Story takes place partly,after Heart Of Darkness. You should be familiar with the episode as well as IOM, and Succession specifically, or you may be a little lost.
Disclaimer: MCA/Universal/RenPics own all copyrights to everything related to Xena: Warrior Princess and I have no rights to them.
Thanks to the creators for this fantastic show. And most importantly to LL and ROC, who made it come to life. Huge thanks to AlphaLuna for doing the beta on this, as well as a thank you to the girls in TT for encouraging me always.
Any errors are now all mine lol.
Violence – Nope
Subtext – Certainly
Sex – Eh, implied f/f action but nothing graphic.
If you are under age of majority or this kind of story is illegal or offends ya... go away please.
Enjoy! Let me know what you think, comments always welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org
All comments are welcome at email@example.com Be NICE ;)
Gabrielle sat staring into the fire as it crackled away, cheerfully, in the night. She was trying to write about their latest adventures with Lucifer in Amphipolis while Xena worked on mending her leathers across the campsite. Well, the story was the excuse she was ready to use if Xena asked why she was so quiet. Not that it seemed to matter anymore whether she gave an excuse or not. If anything, her friend seemed content to allow her silence to grow more and more in the past year.
'That's not fair and you know it. Xena has tried, but you wont let her in. You're getting a little too good at your own Warrior Mask these days Gabrielle.'
She shrugged to herself and admitted it. It wasn't that Xena didn't try to get her to talk, instead it was Gabrielle who didn't let Xena get her to talk. She wished for perhaps the millionth time that she had never spoken to Eli, about his way or... that other thing. That they, in fact, had never traveled to India at all. That she had never let that stupid sentence slip in a careless moment. An impenetrable wall had been growing between them for a long time now. Since...well... since she had lost the words that had once come so easily to her.
'And since you became a coward, hiding from your heart and denying your feelings. Don't forget that part.' The cynic in her head reminded her gleefully.
She shifted uncomfortably at the truth of that statement and gazed unseeing at a spot in the distance. Her mind wandered back to just before Rome and the crucifixion. To the conversation she had with Eli before Brutus showed himself and dragged them all to prison...
...Gabrielle held Eli back from the mass making their way to a nearby clearing, to eat and mingle after the miracle that had been performed in front of them.
“Eli...can I talk to you about something?”
“Of course Gabrielle. Anything. Let's jo...”
“No! I mean, no.” She smiled, a trifle sheepishly, “This is.. ah... a little...personal, not something I want just anyone to hear. Can we go somewhere less crowded?”
Her eyes flickered momentarily to Amarice and back to Eli in the hopes he would understand. Eli looked at his friend, a little puzzled, but more than willing to comply.
He led them a distance away from the rest of the group. Gabrielle smiled and called to the young Amazon who had started to follow.
“We'll be over here, catching up. Alone.”
Ignoring the exasperated look she knew was coming, Gabrielle turned back around, satisfied they would have enough privacy for awhile. She turned to Eli, her face troubled, and motioned them both to the ground.
“Gabrielle, what is it? You look like you've lost your best friend.” He paused, his eyes widening as an idea formed. “Is it Xena? Where is she? What's happened?” His hand reached out to grip her knee with urgency.
'If anything has happened to Xena ..' He didn't get to finish his thought before Gabrielle smiled a strangely sad smile and laid a comforting hand over his.
“She's alright. At least, I think she is. She went to Rome to... she's on a mission like I said before. I couldn't go because...” she shook her head as if to clear it and continued, trying to focus on the problem. “That's a different story, and not my main concern right now.”
She fell silent for a moment, collecting her thoughts. Eli waited patiently, the fear that had gripped his heart subsiding a bit at the assurance that Xena was well. While Gabrielle thought, he tried to predict what the problem was. He was drawn out of his preoccupation by her surprising question.
“Eli... Do you believe in soulmates?” It came out forced, hesitant, almost as if she didn't really want to ask but was compelled. Very unlike the Gabrielle he knew and loved. Confused green eyes met his even more confused blue ones before they shifted away and studied something over his left shoulder. His mind worked quickly, not quite sure where this was heading, but confident he could help take that lost look off his friends face if he put his mind to it.
“Soulmates? Well yes, of course. Soulmates are two halves of a whole. Neither one is complete without the other. It's the most powerful connection two mortals can have. And the most satisfying one I would assume.” He smiled as he finished speaking but when his attempt at humor got no discernible response his brow knitted with worry. “Why do you ask?”
Gabrielle glanced at him before turning inward. She smiled tenderly, her minds eye recalling the past few months and what had been discovered.
“Xena and I... we're soulmates. I had thought it before. Even in the first year of our travels together, I thought it. I told Iolaus a story about it once, but I was never positive. And I couldn't think of a way to be certain so I didn't let myself...” Here she stumbled a bit but recovered quickly, “In India, shortly after we left you the first time, we learned the truth from a woman, a Darsham. The town leaders were going to kill her and we saved her. She sent us to the future to fight... well that's a whole story in itself and not really relevant except for what we learned. The fact is, we know without a doubt we are meant to be together in every lifetime, forever. It's something we're both comfortable with.”
