BREAKING UP IS BARD TO DO
By K.W. Bradford
What if Callisto hadn’t killed Perdicus? Would he and Gabrielle have lived happily ever after? I think not.
*The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and any other characters from the show belong to Renaissance Pictures/NBC/Universal. No copyright infringement intended.
* This story portrays love between two women. There are some sexual situations, but not graphic.
Comments are welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’m new at this, so please be gentle. :-)
Xena sat by the campfire, eating the rabbit stew she had prepared. Actually, “eating” was a bit of an overstatement. Forcing down the rabbit stew might be a more accurate description. She was quite capable of making food that was edible, but she couldn’t make it taste good like Gabrielle could. She really missed the bard’s cooking. She missed the bard’s smile, she missed her voice, she missed her eyes, she missed the very scent of her. She missed everything about her. It had been a year since she married Perdicus. Xena was convinced she did the right thing by letting her go, but she still felt as though she now had a hole where her heart should be. But as much as she missed Gabrielle, she hadn’t visited her once in all that time. Seeing her would just bring home all that pain again. The pain of seeing her walk away, on Perdicus’ arm, knowing he was going to experience something with her that Xena never got the chance to. And never would.
It was more than just a physical longing she had, of course. She was hopelessly in love with Gabrielle. She had known it for a long time. So why hadn’t she ever said anything to her? Especially when Perdicus got on his knee and proposed to her. If ever there was a time to admit her feelings, that would’ve been the time. The real reason was that Xena thought there was no way in Tartarus that Gabrielle could ever feel the same way about her. So what would be the point of trying to stop her from marrying Perdicus? Oh she knew that Gabrielle loved her deeply, but in a best friend kind of way. So Xena had accepted the situation, smiled through the ceremony, wished her well, and sent her off with an all too brief kiss.
She had received several letters from Gabrielle in the past year, and was glad to hear she was doing well. Although, Xena noticed that her letters didn’t have the same feel to them that her stories always had. They seemed to be missing something. They were flat and emotionless. So unusual for the bard. She always told the stories of their adventures with such passion. That’s it - passion, that’s what was missing from her letters. Xena wasn’t sure what to think of that. Maybe she wasn’t happy with this new life? That thought actually lifted Xena’s spirits a bit, which in turn made her feel awful. How can I be that cruel? Just because I’m miserable, doesn’t mean she should be. I’m a horrible person, Xena thought to herself. It’s good that she got away from me.
Xena never replied to any of her letters either. That was cruel too, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. She wanted Gabrielle to forget about her and move on. She had made her choice, she chose Perdicus, so she should make a life with him then. Bitter, party of one? She could taste the bitterness in her throat, and it made her choke. Or maybe it was just the gods be damned rabbit stew she had just consumed. Well, one good thing was that soon she’d be in Amphipolis, and would be able to enjoy her mother’s cooking. She’d have to put up with her mother scolding her for not visiting Gabrielle, but she would just have to suck it up.
After dinner, she laid on her bedroll, looking up at the stars. This activity just wasn’t the same either without Gabrielle. Their little pretend arguments about what shapes they were looking at. The first time they did it, it seemed so silly, but then Xena really came to enjoy the game. Just like she came to enjoy all the other games they played: “What Am I?”, “I Spy”, “Tag-You’re It”. After they became more comfortable with each other, they’d even had tickle fights. Xena remembered the first time they had one. Gabrielle had started it, which was pretty bold of her at the time. Truthfully, it had startled both of them to discover that Xena was actually ticklish. They attacked each other playfully, tickling and wrestling. They were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes. Somehow, Gabrielle ended up on top of Xena, straddling her waist to pin her to the ground. It would’ve been so easy for Xena to just throw her off, but she didn’t. She cried uncle, and threw up her hands in surrender. Gabrielle stayed put for a moment longer than she needed to, and Xena swore she saw her blush. But she was never really sure if it had been an actual blush, or if her face was just flushed from all the wrestling. Either way, Xena always looked forward to those tickle fights.
She got comfortable, and pulled her furs over her. She pulled out the bard’s last letter and read it several times. She expressed her sadness over Xena never coming to visit her or writing her back. She said she didn’t understand, but if Xena preferred not to be bothered, she would stop writing. Oh Gabrielle, maybe someday this pain will go away, and we can be friends again, Xena thought to herself, as a single tear fell from her eyes onto the parchment. She closed her eyes to go to sleep, still clutching the letter in her hand.
Xena made her way down the road, walking casually beside Argo, just passing the road that led straight into Potidea. It was mid afternoon, but if she rode the rest of the way, she could maybe make it to Amphipolis before nightfall. She heard a commotion, and stopped suddenly as a horse drawn cart came barreling down the road right at her.
She quickly got herself and Argo out of the way. “Hey, watch out!” She shouted at the driver. He pulled the reigns and stopped the horses. Based on the items she saw in his cart, she guessed that he was a traveling merchant.
“Sorry Miss. I’m usually a safer driver, but I’m trying to get outta here. And you’d do best to get outta here too.”
“Why, what’s going on?”
He quickly blurted out his response. “I just came from Potidea, selling my wares you know. All of a sudden, a runner came in, shouting that a warlord was headed this way. I barely had time to pack up my cart before he and his men descended on the town. But I was able to get my cart and horse hidden in the bushes, and as soon as the warlord and his men were all inside the village, I got the Hades outta there. They were too busy raiding the place to notice me escaping. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna be on my way.” He flicked the reigns and his horse raced down the road.
Son of a Bacchae. Xena let out a huge sigh, then quickly mounted Argo. She got the horse galloping as fast as she could towards Potidea. She was feeling queasy as she rode through the village gates, but it had nothing to do with the warlord. He was the least of her worries. She hopped off of Argo, drew her sword, and started running towards the mayhem. She quickly identified the leader, and spotted about twelve other men. They seemed very disorganized. This will be a piece of honeycake, Xena thought to herself. She sliced and diced her way through six of the men before the others even noticed she was there. Then the rest of them all came at her at once. She just stood there and smiled at them.
“Take your best shot boys!” They were barely a challenge for her, and in moments they were all lying on the ground, moaning in agony. She was careful to leave as many of them alive as she could, as a little favor to Gabrielle, since this was her village.
Now she stood facing the big, ugly warlord. She had never come across this particular one before, but big, ugly warlords were a dinar a dozen. She also noticed that at this point, most of the townspeople had come back out of their houses, and were watching the action. She spotted Lila off in the distance, but no sign of Gabrielle.
“If I were you, I’d get some new henchmen. They were pitiful excuses for fighters.” She glared at him.
“Oh yeah? Just who do you think you are?” The warlord grunted.
“I think I just might be Xena.”
“Xena? Crap.” He shifted around nervously, looked down at his men, then at all the townspeople, then back at Xena. “Of all the rotten luck.” He threw down his sword, and raised his hands in surrender. Honestly, Xena was a bit disappointed. All the watching townspeople started clapping and cheering. Some even came up to her and thanked her. She was somewhat surprised, but really, it was only Gabrielle’s family that hated her guts. These other people had nothing against her, she reasoned.
