Blind Faith Revisited
by Mikki Hibbens
© 1997

Disclaimers: Though the story is mine, the characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures and Universal/MCA. They just came visiting for a short time and have already returned to R.P. and U.S. No copyright infringement is intended.

This piece deals with romantic love between two women (sorry, no graphic sex). There is also a little hurt/comfort involved and the implication of rape (in the past). If these things offend you or make you uncomfortable, please do not read any further.

This is my third XWP story and takes place right after the last scene of the 2nd season episode "Blind Faith". It started out as a 'What happens next?' epilogue and turned into a first time, romantic friendship story all on it's own. Gee, I wonder how that happened. Though there is a brief reference to my first fanfic attempt "When Souls Collide", this one can be read on it's own. I hope you enjoy this little story.

All comments are appreciated but please be kind. I'm still new at this. I can be reached at

Gabrielle was dumbstruck as she watched the antics of her normally staid friend. Xena was in such high spirits she was virtually skipping down the road like a six month old filly feeling her oats. She had the biggest, most joyful smile on her face that Gabrielle had ever seen. It was so beautiful to see Xena like this it brought tears to Gabrielle’s eyes.

For her part, Xena was feeling almost euphoric. She couldn’t contain her emotions if her life depended on it. She was so relieved to have both Gabrielle and her sight back it was overwhelming. She hadn’t felt this happy and carefree since she was five years old playing with her brother Lyceus. As she looked back at Gabrielle trailing behind and noticed the dumbfounded expression on the bard’s face, she fairly danced back to her friend’s side. Laughing, she lifted the girl off the ground in a huge bear hug and whispered in her ear, “Don’t worry, Gabrielle. I haven’t gone crazy. I’m just sooo happy!”

She swung the surprised girl around a few times before setting her back on her feet. It had felt so good to have Gabrielle safe in her arms that she didn’t want to let go. She gave her friend another tight hug which the bard eagerly returned then turned and jogged a few yards up the road. Her emotions were so close to the surface that she had become a little afraid of saying or doing something that would reveal just how deeply she cared for the girl. She felt she needed to put a little distance between herself and Gabrielle to give her time to regain a little more control over her exuberant spirits. She masked her sudden, slight uneasiness by pretending to see something of interest in the forest to the left of the road they were on.

As luck would have it, she noticed a small mountain lake set back from the road about five or six hundred yards. The ground sloped gently down to the shore and the trees and underbrush were somewhat thinned out in this section of the woods making for an easy passage between the road and the lake. Xena decided to take advantage of this opportunity and called Gabrielle over to take a look.

“Gabrielle, come here. Look what I found!”

Just as her friend reached her Xena pointed to the lake. Then, making sure the girl saw it, she playfully slapped Gabrielle’s arm with the back of her hand.

“You’re it,” she cried, mischievously, and took off running towards the lake. “Last one in is a snake-haired Gorgon monster!!” she yelled over her shoulder at the stunned bard.

“Hey!” Gabrielle yelled after the warrior. Gathering her wits about her she started after Xena as fast as she could go, yelling all the way. “Xena! Wait! Oh, you’re in for it now, Warrior Princess!”
The only answer Gabrielle got to her threats was the sound of Xena’s jubilant laughter and her war cry coming from up ahead as the tall woman raced towards the shining waters of the lake. The young bard could see her friend through the trees running as swift and fleet-footed as a deer, somersaulting over the occasional obstructions to land on her feet still in a dead run.

Though Gabrielle continued her vain attempt to catch up to the warrior, she found it hard to believe this was happening. Xena, the stoic, self-controlled, warrior princess was actually playing tag with her like a young child without a care in the world. As Xena’s laughter drifted back to her, Gabrielle couldn’t help imagining that this was what her friend must have been like as a child, happy and free-spirited with a loving heart as big as all out-doors. She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was seeing the real Xena today. The Xena who would have been if the tragedies of her youth, which had caused that beautiful spirit to be sealed up behind a thick wall of controlled indifference, had never happened. Tears blurred Gabrielle’s vision for a moment at the thought of how different her companion’s life could have been and she wished, for Xena’s sake, that the fates had been kinder to her friend.

“Come on, Gabrielle! You better get a move on or I’ll be on the other side of the lake before you even get to the shore!”

Hearing the cheerful challenge in her friend’s voice, Gabrielle banished her sad thoughts and put on a burst of speed as she yelled a challenge of her own. “I’m coming, Princess, and you’d better watch out cause you’re going to get it when I catch up with you!”

Xena heard Gabrielle’s challenge just as she reached the shore of the lake. She laughed, joyfully as she began to undo the fastenings of her armor and leathers. She couldn’t remember when she had felt so free or had so much fun. She found it hard to believe that what had started out as one of the worst days of her life was ending up to be one of the best.

Deciding she wanted a dry shift to wear after her swim, she stripped down to bare skin and placed her clothes and armor neatly on top of a nearby stone. Checking the water to make sure it was safe to swim in, she found it was cool but not icy and there was no sign of impurities. Spying a large boulder that would make an excellent diving platform about fifty yards down the beach, she sprinted over to it.

The boulder was large, almost ten feet long with one end buried in the sand and the other protruding into the water about six or seven feet. It was about five feet wide at the base, tapering up to approximately four feet on the top, which was as flat as a board. The whole thing was tilted at an angle which set the top of the free end about six feet above the water. She had been right. It was an almost perfect place to dive from.

