by Sais2Cool

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA, and MCA/Universal. No profit is being made from this story, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Subtext/Maintext: My intention here was to write a maintext story that offers an explanation for the presence of subtext in the show.

***Warning: This story contains a non-graphic sex scene which can be interpreted as non-consensual.***

My thanks to the folks at the Bardic Circle and ~Serendipity~ and LadyKate for their patience and very helpful comments on the draft versions of this story.

Feedback and constructive criticism is always a wonderful thing.

People have always wondered about Xena and me. That we were best friends, partners and soulmates had been woven into local legends from Delphi to Damascus. That should have been enough to satisfy anyone who bothered to really listen my stories -- but it rarely ever was. The speculation was endless. Best friends? Partners? Soulmates? Riiight…and what else?

When I was younger and a lot dumber (Xena always preferred to think of it as 'naïve') my response to the question was always a genuinely guileless "what else is there?" Xena, always very overprotective, would shield me from the answer. There were a few foolishly brave souls who would pose the question to her with a wink and a nudge. Rarely did anyone dare to ask her twice.

Once, not long after we met, I remember finishing a story in a crowded, run-down tavern. There had been a small altercation with a man. He had drunkenly reeled up to where I sat perched on the bar. As a thank you for spinning a good story, he dropped a coin in my hand, a fuzzy grin playing across his face. Xena, always more suspicious and aware than me in those early days, had stepped between us and steered him away before he could say a word. She had deliberately positioned herself with her back to me, blocking the man so that their voices were little more than low, indistinct rumbles. She appeared to be trying to reason with him in her own unique way of persuasion through intimidation. But then I saw him raise himself on his toes, peering over her shoulder to smirk blearily at me.

"…mus' be a quick learner --," he slurred.

Xena broke his jaw for that comment.

Then she pulled me out of the tavern. Though there had been a perfectly good path to take, she led me through the woods because it was the quickest way to put some distance between me and the patrons before the hushed murmurs rose to a loud din. Xena dragged me by the arm, slashing viciously at the underbrush with her sword to clear a path.

Finally, because my curiosity had gotten the better of me -- and also because she was practically yanking my arm from the socket -- I pulled away from her.

"Xena, what did that man mean when he said I was a quick learner?"

Xena turned back to me, carefully trying to hide her annoyance at my small act of defiance. "Just what he said. You've learned a lot in the past few months."

"It didn't sound very nice the way he said it. And you punched him. Why? If that's all he was saying -- ."

"He was a sloppy, drunken bastard, that's all!" she snapped, letting me know that the answers would stop right there.

And so Xena let me believe that she had hurt this man simply because he didn't meet with her approval. It took me quite a long time to understand that she was perfectly willing to let the world -- and me -- see her as an occasionally heartless monster if it meant protecting me.

For months it went on like that. More speculation, more questions…and a long trail of broken jaws.


"You travel around all alone with Xena, the Warrior Princess and you expect us to believe it's just because you're friends? Ha! Tell us another one, little girl. Everyone around here knows the reputation of the Destroyer of Nations. She's more known for being another kind of destroyer, if you catch my drift. There's got to be something else going on there."

Honestly there wasn't -- not even after I discovered what "something else" meant. I didn't come by the knowledge in a way that would make for any kind of juicy story in the taverns. It was quite natural and boring really -- definitely not the stuff that would keep my audiences coming back for more. Those stories would come much later.

I was like a newborn pup that takes its first few tentative steps out to discover the world --timid at first, but every new experience a lesson and every lesson its own reward. Each day I traveled with Xena, the more I left the sheltered, narrow life of Poteidaia behind. And one day the thought simply occurred to me. Of course, most people believed Xena and I were lovers.

I was so proud of myself that I had figured this out all on my own. I was no longer the naïve farm girl that had gone chasing after the Warrior Princess out of hero worship. All those months later and I was worldly, seasoned. I had grown up. I couldn't wait to tell Xena. It almost made me dizzy to think that I knew something she didn't.