The town jailor appeared, and with Xena’s help, got all the men taken into custody. She left the small jail, and strode back over to where she had left Argo. She stopped short when she saw Gabrielle standing there, petting Argo and feeding her an apple. Xena stood where she was, just watching. Gabrielle felt eyes on her, and she turned and looked in Xena’s direction. Xena took a deep breath, and approached her. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Gabrielle answered back.
They stood staring at each other, for what seemed like an eternity. Then as if on cue, they both blurted out, “Sorry”, at the same time.
Xena tilted her head at Gabrielle. “What are you sorry for?”
“Whatever I did to make you hate me.”
“Hate you? I don’t hate you. I could never hate you.” Xena took Gabrielle in her arms and hugged her. The warmth of their connection was still very much alive, even after a year’s separation, which prevented Xena from releasing her for a long while. When she finally pulled away, she could see that Gabrielle was crying.
“Xena, if you don’t hate me, then why didn’t you ever come visit, or answer even one of my letters?”
“I was busy, Gabrielle.”
“Busy? Just how busy were you?” She asked in a snide tone. Xena didn’t answer. Gabrielle wiped her eyes and decided to try a different approach. “You know what, forget it. You’re here now. I’m just glad to see you. Let’s go catch up.” She managed a small smile.
“I can’t stay Gabrielle. I heard about the warlord and came to stop him. I’ve done that, now I need to leave.”
“You mean, you weren’t headed here on purpose?”
“No, I was on my way to Amphipolis.”
“Oh.” She stood in silent thought for a moment. “Well, at least let me make you dinner before you go. Honestly, you look a little thin Xena.”
Xena was about to refuse her offer, but she hadn’t eaten all day, and she desperately wanted to taste Gabrielle’s cooking again. Besides, now that she was here, she did owe it to the bard to spend at least a candlemark or two with her.
“Alright. I’ll stay for dinner. But then I really must go.”
Gabrielle’s face lit up. “C’mon, you can put Argo in my family’s barn.”
“You sure they won’t mind?”
“No, of course not.”
They got Argo settled, and Gabrielle led the way to her house. It was small, but very tidy, and decorated with bright, warm colors. Xena smiled. It was very Gabrielle.
“I’ll give you the tour.”
It was a nice starter home, Xena thought. It certainly beat the heck out of sleeping on the ground every night. Maybe the bard was happy here. It was at that moment when Gabrielle showed her the bedroom. Xena felt very uncomfortable all of a sudden.
“You alright?” Gabrielle asked.
“Yeah. Just a little warm in here.”
“Oh. Let’s get you some cold ale.”
Xena left the bedroom quickly and was relieved to be back in the hallway. She noticed another room. “What’s in here?”
“Oh nothing, that’s just a spare room. Let’s go in the kitchen and get you that ale.”
But Xena had already pushed open the door to the spare room and entered. She stood staring at a baby crib. “Ga...Gabrielle, are you with child?”
“No, I’m not. Perdicus built that in hopes that I would be. He really wants kids.”
“Well, sure. I guess.”
She walked away and into the kitchen, and Xena followed. She noticed the odd tone in Gabrielle’s voice in that last statement, but she didn’t pursue it.
Then Xena suddenly realized something was missing from this picture. “Gabrielle, where is Perdicus?”
“Oh he’s out of town. He’s making a delivery for the blacksmith. He’ll be back in a week.”
Xena wasn’t sorry he was gone. She liked the idea of having Gabrielle all to herself for awhile.
“Sit down, Xena. Make yourself comfortable.” She handed her a mug of ale.
Xena sat at the kitchen table, sipping her ale, and chatting with Gabrielle, as she watched her prepare dinner. She had prepared dinner for them many times on the road, but seeing her in the kitchen like this, just seemed wrong somehow.
When the meal was ready, Gabrielle put a heaping plate of food in front of the warrior. She looked up at her. “How many stomachs do you think I have, Gabrielle?”
She chuckled. “Xena, you look like you need it. Tell me, did you even eat anything at all today?”
“No.” Xena answered quietly.
“That’s what I thought. Eat up.”
Xena took a bite and thought for sure it was Ambrosia. Gods, how she missed the bard’s cooking. She took a few more mouthfuls. “This is delicious, Gabrielle. Thank you.”
“I’m glad you like it.” She smiled. Xena smiled back.
They continued eating and talking. Gabrielle told Xena everything that had happened in Potidea in the past year, and Xena filled her in on all the warlords she’d beaten up, all the towns she’d saved, and all the children she’d rescued from burning buildings.
“Same old, same old, huh Xena?”
Gabrielle cleared her throat and rose from the table, clearing away their plates.
“Let me do that, Gabrielle. It’s the least I can do.”
“No, no, you’re the guest. You relax.”
“I should really be on my way.”
By this time, the sun had gone down, and evening was settling in. “Xena, it’s dark out. You don’t want to set out at night do you? Why don’t you just spend the night, and set out in the morning?”
Xena sat there, weighing the pros and cons of staying overnight. Pro: getting to spend more time with Gabrielle.
Con: spending more time with Gabrielle, and missing her even more when she left.
“Alright, I’ll stay the night. Thanks for your hospitality.”
“Hospitality?” She chuckled. “Why are you being so formal? This isn’t an inn. It’s just me.”
“I don’t know. I just feel awkward.”
“Awkward? Around me? Why?”
“Because I never came to visit you, or answered your letters. That was shitty. I’m sorry, Gabrielle.”
She grabbed Xena and pulled her into a tight hug. “I was really hurt by that. I didn’t understand why you would do that. I still don’t. But I’m just glad to be with you now. I’ve missed you so much, Xena. I really miss my best friend. You are still my best friend, aren’t you?”
“Of course I am. Always. I’ve missed you too, Gabrielle.” They held each other for a moment, then Xena pulled away.
“Um, let’s sit by the fire for awhile.” Gabrielle suggested.
“What about the dishes?”
“Eh, forget the dishes. I’ve got them soaking. I’ll just do them in the morning.”
They both sat on the couch, facing the fire. Gabrielle tentatively moved closer to Xena. Xena hesitantly put her arm around Gabrielle. Then Gabrielle rested her head on Xena’s shoulder. They sat like that, watching the fire, for several candlemarks, till Xena noticed the pattern of Gabrielle’s breathing had changed, and realized she had fallen asleep. She kissed the top of her head.
Xena stood, gently picked Gabrielle up in her arms, and carried her to the bedroom, depositing her softly onto the bed. She removed her boots, covered her with the blanket, and started to leave the room.
“Hey, where are you going?” Gabrielle mumbled groggily.
“Um, to go sleep on the couch?”
“The couch? Don’t be silly. Sleep here, with me. This bed is huge, there’s plenty of room.”
Well, the bed was indeed huge, and there was plenty of room. And really, they’d shared beds before at some of the inns they stayed at. No big deal, right?
“Yeah, sure. Okay.”
Xena removed her armor and leathers, and got down to just her shift. Meanwhile, Gabrielle had gotten up and fetched a night shirt from her dresser, and slipped into that. Then they both got into bed, under the covers.
After about a quarter candlemark, Gabrielle whispered, “Xena, you still awake?”