Xena entered the water and swam around the boulder to make sure the water was deep enough for diving. The water felt cool and soothing on her skin and she was loath to exit it’s embrace but the thought of executing a perfect dive into that cool, clear water was too exhilarating to pass up. She emerged from the water and was just making her way to the top of the boulder when she heard Gabrielle’s running footsteps crashing through the last of the underbrush and crossing the sand to the water.

Xena paused at the boulder’s edge and laughed to herself as she watched her young friend search the lake’s surface for her. As she stood there, gazing at Gabrielle, she was struck anew at how beautiful, both inside and out, the girl was. The sun, shining on that head of strawberry blonde hair gilded it with fire and the tanned skin almost glowed from the exercise. Even disheveled from her run through the forest, Gabrielle was definitely a ‘sight for sore eyes’ as Xena had stated earlier. A lump rose in the warrior’s throat as she again thought how lucky she was to be able to stand there gazing on her friend’s loveliness when just hours before she had been sure she would never ‘see’ Gabrielle again.

Seeing that the bard was growing frustrated in her search for her tall warrior friend, Xena pushed her sentimental thoughts aside. Deciding that they were going to do nothing for the rest of the day but have fun and enjoy each other’s company, she called out to the younger woman.

“Gabrielle! Over here!” At her first shout, she saw Gabrielle’s head turn in her direction and the girl’s arm raise in a wave then slowly drop to her side. She wondered for a brief second why her friend didn’t start to undress for a swim then decided she probably had to catch her breath from her run. Eager to start her own swim and the fun she had planned, Xena decided to egg her friend on a bit.

“Hurry up, you slow poke, the water’s great!” So saying she backed a few steps down the rock. Taking a running start, she pushed hard off the edge of the boulder and, leaping high in the air, executed a double somersault then straightened out to end in a perfect swan dive. Her body slipped through the surface like a hot knife through butter causing only the slightest of splashes.

Back on the beach Gabrielle watched, spellbound, as Xena executed her flawless dive. As beautiful as that was, however, she found it could not compare with the awesome sight of her warrior standing on that rock in all her sun bronzed glory, hands on her hips, the water drops still clinging to her skin sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight. ‘Great Gaia, she looks like a Goddess,’ Gabrielle thought to herself. “By the gods, I love that woman,” she whispered to herself.

The reality of what she just said suddenly hit her like a ton of bricks and she sat back on the sand in confusion. Where in Hades had that come from and what, exactly, did it mean? She often thought about how much she loved and admired Xena, and had tried to tell the warrior so on occasion, especially in the last two months, but she had never felt it with such overwhelming intensity before. All of a sudden she realized what she felt for ‘her’ Warrior Princess was more than hero worship, sisterly devotion, or the loving bond of friendship. It was stronger even than what she felt for Purdicas, her husband who was now in the Elysian Fields. All the pieces were finally falling into place for the young bard. She now understood why she had felt so empty and lost when Xena had ‘died’ two months ago, why the incident still plagued her with nightmares so frightening she’d wake up in a cold sweat, and why, when Xena’s spirit had entered her body to fight Velasca for the ambrosia that would restore the warrior’s life, she had felt complete for the first time in her life. It was all clear to Gabrielle now. Xena, the great Warrior Princess herself, was the one person in all the world who could fill the void deep in the girl’s heart for Xena was the other half of Gabrielle’s soul.

“Gabrielle! Come on, you’re missing all the fun!”

Gabrielle was startled out of her soul searching by Xena’s voice coming from right behind and above her, accompanied by a stream of water falling on her head.

The warrior had gotten tired of waiting for her friend and had come up behind the bard without Gabrielle even being aware she had left the water. Xena chuckled to herself over the fact that the girl had been so immersed in her thoughts a thunderbolt could have struck and she wouldn’t have heard it. Xena told herself she would have to remember to ask Gabrielle later what she had been thinking about. For now, however, it was time to play and she proceeded to squeeze more water out of her long hair right on top of Gabrielle’s head.

“Xena!! Stop that!” Gabrielle sputtered trying to wipe the water out of her eyes. Though she pretended to sound angry, she was actually glad of the chance to get her thoughts and emotions under control. She wasn’t ready to face Xena just yet and act like everything was normal when she felt like she had been hit by one of Zeus’s thunderbolts. She had no idea what Xena felt for her besides, perhaps, a sisterly affection and she didn’t really want to spoil her friend’s playful mood by initiating a serious discussion right now. No, she decided, she would enjoy this new side of Xena she was seeing while she had the chance. Time enough for more soul searching later. Wiping her face one last time with her hands, she took a deep breath and looked up at Xena trying to act aggrieved.

“Well, after running my legs off and then soaking me, the least you could do is help me up,” Gabrielle said holding her arm up for the warrior to grab.

“You need help?,” Xena said with a twinkle in her eye. She let her voice drop a notch into the throaty purr that Gabrielle recognized meant trouble. “All you had to do was ask.”

Before Gabrielle could act, Xena bent down, scooped the bard off the sand, slung her over her shoulder like a sack of oats and headed down towards the water.

“Xena! What are you doing. Put me down!” Gabrielle struggled as hard as she could to get down but Xena just tightened her grip and kept walking.

“Nope. I’ve waited long enough. We’re going swimming.”

