Disclaimers – Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and others are owned by RenPics/Universal/MCA. No copyright infringement is intended. I only borrowed them for a little while. I’ll return them when I’m finished, I promise. The storyline, and supporting characters are mine. This story cannot be sold or profited from in any way.

There’s very little sex, violence, or other goodies involved here. This story takes place between seasons two and three – I guess I wanted to figure out why things deteriorated between our Warrior and Bard so easily. I wrote this as a little personal challenge, so let me know what you think – cbzeer@home.com



Past Tense

By Carrie Carr


"Shut up and pour!" the dark-haired woman growled. She reached across the wooden bar and shook the filthy man who tried to pour the ale. "Just gimme the damn jug!"

He trembled slightly and handed over the container. "Yes’im. Sorry ‘bout that." The tavern-keeper couldn’t help but notice the slight tremor in her hands, as well. Looks like she’s been at it a while.

She swallowed the contents of the mug, then turned and braced her back against the rough-hewn bar. Scanning the room slowly, blue eyes unconsciously searched for the one person she knew wasn’t present. When did we grow apart like that? And why do I feel this need to hear a bard, at this particular time? Xena shook her head and laughed at herself. "Fool."

"I’m sorry…I’ll get you another ale." The barkeep mumbled, thinking that if he could placate the angry warrior, he would live to see another day. He reached for her mug, then gasped as a firm hand grabbed his.

"Don’t bother. I’m looking for someone…maybe you can help me." She looked down into his fearful dark eyes.

Tanen’s eyes widened. "We don’t have girls like that here, Warrior…but the inn down the way…" His words were halted when a fist gathered the material of his shirt, raising him up until his toes barely touched the floor.

Xena felt another rush of anger jolt through her. "NOT that type of woman, you idiot." Seeing his eyes widen in fear, she released him. "I’m looking for a certain woman, who should have been through here in the past few days. A small blonde, who likes to talk." And who was so completely tired of me that she wouldn’t listen to reason, and left. Damn, I miss her.

"Uhhh…" He rubbed the front of his chest, and looked around the room. No one seemed to be paying them the least amount of attention. Tanen picked up the crock of ale and gestured. "Another drink, Warrior?"

She and Gabrielle had been traveling together for almost three summers, and had been ‘together’ for a little over one. But recently the bard had become restless, not returning Xena’s attentions as she once had. She had received a note from her sister, asking her to return to her home village. Gabrielle had left Xena to finish building the bridge in Otwar, while she went back to Potadeia. "I’ll see you in about a week, okay?" were the last words Xena had heard from her lover, as the woman cheerfully went on her way.

Xena grabbed the jug and threw a few dinars on the bar. "Nevermind. I’ll ask around." She bent down to retrieve her saddlebags from the floor, and left the dingy tavern in disgust. She’s probably still visiting with her sister, even though it’s been almost two weeks now.

They hadn’t agreed to meet anywhere in particular, both assuming that they would find each other with no problem. The warrior had finished helping the small village rebuild their bridge, and then immediately set off for Potadeia. Xena had thought that her bard would tire of her sister’s mundane lifestyle, and would meet her somewhere in between. But so far, no one had seen the small blonde except for when she had made her original trip through.

"C’mon, Argo." Xena tossed her saddlebags across the warhorse’s back and untied her from the rickety hitching post. She tied the ale to the saddlehorn, and pulled herself up after it. "Let’s just see how much farther we can get before nightfall, girl."

She rode until it was too dark to see, and when Argo stumbled for the third time, relented and moved off the road to pitch camp. Silently, the warrior went about her business, unsaddling her mount and brushing the golden palomino until she shined. She built a small campfire for light, then dropped down beside it and began to sharpen her sword.

Staring pensively into the flames, Xena sighed. I wonder what Gabrielle is doing right now…if she’s thinking of me, like I’m thinking of her. She resheathed her sword and leaned back against the saddle she had placed near the fire. "Sentimental fool."



"I think he likes you," Lila teased, nudging her sister’s shoulder with her own. "He keeps looking over this way."

Gabrielle laughed. "Renden? He’s probably just curious because of how I’m dressed." The dun-colored skirt only came to mid-thigh, and the green halter-top left little to the imagination. She brushed her long reddish-blonde hair from her shoulder and blew another part of it out of her eyes. "I don’t look like your typical village girl, anymore."

