Disclaimers Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and any other characters that have appeared on Xena: Warrior Princess are the property of RenPics/Universal/MCA. Were borrowing them for a short while, but no copyright infringement is intended. This story cannot be sold or profited from in any way. The storyline itself and extra characters belong to me. It contains spoilers for every doggone season theyve done so far.
Theres very little sex, violence, or naughty words. (Gee, I think Ill go read something else!- AJ) Although there is a theme of two women who love one another. If this is illegal where you live, or twists your knickers, (Oooh! Twist those knickers, honey!) then hit the back button. You wont hurt our feelings (much, anyway). After I wrote the first story, Past Tense, I came to realize that things were left a bit unresolved. (Thank you to the folks who wrote me and helped me realize that! <g>). My beautiful partner and soulmate, AJ, has graciously volunteered her abilities to co-write this sequel. Let me know what you think firstname.lastname@example.org or better yet, tell AJ email@example.com (No, tell Carrie. Im too fragile.)
By AJ & Carrie
The sun had been down for a few candlemarks when the dark-haired woman awakened and slipped from the bed. Xena studied the peaceful look on her lovers face for a long moment, then shook her head and pulled on her leathers. She walked quietly through the dark cottage, careful not to disturb the sleeping residents.
"Xena?" A timid voice from the kitchen halted the warrior as she was opening the front door. Lila stood in the doorway, wiping her hands on her apron. "I didnt know you were here."
Damn. I forgot all about Lila. Xena closed the door and moved to where the young woman stood. "Sorry about that," she quietly toned. "I needed to talk to Gabrielle." She allowed the smaller woman to grasp her arm and pull her into the kitchen.
Lila gently pushed the warrior into a chair then scurried to a nearby counter. "We have some supper left let me fix you a plate." She waved off any objections. "Dont bother refusing. I bet that you rode most of the day, and havent eaten anything." She carried a heavily laden platter to the table, sitting it in front of the silent woman. "And by the looks of you, its probably a safe bet that you havent been sleeping much lately, either." Dark circles were prominent under the usually clear blue eyes.
"Uh thanks." Xena accepted the plate, and mentally shook her head. She chatters as much as Gabrielle used to. A pang of regret stabbed at her heart. Used to. When was the last time I heard her just talk? A gentle hand covering hers brought the tired woman back from her musings. "Hmm?"
"Whats wrong? Did you and Gab have a fight?" She had never seen the warrior look so lost.
Picking at her food, Xena shook her head. "No, not really. You have to talk to have a fight," she grumbled. "We dont do much of that, anymore." The time that they spent together was filled with the bard working on her scrolls, or making love. Whenever Xena would tell her lover that they needed to talk, Gabrielle would initiate an all night session of lovemaking that would wear both of them out.
The younger woman sighed. "So its not just my imagination, is it? Gab is acting differently." Her sister seemed preoccupied ever since she had arrived. "Has something happened recently? She acts like shes "
"Looking for something," Xena finished for her quietly. She pushed the plate away from her, the food mostly untouched. At the younger womans questioning glance, she continued. "Shes looking for answers to things that I cant help her with, Lila. And anytime I try to talk about it, she uh " Xena paused, not sure how much of their relationship Gabrielle had shared with her sister. "Changes the subject," she finished lamely.
"Uh-huh." Lila looked at Xena with a small smile. The telltale mark on the warriors throat looked to be quite recent. "So " she looked pointedly at the hickey. "Changes the subject? Thats what its called these days?"
Xena frowned, then reached for her neck in understanding. "Oh umm " She looked around the room, then stood up quickly. "Ive got to go take care of my horse. If Gabrielle wakes up, tell her Im camped for the night in the clearing to the west of here."
Lila stood up also. "Thats not necessary. You can stay here tonight." She stopped when Xena raised a hand.
"We both know thats not going to happen, Lila. Your father doesnt exactly have me on the top of his favorite people list." Xena smiled at the younger woman before she turned to leave. "Thanks for the offer though." A wistful look was replaced almost immediately with the no-nonsense mask that the Xena always wore. "Goodnight."