Xena considered pretending she was asleep, but she was curious as to what the bard wanted. “Yeah.”
“Can I talk to you?”
“I can’t talk to anyone here the way I can talk to you. I really miss that. I feel like I can tell you anything.”
“Of course you can, Gabrielle.”
“I need to confess something.”
Xena rolled over onto her side so she was facing Gabrielle. “Okay. What is it?”
“Remember when I found out about Solon?”
“Remember when we talked about it later? You told me about that special herb you took during your warlord days, to keep you from getting pregnant. And how you ran out of it, and threw caution to the wind, and that’s how Solon came along.”
“I’m taking that herb Xena. Perdicus doesn’t know.”
“What?” Xena was stunned. “Why?”
Gabrielle took a deep breath. “I don’t want to have a baby with him.” She broke down and started crying. “I don’t love him. Marrying him was a huge mistake. I don’t know what to do.” She was sobbing at this point.
Xena moved closer and pulled her into her arms. “Hey, hey, shhh, it’s alright. We’ll figure something out.”
“Always bailing me out of my messes aren’t you.”
“It’s what I live for.” That got a little laugh out of Gabrielle, despite her tears.
Their faces were very close, so Xena leaned in and rubbed noses with Gabrielle. Their eyes locked, and they just gazed at each other for a long time. Slowly, cautiously, Gabrielle closed the almost non-existent distance between them, and captured Xena’s lips in a kiss.
It was as if a dam had burst, and all the emotions, feelings, and desires that Xena had buried deep within her seemed to rush to the surface. She had to be very careful how she handled this. She pulled away from the kiss, but still kept her arms wrapped around Gabrielle. “Why did you do that?”
“Because I’ve always wanted to. And it just seemed like the right moment.”
“You....you always wanted to?”
“Yes.” She hesitated for a moment, but courageously continued. “Xena, I’m in love with you.”
Xena suddenly forgot how to breathe. She thought for a moment she was going to pass out. “You’re......in love with me?” Gabrielle looked at her intently and nodded. Xena brought her hand up to Gabrielle’s face and brushed back a stray strand of hair. “How? When?”
“I had feelings for you for a while, Xena, but I was confused about what they meant. I wanted to talk to somebody about it, but the only person I could talk to about something that personal was my best friend, which also happened to be you, so that was out.” She smiled wistfully. “So you can see I was kind of stuck, trying to figure things out for myself. But whatever it was that I was feeling, I was sure there’d be no way you’d ever have the same feelings for me. Then Perdicus came along, and offered me the love and attention I knew I could never get from you. It felt good at the time, and I fell for that, thinking it would be easy to just replace my feelings for you with someone else. It didn’t take me long to figure out I’d made a big mistake. But I’d made my choice, so I just resigned myself to live with it. Especially since you didn’t write me back or ever come see me, I figured you had moved on, and wouldn’t want me back anyway.”
“Wow. I’m sorry you had to deal with this all alone, Gabrielle. You know, I wondered if you were really happy or not. Your letters were so vague and expressionless, so unlike you. I didn’t know what to think. Why didn’t you just tell me how miserable you were?”
“I don’t know. I felt stupid, Xena. I didn’t expect you to understand. You would never do anything so stupid.”
“Oh, I’ve done plenty of stupid stuff, Gabrielle.” She paused. “Like letting you go, for one.”
Xena felt as though she was perched on the edge of a cliff. Should she jump, and risk being crushed by the rocks below? Or should she just walk away? Xena took a deep breath and jumped. “When you left with Perdicus, it felt like someone had reached inside my chest and ripped my heart out. I’m....” Another deep breath. “I’m in love with you too, Gabrielle.”
“Oh Xena.” Gabrielle threw her arms around Xena and started kissing her again. This time, Xena didn’t stop her or pull away. She let the passion take over,
and they kissed for a long time.
“Gods.” Gabrielle panted.
“Gods.” Xena rasped back.
When they were finally able to catch their breaths, Gabrielle asked a question. “So you knew you were in love with me when I married Perdicus?”
“Yes. I’ve been in love with you for a long time.”
“Why didn’t you say something then? Why didn’t you stop me from marrying him?”
“I didn’t think you’d ever feel the same way about me.”
Gabrielle chuckled. “Boy, we sure are a pair aren’t we?”
“We sure are.” Xena gave her a sad grin.
Their lips met again in a gentle kiss, which quickly turned into something more fiery and passionate. They were both overwhelmed, and Xena fought to keep control of the situation, which was becoming increasingly harder to do because the bard’s hands were everywhere. Then Gabrielle went under Xena’s shift and boldly touched her in her most intimate of places. Xena grabbed her hand and pushed it away. “Gabrielle, stop. We can’t do this.”
“Why not?” She questioned in a husky whisper.
“You’re a married woman. You’d be cheating on Perdicus. It isn’t right.”
“Xena, I belong to you. Heart and soul. The way I look at it, everytime I let Perdicus touch me, I was actually being unfaithful to you.”
Xena stared into her eyes. “Gabrielle.....”
“Make love to me, Xena.”
Xena’s head was telling her this was so wrong, but her body was telling her she needed this. That they both needed this. Her body won. She kissed Gabrielle tenderly, and her hands began an exploration of her body, which was a mix of well defined muscles and soft curves, much like Xena’s own. She paused for a moment, sat up, and slipped off Gabrielle’s night shirt. Then she removed her own shift and threw it on the floor. Xena remained upright, and gently positioned herself on top of Gabrielle, straddling her waist. Moonlight was streaming in the window, lighting them both in a silvery, blue glow that allowed them to view each other. They had seen each other naked many times before, but never like this. Their eyes roamed over each other’s body so intensely, it produced an almost physical sensation on their skin.
“Xena, you are so beautiful.” Xena smiled at the compliment, and resumed her exploration. She was determined to take things slow, to not rush anything, so she could enjoy every second of this to the fullest. The realization of just who this was under her affected her deeply. It was intoxicating.
She ran her hands first along Gabrielle’s sides, then over her taut stomach, then back up to her ribcage, her fingers leaving a fiery trail on the bard’s skin. She felt Gabrielle shift a little under her. Then Xena’s hands traveled up to Gabrielle’s breasts, and started a gentle caressing. She let her thumb glide over a nipple, which immediately responded to her touch. Xena leaned over and took it into her mouth. Gabrielle moaned and shifted under her again.
When she was ready for more, she wasn’t shy about letting the warrior know. Xena’s hands traveled down along her stomach, stopping at her abdomen. She left
one hand on Gabrielle’s stomach, running her other hand over her hip, and along the inside of her thigh. Gabrielle parted her legs in obvious invitation.
Xena hesitated, savoring the moment of a fantasy about to be fulfilled, then she slowly slid her hand into the damp warmth of the bard’s need. She knew
instinctively just where and how to touch her, and Gabrielle moaned her approval.
But Xena stopped abruptly and pulled her hands away. She looked down at them, just staring, with a solemn expression on her face. She suddenly felt unworthy. How dare she use her bloodstained hands to touch Gabrielle so intimately. These hands that have brought pain and death to so many.
Gabrielle looked up at her, totally confused. “What’s wrong?”
