might have met her the last time you were in the village. She is one of our most revered elders."

Xena turned anxiously to Gabrielle, "They arenít going to cover me with mud and make me howl at the moon are they?"

Gabrielle shook her head and grinned, "No, Xena, you know better than that." Taking her loverís hand she traced a mark in Xenaís palm with her index finger. "They are merely going to make a little cutĖright there."

"Ah, yes, I do seem to remember an initiation such as that a long time ago. If I remember correctly, the person who brings the new member into the tribe also participates." Xena turned her hand and grabbed Gabrielleís, making the same mark on the bardís palm. "That would be you, my Soul. The second cut would go right here." She then brought the small hand to her lips and gently kissed it.

Clearing her throat and raising her arms, Varia vied for everyoneís attention. When all eyes were facing her, she began, "There is usually a long waiting process before the initiation of a new member into the tribe, especially an initiate who was neither born of Amazon blood nor given a right of caste for some extraordinary deed. The woman who is now being accepted into our ranks is no exception. She has simply taken longer than most to realize that, while she has always been an Amazon at heart, she still needs to take the oath of sisterhood to be given the honor of sharing the afterlife with her soulmate, Gabrielle. Up until now, Xena is the only member of her immediate family who has not officially been inducted into our ranks. Tonight that status will be rectified."

The crowd began to cheer, and Varia let them go on for a minute or so before calming them down. She then turned to the guests of honor and asked them to join the shamaness in the middle of the assemblage.

Clyemne stood in front of the Amazon Queen and her Champion. She took hold of Xenaís right hand and Gabrielleís right hand and held them toward the sky. "By the power granted to me as Shamaness of this tribe of Amazons, I begin the right of initiation."

Letting go of the bardís hand she focused on the warrior. "Xena of Amphipolis, Warrior Princess, Consort to Gabrielle, Bard of Potidaea, Queen of the entire Amazon Nation, is it your desire to become one with the Amazons, a sister in blood, and in soul?"

Xena replied, "It is."

The shamaness looked around the gathering of women. "Who brings this woman forth to become one with the Amazons?"

"I do," replied Gabrielle.

"Do you, Gabrielle, realize that by doing so, you become responsible for Xena?"

Gabrielle looked at her partner with all the love in her heart before answering the elderís question. "I do."

Clyemne asked the women to resituate themselves so that they would be directly in front of her, but facing one another. Still holding Xenaís hand, she took a bone-handled knife from within her robe and cut the warriorís palm, causing it to bleed.

"Protecting goddess of the earth, mother to all of us, goddess who watches over the lives of all Amazons, take this new sister into your keeping and clutch her to your breast as one of your own."

The healer positioned Xenaís hand to be held palm-up while she turned to Gabrielle and repeated the procedure on the bard.

"Goddess, you already know this Amazon. Her name is Gabrielle, Bard of Potidaea, Queen of the entire Amazon Nation. She has been a great comfort to your people in times of dire problems, and her wisdom is part of what keeps the tribes together as one great race. She is asking that you allow her soulmate, Xena of Amphipolis, Warrior Princess, to join her as a true Amazon, to live not only the rest of their lives here on earth together, but to also be allowed the privilege of journeying to the Amazon afterlife together when their times arrive to leave this world for a better one."

At the conclusion of her prayer to the goddess, Clyemne clasped the hands of the participants together to allow their blood to mingle. Pulling a thin piece of rawhide from her robe, she tied their hands together, starting at the wrist and criss-crossing the ribbon of hide around their palms. When she spoke again, she addressed the multitude and the participants at the same time.

"As the blood of these two women mingles, I pronounce Xena of Amphipolis to be a full-blooded Amazon from this day forward, and when her time arrives to leave this earth, the goddess will graciously welcome her to the Amazon afterlife."

Clyemne gestured for Marpesia to stand and light the flaming arrow and then send it into the air to greet and thank the goddess, marking the end of the ceremony.

As the arrow soared above the heads of the crowd, cheers rang freely throughout the village.

While she was congratulating Xena and Gabrielle, Clyemne untied their hands.

After adding her own congratulations to the newest tribe member, Varia held out an object toward the warrior.

"Thank you, Varia." Xena told the queen as she retrieved the article.

She turned to Gabrielle and took her left hand. "Iíve known the Amazons since long before you and I ever met, Gabrielle, but it took you becoming Queen for me to become one of them. Now that I have, as your Consort, officially made a commitment to the Amazon Nation, I think it only fitting to also publicly make my commitment to you.

"You know thatís not necessary, Xena. I know how you feel about me, and I think all the Amazons do, too."

"Yes, it is necessary, Gabrielle; this is something I want to do."

Sapphire orbs looked lovingly into pools of green as she gently placed a ring on the fourth finger of her belovedís left hand.

