Xena, Gabrielle, Ares, Varia, Aphrodite and all other characters that have been
previously mentioned on Xena are property of Ren. Pics. Any other characters
are owned by me and are the property of my own twisted little mind. I own this
story and it is copyrighted to me, thank you very much.
Content: This is an alternative story, but nothing explicit. Sorry, but that's just not my bag. If you're lookin for a good roll in the hay, its not to be found here. Read accordingly. There is an itsy bitsy amount of violence, but nothing too graphic.
On A Side Note: Due an overwhelming demand, basically every third person ordering me to do as such, I have implored the use of Beta Readers. Yes yes, so if there are any mistakes you can just blame them .JUST KIDDING. Thank you so much Pam and Beta Barb. I really appreciate all your great and patience work
I'm still learning this so whatever feedback, whether comments or criticism, will be tremendously appreciated firstname.lastname@example.org
And I have made a vow to respond back this time.
And away we go
Eight Years Later ..
Deep Breaths Xena, take deep breaths. Her hands were shaking uncontrollably as she took slow steps down the path. Sweat lightly glistened upon her brow and Xena could hear her heart beat flooding her ears. The warrior couldnt tell if she was more anxious or nervous.
She waited so long so patiently for today. Those eight years had seemed like an eternity but yet, if shed had to do it over again, she would have. Anything to see Gabrielle again.
When Xena banished herself back to the other realm, shed thought it was forever and had lived as such. After several months, she finally got the knack of well being dead. There were certain rules that she quickly adapted to.
Then shed finally found the door, the key to pass over. Not to the physical domain, but to the afterlife. There, Xena had seen so many people. Shed spent time with her mother, with Marcus even with Joxer.
It was strange because there was heaven and there were the Elysian Fields and many other sectors of the afterlife, yet they were all connected. They were all like pieces of a greater whole. Well, Xena reasoned, maybe that isnt so strange at all.
Xena had eventually even spent time with Akemi. The old wounds, the old betrayal, the old pain; all was absolved. The warrior felt her time with the woman enriching, but yet somehow lacking in substance much like all of the afterlife.
Everything was practically perfect practically.
But that one factor made everything else seem inconsequential. There was no Gabrielle therefore there could be no peace, no freedom, no happiness. Xena was a woman surviving on half a soul.
The warrior wasnt allowed to spend all her time in the other realm. Much like her time on Earth, Xenas visits were limited by a force beyond her control. She soon found out her role. Xena was the guardian of the souls.
She was to be the protector of all those who had died in Higuichi per her actions. Much of her time was spent alone, in her own prison. In the beginning, Xena relished the time. She would watch Gabrielle through her own personal window to the mortal realm. For hours, for days, Xena would sit and watch her lover as pain and longing seized her emotions.
But everyday the window would get smaller .and smaller. Until one day when Xena returned, it was completely gone. It was then that Xena truly knew pain.
So Xena waited and waited, with nothing but the air and the warmth of lost souls to comfort her. Of course shed visit her mother and her friends from time to time, but it offered little solace. It was as if the warrior was numb. She felt nothing but her loneliness her own pain.
Some days shed wish death upon Gabrielle just so they be together again if they could be together again. With the uncertainty of the afterlife, Xena really didnt know what would happen. Then she would curse herself those days and simply pray for Gabrielles happiness.
Days and weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. And finally the day came. Xena could feel everything around her rise in a giant crescendo. Although nothing was eluded, her warrior instincts detected a difference. Something was about to happen. For months, it had been building and building like adding fuel to a fire. Xena could feel everything climaxing. Her warrior senses were on full alert.
Then the day came.
It seemed Aphrodite was right; forever wasnt nearly as long as Xena thought it was.
Xena woke up alive in Japa. The warrior was utterly bewildered as she arose in the land of the rising sun, mortality coursing through her veins. Luckily, someone was waiting there for her.
It was Aphrodite.
And she explained everything. As guardian of the souls, Xena had to protect them as they were reborn. When the last soul breathed new life, Xena was free of her obligation. The day before a child had been born, it possessed Akemis soul. She was the last of the reborn. And now, seven years later, Xena was free.
As to her body being restored, that had been credited to Ares and Aphrodite. They had commissioned the powers that be, asking for the control over the relocation of her soul. Originally Xena was to have been reborn just as all the other souls, losing both her body and her memory.
However the godly duo had won authority over Xenas soul. Theyd retrieved Xenas ashes from the tomb next to Cyrenes in Amphipolis and proceeded to rebuild her body. Then, after her service was up, they arranged for Xenas soul to be rejoined with her body. It was so complicated, but yet so inherently simple.
Xena had fought down the question but eventually had to inquire.
"Why?" She had asked.
Aphrodite although slow to explain, was not offended by Xenas question it was logical. She deserved to know. Ares of course couldnt stand to think of Xena losing all her warrior skills, all her fire, all her dark side which would disappear with her memories had the warrior been reborn. He had a much more selfish reasoning.
"Plus," he added. "You gotta love that body."
Aphrodite had done it for Gabrielle. Although she still harbored deeper feelings for the bard, she wanted what was best for Gabrielle and that was Xena. Being the Goddess of Love, she knew in her heart that they were soul mates. Together is the only way the bard could every truly be happy.
And so Xena was here steps away from destiny.
Itd taken an entire year to get to this point. Xena had immediately left Japa on the first ship bound for Greece. The travel was a lengthy affair, but it was abundantly worthwhile. The warrior was moved to tears the second she stepped foot on her native soil.
Im home, she had thought.
Well almost home. Greece was her country; Gabrielle was her home. So the warrior had set out to find her lost companion. This had proved a difficult endeavor.
Apparently, after Xenas departure, Gabrielle had made one of her own. Not through death, but through seclusion. Gabrielle had apparently hung up her Sais for a different way of life .of what Xena wasnt sure. Either way, no one had seen hide nor hair of the battling bard for years.
Xena had searched all throughout the land. Shed revisited friends, acquaintances, even the Amazons; no one knew of her whereabouts.
The warrior had spoken to Varia who had been completely shocked to see Xena, being as Gabrielle had informed her of her death. After the color had returned to Varias face they had finally been able to talk.
Varia confirmed Xenas suspicions that Gabrielle was still alive. For the past few years, theyd exchanged letters back and forth. Varia kept Gabrielle informed on the goings of Amazonia. And every year or so Gabrielle actually made a trip up to the village for precedence. It helped with morale being as the great Queen Gabrielle had become much a legend with the Amazons.
Xena could have screamed aloud when she heard Varias words .Gabrielle was alive. In her heart, shed always known. Had Gabrielle have died, Xena would have felt her passing. But, somehow, it just felt incredibly good to have her souls knowledge confirmed audibly.
Sadly, she didnt know where the bard was.
Her quest for Gabrielle had taken Xena full circle, back to where it all began .Poteidaia. The warrior was shamed by the obviousness of it all. Its where she should have started all along. Although Gabrielle didnt reside in the town, Sara did .and she knew where Gabrielle was.
The woman had been quite shocked at seeing the Warrior Princess on her doorstep. Gabrielle had told her the story of Xenas death, so Sara almost fainted when she answered the door.
But, after the initial shock, Sara had welcomed Xena in with open arms, begging the warrior to stay for dinner and then the evening.
Xena had reluctantly obliged and spent the night at their abode. Sara had adjusted nicely and now had a husband and two darling children. Looking at them, the warrior was struck with both happiness and fear.
What if Gabrielles married? What if she has children? What if there is no room in her life for me? A thousand questions ran through Xenas mind in a thousandth of a second.
She had never considered the fact that Gabrielle might have moved on. Contemplated yes. Dwelt on it no. Sure there had always been that little voice of reason in the back her mind telling her to be prepared for that but who listens to that voice anyway?
In the end, Xena had simply asked directions to Gabrielles home nothing more. She knew that if she had found out Gabrielle had gotten married or moved on, it would be too much. Xena would lose her nerve as well as her drive.
And shed probably never see her bard again.
So for now she thought positively, whisking doubt away. The warrior found that Gabrielle had moved to a home about a days ride from Athens.
As Xena had rode up the path to Gabrielles dwelling, shed been a bit overwhelmed.
The warrior resorted to getting off the horse and walking. Riding would get her there
too fast; Xena needed a few extra moments to compose herself.
It had taken her eight years to get here. It had seemed like forever, yet somehow not quite long enough.