Realizing she was rambling and not sure if she was making sense the small woman's words stopped. She sighed and tried to make sense of her thoughts, deciding how best to broach the next subject. She hoped that somehow Eli would figure it out on his own, it was in vain she knew, but it didn't stop her from wishing.
Sensing that something was expected from him but not entirely sure what it was, he said the only thing he could think of.
“Well, that doesn't surprise me, Gabrielle. I knew when I met you two that you both were very special, and had a unique relationship. I don't understand what your asking?”
He smiled uncertainly at her and tried to meet her troubled eyes, in the hopes of gaining some understanding of what she needed.
She was quiet for another beat before going on without acknowledging his statements.
“Eli, don't you think that two people who love each other so much, who declare they are going to spend eternity together and couldn't be happy for one moment of life if the other wasn't by their side to share it.... Don't you think they should... umm..”
A blush was beginning to creep up her neck and her eyes shifted in embarrassment, looking everywhere but him, before she tried again.
“Don't you think that two people who are so dedicated to each other, should share every part of their lives?”
Eli squinted in confusion. What was she talking about? He thought she and Xena already shared everything. Didn't they? What would they possibly not share? He tried the one thing he could think of, speaking hesitantly, not sure how it would be received.
“Gabrielle, if Xena has secrets she hasn't...” he was cut off mid sentence by a very red and obviously flustered bard.
“Not secrets Eli,” Her brows drew down briefly, “ At least I don't think so, not anymore. I'm talking about... well... you know...” her hands made some indistinct motions in the air, trying to pull the words from the atmosphere surrounding them. Finally, when she could see he wasn't understanding what she was implying she blurted in exasperation, “...the physical aspect of love.”
It took a moment for what she was saying to sink in. He blinked several times in rapid succession and his mouth moved to form words but nothing would come. She took one look at his face and growled in frustration, covering her crimson stained face with both hands before managing to squeak out an apology.
“I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked you. I just thought since you're ...”
This time Eli cut her off by gently pulling her hands away from her face and smiling warmly, once again in control of himself.
“Don't apologize Gabrielle. I'm the one who's sorry. It's not what you think.” He chuckled. “It's only that I thought.. well I figured, you've traveled together all these years...alone,” He shrugged with mild embarrassment of his own. “ I thought you already… shared... that.”
She grinned cutely, putting aside her self-consciousness in the face of his honesty.
“Yeah, you and the rest of the known world.” Growing serious again she continued, “It's not for lack of want. At least on my part it isn't. It's just that I didn't want to ruin our friendship before we were shown everything in India. I was too scared of losing her. I couldn't believe that she would want some tag-a-long farm girl from Potidaea in a physical sense. Not when she's so beautiful and everyone wants her. I refused to allow myself that indulgence because our friendship was...is... too important to me. I just denied all my feelings and channeled it into my fighting skills. Everyone was amazed that I learned so fast.” she chuckled wryly.
“If they knew what really motivated me they wouldn't have been so surprised. Now, I don't have even that anymore.” She held up a hand to forestall any comment from him and went on, “Not that I regret my chosen path. I don't.” She paused once more to compose herself for the final admission.
“Since India, and knowing for sure that we're destined to be together no matter what, it's all coming back. All those old longings I thought I had under control. My heart is urging me to talk to her, tell her how I feel, ask her how she feels, see what she thinks about all of this. I'm IN love with Xena, and with those feelings come...well.. the other ones. And I don't know what to do anymore. This fear, it grips me, it binds my tongue when I try to bring it up. I'm so terrified. I can't lose her, but at the same time I am going MAD. If I knew how she felt... it wouldn't be so bad but...” As she concluded she shrugged awkwardly, her eyes finally meeting Eli's. He held her gaze and reached out to clasp her hands in his, smiling gently as he did.
“Gabrielle. Tell me, does Xena love you?”
“Yes, but I don't...”
“Stop.” He squeezed her hands gently, “I didn't ask if she was in love with you. Only if she loves you. She does, you admit it. Right?” The bard nodded. “And you say you love her.” Another nod. “OK, Now. Here's my question. What would you do if Xena were the one to come to you and say she wanted to move on to a physical relationship and you either weren't ready, or you weren't in love with her? Would you shun her? Hate her? Run from her? Condemn her?”
“No of course not! I would still love her no matter what...” as realization dawned, her eyes widened and a chagrined look crossed her face.
“What you're saying is I need to talk to her and take the chance. That no matter what I do, she'll still love me. Of course, why couldn't I see that?”
“Your scared, that's all. It keeps you from being able to see clearly. Remember, Love is the most powerful force in the world. You know that Gabrielle. You must have faith in it. Love will never steer you wrong.”
Gabrielle stood with Eli and embraced him, smiling warmly. “Thank you Eli... I really appreciate you discussing something so...personal with me. It means a lot.”
“It's my pleasure Gabrielle. You can always talk to me.” he had draped his arm casually around her shoulders and they had wandered back to his flock for a small meal. Shortly after that, they were taken by Brutus and his men.