Lila appraised her older sister carefully. "That’s true…not with those muscles, especially." She linked their arms together and continued to stroll through the open marketplace. "I really do appreciate you coming so quickly, Gab. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you – I guess I just needed a little time with my favorite sister."

"I’m your only sister, silly." She shook her head. "I needed a change of scenery, myself." Gabrielle wasn’t sure what was wrong, but she knew that she had been feeling antsy for the past several moons. It’s gotta be me…Xena has been more than wonderful. She’s always bringing me flowers, doing little things for me. I don’t know why I feel the way I do right now. It’s certainly not fair to her. I know that leaving hurt her, I could see it in her eyes. "What?"

"I just asked where you went just now. You seemed so far away." Lila studied the older woman’s face. "You miss Xena, don’t you?"

The blonde sighed. "No! Yes…I don’t know." Gabrielle allowed her sister to lead her over to a shaded bench. "I’ve been feeling a little out of sorts, lately, and I don’t know why." But I do, don’t I? The actual chase for the Warrior Princess’ heart had been completed, and Gabrielle had won. Xena had proven to be more than attentive, showering the young bard with affection, gifts, and even on occasion, small poems. She should be the happiest woman alive. She’s kind, understanding, and supports me with whatever I do. So why do I feel so unhappy?

The dark-haired girl patted her sister’s hand. "Maybe you’re just ready to settle down, and start a family. I know of several eligible men who would jump at the chance." Lila herself was enjoying the attentions of four different villagers at the moment. No sense in jumping into things, right?

"I don’t think so, Lila." Gabrielle leaned back against the rough tree the bench was sitting under and sighed. "I’ve already got someone." She turned her head to see how her sister would react. "And she treats me much better than I really deserve to be treated."

"She?" Lila blinked. "Xena?" Her mouth dropped open slightly. "You and the Warrior Princess?"

A hand, callused from staff work, gently closed the gaping mouth. "Yes. Me and Xena. But please don’t call her that. She’s not the same woman." Gabrielle pulled her hand back and brushed the hair away from her face again. "We’ve been lovers for almost an entire winter."

Lila bit her lip and frowned. "And you’re just NOW telling me about it?? Good grief!" She flung her hands into the air and stood up suddenly. "I take it you haven’t told Mother, or Father."

"Uh…no. It’s never come up in conversation." Gabrielle blushed slightly. "All I hear from them is how I need to settle down, and quit wandering around the countryside." She looked up into her sister’s understanding eyes. "I do love her, Lila. And she’s so good to me."

"If she’s so good, why isn’t she here with you now?" She crossed her arms across her chest. "If she loves you, she would never let you travel alone, would she?"

Gabrielle stood up with her sister. "I left her, Lila. She had no say in the matter." She stalked away angrily, thumping her staff beside her.

The dark-haired girl rolled her eyes and sighed. She’s always been so dramatic. "Wait for me, Gab!" She hurried after her upset sister.


Xena watched as the flames burned out, making no move to rekindle the fire. She snuck a glance around the clearing, and realized with disgust that she’d sat up all night, thinking about Gabrielle. "Absolutely pitiful," she grumbled aloud, which caused Argo to jump slightly and snort.

The beautiful horse had sensed something was wrong with Xena, and had slowly crept up close to her during the night. She nudged her rider in the back with her nose, and stomped a foot impatiently.

"Sorry, girl. Guess I haven’t been the best company, have I?" The warrior scratched the large animal between the eyes when the golden head draped over her shoulder. Xena stood up and wrapped her arms around the horse’s massive neck, as tears dropped unbidden down her cheeks. "I’m an idiot, Argo." She sniffed and rubbed her face with the back of one hand. "I did the one thing I swore I would never do – and now I’m paying for it."

Argo stomped her foot again, and then shook her head. She waited patiently as the warrior gathered up the camp and began to saddle her.

"I miss her, Argo. But somehow I feel as if she left because of me." Xena shook her head in disgust. "I smothered her, old friend. Too much attention, I guess." The leather-clad woman had never felt such a deep and profound love for someone before. It made her do things that she normally didn’t do, such as pick flowers and write love poems. "Gods! She fell in love with a warrior, and ended up with a lovesick fool. No wonder she left." The warrior double-checked the clearing, making sure she hadn’t left anything behind, then pulled herself up gracefully into the saddle. "Let’s go find a bard, Argo." She touched her heels to the golden flanks and urged the horse into a trot.

