Disclaimer: These characters are the sole property of Ren Pics and Universal. I mean no offence in borrowing them briefly to write this story, and promise to return them in good condition.
Sex/Subtext: Subtext? There is no subtext here…it’s all maintext. Yes I do firmly believe that Xena and Gabrielle are lovers and this is reflected in each and every story I write. This story also contains romantic feelings between two adult women. If this bothers you, you are under the age of 18, or if it is illegal where you live, please do not read any further.
Violence: No violence…anger but not violence
Sex: No sex…at least not yet.
Spoilers: This story is based just after the events of ‘Return of Callisto’ and contains a few small spoilers.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to my Beta, couldn’t have finally posted without you, Ape as you’ve been a beacon of inspiration and encouragement, and Everhope for reading it despite not reading fan fiction.
Feedback: Always appreciated, what better way to improve your writing? Constructive criticism though please. Abusive comments will be ignored. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the first installment of a series involving my interpretation of how their relationship developed throughout the series. Well…from ‘Return of Callisto’ onwards anyway.
Summery: After the events of ‘Return of Callisto’, Xena and Gabrielle head back to Poteidaia. Xena soon decides she cannot continue on with Gabrielle feeling the way she does, and plans to leave…
LOVES LOST AND FOUND
The mood surrounding the pair as they slowly travelled the gritty, well worn road was glum at best. The incident with Callisto and the events of the wedding created an eerie silence.
Gabrielle ambled alongside Argo, thoughts and feelings from the last few days plaguing her mind. She pulled the pot in her hand closer to her body – Perdicus’ ashes. ‘He shouldn’t be dead’ she thought ‘he wouldn’t be dead if he hadn’t married me!’
Xena glanced down at her travelling companion, wanting more than anything to ease her pain. They were nearing Poteidaia and the warrior was still struggling over what she wanted to do once they were there. Gabrielle had insisted on taking Perdicus’ ashes home herself; felt she owed him at least that, and Xena couldn’t argue with her over something that obviously meant so much to her. But all the warrior knew was that she couldn’t go on this way, waiting for yet another reason for the bard to leave her.
They crossed into the village outskirts without much problem, though Xena could both see and feel the glares she was receiving from some of the population. Gabrielle wasn’t paying attention to anyone, focusing more on walking towards the house belonging to Perdicus’ parents. The warrior wondered if going straight there was a good idea, but when she had previously questioned her friend on the matter, Gabrielle had just stated that they deserved to know as soon as possible. Xena, however, was also concerned about the welcome they would receive, after all Gabrielle had originally left the village before their wedding was to take place, and it had been the warrior’s own creation that had killed their son. She only hoped his parents were as understanding as he had been.
“Xena,” the bard’s voice pulled her out of her thoughts. It was the first time Gabrielle had spoken for hours. Xena pulled Argo to a halt alongside and looked down to find her companion staring at a house not far away. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to do this alone. But…” she trailed off.
“You want me to stay close enough, just in case,” Xena dismounted and landed gracefully alongside her companion.
Gabrielle looked at her gratefully, “Thank you.” She placed a hand on Xena’s arm before making her way towards the house. Apprehension filled her as she closed in on her destination, and she felt a sense of loss she had not yet experienced. Reaching the door seemed to take forever, her nervousness building up with every step. The house, though small, loomed over her, making her feel tiny and insignificant in comparison. The weight of what she had come here to do still pressing heavily on her shoulders, and as she raised her hand to knock on the door, she wished for the confident presence of her friend behind her.
The door opened and Xena saw a short, middle-aged woman step out in front of the bard. She watched warily as Gabrielle explained it was her son’s ashes she was holding. The woman broke down crying and sharply slapped the bard across the face before taking the pot off of her and slamming the door. Xena’s first reaction was to go and demand an apology from the woman, but she managed to quash that feeling thinking how painful and distressing it must be to find out your only child was dead. Her thoughts went briefly to Solan, but she quickly shook her head clear, knowing it was Gabrielle who needed the support.
The blonde approached her slowly, shame in her eyes and a nasty red mark beginning to appear on her cheek. Without a word, the warrior pulled her friend in for a hug and quickly felt the small arms encircle her waist. “Can you take me home? Please?” a little, tear filled voice carried up from her chest.
“Of course,” she answered, gently kissing the top of a golden head, “Of course.”
The reception from the bard’s parents and sister had been generally what Xena had expected; Hecuba and Lila had been civil and welcomed her in after greeting Gabrielle with huge hugs and smiles, Herodotus on the other hand had greeted his daughter kindly but treated Xena with clear discontent and hostility. It was a feeling the warrior was sure she would experience for as long as the bard travelled by her side.
Dinner was almost pleasant. Gabrielle had informed her family of the loss that had brought them back to Poteidaia to begin with, and they had all taken a moment to remember Perdicus. Xena had felt a little uneasy during this, as she hadn’t really gotten to know the young man, but offered her thoughts as best she could. Hecuba had invited her to stay for the meal, and all thoughts of declining quickly disappeared when she saw the pleading look on Gabrielle’s face. Now sitting down at the table her uneasiness once again crept in. The food had been wonderful and conversation had been relatively easy despite Herodotus not speaking directly to her; but now that the meal had ended it seemed there was no place for her here. There was a joy in Gabrielle’s face that had not been there since Xena had seen her at the wedding, and although it filled Xena with a sense of loss, it also made her decision much easier to make.
Once everything from dinner was cleared up and put back in their place Xena turned to Gabrielle, “Can we talk? Outside?”
Confused the blonde nodded and followed her tall friend out the door, shrugging to her sister as she passed. They stepped out into the cool night, the air causing the bard to shiver slightly and rub her exposed arms. She turned to her companion, “So, what do you want to talk about?”
Gabrielle’s hands stopped what they were doing as the impact of those words set in, “Without me?”
Xena’s head dropped, “I think you should stay here for a while. Mourn with people who knew Perdicus. Those you can connect to.”
Blonde hair whirled as Gabrielle wheeled around to fully face her, “And who are you to make that decision? My guardian? My protector? My mother?”
The warrior placed a hand gently on her friend’s shoulder, looking into her eyes, “No, I’m your friend. But being your friend is not going to be enough at the moment.”
“Xena that’s all that I need from you. I don’t need you to understand my past with him. I don’t need you to relate with me about knowing him. I don’t even need you to mourn with me. I just need you to be there for me. I need your support, and that’s something I can’t have if you leave.”