Smoke piped steadily from the chimney as she saw Gabrielles house. It was strikingly similar to the image shed pictured their home would be like someday .when theyd given up all the fighting. A fair sized cottage, big but not too big. A steady porch with two wicker rocking chairs facing the sunset
Wait a minute two chairs?! Xenas heart doubled its pace as it simultaneously leapt into her throat. She stopped dead in her tracks. Afraid to move forward, afraid to move back. The stagnant was all too safe. She relished in its comfort.
Eventually her longing claimed victory over her insecurity. She had to see her .even if it was for only a moment.
It would only take a second to last Xena the rest of her life.
Step step step .slowly the warrior restarted down the path until there she was, at the entrance.
Xena gave two sharp raps on the wooden doors.
Deep breaths Xena, deep breaths, she repeated to herself as the door gradually creaked open.
A gasp escaped from Virgils lips as he opened the aged wooden door.
Hed expected the neighbors to be stopping in or maybe even Gabrielle coming back from the market. But as his eyes fell upon the long lost traveler, Virgil was left completely astonished. He nearly tripped over his wide open, hanging jaw as the man took a step forward for a better look.
The woman needed no introduction. It was Xena.
"Xe Xe ." Virgil stuttered speechlessly as he tried to voice some semblance of a greeting, although at the moment it seemed extremely inadequate.
"Hi Virgil." Xena spoke with a small grin, trying to hide her mutual confusion.
The warrior had recognized the man immediately, but thats not to say the years hadnt affected Virgil. The boy Xena had once known was now a man. His thick hair still retained its dark brown coloring. His face held small wrinkles, evidence of the time past. Each small crevice symbolizing years of experience; some happy, some sad but all truly necessary.
His body, once slender and lanky, was now muscular, almost brawny. He wore a loose fitting tunic which did little to hide the toned physique that resided underneath. All in all, Virgil had turned into a very attractive man.
This only served to further Xenas sense of dread. Virgil answering what was supposedly Gabrielles front door was disheartening enough.
Several very awkward moments of silence inched by as Virgil continued to open his mouth, as if wanting to say something, then closing it as if hed lost the words. Xena took the minutes to find something completely enthralling about the wood knot on the porch floor, allowing time for her presence to fully sink in.
Finally Virgil looked composed enough to at least greet Xena. A full smile graced his lips as he out stretched his right arm to her.
The warrior quickly accepted his gesture of friendship, clasping his forearm with a secure grip. Virgil brought another arm around, bringing Xena into a quick embrace. Hed pulled back, giving her a warm look.
"You must have an incredible story to tell." Excitement saturated his high tone.
Xena simply laughed as she followed him into the home.
Gabrielle slowly strolled through the market as daylight dwindled down.
Her bones ached from a day of heavy traveling. The trip back from Athens was short, yet always a bit treacherous.
Shed been called to the Academy to judge over a bardic competition. Gabrielle found it highly ironic that they had asked her to participate, then teach, and now judge at the Academy when originally theyd tried to kick her out. She inwardly giggled, the students always loved it when she told that story.
Itd been a week of competition and Gabrielle was anxious to be back .kind of. She was excited to be home and to see Virgil, of course. She greatly appreciated the life she had. It was a normalcy she never thought shed achieve. A husband, a home, a stable life; it had all been very good for her.
Yet .still there was something intoxicating about being out on the road. Gabrielle enjoyed the freedom, the independence, the variety that travel provided. It was all so inebriating. Not that Gabrielle wasnt happy, she was as much as she could be. But a life of solidarity often led itself to boredom, and Gabrielle frequently found its complacency and simplicity positively maddening.
However Virgil was a good man and Gabrielle did love him. And she was secure in the knowledge that he loved her very much. But it wasnt anything at all like what shed had with Xena .nothing would ever be.
Though it had been eight years, Gabrielle still loved the warrior as much as the day she left. Every morning she woke up with Xena in her thoughts, every night she slept with Xena in her dreams. The pain wasnt any less than the day the warrior had left her, but slowly Gabrielle had learned to deal with it.
Well maybe not deal with it but she had learned to live with it. There was always a sharp pain in her heart, but Gabrielle had learned to dull it .however it often left her numb .to everything.
Gods I still miss her, Gabrielle thought as she eyed a round loaf of bread. A tear slip down as she thought in depth of her departed warrior. But Gabrielle quickly turned her thoughts, now wasnt the time for that.
Shed promised Virgil a nice dinner to make up for her absence. Hed always been accepting of Gabrielles other obligations, but lately, with the warlord Halliger around, he was becoming overly protective. At first it had been sweet like when Xena had acted in the same manner. Gabrielle had always derived secret pleasure from her soul mates protective streak. It made her feel loved.
But instead of gratifying, Virgils behavior had become overbearing. Theyd been having more frequent fights as he tried to exert control over Gabrielle .it never did work.
Tonight Gabrielle was furnishing dinner as a peace offering. Shed already purchased some fruit for desert, a good-sized chicken for the meal, and was now looking for bread to compliment the ensemble. Usually, Gabrielle would bake her own but with evening approaching there simply wasnt time.
As she reached out for the choice loaf, Gabrielle felt an intense feeling in her stomach. It almost caused her to double over. It wasnt a pain or a cramp. There was really no other was to describe it other than an intense feeling.
This wasnt a new experience. For the past year or so she had been having the same sporadic feelings, varying in strength. Lately theyd been deepening in their concentration. They were more frequent and much more intense. Gabrielle knew something was happening, knew she was feeling these pangs for a reason, but the bard could not quite pinpoint the source.
However this episode was definitely the strongest experience shed ever had. Gabrielle hunched over, trying to gain her bearings.
"Are you okay Miss?" Asked the shop keeper, staring confused at the ailing blond woman.
"Ill be fine." Gabrielle said, abandoning the bread and walking away from the stand.
As another wave surged through her, Gabrielle dropped her recently purchased items. Suddenly, a flood of understanding swelled within her. It all finally made sense.
Forgetting her grounded groceries, Gabrielle headed off running towards home .
The warrior let her hands rest upon the table.
Virgil had retreated to the kitchen. Hed insisted the warrior have a cup of tea to combat the evening cool that was fast approaching. Xena saw no benefit to denying him and quietly accepted the offer.
Her eyes darted around the home. She sat in a modest sized room. The flames that yielded from the center fireplace kept the room at a cozy temperature. A pot of hot water hung over the leaping blaze. Xena would have dwelt longer on the room, however at that time Virgil returned. He carried with him a medium sized mug, obviously for Xena.
He strolled over to the fireplace, stealing some of the boiling liquid for Xenas tea. Then, after he efficiently stirred the mixture he slowly handed the concoction over to the warrior. Xena tried to inconspicuously smell the tea. She got a mighty whiff and tried to repress the cough that rose in her throat from the strong scent.
She eyed the tea suspiciously, giving Virgil an exaggerated look. He released a hearty laugh.
"Oh Xena dont worry, it doesnt taste half as bad as it smells."
A small grin arose on the womans face as she took a small sip of the steaming fluid.
"Not bad." Xena murmured between drinks, offering a rare compliment.
"Thanks." Virgil replied with honest pride.
Although its pretty hard to screw up tea even I always made a decent cup of tea. However Xena kept the comment silent on her lips, letting Virgil enjoy the small slip of praise. After all, she hadnt seen him in eight years.
"Teas about the only thing I can make. Gabrielle does most of the cooking."
Xena dropped her mug on the floor immediately at the mention of her lovers name.
"Ga Gabri elle." Xena choked out as she coughed down the hot tea, burning all the way down her throat.
"Yeah, she actually just stepped out to the market. She should be back within a candlemark."
So she is here. Xenas soul soared to the height of elation at the conclusion. After eight long years, she would finally see her soul mate. But as soon as the euphoria came, it quickly retreated as another realization invaded her thoughts. Gabrielle Virgil together. Gods! Theyre married!
The one thing Xena had hoped against hope not to happen. The one thing she bade the gods to prevent. It was her greatest fear realized. Gabrielle had moved on moved on without her. She was married. She probably had a family, a troop of little children playing around somewhere. She had a whole new life a life without Xena.
Panic rose up the warriors throat, coating it with a thick layer of bile as Xena was barely able to push down the urge to vomit. She wanted to run out of the room. Run away, run back to the comfort of the afterlife. A place where she could pretend Gabrielle still loved her, where Gabrielle still waited for her. A place where Xena could still dream of a future for them together.
