If anyone has any questions, comments, or quibbles about this story (or my previous efforts) feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I always like to hear from fellow Xena fans :)
Gabrielle glanced across the fire at Xena leaning contentedly on a log as she finished the last of the honey cakes. Gabrielle had gone all out tonight, not only serving the cakes she’d bought in the last town they’d passed through, but making a brand new dish she’d never tried before. Judging by the way Xena had attacked those dumplings, her new culinary experiment was a success. Gabrielle was trying to show Xena her true feelings, and thought a nice meal by twilight in a meadow overlooking a placid lake might be sufficiently romantic to get the warrior in the proper mood. But despite complimenting Gabrielle on the meal and relaxing in the quiet setting, Xena didn’t seem to be getting the hints Gabrielle was dropping.
Gabrielle kept shooting sideways glances at Xena, wondering if she’d been wrong about the stoic warrior’s feelings for her. But whenever she thought of that kiss they’d shared while Xena was inside Autolycus’s body, she knew she wasn’t mistaken. That wasn’t the way you kiss a friend, even a best friend ... that was something more. That kiss was Xena’s way of letting Gabrielle know she was in love with her. It had taken Gabrielle a while to realize she felt the same way, not wanting the shadow of Perdicus to come between them. But her feelings for Xena were stronger and deeper than anything she’d felt for Perdicus, and when she remembered the emptiness inside her when Xena died on Mount Nestos, she wondered how it had taken her so long to realize what Xena meant to her. But if Xena loved her, why hadn’t she followed up on that kiss?
Suddenly it hit her ... maybe the kiss had been Xena’s way of letting Gabrielle know how she felt—she’d never been one to use words when actions could make her point—and now she was waiting for a clear sign that Gabrielle felt the same way. Maybe she was being too subtle with all the romantic stuff; Xena was a woman of action and had always advised Gabrielle to act, instead of reacting. So maybe it was time for something more direct.
Gabrielle got up and walked over to Xena, sitting down beside her and trying to act casual, even though her heart was hammering in her chest like Hephaestus at his forge. “So, did you enjoy the meal?” she asked, trying to keep her voice steady.
Xena nodded. “Yeah, I really liked those dumplings. What was that red stuff you put in them?”
“Oh, nothing much. Just a simple mixture of pomegranate, wild berries, wine, and a touch of honey,” Gabrielle said modestly.
Xena raised an eyebrow. “Well, it was great, but you didn’t need to go to all that trouble.”
Gabrielle smiled. “You’re worth it Xena.”
Xena gave her a curious look. “If you say so. Anyway, I should probably sharpen my sword.”
As Xena started to rise, Gabrielle put a hand on her arm. “Uh, wait ... I have something else for you.”
Xena gave her a crooked smile. “Thanks but I’m already stuffed. You go ahead and have it.”
“Uh no, this is something just for you ... something special. Now, close your eyes.” Xena gave her a look of exasperation and Gabrielle cocked her head to the side, pleading with her eyes. “Please? Just indulge me, all right?”
Xena sighed, but closed her eyes. “This better be good.”
Gabrielle grinned as she leaned forward. “Oh, it is, don’t worry.” Gabrielle licked her lips, which had suddenly gone dry. Her stomach felt like a flock of butterflies had nested in it, but she knew she couldn’t back out now. She gently placed her hands on Xena’s shoulders and bent forward, kissing the warrior with all the passion she could muster.
Xena’s eyes flew open in surprise and her body tensed, but she threw her arms around Gabrielle and enthusiastically returned the kiss. Gabrielle was just starting to lose herself in the moment when Xena’s hands grasped her slender shoulders and pushed her back. “Gabrielle, what ... what was that?”
For a moment, Gabrielle thought she’d made a mistake, but she could see the spark in Xena’s eyes and knew instincts had been right. “Xena, I was just ... when you kissed me before, when you were using Autolycus’s body, I didn’t realize what it meant at the time. But now I do ... it was your way of telling me you love me. And I wanted to let you know I feel the same way ... I love you too.” She leaned in for another kiss, but Xena pushed her back again and stood up, running a nervous hand through her dark hair.
“Gabrielle, I ... I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I was just glad we were able to connect after I ... died. I never meant to ...”
As Xena’s voice trailed off, a cold knot formed in Gabrielle’s stomach. Had she really misread Xena’s intentions that badly? But she recalled the way Xena had kissed her there, in that strange netherworld between life and death, and she could still feel the warrior’s passionate response from only a few moments ago. She couldn’t be wrong about that. “Xena, don’t tell me that Autolycus kiss meant nothing. I felt it right through my soul.” She saw Xena’s eyes widen and knew she was on the right track. “And that kiss we shared just now ... you were enjoying it as much as I was. Even Callisto saw it, didn’t she? When she said she was going to kill your soul and then tried to kill me?”
Xena’s eyes darted around, refusing to meet Gabrielle’s intense gaze. “Maybe there was something there, but ... I shouldn’t have been so impulsive. It would be a bad idea for us to ... get involved like that.”
“Xena, how can you say that? How can falling in love be a bad idea?”
Xena’s eyes lowered. “Falling in love with me would be.”
Gabrielle put her hand on Xena’s chin, gently tilting her head up so the warrior was forced to look her in the eye. “What’s the alternative? Spending my whole life alone, never knowing love, never feeling that connection with another person’s soul ... never being willing to risk my heart? I couldn’t live like that, Xena, and I don’t think you could either.”
Xena shook her head. “Gabrielle, you know what kind of person I am. I’m not ... I’m not the sort of person anyone should fall in love with ... especially you. I would never want to hurt you.”