The words hit her like a dagger through the heart. Gabrielle was right. She was being selfish about this and she knew it. Convincing herself that she was leaving for the bard’s benefit wasn’t going to make that fact disappear, but what else could she do? Yes the bard may need her now, but how much longer would it be until she left again? How much longer would it be until her heart would once more be broken?
She sighed, “I understand what you’re saying Gabrielle, but right now I think you need to be here and I don’t feel I can be.”
Her grip on her friend’s arm was roughly removed when Gabrielle stepped away, “Why? Is it my father? Because you can ignore him Xena. I can have words with him if you want.”
“No. It’s not your father.”
“Then tell me why you all of a sudden want to leave me behind?” There was an element of desperation now clear in the blonde’s voice.
Running a hand through her hair, Xena began to wonder if this was such a good idea after all. Maybe it would have been easier if she had just left without saying anything. ‘I should have gone during the night’ she thought briefly.
“I’m not saying I’m going to leave you behind. Just let you be here with your family, people you can mourn with in a way you can’t with me. I’m sorry I can’t offer you the support you’re asking me for, and if it were within me to give, believe me, I would. But right now I still think the best decision is for you to stay here for a couple of months,” looking once again at the calming bard, she hoped there wouldn’t be a requirement for more information, “Please.”
Confusion was once again prominent in Gabrielle’s mind, but her small burst of anger had disappeared. Although she still did not fully understand her friend’s reasoning it had nevertheless felt good to be home and surrounded by people who had known her late-husband. She also understood that these last few days had been hard on Xena, obviously not knowing what to do in order to ease her pain, but trying as best she could regardless. Maybe staying at home for a while would allow them both to reflect on where they were both going to go from here.
Xena felt a sense of relief enter her body as that word was uttered. The anxiety that had been present whilst waiting for Gabrielle’s response left her, and she allowed herself to relax again. The conversation she had been dreading all day was finally over; all that was left to do was to leave.
“You’re going to leave now aren’t you?”
Xena turned away from the blonde, “Yes. I just need to get Argo ready.”
A small, soft hand slipped cautiously into her own, “Just let me say goodbye properly.”
Xena looked down at their intertwined hands then back up into her friend’s eyes. She felt such a sense of longing it was hard to bottle it up again, but she knew that this was neither the time nor the place to head down that particular road.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Hand in hand they walked over to where Argo was stabled, Gabrielle reluctantly letting go to allow Xena to saddle the warhorse. Once she was ready Xena turned once again to her companion and found herself immediately enveloped in a hug, tears running down both their faces.
“When will you come back?”
Leaning back so they could look at each other, the warrior gently wiped away the stain marks on her friend’s cheeks, “In about three moons.”
“I’ll miss you.” Gabrielle pulled Xena back into the embrace, pressing their bodies so tightly together the warrior was afraid she was never going to let go.
“I’ll miss you too. More than you’ll know.”
Xena led Argo out of the stable and mounted the strong back. Looking back once more at the bard she smiled, “I’ll see you soon.”
Gabrielle smiled back and nodded. She then watched without word as her best friend rode silently out of their front gate and galloped off into the distance.
THREE MOONS LATER…
“Did she say when she was getting here?”
Gabrielle turned to her sister, “Not exactly. The letter just said she would get here today,” she sighed, “I just hope it’s in time for the festival.”
A small smile appeared on Lila’s face, “Do you honestly think she’ll willingly go? I can’t see Xena wanting to attend a village festival.”
The bard shrugged, “She’s been to others. As long as I don’t insist on her changing her clothes into a nice frock or something I’m sure she’ll be alright with it.” She grinned, “Besides, I want to introduce her to Fergus.”
Lila’s thoughts went to the young man who had seemingly taken such an interest in her sister. She was unsure whether or not Gabrielle was aware of the boy’s feelings, but after many conversations over the past few weeks, she was certain the bard didn’t feel the same.
“How are things between you two? He asked you out yet?”
A playful glare appeared on the blonde’s features, “No. But he has asked me to accompany him to the festival.”
Lila looked at her doubtfully, “And you don’t consider that asking you out?”
“No.” Gabrielle watched her sister’s eyebrow raise expectantly, “Well okay, maybe. It’s just a little weird to think of anyone paying that much attention to me.”
“So, are you going with him?”
The bard frowned, “No. I’m going with Xena…when she gets here. I don’t want her to have to go alone, and going with Fergus would give everyone the wrong impression.”
The younger sister grinned knowingly. After several such talks with the bard about her friend she had begun to realise that maybe marrying Perdicus had not been the right decision. That really all her sister needed was the tall warrior. They had talked the night Xena had left, everyone surprised that she had gone so suddenly, and Gabrielle had explained the reasons for her departure with relative ease. But Lila had picked up on the wave of confusion she must have been experiencing, and a sense of abandonment. Over the moons it seemed to have improved, but Lila knew her sister did not sleep well at night, and had often awoken to hear her calling out Xena’s name in desperation. Although she was unsure exactly what the nightmares had been about, she did know that the comfort her sister sought had been removed temporarily due to the warrior leaving.
Now Xena was returning. Three moons later as she had promised. A messenger had delivered the letter yesterday, and Gabrielle had been ecstatic at the news. Lila had begun to wonder if the bard was aware that her feelings for her friend were deeper then she appeared to realise, or if it was something only she could see. Either way, Xena’s letter had sparked a radiant happiness in her sister that had been missing since she returned to Poteidaia.
A golden horse appeared at the top of the ridge, its rider looking down at the village below. Xena had struggled with herself over what the right approach to this situation was, but had finally settled on returning to Poteidaia to say a final farewell to the bard.
Gabrielle. That name filled her with so many emotions – loneliness, emptiness, longing, mixed with fulfilment, joy, happiness and above all love. What was to become of their friendship from this day forth? The only thing Xena was certain of was her determination not to let her feelings get the better of her. ‘Just go in there. Tell her you’re going, and leave. That’s all you have to do’ she told herself. Taking a deep breath she began her trek down to the village.
Gabrielle heard the horse before Argo appeared. She leapt up from the table and pulled the door ajar. The warrior who was just rounding the corner jumped down of the mare’s back to be instantly grasped in a bone-crushing hug.
“Hey,” she smiled, “This is quite a welcome.”
The bard pulled back and grinned, “Well what were you expecting? A punch in the arm?”
Xena’s smile widened, “Of course not. That always hurts you more than it does me anyway.”
They laughed and continued on to the stables, arms surrounding one another’s waists. Xena could feel many emotions cascading through her, but she managed to keep them from her facial features.
Releasing the taller woman, Gabrielle turned to look at her, “I’m so happy you’re back. I can’t wait to get back out there. Travel the road again. It’ll be just like old times.”