The scenery flew by at a quick pace. Xena had decided to let Argo enjoy the cool day, and both horse and rider leaned into the wind that whipped around them. Green fields churned up under the thundering hooves, as the dark-haired woman delighted in the adrenaline rush the furious pace gave her. "C’mon, girl! You can do better than this!" she yelled happily, as the big horse craned her neck forward and stretched her long legs out even further. "That’s it!" Xena laughed as she felt her troubles shedding away, mile by mile.


"Gabrielle. You haven’t even touched your breakfast. Is everything all right?" Hecuba had noticed the preoccupied look on her oldest daughter’s face, but assumed it was none of her business, and that the girl would straighten up soon.

The blonde looked up from her plate. "Fine. Everything’s just fine." She saw her sister frown from across the rough table and kicked her in the shin. "Guess I’m just not used to sleeping with all that racket."

"Hey! I don’t snore that bad, do I?" Lila teased, seeing the worry on their mother’s face ease. "More like you’re not used to sleeping…" alone. Another well-placed kick caused her to yelp. "In a bed," she finished painfully, seeing the vicious look her sister bestowed upon her.

"Stop fighting girls." The older woman shook her head. I swear…the more things change, the more they stay the same. "Finish your breakfast, then go clean out the barn like your father asked you to before he left this morning."

Lila stood up and gathered her plate. "Yes, ma’am. With both of us working, it shouldn’t take too long, right, Gab?"

"Right." Gabrielle stood up with her sister, and began to clean off the table.

Hecuba watched the blonde carefully. Something’s bother her that’s for sure. She never seemed so anxious to do work around the house. "Gabrielle? Are you sure you’re okay?"

Gabrielle turned around and looked at her mother, who had aged considerably since she’d left home. "I’m okay, Mother. Don’t worry." She crossed the small kitchen and kissed the older woman’s cheek. "Why don’t you rest for a bit, and we’ll take care of everything?"

"Sounds like a wonderful idea, dear. Thank you." Hecuba stood up and left the room slowly.

"She hasn’t been the same since she fell last spring." Lila watched their mother sadly. "But she’s too stubborn to take it easy." She looked back at her sister. "Guess it runs in the family. Being stubborn, I mean."

"Yeah…I guess you’re right." Gabrielle shook the dark thoughts from her head and sighed. "Let’s go clean out the barn, before Father gets back."



Xena had left Argo nearby, happily munching green shoots of grass near a quiet pond. She stood in the shadow of the trees, watching her lover interact with her family. She doesn’t seem to miss me at all, the warrior thought sadly. The entire family was sitting underneath a few trees near the house, enjoying an afternoon picnic. Xena smiled slightly when the dark-haired young woman tossed something at her love.

"Aaaah! Lila! That’s disgusting!" Gabrielle wiped the bit of food away where it had landed on her neck. She felt uneasy, as if someone were watching them. I’ve been with Xena too long…now I’m imagining things.

Lila laughed. "That’ll teach you to tease me about my boyfriends!" She had been listening to her older sister’s taunts all afternoon.

"She has a point, Lila." Herodotus frowned. "It’s about time you picked someone and settled down." He cast a glance at his eldest daughter. "You’re long overdue, Gabrielle. I’m afraid that if you continue with your wandering ways, no man will want you."

The warrior frowned. She was close enough to be able to hear the conversation, but not to be seen. He acts as if that’s a bad thing.

Gabrielle finished cleaning the food from her body and shook her head. "I’m not looking for anyone, Papa. I’m happy with what I’m doing right now."

"Traipsing all over the place, sleeping on the ground! Goodness, Gabrielle! Your father is right. You need to think about your future." Hecuba stacked the empty dishes carefully. "You’re not getting any younger, you know."

Her husband nodded. "Exactly! I’d like to have a few grandchildren around before I die…is that too much for a father to ask?" Herodotus looked at both of his children. "Gabrielle, you need to find someplace to settle down and start a family. Lila, you need to make up your mind and quit torturing the young men in this village."

Of all the narrow minded, self-serving ideas! He doesn’t seem to care what Gabrielle, or Lila want – as long as he has his way, Xena fumed, almost stomping out of the nearby trees to shake some sense into her partner’s father.