“Not in my clothes, Xena. I won’t have anything dry to wear afterwards. Come on, Xena.”

“That’s not my fault. I gave you plenty of time to undress.”

“But Xena . . .”

“Nope! The day is warm, the water’s great and we - are - going - swimming!”

Gabrielle knew she was beaten when she recognized that ‘command’ tone in Xena’s voice. It was time to change tactics so she stopped struggling and leaned her arms against the warrior’s shoulder blades.

“All right, Xena. You win,” she said, using the soft voice she knew Xena had never been able to say no to. “We’ll go swimming. But please let me get out of these things first. You know what water does to leather and this top has already seen enough punishment without adding a dunking into the bargain. Please, Xena. I promise I’ll be quick.”

Xena stopped walking and held on to Gabrielle a moment longer while she decided whether to teach the girl a lesson or let her off easy. She almost kept on going until she thought about what a pain it would be to get that leather skirt of Gabrielle’s to dry properly and that green top really had seen better days. No, this was to be a time for fun. She didn’t want it spoiled by bad feelings or frustrations caused by drying leather.

“O.K., I’ll let you down,” she said suiting actions to words. “But you had better hurry. My patience is wearing thin.” Giving Gabrielle ‘the look’, she strode off down the beach towards the diving rock.

Gabrielle knew by the glint in Xena’s eyes that she was in her ‘teasing’ mode. Still, since the warrior’s moods could change like quicksilver, the bard thought it best to make good on her promise. She scrambled to get out of her clothes then paused a moment to look back over her shoulder at Xena who was just preparing for another dive. Nodding her head as if she had just made an important decision, Gabrielle gathered up all their belongings, including Xena’s armor and weapons, and headed over to the rock.

Xena surfaced from her dive in time to see the girl stumbling under her load, muttering and cursing to herself as she made her way down the beach. It was slow going for the bard since every few steps she would have to stop to pick up an errant boot, top or skirt that insisted on slipping through her fingers and falling to the sand behind her. Xena noticed, gratefully, that Gabrielle was taking special care to make sure the weapons never dropped. The warrior smiled remembering the many tongue-lashings she had given the girl, during the beginning of their friendship, about being careless with her weapons. ‘Those lectures must have paid off,’ Xena thought to herself.

“Gabrielle? What are you doing?” Xena emerged from the water, laughing, and went to help the bard who had just dropped another boot, letting out with a particularly loud exclamation in the process.

“Nothing, really,” Gabrielle said sarcastically, nearing the end of her patience. “Just playing a new game. It’s called ‘Where’s The Damn Boot!’”

Xena picked up the boot the girl had dropped then helped her take the rest of the bundle over to a grassy area under some trees bordering the beach about eight feet from the boulder. Leaving everything but Xena’s sword under the trees, the two women walked over to the rock where Gabrielle sat down with a sigh on it’s sun warmed surface.

Xena stuck her sword in the sand next to the rock, within easy reach should the need arise, then turned to join her friend. She saw that Gabrielle was still tense and frustrated from bringing their stuff over so she climbed up a little above the bard and sat down behind her. Stretching her legs out in front of her so that they straddled Gabrielle, she scooted closer to her friend and began massaging the tightness out of the girl’s neck and shoulder muscles.

“Ohh, Xena. That feels sooo good.” Gabrielle leaned back slightly and dropped her head forward so Xena could work the kinks out of her neck.

“I had a feeling it would,” the warrior said, her strong fingers kneading the knots out of the girl’s muscles. “I know how tense you get when you’re feeling frustrated and angry and when you tense up, you get muscle cramps, remember?”

“Don’t remind me.”

“Well, anyway, I just didn’t want you to get out in the middle of the lake and get a cramp. It could be dangerous. I’m not about to loose you to a drowning after we just got you out of a furnace.”

Gabrielle felt her heart swell as she felt Xena’s hands squeeze her shoulders for emphasis. Though sometimes her warrior friend could be a little overprotective, Gabrielle knew it was just Xena’s way. Most of the time, however, Xena’s protective attitude made her feel warm and cared for, like now as she remembered how wonderful it had been to see her friend’s face bending over her after she had been freed from that coffin. Reaching up, Gabrielle took hold of one of Xena’s hands. Giving it an affectionate squeeze, she looked over her shoulder into the warrior’s beautiful, blue eyes. “Thank you, Xena,” she said, her voice trembling slightly with the force of her emotions and gratitude.

Xena, uncomfortable as always, with displays of emotion, tried to shrug it off with a short laugh and lift of the eyebrow. “For what?”

Gabrielle was totally familiar with this tactic by now and wasn’t about to let Xena get away with it this time. Taking both the warrior’s hands in hers she forced her friend to look at her before she answered. “For always being there for me. For saving my life, again. For turning what was an awful day into a great one. For, well, just for everything.”
Suddenly overcome with the extent of the love she felt for this tall, beautiful woman before her, she wrapped her arms around Xena in a fierce hug.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Xena,” Gabrielle continued softly as she buried her face in the warrior’s shoulder. After a moment, she felt her friend’s stiff form relax and Xena’s arms come up around her to return the bard’s embrace.

“Well, let’s not find out. O.K.?” Xena’s voice was low and husky with emotion. Knowing it would be too dangerous to continue in this vein for much longer with her feelings so near the surface, she attempted to diffuse the situation by giving her friend a playful slap on the back. “Come on, now. Let’s go for that swim.”