An uneasy smile appeared on the warrior’s face through her attempt at enthusiasm, “Yeah. Can’t wait.”
Joyfully Gabrielle bounded back into the house, shouting over her shoulder, “I’ll get mother to cook something really special tonight. We can have it before the festival!”
Xena’s head shot up, “Festival?” she asked, but her friend had already disappeared through the door. With a heavy sigh her head came to rest on Argo’s saddle, “What am I going to do Argo? I’m going to have to tell her sooner or later. It’s just, she seemed so happy to see me. And that enthusiasm…what am I going to do about that? Knowing her she’ll just follow me until I allow her to travel with me again.” She raised her head and looked in the direction Gabrielle had gone, “I can’t do that. I just can’t.”
Xena sighed, “I said I think it’ll be better if I stay at the inn.”
The confusion and hurt on Gabrielle’s face was almost enough to make her change her mind, but tonight she was not to be swayed, “I’d feel more comfortable.”
Exasperated the blonde began to pace, “Xena, we have not seen each other for three moons-“
“- so one more night apart isn’t going to make a difference.” The warrior felt awful knowing she was partly lying to her friend, but she knew that spending one night in Gabrielle’s arms or even near her was going to affect her in ways she was attempting to get over.
“Well fine! As long as you don’t mind extending the time apart we’ve already had!” The bard stormed out, a mixture of confusion and anger permeating her senses.
Another sigh escaped the warrior as she placed a tired hand onto her forehead.
“You know, you’re being really selfish about this.”
Xena spun around to find Lila peering at her from the bedroom door, “Excuse me?”
Lila stepped forward, arms folded across her chest in a menacing way, “Selfish. She hasn’t been sleeping right since you left. Every night nightmares, about what I don’t know, probably Perdicus’ death, ‘cause as she tells it, it happened right in front of her. What I do know is that I wake every night to hear her calling your name, seeking comfort.” She stepped right up to tall warrior, “Now I know you could probably beat me senseless for telling you what to do, but I believe what my sister says about you being a good person. I also believe you care for her more deeply then you’re letting on. So how can you stand there and let her suffer through the night any longer when your presence would do something about it?”
“You know for certain that she’s wanting my comfort, and the nightmares aren’t about me?”
Lila huffed, “Nightmares about you? You’ve got to be kidding. You’re the one thing in this world that doesn’t scare her.” Satisfied that she’d made her point Lila walked back into the bedroom.
Looking shocked and slightly overwhelmed at what just happened, Xena swallowed the new information. ‘Not sleeping right? She never mentioned that. And why would she be calling out my name?’ All she knew was that Lila was right. If her friend needed her then the least she could do for the last night she planned to stay was to offer that support.
She exited the house and followed in the direction her friend had previously taken, soon finding her sitting by a nearby lake. Sighing softly she approached and sat down beside her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Lila told you about the nightmares, huh?”
Xena gently grasped Gabrielle’s chin and turned her head so they were facing one another, “You should have told me.”
The blonde shrugged, “Why? Would it have made a difference? I didn’t want to guilt you into sleeping with me.”
“You don’t need to guilt me, but I want to know when you’re in pain. I want to know when you need me.”
Her hand was removed from Gabrielle’s chin, “I needed you when you left. I told you that and you still left me, Xena. I had the nightmares every night since then, and you expect me to tell you about them now? What difference would it make?”
Xena reconnected her grip, “It would mean that I could make up for all those nightmares. It would mean that I could give you the support I deprived you of these last few moons.”
A sadness entered the bard’s eyes, “To make you feel better?”
The warrior’s thumb gently wiped away the lone tear that crept down her friend’s face, “To make us both feel better.”
Those words finally broke through Gabrielle’s barriers as she collapsed into her friend’s arms. Xena held onto the precious bundle, her mind already beginning to doubt whether or not she would be able to go through with what she had come here to do.
The small head shook against her chest, “No need to be sorry. Just stay with me tonight?”
A tear now escaped the warrior’s eye, “I will if you need me.”
“I’ll always need you, Xena. No matter where I am.”
Xena’s heart swelled at the thought. “Now why don’t you tell me more about this festival?”
Laughter penetrated the air as the pair entered the festival. People were dancing to the music being played. There was drinking and games. All in all the whole thing had a good feel to it.
Xena leaned down to her friend’s ear to be heard, “What is this festival for again?”
“It’s the festival of Demeter. We do it to praise her and ask her for a good harvest.”
“And this is done by drinking and playing games?” the warrior asked sceptically as she indicated a drunken group of men attempting to hit another in the face with a pie.
Gabrielle chuckled and shook her head, “No. Originally it was just a dance, but over the years it turned into a fully fledged-festival. We still do the dance, but then everyone moves onto the celebrating.”
“So we missed the dance?”
“Yes. It was earlier this evening.”
“And why did we miss the dance?”
A small blush appeared on the bard’s cheeks, “Because…I knew they would try and make me do it and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.”
Xena smiled, “In front of your townsfolk? I’m sure they’ve seen you do it before.”
The blush deepened, “No. In front of you.”
“Gabrielle!” A delighted cry interrupted their conversation. Gabrielle looked up to find Fergus making his way towards them.
“Hey Fergus.” She greeted him with a hug, “When did you get here?”
He shrugged, “Oh not long ago.” He glanced briefly at the tall warrior standing beside his friend.
“Oh, sorry,” Gabrielle apologised, “Xena this is Fergus. Fergus, Xena.”
He held out a hand, “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Reluctantly the warrior grasped his offered arm and smiled. The boy’s attention then turned once again to the bard, “So you wanna dance?”
Gabrielle patted his arm, “Maybe in a bit. I would like to sit down and catch up with Xena properly over a drink first. Do you mind?”
Fergus glanced at the menacing warrior then back to the young blonde, “No I don’t mind. You do owe me a dance though.”
“Count on it,” the bard grinned. He kissed her lightly on the cheek and walked back into the crowd.
Xena raised an eyebrow at her companion, “And that was…?”
The blush returned, “A friend. You wanna find a table? I’ll get the drinks.”
“Sure.” The warrior watched her friend walk over to the temporary outside bar. She sighed, trying to quell the sudden jealousy that entered her system, and went to find somewhere to sit. It didn’t take long, a few quick words and a couple of glares got them a table with a good view of the entire area.
Xena sat down and placed her feet on the chair opposite her. Her thoughts once again turned back to the bard. The plan to make this a very brief visit had already been shattered, and the recent revelation of the nightmares had begun to make her rethink her decision.