Her quill was held loosely in her hand, and the blank scroll sat limply across her knees as she shook the nightmare depictions that had followed that discussion. That was certainly not something she wanted to dwell on. After what had happened in Rome and the events that followed there had been no time to talk... or to even think... about what she wanted to do, until the night following Mavican. Today was almost a year to the day since she had let some of her deeper feelings slip in an unguarded moment. It had been terrifying. Never before had she considered herself a true coward until that night.
'And every night since.' the ever present cynic piped up.
Gabrielle frowned as the spectacle of that night demanded her attention. She fought it as long as she could until, with a heavy heart, she turned her task totally to remembering...
...They were sitting at the camp that evening tending their weapons and relating the events of the recent experience with Mavican and Ares. Rather, Gabrielle had been relating the events and Xena had been grunting every so often. Suddenly, thinking of the conversation that had preceded making camp, Xena felt compelled to once again compliment her companion on her performance with the God of War.
“I have to admit Gabrielle, I'm proud of you. I thought maybe that raw sexual power Ares pours out might overwhelm you for a minute. He's tried it with me often enough and I know how hard it is sometimes. I'm sure you were tempted but you didn't give in. You did good.” She reached over from her ritual sword sharpening and ruffled Gabrielle's hair with affection.
Gabrielle smiled brightly at the praise and covered her pleasant surprise by faking a jab at the offending hand with the sai she had been examining for nicks.
She drank in the sight of Xena for a moment, her thoughts loving, and eyes shining, before dropping her attention back to the weapon. She replied with the first thought that came to mind.
“No Xena, that 'raw sexual power' he has is impressive, sure, but I deal with far more intense feelings with you around on a daily basis. I'm a pro after all these years. He didn't stand a snowballs chance in Tartarus.”
She stopped mid polish as her conscience mind caught up with her mouth. The blood flooded her face so fast she thought she might have a permanent stain as she tried to cover herself, “I.. I mean... I've... seen you… uh.. I.. Damn!” The curse was spoken sharply, all of her embarrassment and frustration conveyed in the one simple syllable.
Keeping her head low to avoid the look she could feel drilling into her, she tried to think of anything to fix what she had just said. The tension in the air was so thick with expectation it was choking her and Gabrielle couldn't stand a second more. She closed her eyes tightly and tucked her sai into its regular spot. She concentrated on getting the hell out of camp and breathing, the only two things that would ensure her survival at that moment. She stood abruptly, paying no heed to the look on Xena's face or the hand that reached out to stop her.
“I'll go check on Argo and grab some more firewood. Wouldn't want to run out.”
Tugging her arm out of the restraining grip around her wrist she hurried away, hoping to fall off a cliff in the dark, or be struck down by Zeus in his mercy, or something … anything, before she had to go back to camp.
After she made her way far enough from the site of her folly, she cursed herself for the sheer stupidity of allowing those words to cross her lips. Expletives she didn't even know she possessed flew rapidly out of her mouth with much scorn and vehemence. How could she let something like that come out?
'It would have been more subtle if you had stripped naked and begged her to take you then and there Gabrielle.'
She screamed as loud as she dared in frustration, not wanting to alarm Xena and have her come in search for her. As angry at herself as she was, one internal voice insisted on reminding her of the conversation with Eli about this very same subject not so long ago. She spoke aloud to herself, “That was before Caesar, Gabrielle, before we died on those crosses... before...” she trailed off and the same voice completed the sentence for her...
'Before you lost your nerve.'
She sniffled loudly and wiped her leaking eyes. She wasn't even aware she had started crying. Trying to summon the courage to head back to camp she remembered she was supposed to get firewood and check Argo. Coming to the conclusion it would only make things worse if she didn't, she muttered to herself, and anyone else that might be lurking in the unused corners of her brain, sternly.
“I officially declare the next hour 'Collect Firewood And Think Of Nothing Else' Now leave me alone.”
It took her longer than expected to get enough usable wood in the dark. By the time she slipped nervously back into camp, the fire was already banked and she could see Xena curled up on her bedroll, a blanket covering her up to the waist to keep the chill out. Noticing that the spot next to the dark haired warrior was clear and that her packs were piled as she normally left them before visiting the dreamscape, she breathed a sigh of relief.
'Maybe she didn't catch it after all. Perhaps I was over reacting.'
Before she could even attempt to convince herself of that, the annoyingly accurate cynic spoke up loudly.
'Hellllloooo!!! This is Xena:Warrior Princess were talking about here. Not some simple minded fool. Of course she noticed! Besides, it's not like you were vague about it or anything.'
Frowning deeply she let out a groan of irritation. Why couldn't that voice shut up sometimes? Making her way carefully to her things, she laid out her bedroll next to Xena's. The deep, steady breathing coming from the lump on the ground convinced the bard that it was safe, and she snuggled down into her blankets in an attempt to rest.
She laid flat on her back, fingers laced behind her head, gazing at the stars and letting her mind drift while studiously ignoring the form at her side. A long while passed before she was aware of being watched.
'Hades! She was faking it. Now what?'
