NOTE: This is a very old story, written just after, "Is There A Doctor In The House?" My first bit of fanfiction!
THE REASON WHY
A fiery arrow streaked over Gabrielle's head and landed in the thick thatch roofing the council house. Now, anyone who grew up in villages where thatched roofs were common knew that a bucket brigade had to be formed immediately, or the whole village would be an inferno in minutes.
Gabrielle grabbed a woman who was racing by, demanding: "Where are some buckets?"
The smell of smoke poured off the orange flames like ink from a squid. Gabrielle could see Xena chase off the brigands as she waited for the woman to speak, then caught the look of horror on Xena's face as she saw the flames. "I'm not going to let her relive *that*.", said Gabrielle to herself. the woman finally unfroze, and pointed to a pile of wooden buckets and trenchers in a forgotten corner. Gabrielle thrust one into the woman's hands, then threw several to Xena as she rode up on Argo, and on to the nearby stream.
Xena jumped down into the middle of the stream, heedless of the cold, and began ordering people to get to work, to save their own village.
Gabrielle was short, but by climbing the pole of a nearby storehouse, she could throw water on the fire from above. The heat from the fire was really uncomfortable now, while nearly half the roof was afire. Her arms hurt with the repeated movements, but she kept right on pulling up full buckets, throwing the water, and passing back empties.
It was getting dark, but the flames made it easy to see, as the fire exposed the roof's support beams. Someone had thought to soak blankets in water and cover the roofs close by. Probably Xena. The council house itself was burning now, slowed just a bit by the daub and wattle walls. It couldn't be saved, but everything else was.
Gabrielle finally looked down at the soot blackened faces of the villagers, and over to the stream, where Xena still stood, soaked even through the leather.. There was nothing more she could do, so she climbed down, looking once more for Xena. She found her leaning, exhausted, against a wall. It was so cold, her breath looked like smoke and she was shivering hard.
Gabrielle went to Argo and got a blanket, slipping it over Xena's shoulders. Xena flashed a smile a her, then gave the blanket to an elder, who as shivering almost as much as she was. Gabrielle knew better than to give her another, not while she was in her big warrior give-away mood.
They were sorry they couldn't stay to help rebuild, but after consulting with the elders, they went back to their original plan, to meet Hercules and Iolaus in Methoni. Gabrielle half looked forward to this, and half dreaded it, for she and Iolaus had indulged his amorous nature (as if she didn't have one) so far that she was still a virgin only on a technicality.
Her thoughts were interrupted by an elder sidling up to Xena. He whispered, "You better take care of yourself. You're gonna get sick. Here.", and he thrust a bunch of dried herbs into her hands, then walked away.
So, they walked in the moonlight until they found a good camping place. Xena insisted on doing everything for herself, so Gabrielle bit her lip and dealt with it silently. She had gotten a bit out of patience with Xena's big warrior act. They fell into bed and slept.
That morning, Gabrielle could hear the tell-tale wheezing from Xena's lungs. Now she was mad. Her green eyes snapped as she turned on Xena.
"Okay, big warrior. You're sick, just like that elder told you would happen. Go back to bed. NOW." And to Gabrielle's amazement, Xena did.
Now healing was not exactly Gabrielle's cup of tea. She hated to see people suffer, and felt helpless and inept. Then she heard something that made her blood freeze. "Where is Toris, mother? I can't find him."
Gabrielle touched Xena's forehead, and drew her fingers back as if they were scorched. Xena's eyes were focused on the spirit world. Gabrielle thought of the elder's herbs, and started digging through Xena's stuff for them. She smiled as she found the tiny bag of jackstones nobody was supposed to know about. Yeah, some tough warrior.
*There* were the herbs. She made a tea and got Xena to drink it, then tended the fire, Xena and Argo, forgetting about herself. Xena was somewhere outside the world we are upon, and calling out, "Don't leave me". Gabrielle figured that she was calling her father. Maybe in that place she could find him, even if for a little while.
She got a cloth. poured water on it, and wiped Xena's face with it, trying not to cry.
Xena's mother was leaning over her, wiping her face with a cool, clean cloth. She couldn't understand how she got to be home, flat on her back. She kept coughing and her lungs hurt. She also couldn't find Gabrielle, and kept calling out, "Don't leave me."