‘No’ she thought, shaking her head, ‘I know leaving is more beneficial to me, but I know I’m not going to be able to continue living like this if she’s in my life.’
A bang from the drinks being placed on the table startled her. Liquid splattered the surface as the slightly overfilled goblets sloshed. “Sorry,” Gabrielle apologised, “I guess they’re overdoing it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Xena reassured, grabbing the drink offered to her, “Thanks.”
The bard sat down beside her friend and gazed out into the crowd, “What were you thinking about?”
Swallowing the gulp she’d taken with sudden difficulty, Xena panicked slightly, “What?”
“You looked like you were in deep thought. I just wondered what it was you were thinking about.”
‘I can’t tell her the truth now. Need to come up with another story,’ the tall, dark warrior pondered. “Um…I was just wondering what mother would be up to now. Looking at the joys of your village made me think of my own.”
Gabrielle’s hand came to rest on Xena’s arm as she looked at her, “Well, we could go and visit her when we leave if you want. I know it’s not that far away, and it might be nice to see Cyrene again anyway.” She smiled, accepting Xena’s answer as the truth.
The only response the warrior could muster was a smile in her friend’s direction. This was beginning to get too much. She took another swig.
Suddenly the blonde jumped up from the table, “Come dance with me.”
A pleading look appeared on her face, “Please. I promise to try and dance properly.”
Xena sighed deeply, knowing there was no way to get out of this, “How about I sit here, you go and practice dancing and I’ll join you when I’ve finished my drink?”
A blonde eyebrow rose on Gabrielle’s face, “Okay, I guess I can go with that. But just remember, you promised.” She smiled and took off onto the dance floor. Xena watched her go, her youthful zest almost making her envy her friend. It didn’t seem to take long for the bard to find people to dance with, and so the warrior was content to just sit and watch for a while. Her love for Gabrielle had grown, that in itself was true, but the lust she also carried for the young bard was not something she had expected. It made her think back to the Bacchae:
The only way to kill Bacchus and release the girls was to become a Bacchae herself. All right then. As Gabrielle landed beside her she held out the weapon in her hand as pure reflex, but knew that she would have to receive a bite.
“Gabrielle…do it,” she commanded, lowering the dryad bone and leaning her head slightly to the side, exposing her neck to her companion.
The long claws that resided on her friend’s hand where her fingernails used to be pulled back the hair covering her neck, fully showing the skin that was soon to be devoured. Xena’s eyes closed in anticipation of the pain, but when the bard bit into her neck, she felt a completely different sensation. For a few moons now she had realised her love for Gabrielle, but the complete and utter lust that was taking root within her now was overwhelming. The reason for all of this vanished completely from the warrior’s mind as she let herself surrender to the desire coursing through her system. Only when Gabrielle’s mouth pulled away and she registered Bacchus’ deep laugh and voice did she remember the reason she was here in the first place. Together, she and Gabrielle leapt down to deliver the final blow…
It was vivid. Too vivid. Many a night after that event had she thought about how it felt to have her friend’s mouth clasped to her neck. But ever since then she had tried to quell the desire that ran through her veins. She was just afraid that one day she wouldn’t be able to.
Finishing her drink she looked up to find the bard looking at her expectantly, “What?”
“You’ve finished your drink right?”
‘Uh oh,’ she thought, “Yes.”
Gabrielle grabbed her arm and pulled her up, “Well then, you’ve got a promise to keep.”
Sighing, Xena allowed herself to be tugged onto the dance floor. The beat wasn’t too fast, allowing the warrior to avoid as much contact with her friend as possible, but for her it was still a little difficult getting into the feel of the music. She hadn’t danced like this in a such a long time, and to be doing it in the middle of a town where half the population didn’t like her, well, it was slightly embarrassing.
Suddenly the music changed, it transforming from a fast beat into something much slower and far more intimate then she would be comfortable with. However, as she attempted to leave the dance floor, a small hand found its way around her wrist and pulled her back.
“Don’t go yet.”
Xena stared down into those incredible eyes and swallowed nervously. Despite her better judgement she nodded and allowed the bard to wrap her arms around her body. The feeling of having her friend in her arms was torture, but the tall woman decided that if she was going to have this moment, she was going to treasure it.
Gabrielle didn’t know what had come over her when she had asked her friend to stay. All she knew was that she desired Xena’s company and the comfort she felt being wrapped around her like this. It had been gravely missed, and she was glad for the willingness of Xena’s participation.
The dance seemed timeless. Xena wished she could stay in this moment, for it to never end, and for her to never have to leave her friend behind again. She lost herself in the pleasure, imprinting it into her mind to remember once she left, and in the process, hoping that this shared instant would leave something of herself with the bard.
Xena was snapped out of the world she had disappeared into by a soft but insistent voice. She looked up to find Fergus smiling at the bard in her arms. He held out his hand to her.
“Could I cut in?”
A sudden wave of nausea hit the warrior as she realised the reality of the situation. She stepped back, letting go of the bard and looked between the both of them in panic. She ran a nervous hand through her hair.
“Xena?” Gabrielle looked at her questionably.
She shuffled back, “I…ah…I need to go.”
The bard watched the warrior uncharacteristically stumbled away from the floor and virtually ran away from the festival into the surrounding pasture, confusion quickly settling in.
“Gabrielle? Are you listening to me?”
She turned once more to the boy standing next to her, “Sorry, what?”
He smiled, “You promised me a dance. I was wondering if I could have the pleasure now?”
Her thoughts went back to her friend, and she knew where she had to be. Shaking her head she removed her hand from his grasp, “I’m sorry Fergus. I need to go after Xena.” She turned to leave but he grasped her arm.
“You can’t leave now. You promised me a dance. I’ve been waiting all evening.”
She pried his grip from her arm, “I’m sorry.” She ran off in the direction her friend had disappeared.
Once out of the crowd, Gabrielle scanned the area, her eyes finally falling upon a lone figure sitting near the stream. Quietly she made her way towards the warrior, hoping she wouldn’t run off before she’d given some indication about what was going on.
“You left Fergus.”
The bard stopped walking; part of her had forgotten that the warrior’s senses were that good. “I wanted to see what made you take off like that.”
The warrior sighed. Having regained her composure she had known her friend would follow her. The way she took off was too unusual not to make Gabrielle worry. But she didn’t know how to explain it, not without telling the truth.
Gabrielle stepped forward and grasped her arm, gently tugging her round, but Xena still wouldn’t look at her, “Hey, come on. Please tell me what’s wrong.”
The touch on her arm was so gentle and the voice so worried, Xena felt she didn’t deserve either. She pulled back, “I’m leaving.”