But now everything was different so different. I should have never come. Xena scolded herself, wishing for a moment she could simply blend in with the walls. But a six foot, blue eyed, Warrior Princess is not easily hidden. Instead Xena stayed seated, her foot taping furiously, her hands fidgeting. A light sweat coated her neck as she perspired from anxiety.
I should leave, was the warriors first reaction. I could leave before she even got home. Virgil can keep a secret. Shed never even have to know that I was here. Xena began to reason, although she couldnt quite commit to the idea, knowing it would deprive her of seeing Gabrielle even if it were for the last time.
So Xena went back in forth, to stay or to go, a silent battle raging on in her head.
But it seemed the decision wasnt up to Xena, the Fates had other plans. The warriors superhuman hearing perked up to the light sound of the front door slowly opening. She heard the cautious, steady, all too familiar footsteps amble up behind her.
"Xena?" Called a small voice from behind the warrior.
Xena didnt need to turn around to identify the source. It was one she knew better than her own vocals. The voice was the sweetest sound that had ever graced the Warrior Princesss stealth ears. It was a part of her memory, it was a part of her being it was a part of her soul. She slowly turned to greet her visitor.
It was Gabrielle.
The bard forced herself to step back.
Her first reaction was to embrace Xena, which she did with tenacious ferocity. If given half the chance, she would have stayed that way forever, but her feelings were too raw right now .emotions too high. She needed a chance to compose herself.
Xena slowly took in the scent of Gabrielles wispy blonde hair as she pulled out of the embrace. Their hold had lasted only seconds, but it would have been enough to last the warrior a lifetime. In those few moments, Xena realized she was home.
As they stood a step apart Xena searched intently to meet Gabrielles eyes. There she found herself, forever drowning in a glorious sea of green.
Gabrielle met Xenas gaze, looking into the eyes of her long lost lover. The piercing blue orbs saw down to the depths of her soul and the bards heart warmed at that knowledge. She too was finally home.
So there they stood, in utter silence.
Gabrielle, the bard, with a lifetime of words, a million things shed wanted to say, but at this point nothing was needed. The instance was so pure; words would have only tainted the moment.
Xena was left speechless. She was left wordless .in fact she was left breathless. Her words had died on her lips the second shed become lost in Gabrielles eyes.
The appreciated stillness could have continued much longer if not for Virgils mild interruption.
"Gabrielle," he addressed her trying to break, what he perceived, as an awkward silence.
"Virgil." She greeted him formally, her eyes never lifting from Xenas.
"Hows this for a surprise?" He said, trying to joke. Virgil simply had no conception of the sanctity of the moment.
Instead of responding, Gabrielle simply lifted her eyebrows, conveying her sentiment. She finally broke her eye-to-eye tango with the warrior, moving to sit down in the chair across from Xena.
The warrior watched Gabrielle very carefully. Something wasnt quite right. The bards movements were rigid and something about her eyes .it was hard to explain. They still held the same warmth, the same love, yet there was a withdrawn quality about them.
Again the silence persisted.
And again Virgil took it upon himself to interrupt it. This time, both the warrior and the bard were thankful.
"How was your trip Gabrielle?"
"Fine." She answered quickly. The bard wasnt quite in the mood for chitchat. She was completely overwhelmed by the newly presented situation, and was desperately trying to deal.
Virgil paused for a moment before continuing.
"And the market " He stretched his words, hoping she would continue on his train of thought.
It took Gabrielle a couple second before she realized what he was implying. When it finally dawned on her, Gabrielle turned a light flush, feeling instantly both foolish and sorry for forgetting the meal.
"Oh gods, dinner! Im so sorry! I forgot." She shot up out of her seat, as if preparing to run back to the market for a second load.
"Its ok Gabrielle." Virgil assured her.
"But I promised you a nice meal and with Xena here I "
Xena stood up, placing a hand on Gabrielles arm.
"Dont worry about me. This," Xena looked intently into Gabrielles eyes, implying a meaning that only they shared. "Is more than enough."
Gabrielle unconsciously recoiled from her touch, scooting back several inches. But to the warrior, the inches were the equivalent of miles. She was devastated.
The bard was different. Shes acting almost cold towards me. No, thats not it. Its more rigid uncomfortable. Gods, I never should have come. Why am I doing this to her?! Xena cursed herself.
Virgil watched the scene unfold, completely oblivious to any of the surmounting tension.
"Well, weve got some left over cheese and bread in the kitchen." He said, pleased with his suggestion.
"Thatd be wonderful." Xena answered, mirroring Gabrielle as she sat back down in her seat.
Virgil retreated back into the kitchen and rummaged around, finding some adequate additions for dinner. When he reentered the room with plates and utensils, he found Xena staring at Gabrielle .and Gabrielle staring at the floor. When he returned with the meal, their positions had been reversed with Gabrielle staring at Xena and the warriors eyes downcast.
Although he claimed to understand none of it, Virgil was well aware that something much past him something deeper was occurring here. However he knew it was not his place to interfere. This was a matter between Xena and Gabrielle, not Xena, Gabrielle and Virgil. The bard was his wife, and he trusted her with his home, with his heart .with everything. And right now, Hed have to trust her to deal with this.
"Dinner is served." He smiled as he set down the food.
It had been a quiet affair. Virgil was constantly trying to fight the awkwardness of the situation, while both Xena and Gabrielle openly accepted it. Hed tried to make light small talk with the warrior, however he adamantly avoided the topic of Xenas death and resurrection. The issues were simply too heavy for a light evening meal.
Finally, they had all finished. Xena had cordially entertained Virgils annoying chitchat out of simple consideration for the man. Gabrielle had yet to speak another word. Shed stare intently at her food, and when she thought Xena wasnt looking, her focus would turn to the warrior.
Xenas eyes may not have caught her, but Xenas soul could tell when Gabrielles gaze was fixed upon her. It was an innate sense she possessed, as natural as breathing. Her soul would warm when she felt the bards eyes upon her. It was so obvious, Xena didnt have to look up; she could simply enjoy the effect.
Though Xena thought it to be her own secret pleasure, Gabrielle knew she was aware of her attentions. It was just a part of that connection they had .the connection theyd always had. She was beside herself right now. Her emotions had first gone into overdrive and now had almost completely shut down. The bard was simply riding on a wave of numbness.
She saw Xena before her, knew she was here yet she couldnt accept it. If she actually accepted it, she faced the risk that it wasnt real. That this was all a trick of Morpheus. Gabrielle feared that shed wake up from this dream .a dream shed had for the past eight years. The bard would rather stay in this fantasy then be awoken into the harsh realm that was reality.
When it was apparent that everyone was completely finished, Gabrielle stood up taking two hands full of dishes into the kitchen. Xena quickly followed after her with the remaining plates.
The bard began to wash the plates and was startled as Xena came up behind her, dropping off her load.
"Sorry." Xena spoke quietly but with honest sincerity.
"Its ok I just .didnt expect you." Gabrielle said, her words holding a plethora of meanings.
Gabrielle returned to her dish detail and Xena joined her, grabbing a towel to dry.
"You dont have to do that." She used a somber tone, almost shy.
"I want to." Xena smiled.
That was enough for Gabrielle. They went about their duties in silence. Every few seconds Gabrielles eyes would lift up to meet Xenas. The warrior would smile, catching her every time, and the bard would quickly return her gaze to the water.
Gabrielle handed Xena an extra soapy dish. The bard unintentionally flicked several suds in Xena face. The warrior reached up and wiped her upper lip, removing the offending evidence. She then dipped her hand in the water, brought it up and flicked Gabrielle in the face, the water leaving a chaotic trail on the Amazons cheeks.
The warrior waited cautiously for Gabrielles reaction. The bard took several seconds before repeating Xenas actions, sending an extra amount of soap in the warriors face.
Xena smiled at the challenge and reached down again, this time splashing a wave of water in Gabrielles direction.
Gabrielle took a step back and looked up at Xena.
"Are you trying to start something Warrior Princess?" Instead of her earlier seriousness, Gabrielles voice was filled with playful sarcasm.
"Well, as you know, water fights are one of my skills." Xena paused, raising a teasing eyebrow. "And I do have many skills."
And suddenly Gabrielles last wall fell down.
"Its really you, isnt it?"
"Yes Gabrielle, its really me."
With that, Gabrielle finally accepted Xena being here Xena being real. A flood of emotions attacked the bard. She was happy. She was sad. She was angry. She was confused. She was surprised. It was too much for her to deal with.