Gabrielle gave Xena a last squeeze before letting go and the two clambered to their feet. Then, taking a running start, they leapt off the rock to land with a loud splash in the water. The two surfaced, laughing and splashing each other in a water fight to end all water fights.

They spent the next couple of hours frolicking in the water and on the sand like a couple of children on a summer holiday. Xena continued the game of tag with Gabrielle both on the beach and in the water until they were laughing so hard they could hardly stand. They also raced each other across the lake (it was a small lake) and, surprisingly, Gabrielle won. Then they had a diving contest which Xena won (naturally). All in all they had a wonderfully carefree afternoon.

When the warrior noticed the sun getting low in the west, she suggested that Gabrielle start to set up their camp while she caught some fish for their dinner. Though loath to end their fun, the thought of a nice fish dinner was enough to cause the ever hungry bard to leave the water and start hunting for rocks to build a fire pit. In a surprisingly short time the two women were sitting next to a nice warm fire finishing the last of their dinner.

Xena was feeling relaxed and comfortable as she sat with her back against a tree and her legs stretched out in front of her. She had donned her shift and now sat quietly inspecting her leathers for any damage from the battles she had been in that morning. For the first time in more years than she cared to remember, she could honestly say she felt content. The fire was warm, their dinner had been delicious and Gabrielle, the one person she cherished above all others in the world, was sitting, safe and sound, next to her.

Xena suppressed a chuckle as she watched her friend trying vainly to comb the tangles out of her still-damp hair with her fingers. Due to the girl’s overly tender scalp, what little progress she had made had been accompanied by a chorus of “ows” and other expletives that made the warrior wonder where Gabrielle had been spending her time when they weren’t together. Taking pity on the bard, she reached over to pick up the hair clasp laying in Gabrielle’s lap.

“Come here, Gabrielle. Let me fix that for you.”
“Oh. Thanks, Xena.” With a sigh of relief, Gabrielle moved so that her back was facing her friend and her hair within easy reach of Xena’s strong, yet gentle, hands. After all the time they had been traveling together, the bard still found it amazing that this woman who could punch the lights out of men twice her size and who seemed nearly invincible in battle, was the only person who had ever been able to comb the girl’s hair without making her scalp feel like it was being cut to ribbons. Knowing her friend would make short work of her tangled tresses, Gabrielle relaxed and enjoyed the feeling of Xena’s fingers sliding gently through her hair.

When she was done, Xena gave Gabrielle a gentle pat on her shoulder. “There, how’s that?”

Gabrielle ran her own fingers through her hair finding no tangles anywhere. “Oh, that’s wonderful. Thanks, Xena.”

“No problem. Just make sure your hair is dry before you go to sleep. We don’t want you waking up with a head cold in the morning.” Xena chuckled slightly at Gabrielle’s ‘I’m not stupid, you know’ expression then picked up one of her boots from the pile of clothes beside her. She extracted a small metal vial from a hidden pocket which usually carried a small dagger. Holding it up to the bard, she said softly, “I need you to do something for me, Gabrielle.”

“Sure thing, Xena. What do you want me to do?,” the girl said, taking the vial from Xena’s outstretched hand.

“I need to put some more Sena in my eyes. Would you help me with it?”

“No problem.” Gabrielle stood up and moved to Xena’s side. Before she could put the drops in the warrior’s eyes her concern overcame her and she knelt down, looking up with a worried frown into those beautiful blue eyes. “Xena? Everything’s all right, isn’t it? You’re not losing your sight again, are you?”

Xena laid a hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder in reassurance. “No, Gabrielle. I’m fine. It’s just that my eyes are still sore and the sena helps soothe the stinging, that’s all. It’ll probably be another day or two before my eyes return to normal and I’ll need your help with the drops until then if you don’t mind.”

“Of course I don’t mind, Xena!” Gabrielle had to take a breath to steady her hands before attempting to put the drops in her friend’s eyes. In all the time she had been traveling with Xena, she had only heard the warrior complain of pain once after being hit by a log trap and thrown against a tree. Even then Gabrielle would never be certain if Xena had actually said ‘it hurts’ or was merely making her first attempt at asking the girl to take her to Mt. Nestos where Xena had later died from her injuries. Now, the fact that Xena had admitted that her eyes were sore, told Gabrielle that her friend was in a lot more pain than she would ever let on and the girl’s heart bled at the realization.

After getting her emotions under control, Gabrielle stood up and moved to Xena’s side. Placing one hand under her friend’s chin she very gently tilted the warrior’s head back until she found herself staring directly into Xena’s blue eyes. Though they were slightly red and puffy, Gabrielle still thought they were the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen and she found herself mesmerized anew by their crystalline depths. ‘I could happily drown in those pools of blue,’ she thought to herself unconsciously releasing a small sigh of longing which did not go unnoticed by her tall friend.

“Gabrielle? Are you all right?” Xena asked softly. She cringed, inwardly, at the slight husky quality of her voice, hoping the bard wouldn’t notice it. The feel of Gabrielle’s fingers holding her chin so gently and the expression of love in the girl’s blue-green eyes were doing things to Xena’s insides that she had never felt before even with Marcus, the only man she had ever truly given her heart to. Her heart was beating so loud she could hear it and her palms were growing sweaty where they rested on her knees. She could only hope that her roiling emotions didn’t show in her eyes for Gabrielle to see.