The bard’s eyes went wide. She remembered hearing those words the first time and not completely understanding, but this was different. The way Xena had been with her today, the way she was avoiding her now, all indicated that there was something more to it this time, something real and permanent. “This time you’re not planning to come back are you?”
The warrior took a deep breath before answering, “No,” she answered, and felt a sharp slap to her face.
“How dare you!” the bard shrieked, “You come back here, after leaving me the first time, and act like everything’s going to be okay-“
“-it is.” Xena interrupted.
Gabrielle faced her, this time managing to catch her eyes, “No Xena, it’s not. You’re leaving me here…again! And this time you’re going without the promise of retuning. What do you think kept me going these last few moons in Poteidaia? What do you think I was waiting for?”
Xena stepped forward, reaching out as if to comfort her friend, “I know.”
“No you don’t!” she moved out of reach, “You don’t or you wouldn’t be leaving me again!”
Virtually defeated the warrior turned away, “I’m sorry.”
Calming slightly, the blonde grabbed her by the arms and forced their eyes to meet, “Just tell me why?”
Gabrielle shook her companion slightly, “Please. Tell me. I deserve to know that at least.”
The warrior knew she was right. After all this time she deserved to know what her reasons were. But even now, in the knowledge of what she was going to do, she couldn’t bring herself to tell her. She removed herself from her friend’s grip on her arms and turned away, “I’m sorry Gabrielle.”
As her friend walked away, Gabrielle felt desperation creep in, ‘This can’t be the end. I won’t let it be the end’. She followed and quickly caught up, grasping Xena’s arm and spinning her around, “Why!?”
“Because I love you!” The words were out of Xena’s mouth before she had a chance to catch them. As an attempt to cover up her confession she quickly continued, “But you already knew that. I’ve told you before.”
Gabrielle was stunned, but for her everything began to fall into place. The looks, the touches, and her need to be near the warrior as often as possible. She had felt something during the dance but had discarded it as a result of missing her friend. She reached out, tenderly touching the warrior’s cheek, feeling a connection through the touch that she had never experienced with anyone else, “No you haven’t. Not meaning what you did just now.”
Xena swallowed nervously, not knowing how she was going to get out of this situation easily. Watching her friend she was surprised when the only look on her face appeared to be realisation, as if the news was slowly sinking in. The hand on her cheek stayed, not straying from its spot but not letting go either. Her friend stepped closer, and Xena had to fight the urge to run.
“Gabrielle, what are you doing?”
“Shh…just let me-“
Gabrielle looked her in the eyes. She could see this whole thing was against her friend’s natural character. Xena needed reassurance, and Gabrielle was going to give it to her.
“Xena listen to me. I have to admit this has come as a shock, but it’s also a revelation,” she saw the warrior look at her curiously, some of the fear disappearing from her eyes, “You are the most important person in my life. I love you more than I can say, more than I can ever hope to express. But it took tonight to finally make me realise what I mean when I say that.” She took a breath, “These past few of moons have been torture for me. I didn’t think they would but I can’t spend that length of time without you. I need you close to me, with me. Without you, my life doesn’t feel complete.”
Xena lost herself in the words. The world around them disappearing as the bard caressed her cheek. Nothing could have prepared her for this. As she looked down, her eyes fell upon her friend’s lips, full and red. So close and yet still so far. Leaning forward the void between them closed and for the first time Xena felt the brush of Gabrielle’s lips gently against hers.
The voice shocked them both, pulling back into the outside world. Xena’s eyes opened and she turned to find Fergus staring at them, his eyes open in what looked like part surprise and part anger. She felt the woman in her arms move toward him.
“Fergus, I’m sorry-“
“What are you doing?! You can’t seriously be dropping me for her?” He interrupted, the anger in his voice reaching a point Gabrielle had never heard.
“I’m not dropping you at all! I was never with you, Fergus!”
Xena wasn’t sure where to put herself. As much as she wanted to support her friend, this was a dispute that had been building up during a time when she had been absent from Gabrielle’s life.
“Your father has to know this.” He backed away and ran off in the direction of the village.
Panic gripped the bard. She looked briefly at Xena then took off after him, “Fergus, wait!”
Abandoned, the warrior stared after them, still trying to come to terms with what had just happened. Her hopes had been shattered and her dreams had come true all in the last few moments. Now she stood, alone, the reality of what Fergus had said suddenly settling in. The panic in Gabrielle’s face came back to her, and she realized the severity of the situation. She ran off in the direction the pair had gone.
The music was dying down when Gabrielle ran back into the crowd. She saw Fergus run into the housing area and picked up the pace. She had to reach him before he found her father.
Turning a corner Fergus ran straight into Herodotus.
“What’s the hurry?” Gabrielle’s father asked him.
Catching his breath, Fergus glanced behind him, catching sight of the bard turning the same corner, “I saw Gabrielle…um…nearly kiss that warrior, Xena.”
Gabrielle came to a halt when she saw her father look straight at her, “What!” He yelled. She cringed.
“Don’t you tell me to do anything! You were kissing her?”
She swallowed nervously, “Not exactly.”
Moving around Fergus he stepped towards his daughter, who could not find it in herself to run, “You run away from home to follow her, marry Perdicus without informing anyone, come back with the news of his death, stay here for three moons mourning, and when I finally think you’re ready to move on and settle down properly, you kiss her?”
Gathering her courage, and somewhat angry at the thought that he had created another long term plan, and this time without informing her, she answered, “If you would just let me explain-“
“Don’t bother.” He grabbed her arm, “You are not to see her again!”
His grip tightened as she tried to release herself from it. He pulled her back towards the house, not giving her a chance to speak. They passed several people, who did nothing but talk about it once they were gone. Gabrielle had to resist her normal instinct to call out to Xena when she was in trouble. She could only imagine her father’s reaction should she do that.
Once through the door, Hecuba looked astonished, “Herodotus what are you doing?”
“She,” he said, pointing at the bard, “was about to kiss that warrior, and I won’t have it! No daughter of mine is going to turn into an unnatural freak.”
“Father, I’m not a freak!” Gabrielle protested.
“How long has this been going on?” her mother questioned, but Herodotus was having none of it.
“I don’t care how long it’s been going on, it’s not to continue. You are to marry Fergus and forget all about that woman.”
Xena tried to look for the bard in the crowd, the many heads making it hard to spot one in particular, but she was sure that she would recognise Gabrielle anywhere.
Then she saw a familiar face. Making her way towards him, she wondered why she couldn’t see her friend anywhere nearby.
He turned around to find the warrior staring down at him, more menacing then he remembered, “Uh…hi.”