"I had a feeling that if we ever came back here again, Gabrielle, a ceremony such as the one we just went through would be required. I had this ring made for just such an occasion and left it in Variaís keeping. She knew that if we didnít come back, it meant that we had both died somewhere together, and she would have thrown the ring in the lake with a blessing for us.

Now tears were unashamedly flowing down the blondeís cheeks. Xena wiped one from her loverís face and kissed her tenderly.

"By the gods, Xena," Gabrielle exclaimed as she studied the piece of jewelry on her finger. "This is beautiful. It looks like your chakram, but it has a blue stone on one side that matches your eyes . . ."

"And a green stone on the other," the warrior finished her mateís statement, "that matches your eyes. Those are the colors that stand for each of us, Gabrielle. Together they combine into one setting, just like you and I merge into we. I love you more than life, Gabrielle."

"I donít know what to say; first the poem that Sappho wrote, and now this!"

"Speechless? Thatís something new." Xena chuckled before again becoming serious. "The poem was a birthday present. The ring is to mark the anniversary of the first day we met, the day that changed both our lives forever, and that happens to correspond with today, the day when we finally settle down to make a home for ourselves."

Xena took the bard into her arms and kissed her passionately in front of the entire village as the celebration continued and the music and dancing began. Food was brought out from the communal dining hut and placed on the table before the queen and her honored guests.

After sharing in the food and drink, Xena talked to one of the sisters and was soon handed a filled wineskin. The warrior turned to Varia to thank her for her hospitality and for welcoming them into her tribe as permanent residents.

"Thank you, also, for keeping the ring safe, my friend," Xena clasped Variaís arm.

"No problem, Xena; thatís what friends are for."

"You can add my thanks to this little conversation," Gabrielle chimed in.

"Again, no problem, Gabrielle. Weíre proud that you and Xena chose our tribe. Weíll be the envy of the entire nation."

"Listen, Varia, I hope you donít take offense or consider it poor manners if we forego the rest of the festivities. It seems we have a little celebrating of our own to do, and I can think of no better place than the spot we will soon call home."

With a large grin on her face, Varia assured the new tribe members that their departure would not be taken adversely by anyone. "You know Amazons. They donít care what the reason, or who remains at a party, as long as they can continue until not a one of them can stand."

Xena and Gabrielle nodded to their friend. Xena whistled for Argo, and they were soon on their way into the woods toward their treasured spot.

By now the sun had receded well behind the horizon and the stars were shining brightly, dimmed only by the shimmering light from the full moon, which shone down upon the lake below the outcropping. For a while the two sat and watched the water ripple as Xena threw small stones into it while they conversed.

Xena placed one arm around Gabrielleís shoulders and Gabrielle leaned into Xena, putting her arm around the warriorís waist.

"You know, Gabrielle, itís funny; I never thought I would end up living in a quiet place like this with someone I loved. I never thought I would find someone to share my life. When I first met you, I had forgotten how it felt to love and be loved in return."

"When I first met you, I knew I couldnít let you leave without taking me with you. There was something about you that touched my heart immediately, and it ached at the thought of being without you.

The warrior pulled her lover closer and kissed her gently on the head. "I can remember back a time of two that you almost decided to leave and be without me. Remember that certain blonde zealot who heard voices? I think I almost lost you to her. I can still watch you riding off toward the lake with her, holding tightly to her waist."

"Xena, if I remember correctly, you didnít want to go, and I not only didnít have a horse, but was still a little afraid of riding." She smiled inwardly as she continued, "If I didnít know better, Iíd think you were jealous of Najara."

"Yeah, if you didnít know better. If I didnít know better I would have thought you were trying to make me jealous. You went off with her more than that once."

"You forget, Xena, the reason I left the one time was because she was going to kill you. You were unconscious at the time. If I hadnít thrown my body across yours she would have ran you through with her sword."

"All right. But, back on the element of jealousy. You had your share of dealings with the green-eyed monster."

Gabrielle pulled away and searched her loverís face, receiving only a raised eyebrow and a slight smile.

"I know. Youíre talking about the time Lao Ma sent for you? How could I ever forget that? The sound of your ĎYesí still chills my blood when I remember how vulnerable I felt when I asked you if you could just throw away the last few years we had spent together to do her bidding. Gods we have grown since then, Xena. Our relationship has grown."

"I know, my Soul." Again the warrior pulled her lover close. "Iím just happy you had a chance to work everything out in your own mind, even if you did have to visit the Temple of Mnemosyne to accomplish the task."

"Do I still talk in my sleep?"

"Absolutely."

"Not to change the subject, but you know weíve both made our sacrifices for each other throughout the years. I think they more than made up for any jealousy. Remember that time you almost ended up spending eternity on a cursed ship with me."

"How could I forget. It was quite a jump to get myself on that ship. All I could think about was losing you and the fact I didnít want to be without you. You, on the other hand, had to go and jump into a pit of fire. That was quite a sacrifice, Gabrielle."