Lila watched the tall figure leave. The way the warrior walked away from the house spoke volumes. Shed never seen Xena look so defeated before. This proud woman that she had come to respect, even admire, now looked like she was struggling to keep herself together. Lila thought about what Xena had said about Gabrielle. She knew her sister could be stubborn. How many fights had they had when they were growing up? How many times had Gabrielle won, not so much by talking her way to victory, but just by waiting for the other person to give in?
She thought about what Xena must be going through waiting for Gabrielle to talk to her. It shocked her to realize that it truly hurt her to think about what might happen if Xena were to give in before her sister did. Gabrielles stubbornness might be the end of their relationship. It occurred to her, then, how much she had come to not only accept Xena, but to consider her part of her family. One that she didnt want to lose.
Lila opened her bedroom door and watched Gabrielle sleep for a few moments. She continued to ponder the problem, then, not having any clear cut answers, she decided to do what she did best: barge right in there, cuff Gabrielle on the back of her head, and ask her what she intended to do to fix things.
"Gabrielle! Wake up!"
Of course, other things about Gabrielle had not changed at all. She snuggled down more deeply into the bed and her quiet snoring became more amplified.
And with that, Lila snatched the covers away from her sister and, with them, rolled Gabrielle out of the bed and onto the cold floor below. Lila stood there with a triumphant expression on her face. Wow! Didnt know I could still do that to her! Then she went about the business of getting her sister to calm down long enough to talk to her and threw her a shift to cover herself with.
"Youve some explaining to do, here, sister!" Gabrielle gave Lila her most imposing, "youre lucky Im not wearing any weapons" look.
"Knock it off, Gabrielle. You have some explaining to do, yourself. I just watched Xena walk out of here looking like shed just lost her best friend. You want to talk about it?"
"No." Gabrielle crossed over to their dresser and began arranging her hair.
"Wrong answer. Ill try again. You want to talk about it?"
"I said, No."
"And I said thats the wrong answer, Gabrielle. Listen, you may play that game with Xena, and you may think you can wait until I get tired of asking, but youre wrong. I like Xena and I saw how she looked when she left here. Youre going to tell me whats wrong. Then youre going to tell me what youre going to do to put the confident stride back into your warriors steps."
Gabrielle looked at her sister and tried to determine how much was bluff and saw, instead, genuine concern looking back at her. And something more: fear. Shes really worried about Xena. About us. What do I say? What do I tell her? Im not sure I even know where to begin.
Lila solved that problem for her when she grew impatient and just asked: "Gabrielle, do you love Xena?"
"Of course I do! Weve been together for some time now. Of course I love her."
"I asked if you love her, Gabrielle, not if youre used to her. Do you love her? Do you love who she is, how she thinks, what makes her tick? Or is it just a physical thing with you?"
"Lila, this is really personal. I dont have to talk about it with you." The bard had put on her clothes, and was intently studying the clasp of her belt.
"Then who? Who are you going to talk about it with, Gabrielle? Xena? It doesnt look that way to me. You need to work this out, Gabrielle. And you can either talk to Xena, or Mother or me. But youre not going to leave this town until I see your warrior smile like she means it."
Gabrielle didnt know whether to smack her sister for her impudence or hug her for caring so much. Shes really grown up! Look at her daring me to defy her. She looks like mother did when we were kids and I pushed her a bit too far. A smile spread across Gabrielles face.
"Youll talk?" Lilas eyes widened with anticipation.
"Ill think about it," Gabrielle conceded.
"Well, at least thats something. Oh, by the way the sound of hammering that youll be hearing in the next few minutes thatll just be me nailing your door shut. Well pry the nails out when youre ready to discuss things."
With that, Lila left the room with a smirk on her face. I bet shes wondering if Id really do that! Hmmm It might be a good idea!
In the clearing, a tall, dark figures posture slumped. She bent her head over her horses neck as she tried to put it all together in her mind. The brush she had been using dropped to the ground, forgotten.
"Argo, whats happened to us, girl? Im losing her, and I dont know what to do to fix things." The hairs stood up on the back of Xenas neck as she felt a familiar presence.
A deep, masculine voice taunted, "So, wheres short, blond and irritating, Xena? You finally get tired of her?"
"Go away, Ares. Im not interested in anything you have to say." Xena bent down and picked up the brush, effectively ignoring the handsome god.