We had just settled into our bedrolls for the evening. Xena brusquely pulled me against her, curling her body around mine. I had annoyed her earlier when I had made the mistake of throwing the remnants of our dinner into the bushes. I could feel the tension as her entire body was on alert for a sign that wild animals had taken the tossed away scraps as an invitation to pay us a visit. We lay silently a few moments until I felt like I would burst if I held it in any longer. I elbowed her lightly in the ribs to get her attention.

"You know what I think, Xena?"

It had taken her a long time to accustom herself to my endless bedroll chatter. Never one to waste her words, Xena usually let me ramble on, economizing her responses down to a terse syllable or two.


I rolled over to face her and chuckled with the smug disbelief of a weathered traveler. "I think most people believe that you and I are lovers."

It wasn't easy to shock the Warrior Princess, and from the way Xena's gaze snapped to meet mine, her mouth gaping open, I thought I had achieved the near impossible.

"Don't tell me you didn't know!"

Xena's mouth opened and closed several times, struggling to find the words. "No. I -- I just didn't think that you did."

"Why wouldn't I? I'm not a kid, you know!" My indignant reaction suggested just the opposite and Xena knew it. I could feel the red hot burn of indignation spread across my cheeks when she smirked.

"Nope, I guess not."


I don't know what amused me more; the outrageously wrong impression people seemed to have gotten about our close camaraderie, or the fact that I actually understood the distinction between the friendship Xena and I shared and the…something else.

Sex was something new to me. That is, I had a fairly good idea of what it was all about…more or less. But it was always something done by other people. Until then, the idea of being considered a sexual being myself was almost completely foreign to me. I felt almost as if I was privy to a joke that very few people ever got.

"By the gods! You are beautiful!" At the time, Xena had chalked up my declaration to a mind completely gone on henbane. But in a dark corner of my fuzzy brain, sober Gabrielle still lurked and she had a vague control over smashed Gabrielle. And it was sober Gabrielle that was testing the waters of her newfound identity.

Simply because I could -- and to prove to Xena that I wasn't as much of a kid as she thought I was, I had turned into a bit of a tease. There were touches and whispers that were less genuine than others, carefully calculated to produce a reaction. It's a toss-up as to what was a bigger thrill, the sated, knowing looks from strangers that told me their days of speculation were at an end, or the embarrassment I could see in Xena's eyes for the split second before she would look away.

Who would have ever thought it? I would think to myself as amusement glinted in my eyes and twitched the corners of my mouth. Xena, Warrior Princess is a prude!

But like a tolerant, though stern parent, Xena would only indulge me up to a certain point. She drew the line one evening when we sat down to a skimpy dinner in a greasy tavern on the road to Athens.

"That's enough! " Her fingers closed around my wrist like a vise and she forced my hand down to the table, glancing around at the other patrons.

"But you've got a bit of grease on your--."

"I can wipe my own face," she grumbled and wiped the back of her hand across her mouth.

I frowned in disapproval. While in the past year I had made considerable progress in some areas, I had not succeeded in civilizing Xena to the point of getting her to use a napkin.

She rubbed her hands together and tilted her head in the direction of three men who were hiding broad grins behind their mugs of ale. "Besides, I'm sure you're less concerned about me having a dirty face than in getting a rise out of those three at the bar."

I tittered. "They've been staring since we sat down. Do you think they've heard the rumors about us?"

Xena's lip curled. "They don't need to. You're doing a damned good job of encouraging them all by yourself."

"I'm just giving the public what they want," I replied with a dazzling smile.

"It's not a game, Gabrielle. Sex isn't a cheap, bar room joke to shock people with. It's supposed to mean something. You'll understand that when you're--."

Older. That's what Xena meant to say, but my sharp look cut her off.



I was on the verge, that awkward age when you're not old enough to really be considered a woman, and yet too old to be thought of as a girl. Not even a stranger can resist the impulse to impart a final bit of wisdom onto the young before you take that final step through the threshold towards maturity. People were fond of telling me that you don't know what you've had until you've lost it. I always thought it was a silly thing to say, really.