“Umm, yeah. I’m o.k.,” she said, startled out of her reverie by Xena’s voice. Relieved that her voice sounded relatively normal she tried frantically to come up with an excuse to account for her prolonged scrutiny of her friend’s eyes. Something had flickered in those blue orbs that had sent the girl’s pulse racing. She couldn’t be sure that she had even seen it, it was there and gone so quickly, but it gave her hope for the future. All she needed was a chance to get her stoic warrior to open up and then she could find out just where she stood. Right now, though, she needed to get back to the business at hand and so, adopting her best ‘healer’s attitude’ to cover her hesitation, she pretended to give a diagnosis. “Your eyes are a bit red and the area around them looks a little swollen and puffy but they don’t look too bad.”

Ignoring the raised eyebrow and look of slight disbelief in the warrior’s face, Gabrielle pulled the stopper out of the little vial and prepared to place a few drops of the sena into each of Xena’s eyes. Still holding the woman’s head back with one hand, the girl held the vial over one eye and paused to look seriously into her friend’s face. “Now, Xena, I want you to hold your head back till I’m completely finished. I want this stuff to stay in your eyes for a minute or two till I’m sure they’ve been thoroughly cleansed, O.K? Ready?”

Xena nodded slightly, gritting her teeth in anticipation of the increased pain. When the liquid hit her eyes, she flinched, visibly and a loud gasp escaped her drawn lips. Her eyes closed reflexively against the intense burning and she had to fight the urge to raise her head and rid her eyes of the stinging solution.

Gabrielle held Xena’s head firmly in place and watched as the warrior did silent battle with the pain. After a moment, even though the blue eyes were blinking furiously, she could see the redness begin to fade. When the sena began to run out of the corners of Xena’s eyes, she released her hold and allowed her friend to raise her head. Grabbing one of the still damp cloths that she had used to dry her hair with, the young woman began to gently wipe her friend’s face.
“I’m sorry, Xena,” Gabrielle said, quietly, her voice full of compassion and remorse. “I know it must have hurt like Tartaras. I just wanted to make sure your eyes got a good dose this time so they’d heal properly.”

“No worries on that score, Gabrielle.” Xena took the cloth from the girl’s hand and gingerly wiped her eyes. The stinging and burning sensations had decreased dramatically and she breathed a sigh of relief. As she handed the cloth back to Gabrielle she noticed a strange look on the girl’s face. “What’s the matter, Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle hesitated a moment, unsure of how to proceed. She had seen the intense look of pain on Xena’s face while the sena had been in her eyes and it had awakened a sense of frustration and anger in her that she had kept hidden for a long time.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Xena?” The bard spoke softly, trying to keep the hurt out of her voice.

“Tell you what?,” Xena responded with a puzzled look at her friend.

“That you’re eyes were so painful.” Not wanting to end the day on a sour note, Gabrielle turned away in an effort to control her rising anger. “If you had said something earlier we could have taken care of your eyes then. I hate to think of you going all afternoon in such pain.”

“Gabrielle, it wasn’t that bad, honestly.”

“Xena, I know you, remember? You’re the master of understatement. For you to even admit they’re sore, let alone asking me for help, tells me the pain must’ve hurt worse than Tartaras.” As Gabrielle warmed to her subject she could no longer hide the anger she felt. The fact that Xena still refused to confide in her when she was ill or in pain was a constant source of frustration. “Xena you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. You try so hard to take care of me and keep me safe and I love you for it. I just wish you’d let me do the same for you. You’ve said that I’m your family and I feel the same way. Your my family and my home. Well families take care of each other, Xena. Don’t you know that it hurts me to know you don’t trust me enough to come to me when you need help?”

Unable to control her emotions any longer, Gabrielle walked to the water’s edge trying vainly to stop the flood of tears flowing down her cheeks.

Xena was stunned by the bard’s outburst and could only stare at Gabrielle’s back as she stood silhouetted in the moonlight. After a moment, she stood up and moved to stand behind her friend. “Gabrielle, I’m so sorry.”

Placing her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder, she tried to turn her friend around to face her but the young woman refused to be turned. “I never meant to hurt you. You know that don’t you?”

The remorse and concern in the warrior’s voice touched the girl’s heart and she covered the strong hand on her shoulder with her own. Turning around she looked up into Xena’s sad blue eyes. “I know, Xena. I guess I just hoped you’d finally learned to trust me a little after all we’ve been through, lately. It hurts to realize I was wrong.”

Grabbing Gabrielle’s shoulders, Xena leaned down so she could look directly into the bard’s eyes. Her heart burned with a fierce determination to erase that hurt look from her friend’s lovely face. Giving the slight shoulders a small shake for emphasis, she spoke with all the force of her love for the younger woman. “Gabrielle you’re wrong. I do trust you. More than anyone I’ve ever known. Even more than Lyceus.”

Now it was Xena who turned and walked away. Afraid she had already betrayed too much, she tried to regain her stoic demeanor before this whole situation blew up in her face.

The little bard was shocked by Xena’s heartfelt admission and could only stare in astonishment as the proud warrior turned and walked a few steps away, her arms clutched tightly across her chest as if trying to stem the rising tide of emotion she was obviously feeling. After a moment, Gabrielle walked up behind the dark haired beauty and, laying a hand gently on the older woman’s back, was surprised even more to feel the tight muscles trembling under her hand.