"I couldnít imagine letting you die because you killed Hope. I would have been left alone. I wasnít ready for that."

"No . . . so you left me alone," she laughed. "Sacrifices aside, weíve also had some marvelous reunions."

"What, like ending up on the waterís edge after taking a side trip to Illusia?"

"Yes, or being returned to the land of the living after being crucified, and having gone to both heaven and hell."

"Or waking up in ice coffins after sleeping for twenty-five years when we thought we would only be incapacitated for a few hours."

"No one can ever accuse us of living a dull life, Gabrielle. But you know, I believe weíre going to be happy here. It might be a little mundane compared to what weíre used to, but I think weíll be happy."

"I know I will; itís you Iím worried about."

"Donít be, Iím ready."

"And . . . Iím sure if anyone is ever in dire need of a Warrior Princess . . ."

". . . or a Battling Bard . . . "

"They wonít have any trouble finding us." Gabrielle giggled and then shivered. The air had begun to chill and they were sitting on cold stone.

Xena felt Gabrielle shudder and pulled her closer. She kissed her and began nibbling on her neck, allowing one hand to begin caressing the small blondeís breast.

Gabrielle placed her hand over Xenaís, and pulled away from the kiss, shaking her head. "Itís too cold to start something like that here, my Love."

"Then by all means, letís get somewhere warmer," Xena suggested.

The fire Xena had started before they began their reminiscing was at a full blaze when they walked back to the campsite. Instead of sitting on the piece of tree trunk the warrior had positioned in front of fire, Gabrielle opened one of the bedrolls onto the ground, and the two of them sat down. Xena, with her back resting against the log, gestured for Gabrielle to snuggle up next to her. The bard needed no second invitation; she leaned into her companion, placing her head in the hollow of her championís strong shoulder, where it always fit so comfortably. The warmth of the fire was delightful, but her eyes began to mist as her thoughts drifted to those they had loved and lost.

"You know, Xena, weíve outlived most of our friends and relatives, and weíve been from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell together in this immediate lifetime. Iím glad weíre finally going to stop roaming the countryside in the service of others."

"Me too, Gabrielle. Weíve definitely come full circle from the day of our meeting. Iíve taught you everything I know, just like you asked me to do all those years ago."

Gabrielle started to pull away and object when Xena tightened her hold on the bard and continued, "Okay, Iíve taught you almost everything I know. You still canít throw the chakram or initiate the pinch . . . weíll work on those in all this spare time weíll be having." She grinned and kissed her loverís head. "I promise. On the other hand, you have also taught me many things, my Bard."

"Thanks for the acknowledgement, Warrior."

Xena could hear the smile in her loverís voice.

"Seriously, Xena, you have truly redeemed yourself more times than I can remember. The karmic circle should now be allowed to continue without hesitation. Neither of us are the women we were when we began this journey, but we definitely are the women we were born to become. You already know that youíre my soulmate, but just in case you havenít figured it out, youíre also my world, Xena, and the love of my life. In my heart I stopped searching when I found you, even though I did some really foolish things along our journey to here."

"We have lost ourselves in each other, Gabrielle, blended together like the two halves of the same soul we truly are. I have come to realize that our life together, no matter what else it seems to be on the surface, is all about love."

Gabrielle smiled up into eyes that always lit her soul. "Of course it is, Xena. Anyone who has ever seen us together knows without a doubt that we have always been all about love. Iím glad the path you traveled through this lifetime led you to me."

"Gabrielle, no matter what life weíre living, weíll always find each other. Itís our destiny."

At the mention of destiny, both the warrior and her bard simultaneously had the feeling that they were again being watched, not so much from the outside as from within. It felt to both of them as though there were a part of something much larger than themselves.

"Do you suppose, Xena, that when two souls are as united as ours are that the souls transcend the confines of space and time?"

"Ah, youíre having that feeling again, arenít you, Gabrielle?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps. Since we already know that weíve been together before and that weíre destined to be together again, maybe that knowledge has linked us to something bigger than who we are today."

The bard nodded her head in agreement. "Like weíre a mixture of who we were and who we are to become."

"Yes, something like that. And maybe thereís even a connection with all the souls out there striving for a love such as the one weíve found," the warrior added.

"So, shall we ask our former and future selves and all the voyeurs, of this world and those yet to be, to leave us alone and let us live this incarnation in the present without them?"

"Sounds like a simple request to me; letís consider it done."

It was as if the watchful eyes of the universe had been turned away from the small parcel of land that the warrior and her bard had decided to call home. The feeling that had been plaguing the duo for the past few days was now totally absent.

Xena gently turned the smaller woman around to face her. She placed a kiss on the bardís soft lips, and Gabrielle immediately reciprocated with one of her own, before giving her soulmate a firm hug. She would always be eternally thankful that the two of them had found a love that so few people in the world were ever blessed enough to experience.

"I love you, Xena," she whispered.

"I love you, too, Gabrielle."

The End

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