She crossed her arms, “Where’s Gabrielle? She came running after you.”
A small grin appeared on his face, “She’s at home. Wouldn’t be a good idea for you to follow. Her father’s not happy at all.”
Giving him a glare she ran off in the direction of the bard’s house.
“Father, you’re not listening to me. I don’t want to marry Fergus. If you remember the last time you forced me into a marriage I followed Xena!”
He looked at her, “Don’t say that! You are marrying Fergus, and this time you’re not to run away.”
Gabrielle glared at him, “Don’t you think I’m old enough to make my own decisions? I don’t need you making them for me!”
A knock at the door interrupted the intense conversation, “Gabrielle, you in there?” Xena’s voice carried through the door.
Herodotus grabbed his daughter again and pulled her to the storage cupboard, “You will stay in here until you come to your senses.”
“Xena!” the bard yelled out as she was shoved into the room in question. At hearing her name Xena came barging through the door, freezing when she saw the scenario.
“Herodotus, what are you doing?”
He turned to face her, a sword in his hand, “Get out. My daughter wants nothing more to do with you.”
Gabrielle hit the door with her hand, “That’s not true! Don’t listen to him Xena.”
Xena stepped forward, ignoring the sword, “Let her out.”
Hecuba placed a gentle hand on the warrior’s arm, “It’s not the right time, Xena.”
“He shouldn’t lock his own daughter in a stock cupboard!” Xena was livid, only being held back by the soft hand on her arm, and her own sheer will.
“Xena please,” Hecuba said softly, trying to get through to the warrior’s logical side. “We’ll sort this out later.”
Slowly taking her eyes off Herodotus, Xena looked down at the woman at her side. She could see the worry present on her face; worry for her daughter, her husband, but to the warrior’s surprise worry for her as well. Giving Herodotus one last look she nodded and stepped back, sending the old man and Gabrielle both a silent promise. She gave Hecuba a sympathetic smile and exited the house.
The sword Herodotus was holding was lowered and he looked at his wife, “Don’t you dare take the warrior’s side.”
She stepped up to him, “This is not right. Locking Gabrielle up. Denying her what she wants. Herodotus, let her out. Allow her a chance at happiness.”
“She can’t have the happiness with that woman that she can settling down with a husband,” he put the sword away, “Having children. It worked out for us didn’t it?”
“Yes, but you can’t expect your daughter to be the same as us. If she finds happiness in the arms of another woman then I don’t see how you forcing her to marry is ever going to change that.”
Anger seeped into him again, “She’s MY daughter, and whilst being so she will obey MY rules.” He charged out of the room and into their bedroom.
Hecuba shook her head and made her way over to the door behind which her eldest daughter stood, “Don’t worry dear, it’ll be alright.”
“I hope so mother. Although I can’t imagine father accepting or understanding this.” Gabrielle sighed, but looked at her mother in appreciation, “Thank you mother, for trying to help.”
The older woman smiled, “It’s alright dear. I can’t say I completely understand, but if she makes you as happy as you say, I’ll try my best with him.” Patting her daughter’s hand through the bars, she smiled, “Goodnight little one. I’m sorry I can’t go over your father’s head on letting you out, but there should be somewhere comfortable enough to sleep on.”
Gabrielle watched her mother leave, before settling herself down by the far wall, trying to get as comfortable as possible on the furs left in the room. Wrapping one of the furs around herself she began to think of ways by which she could get out of this. It had been a weird night. The recent revelation entered her thoughts and she wondered what had come over her. The intense feelings she felt towards her friend were new and, although not unwelcome, a little scary. Xena’s outburst and confession had sparked a need within her, leading to the words and kiss, but now she had a chance to really work out what she was feeling. It was obvious that it went beyond friendship, the love she felt unquestionable, but the greater question was how far that love reached. Was she really in love with her best friend? Did she desire her? Or had she just gotten caught up in the moment?
“Gabrielle?” a voice whispered through the wall, startling her out of her musings. Resting her ear against the wall, she listened harder. “Gabrielle, you in there?” it whispered again.
“Yes. Are you alright?”
Gabrielle’s heart leapt, answering at least part of her uncertainty, “I’m okay. Not in the most comfortable of sleeping positions, but I’m okay. How about you? Father wasn’t eager for you to be in here at all.”
“Don’t worry about that. We’ve got to think of a way to get you out of there. Can we crack through the wood?”
Thinking about it, the bard wasn’t happy with the idea of running away from home again. Besides, there might be another, more satisfying way to get out of this. A way by which it would mean that she could one day actually come back without feeling guilty or guarded. “Xena, as much as I want to be with you, tonight of all nights, especially after all this time apart; I don’t think getting me out of here should result in me running away.”
“But he’s keeping you in there against your will. I can’t let you stay in there.”
Gabrielle smiled at her concern, “I appreciate that you want to get me out of here, but I’d rather wait and see if there’s a less damaging solution to this.”
She heard Xena sigh through the wall, “I understand. It’s just after all that’s happened tonight…I wanted to at least be able to hold you.”
The bard touched the wall with her hand, unaware that the warrior was doing the same thing on the other side, “I know.” She closed her eyes, “Xena?”
“How long what?”
Gabrielle took a deep breath, “How long have you been in love with me?”
On the other side of the wall Xena closed her eyes, not expecting to be asked that question. At least not now. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know. It could have been when you fought to get my body back from Talmadias; or when you took henbane and got high in that cave,” she chuckled at the memory, “or when you changed your outfit and became an Amazon.”
“So you liked that outfit huh?” Gabrielle asked.
Xena smiled, “Yeah. It was a nice change from the long skirt and not so flattering blue top.”
She chuckled again, then sighed, “Or it just could have happened in that meadow the first day I saw you. You’re willingness to give yourself up for the rest of the village. Your courage that inspired me to step forward. All I know is when I realised I was in love with you, it was as if my heart was going to explode from my chest it was so strong. You must have been worming your way into my heart long before then.”
Tears were beginning to build in Gabrielle’s eyes, “When did you realise?”
Xena leaned more against the wall, not really wanting to relive the memory but wanting to answer for her love’s sake, “It was when I nearly lost you Gabrielle. In the temple at Thessaly, when you died and I couldn’t get you back, I realised then. It was as if half of my soul had gone, and my heart shattered to see you lying there with nothing I could do.” Tears began to drop from the warrior’s eyes as the pictures plagued her.
“I’m sorry,” the bard’s voice whispered softly through the wall, “I shouldn’t have asked you this now.”