“My....my hands. They’re dirty, Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle sat up and took Xena’s hands in hers. “What are you talking about? They’re not dirty.”
“Blood, Gabrielle. It won’t ever wash off.”
Gabrielle understood. She took one of Xena’s hands and kissed it several times. Then she placed her tongue against the palm and slowly, sensually licked it. She repeated her actions on Xena’s other hand. “There, now your hands are clean.” She looked into Xena’s eyes with all the warmth and love she had. She pulled Xena close and kissed her hard.
Gabrielle was willing to overlook so much. Her love knew no boundaries. Xena knew she didn’t deserve this, but after that display of love and trust, she found she no longer cared. She placed her hands back where they were wanted, and made love to Gabrielle with a passion that even Xena, with all her experience, had never felt before.
Gabrielle woke slowly, as the sunlight streaming through the window lit her face. She felt the warm presence of another body next to her. Perdicus? She blinked open her eyes, and saw that it was Xena. She let out a huge sigh, relieved that none of it had been a dream. Last night had actually happened. She smiled, and lifted her hand and stroked Xena’s cheek. Xena opened her eyes at the bard’s touch. “Good morning.” She placed a soft kiss on Gabrielle’s lips.
“Good morning.” Gabrielle kissed her back. “You know, it’s well past dawn.”
Xena lifted her head off her pillow to glance out the window. “Indeed it is.”
“You don’t usually stay in bed past dawn.”
“I don’t usually have a naked bard curled up next to me.” Xena said with a grin.
“Oh.” Gabrielle felt a little blush come over her. Xena kissed her.
“Um, when is Cyrene expecting you?”
“She’s not. I never told her I was coming, I was just going to pop in. Why?”
“So, you don’t really have to leave today then?” Gabrielle asked, sounding hopeful.
“No, I don’t have to.”
Gabrielle smiled. “Stay with me Xena. Stay the week. Till Perdicus gets back.”
“Are you asking me to stay in Potidea for a week? Or are you asking me to stay here in bed with you for a week?”
Gabrielle chuckled. “Both.”
“Gabrielle, if you kiss me the way you kissed me last night, I’ll stay here forever.”
Gabrielle gladly accepted the challenge, and kissed Xena passionately. Her kiss was clearly successful, because it resulted in one very out-of-breath
“Damn. Where’d you learn to kiss like that?” Even though she said it jokingly, Xena immediately regretted the question, imagining it was probably from kissing her husband.
Gabrielle saw the expression on Xena’s face. “I don’t kiss Perdicus that way.”
“Oh.” Xena was relieved to hear that, she shamefully had to admit. She hated being jealous, but she couldn’t help it. “Gabrielle, what’s going to happen when Perdicus comes home?”
Gabrielle’s hand was in Xena’s hair, twirling a silky, dark lock around her fingers. “I’ll tell him the truth, and hope he releases me from the marriage.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“I’ll leave with you anyway.” She paused, and her green eyes took on a sad look. “That is, if you want me to.”
“If you think I’m leaving here without you, you’re nuts.”
Gabrielle gave Xena a dazzling smile and a kiss. Xena started rubbing Gabrielle’s stomach, thoroughly appreciating how flat and firm it was. “Mmmm. I couldn’t really admit this to you before, but I love your belly.”
“Really?” Gabrielle was flattered.
“Yeah, you could bounce a dinar off of it. Even after a year.”
Gabrielle giggled. “Oh, well, I still workout with my staff. I try to do my drills almost every day.”
“Yeah. I just couldn’t let that part of me go, I guess. Perdicus hated it. He told me I should put on some weight and soften out. That it would be better for carrying a child.”
“Sounds like he has a one track mind. And Gabrielle, to be honest, the strong, muscular body you have now is actually better for carrying a child.”
“Oh, really?” Gabrielle gave her a mischievous grin. “Care to make me an offer, warrior?”
Xena burst out laughing. “Um, Gabrielle, I do have many skills, but I don’t think even I could pull that off. I’m lacking a few important body parts.”
Gabrielle put her hand between Xena’s legs and began a light stroking. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re not lacking anything. You have everything I need.”
Xena stared into Gabrielle’s eyes, enjoying the gentle touch of her new lover. She kissed Gabrielle, and with a slip of her tongue took possession of her mouth. Gabrielle applied more pressure, and increased her pace. Xena arched her back, pressing against Gabrielle, moving with the rhythm of her hand. Then she moaned Gabrielle’s name, and let herself be consumed by the fire of the bard’s passion.
The next few days were a blissful whirlwind. Xena considered that maybe she was living in some sort of dreamscape. She and Gabrielle couldn’t seem to get enough of each other. But Gabrielle’s family knew Xena was visiting, so they decided they should be seen out and about every so often, just to keep up appearances. This morning they were strolling through the marketplace, picking up bread, cheese, soap, and other necessities. At one point, Gabrielle took Xena’s hand. Xena thought that was kind of risky, and gave her a look, but Gabrielle just looked back at her and smiled. Well, I guess two best friends could walk around holding hands without it meaning anything, Xena thought to herself. She also noticed that Gabrielle had taken off her wedding ring. Xena would’ve understood if she had continued to wear it. If Gabrielle’s family were to notice the absence of the gold band from her finger, they would certainly ask questions. But it also made Xena feel good to know that Gabrielle didn’t consider herself belonging to Perdicus anymore. She wasn’t sure if the purpose of the gesture was to make a statement to her, or if it was just for Gabrielle’s own peace of mind.
They got back to the house, and Gabrielle went inside to make them lunch, while Xena decided to chop some firewood. As she was splitting the logs, she thought about the ridiculousness of the situation. Here she was, chopping wood, while the bard was inside making them lunch. And yesterday, Gabrielle had done laundry, while Xena had fixed the broken leg of a chair, and sealed a leak in the bathing tub. It was so....domestic. It was like she and Gabrielle were married, living in this house together. She chuckled to herself. But then she began to wonder if Gabrielle wanted things to stay this way. Was she just thinking of swapping out Perdicus for her? Or did she really want to return to their life on the road? Xena never considered settling down before. She’d have to really think about it. And if they did, there was no way they could stay living in Potidea together as a couple. Gabrielle’s family hated Xena anyway, and if they knew she had stolen Gabrielle away from dear, sweet Perdicus, they would make life there impossible for them. It would be a living Tartarus. No, they would have to move somewhere else. Maybe Amphipolis. Gods know, her mother adored Gabrielle, and would be pleased as punch if they settled there. Or maybe Xena was getting ahead of herself, and she should just talk to Gabrielle about it.
At that moment, Gabrielle came through the door and handed Xena a mug of cold ale. “I thought you might need this. It’s hotter than Hades out here.”
“Thanks.” Xena slammed the ale down in one gulp, and handed the mug back to Gabrielle. “You always seem to know just what I need, just when I need it.”
Gabrielle heard innuendo in the statement and blushed. “What exactly are we talking about?”
Xena smiled seductively. “I’m just talking about the ale, Gabrielle. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I guess I just have a dirty mind.” She said and went back in the house.
Xena shook her head and grinned, and went back to her chopping. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Lila coming her way. Uh oh.