"I just thought it was a little too quiet around here. You know, no incessant yakking, barding, or whatever she calls it when shes running her mouth. Thought you might be lonely." The god of war stepped closer and ran a teasing finger down her jawline.
Xena slapped his hand away in disgust. "Ares. Get to the point. Say whats on your mind and go away."
He crossed his arms over his muscular chest and smirked. "Well, word has it that you and Miss Goody-Goody arent getting along too well right now. So, I, uh ."
"Thought youd exploit the situation for your own benefit, right, Ares? Im not interested. And it wouldnt matter if Gabrielle were with me or not. Id never betray her by listening to you again. You might as well save your breath."
"Oh youll be needing me again, Xena. I can wait." With that, he vanished. Xena blew out a breath and shook her head. "I never said I deserved any peace, but it would be nice to have, even for a little while." She sat down on a nearby log dejectedly.
Just then, Lila approached the camp, calling out to the Warrior Princess, "Xena! Are you here? Its me, Lila!"
"The fates must really hate me, Argo." Xena buried her face in her hands, as the golden horse snorted her agreement.
Lila stepped into the clearing, the flickering firelight picking her up out of the shadows. "Xena? I have to talk to you. Its about Gabrielle."
The warrior jumped to her feet. "Is she hurt? Where is she? She was asleep when I left. What "
"Hold on, shes not hurt. I just left her. I think we need to talk. Maybe I can help."
Xena looked at the ground. She was unsure what to think. She knew that Lila loved her sister, and, for a while, had been jealous of her friendship with Gabrielle. Now that they were lovers, she didnt know if Lila would be even more jealous or if she really meant to help her. "Im not sure what youre talking about," Xena finally replied.
"About you and Gabrielle. Why shes sleeping at our house instead of with you. After all, you are lovers now, arent you?" The dark-haired girl stepped even closer, until she could see the pain in the warriors eyes.
Xenas eyebrows arched higher than they had ever arched before when what Lila had just said registered in her brain. "Lovers?"
"Oh, cmon, Xena. Gabrielle already told me that youre together. But she doesnt seem very happy about it. I know she loves you. It was plain as the nose on her face when she was here last time. Every time she mentioned your name, she glowed. I knew she belonged with you."
"I wish I were as sure about this as you seem to be." Xena sat back down on the fallen log and stared at nothing. She made no move to continue the subject.
The warriors head turned. "Hmmm Oh, Lila. Im sorry. I was just thinking."
"Xena, maybe I can help. My folks will probably kill me for this, but I still think Gabrielle belongs with you. She always will. But I dont think she knows that yet."
"What do you mean?" Xenas curiosity was piqued.
"Well, when we were little girls, Id want to play house all the time. Id want to pretend to be a wife and mother. But Gabrielle always wanted to be something different every time. I seemed to always know what I wanted for myself. Living here, marrying eventually, and having a family are what I see for myself, and Im happy with that. But every time we played make believe, Gabrielle was something different: a princess, a warrior, a bard who traveled the world, a pirate. She always had to be something she hadnt been before. Its like she kept trying on different roles for herself. She never knew what or who she wanted to be. Then, one day, you came along."
"And she followed me."
"Yes, she followed you. On the night she left, she said she was going to be a warrior like you. Did she become that warrior, Xena? Is that who Gabrielle is now?"
"No, not really. But she is very brave. And she is willing to fight for whatever or whomever she believes in. But, no, she isnt a warrior. At least, not one like me. This is who I am, what I am. Its not her, though."
Lila thought for a moment and decided further questions might be in order. "Xena?"
"Yes, Lila?" Xena wasnt entirely comfortable with the conversation, but something in the way that Lila was talking with her was oddly comforting. It was she thought for a moment it was like the way Gabrielle used to talk to her. Shed ask question after question. Shed look at an issue from all sides. She wouldnt stop until she was satisfied in her own mind that the problem had been thoroughly examined. Xena was more inclined to just flip a coin and go with it. But not Gabrielle, and apparently, not Lila either.
"Gabrielle came home once, but then went back to you. Is that the only time that Gabrielle left you?"