And then I married.

Because the rumors about Xena and me had taken on an almost legendary status even by that time, people wondered why I agreed to marry Perdicus. Was it because I loved him? Because he needed me in a way I thought Xena never would? Because I was trying to prove to Xena that she needed me? Maybe it had a little bit to do with all those things. But I did love him. I never would have married him if I hadn't.

You don't know what you've had until you lost it. The truth in that was a bittersweet lesson for both Xena and me.

I saw it in Xena's eyes when I walked out of the temple hand in hand with Perdicus on my wedding day. She was…alone. Until that moment, Xena never realized just how much she had counted upon me. Me! the chatty, naïve, little farm girl with a knack for getting herself into all kinds of trouble.

Xena never admitted that, so I suppose there are those that would say I let my ego get the better of me. But I had spent the better part of a year teaching myself to read Xena more by what she didn't say than what she did. It was all there, written on her face.

Who's going to scout ahead into villages, feeling them out as to whether or not the Warrior Princess is welcome there? And if I'm not, who's going to believe in me enough to make them see that I'm trying to turn my life around, that I want to protect rather than plunder? Who's going to make me see enough beauty and good in the world to keep me from wanting to tear it down piece by piece? Who's going to like me when I can't even find a reason to like myself?

But it was too late.

And then Callisto came along.

I loved Perdicus. I could never pretend any different. But in hindsight, I can't help thinking that perhaps I wasn't made to stay the course with him. Perhaps my wanderlust would have eventually gotten the better of me. Perhaps weighing the mundane existence of a farmer's wife against a life on the road, sharing adventure after adventure with Xena -- and the exhilaration of surviving to tell the tale afterwards -- would have tipped the scales too unevenly against life with him. Would my love for him have waned along with my enthusiasm for milking the goats and tending the chickens? The profound relief I feel in never having to answer that question is also the source of profound shame…though hardly my greatest shame -- .

But I'm jumping too far ahead in the story.

When Perdicus died, I believed at the time that he took a piece of me with him. "Xena, wake up and look around you! The little, innocent Gabrielle is dead, and there's no getting her back." The realization was like a cold fist clenching around my heart.

I could have easily killed Callisto while she slept. But that moment in which I held my slain husband's sword to her throat, the little, innocent Gabrielle began clawing madly against that cold fist of rage that held me in its grip. She had not died alongside Perdicus. She was fighting for her life.

Sometimes change is for the better. Xena had changed and the world was a better place for it. I had tried to convince Xena that I had changed by pretending to be someone I wasn't. I had wanted to grow up so badly that I was willing to sacrifice the best part of me. Little, innocent Gabrielle might never save the world the way Xena, Warrior Princess did, but she was who I was. And I was not ready to lose her.


I had been given a gift. I was able to see what I had before I lost it. By hanging onto that youthful innocence, I believe I made the most adult decision of my life. But, as Xena has often told me, the Fates possess a wicked sense of irony. Once I learned to embrace that part of me, it was torn away in the split moment it takes for a heart to beat. Or perhaps more accurately, in the split moment it takes a heart to stop beating.

I killed Meridian.

Oh, eventually there would come a long string of nameless and faceless bodies after her. But I will never forget the first time I took a life. Like it was yesterday, I can still remember the warm and sticky feel of her blood between my fingers. I stared down in horror at my hands, the hands that had shed her blood, and I knew that something final and irrevocable had happened. In a moment, everything had changed. Everything. It wasn't just Meridian's blood staining my hands a dark and sinister red. It was also the last vestiges of innocence pouring out of me.

This is what it feels like to be Xena, I thought numbly, as she gently led me away from the remains of Dahak's temple. Remember what Father said when you were a little girl, Gabrielle? 'Be careful what you wish for.'