Though she felt bad that her words had caused her friend such distress, she could no longer hide the frustration and hurt she felt at the stoic warrior’s lack of communication skills. She was so afraid of the anger and resentment building inside of her that she felt it was better to risk some hurt feelings now that could be soothed away in time than an all out angry confrontation that might do irreparable damage to their friendship.

In an effort to ease the tension of the moment, Gabrielle gently rubbed her hand across the tall woman’s back. Keeping her voice soft she tried again to get Xena to open up to her. “Xena I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you so. I just don’t understand. If you trust me like you say then why does it always seem that you push me away just when you need someone the most?”

Xena looked down at the young girl staring up so earnestly at her. She knew she owed Gabrielle an explanation but words had never been her friend. She didn’t know if she would be able to make the bard understand what the years had taught her but she had to try for Gabrielle’s sake and the sake of their friendship.

“Old habits die hard, Gabrielle,” she said, shrugging her shoulders and turning back towards the lake. “Especially the ones you learn to survive.”

“What do you mean?” Gabrielle moved in front of the warrior so she could see Xena’s face.

“When you’re in a fight, what is your opponents first reaction to you?”
Puzzled by this seeming change of subject Gabrielle started to protest. “Xena, what does this have to do....?”

“Just answer the question, Gabrielle,” Xena interrupted.

Gabrielle thought for a moment about all the fights they had been in since she started traveling with Xena. “Well, I suppose it’s laughter,” the bard said with a trace of anger in her voice. “No one believes that I can defend myself or that I even know how to fight.”

“Right,” the warrior said. “They don’t believe you can fight. I call that Phase One. It’s the ‘ah she’s just a woman and women can’t fight’ stage. And it’s not just you, Gabrielle. Any woman who fights has to face it. Ask Ephiny or any of the Amazons and they’ll tell you. It’s a guaranteed reaction any man has when facing a woman warrior. Even I still get it.”

“O.K., Xena, I can understand that. But I still don’t understand what this has to do with why you don’t trust anyone.”

“Hold on, Gabrielle. I’m getting there. Just bear with me, O.K?”

“Sure, Xena.” Gabrielle could see that this was hard on her friend. She knew that expressing her feelings was not one of the warrior’s ‘many skills’ so she decided to allow her friend to explain herself in whatever way was comfortable for her.

Seeing that there would be no further interruptions from Gabrielle, Xena continued. “O.K. now, Phase One usually lasts only as long as it takes your opponent to realize you know what you’re doing. Then he moves on to Phase Two. That’s the ‘O.K. so the bitch can fight, but she’s still just a woman so this should be an easy win’ stage. Phase Two lasts till the fight is over and a winner is decided. That’s when it gets dangerous.”

“I don’t get it. Wouldn’t the fight, itself, be more dangerous than the end?”

“Only when the two fighters are men. Then all the loser has to worry about is being injured or killed. Both outcomes are ones he has faced and come to terms with or he wouldn’t be a warrior. But when one of the warriors is a woman, the stakes are higher because you’re now dealing with the male ego and there are worse things that can happen to a woman than being injured or killed.”

“You mean rape,” Gabrielle said quietly, a touch of fear in her voice.

“Yeah, among other things,” Xena replied. “There are a lot of sick bastards out there who’d like nothing better than to teach us ‘uppity bitches’ our proper place in what passes in their minds for society. Believe me, they’ve devised some pretty horrific methods of teaching that lesson, some of which would make death, or even rape, seem like a holiday picnic. Any woman who trains to fight, no matter what weapon she chooses, knows what her fate will be should she lose a fight and survive.”

“But that’s never happened to you, right? I mean you’re Xena, Warrior Princess. You’ve never lost a fight.”

“Never say never, Gabrielle.”

The tone of Xena’s voice and the haunted look that passed across the warrior’s face told Gabrielle that she was speaking from personal experience. Her blood froze in her veins as the image of her dear friend hanging on a cross on a beach came unbidden to her mind. In an effort to ease Xena’s suffering as well as the ache in her own heart, Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the older woman’s waist and laid her head against the strong shoulder.

“Oh Xena. I’m so sorry. I had no idea,” the girl said quietly, tears coming to her eyes as she finally realized how heavy a burden her tall friend carried.

Xena glanced down at her friend for a second. Seeing the concern written all over the bard’s face, she wrapped her own arm around the girl’s shoulders. “Hey, don’t worry about it. I learned not to lose, that’s all.”

Gabrielle heard the cold edge that she dreaded creep back into Xena’s voice. Looking up she saw her friend gazing, unseeing, into the distance, lost in her dark memories. ‘If only she’d let me help her,’ Gabrielle thought to herself, not for the first time. ‘Papa used to say ‘a burden shared is easier to carry’ and I know it’s true. I always feel so much better after I’ve talked things over with her. If she’d just let herself open up I know she wouldn’t hurt so much. But I guess I can’t force her to do something she’s not ready for. I shouldn’t have pushed her tonight. She’s got to do it in her own time.’ Hoping to bring her friend back to the present, she stepped closer into the circle of Xena’s arm and tightened her hold on the warrior’s waist.

“Xena, you don’t have to tell me anymore if you don’t want to. I think I understand a little better now.” Gabrielle laid her head back on Xena’s shoulder. “I shouldn’t have gotten so upset with you. I’m sorry.”