Gabrielle allowed a few more minutes to pass in silence before whispering hoarsely, “I'm sorry.”
A low chuckle followed an even lower voiced question. “For what?”
Gabrielle pursed her lips and thought for a minute, considering. Knowing Xena, if she didn't already know the answer, she wouldn't have asked the question. Her seeming amusement encouraged Gabrielle to speak her mind. Wasn't this permission of sorts? Wasn't this exactly the opening she had been looking for? She could tell Xena everything that had been on her mind since India, right now, in this moment. It was her dream come true. She shifted towards her friend, to face her while she bared her soul. She drew a breath through her nose to put into words those desires she felt, in the hopes of forever changing their relationship for the better.
Eyes the color of clear sky on a spring day met hers, the emotions swirling in them unfamiliar to the young blonde. She froze at that look, insecurity flooding her to the core. At that moment, her courage fled fast and far and she struggled to get it back, her hold tenuous at best. As she opened her mouth to start the most important discussion of her life, the grasp she had on bravery was lost. What came out was something that, though it wasn't the first lie between the two of them, was perhaps the most damning, as well as a shock to both women.
“For being gone so long. I got a little lost in the dark. Hope I didn't worry you.”
Her voice was ragged. The tears that threatened nearly blinded her and she couldn't bear to look into Xena's eyes, knowing if she confirmed what she thought was there she couldn't keep silent. She prayed to every deity she could think of to keep Xena from telling her to look at her, and hastily turned back to stargazing.
A long silence followed, broken only by a deep sigh from her friend.
“Gabrielle...” Xena started before fading off, her voice hoarse and unsteady.
'Disappointment? Is that what I hear?' Gabrielle thought sadly.
The small Amazon clenched her fists so hard she could feel the nails digging into her palms and willed Xena to silence. She wondered idly if she would have marks in the morning.
Xena, on the other hand, was so frustrated that all she really wanted to do was grab the bard, declare her undying devotion and take her then and there. She had always known it was impossible for them to move past the friends stage...well, she thought she had known anyway. Until tonight that is.
'Gods, how long has she felt this way? Am I that blind or is she just that good at hiding things from me? What am I supposed to do?'
Deciding that normalcy was probably the best course for now she tried to speak again, forcing her voice to steady and not betray her feelings. Things were too delicate right now.
“It's alright Gabrielle. I know you can take care of yourself, especially after these last few days. Besides we have an agreement remember?”
Gabrielle smiled woodenly, knowing it was expected and made the comment she knew Xena was waiting for.
“Sure I get to take the little guys. How do you know it would've been little ones that attacked though? Might be some giants hiding around these parts.”
“Nah, we would've smelled 'em before they got close enough to make trouble.”
Xena knew without having to see the expression on the bards face that she was closed down...again. Her voice was hollow and there was no humor in her joke. Xena's heart sank slowly to her stomach.
''Hades! This isn't going to work, not right now. Shes scared or embarrassed or something and won't let it happen. Think warrior, think! How do you fix this?!'
The stilted banter stopped as suddenly as it had began. A tense silence once again fell over the two of them, weighing down every particle of air, crushing their chests with its weight. Before either of them could suffocate, the spell was broken by a change of position of the dark haired woman of action. Before Gabrielle could even think about being distracted by the light brush of a hand on her bicep, or shy away from the closeness of the familiar face suddenly looming above, her lips were covered by Xena's.
The kiss was friendly, but far from chaste. Gabrielle could practically taste the passion, though she wasn't sure if it was hers alone, or if Xena shared it. Fire raced across Gabrielle's suddenly sensitive skin and made its way through her body, causing her chest to hitch in surprise, her breath stuck somewhere in her throat. Xena pulled back much to soon, and Gabrielle had to resist the almost overwhelming urge to reach up and submerge herself again in the sensations the kiss caused. Try as she might, she had no control over the soft moan that slipped out, and she cursed herself silently, even as she heard Xena's own small gasp of reaction. Her emotions raw and unfathomable, she laid perfectly still, not trusting herself to move even a finger, not sure what she would do to this woman leaning so close over her, waiting for who knew what.
'Gods what is she doing to me? Is she trying make me feel a fool? Is she trying to tell me its alright, that she feels the same way as I do? Or was that a kiss of pity? WHY is she doing this to me? What do I DO?'
She begged for anyone to answer her prayer but no one did and so, she did nothing, fear holding her paralyzed despite what her heart told her was true.
Xena hovered, undecided, over Gabrielle's form, noting the tenseness of muscles, the hands balled into white knuckled fists and tangled in the blanket above her head, the uneven breathing through parted lips, the way her eyelids were squeezed tightly together.
'She looks like she's either in the throes of passion or in horrible agony.'
Xena had needed to find confirmation that what she had heard earlier was what her companion felt and not her own desires putting meaning where there wasn't any. The only way she could think to do it was with a kiss since words were not welcome. By all the signs though, it looked to Xena as if the gentle kiss she had brushed her best friends lips with was more painful than pleasurable, and just as unwelcome as words. She had heard that moan and thought that maybe...
'Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this is painful for her. Maybe she doesn't want to hurt my feelings. Maybe she's scared. Maybe I'm crazy. GODS I hate this!'
She would never forgive herself if she caused Gabrielle that kind of pain. She wouldn't allow her own desires to override the happiness of the one person she loved beyond all else. So instead of continuing with what she most longed to do, she leaned close and whispered huskily into her partners ear, opting for the easy way out for both of them.
“Goodnight Gabrielle. You are the best thing in my life. Never forget that.”
Gabrielle fought the hot tears that threatened at those words and could barely choke her response out, “I love you Xena, goodnight.” With nothing left to say she rolled over and cried herself quietly to sleep, not knowing the usually stoic warrior laying beside her was doing the same thing...
...The subject hadn't been brought up since that night. On the outside everything looked fine. From the inside though, the quiet moments of everyday life had changed. Those moments had always been a vital part of what made the pair what they were, and the easy camaraderie was glaringly absent. They still made a great team of course. Gabrielle's fighting skills were developing faster than anyone had expected and Xena, well, she was Xena. But there was a personal depth that was just... gone.
After Eve had been born, it had almost been necessary. There was so much happening and so many things to take care of, with a newborn that all the gods on Olympus wanted dead. But even after the routine had calmed and they had managed to hide with success occasionally, it hadn't improved. The wall was too high and neither one had a battering ram large enough to tear it down. They resisted even the casual touches that had came so easily to them in the early days. Rarely talking about anything important that didn't relate to whatever mission they were on, avoiding even comforting each other beyond the normal platitudes. Occasionally, one or the other, mostly Xena surprisingly, would try to reach out, but inevitably was shot down so quickly and without thought that it would begin all over again. So many things kept the pair quiet. Gabrielle just wasn't the easiest person to talk to these days and even her writing had suffered. Xena, well, she was Xena, never one to express herself openly without constant prodding. And with the one who did the usual prodding being the source of the problem....
'Xena thinks I lost my way before Eli died. That I am too quick to fight and slower to talk since we were resurrected. Well I have lost my way. She is my way. And I've lost her, before I ever really had her. Why doesn't she realize that??? Not being able to express myself and my love is what has forced me to become who and what I am today. All that passion has to go somewhere, and since I can't bring myself to go to someone else, what do I have left but fighting? I used to have my stories but they've all dried up. How many scrolls sit empty in my saddlebag right now? I bet Xena would be surprised if she were to try to read the 'new' ones I've been working on this last year. The only thing I've recorded besides a few snippets here and there is chronicling our wagon ride to trick Athena and the rest of them into thinking we were dead. Nothing brings the muse back to me and without that I'm only half the person I was destined to become. The words, they're gone. There is a hole where they were and it's filled with this unquenchable anger now. And there is only one way I can think of to fix it. Her. And she's unattainable.'
Feeling the emotional discomfort of her friend, Xena glanced up occasionally to check on her. If someone had asked her a year ago if she knew who Gabrielle was, what she believed in, how she would react to a situation, almost any question you could come up with, she would have answered without hesitation or fear of being wrong. Now, though, her partner had changed. Some of it had been in a good way. Her fighting skills were nearly perfect, the techniques she adopted were unique to her weapons but she was versatile, and that was important. There was not much more she could learn when it came to the art of survival. It seemed to Xena though, that the more adept Gabrielle became at fighting, the more emotionally detached she became in their relationship. There were times that Xena would look over at her friend and find those beautiful green eyes, usually so full of wonder, joy, and life, simply blank... empty of everything. She just seemed so... lost... over the last year. Ever since the night Xena had kissed her as a matter of fact. Xena's jaw tightened at the memory, partly in anger at herself for not speaking her heart, partly in repressed desire for the feel of those soft lips pressed to hers once more. She hadn't been certain until this last week of what exactly had happened that night. After Lucifer though, she knew for sure. She just hadn't figured out what to do about it. She gave an inaudible sigh and went back to sharpening her sword, keeping a close eye on her friend.
Gabrielle rested her chin on a balled up fist and sighed. This was getting her nowhere fast. Running her fingers through her hair she made an effort to concentrate on the scroll she was trying so hard to fill with anything of worth. Before too much time had passed and still no words had appeared on the parchment in front of her, she was lost in the swirling tempest of her mind once again...
...Gabrielle's reminiscing had picked up right where it had ended earlier. Soon after her deception following the showdown with Ares, they had discovered Xena was pregnant. Gabrielle couldn't help but feel betrayed by the discovery. She allowed herself to think the worst about the night they had come so close, but instead ended up pushing each other further away than ever. She started to think that maybe Xena had been trying to apologize to her for what she knew she had done. That she felt bad for sleeping with someone else and wanted to make it up to her in some small way. That, by giving in to what Gabrielle desired, even if she didn't want it, she might persuade her to stay during the difficult time that was surely coming. Even after Gabrielle knew the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, there had still been a small part of her, the ever present cynic, that thought the night following Mavican had just been a mind game to Xena...
Again she shook her head to clear it of painful memories.