Xena saw the transformation in Gabrielles eyes and was there to catch her. The small woman fell helplessly into the Warrior Princesss outstretched arms and Xena held her as tightly as she could.
Safe in her soul mates arms, Gabrielle let go. She released years and years of pain in matter of moments. The bard began to cry. Shed cried tears she didnt know she had left. There were tears of happiness, tears of sadness, tears of eight years of separation. She let it all go.
Strong and steady, the warrior remained as she whispered words of encouragement, words of love, all the things shed been waiting so long to say, into the bards ears.
Virgil watched from a distance, not completely sure how to react to the situation. He was happy that Xena had returned. Xena was his friend and he had missed her. And he was happy because he knew Gabrielle was. Shed never truly been the same since the warrior left.
And although he tried desperately to fight it, Virgil couldnt help but feel more than a little threatened. He loved Gabrielle with everything that he was and was secure in the knowledge that the bard loved him back. But, he also knew that what they shared was nothing in comparison to the bond between his wife and the warrior.
He was Gabrielles husband, but Xena had been the bards soul mate. Im better than this. He told himself as he found down feelings of petty jealousy. He was finally able to conquer his rabid emotions for the moment. This is only natural, Virgil thought as he looked upon the two embracing, they havent seen each other in such a long time they were so close.
For now, it was acceptable Virgil concluded as he exited the room and out the door. He headed off towards town for he had matters to attend to.
Xena and Gabrielle paid no attention to his departure, they were too wrapped up in the thrill of each others arms.
The sunlight lazily peeked in from the opposing window.
Xena tried to resist it, but eventually the Warrior Princess awoke. Her eyes squinted, adjusting themselves to the illumination of the new day. Her body was tight and sore from spending the night in such an awkward position.
She had to fight down the urge to stretch, fearing shed disturb her precious cargo. Wrapped in her steady arms lay a cute little blond bard that Xena was more than fond of. Here, in the suns golden rays, Gabrielle looked like an angel and again Xenas breath left her.
Last night had been a cleansing affair; all the old wounds had been washed clean and were now finally beginning to heal. Gabrielle had cried and cried into the evening and Xena was content to let her. The warrior offered her unwavering support as Gabrielle released all her pent up emotions.
Eventually the bard had cried herself to sleep. Xenas initial reaction was to move the bard to a more comfortable spot, perhaps her bedroom. However Xena had yet to see the room and really wasnt sure she could face seeing the bed that both Gabrielle and Virgil shared. She was strong but not that strong. Also she didnt want to risk waking her tired companion.
So instead Xena had remained on the kitchen floor, her back against the wall. Gabrielles slow breath had lightly grazed the warriors chest. The bards soft snores that were like music to her ears. Xena concentrated on the sound and had eventually drifted off to sleep.
And now she was awake and her body was paying for last nights carelessness. But that didnt matter, it had been more than worth it.
Gabrielles eyes shot open and she jerked up to a sitting position. Morpheus had not been a gracious host, rudely kicking her out of his realm. At first she was too overwhelmed by the bright sun and scent of morning dew to recollect or register anything else.
Then, after a few seconds of silent reflection, last nights events came into focus. Xena Xenas alive and shes here. The memories flooded back. However Gabrielle became panicked when she couldnt see her warrior in view.
"Xena?" Her voiced called frantic as she looked around. Her head turned left and she was met face to face with her Warrior Princess.
Calm flooded her veins.
"Xena." Her voice was drenched in both security and relief.
"Im here." The statement was so simple, yet it meant so much. It was everything.
"I know." Gabrielle smiled. It was the first genuine one Xena had seen since she returned. Shes still as beautiful as ever.
As the sunlight illuminated Gabrielles features, Xena got her first real look at the bard. And she was right, she was just as beautiful if not more. The years had been kind to her.
Gabrielle, even eight years later, still could pass for little more than a girl. However her sophisticated mannerisms had matured to reflected her age. Save a few very small lines in Gabrielles brow, she was much the same woman as before.
Those worry lines, I wonder if they're from me? Gods Ive done so much to her she deserves so much better and yet here we are together again. The warriors hand acted with a mind of its own, reaching up to Gabrielles cheek and softly caressing it.
"So beautiful." She murmured her thought aloud.
"Oh Xena." Gabrielle scoffed, down casting her eyes as she tried to hide the color rising to her cheeks.
But being the astute observer Xena was famous for, she saw Gabrielles flush. Its nice to know I still have that kind of affect on her.
"Beautiful." Xena said with great sincerity for it was the utter truth.
Again the bards cheeks turned at light crimson as she felt heat rise to her face.
"Xena, Im an old woman now." She spoke with sarcasm, trying to mask insecure undertones .but Xena heard them.
"Gabrielle, you are," She paused for added emphasis. "Just as beautiful as the day I first laid eyes on you."
"Wait, I take that back."
Gabrielle shot her a surprised and obviously hurt expression.
"What I mean is I lied. Youre even more beautiful now than you were when I first met you. You were a girl back then ..youve grown into such an incredible woman, Gabrielle. Besides I like older women."
"Hey," Gabrielle mocked offense, poking Xena in the ribs with an offending elbow. "Youre still older than me."
Xena, not expecting the playful blow, winced inwardly at the sharp pain.
"Oh gods Xena, Im sorry."
"Its ok Gabrielle. It was an accident."
As if just noticing their conditions, Gabrielle glanced around and found that they were still in the kitchen.
"Did I fall asleep on you Xena?"
"Yeah, but thats me Xena Warrior Pillow."
"Im sorry, gods, you
must be so uncomfortable." Gabrielle pushed to standup but Xena grasped
her firmly on the arm, bringing her back into place.
"Gabrielle," the warrior looked deep into her eyes. "Its ok."
"It is?" Her voice chalked full of insecurity, the question obviously holding a deeper meaning.
"Yes, it is."
And with that the warrior and the bard left the kitchen, ready to face the day .together.
The rocking chair creaked as Xena eased into its smooth motion.
She and Gabrielle had elected to sit outside on the porch for some quiet conversation. It was private, but not quite enough for Xena with Virgil silently looming over them. For the most part he was in the shop, however every candlemark or so he would venture out and give them a suspicious look.
I suppose its only natural I mean we used to be we are what are we?! The question plagued Xena mind. There was no clear definition of what their relationship was anymore. Xena wanted answers, but it was too soon. She didnt want to ask, she didnt want to scare Gabrielle off. Shed just have to give her time.
They'd been ideally chit chatting, nothing with real substance. This was still very much a feeling out period for both the warrior and the bard.
"So what have you been up to the past few years?" The second the question left her lips, Xena felt instantly deft. How dumb does that sound?! Gods, very slick Warrior Princess.
Gabrielle too felt the awkward tension between her and the warrior. Of course it was to be expected, I mean they had been parted for what had felt like a lifetime. But the bard wished they could just jump to the way things used to be, shed be happy then.
It is my fault though I just didnt wait long enough. I should have known Xena would come back.
However instead of dwelling on her heavy guilt trip, she turned to answer the warriors question.
"So much, yet nothing much at all. Virgils a carpenter, he owns a stand in the town market where he sells his work. I help out with that some of the time."
"Did he " Xena pointed to the two rocking chairs.
Gabrielle smiled in understanding.
"Yeah. Actually I think hes made all the furniture here and in the house."
Xena inspected the smooth chair handle, and displayed an expression of approval. Not bad work, she thought.
"So thats what tells me what hes been doing, but what about you?"
"Well after Virgil and I got .." Gabrielle stopped her speech, not wanting to say the next painful word. It was as if admitting a type of infidelity and in a way it was. The bard was ashamed and at the same time very sorry.
Xena too felt the pain. She knew Gabrielle was about to say and was thankful she stopped. Although she knew the word, it would be so much harder to actually hear it from Gabrielles lips. It made it that much more real somehow.
Instead she nodded her head in understanding.
"Anyway um we moved here. Its a small town, but I like that about it. It reminds me a lot of Poteidaia. Its perfect because its only a days ride from Athens. For the past few years Ive been connected to the Academy in some way. At first they asked me to perform at some of the festivals. Then they asked me to teach and I did that for a couple of years. I really enjoyed that, but it keeps me away from "Again she censored herself. "Away too long."
"So now I go to the Academy once a month or so, often to perform but this time they were having a competition and they asked me to judge it. It was a great honor."
"Im sure." Xena said, obviously impressed.
The knowledge that she had impressed the Warrior Princess fed Gabrielle silent delight.
Xena tried to refrain, but her mind was plagued with question about Gabrielles new life. She had to know.
