In Need Of A Friend
It had been a day and a half of travelling and the Amazon's were filled with anticipation as they set up camp. Gabrielle watched her people, almost five hundred women putting up tents and starting fires to cook dinner with. Despite being outnumbered by the enemy, she was starting to feel confident about the battle tomorrow. Alexandria and Xena had spent the past few days convincing her that they would leave the battle victorious. They had fewer warriors, but they had more to fight for. They had their homes and their families to protect.
I have a family of my own to protect, Gabrielle thought to herself with a small smile as she caught a flash of black and red in the middle of the large army camp. Alexandria and Xena stood a few feet apart from each other, directing orders at the surrounding Amazon's. It was unbelievable how well the two women worked together, despite their personal relationship. Just over a week ago, she had almost laughed in Xena's face when she told the bard that Alexandria had been her second in charge for most of her war lording years. But after the last week, watching the two women together as they planned from the upcoming war, she had started to see it. Gabrielle had seen Alexandria fight and she knew she was a warrior, but she had never thought of her as a soldier until she saw the way the red headed women was around her lover. She seemed to be a completely different person around Xena. She followed Xena's orders and directed some of her own, turning the already very capable warriors of the Amazon Nation into a force to be reckoned with.
She watched curiously as the two women that meant most to her stood together, deep in conversation before Alexandria nodded and turned to walk in the bard's direction. She smiled warmly at the red headed woman as she drew closer, receiving a small grin in return.
"Xena wanted me to come and see if you needed help setting up the healer's tent?" Alexandria asked as she came to stand in front of the Amazon Queen.
"It's almost finished," Gabrielle replied, turning around to walk towards the tent with Alexandria falling into step besides her. "How's the rest of the camp doing?"
"It's going well. Xena is being her usual Warrior Princess self and making sure everything is perfect. Dinner should be ready in just over a candlemark and then it's an early night for everyone."
Gabrielle nodded absentmindedly, turning her head slightly to steal a glance at her friend. She was so grateful that the warrior was still here, willing to help them even though Gabrielle knew she'd rather be anywhere else.
"Thank you for staying, Alexandria," Gabrielle said softly as Alexandria met her gaze, her midnight blue eyes sparkling in the dying sunlight. "I feel so much better knowing that you're going to be by my side tomorrow."
"Despite what you may think, My Queen, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," Alexandria smiled, reaching out to take Gabrielle's hand and squeezing it gently.
"You know you always have a place with the Amazon's, if you decide to stay when the battle is over," the bard said, keeping contact with Alexandria's hand.
"I know," Alexandria replied. She turned to Gabrielle as they stood outside the healer's hut, giving the woman a small smile. Gabrielle had been giving her hints for days that she didn't want her to leave the Amazon's, even going as far to say that they could travel for a while together if Alexandria wanted. She had actually been considering it, not wanting to leave the bard even though she knew that Gabrielle would be safe with Xena. A small part of her also wasn't fond of leaving the dark haired woman behind when she left either. Though, she would never admit that out loud.
"Let's just get through tomorrow, and after that, we'll see where things take us," Alexandria said, squeezing the bard's hand in her own. "After all this is over, we'll take about it, okay?"
"You promise?" Gabrielle asked hopefully.
After the sun had set and the camp had become peaceful as the Amazon's had turned in for the night, Xena slowly made her way to her own tent. She was exhausted after spending the past few candlemark's setting up the rest of the camp and she wanted nothing more than to curl into bed with her lover. Finally reaching the Queen's tent, she pushed the door flap open and walked inside, spying her lover already lying on their cot.
She smiled, standing in the doorway gazing at her lover in adoration. Before she had died, she'd realized she'd taken her soulmate for granted and she wasn't going to make that same mistake again. From now on, Gabrielle came first. Before the greater good, before anything. She was the most important thing in her life and she was going to make sure the bard knew that.