Xena suddenly found tears in her eyes. She turned her head away, but before she did, Lila noticed a tear trickling down her face, and she remembered: Perdicus. "Oh, Xena, Im so sorry. I didnt think you loved her even then, didnt you?"
Xena slowly nodded her head, but didnt speak for a long moment. Then she very quietly said, "Shes always leaving me and I always take her back. Its I just I need her, Lila." Shes more vital than air to me how else can I explain it?
Lila moved over to Xenas side and sat at her feet. She took the warriors hands in her own and tried to convey her sympathy to her through touch.
"Just like Gabrielle, " Xena murmured.
The younger womans eyes tracked to hers. "What?"
"Gabrielle would do that. When she would see me upset, shed come quietly to my side and take my hand so that I could feel her support. I uh miss that. Thank you, Lila. You two really are sisters, arent you? Same gentle heart."
Lila frowned. Her eyes blazed with undisguised anger at her older sibling. "I dont know about gentle, Xena. Right about now Im not feeling too gentle toward my sister at all. I think shes still playing pretend, and its hurting you."
"Ill be all right. Im more worried about Gabrielle. She needs something in her life, something that I dont know if I can give her. And Im afraid that the only way shell find it is without me." Xena looked at the ground, embarrassed by the admission.
"Shed never leave you, Xena. Not really. I know when she sees an opportunity to try a new role for herself comes along, she helplessly pursues it. Its a lure to her. She told me once that she had an opportunity to go to the Academy of Bards. But she left it to return to you. She always comes back to you, Xena. I think shell eventually learn that her home is with you. Youre her family as much as Mother or Father or I ever were. Just give her time."
"Lila, you know Ive underestimated you." Xena smiled at the brunette who was so earnestly looking at her with understanding and encouragement fairly flowing from her eyes.
"Everyone does! Thats why Im going to be such a great catch to the lucky farmer that wins my affection!" Lila laughed, and Xena couldnt help but to chuckle right along with her.
"No doubt, Lila no doubt."
From the edge of the clearing, a certain blonde-eyed bard had heard most of the conversation. She waited until her sister headed back to her home, and then she quietly approached the warrior.
"Xena. Lila told me you were here. I " Gabrielle looked at Xenas face. She could tell that Xena had been crying. She could see the signs of inner turmoil that the warrior had evidently been experiencing. And she realized that she was the cause of it. She swallowed hard, and approached the dark-haired woman.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Gabrielle offered.
"You you want to talk?" Xena was unsure shed heard right. It had been so long since theyd just talked.
"Im making a mess of things, arent I?" Gabrielle cast her eyes downward. But she continued to approach her warrior. Xena continued to sit where she was and waited to see what would happen next.
"Why did you leave, Xena? I mean, after we when I woke up, you were gone."
"Gabrielle, what do you call what we did at your parents home?" the warrior questioned quietly.
Tears welled up in the green eyes. "We made love, Xena. We made love."
"Gabrielle, I remember telling you over and over again that I loved you during...for me, it was making love."
"It was for me, too, Xena, " Gabrielle insisted.
"Then, why didnt you even once tell me that you loved me? Not just this time, but for a long time. When Im holding you, caressing you, pouring my love for you into every touch, you hardly say a word. When I realized that, it hurt. It hurts now. Do you love me, Gabrielle? Is it just sex to you? I need to know. I need you to love me, Gabrielle. It means nothing if you dont love me as I love you." Xena turned away, not wanting Gabrielle to see how she was unable to keep her tears at bay. Gods I sound like a lovesick kid whats wrong with me?
"What have I done to you?" Gabrielle whispered. The short blonde woman looked stricken. She was looking at the woman she loved? Did she really? Xena deserves to be loved. She deserves to be held by someone who can pour out their love for her into every touch, every breath. Am I that person? I thought I was. When I told her that I was in love with her after the ambrosia brought her back to life, I thought I loved her that way. Do I now? Why is it so easy for me to leave her? Whats wrong with me? Xena would lay down her life for me. She loves me as no one has ever loved me before. Why isnt that enough?
Xena cleared her throat. "Gabrielle, what do you feel when I touch you?" Her voice broke on the last word. Might as well find out now.