"Are you happy?" She spoke with a quiet tone, unsure how Gabrielle would react.
It took the bard a moment to conjure an answer. She wasnt offended by the question, it was completely called for. Am I happy? Gods what is happy?
"Its been a while since anybody had asked me that. Am I happy?" She repeated the question aloud to herself.
Xena leaned in further, as if hanging on her answer. And in many she was. If Gabrielle answered a definitive yes, then the warrior had no place here. Xena would then only be a complication to the bards new life. Shed leave to become nothing more than a memory, a love long gone. But if she answer no .Gods, there might still be a chance for us.
"To be completely honest," Gabrielle began and Xena filled with dread at the slow words.
"I dont even remember what happy is. It has been so long since I truly knew that I was happy. I havent thought about it in a long time, instead Ive just spent my time being."
The answer was vague and did nothing to squelch Xenas rising fear. Is that her answer?
The bard saw the confusion rampant on her partners face. She deserves more, Gabrielle thought. But she was scared too, scared of what her answer meant. If she said she wasnt happy, it almost meant shed wasted all those years .wasted her last chance with Xena by conforming to a normal life.
But she couldnt lie not to Xena.
"No, Im not happy. I havent been in fact the last time I even remember feeling that way was that night before this all began. Do you remember when we were looking up at the stars talking about what wed do with our life? I remember you saying we couldnt run around Greece for the rest of our lives. All I remember thinking was that I would have followed you anywhere. That was the last time I was happy."
The memory was vivid in Xenas mind, for many reasons. But for the same one as Gabrielles. It was the last she remembered true happiness well that is until she saw her bard yesterday. The warrior was completely relieved, shed gotten the answer shed prayed for.
Although she wanted to inquire further, to ask Gabrielle a million questions about her her life their relationship that would all come in time. Xena just had to wait .gods how she despised patience.
"What about you?" Gabrielle spoke up. "Im sure you have an incredible story to tell."
"Not really." Xena answered nonchalantly, however shed been waiting for the question since shed walked in Gabrielles door. "After I ."
"Left me." Gabrielle interrupted, finishing her words. The bard was barely able to hold back the tears that the revelation produced. Even now, eight years later, it still caused so much pain.
warrior could not hide her shame nor did she want to. "I guess I kinda
just existed. I had to stay dead
for the souls. But I didnt understand
how long. I had thought it was an indefinite sentence
"Well, I was actually guardian of the souls. I protected them until the next life. After seven years, they all had been reborn. I was the only one left. And here I am."
"Yes well, I spent the last year searching for you. I finally found you Gabrielle. I finally found you." She repeated, if only for her own benefit.
"Why did you leave me?" Gabrielle spoke in a very straightforward tone. She had to ask she had to know.
"I didnt want to. I was determined for us to be together forever. But that was selfish Gabrielle. I was holding you back."
"No, you werent." Gabrielle pleaded.
"Yes, I was." She stated concretely. "And it was wrong. It took someone else to show me that."
"Aphrodite. She came, the night I left you and confronted me. She made me realize what I was doing how selfish I was being. And I thank her for that. She told me I had to leave. I didnt want to Gabrielle. Please dont think that. But I had to it was for the best."
"Ill have to thank her." Gabrielle spoke with a sarcastic tone.
"You should. If it werent for her, Id never have come back. She gave me my body back. She gave my soul back. I owe her a tremendous amount of gratitude."
"I guess I do too." Gabrielle whispered.
"Im so sorry for leaving you. I had to it was the right thing to do."
"I know Xena."
And unannounced Gabrielle stood up and leaned over to Xena, placing a soft kiss upon her cheek.
It was such a simple gesture, yet it meant so much. It told Xena that Gabrielle believed her. It told Xena that Gabrielle forgave her. It told Xena that Gabrielle loved her.
The contact lasted only a second, but for a moment the two were in absolute heaven. The scent of Xenas close skin drew Gabrielle closer. Desires long denied began to rise again, needing satisfaction. The bard lingered over Xena for a moment, contemplating further action.
She wanted to gods she wanted to. It was so tempting it felt so right. She had to. Gabrielle mouth began descending upon Xenas soft lips. But a heartbeat before they met, the light thud of Virgils hammer sounded off. It took only a moment for Gabrielle to remember herself, and she backed away.
Xena watched her disappear into the house with mixed emotions. She was of course disappointed that Gabrielle had retreated from her, but on the same hand their encounter had been encouraging. The warrior wasnt really sure of anything right now.
All she knew was that it was a long road ahead.
The day had passed rather uneventfully.
Virgil continued his work in his workshop. Xena and Gabrielle had spent the day getting reacquainted, but in a purely platonic manner. Neither brave enough to push the other into a further examination of their relationship. Theyd avoided the serious talks and stuck to playful banter.
And for today, it was enough.
Theyd all reconvened for dinner that night. Gabrielle had prepared the meal she had promised the day before, creating a stunning blend of delectable delights.
"I forgot how good a cook you were my bard." The reference had slipped out, but it came so natural Xena didnt have time to stop it. The incident had caused an awkward silence, an angry look from Virgil, and a genuine smile from Gabrielle.
Otherwise it had all gone smoothly. After the meal, Xena had departed for bed citing immense exhaustion. Reacquainting with your soul mate can be so very draining. However Xena just needed time to think. She gave Gabrielle a quick but firm hug and bade them both goodnight.
Gabrielle had soon thereafter gone to bed. Heavy contemplation was ahead of her. But she denied it, Xena being back seemed so right. She didnt want to analyze it or ponder it, she just wanted accept it. To enjoy it.
As Virgil lay snoring at her side, Gabrielle could think of little else but her warrior. Last night had felt so wonderful, so safe, asleep in Xenas arms. There was a sort of subconscious security that it produced, and Gabrielle had spent to long without it.
Suddenly she had to see Xena, right now. Instead of dissecting the impulse, she simply rode it out. Gabrielle slowly rose from the bed, very careful not to wake her husband. She then tiptoed down the hall to Xenas room.
As she peered in, she found the warrior fast asleep. Shes so beautiful, Gabrielle thought. Xena looked so at peace in sleep. Gabrielle remembered that from before. Slumber provided the warrior a calm that was unobtainable in the awaken world.
It should have been enough, just to see her. But Xena had always been so addictive. The mere sight of her wasnt enough and Gabrielle was left instantly wanting no, needing more. She moved over to the side of Xenas bed, inches away from the warrior.
The bard tried to stop herself, not wanting to wake her sleeping warrior and yet she couldnt control herself. Her hand moved of its own volition, reaching up to casually stroke Xenas tanned face. She lightly caressed the warrior right cheek and Xena unconsciously snuggled into the touch.
Gods shes so beautiful. Gabrielles other hand came around, grasping Xenas other cheek so that she held the warriors jaw with in her hands. She leaned forward, placing a light but loving kiss on the warrior unassuming forehead.
As she pulled back looking onto Xenas face she was hit with an epiphany of sorts. I still love her, she thought although shed already known that. No Im still IN love with her. Gabrielle realized her feelings ran as deep as they had years ago.
Gods, Im absolutely, hopelessly, madly in love with her. The realization covered her like a snug blanket, warming her soul.
"By the gods, I love you Xena Warrior Princess." Gabrielle whispered to her sleeping companion.
However Xena hadnt been sleeping well at least not the whole time. Gabrielles soft breathing had alerted her finely toned warrior skills. But rather than ruin the moment and possibly scare the bard off, Xena had remained in a mock sleep state.
Her soul had soared at Gabrielles words. She took a quick second to contemplate whether she should reply or not, but her heart would not be denied.
"I love you too Gabrielle." The warrior opened her eyes and was met with the beautiful sight of her soul mates intense gaze, staring at her with a mix of satisfaction and surprise. "I love you so much."
Rather than respond with words, the small woman once again fell into Xenas arms. However tonight it was without tears, Gabrielle simply enjoyed the feeling of the warriors strong embrace. She breathed in her leather-scented skin.
It was all too familiar, yet over the years she had forgotten it .or forced herself to forget to forgo the pain. Either way she knew now, it was something she couldnt live without.
Xena too was enjoying the feel of Gabrielle in her arms. Each time, each embrace, it felt so strong so good. It served to affirm just how right this they were.
"Ive missed you Xena so much." Gabrielle murmured into the nape of the warriors neck. "Ive missed this."
"Me too Gabrielle." She pulled the bard in even closer. "Me too."