Xena’s stiff form had relaxed a little as she felt the bard’s arms tighten around her. She was amazed anew at how quickly a soft word or gentle touch from the tiny woman next to her could dispel the darkness that surrounded her heart whenever memories of her past assailed her. Just knowing that someone else truly cared what happened to her went a long way towards healing the emotional and spiritual wounds that still festered deep inside. Looking down at the red-gold head resting against her shoulder, she was filled with such a rush of love and tenderness for the younger woman that the tall, independent warrior sent a silent prayer of thanks to the gods for sending her this beautiful gift.

For only the second time since she had known the girl, Xena’s heart overrode her common sense and she pulled Gabrielle to her, her arm tightening around the girl’s shoulders and the other hand reaching up to cradle the bard’s head against her chest. “Oh Gabrielle, don’t ever apologize for telling me how you feel.” Xena’s voice had grown husky with emotion. She rested her cheek against the young woman’s head while the flow of words continued as if on their own volition. “I’m the one who should apologize. You were right. I should’ve explained things a long time ago. I’ve never been good with words, you know that. I guess I’ve just been afraid I wouldn’t find the right ones.”

When Xena had pulled Gabrielle close into that fierce, yet gentle, embrace, the little bard’s spirit has soared and though her mind had taken a little longer to understand just what was happening, she now knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Xena loved her. She could feel it in the way the warrior’s hand was lovingly stroking her hair and she could hear it in the way the heart under her ear was beating a faster cadence even than her own.

The small woman was filled with a happiness such as she had never known. She found herself melting into the embrace, wanting it to go on forever. Yet she knew that if she didn’t do something to forestall it Xena would pull back again, unable to take the risk. The reserved warrior had been betrayed by those who professed to love her so many times that it had become next to impossible for her to admit she even had feelings, let alone express them. Gabrielle knew this and knew also that it would be up to her, now, to take the initiative. Since words, alone, would not convince Xena, she would have to combine them with actions and hope for the best.

As Xena finished speaking and Gabrielle felt her arms loosening their hold and the dark head raise up, the girl knew it was going to be now or never. Leaning back slightly in the warrior’s arms she wrapped one arm tightly around the back of Xena’s waist. Breathing deeply, she looked up into two startled deep blue eyes and let all the love she felt for this gorgeous woman blaze forth from her own eyes. Taking the bit in her teeth, she raised her other hand and brushed a few errant strands of the dark auburn hair back off the face she knew as well as her own. Trailing her fingers lovingly down the surprisingly soft cheek she spoke softly hoping to ease the sudden flash of fear she saw in the warrior’s eyes.

“Xena, don’t worry about the words. They’ll come when you’re ready. They always do, you know.” Gabrielle gave a soft laugh knowing that her friend was much better at explaining herself than she realized. Placing her palm gently against Xena’s cheek, the bard continued to softly drive her point home. “I’ll wait for the words even if it takes forever. I’ll always be here for you, Xena. Always.”

Xena was thunderstruck at this turn of events. She had been dying to take the girl in her arms all afternoon. When she could no longer fight the desire to hold her friend, she had been so afraid of betraying too much she had been almost frozen with dread. Now, the person who had become the heart and soul of her existence was looking at her with such love and trust that it took her breath away. Any doubts she may have had about the girl’s true feelings were reduced to cinders by the electric shock that had coursed through her veins at that first gentle touch of the bard’s fingers on her cheek.
As her last defenses crumbled, Xena’s body took over. Her hand moved slowly from the back of Gabrielle’s head to trail slowly along the jaw line, coming to rest with the warrior’s fingertips lightly touching the underside of the girl’s chin. Using that feather light touch to guide Gabrielle’s mouth to hers, Xena leaned down slowly till their lips met in a slightly shy and ever so tender kiss.

Though the kiss was gentle, it’s effect on both women was anything but. The moment their lips touched, Gabrielle’s blood turned to fire and she trembled, slightly. She wanted nothing more than to hold onto her tall, strong warrior and never let go yet she was unable to move while the wave of heat spread through her body.

When she could move again, her hand, which had dropped to Xena’s shoulder, slid up to curve gracefully around the back of the older woman’s neck, her fingers burring themselves in the silky hair. Gabrielle moved her other hand slowly up her friend’s back till it cleared the top of Xena’s shift and she could feel the smooth skin under her fingers. Her lips parted slightly as she welcomed the feel of the warrior’s mouth on hers and prayed that this moment could go on forever.

When her lips met Gabrielle’s, Xena’s first reaction had been one of absolute, abject terror that she had misread the girl’s intentions. When she felt the young girl’s body trembling she was sure that in the next instant Gabrielle would pull away in horror and rejection and end their friendship forever. Hoping to minimize the damage already done, she started to pull away herself casting about in her mind for some plausible explanation to give her friend.

It was at that moment that she felt Gabrielle’s hand move to the back of her neck, the small fingers softly caressing the skin and sending ripples of pleasure coursing through her. She felt frozen in place, unable to believe what was happening as the girl’s other hand found the bare skin of her shoulders and started to rub gently, back and forth across her shoulder blades. The feel of those beloved hands tenderly stroking her skin was causing the proud warrior’s insides to turn to jelly and her legs to water. When she felt Gabrielle’s lips open in silent invitation she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she hadn’t been mistaken about the young bard’s feelings. Her soul was awash in such happiness as she had never known existed. As her own lips parted in answer, a small moan of mingled relief, desire and ecstasy escaped from the warrior and her arms wrapped around the small body to clasp the beloved prize she had never thought to win close to her heart.