Lila made her way to Gabrielle’s house. It was Wednesday, and she and her sister always had lunch together on Wednesdays. She saw no reason why they still shouldn’t have lunch together today, just because Xena was there.
Xena. She had thought Gabrielle was finally rid of her. That she had finally come to her senses and left that scary woman. She had married Perdicus, and came back home where she belonged. She was happy to have her sister back home. And really, what kind of life was that she’d been living anyway? Running around the countryside, fighting people with that stick of hers. All to be with Xena? Gabrielle insisted of course that Lila didn’t understand, she didn’t know Xena like Gabrielle did, that there was another side to her. Well, Gabrielle sure found out what kind of best friend Xena really was, when she basically wrote her off for a whole year. Lila did feel a little bad, because she could see that really hurt her sister, but mostly she was relieved to know that Xena was finally out of her life. Or so she thought.
As she approached, she saw the warrior outside, chopping wood. Lila just stood there, staring at her. She was wearing only her leather battledress, no armor, and she was dripping in sweat. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and a few strands had gotten loose and were sticking to her face. She didn’t look quite as menacing without the armor, Lila had to admit. And she did have a pretty face. She was certainly the tallest woman she had ever come across, and she had really long, lean, muscular legs. As the axe hit the wood, Lila could see her arm muscles flexing under her skin. Xena noticed her and turned her way, wiping the sweat from her brow with her forearm. “Hey Lila. What’s up?”
Lila took notice of her piercing blue eyes, as if for the first time. Xena was just so intense. She was like a wild animal that you’d be afraid to let out of it’s cage. “Uh, hello Xena. It’s Wednesday.”
Xena gave her a smirk. “Um, thanks for the info, Lila.”
Lila cleared her throat. “I’m here for lunch. Gabrielle and I always have lunch together on Wednesdays.”
Xena grinned. “Ohh, I see. Well go ahead inside. I’ll be in shortly.”
“Uh, yeah, okay.” Lila went into the house.
“Lila, what a nice surprise. What are you doing here?” Gabrielle asked.
“What do you mean what am I doing here? It’s Wednesday.”
“Oh gods, is it really? I’m sorry Lila, I didn’t even realize what day it was.” Lila couldn’t believe her sister had forgotten their lunch. It’s all Xena’s fault surely.
“Sorry about that. Well, I was just making lunch for Xena and me, and there’s plenty of food, so sit down and join us.”
Join her and Xena? This was supposed to be our time, now I’m the third wheel? Lila was not happy at all, but she sat down at the table.
Just then Xena came through the door, and caught Gabrielle’s eye. “Don’t look at me, I’m hideous.”
Gabrielle just laughed. “Sweaty yes, but you could never look hideous.” The truth was, Gabrielle liked her warrior a little sweaty. She found it very sexy. Ironically, when Perdicus would come home all sweaty from working in the fields and try to give her a kiss, she’d always push him away.
“Thanks, but I don’t want to stink up the joint, so I’ll just go wash up quick. You girls go ahead and start lunch without me.”
“I think I just earned myself a new nickname.” Xena grinned and gave Lila a wink, then sauntered off toward the bathing area.
Did Xena just make a joke? And wink at me? Lila was a little rattled.
Lila and Gabrielle were eating, and making small talk, when Xena re-entered the room, cleaner and drier than before, and wearing a simple tunic. It was very short on her, so Lila guessed it must’ve been Gabrielle’s.
“Hope you don’t mind I borrowed this. It’s too darn hot to put my leathers back on. I sure have a new respect for cows.”
Gabrielle laughed at Xena’s comment. Again, Lila was surprised. Xena has a sense of humor? Really? Lila thought all she did was sneer and growl at people. She seems so different, so relaxed. Maybe Gabrielle was telling the truth, and she really does have another side. No, that’s crazy. She’s a murderous monster, that’s all. That’s what Mom and Dad say about her, and they would know best.
“Here, sit down. I’ll fix you a plate.”
Lila watched the warrior take a seat at the table, while Gabrielle set a plate in front of her. As she did, she ever so casually put her hand on Xena’s shoulder, and gave it a little squeeze. Huh, interesting.
Xena took a few bites of her food and started groaning with pleasure. “Food of the gods!”
Gabrielle playfully slapped her arm. “Oh stop it.”
“What? It is! You have no idea how much I missed your cooking, Gabrielle.”
Lila was observing this little interplay between Xena and Gabrielle, and now they were just staring at each other, with stupid grins on their faces. This was getting weird. She turned to Xena. “Is that why you kept my sister around, because of her cooking?”
“Lila!” Gabrielle shot her a dirty look.
Xena was silent for a moment, then she turned to Lila, and answered her in a serious voice. “No. I would’ve kept her around even if she were a lousy cook.”
Gabrielle gazed at the warrior, and put her hand on Xena’s hand.
What is with these two? Lila wondered. I know they’re best friends and all, but jeez, do they have to be so goopy around each other? She’s not even this goopy around Perdicus. “So, when’s Perdicus coming back?”
Gabrielle broke her gaze away from Xena and glared at her sister. “In a few days.”
Lila turned to Xena. “Guess you’ll be leaving then?”
Xena sat quietly, not really knowing what to say. Then she just muttered, “Guess so,” and got up from the table and walked down the hall.
“What’s her problem?”
“Lila, you were being very rude to Xena.”
“Rude? How was I rude? All I did was ask when your husband was coming home.”
Gabrielle just sighed. She knew her sister couldn’t possibly understand what was going on, and she knew she couldn’t explain it to her.
“I’m going to go talk to Xena. You can wait here, or you can go. I don’t care.” She got up and walked down the hall to find Xena.
Lila sat there wondering what the heck just happened. It was definitely the weirdest lunch she had ever had. And now her sister was mad at her, for supposedly being rude to Xena. She couldn’t imagine the big, tough, scary warrior having feelings. Oh well. She got up from the table, and walked out the door.
Gabrielle found Xena in the bedroom, lying on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. “Hey.”
“Xena, I’m sorry about Lila. She doesn’t understand.”
“Maybe she understands perfectly.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Xena sat up. “Gabrielle, what are we doing? Are we just playing house till Perdicus comes back?”
“Playing house?” She walked over to the bed and sat down next to Xena.
“These past few days have been wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But really, Gabrielle, are you prepared to walk away from your life here, your family, your husband? Have you really thought this through?”
“Why are you questioning this all of a sudden? I thought we were on the same page. Just because of what Lila said?”
“And are you expecting us to get a house somewhere, and settle down, with me chopping wood and you in the kitchen?”
“What in Hades are you talking about, Xena?”
“I don’t know. I’m just freaking out I guess. When Perdicus comes back, this little fantasy we’ve been living is going to come to an end. I thought I was prepared for that, but when Lila assumed I’d be leaving, I started second guessing everything.”
“Wait, you think I’m going to change my mind and stay with him?”
Xena put her head in her hands and sighed. “I don’t know what I think.”