Xena wiped her eyes, “No Gabrielle, you’ve nothing to be sorry for. I just wish it hadn’t taken that event for me to realise what you mean to me.”
The bard closed her eyes, realising that her earlier confusion had been pointless. Just hearing her friend’s voice through the wall, recalling the moments they had shared together and the secure feeling she felt from being wrapped in her arms was almost enough to make her say it aloud.
“Herodotus you’re not being reasonable.”
He spun around to face his wife, “Reasonable!? How am I not being reasonable?”
She glared at him, “You’ve locked away your own daughter. All she wants is to be able to love the person she loves.”
“She never said she loved her and I won’t allow it even if it’s true. It’s not right.”
Hecuba crossed her arms, “She doesn’t need to say it. It’s clear from the way she acts. How she reacted when you mentioned the wedding.”
“It’s still not right. I won’t have my daughter subjected to her and her ways again!”
The old woman’s eyebrows drew together, “Is this about her loving another woman, or because the particular woman is Xena?”
He stopped and thought about it, “That woman’s not right for her. She should be here, at home, looking to settle down properly.”
“So you’re telling me you’re just prejudice against that warrior. Why?”
“She took Gabrielle away from home. Took her away from a marriage that had been arranged for years.” Herodotus had calmed down, but was still angry that his wife had appeared to take Xena’s side in all this.
Hecuba sighed, “She wasn’t happy with that marriage arrangement, you know that. You also know that Gabrielle is a headstrong girl who doesn’t like to be tied down to a village. She wants to be out there, exploring the world.” Her head dropped, “I have to admit, I’m not happy with that fact, I would much rather her be here where I can keep an eye on her and know she’s safe. But I also believe she loves Xena and the warrior loves her. I don’t think she would be any safer with anyone else, even Hercules.”
Although he was still angered, Herodotus thought about his wife’s words. Part of him realised that the reasons for his behaviour had been mainly down to the loss of control he had always felt when it came to Gabrielle. The girl had always wanted to do her own thing, and the old man had been afraid of her leaving. The arranged marriage to Perdicus had been beneficial to him yes, but it had also been an attempt to tie Gabrielle to the village, to make her unable to leave. Then Xena had come along and his daughter had run off in the middle of the night with no questions asked.
Now he was faced with a similar dilemma but one he could never have predicted. He didn’t want her to leave again, but he couldn’t bear the thought of her hating him for the rest of her life either.
“Mother? Father?” Lila’s voice ran clear though the house.
Hecuba exited the room, giving her husband more time to think the situation through, “Hello Lila. Did you have a nice time at the festival?”
Lila’s eyebrows drew together, “Yes thank you mother. Um…why is Gabrielle in the storage cupboard? And where’s Xena?”
A sigh escaped the older woman’s lips, “We have a bit of a problem. Your father felt it necessary to put your sister in there until she agrees to stay and marry Fergus.”
“But she loves Xena,” Lila blurted out before she had a chance to think about what she was saying. Realising, she put her hands over her mouth and looked warily at her mother.
Hecuba placed a hand on her shoulder, “Did she tell you that?”
Wondering if she had just blown everything for her sister, Lila approached the question cautiously, “Um no. I just figured from the way she’s been acting since Xena left. But I could be reading it wrong.”
Her mother smiled, “Don’t worry you haven't told us anything we haven't already learnt tonight . Fergus saw her kissing Xena and told your father.”
Lila smiled, “They kissed? And I thought all hopes were lost.”
Her mother looked at her curiously, “How long have you known?”
“Um…I began to suspect when Xena left three moons ago.” The girl answered shyly, not sure how that information was going to be received.
Hecuba tugged her daughter into a hug, “I just hope it all works out.”
The night had not been the most comfortable she had ever had, but Gabrielle was used to occasionally waking up with a few aches and pains. Opening her eyes, the bard remembered where she was and how she got there. Putting her head back against the wall she sighed. This was not a scenario she had ever imagined being in.
Standing up, the bard stretched. The storage cupboard was not the most terrible place to ever be locked in, it had furs and food, and she had been in here as a punishment before, during her childhood. Unfortunately it also meant that she also knew there was no way out except through the door. It wasn’t that she was planning to escape, having dissuaded Xena from that very thought the night before, but it would have been nice to know that there was another way out if her father was not to be swayed.
Touching the wall she wondered if her friend was still out there, “Xena?”
“Xena? You still there?”
Still no answer.
Giving up, the bard sighed and walked over to the door, peering out through the barred window. The area was empty. Her father was probably already in the field, farming required him to be up at the crack of dawn. Lila was most likely still in bed or just getting up, her sister being even lazier than her. Her mother could already be down in the village buying supplies. It didn’t surprise her that her father in particular was treating this so casually, deciding not to keep an eye on her as he knew that this cupboard was not broken easily.
Then again, she now had a warrior friend with amazing strength and determination, who was in love with her. If she wanted to she had no doubt that Xena would get her out.
Movement coming from her sister’s bedroom distracted her and she glanced over to see Lila emerge from the room, still slightly dishevelled from sleep. She rubbed her eyes before looking straight at the bard.
“Morning,” Lila said softly, her face showing the sorrow the situation was causing her. She shuffled her way over to the cupboard, “How are you?”
Knowing none of this was her sister’s doing, Gabrielle smiled sadly, “I’m okay. Not that I had the best sleep but okay.”
Lila sighed deeply, shaking her head, “I’m so sorry this happened.”
“Lila it’s not your fault.”
“No, but if I’d helped you realise what I did then you may have not been caught in that situation.”
Gabrielle frowned, “What do you mean? What did you realise?”
“How you feel about Xena.”
The frown deepened on the blonde’s face, “How do I - ?”
“–you love her,” her sister interrupted. She smiled sympathetically, “I know you love her.”
Gabrielle swallowed nervously, “How…how did you know?”
The smile turned into one of teasing, “Your none-stop talking about her,” she began, listing them off on her fingers, “The look in your eyes when her name’s mentioned. Oh yeah, and your reaction when you received the letter saying she was coming back,” she smirked, “Do you want me to continue?”
Glaring at her sister the bard didn’t need to answer, the blush she was trying to hide giving away her feelings on the matter, “No. Please don’t,” she sighed. “I just wish I’d realised it myself sooner.”
Lila looked again at her sister with a small grin on her face, “I know. Look, I don’t know how but I’m going to get you out of here.”
Seeing the sudden determination on her face, Gabrielle was slightly taken back at its intensity. It had been a long time since she had seen Lila so dedicated, and she felt grateful that it was for her, if not a little worried as to what she was now planning.