We could have gone back to Boadicea and spent the night in relative comfort. But I couldn't face being around anyone else, irrationally afraid that they would look upon me with scorn and derision now that I had become a killer. And I think Xena was genuinely embarrassed for me to see the festivities going on in the Briton's camp that evening as they celebrated their victory over Caesar -- a victory she had a played a large part in. Instead, she brought me to a gentle, green copse beside a shallow brook whose reassuring sounds she hoped would have a soothing effect on me.

As Xena set up our camp in the quickly deepening dusk, I peeled my clothes off and knelt in the water, numb to its near icy temperature, and scrubbed my body clean. I remember how much time and effort I took in cleaning under my fingernails, scraping away every dried speck of blood that still clung stubbornly to me. Then I beat my skirt and top against a flat rock to clean them, just the way Xena had taught me. Getting rid of the evidence…

By the time I was done, darkness had already fallen and there was a sharp and biting chill in the air. I sat before the large fire Xena had started; shivering uncontrollably beneath the heavy fur blanket she had carefully wrapped me in.

My dripping clothes hung over a tree limb that stretched above the fire. Xena assured me that the heat of the flames would dry them by morning. Every so often, I would catch her glancing up almost cautiously at my skirt and top, the shimmering flames of the fire casting a red and sinister glow over them. And then, as if unable to hold it any more, her gaze would quickly slide away.

She tried to get me to eat something, but I wouldn't. Perhaps in a way I thought that depriving my body would offer some atonement. Unwilling to eat and -- probably more alarming to Xena -- unwilling to talk, she suggested sleep. I agreed dazedly, hoping that perhaps it would offer a temporary refuge.

She had arranged our blankets close together, far enough apart to give me my space should I need it and yet near enough to offer me comfort. I loved her for that gesture and yet at the same time, it made me oddly resentful too.

I lay there for hours but sleep would not come. Of course not. I had murdered sleep. I could sense that Xena was in that half-state between dreams and wakefulness, exhausted but not allowing herself to fall too far under should I need her. Her long, gentle fingers rested against my left forearm, rubbing in soothing, rhythmic circles. And yet in this too, I could find no comfort.

Not long before the faint, gray cracks of dawn would streak the sky, I inched my way closer to Xena, until my head was tucked snugly under her chin. Even in her semi-conscious state, this didn't seem to surprise her. Quite naturally, and without even coming fully awake, she lifted her hand from my forearm to drape across my shoulders, pulling me closer against her. Sleepily, she murmured some words of comfort and I drew my arm around her. I was desperate to feel safe, that Xena was still capable of protecting me. But I wasn't sure if that was even possible anymore. Slowly, I ran my hand across her back, seeking the reassurance of her strength.

Xena did not stir through my ministrations until she felt something in my imploring touch change to more insistent strokes that drifted down to the small of her back. I felt a slight shiver ripple through her and her eyes came open slowly, trapped in my hard glare.

There was a relentless beast beginning to stir within me. The day before, I wouldn't have believed this kind of darkness churned in my soul. But now that I had become a killer, there seemed to be a twisted, perverse kind of logic to it. At that moment, I was without reason and without humanity, acting only on base instinct. Like an animal. And I didn't care.

Xena eyed me cautiously, wondering what I was going to do next.

I propped up on my elbow to gaze down at her. My hand drifted higher to brush a thumb over the corner of her mouth. And in a gesture that permitted no debate, I pushed her onto her back, straddling her. Xena held very still, looking like a small animal snared in a trap. Weaving my fingers into her hair, I tugged slightly, forcing her to bare her throat to me. I raked my fingernails lightly over the delicate flesh of her neck.

And then I leaned down and…kissed her, though to call it that would probably cheapen the word. Perhaps it's more accurate to say I battered my mouth against hers, ruthlessly demanding that she grant me entrance. It didn't occur to me that she probably would have yielded to a far softer touch. It wouldn't have mattered anyway.