Gabrielle had forced herself to forget so much so much of everything tonight she wanted to remember. She needed to remember.
The bard pulled back from the hug slowly, moving several inches away from Xena. At first the warrior was afraid shed scared the bard away, but Gabrielles eyes looked so comforting so inviting. She knew in her soul that everything was okay.
A soft trembling hand slowly reached up to Xena. Gabrielle closed her eyes and then proceeded to run her palm down the length of the warriors body. She focused on every curve, the texture of Xenas skin everything. She wanted to remember.
Xena raised an infamous eyebrow in obvious confusion. Not that she had a problem with Gabrielles actions in fact she quite enjoyed them. However, they left her puzzled as to her bards intention.
As the blonde repeated her actions, Xena focused in on her partners mannerisms. She saw the slow motion of her hand, the deep look of concentration on her face. It was almost as if she was .memorizing. Shes trying to memorize me.
As the realization hit her, Xena reached up to stop the bards hand. Gabrielles eyes shot open as a response.
"When you were gone I I forced myself to forget." She paused for emphasis. "I need to remember."
The warrior simply shook her head in agreement, allowing Gabrielle about her way. Xena too wanted to remember, mirroring Gabrielle actions. Slow touches with steady hands. Quick kisses from soft lips.
As so the night went, Xena and Gabrielle rediscovering each other. The evening had been filled with light touches and careful embraces. Although lips grazed each others body, it hadnt really been a sexual experience. There had been no real kisses and there most certainly hadnt been sex.
Instead Xena and Gabrielle spent the night exploring each other. The texture of the skin, the curve of the body every crevice, every scar they examined everything. It had truly been the most sensual experience of both of their lives.
It was a prolonged pleasure that accompanied it. The pleasure of rediscovery, the pleasure of love.
They remembered everything they had been fighting .everything theyd been trying to forget. Their connection, their love, was all the stronger for it.
As dawn had approached, Gabrielle had returned to her bedroom for she was not in the mood for another one of Virgils questioning sessions. Hed cornered her earlier in the day, interrogating her about Xena and such. It was obvious that the man was completely insecure, scared of Gabrielle leaving him. The bard could sympathize with that. She knew much what it felt like.
Gabrielle loved Virgil, but she also knew she was in love with Xena. A choice had to be made .however she wasnt ready to make it just yet.
As she got up to leave the room, Xena stopped her. The warrior knew she must go, but couldnt let the encounter end in such a way. So Xena tilted Gabrielles chin up and kissed her lightly on the skin right above her lips, between her nose and her mouth. It had been so close yet so far away.
"I love you Gabrielle."
"I love you too Xena." The bard whispered as she turned down the hall.
Gabrielle stared ideally off into the wall as Virgil changed in front of her.
He was in a hurry to get into the town. Coupled with his morning anger, this made him not the best company. But Gabrielle was used to this used to him. Virgil was a usually lighthearted man, however every once in a while he would fall into one of his moods.
Rather than confront him about it, she simply grinned and bore it. She owed him that much, especially with the current circumstances.
But Virgil was far past anger, what he felt was much worse he felt hurt. Gabrielle had thought shed been secretive, but Virgil had heard her leave last night. At first hed thought more like convinced himself, that she was just checking on the warrior still enamored by her resurrection.
One candle mark turned into two then three then four. Finally it got to a point where Virgil could lie to himself no longer.
Although Gabrielle had never verbally stated the boundaries of their relationship, he, like half of Greece, had put two and two together. That being, he could only guess what had occurred the evening before.
Well, at least she came back. Hed have to give her some credit for discretion, but somehow that did nothing to comfort his bleeding soul. The more he dwelt upon the subject, the more his anger grew .and grew and grew. It flamed to a point where Virgil could no longer keep the painless silence.
"So was she good?" He asked with a malicious tone.
"What are you talking about?" Gabrielle responded, confused.
"Xena," he tapped his foot rapidly, trying to release some of the tension. "I asked if she was good last night."
"Stop Virgil. Stop right now. You dont know what youre talking about."
"Well I know that you left our bed last night and didnt come back until early morning."
Gabrielle should have cursed herself for her carelessness, but she didnt. Condemning her actions would cheapen the moment. It would mean in some way she regretted them, and she wouldnt want to do that. Last night was one of the most wonderful experiences of her life.
"We didnt have sex if thats what youre implying."
"Really." Gabrielle stated firmly, leaving no room for doubt in her tone.
"Well then what did happen?"
"Thats none of your business Virgil."
"Oh but I think it is. Im your husband Gabrielle. It is my business."
"You wouldnt understand," she whispered, but it was loud enough for the man to hear.
Virgil been fighting them, but slowly the tears began to fall. He just couldnt help it. Gabrielle had become his whole life he was scared to death of losing her.
"I Im tr Im trying Gabrielle. The gods kn know Im trying." He voiced broke, full of tears.
The bard was touched by his desperation. She didnt want to hurt him, but there was doubt in her mind as to their future.
"I know your trying, but you have to understand how difficult this is for me Virgil. I do love you."
His heart elated at her words, however he knew next came the infamous but.
"But I love Xena too. For a great many years, she was my life. I had accepted an existence without her but now with her back I dont know what to do. Im torn."
"I just need time." She said, leaving the room and Virgil to his thoughts.
Once he was sure she was far out of range, Virgil fell into the bed in a mass of sobs. It wasnt very manly or macho but he didnt care. His soul was in pieces.
Although Gabrielle had meant for her words to be comforting, they were in fact the opposite. They were the final nail through Virgils heart. He could no longer deny the truth anymore than he could deny his love for her.
Virgil had lost her.
Gabrielle grabbed Xenas hand, drawing her outside.
"Lets go." She said.
Xena was inclined to ask where, but chose rather to live in the moment and eagerly followed the bard outside.
Gabrielle led Xena over behind Virgils workshop where there lay a small stable. Inside was a gorgeous black horse. His big hooves evidence of his prowess, yet his gentle demeanor, coming up to the bards hand and nudging it lovingly, proved his gentleness.
A finely oiled saddle was positioned in the corner and Gabrielle walked over to grab it, placing it atop the stallions broad back.
"This is Hector."
Piercing blue orbs eyed the animal appreciatively.
"Hes a fine horse."
"Care for a ride?" Gabrielle asked with a coy smile.
"Of course." Came a steady reply.
With stunning execution, Xena gracefully mounted the horse. She then reached down, helping Gabrielle up with an inviting arm. Instead of placing her in back, which had usually been their custom, Xena pulled the bard ahead of her. Gabrielle tilted her head in question.
"I wanna feel you." Xena said. It wasnt a sexual comment, it was loving. She wanted to feel Gabrielles heartbeat next to hers. She wanted to inhale the soft smell of her skin. She needed to feel Gabrielle. That simply couldnt be achieved with the bard riding behind her.
Gabrielle much enjoyed the position and was thankful for the suggestion. As Xenas strong arms wrapped around her and she rested her chin on the nape of Gabrielles neck, for the first time in much too long the bard felt truly at peace.
The ride had been at a leisurely pace. Gabrielle had no real direction in mind, just a calming ride. Shed ended up giving Xena a small tour of the area. Though they had avoided the town, the two had ridden past the different natural landmarks and farms. Xena was actually quite impressed with the terrain. It was all extremely beautiful.
The rest of the ride had been spent in silence. It was not gauche but for the first time, truly comfortable. Xena and Gabrielle both welcomed and indulged it.
Xena smelt a faint hint of smoke in the air. She immediately began scanning the horizon wearily, searching for a source. She could see something, and instead of putting her mind at ease it only served to enhance her discomfort. She didnt want to say anything to worry Gabrielle, but as time went on the scent still remained strong and Xena was forced to vocalize her apprehension.
"Gabrielle do you smell smoke?"
"Oh yeah," she said very coolly.
Xena was a bit surprised at such a calm response. Shed expected at least a tinge of worry.
"Well do you know where its coming from?"
"Most likely from the farm over the ridge." She raised her finger, pointing in the direction. "It as burned down the other day." Her voice was filled with sympathy for the home.
Although Gabrielle had not known the patrons very well, she knew they werent a very well off family. The farm was all theyd had. Now they were left with nothing. Gabrielle and Virgil had visited, bringing with several baskets of food. The bards heart ached knowing that it was little solace to them, but there was nothing more they could really do. The family had refused the money Virgil had offered.
"Halliger happened." She spoke with uncharacteristic bluntness.