"That’s ridiculous! I’m not going to settle for some slow-witted villager at this point in my life!" Gabrielle stood up and brushed off her skirt. "Now I remember why I don’t come home!" She stormed back to the house, leaving her upset family behind. And how good I’ve got it. Xena never pressure’s me into anything.

"Well! I swear that girl grows more headstrong everyday!" Hecuba looked to her husband, whose face was red with anger. She looked to her other child.

Lila shook her head. "Hey…don’t look at me that way. You told me to check everyone out until I found the right one."

Hecuba sighed. "That didn’t mean to take years doing it, young lady!"

Xena watched as Gabrielle jumped up and raced towards the homestead. She waited, but the other three continued to sit under the tree, talking amongst themselves. Now’s as good a time as any, I suppose. She moved through the trees until she was on the other side of the modest home.

Gabrielle was in the room she was sharing with Lila, sitting on one of the two beds. Her back was to the window, and she appeared to be crying. The warrior crept up to the window and peered inside.

Damn…she looks as bad as I feel. Xena climbed silently through the window and stood directly behind the weeping woman. "Gabrielle?" She reached over and tentatively touched the smaller woman’s shoulder.

"Aaaah!" The blonde jumped up and grabbed her nearby staff, almost taking off the head of the Warrior Princess. "Xena?"

The warrior grasped the end of the staff, inches from her nose. "Good to see you too, Gabrielle," she commented dryly.

Gabrielle released her hold on the heavy weapon as new tears sprang to her eyes. "Xena?" She repeated, not certain if the woman in front of her was a dream, or reality.

"Yeah, it’s me." The dark-haired woman stepped closer. "Are you all right? You’ve been crying." She reached out with her hand, but dropped it when the younger woman backed up.

"What are you doing here?" Gabrielle hoped that her lover hadn’t heard her father’s remarks outside. She gestured to the bed. "Why don’t you sit down? You look exhausted." She began to fuss with things around the room, unable to look Xena in the eye.


Xena sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. "What’s up? You look upset." She wanted to rush over and wrap the bard in her arms, but felt that it wouldn’t be welcomed just now.

The blonde finally turned around to face her friend. "Nothing big. My parents are still trying to get me to settle down." She ran an impatient hand through her hair and joined Xena on the bed. "My father says I’m getting too old to be wandering around the countryside."

"Oh." I guess that means she hasn’t told them about us. Probably ashamed of me. Xena closed her eyes. Wouldn’t really blame her, though. I don’t exactly have the best track record, do I?

"Xena?" Gabrielle saw the pain reflected on her companion’s face, and realized the cause. I love her…but at every turn, I seem to hurt her. "Honey? Talk to me, please?" She reached over and grasped the warrior’s clenched fist, forcing it open gently, then interlocking their fingers.

"What am I supposed to say? That I learn more about you from listening to what you tell other people, than what you say to me? That you seem to need me a lot less than I need you?" Xena shook her head, disgusted with herself. "That no matter what I do, how much I show you I care, it just isn’t enough?" She stood up suddenly. "I came back from the dead for you, Gabrielle. Doesn’t that show you how I feel?" The warrior walked back across the room to stare out the window. Damn, Xena…you just can’t keep your stupid mouth shut, can you?

Gabrielle watched the strong muscles twitch in her lover’s back. I had no idea…"I love you, too, Xena," she whispered quietly. "I didn’t realize how my actions affected you." She stood up and crossed the room, wrapping her arms around the tall woman from behind. "It’s not that I don’t realize how you feel…sometimes I just get so caught up in the things around me, I don’t stop to think first." She grasped the leather-clad hips and spun Xena around to face her. "Don’t ever think that I don’t love you with all my heart, Xena. You are the most important person in the world to me. I just get easily sidetracked."

Xena allowed the younger woman to lean up and capture her lips. This feels so good…so right. She continued the kiss for several minutes, until both had to break away. "Sidetracked, huh?" she smirked.

"Uh-huh." Gabrielle leaned up to continue the kiss, as she worked the armor from the strong body in her arms. "You got that right. Let’s just see how sidetracked I can become, okay?"

She pushed the warrior onto her bed and began to prove her point in earnest.


The End

Present Tense

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