This wasn't about lust or want or need. A few moments before, it had never occurred to me to really consider Xena in this way. My suggestive teases had always been more of an experiment and about giving the gossipmongers something to talk about over dinner. I had never meant it as a means of seduction. Oh, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, and quite probably the most beautiful woman I ever would see. I had always known that. But up until then, the few, fleeting sensual fantasies I had had usually involved my only real reference point, my late husband. That night with Xena was about losing myself in carnal abandonment -- to feel something…anything -- again.

And there was something far darker behind it too, though it took me a long time to admit it. I was not gentle with her. It is one of the great regrets of my life to know that I probably hurt Xena that night. But she bore my relentless assault on her body, stoically allowing me to vent my rage on her, rage at myself for being such a naïve fool, an unwitting dupe that had played right into the hands of Khrafstar. And buried far more deeply, rage at her for not being there to protect me, leaving me at the mercy of Dahak and his followers.

I know I satisfied Xena that night. She had long since grown accustomed to touches far rougher than any I could deliver. But even though I had managed to bring her to climax, I often wonder if I brought her any pleasure.

Even before Xena's breathing slowed and the shudders of aftershocks ceased, I rolled onto my side, cruelly facing away from her. I burrowed deep under my blanket, clutching it at my aching throat, trying to fight back the flood of tears welling in my eyes.

And then I felt her warm, gentle hand reach out to stroke me between my shoulder blades. Her touch broke down my last barrier and the dam burst. She held me while I cried, working her right arm beneath me to hold me against her, while her left continued the same soothingly slow, rhythmic circles across my back. Despite her comfort, or perhaps because of it, the tears would not stop rolling down my cheeks.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

I felt her hand change direction, rubbing circles the opposite way. "It's going to be all right, Gabrielle. I promise. You know I would never lie to you. I'd die first."

How could anything ever be all right again?

I brought my hand up to brush at the tears staining my cheeks and Xena's fingers closed lightly around my wrist, stilling me. With more gentleness than anyone would have ever dreamed the Warrior Princess capable of, she eased me onto my back, leaning on her elbow beside me. She gazed down at me tenderly, so different from the look of apprehension on her face when I started this. Her fingers came up to brush the hair from my forehead.

I sniffled loudly. "You don't -- ."

"Shhh…just lie still, Gabrielle." Her hand came down to caress my face and came in contact with my tears. Carefully, Xena bent over me and brushed her lips across my cheeks, kissing the tears away.

I suppose because I'm the poet, people always think I'm the wise one. I couldn't even begin to count the number of times I told Xena that the only way to end the cycle of violence was through love. Sometimes I would wonder if she was really listening to me. But after that night, there was no doubt left in my mind. She had seen that I was standing on the edge of an abyss; saw just how close I was to sliding down that slope towards the darkness. I guess the best way to put it is to say that she looked at me and saw herself, and she pulled me back.

And the next morning, we pretended it never happened.


It took a long time for things to return to even a pale shadow of what they were before Britannia, a long time before the most casual of touches ceased being tentative and awkward between us. It was an odd existence for Xena and me during that time, a long, intricate, hesitant dance in which we not only had to learn the steps to take with one another, we also had to learn the steps not to take. Often, it felt as if Xena and I were two animals, circling, testing, wary of one another.

Before, we had always slept pressed up together. It was more a practical gesture than a romantic one. Sleeping out in the open was cold -- not to mention dangerous. We had drawn a sense of comfort from the other being so close. When I finally realized why Xena had chosen to lie like this -- both on our left sides and curled up around my back -- I had been moved to tears. She was giving me the freedom of movement to be able to write at night.

After Britannia, we just seemed to come to a silent agreement that our bedrolls would be laid out across from one another, the campfire a boundary between us. There were times I wished I could cross that boundary, times when I wanted nothing more than to curl up into Xena's protective, loving warmth. Of course, I no longer had that right. Not when the last time I had approached her had been for a far darker purpose.

You certainly ruined that one didn't you, Gabrielle?