"A local warlord in the area. Nothing like we used to fight but he has had some minor success in the surrounding towns. Hes focused in on our town as his next conquest."
"I will give him credit for his approach, though. Its original. Instead of attacking the entire village at once, he slowly destroys it house by house, eventually making the people bend to his will."
"What do you mean?"
"Well last week he attacked the farm by the river, then the one I just told you about. Last month he took several houses actually in the village. Hes like a parasite, slowly feeding off towns until they are too weak and eventually succumb to his will."
Interesting approach, the warlord part of her brain said. It was an original tactic, probably had a high success rate as well. Though it wouldnt have worked for me though. Xena enjoyed the thrill of battle much too much. The instant gratification of it all, it had been enthralling. In those days patience was a skill she had yet to master. No, that definitely would not have worked for me.
"Has anybody tried to stop him?"
"Xena, theyre simply village people. They cant stand up against an army."
"You did." The warrior said almost in awe. Shed always been enamored by Gabrielles incredible courage.
"That was a long time ago, I was young and pretty stupid. Besides, most of that was Meleager not me."
"Gabrielle, first, youve always been brilliant. And no, it was not mostly Meleager. Youre too modest. You never saw the true wonder that you are."
"Sounds like someone else I know." The bard interrupted with a quick quip.
"Anyway," Xena continued on, pretending not to hear it. "It was you who saved Poteidaia. It was almost all you." Her tone filled with sincerity.
"I appreciate that. I actually did try to rally them to fight against Halliger, but they were afraid. And I cant say I blame them. No one here is a warrior besides Virgil and I, and we both have been out of commission for quite some time."
"So instead theyre content with slowly being killed off."
"You cant lead the blind if they refuse your hand. I tried Xena, but they will hear none of it."
The warrior released an angry sigh and chose not to further the discussion, not wanting to spoil the ride.
As they trotted on, the scent still remained thick in the air however both Xena and Gabrielle did their best to ignore it. However Xena was having much trouble denying the mounting sense of dread that was heavy in the air.
Gabrielle pointed out to a tree up ahead.
"Lets stop there."
Xena simply nodded in agreement. She would have followed Gabrielle anywhere.
As their destination came into focus, it was obvious that this was not just some ordinary tree. It was an absolutely beautiful willow. Its majestic branches hung down regally as they collectively swung back and forth in the wind.
Xena dismounted first, reaching up around Gabrielles waist, bringing her gently down. They escaped underneath the treetop; its branches providing a sort of privacy that the two both delighted in.
They sat down, facing each other. Caught in a silent conversation, their eyes spoke more than their lips ever could.
As Xena stared deeply into Gabrielles eyes, she found nothing but unconditional love. Gabrielle saw the same sentiment reciprocated.
Slowly, the warriors gaze wavered from her soul mates eyes. Down they drifted, so they were fixed upon the bards luscious lips. They were so soft, so supple so inviting. An urge of desire rose up and pitted in her belly.
Her first instinct was to fight it; that now wasnt the time. But Xena was tired of fighting, tired of fighting her wants, her desires her feelings. How something so right, be thought so wrong. It couldnt be it isnt.
Gabrielle too was pondering the same idea. More than anything in this world, she wanted to kiss Xena. No just a peck on the cheek or a quick graze on the forehead. No, she really wanted to kiss the warrior. Give her some physical affirmation of her love.
I shouldnt do this I cant do this, she told herself repeatedly. But why not? Why shouldnt I? I love her and I know she loves me. Ive never known anything stronger then us, the love we share. This is right.
And with that, she conquered her resistance. She carefully leaned in, steadily aiming for Xenas lips. The warrior, at the same moment, began her descent upon Gabrielles needing mouth.
They met in the middle, their lips at first barely touching. It was pure ecstasy.
Xena brought her arm around Gabrielles back, pulling her in closer. The innocent kiss turned passionate. Gabrielle opened her mouth to Xenas inviting tongue. The warrior indulged in the hot rediscovery of her lovers mouth, thoroughly caressing her teeth .her tongue everything.
However Gabrielle didnt intend for Xena to have all the fun, as her tongue began dueling with the warriors. It was the most delicious form of battle. Only when they could no longer deny the need for oxygen, did the kiss end.
But as soon as they were replenished, they began again. Their desires multiplied instead of being sated.
On and on they went, at first only kissing. But wandering lips led to wandering hands as both of theirs began silent explorations of each other. Neither wanted to stop, but both knew they should they had to.
This was right but just not right now. However neither was willing to make verbal objection, so they continued on. Only when Xenas hand began to undo Gabrielles blouse, did the bard finally stop the session.
"Xena please." She gasped, tearing herself from her soul mate.
"What huh?" Xena sputtered, coming out from with under the trance Gabrielles skin had put upon her.
"Please stop." Gabrielle requested, although in a half hearted tone. She really didnt want it to end, but right now it had to.
"Why?" The warrior called in urgent desperation.
Gabrielle took a moment to catch her breath. In and out. In and out. The smoothness of its repetitions began to put her at ease. She released a deep sigh, trying to prepare an explanation for Xena. But how could she do that when she didnt have an explanation for herself?
"Xena, right now Im still married to Virgil."
It was a solid statement, and although the warrior wanted to refute it somehow she couldnt. For such a complex situation, it was such a simple explanation.
Gabrielle went on.
"I know I have to choose between you two. I know that." Tears began to form in the bards big green eyes. "But you have to know Xena, that I love you so much. At first I didnt want to admit it to myself, but I know that my feelings for you are just as strong as the day you left. Im still so incredibility in love with you."
To hear those words from Gabrielles lips, Xena knew there was nothing sweeter than that moment. It was an avowal of everything. The warrior now fought the oncoming tears.
The warriors heart rose within her throat. Oh gods the infamous but but what?!
"But I do love Virgil."
"What do you mean?" The warrior asked, her voice implying betrayal.
"When you died left Im not sure if you knew, but I was completely destroyed. Gods, I was more than destroyed. I was completely depressed. I would wake up every morning, praying it would be my last. I couldnt move on, I wouldnt move on. Because that meant accepting a life without you. I wasnt ready for that."
"So instead I stayed in one of the darkest spots of my life. All I felt was pain, everything was dismal. Finally Id had enough. I wasnt going to stay here, alone away for you. I decided to end it all."
Xena offered a tight hold of support as Gabrielle retold her painful story. The warrior gave up fighting the tears, it was useless anyway. Instead she embraced them, allowing them to coat her cheeks like visible badges of emotion.
"Thats when I met Virgil. He saved me Xena. Without him, Id be dead. He devoted all of his time, and his patience and his love to showing me that I had so much left to live for. That there was still so much good in this world. I owe him my life and my eternal gratitude for that. I love him for that."
"So thats why youd stay for duty?"
"No, no. If it was only that, Id leave in heartbeat but theres more. I do love Virgil, but Im not actually I dont think Ive ever been truly in love with him. You always held the bulk of my heart. No, my reason to stay would not be duty."
"Well then what?" Xena tried not to sound impatient, yet she couldnt help it. Her whole future was riding on that answer.
"Its its that ." She began to stutter. "It is what Virgil feels for me. Yes I love him, but I know hes madly in love with me. He feels almost as strongly for me as I do for you. If I left him, hed be destroyed. I know what it feels like for that to happen. I cant do that to him. I cant hurt him like that. I dont think hed survive ..I barely did." She had whispered the last part under her breath, but Xena hear it and took it all in.
She wished she had words of comfort for Gabrielle or even words of protest, but she could think of none. Gabrielle was torn, much like she had been. There was no easy answer. There was no quick fix. This would just take time.
Ive got all the time in the world, the warrior thought, and I intend to use it to get Gabrielle back with me forever. At least shed spoken the truth. That made it all so much easier. Lying led to masses of complications. And the warriors heart had been warmed by Gabrielles admission of love. It had been so sincere, so raw, she had a hard time believing anyone could feel that way for her.
"Say something." Gabrielle pleaded, nervous at her confession.
She knew sometimes Xena could be unknowingly demanding. The bard was sure Xena had already made travel plans to leave and such, but it seemed the warrior was truly being understanding. Shes willing to give me time. Gods I love this woman. However doubt was still evident in her mind and Gabrielle tensed tentatively as she awaited Xenas words.
The warrior could have said many a thing, but decided to option for the simple straightforward approach.
"Gabrielle," She looked deep into her eyes. "I love you, today tomorrow eternity. I will wait for you forever."