As the emotion of the moment became almost to intense to bear, Xena gently broke the kiss and leaned slightly back so she could look into her bard’s face. What she saw completely melted her heart. Gabrielle’s normally sea-green eyes had darkened almost to emerald with the force of her passion and her face looked as if it was glowing from within. The brave, strong warrior was reduced to mush as she gathered the bard tightly to her.

“Oh Bree, I’ve waited and hoped for this moment for so long,” she said, her voice low and husky with the emotions she was feeling.

Gabrielle had been basking in the feel of Xena’s arms around her, her head laying against the warrior’s shoulder. When she heard her friend speak, her breath caught at the sound of the name Xena had called her and a hazy memory of a dream from long ago came to her. As she focused on the image in her mind, it crystallized until she knew it was not a dream, as she had always believed, but the true memory of a forgotten event from her childhood. In that instant the bard knew that the two of them had been fated to meet and what was happening now was, indeed, their destiny.

Lifting her head, she gazed into Xena’s blue eyes. “It was you, wasn’t it?,” she asked softly, her voice full of wonder.

Xena looked at the girl in puzzlement. “What?”

“When I was a child, I used to dream of a beautiful hero saving me from some danger. I could never see the face clearly or put a name to the figure but I used to have that dream all the time while I was growing up and I always felt safe when I had it.” Gabrielle paused a moment in order to gather her jumbled thoughts together. “I used to wonder why I stopped having that dream after I started traveling with you. I finally decided it was because I didn’t need a dream to make me feel safe anymore. I had you and one real Warrior Princess is a hundred times better than a dream warrior from my imagination.”

“You’ll always have me, Gabrielle,” Xena said, pressing the red-gold head to her chest and laying her cheek against the girl’s soft hair. She had been afraid that the resurfacing memory would upset her friend, possibly even to the point of anger. Instead, Gabrielle thought it a confirmation of the rightness of their bond of love.

“I know, Xena.” Gabrielle snuggled closer to the warrior. “I realize, now, that you’ve always been there for me. Even when I didn’t know it.”

“Gabrielle, what exactly is it that you remember?” Xena remembered perfectly the incident the young woman was referring to. She just needed to know for sure that there were no bad feelings on Gabrielle’s part over it.

“Well, I was about six or seven and I was playing in the woods near our village. Suddenly an animal, I think it was a wild boar, came out of the bushes and started to attack. The next thing I new, I was sitting in the branches of the tree I had been standing under and the boar had a sword stuck through it, pinning it to the ground. The leaves were so thick in the tree that I couldn't see who had saved me until a figure dropped to the ground and pulled the sword out of the boar. Then I saw that it was a woman warrior. When she turned to get me out of the tree she acted like I was going to be scared but I wasn’t.” Gabrielle sad this last with a trace of pride in her voice. “You see, she was dressed in leather and she was wearing armor and chain mail and I thought she was an Amazon. I had heard stories about the Amazons and was so excited to actually meet one that I wasn’t scared at all. In fact, I even sat on her lap and braided her hair. Then, she said my parents were probably worried cause it was getting late and she sent me home. The funny thing is, I never remembered any of it till just now when you called me ‘Bree’.

“And you think this ‘Amazon’ was me?”

“I know it was, Xena,” Gabrielle replied emphatically. “For one thing she looked just like you, though, of course a little younger, and she had the same color eyes as you. You have to admit, Xena, no one has eyes as blue as yours are.” The bard felt Xena’s shoulders raise in a shrug at these words and she knew that if she could see the warrior’s face, that left eyebrow would probably be hiding under the dark bangs right now. Chuckling softly to herself, she continued, “ Secondly, no one has used that nickname for me since that day. I wouldn’t allow it and my family soon forgot they’d ever called me anything but ‘Gabrielle’.”

“Finally,” the girl said, looking up at her friend with her best ‘I’ve got you now, Warrior Princess’ look. “Before I went home, the warrior told me her name was Xena!”

Xena returned her friend’s look with a sheepish grin on her face. “You got me, Gabrielle. I confess. Although I wasn’t an Amazon, I was your ‘dream warrior’. Are you upset that I never told you about it?”

Gabrielle caught the worried tone in her tall friend’s voice and snuggled close to the warrior again. “Of course not, Xena,” the girl said reassuringly. “Like I said earlier I know this means that we were always meant to be together. But you will tell me about it and why you made me forget won’t you?”

“Absolutely, my little one,” Xena replied, tightening her arms around the bard’s slender form. These last few moments had been pleasant torture for the older woman as she felt her heart’s desire pressing so tightly against her own body. Her passion and desire for this lovely creature in her arms was mounting with each passing minute and the need to express her love to the girl in more than words was becoming almost unbearable. Pushing a little away from Gabrielle in order to look into her eyes, she ran her hand down the velvety soft cheek until she held the small chin cupped in her strong hand.

“If you don’t mind, Gabrielle,” she began, her voice low and gravely with passion. “I’d like to save that story for later. Right now I think there’s something a little more important that we need to discuss.”

Seeing the love and desire shining in Xena’s eyes, Gabrielle’s own passion mounted to new heights. “Or maybe not,” the bard replied as she reached up to gently pull her warrior’s head down for a kiss.

To be continued . . .(in the morning)

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