“Xena, I’m not worried about that. I know you wouldn’t—”
Xena put a hand on Gabrielle’s cheek and met her eyes again. “Not on purpose, no. But you could get hurt just being around me.”
Gabrielle smiled, stroking Xena’s hand. “Xena, I’m already risking life and limb with you every day, how would it be any different?”
Xena shook her head. “It’s not just the physical danger I’m talking about. It’s the darkness I have inside me, I’m afraid some of that might spill over onto you.”
“Xena, I may not like your dark side, but I can accept that it’s a part of you. It doesn’t make me love you any less. In fact, it makes me love you more, because I know how hard it is for you fight against it, but you do it anyway.”
A smile flickered across Xena’s face and she bit her lip before answering. “Gabrielle, I ... thank you for saying that, but ... I still don’t think we should do this. I remember how disappointed you were when you found out Meleager had lied to you. Sooner or later, I’m going to disappoint you and it would kill me to have you look at me like that.”
Gabrielle nodded. “It’s that pedestal thing you mentioned, isn’t it? I’ll admit, I did tend to do that when we first met, but I think I’ve gotten a lot better about it lately. I know you’re not perfect, Xena, but I still love you.”
Xena looked at her again. “And if things don’t work out, what’ll happen to our friendship? I don’t think I could stand it if I lost that.”
Gabrielle thought about that for a few moments. “That’s a risk, but I think our friendship could survive. The gods know we’ve been through so much together already ... I mean, if we can get past Callisto switching bodies with you and both of us dying and coming back, a failed romance won’t be enough to tear us apart. And that’s if it fails ... but I don’t think it will.”
Xena looked at her for a long moment, then shook her head. “I’m sorry, Gabrielle, I just can’t take that chance.”
Gabriell looked Xena in the eye, seeing something she’d never seen there before ... fear. But was it fear of hurting her, or fear of being hurt herself? “Xena, I know there are a lot of things that could go wrong, but I think it’s worth it to try. I risk my life beside you every day, do you really think I’d hesitate to risk my heart?”
Xena sat down again, staring at the ground. She finally looked up, her eyes shining. “No, I think you’d risk everything for love, Gabrielle. In that particular area, you’ve always had so much more courage than me. I just can’t ... I’ve been hurt too many times and I ‘ve hurt too many people. If your name was added to that list, I couldn’t live with myself.”
Gabrielle knelt, taking both Xena’s hands in hers and kissing them tenderly. “Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t love me, and I’ll drop this right here, right now, and never mention it again.”
Xena looked into Gabrielle’s eyes and the bard held her breath, afraid Xena might actually deny her love. But Xena just shook her head and looked away, her face suddenly losing all expression. “It doesn’t matter how I feel, I just can’t take that risk. It’s not worth the price.”
Gabrielle brushed Xena’s cheek with her fingertips. “Of course it’s worth it, Xena. Love is the only thing that’s really worth it.”
Xena refused to look at her and Gabrielle realized she was in her stubborn warrior mode. She knew Xena hated being hounded about anything, and she really hated being backed into a corner. So it was time for a different approach. Gabrielle put her hands on Xena’s knees and said, “All right, I can see there’s no point in arguing with you, so I’ll stop.”
Xena glanced at her, a look of surprise in her eyes. “Really? You’re giving up?”
Gabrielle’s eyebrows shot up. “Giving up? How long have you known me? No, I love you and I know you love me, and I’m not giving up on that. I meant it when I said love was worth the risk. But since you refuse to admit I’m right, I’ll just have to convince you.” Xena opened her mouth to speak, but Gabrielle held up her hand to stop her. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on and on, telling you all the reasons why we should be together. I know you hate being badgered, so I won’t do that. In fact, I’m going to convince you to change your mind without using any words at all.”
Now Xena looked intrigued, cocking an eyebrow in amusement. “You’re going to convince me to do something ... without using words? Exactly how’s that gonna work?”
Gabrielle just shrugged as she rose to her feet, giving Xena a smirk. “You’ll see.” She turned and strode around the fire to her bedroll, tucking herself in and rolling over. She could feel Xena’s eyes on her and knew the warrior was trying to figure out what Gabrielle was up to. Her smile widened as she remembered Xena’s reaction when she’d kissed her earlier. Xena could deny her feelings all she liked, but her instincts had betrayed her when she’d returned the kiss with just as much passion as Gabrielle had put into it. Gabrielle knew Xena loved her, she just had to convince Xena to get past her fears and take a chance.
Gabrielle thought back to all the little moments they’d shared over the last few months, even before that kiss with Autolycus. In hindsight, Gabrielle could see Xena had been in love with her for quite a while, probably even before she’d married Perdicus. She recalled the kiss Xena had given her right after the wedding, and the sadness in Xena’s eyes as they’d said goodbye. She wished Xena had said something then; if she had ... well, no point in dwelling on what might have been. Better to look to the future and Gabrielle knew her future included Xena, one way or another. If things didn’t work out romantically, they’d deal with it, but she had to take the chance. Denying the love she felt for Xena would be as painful as losing that love, if not more so.
Gabrielle heard Xena bed down for the night and sighed, knowing the warrior was probably going crazy trying to figure out how Gabrielle could convince her to do something without words. But the answer was so simple. Xena had fallen in love with Gabrielle months ago; Gabrielle wasn’t quite sure of the reasons, but it had happened so gradually that Gabrielle hadn’t even been aware of it until that kiss. So, if she wanted Xena to love her, all she had to do was ... be herself. After all, it worked the first time. Of course, now that she knew how Xena felt, she could help things along a bit, being extra nice to Xena, doing little things she liked, and generally just trying to make her happy. Gabrielle smiled to herself as she nestled into her blanket. It might take a while for Xena to come around, but she didn’t mind. True love was worth waiting for.
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