Gabrielle couldnt form an answer. She stared blankly at the woman who was desperately trying to find her way back into the place in her heart that she had occupied before. She knew that Xena was trying to renew their connection. It had been more than attraction. The first time they kissed, Gabrielle felt like every question shed ever asked herself about what she wanted in life had been answered in that kiss.
Shed loved Xena for so long. And when Xena died, it was like someone had ripped her heart open and left it to bleed to death. She had gone to the Amazons and tried to take up her role there. To try to distance herself from the pain of losing Xena, she had decided to accept her position as queen of the Amazons. When the ambrosia touched Xenas lips, and Gabrielle saw the color return to her loves face, she knew. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that her heart dwelt in the chest of the woman who lay in that sarcophagus.
Xena was her home. Xenas touch made her feel warm, calm, and excited all at the same time. Xenas voice stirred things in her that no one had ever stirred before. She loved to look at her, touch her, smell her, hear her, and taste her. Every sense she had was attuned to Xena so sharply that to be separated from her for even a little while was painful.
Then why was it so easy for her to leave Xena? Again and again, she went after one pursuit or another and left the warrior waiting for her, hoping shed return. And when she did, nothing more was ever said about it. Xena never mentioned the separation or how badly it hurt her. She just accepted Gabrielle back, opening her arms and her heart one more time, willing to take any part of Gabrielle that she was willing to share.
"Im a fool." Gabrielle turned away in shame.
"Im a world class fool, Xena. You love me. You love me more than I deserve. Remember the story that we told each other right before I left to go to the Academy?"
"The one about the orphans searching for their families?"
"Its you, Xena. Youre my family. I forget that and go wandering off looking for what I need. But youre either right there beside me, or waiting for me to come home to you every time. I dont deserve that. You deserve better than that from me, or anyone who loves you. Im Im so sorry."
"Gabrielle!" Xenas heart was breaking. Seeing the look of shame on Gabrielles face, hearing the pain in her voice brought her to tears. Xena opened her arms and whispered to her love, "I will always wait for you."
Gabrielle looked up and saw the arms that were open to her. She saw the look of devotion that was so clearly discernable in those blue, tear-filled eyes. But she didnt move.
The tall warrior dropped her arms, thinking that maybe she had been mistaken.
"Please, Xena. Will you touch me?" Gabrielles voice was little and weak and so vulnerable.
Xena approached Gabrielle and trailed one long finger down her arm. Then she moved to draw a line with her finger down Gabrielles cheek. Gabrielle closed her eyes when Xena moved her hand downward until she grazed the top of her breasts. Xena felt her shudder. For the first time in a long time, she saw Gabrielle tremble at her touch.
Gabrielle opened her eyes and smiled. Then she furrowed her brow. "But what if I forget again? How many times can I hurt you, and you keep taking me back? Sometimes, its like I dont know who I am. And I end up hurting you.
"Gabrielle, youve been growing up. Changing. Defining yourself is part of that. Everyone has to do that. And the life we live doesnt make that easy. Maybe I was wrong. I fell in love with you before you were ready to commit to me or to anything else. Maybe I shouldnt have crossed that line with you. It isnt about sex Gabrielle. Its about love. Its about forever. Its about knowing deep in your heart that you belong to someone. I know I belong to you, Gabrielle. Youre my best friend, my light, my life. Maybe we should wait until you can feel that way about me."
"But I did! When you kissed me, I knew I belonged to you." The bards heart was breaking. This is it shes had enough of me.
"Maybe you knew it, Gabrielle. But maybe youre not ready to accept it. I will wait for you. I promise you. I will wait for you."
"You mean, you dont want to make love with me anymore?" Gabrielle quickly tried to grasp the idea and found it difficult, especially when she could still feel Xenas touch on her skin.
"I didnt say that I didnt want to, just that it might be better for us if we didnt. Youre always telling me that Im not the person that I was before. Youre right. The woman I was before could have sex and not think anything of it or of the person she had it with. But the woman that I am now the woman that you helped me to become, wont cheapen our love that way. Until you can pour your heart and soul into it, it would hurt too much. Until you can give yourself to me freely, not because you feel sorry for me, or for what youve done, I cant. I just cant. I need you, Gabrielle. I need all of you. Not just your body." Xena looked in control, but inside, the decision she was making was tearing her to pieces.