And then there came a night not long after our reunion outside Poteidaia when a sudden cold snap hit. Maybe because my shivers and subsequent complaining meant that neither one of us was going to get any sleep that night, Xena dragged her bedroll over next to mine and pressed the length of her body along my back, drawing her arms loosely around me.

I felt her warm breath on my neck when she spoke, her voice holding the hint of a command.

"Now get some sleep."

But I couldn't. Neither of us could. We both tensed and held very still, testing the odd familiarity of this position. I carefully considered the situation. It felt…right. Comfortable. And warm. Without being aware of it, the shivers racking my frame had died away. Finally, I felt both our bodies relax as we just seemed to surrender and accept the sense of ease with one another.

Ever a creature of habit, Xena probably didn't realize it when she fell back into her old routine and pulled me tightly against her, laying her cheek in the curve of my neck.

Unblinking, I stared straight ahead. Xena felt the change too. A physical closeness that was once shared so freely had gone from a vague, indescribable tension to something very real and tangible rising up between us, hovering over Xena and me like a demon. Mocking us. Something between a cry and a grumble strangled in my throat and I felt her arms slacken, holding me not quite as firmly as before. She shifted slightly and the cool night air lapped at my now exposed back, turning my skin to gooseflesh.

The silence was long and awkward. Feverishly, I tried to think of something -- anything -- to say to ease the awkward strain between us. I snorted lightly and turned my head just far enough over my shoulder to catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye.

"Your passionate blood runs too hot for me, Warrior Princess."

I could hear the grin that played across her face as she did her bit to hack away at the tension. "Can't help it. Your story about the sewing contest between Athena and Arachne really set my blood to boiling."

I rolled my eyes. "It was weaving -- not sewing."

"Right. Whatever. Same difference."

I laid my head down with an exaggerated sigh, drawing the blanket up around my chin.

"Are you warm enough?"

"Yes." Despite myself, I could not hold back the shudder that blasted through me.

Xena felt it and turned her head slightly. "…Because I could always throw a few extra logs on the fire…"

I nodded, clenching my jaw to keep my teeth from chattering. "Might be a good idea."


That night between us in Britannia (I still won't dignify my actions by calling it "making love") was like a Cyclops that had crawled into the bedrolls between us that neither one of us was willing to admit was there -- no matter how crowded it got.

There were times I wished we could talk about it, times when that vaguely unsettling quiet between us felt more like an unbearable, throat-clenching agony. Those were the times I was desperate enough to face what I had done, to do something -- anything -- to make the guilt and shame go away. My resolve never lasted though. Most of the time, I just wanted to forget all about it.

And so, I learned to live with the guilt. I carried it with me everywhere, like a wicked little raven perched on my shoulder. Nothing, not Hope or Chin -- or even Solon -- ever weighed on me in quite the same way as that night in Britannia. And nothing was quite as untouchable.

That was just how it was between us -- day in and day out for years. Together, yet separate. A part and yet apart. Gradually, the gossip and questions about our relationship died away -- probably because most people saw little point in speculating over something that seemed so obvious. Of course, almost everyone assumed we were lovers.

Not long after we met, I remember how I would watch in amazement as Xena would stand on the edge of a lake and skip flat stones across the surface. It had taken weeks of tutoring -- and probably more patience than Xena ever thought she was capable of -- for me to master the art. Maybe we had become like those stones, skipping over the surface of something deeper.

Taking a life had changed everything for me. Everything. But Xena and I never wanted to believe that it could change anything between us. My ideals and beliefs might have crumbled like dried up old parchment, but our relationship was made of sterner stuff. Best friends and soulmates. When everything else fell apart between us, we had retreated behind the comfort and familiarity of those words, terrified of the changes adding "lover" to the list might bring. And so we made ourselves content with what we had, believing it was enough, rather than take a leap of faith into the unknown.

Best friend, soulmate…more and more those words came up lacking; instead, leaving me with a vague, desperate sense of urgency that there had to be something more.