"Do you love that little girl?", asked her mother.
"Yes, more than anything, mother.", said Xena.
"Could it be that she can't love you the same way you love her?", said her mother. And Xena cried.
It was days later when Xena returned. She opened her eyes to find Gabrielle sound asleep, and looking exhausted. Xena reached over and touched her face with her fingertips, stroking her cheek and hair. She knew nothing would wake her, for Gabrielle had once slept through an attack by assassins.
There were four blankets over Xena, a pot of herb tea on the cooking fire, and clean cloths wet with water. Xena knew Gabrielle did not like to tend the sick. Her gratitude shot from her heart like an arrow, and she wished for the thousandth time that she dared kiss Gabrielle. But, after all the bad things she had done, Xena was afraid to touch anyone without their express permission. To do this, even in the smallest way to Gabrielle...no way.
Xena sunk back into sleep, now just in the dream world. She was out for hours.
When Gabrielle finally opened her eyes, Xena was playing jackstones. She was half tempted to join her, but knew the big warrior code forbade it. She made a great deal of noise, "Waking up", so that Xena had time to hide the toys.
"You're better. That's great. How do you feel?", asked Gabrielle.
"Better, thanks to you. I, uh, know you don't like to tend the sick.", said Xena.
"You know I'd do anything for you.", said Gabrielle.
Then Xena turned great, sad eyes on Gabrielle. She drew close, reached behind Gabrielle's head, and fought some inner war, the Xena hung her head, and dropped her hand.
"What's wrong?", asked Gabrielle.
"What would you say if I told you I loved you?", said Xena.
Gabrielle drew her breath in sharply. Here was the conversation she had been dreading for over a year. "Well, hey, I love you too. You *are* my best friend, after all., said Gabrielle as lightly as she could manage. When Xena teared up, Gabrielle wanted to punch herself for saying such an inane thing.
"Gabrielle, tell me, is it just that you can't love me the same way I love you?", asked Xena.
Now Gabrielle was between a rock and a hard place. She couldn't reveal certain things the blind mystic had told her, and she couldn't hurt Xena. She shook with the force of her inner struggle, then came to a decision.
"That's not it, Xena. Not at all. The Gods won't let me, and I don't know why and I can't tell you stuff that you need to know...I hate this! WHY? I love you so much it hurts down to marrow of my bones. I *Have* to go to Delphi to find out...to make sense of this mess. Will you come with me when you're better?", said Gabrielle.
After a nervous few days, they arrived in Delphi. The place was crowded with people waiting to visit the oracle. Xena could see the grim look of determination on Gabrielle's face. Gabrielle hugged Xena hard, then joined the long line at the oracle, her last words floating in the cool air behind her.
"Pray for me."
Xena did. Xena, who tried not to take the Gods too seriously, except those who wouldn't leave her alone. She cast her mind about for a God she's never had a run in with, never laughed at, or even done a favor for...Hermes. So, she poured her heart out to him, telling him her troubles, of her love for Gabrielle. She got so taken into Spirit, and on the Spirit road, that she didn't even see Gabrielle return. And, Gabrielle had changed. A smile played at her lips, but her eyes were sad. How do you read an expression like *that*?
"How did it go?", asked Xena.
"It was strange. Let's go find a really private place to talk--oh, and a beautiful one too.", said Gabrielle.
Xena raised an eyebrow at that request, but said nothing. She lead Gabrielle and Argo to a clump of trees beside a small stream, with plenty of grass for Argo. And old campsite was there, firepit dug, stones in place. They made camp, then Gabrielle sat Xena down to talk.
"You know how you always zone out when I tell you about my family? Well don't, this is too important.", she said.
Then Gabrielle launched into her story: "There are things I never told you because I thought you wouldn't want anything to do with me. Did you know that Lila and I are only half-sisters?"
Xena shook her head.
"Daddy isn't my real father. My father died before I was born. His name was Mikines. He was murdered because, like you, he tried to change his life, and become good. You remind me so much of the stories my mother used to tell me about him. That's one reason I wanted to be with you."
"Who killed him?", asked Xena.
"His own father, my grandfather--Eccarius. He wasn't a nice man, but I suppose he turned bad because of the way *his* father treated him. He was, well--you might have heard of him--Celefacles?", said Gabrielle. Xena's face changed enough that Gabrielle knew she *had* heard of him.