'So many things, so much pain. Eli's murder, Losing Eve and 25 years of our lives, Finding 'Livia/Eve' then losing Joxer so needlessly; not to mention being driven crazy by the Furies and trying to kill Eve, and Xena nearly killing me because of it. Eve's and my surprising resurrection at the hand of Ares, while most of the other gods were being slain by Xena at the same time. And those were just some of the highlights.'
Her lips thinned as she pressed them together and gave the memories freedom to float until they were ready to go and let her continue.
They had just this last week found out Cyrene had been burned at the stake, denounced as a witch after being driven mad by demons. As if that wasn't bad enough, the portal to Hell was literally in the backyard of her once popular tavern. Xena killed Mephistopheles, the King of Hell, to free Cyrene from her eternal torment, but instead of the portal closing like Gabrielle had expected, it had stayed open, as if waiting for something. She knew Xena had said that the demon told her whoever killed him took over, but Gabrielle had hoped he was lying to protect himself. They found out he wasn't when, unexpectedly, Lucifer the Archangel had showed up and confirmed the whole story. He bragged that he was the holy being to do the job and in so doing, would ensure his promotion to Seraphim. So Xena had decided to corrupt Lucifer, who had more than a small case of the seven deadly sins. She felt he was the better applicant for the job than she, and proceeded to convince him of it. Of course the plan had worked, there had been a few tight spots, but it had gone surprisingly smooth. There was no more portal drawing followers whose hearts were being slowly corrupted. No more threat of losing Xena to the Throne of Hell, no need to deceive Eve any longer. Everyone was back to normal … everyone except Gabrielle that is.
It was the dance that had done it of course. That damn dance. Her mind had relived it over and over, and the sleep she had been able to catch the last few nights had only elaborated on it, brought it into even more vivid relief. Added things...
Gabrielle took a deep steadying breath. Her hand tightened around the quill she still held and she shifted the scroll laying across her knees to a less obvious position in case Xena decided to peek at what she was writing. She took a carefully concealed glance across the fire at her friend to make sure she wasn't under observation before resuming her reflections.
After this last week, after those few minutes of being consumed by hungry blue eyes in a way she never thought she'd see, the weary blonde knew something had to give. She was so tired of hiding how she felt, of not being able to fully express herself the way she longed to. The cowardice that had kept tight reign over the expression of her emotions regarding Xena was finally losing its hold.
'All it took was the threat of Hell to do it.' she thought with a touch of bitterness.
It was time... past time if she wanted to be honest with herself.
She caught her lower lip between her teeth and closed her eyes, recalling for perhaps the thousandth time the feel of Xena's hand touching her in a way she never had before, lighting a fire inside of Gabrielle that couldn't be ignored. The pull she had felt when Xena had beckoned to her so seductively was physical. It was as if she hadn't had her own will, that the fingers enticing her to join with them were attached to an invisible string that was, in turn, connected to some vital part of her body, forcing her to rise and obey. Not that she hadn't been willing, that wasn't it at all, but even if she hadn't wanted to, there would have been little choice. Without even giving a second thought to Virgil she had advanced eagerly and taken her place in Xena's arms. At the first brush of her gloved hand against Gabrielle's naked flesh the walls that had been in place for so long had started to crumble. If Virgil hadn't interrupted she wasn't wholly sure that the consummation of a desire spanning almost six years wouldn't have happened then and there. Gods only knew what that would have done to their plan. She smirked and opened her eyes, only to find the object of her contemplation watching her.
Gabrielle managed to meet the curious gaze of her partner without hyperventilating, though that was certainly what her body told her to do. When Xena spoke it was in tone her friend had seldom heard, never directed towards her, and even though the question was mundane, Gabrielle's heart jumped into her throat and lodged there firmly.
“Dinar for your thoughts.”
Gabrielle forced a smile and a joke, seeking any excuse to hear that voice again.
“Is that what my thoughts are worth to you now?”
Xena's grin lit her face and she pretended to think about it for a beat, “Well, I don't have anything less than that so I guess it'll have to do.”
Xena caught the stray rock that her friend had tossed at her in mock outrage and laughed, before becoming serious again. Her voice slid down an octave lower and she met the bards green eyes steadily, making sure that her message would not be lightly ignored.
“Your thoughts and feelings are more precious to me than you have ever realized. If I had the treasure of a king, it wouldn't be enough for even one of them.”
She paused for the intended effect to take hold, then released the smaller woman's gaze with reluctance, looking back down at the bridle she had been trying to repair since completing her sword sharpening half an hour ago. Xena resisted the urge to look back up and gauge Gabrielle's reaction to the obvious emotion she had let filter through her voice and shine in her eyes. Her heart was pounding and her fingers had a barely noticeable tremble to them. She took a calming breath and returned to the monotonous work, waiting.
Gabrielle schooled her reaction out of habit. She hid the blush by rubbing absently at her cheek and coughed lightly to clear her throat, reaching with trembling hands to the water skin for a drink to soothe her suddenly dry throat. She replaced the skin to its spot before carefully looking at her love.
“Xena?” She asked in a tone that was reminiscent of her younger self.