Xena glanced back at the house, wondering if leaving before the bard had awoken was such a good idea, but she needed a few minutes away to take everything in.
Gabrielle loved her. Okay she hadn’t said it, and Xena was most likely seeing what she wanted to see from the events of the night before…but that’s how it seemed. And despite the problems the confession had caused within the family, a satisfied and content smile still made its way onto the warrior’s face.
Gabrielle loved her. Not her deceased husband. Not one of the many young men they had passed in their travels. Her!
It hit her all of a sudden what this was going to mean in their relationship. They had both worked hard at developing a useful if not natural rapport, and she didn’t know what effect this latest development would have on that. A part of her was afraid that this would change their dynamics, that getting into a relationship that required more passion; more trust would one day lead them into a situation where they could no longer function as a team. Perhaps the transition from friends to lovers would cause them to act differently in life-threatening circumstances.
Would this change put the bard in more danger? Would her enemies take advantage of this acknowledgement of feelings?
Thinking about it she shook her head. There was no point in contemplating this; Gabrielle had already been in danger from her enemies. Callisto in particular had captured the bard, not once, but twice as a means to get to Xena, knowing that in the end she would happily give her life in order to save her friend’s.
Strangely that thought caused a smile to cross her face. None of this mattered anyway. The only way to keep the bard safe would be to leave her here, and she knew Gabrielle would never allow her to do that again. She had followed her once, and this time there would be more reason for her to repeat that.
Anyway, who in their right mind would turn down the thing they wanted the most when it was being offered to them with open arms?
Smiling to herself, Xena knew it wasn’t going to be her. With a breath she turned back towards the house, pondering ideas on how they were going to win over Gabrielle’s father.
“This is getting ridiculous Herodotus! You can’t keep her in there forever!” Hecuba scolded her husband.
He turned to face her, “Well what would you have me do? Let her go? Let her follow that woman?”
He huffed, “Well it’s not going to happen. She is going to stay here, get married and have a normal life.”
Hecuba glared at him, “Who are we to classify what’s normal? For Gabrielle normal has become travelling with Xena. If you’re not careful you’re just going to push her further away.”
“I’m her father! I decide what’s normal for my daughter’s and what isn’t, and I say travelling around the countryside with a so-called ‘reformed’ warlord is not normal!”
She turned towards the door, “Well if you’re not going to see sense, I’ll have to let her out myself.”
Herodotus grasped her arm, “You would defy me?”
Looking him straight in the eye she answered, “I would for the sake of my children,” and pulled her arm out of his grip, disappearing through the door.
Gabrielle’s father stood there in shock. What had happened? Never in their marriage had Hecuba gone over his head, even for her children. Maybe this time he’d gone too far. Maybe forcing Gabrielle to stay put wasn’t the best idea at all.
Following the direction of his wife he found her unlocking the door behind which stood his eldest daughter. Should he just let Hecuba do this? Or should he enforce his household position and insist she stay where she was? He didn’t know anymore.
A knock at the door startled them all. Lila rushed over from beside the bard to open it, giving entrance to Xena. On seeing the warrior Herodotus was filled with jealousy, but he curiously watched as Gabrielle ran over and wrapped her arms around the stoic woman’s neck. His daughter looked so glad, made happier than he had ever seen her by just being able to hold onto her friend once again.
Looking back at Hecuba he was surprised to see her staring at him, a small smile playing on her lips and admiration in her face. She had seen right through him. Enough to know that this scene would prompt him to step aside and allow his eldest her chance at happiness. Who knows, maybe one day he might actually accept what all this meant. Might finally accept the warrior herself.
But that would be a long time coming.
Lila was near tears. The pair were leaving, and she had enjoyed the time she had spent with her sister for the last few moons. It had been something she’d missed to wake up and see her in the bed beside hers, to have midnight chats low enough so their parents wouldn’t hear. They held each other close, hugging with a fierce intensity.
“Don’t take so long to visit this time huh,” Lila said, pulling away to look at her sister properly.
Tears in her eyes, Gabrielle nodded, “I promise. And I’ll send you as many letters as I can afford.”
Lila smiled, and let go to allow the bard to embrace their mother, “Bye mother. I’ll miss you.”
“Stay safe daughter,” she replied. Glad that this time she was able to say goodbye before the girl left.
Gabrielle turned to the warrior, sat atop Argo and allowed herself to be pulled up behind her, “Ready to go?”
Xena smiled, “As ready as I’ll ever be.” She kicked the horse into a walk as they both waved goodbye.
Herodotus stood into the doorway to his house, watching them ride off. He saw Gabrielle turn and look at him, offering a smile of gratitude. He smiled back, praying to any god that would answer that this wouldn’t be the last time he saw that smile.
The warmth of the campfire was a welcome against the cold night. Gabrielle had forgotten how cool it was at this time of year, especially compared to the warmth of a real bed. She rubbed her arms, trying to cause some heat from the friction.
Suddenly a warm figure embraced her from behind. The feel of the warrior’s leather against her back was wonderful, and she leaned back into it, her eyes closing when two arms encircled her waist.
“Warmer?” Xena deep voice asked in her ear.
“Mm, much,” she answered, snuggling down into the comfort. After a few moments of just enjoying the closeness and reliving everything that had happened the past couple of days in her head, the bard opened her eyes and looked up at her friend, “Xena?”
Gabrielle took a deep breath, “Do you think we could try that kiss again?”
She felt the body behind her shift and soon found herself facing the warrior, “I thought you’d never ask,” the woman before her grinned.
Xena’s lips descended slowly onto that of the bard’s, the first touch feeling electrical. Time once again stood still as the kiss continued far beyond that they had experienced the night before. Beginning as barely a touch of the lips, it soon progressed into something much deeper, and Gabrielle had to grasp hold of the warrior’s armour to keep from swooning. The bard knew, from this moment on she never wanted to feel another’s lips again, these were the only ones she ever wanted to be kissing.
All too soon it was over, each breaking off to catch their breath. Their foreheads rested against one another as they searched the other’s eyes.
“Well I think it’s safe to say that beats last night's attempt,” Gabrielle cracked when she could breathe again.
A small satisfied grin appeared on her love’s face, “Definitely.”
Yawning the bard snuggled back down into Xena’s arms, “Where do we go from here?”
Resting her chin on her friend’s head the warrior thought about her answer, “I suppose wherever our hearts take us.”
“My heart's right here, Xena,” her words faded as she fell asleep, “Right here.”
Listening to the gentle snoring of the woman in her arms, Xena glanced up into the starry sky, “I know, and thank you.”
To Be Continued in ‘Mistaken Intimacies’
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