There were long, horrible nights I would lie awake, pondering what might have been had I not taken in Britannia what Xena would probably have given freely. I had taken fate into my hands, bending it into a twisted distortion of what was meant to be. Why? I would rail up at the stars. Why did you let me do it? But the stars offered no answers and no absolution, glimmering down in ridicule at my shame.

Then there came a night -- that final night -- in which I dreamed we were both back in Britannia in that gentle green copse beside the shallow brook. I took Xena in my arms, embracing her passionately, only to suddenly push her away and plunge a dagger into her stomach with an animal-like howl.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! " I gasped as Xena gently crumpled to her knees, clutching for my wrist.

Panting, my eyes flew open, my mind working feverishly to take in my surroundings. A cooling campfire in a small clearing, leaves rustling high above from a gentle gust of warm air, the almost perfect blackness of the night. And…strong arms holding me tightly.

"Bad dream?" Xena murmured sleepily.

I nodded, my breath more even now.

Her hand moved in lazy circles between my shoulder blades. Just like Britannia -- .

"Want to talk about it?"

Stifling the impulse to hunch my shoulders away from her touch, I shook my head. "No -- it's not important. I'm fine."

I felt it when Xena hesitated and briefly lost the rhythm of the circles she was tracing across my back. And then she started again, the pattern growing wider with every pass as if to coax the tension from my shoulders. Her cheek burrowed into the curve of my neck.

"Try to go back to sleep."

How could I? It had been so long since we had been this close and Xena was like a cozy fire for me to curl up beside. I felt safe…complete. Just like before, just like in the old days. As if I had finally let go in a game of tug of war, I knew -- I knew I couldn't live without this anymore. My pulse rose to a soft pounding in my ears.




She murmured something unintelligible, nestling her cheek deeper into my neck.

I rolled over to face her. "My dream…it was about Britannia."

"Oh." Xena stiffened slightly and looked away. She knew exactly what I was talking about.

With a heavy sigh, I flopped onto my back, holding very still, bracing myself for her reaction. A strange quiet fell over the campsite and even the leaves in the trees didn't rustle -- as if the wind itself was holding its breath. After a moment -- or perhaps hours -- of lying there in silence, Xena raised herself on her elbow, gazing down at me. Somehow, I couldn't bring myself to meet her eyes and I was suddenly very intent on checking the status of the fire, the direction from which a faint bird call came and the proximity of our weapons.

"Gabrielle -- look at me." The gentle firmness of her tone made me glance up at her. It was almost as if a wave had swept over me and pulled me in its current towards Xena. Her gaze traveled down over my lips, to my throat and slowly back up again, locking her eyes with mine.

I swallowed hard and trembled. Fear -- or something else? I wasn't quite sure. Fate seemed to linger in the air between us where our breaths touched and mingled, urging me forward.

"I'm sorry." I offered up my atonement to Xena, to the cosmos, to anyone that cared to listen. For Britannia, Hope, Chin and Solon -- and so much more. For the girl I was and the woman I became. It was all there, a lifetime of regret that I had held in my heart. And with those two words, I released it and sent it soaring towards the heavens.

"It's okay." Her breath was like a warm caress to my cheek . "You don't…it's okay." With her fingertips, she grazed a feather-light trail from my shoulder down to rest in the crook of my arm. I jerked involuntarily from the thrill of her touch. Xena drew back and I opened my mouth to speak, afraid that my pleasure had been mistaken for panic.

"Xena, I -- ."

She shook her head and smiled gently, bending down towards me. "It's okay, Gabrielle." Her whisper tickled my lips. "It's okay."


I raised myself on my arms and locked my elbows to shift off Xena. My breathing still labored and my limbs slightly trembling, my arm folded under the pressure of my weight and I pitched forward. Xena couldn't suppress a soft "oof!" as I accidentally kneed her in the stomach and sprawled face first in the dirt.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry" I righted myself and rolled over to face her, feverishly pressing my palm to her cheek. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah." She chuckled and playfully batted my anxious hand away. "But remind me to wear my armor next time."