Xena looked up from her task and raised a brow in question, finding it much easier to revert to the warrior mask after the very rare display she had just allowed herself.
“I ..uh... I was wondering about something.”
Xena stilled her hands and focused her full attention on her companion.
“I.. was wondering about Amphipolis.”
“What about it?” Xena gave an internal sigh of relief. Finally!
“Well, um... what we..ah.. I mean, what I felt while the portal was open.. was that ...real?”
Xena gave a small grin to her friend, understanding the need for her to approach it this way.
“Well, that depends. The portal basically magnified the emotions that people already had and just made them more... intense.”
Gabrielle absorbed this knowledge for a brief moment before replying. “So what you're saying is anything we.. I .. felt was already there? They weren't some kind of trick? The emotions I mean.”
“Yessss, anything we felt, was already there. Nothing was put there by some god if that's what you mean”
Again Gabrielle was quiet as she chewed her lip in concentration. In reality she wasn't pondering the concept Xena had given her, but trying to decide how to phrase the next question she had.
“What about in the temple, before Michael and the others showed up?”
“What about it?”
“Well Xena, that was a pretty...uh...intense...dance.”
Xena quirked her brow and allowed a sexy smile to slide across her lips as she caught the nervous bard's eyes with her own.
“Yes, Gabrielle, it was. You've improved since the first night with the Amazons. I was … ah... impressed to say the least.”
Xena watched with amusement as Gabrielle's jaw dropped open in astonishment. She hadn't been expecting Xena to come out and say something like that. The bard hadn't been talking about herself dancing, well not directly anyway. As Gabrielle was trying to regain what little composure she had left Xena abandoned the bridle and moved closer.
“Uh... thanks. You weren't too bad yourself.” She tried to keep the squeak out of her voice as Xena settled next to her on the ground.
She suddenly felt very much like the young farm girl she had been, all of her adopted warrior ways and the maturity she had gained over the years abandoning her to flounder helplessly on the waves of emotion crashing over her.
Xena grinned mischievously and quite unexpectedly draped an arm over her friends shoulders, pulling her closer.
“Mmhmm. I had the best reason to make it good.”
Gabrielle, deciding to treat this as a normal conversation because it was the only way she was going to survive it, adjusting slightly in Xena's half embrace, getting comfortable and quipped, “What, staying out of Hell?”
Xena adjusted as well and turned her head to face her friend.
She winked and allowed her free hand to trail easily over Gabrielle's own tightly clasped ones, prying gently to release the death grip the bard seemed to have on herself. Xena, noticing the small tremor in the fingers she had just freed, grasped Gabrielle's hand firmly in her own, lacing their digits together.
Gabrielle pretended to think hard, her lips pursing and brow wrinkling in concentration. Finally nodding, she decided to test the waters they were so carefully treading, “Ahhh! I know. Getting me away from Virgil right? Didn't want me to take the chance of having offspring related to Joxer.”
For a brief moment, darkness crossed Xena's sculpted features and she clinched her jaw before forcing herself to relax again. She smiled at the blonde in her arms and let her gaze caress the beloved features.
“Weeeellll, close... but not quite.”
The look hadn't escaped Gabrielle and she took a chance. Disentangling her fingers from Xena's warm hold, she lightly ran her fingertips over the back of Xena's hand and up her forearm, stopping at the elbow and grasping lightly. She let her hand rest there and tilted her head upwards, resting it comfortably on the warriors shoulder to study the stars.
“You should know better Xena, it was the portal that made me do that. Virgil is a good man, and will make some woman very happy one day, but I'm not interested in him like that .”
Xena's skin was tingling where Gabrielle's hand rested and she cleared her throat before replying.
“Some part of you is interested in him like that , as you so delicately put it. Otherwise he wouldn't have had a chance. Remember the portal only magnified the feelings that were already there.”
The bard smiled wryly and considered.
“Well, he is handsome. And he writes wonderfully. Knows what to say to charm the ladies. He has a poets heart and a warriors physique. Quite a combination. I think even you would find that hard to resist.”
Gabrielle, not expecting a response, continued studying the night sky, just enjoying the new closeness between them. It was so long until Xena answered that Gabrielle thought she might not have heard her correctly. She looked carefully at her friends face and asked her to repeat herself.
“I said, oh ever observant Bard, that I DO find that particular combination very hard to resist.”
Gabrielle raised an eyebrow in question, “Oh? Did I miss something? I recall you being all over the archangel, not the poet.”
Xena sighed with exasperation and cupped Gabrielle's cheek, turning herself at the same time to look square into the green eyes.
“I'd say there are several things you've missed this past year Gabrielle. Things I thought were very obvious, myself.”
The small blonde's breath caught as she met the pale blue eyes that were boring straight into her soul. Her heart started beating triple time and her mouth was uncommonly dry despite the drink of water she had recently taken. She couldn't hold the stare and tried to turn away before she did something stupid, but Xena wouldn't let her. Instead the hand on her face slid around to the back of her neck and gripped it firmly, while her forehead came to rest on Gabrielle's own. Xena's voice was warm as the sun and soft as a breeze, the plea in it heartbreaking, as she whispered to the sometimes Amazon Queen.