Gabrielle took Xena in her arms and held her. “There is no chance of that. I belong with you.” She kissed Xena on the cheek. “As for the settling down part, it’s something I hope we do at some point, when we’re old and gray, but not now. I loved our life on the road, having adventures, helping people. I’m not ready to give that up.” She placed a tender kiss on Xena’s forehead.
“You picture us together, old and gray?” Xena was smiling now.
“Of course I do. Although, you’ll be gray way before me.” Gabrielle hoped her joking would ease the tension.
Xena laughed. “Well, I guess I can add cradle robber to my long list of crimes.”
Gabrielle chuckled and kissed her. “Don’t forget thief of hearts.”
Xena smiled and kissed her back.
“You’re going to be a beautiful old lady, Xena.”
“Oh you think so huh?”
“Yes, I do.”
Xena accepted the compliment. She didn’t have the heart to tell Gabrielle that she had a very slim chance of even making it to old age. Xena had made alot of enemies along the way, and one of them was bound to take their revenge on her when she was older and her abilities were failing. Her enemies would be older too, of course, but they could certainly hire someone to take her out.
“You won’t trade me in for a younger model, will ya?”
“Never.” They exchanged kisses. “Xena, you know I’m just teasing you right? Our age difference isn’t really a deal.”
“Yeah, I know.” They kissed again. “Gabrielle, I’m sorry I freaked out on you.”
“Xena, you don’t have to be sorry. I’m just glad you feel you can talk to me. I worked for a long time to get those walls of yours to come down.”
Xena chuckled. “Oh they’re down alright, my bard.”
“Good.” Gabrielle pushed Xena down on the bed, and settled herself on top of her. “If there’s no walls between us, we can get nice and close.” She leaned over and kissed Xena with a fierce intensity that conveyed her desire.
Gabrielle was really starting to appreciate mornings. She used to hate waking up, preferring to sleep in whenever possible. Her father used to yell at her for being a lazy bum. When she started traveling with Xena, she made an attempt to adjust to the warrior’s schedule. Xena was an early riser, she rarely slept past dawn. That was way too early for Gabrielle, but she had forced herself to do it, so she wouldn’t anger Xena. But waking that early made Gabrielle cranky. And a cranky Gabrielle resulted in a cranky Warrior Princess. After a few weeks of that, they reached a breaking point and got into a fight over something stupid, so Gabrielle confessed that she was sleep deprived.
At first Xena had laughed at the concept, but then she took pity on her. Traveling all day every day was hard enough. And most days they didn’t have a schedule they needed to stick to anyway. So she had relented, and started letting Gabrielle sleep in a little longer, which really improved her mood. That in turn, improved relations between them.
Once she started living with Perdicus, Gabrielle could sleep in even longer than she did on the road with Xena, but she still found it hard to get up and face the day. And whenever Perdicus tried to get amorous with her in the morning, she’d pretend to be asleep. She decided she just wasn’t a morning person.
But these last few days with Xena had totally changed her feelings about mornings. She now woke up fully rested, anxious to greet the day, and feeling more than a bit amorous herself. What was the word Xena used? Horny, that was it. She was beginning to understand Perdicus now, and she started to feel sorry for him. How would she feel if Xena pretended to be asleep to avoid her affections? She’d feel awful. Poor Perdicus. She suddenly wished there was another option. She didn’t want to hurt him. But she couldn’t continue living a lie either. She had to follow her heart. Her heart that was now beating in tandem with the heart lying next to her.
She opened her eyes and spent a few moments just watching her partner. Xena really was a work of art. Power and grace. Strength and beauty. Danger and passion. Gods, she was totally aroused now. She silently willed Xena to wake up.
She reached under the covers, and lightly started tracing her fingers along Xena’s curves. That woke her up.
Crystal clear blue eyes blinked at her. “Well, hey there.”
“Good morning.” Gabrielle couldn’t hide the huskiness in her voice.
“Someone’s in a mood this morning.” Xena said playfully.
“Sorry.” Gabrielle suddenly felt a little embarrassed.
“Oh don’t ever be sorry for that, my bard.”
Gabrielle could count on one hand the number of times she had actually initiated things with Perdicus. She had always thought he was an adequate lover, though she really had nothing to compare it to. Till now. Being with Xena was so different, so intense. With Perdicus, it was like the spark you get when you rub two sticks together. With Xena, it was all Greek Fire.
“C’mere.” Xena grabbed her and pulled her close, and Gabrielle wrapped herself completely around Xena. They began kissing and touching. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
The heat between them intensified, and soon the world faded away. Gabrielle was making love to Xena, and Xena let herself go completely, something she could only allow herself to do with the bard. Suddenly, Xena picked up something in the periphery of her senses. She couldn’t tell what it was, because her senses were quite foggy at the moment, but it didn’t seem to pose any immediate danger. Gods, she really didn’t want to stop Gabrielle from what she was doing, she was so close. So she tried to ignore it, but the sense got stronger. “Ga...Gabrielle....someone’s.....in.....the house,” she managed to grunt out.
Just as Gabrielle was trying to wrap her head around what Xena had said, the bedroom door opened and Perdicus was standing there, staring at the scene in front of him. Xena spotted him first. “Shit.”
Gabrielle turned around and saw him. “Perdicus! What are you doing here?” She rolled off of Xena and hastily pulled the bedsheet up over both of them.
“What am I doing here?! I think the question is what is she doing here?! In my bed! With my wife!” He angrily drew his sword and stormed toward the bed.
On instinct, Gabrielle threw herself in front of Xena. “Perdicus, stop! Put your sword down!”
Xena couldn’t believe this was happening. Her little fantasy with Gabrielle had turned into a nightmare in the blink of an eye. She looked at Perdicus’ face, and saw the hatred in his eyes. Suddenly, Xena felt ashamed, all the guilt of a lifetime as a warlord came rushing back. Here she was, in bed with another man’s wife. She hadn’t changed at all. Whatever progress she’d made on her path of redemption, she was pretty sure she had just taken a giant step backwards. There will be a special place reserved for me in Tartarus, she thought to herself. I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t deserve Gabrielle. What I deserve is for this young man to run his sword through me.
Now Perdicus had his sword pointed right at Xena. She said nothing, and remained motionless.
Gabrielle saw the strange look on Xena’s face, and figured she’d have to fight this battle for her. “Perdicus, think about what you’re doing, who you have your sword pointed at. You’re no match for her. Put it down, Perdicus.”
“Quiet Gabrielle! This is between me and Xena!”
“No Perdicus. This is between you and me. Let’s go talk this out.”
He switched his gaze from Xena to Gabrielle, and now his sword was pointed in her direction. “I don’t think there’s anything to talk about, Gabrielle.”
Xena had been complacent when he had his sword on her, but now that he posed a threat to her sweet bard, she sprung into action. She disarmed Perdicus in a move so fast, he never saw it coming. Now she had him face down on the floor, with her knee in his back, and her arm on his neck.
“Get off me!”
She increased the pressure on his neck. “I deserve whatever vengeance you want to dish out on me, Perdicus, but don’t you dare threaten Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle felt sick to her stomach. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. She was going to talk to him, explain things to him, let him down gently. He wasn’t supposed to come home early and walk in on them. Gods. And for a minute there, she didn’t think Xena was going to even defend herself. Probably Warrior Princess guilt. Oh Xena.
