She feels Gabrielle move, slipping her body away from Xena’s arms and leaving a place of cold in its wake. At this, Xena finally opens her eyes and drinks in the bard’s body. This is the time, say it now...

“Gabrielle, I...” The warrior starts, but Gabrielle raises her hand. It is a sharp gesture that cuts Xena to the quick.

“I don’t know if I can hear what you are going to say, Xena... not yet...” Her voice is raw with emotion. Xena watches Gabrielle put her clothes back on.

“You might want to hear it.” Xena says quietly, her eyes following Gabrielle’s every move. The bard looks at her long and hard, as if weighing up the options.

“Fine. Okay...” And she sits down.

Xena sits up and wraps the fur around her body. She smiles a bit nervously and that causes Gabrielle to knit her brows in confusion. The warrior takes a deep breath.

“Gabrielle, I don’t know why it took so long for me to see this... to see us, like this... I only know I don’t want to lose you, that I love you...”

The bard crosses her arms. Hmmm, she is quick to be on the defensive...

“Are you trying to soften the blow?” Gabrielle asks.

“What? No, I’m just trying to...” But, once again, the bard interrupts. Or she tries to... Xena is up and covering the woman’s mouth with her hand.

“Why must you be so stubborn when I am trying to tell you something? Something that isn’t easy for me to say...” Xena pleads, her own voice breaking with emotion.

“I know you are angry and expect the worst now, I understand... But I love you and what I am trying to say is that I want you, only you. From now on, it is you and I... Together.”

Gabrielle watches Xena this entire time, the feeling of loss already in place in her heart. The bard could not believe it, that Xena would want just her... So, she put the walls up quickly. Even when Xena was speaking, even when something told Gabrielle that the warrior was choosing her...

I cannot listen, cannot hear that I am not the one, that I am just another lover... one of many... Before this fear could rage full-on, the warrior’s hand is covering Gabrielle’s mouth. She is ready for this, she is ready for heartbreak...

But it doesn’t happen. Xena, after all this time, says the words the bard has longed to hear.

Xena takes her hand away and stares at Gabrielle, blue eyes searching. And Gabrielle is not sure what to say... That I didn’t expect it? That it shocks me?

All the torture of the past few weeks, she feels it slide off her body. All the questions that need answers, they can wait. All the time wasted... Gabrielle can let it go.

Are you sure? A voice inside counsels. What if she changes her mind one day?

One look at Xena’s face, however, settles any debate in the bard’s mind. She reaches out, finally pushing the distance away, and takes Xena into her arms.

The warrior princess keeps saying ‘I love you’ over and over. And Gabrielle knows it is true, in every sense of the phrase.

It is true.

The End.

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