"Hey," Gabrielle said, looking up from the parchment she was reading when she noticed her lover had entered their tent. She smiled lovingly at the warrior and put the scrolls down beside her, reaching out her hand to her dark haired lover.
"Hey yourself," Xena said softly, taking her partners hand and sitting down on the bed besides the bard. She lifted Gabrielle's hand to her lips, pressing a soft kiss to the even softer fingers. "What are you looking at?"
"Just the final battle plans," Gabrielle sighed, caressing Xena's cheek with her free hand. "You and Alexandria have really out done yourselves."
"Yeah," Xena replied, starting to unbuckle her armor only to have her hands pushed away to be replaced by smaller more gentle fingers. "I just want this to be over already, so we can go home and spend some time alone together. Just you and me."
"Me too," Gabrielle said as she removed her lover's breast plate and put it carefully on the floor besides the bed. "Xena?"
"I asked Alexandria to stay in the village with us after this is over. Maybe travel with us afterwards. I know I should have talked to you abo-"
"What did she say?" Xena asked, interrupting her lover as she turned to the bard with hopeful eyes.
"That she'd think about it, but she seemed to really be considering it," Gabrielle smiled as she unbuckled the shoulder straps of Xena's battledress.
Xena returned her smile before standing up and pulling her leathers from her body, leaving her clad only in her white shift. "That would be nice."
The warrior crawled into bed besides her lover, pulling the bard closer until Gabrielle was practically on top of her. She caressed the thigh that was thrown possessively over her hips and pressed a soft kiss to the blonde head on her shoulder.
"I love you so much, Gabrielle," Xena whispered, nuzzling her nose into the bard's hair and breathing in her intoxicating smell.
"I love you too, Xena."
"I was wondering, when we get back to the village," Xena felt her throat tighten with emotion, unsure if now was the time to bring up this conversation. She'd been holding it off for years, waiting for the right time but it never seemed to come. She had wanted this to be romantic but she needed to ask, just in case something happened tomorrow.
"You were wondering what, Xena?" Gabrielle asked softly, leaning up on her elbow to look down at her lover.
"I know this isn't really the time or place to ask, but I'm over waiting. I’ve made some really big mistakes in my life, but none as big as leaving you behind. When I died, I thought I was doing the right thing, but I realize now that I wasn’t. You’re the best thing in my life, Gabrielle and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to grow old with you and have children with you and just love you until my last breath. So, I guess what I’m saying is… Gabrielle, when we get home, will you marry me?" Xena rushed the last part, becoming suddenly nervous of her partner's answer. What if she had waited too long? Did Gabrielle even want to get married? Especially to her. Did Gabrielle trust her enough to marry her? Did she think that Xena could be truly committed to her? The warrior knew she could be. She loved Gabrielle more than anything and she wanted to spend her life with her soulmate. But after recent events, she wasn't sure what Gabrielle wanted.
"I understand, Gabrielle. It's o- Wait. What?" Xena asked, her eyes wide in shock. She had started to convince herself there that the answer would be no.
"Yes, a million times yes." Gabrielle whispered, her eyes welling up with tears of joy as she looked down at her lover.
Xena grinned, her heart feeling like it was going to burst with happiness and love for her soulmate. She tangled her fingers in Gabrielle's hair and pulled her down into a loving kiss. She held the bard tightly against her, never wanting to let go. She wished desperately that the battle was already over so she could take Gabrielle home and marry her right now.
"I didn't think it was possible to be happier than I already am, but you've proved me wrong, love," Xena whispered into her lover's hair.
"I will spend the rest of my life proving you wrong about that," Gabrielle replied, pressing a soft kiss to her partner's collarbone before settling her head back on Xena's shoulder. She wanted more than anything to start proving it right now in more physical ways, but she knew they both needed to rest before tomorrow. She closed her eyes with a contented sighed and cuddled impossibly closer to her love.
"Goodnight, my love."
To be continued in Chapter Twenty.
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