Gabrielle got up from the bed and threw on her robe. She knelt down by Perdicus. “I’m so sorry you had to see that. I know you’re angry. You just need to cool off, and then you and I can talk.” She gently touched his head, and stroked his hair. Xena had a strange reaction to the gesture. She was glad Gabrielle was being compassionate with him, she’d expect nothing less. But at the same time, she had a strong urge to snap his neck. She was jealous. Even after everything they’d shared these past few days, she was still jealous. She was disgusted with herself.
But then she glanced over at Gabrielle, their eyes met, and she saw the love reflected back at her. This little episode, as horrible as it was, had changed nothing. Gabrielle loved her, not him. Xena got a grip on herself and spoke. “Perdicus, you listen to me. I’m going to let you up now, but I’m going to hang on to your sword. You’re going to calm down, and then you and Gabrielle can talk. After that, if you still want a piece of me, you’re more than welcome. But you lay one finger on Gabrielle, and you’re a dead man. You got that?”
“Yeah.” He said through gritted teeth.
Xena jumped off of him, and got in a defense stance in case he tried anything. He got up and spun around, glaring at her. But he had no weapon, and this was Xena, so he knew he’d be an idiot to try anything. And she was still completely naked, which he found very awkward. He hated her guts at the moment, but his manhood didn’t quite feel the same.
He turned back around to face Gabrielle. “Alright, let’s go talk. Although, I don’t know what good talking’s going to do. I know what I saw. You can’t talk your way out of that, Gabrielle.”
“C’mon, let’s go in the other room.” She let Perdicus go through the door first, then she turned around and shot a quick glance back at Xena, and mouthed ‘I love you.’
Xena took comfort in that, and sat down on the bed, trying to regain her composure as best she could. Then she got dressed, in her leathers and armor, and wondered what she should do. She couldn’t go out there, they needed to be alone. She could just sit there and go crazy, or she could slip out the window, get Argo and ride out of there, never looking back. She didn’t do either of those. She paced. Then she found herself near the doorway, stopping suddenly as she heard loud sobs coming from the main room. She listened closely and realized the sobs were from Perdicus, not Gabrielle. She felt guilty eavesdropping on them, but she couldn’t help herself.
“But Gabrielle, I love you so much. If you asked for the moon, I’d wrest it from the sky and set it at your feet.”
“I believe that Perdicus, but you don’t understand. When I’m with Xena, I feel as though I already possess the moon.”
Xena felt her heart skip a beat. By the gods, the bard sure did have a way with words. What she ever did to deserve Gabrielle’s love, she had no clue. She continued eavesdropping.
“Why in Hades did you marry me Gabrielle, if you loved someone else?”
“Well, that’s where it gets complicated. I didn’t really know how I felt about Xena at the time. I felt really comfortable with you, and I guess I confused that for love. I am so sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”
“So, what do we do now?”
“I’m hoping you will release me from our marriage.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I will leave with Xena anyway.”
“You seem to like running away from home don’t you?”
“I’m hoping I don’t have to this time.”
“Go get her. Tell her to meet me outside.”
“Perdicus, don’t do this. You know you’re no match for her.”
“Just go get her, Gabrielle. I don’t feel very much like a man right now. I have to do this.”
Gabrielle sighed heavily, and made her way back to the bedroom. Xena didn’t want Gabrielle to know she had been listening, so she did a quiet leap from the doorway, and landed softly on the bed.
Gabrielle entered the room and walked straight into Xena’s waiting arms. “How did it go? Are you alright?”
“It went as well as can be expected I guess. It sucks breaking someone’s heart. But I guess I should be pretty good at it by now.”
Tears started falling from Gabrielle’s eyes. Xena pulled her close, and wiped Gabrielle’s tears away with her fingers. “Unfortunately, it’s part of life, Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle just nodded. “Perdicus wants to meet you outside.”
“He wants to fight me?”
“I guess so. He said something about needing to feel like a man.”
“Ah. Alright, I’ll fight him.”
“Don’t hurt him, Xena.”
Xena felt a little wounded. “You really think I would?”
Gabrielle looked up at Xena, and saw the hurt expression. “No, of course not. I didn’t mean it that way. I’m sorry.”
Xena pulled away from Gabrielle, collected both of their swords, and walked through the door and down the hallway. Gabrielle ran after her, feeling her warrior needed more from her, but not knowing what to say.
Then Xena remembered the words she had just overheard, about being the moon to Gabrielle, and she decided to let the other comment go. She continued to be surprised by her own sensitivity, but Gabrielle’s words had the power to make her heart soar, or cut her like a knife. She knew that was something she would have to work on, or she’d never make it. She turned around and gave Gabrielle a warm smile. Gabrielle smiled back. The tension was broken that easily. Maybe I will be able to live through this, Xena chuckled to herself. She turned back and walked out the door to face Perdicus.
Gabrielle stayed inside, but sat by the window so she could watch.
Xena threw his sword to him. “Perdicus, you don’t have to do this.”
“Yes I do, Xena. You’ve taken Gabrielle away from me. I have to at least try to get my self-respect back.”
“Alright, I understand.”
Perdicus lunged at her, and Xena deflected the blow easily. He was no match for her, of course, but he had been a soldier for awhile, so it would at least be somewhat of a fair fight. If she tied one hand behind her back. And blindfolded herself. But she took pity on him, and let him get in a few good strikes. He had suffered enough humiliation already.
Meanwhile, Gabrielle reflected on the way this day had turned out. Perdicus had walked in on her and Xena in bed together, and now she was watching her husband and her lover fight each other. Could it get any worse? No sooner had that thought entered her mind than she spotted her father and Lila walking towards them. Oh gods.
Herodotus picked up his pace, and ran over to Xena and Perdicus. “Stop this at once! What is going on here?” He glared at Xena.
Xena answered with a clever lie. “Nothing to worry about, Herodotus. Just two fighters getting in a little swordplay.” She hoped Perdicus would play along.
He didn’t. “That’s not true. Why don’t you tell him the real reason we’re fighting, Xena.”
Xena said nothing. Herodotus continued glaring at her. “Well?”
Just then Gabrielle came through the door. “Father, I can explain.”
“No Gabrielle. I’d like to hear it from Xena.”
Xena looked around for a place to hide. She could out run all these people, even Gabrielle. No, she thought to herself, I don’t run from a battle. She took a deep breath, and faced Gabrielle’s father. “We’re fighting because Perdicus challenged me.”
Herodotus looked at Perdicus, then back at Xena. “Why would he do that?”
Xena could feel the sweat beading up on her forehead. She felt very alone. But just at that moment, Gabrielle stepped up beside her, and put her arm around her. Xena looked down at her, and smiled at her, reveling in her bard’s bravery. Xena turned back to face Herodotus. “I love your daughter, and for some reason, which I have yet to figure out, she loves me too. She revealed her feelings for me to Perdicus, and he has challenged me to a fight.”
A look of shock and disgust came across Herodotus’ face, and he stood there in stunned silence.
Then Perdicus spoke. “You left out the best part, Xena.”
“Perdicus, no. Stop it.” Gabrielle pleaded.