Judging by the small womans response of a tight hug, Xena guessed shed said the right thing. Score one for the Warrior Princess. And the best part was she meant every word.
"Thank you Xena, so much." Gabrielle whispered into Xenas ear between sobs. "I just .I dont know what to do."
"Its alright." Xena assured her, running a steady hand up and down the length of the Amazons back. "Everything will be alright."
And even though Gabrielles world was a mass of chaos right now, Xenas words gave her supreme confidence.
For the first time, Gabrielle believed everything would be alright.
The ride back had been appreciatively quick.
Both were lost in their own thoughts. As they neared home, the thin scent had turned into a thick odor of smoke. At first Xena had recognized it, but soon it was too strong for Gabrielle to deny. They both began scanning back and forth, looking for a possible source.
Xenas skills honed in closer and closer until she saw a small billow of smoke in the horizon.
"Look," Xena pointed. "Over there."
Gabrielle followed her outstretched finer and gasped at the source.
"Thats our house." She stated very matter-of-factly, the true realization having escaped her.
"Lets go then. Yaaah!" Xena yelled at the horse, forcing it into a full gallop.
Gabrielle, this time opting for the position behind the warrior, held on as tightly as she could while at the same time praying for what they suspected not to be true.
As they neared the house, they saw the devastation. Well you couldnt really call it a house anymore. There was nothing left but ash and cinders. A thick smog coated the air, stealing precious oxygen from within Gabrielle and Xenas lungs.
The flames dwindled, soaking up the last bit of fuel that their house had presented. Xena dismounted first with Gabrielle following after her. Their steps were staggered, neither really knowing how to react.
Xena felt pain for Gabrielle. It had been her house and now it was no more. Gabrielle was sad, but in a way relieved. The house was a material possession. It was something that had always seemed important, but in the grand scheme .really meant nothing.
They approached the burning pile slowly, kicking around the ashes as if trying to make sense of it all. Gabrielle cocked her head, looking to the side to see if the shop still stood amazingly it did. But she saw something else in front of the building and suddenly she remembered a very important detail.
"Virgil." She ran towards him.
In front of the shop he knelt, the weight of the days events much too heavy on his shoulders. His face, besides the tears, held a big, black, bruise that coated his cheek all the way up to forehead.
"By the gods Virgil, are you alright?" She dropped to her knees, examining him making sure he was still alive.
"Ill be ok." His voice was quiet and eerily calm.
"Halliger. He rode in I tried to stop him I ...just "
"Its ok Virgil."
"Theres nothing left." He whispered.
"Yeh there is. The shop is still standing and the stable and ."
"No I mean theres nothing left to keep you here." He declared coolly.
"What do mean?"
"The house it was the last thing that was ours. Now the only thing left is our memories."
"Virgil," she took his face into her hands, forcing him to look her in the eye. "Stop talking like this. You ."
He interrupted her with a weak whisper, but he words held the strength of an army.
"Im letting you go."
Gabrielle was confused at his statement. It was a far too simple solution for the situation.
"Im letting you go." He spoke more firmly this time as tears began to form. "The house, it was like a final sign. I cant keep you here Gabrielle. I love you too much for that."
"Virgil I love you too "
"I know that. Now, please let me finish. I love you too much to see you unhappy. I know, here, thats what youd be."
However Gabrielle couldnt resist the urge to interrupt him.
"Im not unhappy."
"But youre not happy. Sometimes I may seem oblivious, but I can see into your soul Gabrielle. Your heart isnt here, it never was. It was always with her, it always will be. I cant keep you from Xena .I cant keep you from the life you were destined to lead."
He dropped his head and continued. "I cant keep you here, that would be selfish. And I wont sacrifice your happiness for my own. Seeing you happy makes me happy."
"Ive used that line before Virgil. I know its a lie."
"Maybe maybe Im just telling myself that to keep strong. But I know that every morning I wake, every breath I take, everything I do is to see you smile. The light in your eyes, it warms my soul. I cannot live knowing that I extinguished it."
"So, Im letting you go."
Gabrielle opened her mouth, ready to protest, but Virgil placed a heavy finger upon her lips to silence her.
"Dont, please. Dont make this any harder than it needs to be. Go with her, go on your adventures, be happy."
As he finished Virgil knelt down, picking up a package wrapped in old cloth
"Youll need these." He slowly began to unwrap the bundle and handed its contents to the bard.
Gabrielle gasped as she felt the familiar fabric grace her finger.
"I thought I told you to throw these away."
"How could I? They were once so much a part of you how could I do that?"
The bard was speechless as she caressed the soft, red, velvety clothing. It was her red outfit; the one she had worn when Xena last was with her. Gabrielle had gotten rid of her warrior wear once shed met up with Virgil again; she didnt figure shed need them. Now, as she held the familiar clothing, sweet nostalgia washed over her. I always liked this one.
While Gabrielle lay entranced by her present, Virgil produced another gift.
"And youll need these too."
"Virgil." She whispered in amazement as the cool metal massaged her hand. There she held her Sais. Instead of the rust you would expect after the years of neglect, they were sharp and polished.
"I took care of them for you ." He trailed off as he produced the grand finale. "And this."
Gabrielle caught the soaring object with fluency. The foreign metal glistened in the sunlight.
"Xenas Chakram." She awed as she turned to him. "This means so much .I do love you Virgil."
"I love you too Gabrielle."
"Thank you Virgil. Thank you so much."
"It was nothing really." He flushed, like a sheepish teenager with his first crush.
The bard leaned forward placing a soft kiss on his left cheek.
"It was everything." She whispered into his ear.
And it was.
Their goodbyes had been tearful, but surprisingly quick. Neither really wanted to prolong in their parting. They both preferred to dwell on the way things used to be.
Gabrielle had planted a long kiss on Virgils lips, however it was more loving than lustful. They embraced one more time before she headed out the door of the shop and on to another chapter in her life. It was all so surreal, none of it actually felt true. It didnt seem like it was actually happening, yet on the same account it was so harsh.
Two green eyes, filled with friendly tears, looked back one last time as Virgil waved goodbye. They both knew it wasnt goodbye forever just goodbye for now, theyd see each other again. Yet there was a scary finality to it all.
Gabrielle was happy to be leaving, just not quite happy to be leaving Virgil. The man would still remain a good friend. She wished she could have the best of both worlds, but she had to choose. However looking back over the choices, it wasnt so hard. A life with Xena .in any conditions in any realm was pure Illusia.
The warrior rode up, seeing Gabrielle alone in the yard. Shed left earlier, just to give the pair sometime to say goodbye. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw her soul mate step out in her red attire. Just like old times. She couldnt stop the smile from reaching her lips.
"Are you ready?"
"Of course. Ive been waiting for this moment for eight years."
"Sorry it couldnt happen sooner." Xena admitted.
"Well, better late then never." Gabrielle teased as Xena pulled her up in front on the horse.
"So where to Battling Bard of Poteidaia?"
"Well, I say we go after Halliger. Show him what a girl with a chakram can do." She picked the weapon off its hook on her skirt and placed it in Xenas hand.
The warrior took the chakram with smiling satisfaction. She moved it around several times, comfortably reacquainting with the old friend. That feels good real good! However Gabrielle was mistaken about the latter part of her sentence and Xena saw fit to correct her.
"But Gabrielle youre wrong."
"What do you mean?" She asked, confused.
In response Xena took the chakram, separating it into two parts. She then gently handed one half over to Gabrielle.
"Lets show him what two girls with a chakram can do."
The bard laughed light heartedly at her partner, taking her part of the chakram and placing it on hook at her side.
"Are you sure about this?" Xena asked cautiously, one last time.
Several seconds ticked by as Gabrielle withheld an answer, looking terribly deep in thought. She slowly turned around to face the warrior eye to eye. She concentrated deeply, staring intensely into the warriors beautiful blues.
Xena was instantly worried, fearing Gabrielle had some grave response .or she was having second thoughts. But suddenly the bard smiled, giving the Warrior Princess the most loving look shed ever received.
"Absolutely," she said with incredible security.
"Well then, lets go." Xena said before coaxing the horse into a steady pace.
And so Xena and Gabrielle rode into the sunset, off to face new escapades and adventure.
Come friend or foe, whatever the Fates may bring, it was irrelevant.
They were together, as it should be, and that was all that mattered.
Well, at least thats my end. Thanks for sticking with it to the end, I have a tendency to be long winded.
For anyone who does read my other stories, I should begin posting my third installation The House of Eegan in about a month.