“Please Gabrielle, don't turn away. Don't pretend anymore. Please .”
Gabrielle shuddered at the words coming from that perfectly formed mouth. The walls that just recently had started to come down were shattered into oblivion by that simple sentence. Her muscles relaxed and, with the release of tension, began to quiver. A buzzing noise started in her ears as she rested her eyes on the countenance filled with yearning held so closely to her own. Everything she had tried to suppress, every feeling she had denied over the past years, came to the forefront and struck her full force, filling her torso with white hot fire.
She slowly moved her shaking fingers to caress the smooth, tanned, cheek. Her thumb grazed the parted lips, drawing gasps from them both in tandem.
“Xena... I'm so...” Words failed the bard, not for the first time, as she tried to explain her previous behavior.
Xena smiled and shook her head to forestall anything that might ruin this perfect moment. She blinked rapidly to clear her vision and several salty tears began a slow trek down her face.
Gabrielle shifted her gaze to those drops, made all the more precious by who was shedding them, and that they were for her. Her own eyes ached for release from the unshed wetness building there. She echoed a sentiment spoken long ago by the warrior to the bard as they comforted each other, awaiting crucifixion in a dank Roman cell.
“Crying? Don't cry.”
Gabrielle's fingertip followed in the wake of one of the cherished droplets trickling slowly down her warriors face, feeling the high cheekbone underneath and allowing wonder to fill her heart at the reality of what was happening. Her touch followed all the way to Xena's chin and, without thought, Gabrielle drew even closer, tilting her soon to be lover's face towards her own. Xena stayed perfectly still, knowing Gabrielle needed to be in control for this initial contact.
Gabrielle's lips barely grazed the other woman's. As they brushed past sensually, her tears broke free and she allowed herself to feel everything that was happening to her body. There was a lightness infusing her spirit, pushing the bitterness and anger out, and a sweet burning desire filled the emptiness it left behind. A freedom was pervading her whole being and she felt as she had before the nightmares in Britannia.
The hand that was tilting Xena's lips to her own, moved of its own accord to entangle in the long dark tresses, pulling, to bridge the small gap that was left between them.
As the kiss began in earnest Gabrielle felt the warm desire flare up from a smoldering ember into a raging inferno. A craving, a passion, deeper than she had ever known and she was saturated with need. It left her breathless and wanting more. Their lips parted instinctively and Gabrielle's tongue explored ruthlessly. There was no more tentativeness, the beast had been awakened and it was starving.
Finally breaking away, for no other reason than they were mortal and had to breathe, Xena reached up and caught her soulmate's wrist. She kept her eyes closed in order to keep a tight reign on her passion until the time was right. She turned her lips to the soft underside of Gabrielle's wrist, planting a light kiss there before raking her teeth over the sensitive area. At the distinctive gasp from her partner, she again cupped Gabrielle's cheek, this time leaning back slightly and allowing herself to study the changes transforming her best friends face.
It was like the woman she had been traveling with over the last year was an imposter and suddenly, the real Gabrielle was back. Her blue-green eyes were luminous, radiating love and acceptance. The small frown lines that had cropped up from all the recent stresses appeared softened somewhat and more like laugh lines. Openness once again made the beloved face beam, covering the wariness that had taken its place. The aura of sadness that had surrounded the bard since Ares' tampering, was replaced by the old joy, the light, that had always illuminated Xena's world, even on her darkest days. And the purely animalistic passion that was heating the small body would have brought Xena to her knees, had she been standing.
A stillness descended over the pair as they lost themselves in each other's blazing focus. It was like the calm before the storm. Acknowledgment passed between the two. Tenderness would come later, the look said. This first time though, there would be no holding back, no tamping down of desires raging so long inside them both, no mercy. Almost as one, they reached to tear at the clothes that denied skin to skin contact. Fingers worked at straps, frantically tugging and pulling, while sharp teeth and hot tongues tasted and nipped. Muffled cries and curses filled the campsite and empty forest surrounding them as they worked themselves, naked and already sweating, onto the nearby bedroll.
As the two ferocious lovers consumed each other with wild abandon the rest of the world faded to nothingness. Rapture in its rawest form invaded their senses. They were gorging on the feast offered, never quite satiated but never unsatisfied either.
Eventually, as they knew it would, the tenderness asserted itself. Each of them rode the waves of bliss as long as they were able, until as one, they settled comfortably in one another's arms.
“Xena?” Gabrielle's was the first to speak.
“Mmmm?” Xena was still lost in an after love haze and felt too good to actually speak.
“I love you.” Fresh tears spilled over at the enormity of her emotions.
Xena, feeling the wetness begin to puddle on her skin, lightly rubbed a soothing hand up and down her bard's back.
“I love you too Gabrielle. You really are the best thing in my life.”
Note to readers: I know it ends abruptly, and I apologize. If, in the future, I can think of a more fitting ending I will come back and add it immediately, I promise. I hope you all enjoyed and as I said before any and all comments are appreciated and will be responded to..unless they are nasty :) - Gem
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