"It can't be. You're such a good person. You can't be related to that kind of family.", said Xena.
"Oh yeah. I am also Medea's second cousin.", said Gabrielle.
"The woman who tried to poison Jason and killed her own sons?", said Xena.
"The same.", said Gabrielle. "My great-grandfather was the most evil man I've ever heard of. He raped his own daughters, brutalized his sons, started a civil war, sacrificed his granddaughter to Ares in order to win...the list goes on."
"I heard more of the same. I can't believe you are related to him. I always tried to model myself after you, after your goodness. Why are you telling me this?", asked Xena.
"The oracle told me to. See, when I was having that private talk with the blind mystic, I was told two restrictions would rule my life. I was never to kill another human being--because that evil slumbers in me, and if I kill, it will awaken, and I'll Just like the rest of my family. And the second was that I was to remain a virgin the rest of my life. That's why I couldn't return your love.", said Gabrielle. "See, I can't ever have children. I have bad blood, and I dare not pass it on. So, I asked specifically about you. And, it's okay. You won't give me children."
The long story had left Xena fairly light-headed. She was confused by the history of Gabrielle's family, and shocked too. Then it dawned on her what Gabrielle had said.
"Then you can love me?", she asked.
"If you still want me. But, hey, not so fast. I want you all to myself. Can you do that?", said Gabrielle.
Xena's heart did a flip-flop. She loved Gabrielle more than anything--even Argo. And, she didn't have a monogamous bone in her body.
"I need to think. I'll be back when I have an answer.", said Xena. She walked up the hill overlooking the campsite, and sat on a rock. Pictures of all her past lovers passed through her mind. There were quite a few men, and two women. Xena sighed. This was hard. She reviewed each one's touch, the feel of their spirits, their sense of humor--dwelling on Marcus and Hercules.
Then Gabrielle filled her head, and her heart. Such courage, such kindness, such silliness. And, there was that horrible day when Xena thought Gabrielle was dead. Her own voice echoed in her head. "Don't you leave me...leave me...don't leave..."
Then she remembered how they had gotten into that mess in the first place. Xena's big idea that she could safely cross a war zone. Other stupid stunts crossed her mind. How she thought she could risk death and rescue Prometheus all by herself. Oh, and this latest fire-fighting incident. All in Big Warrior Mode.
"Try a little humility, why don't you. You lie to yourself about what a big warrior who doesn't need help from anybody you are. You lied to yourself about needing Gabrielle. Don't lie now."
She massaged her scalp to stimulate her brain and felt the welt from the time she wanted--okay, had ordered, the whole village killed for hurting her father(Ares), and Gabrielle had risked her own life to bang some sense into her head with a pitchfork. She cried for a long time.
Now, there was this joke between her and Gabrielle about their, "contingency fund"--just some foreign coins people tried to slip Gabrielle when she told stories in various village squares. So, Xena fished one out of its pouch, found a tool that would work for the job, remembering that, "Any tool's the right tool.", and punched two holes in the coin. She found leather laces, and braided a bracelet out of them, threading them through the coin. Worth nothing, but pretty. She walked down the hill to Gabrielle.
Naturally Gabrielle was writing something. She put the parchment and writing tools down. A little worry line formed between her eyes. Xena sat next to her, thinking how she had somehow gotten prettier . The honest green eyes looked straight into Xena's heart.
"Gabrielle, I've thought about it. I love you more than anyone. I always will. But, I won't lie to you, or myself. I *will* look at other people. And, no matter how hard I try, I will *stray* from time to time. It's the way I'm made. I can't help myself. If you can accept me as I am, I would be happier than I have been in all my life.", said Xena.
"I know you aren't the faithful type, but if your heart is mine, I can live with your body slipping off on occasion.", said Gabrielle. "Just don't ever leave me."
"I won't.", said Xena.
Then, suddenly feeling awkward and shy, she gave the bracelet to Gabrielle. The love in her eyes told Xena all she wanted to know. Xena's blue eyes bored into Gabrielle's. Their souls touched again, then their lips followed. Arms around each other, they gave in to the hunger they had suppressed for so long.
"Gods I love you.", said Gabrielle.
"You are my heart.", said Xena.
And they touched, skin on skin, breath on breath, linked by their life force.
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