I looked away miserably. "I sorry…I can't ever seem to -- ."

Xena reached up and brushed at a smudge of dirt on my chin with her thumb.

"Gabrielle, I'm fine. "

I eyed her skeptically. "You're sure? I don't ever want to -- ."

She slipped her hand beneath my shoulders to pull me against her side. "You're not going to hurt me," she insisted with tender fervency. "You couldn't."

Something in the conviction of her tone and the assurance of her touch managed to coax the tension, fear and self-hatred from me and I slumped, melting into her. My skin glowed from the heat of Xena's palm chafing against my shoulder and I couldn't hold back a yawn.


I paused a moment to assess myself. "No…not really." That was true -- at least in part. For the first time since before Britannia, I felt like I was floating on a wave of drowsy contentment instead of caving under bone-weary exhaustion.

Xena and I lay like that a long time, communing by sharing in the magnificence of the night sky. Funny that I didn't notice before how brightly the stars speckled the black canopy above us, casting a soft glow over the campsite in defiance of the darkness. Stranger still that I hadn't appreciated the sea of green beauty that the Northern Lights presented on the horizon.

Everything was different now. Everything.

Years before, I had set out on my journey with Xena in search of a life filled with adventure. I hadn't known then that I was meant to walk Xena's path as well. I had gone from hopeless tag along, to barely tolerated companion, to friend. Finally I came to walk by Xena's side as her partner in her search for a redemption that was never found.

We had both been searching for answers for so long. Deep down, I think Xena believed that her answers would lie at the end of an opponent's sword; the loss of her own life the only atonement that would begin to make up for her sins. As for me, I was less sure of where to look than even Xena was. After Britannia, I set off on my own frantic quest in search of something -- anything -- to lift the burden of guilt from my shoulders. That was why I had been such ripe pickings for Najara and Aiden. They had offered me answers that in the end had turned out to be all wrong. Only Eli ever came close, but the peace of mind he offered me would have been bought at the price of life without Xena. No -- it was easier to live with the guilt.

That night under the stars, Xena and I found redemption in one another. We had traveled to the ends of the earth and back again in search of it, never realizing that the answer was right beside us all along.

Lying there in one another's arms, it felt as if we had both finally found our way home after a long journey.

Xena was the one to fall asleep first that night. I got up to rekindle the fire and decided to stay awake in order enjoy the luxury of reveling in the beauty that surrounded me. When Xena reached for me and realized I wasn't beside her, she grumbled sleepily and rolled over. I laughed and shook my head.

Maybe now with the past finally behind us, we could look ahead to the future. Together. I leaned back and gazed up at the sky.

"Looking out at the cosmos makes you think-- about where we are -- where we've been -- where we're going now."

I wasn't surprised that Xena heard me in her sleep. After all, this was the woman who could hear a rabbit munching away on a blade of grass from leagues away. But I was shocked that she had actually been listening. Everything really was different now.

"…Why don't we go away? Far away…"

So Xena knew it too. The past had held too much reign over us for too long. We allowed ourselves to become fortune's favorite play toy, whipped around and tossed about like an old, limp rag doll as we allowed the present to control us rather than us controlling it. That night with the stars as our witness, we pledged to forge our own destiny.

Xena and me.



I write this from my bedroll as if Xena was still here curled around me. I can almost feel her warmth pressed against my back, on guard against the wind and cold that threaten me.

I've never told anyone the truth about us, letting people believe whatever they wanted. Were we lovers? Well, yes…and no. I never thought it was really important to spell out the truth before. The important part of the story -- of our story -- was the journey of two best friends and soulmates. I don't know why it's important for me to tell it now. Maybe confessing the worst of it helps to remind me of what Xena and I shared. It was our love and faith in one another that had kept us together through all the bad times.

So this is my confession.

The faint whisper of a breath tickles my cheek and I snuggle deeper beneath the blankets.

One day Xena and I will be together again.

One day we'll both be home.


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