Xena remained silent, so Perdicus continued. “Tell Gabrielle’s father how this information was revealed to me.”
“Perdicus!” Gabrielle left Xena’s side and ran over to Perdicus. “Don’t do this. Please.”
Perdicus continued. “I walked in on them. Together. In my bed.”
Herodotus’ face flushed red with hatred, and he struck Xena across the face so hard, it caused her to lose her balance and stagger backwards.
“Xena!” Gabrielle yelled and ran back over to her. She could see the blow had left a mark on Xena’s face. She instinctively reached her hand up to touch Xena’s cheek.
“Out of my way, daughter!”
Gabrielle turned around, standing her ground between Xena and her father, as if to protect her. “No! I won’t let you hurt her!”
Xena put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay, Gabrielle.”
“No, it is most certainly not okay! Perdicus wants to run you through with his sword, and my father wants to smack you around. Like this is your fault! They don’t think little Gabrielle could possibly know what she feels, couldn’t possibly decide for herself who she loves. No, the big, bad warrior must’ve done something. Threatened me somehow, or put a spell on me, or maybe she even forced herself on me! Is that what you think, Father? Is it?”
Gabrielle was trembling. Xena didn’t really know what to do. In all her years, she had never really faced anything like this. She was proud of Gabrielle for standing up to her father, but she regretted that it had to be in her defense. Gods, this was awful. If she had just confessed her feelings to Gabrielle a year ago, she would’ve never married Perdicus in the first place, and none of this would be happening. She learned a valuable lesson, and vowed to herself never to keep any secrets from the bard ever again.
Lila was just standing there, in stunned silence, trying to digest everything she had just witnessed. She felt so bad for Perdicus. He was such a nice guy. And so handsome. Gabrielle just didn’t appreciate what she had. She was throwing it all away for Xena? Well, that explains the looks she saw over lunch the other day. But what is it about that woman that makes Gabrielle lose all control of her senses? She gazed over at Xena, trying to look at her through Gabrielle’s eyes. Okay, sure, she’s good looking. Maybe even beautiful, Lila had to admit. But she has this dark energy that seems to radiate off of her. It scared Lila, but maybe Gabrielle liked that? Maybe Perdicus wasn’t dark and dangerous enough for her?
After an uncomfortable silence, Gabrielle’s father spoke. “Gabrielle, whatever the warrior has done to you can be undone. You will go back to Perdicus, and she will leave here, and never return.”
“No.” Gabrielle stated defiantly.
“What?” Herodotus asked in an angry tone.
“I said no. I’m not going back to Perdicus. And Xena will leave Potidea, but I’ll be going with her. Just like before. I should’ve never left her.”
Xena was touched by Gabrielle’s words, and put an arm around her waist and pulled her close.
“Take your filthy hands off my daughter!”
Xena did feel guilt and shame over everything that had happened, and had even allowed Herodotus to strike her for Zeus’s sake, but enough was enough. She stood up straight, let the wolf surface, and gave him a look of pure intimidation. “If she asks me to, I will.”
Herodotus actually started to look frightened. “Why can’t you just leave my daughter alone?”
“I did. For a whole year.”
Gabrielle chimed in. “As you can see, it didn’t make any difference. We’re still in love. I admit, what I did to Perdicus was awful, and I will have to live with the guilt of that. But none of this is Xena’s fault. I know it’s convenient for you to blame her, because she’s the evil, ex-warlord, instead of coming to terms with the fact that I’m a grown woman who can think for herself and make her own decisions. And that’s something I did get from Xena, because she allows me the freedom to do that, sometimes to my own detriment. But that’s one of the reasons I love her.”
Xena felt tears welling up in her eyes. She focused on the pain in her cheek, in an attempt to keep the tears from rolling down her face. She did not want Perdicus or Herodotus to see her cry.
Herodotus spoke. “Did she also teach you how to talk back to your father?” Then he turned to Xena. “Well, did you, warrior? I’ll just bet you lipped off to your father all the time.”
“My father died when I was a little girl.” Xena replied coldly.
“Well, probably for the best. Spared him the shame of seeing what you turned into.”
“Father!” Gabrielle yelled.
“Enough of this!” Now Perdicus was yelling. “With all due respect, sir, this is not helping matters. I was fighting Xena for my wife before you interrupted. Leave us to it.”
Herodotus saw a backbone on the young man for the first time, and was actually quite pleased. Too bad it would be going to waste when Xena gutted the poor bastard. “As you wish.” He started walking towards his other daughter. “C’mon Lila, let’s go.”
“No, dad, I want to stay and watch.”
“By the gods, don’t any of my daughters listen to me anymore? Fine, watch that monster slaughter your brother-in-law. I don’t care.” And with that, he walked away.
Perdicus walked over to Xena and drew his sword. Gabrielle tried to intervene. “Gabrielle, get out of the way. If she beats me fair and square, you’re free to go.”
“Ugh! This is so stupid!” But Gabrielle knew there was no way Perdicus could beat Xena, and Xena already promised not to hurt him, so she reluctantly obliged and backed away and stood over by Lila.
Xena faced Perdicus and drew her sword. But then Perdicus threw his sword on the ground. Xena raised her eyebrow and gave him a puzzled look.
“I want to use fists this time, not swords.”
Xena sighed and threw her sword on the ground.
Perdicus came at her fast and furious, but she countered his punches easily. She kept up with him for awhile, letting him get out his pent up anger. When she saw he was finally tiring, she made her move. She made a quick jab to his stomach, turned and elbowed him in the face, then did a leg sweep and took him down.
He laid there on his back, looking up into those steel blue eyes. He expected them to be cold and penetrating, but they were surprisingly warm.
“I so wanted to mess up your pretty face, Xena.”
“I figured.” She gave him a sad smile.
“I didn’t even get one punch in on you. You blocked them all.”
She held out her hand to help him up. “Do you feel any better, now that you’ve had a go at me?”
“Yeah. I do.” He wiped his bloody nose on his shirt sleeve.
“Good. Perdicus, you’re a good man. And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“Xena, I have to ask. I’m an experienced fighter, and I couldn’t get a hit in on you. How did Gabrielle’s father manage to hit you?”
“I let him.”
“You let him?”
“My body is trained to react to a threat without thinking. If I had gone with that, I could’ve really hurt him. So I chose not to react at all.”
“Ah.” Perdicus decided he didn’t really hate Xena as much as he thought he did. He looked over at his soon-to-be ex-wife, and saw the look she was giving Xena. She never looked at me that way, he reflected. Not even on our wedding day.
He walked over to her. “I release you,” was all he said before continuing on towards the house. Lila followed behind Perdicus, figuring he might need someone to console him.
Gabrielle was flooded with a strange mix of sadness and elation. But soon Xena’s strong arms were holding her and the sadness subsided. She looked up at her beautiful warrior. “He released me.”
“And I never will.” Xena thought about kissing the bard, right then and there, out in the open, but figured some of the nosy townspeople had probably been watching the whole scene, and were most likely still peeking through their windows. But then she decided she didn’t give a damn. She lowered her head and claimed Gabrielle with a scorching kiss.
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