"What do we do now, Xena?" Tears fell down the blondes cheeks silently.
Xena reached down with one hand and wiped the wetness from her friends face. "We go on, Gabrielle. We go on. One day youll discover who you truly are. Hopefully, that woman will find that she loves me the way that I love her."
"Thats so unfair to you, Xena!" Gabrielle protested. "How can you " A callused hand covered her lips gently.
"I dont see any other possibility for me. Just lets just stay together. I couldnt bear it
any other way."
Gabrielle sighed and moved to hug Xena. They kissed sweetly, but refrained from going any farther. That night, they slept as they had before. Xena gently shouldering Gabrielles head, placing gentle kisses on it as she slept, while Gabrielle dreamed of a life of adventure, a life of possibilities, and of a blue-eyed warrior woman who loved her.
There was Britannia, Caesar, Dahok, Hope and Solan. Things designed to rip them away from each other and destroy them.
Then the Persian army attacked, and Xena once more proclaimed her undying love for Gabrielle. Soon after was the fiery pit, and Xena decided that whatever Gabrielles eternity was, would also be her own.
They didnt always keep to their resolve to wait until Gabrielle could commit to Xena fully. Even Najara, as twisted as she was, could see that Gabrielle needed to do that to be complete.
When Ephiny died, they stood by her funeral pyre as the flames consumed their friend. That night, knowing what the future held for them, they comforted each other and gave into their craving for each other and for the reaffirming closeness of each others bodies. Still, Xena knew that something was missing.
Then, when Gabrielle merely kissed her on the forehead as they awaited their execution, Xena tried to take the blame for the distance that always seemed to be there, no matter how much she loved Gabrielle. "I wish I had treated you better."
Tears slid down Gabrielles cheeks. She mourned that fact that she felt Xena would never realize her dream of Gabrielle committing to her fully.
After their resurrection, they returned to Chin once again. Xena overheard Gabrielle say to the general who was obviously very taken with the young blonde, "Sometimes home is a person." Her heart soared with hope.
Gabrielle realized then that Xena was her home. She would never leave her again to pursue her own interests. If circumstances separated them, that was one thing, but it would no longer due to her self-absorbed way of following every new thing that came along.
Then Xena was found to be pregnant. The miraculous birth of Eve bound them in their determination to protect Xenas child from the gods who would kill her. Twenty-five years passed. Xenas daughter grew up not knowing her mother. Xena and Gabrielle were frozen in time while the world continued without them. Their friends and families aged. Some of them passed away. The world had changed, and the twilight of the gods was upon them. They reclaimed Eve, and many of the gods met their deaths at Xenas hand. It was a time of change. The followers of Eli were growing in numbers.
"Gabrielle?" The warrior looked at her friend, who had seemingly grown up overnight. She doesnt need me anymore we follow different paths, now.
Green eyes wise with maturity looked up. "Hmmm, Xena?"
"Theres a settlement nearby. The followers of Eli make up the majority of the population. Do you want to check it out?"
"Why would I want to do that?" Gabrielle frowned. Whats she trying to say?
"Well, you believed in his message ."
"I still do, to some extent," the bard, turned warrior, agreed.
Xena felt her heart pound, and her breathing catch. "You could do a lot of good there, Gabrielle. Dont you want to at least "
"You trying to get rid of me?"
"Are you trying to get rid of me? Cause I dont recall asking to go anywhere."
Xena was not really sure what she was hearing. She drew closer to Gabrielle and studied her face for some sign of anything. Shes mad? What did I ?
"Because, if you are Im not going anywhere. I happen to love you, you know." Gabrielle leaned up and kissed Xena differently from any way she had ever kissed her before.
When she pulled back, Xena arched an eyebrow in a manner that said that she hoped she hadnt misinterpreted the kiss. Okay not mad. The warrior felt her heart open again, for the first time in well over a year.
Gabrielle took Xenas hand and sat her down by the fire theyd been sharing. She knelt in front of her and gazed deeply into her eyes. "I love you Xena, now and for always. I commit my heart and my life to you."
That night, as they made love, Xena knew for a certainty that Gabrielle was truly hers.
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