I Propose

by t.e.brehm




I'm new to this; guess I gotta do that legal disclaimer thingy don't I? O.K. here goes:

Subtext? Yep

Sex? Mild, but Yep

Violence? Nah..well aside from a few hurt feelings..

Over 18..yada yada...legal in your area yada that too. Can't handle sex/love between 2 women? Gee that's a shame. Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Joxer. Don't own'em. If I did The gals would be living happily ever after in a poly-amourous relationship with me *eg* and Joxer would be spending his days as Argos stable boy.

I'm working on it, but not holding my breath. Enjoy.

It was almost mid-day. Xena had walked into town earlier that morning on a shopping excursion to buy supplies. She had left Argo and Gabrielle behind claiming that the horse needed a good rest, and that some time alone would be good for the Bard. Gabrielle secretly thought that Xena just needed a break from her incessant chatter.

The young woman had been left alone in their camp for several hours and now she was pacing back and forth through the clearing, hands wringing in an absent-minded way as she spoke thoughtfully to...a tree.

"Xena," she began, "We've been travelling together now for almost 2 years, and you've always been there for me, and I want you to know that I will always be here for you." She paused in her footsteps and stared meaningfully at the tree. "Our love for one another has blossomed out of the bonds of friendship, and I want us to be together forever" Reaching out with one hand she grasped the ends of a low hanging branch and dropped slowly to one knee. In a soft voice:

"Xena, warrior of Amphipolis...will you marry me?"

She stared beseechingly at the leafy boughs and then rose quickly to her feet. Pacing briskly again she muttered "No..no too corny...Xena would never go for that"

After several more paces, she leaned up against the tree and grinned lecherously up into the branches. "Hey there big girl...what say we get hitched and you can make an honest woman of me?"

"Arghh!" she groaned, features contorting in dismay "That's just brilliant Gabrielle...Xena's sure to take that seriously!" She dropped in frustration to the ground at the foot of the tree, legs crossed and rested her elbows on her knees, which in turn were propping her petulant, sulking chin.

"For Zeus's sake I'm a BARD this shouldn't be so difficult!"

On the other side of the clearing, within easy earshot but out of sight from the agitated Bard, a figure stood quietly in the bushes surrounding the campsite. A pair of watery brown eyes stared intently at the beautiful young woman sitting by herself.

Gabrielles' thoughts began to wander. Things had developed so subtly for her and Xena, and now she truly couldn't imagine her life without the big warrior. They had been travelling together for many moons, as friends. Companions in a mentor/student relationship, although Xena had been known to say that she was never exactly sure just who was who. But gradually things had changed and friendship had grown into something more. Gabrielle remembered clearly the moment she had fallen in love with the ex-warlord.

It was the pivocal moment of her life.

She could almost thank Draco's men for attempting to abduct her, and the other young women from her hometown of Potadiea. The moment that Xena had appeared on the path before them, wearing nothing but a cotton shift was the moment. Gabrielle had looked up in fear to see a 6 ft, raven-haired salvation before them.

Her heart had stopped. Of that much she was sure. For a brief instant, no more than the length of a drawn breath she had felt it stop beating. Had felt her legs go weak and threaten to spill her to the ground at the feet of the slavers holding them hostage. She watched the woman warrior who moved like a blur, fighting Dracos men while she and the other women struggled to free themselves from the soldiers restraining them. As if that weren't enough to deal with, the ice blue eyes of the warrior woman had caressed the field green eyes of the young bard and in that instant...that one tiny space of time the world disappeared. For Gabrielle there was nothing but those eyes, and the brief eternity that their gazes had locked.

One of Dracos men had made the most of the distraction and gotten in a blow which sent the warrior reeling to the ground. Xena was surrounded, but undaunted as her hands fell upon the weapons she had buried moments before. Then the warrior had moved. Into action, and she defeated the slavers and Gabrielle was in love. Hopelessly, devotedly, ridiculously in love. She thought for the longest time that there was not a chance in Tartarus that Xena would ever see her as anything but a warrior-worshipping, idolising young tag-along. But then this amazing woman who had begun as her reluctant companion, became her friend...and eventually her lover.

Gabrielle stretched out her legs and leaned her back against the tree. She squinted up through the limbs gauging the time of day by the position of the sun. Xena had been gone too long and she was beginning to get bored. Not too mention agitated as she tried to come up with just exactly the right words to say to her lover. Proposing should've been a piece of cake when you compared it with the awkwardness of confessing their love for one another.

Running her hands through the greenery of the ground Gabrielle plucked a yellow wildflower and brought it to her nose for a sniff. She twirled it between her fingers while she thought back to when Xena had first told her that she loved her. Well, Xena had told her that she loved her many times...but the first time she had said it with more than friendship behind it. Gabrielle grinned at the memory.

It was almost a moon after the fiasco with Velasca. They had left the Amazon village and Autolycus behind. Xena, as usual was in a hurry to be moving on. She had come out of the sarcophagas weak as a day-old kitten and had to rely entirely on Gabrielle to see to her needs. Ephiny, Solari, and the King of Thieves had helped her return Xena to the village where she slept for almost 18 hours while Gabrielle kept a vigil by her bedside. The Bard left her only briefly, and when she needed to sleep she lay next to her warrior on the soft pallet in the Queens hut.

Xena indulged her young friend and allowed her to coddle her while she gained strength back at a suprisingly rapid pace. In fact, by the end of the second day, she felt more hearty and hale than she could ever remember feeling. Xena wryly suggested that maybe there was something to be said, for spending several days dead.

They had been camped for a few hours, dinner had been eaten and Argo settled for the night. It was Xenas' favorite time of day. Gabrielle sat propped against a log on the other side of the fire, quill in hand, scratching some new tale onto her scroll. Xena had removed her armor and was resting comfortably against a tree sharpening her sword and actually humming. Gabrielle made no comment about the sound. It was something so unusual that she didn't dare say anything for fear she'd make the Warrior feel too self-conscious.

As she listened to Xena, she thought around the edges of the moment when, in possession of Autolycus' body, Xena had kissed her. The Warrior had told her before that the dead could hear the thoughts of the living and she couldn't help but wonder just what exacly Xena had heard. She didn't even know if Xena remembered the kiss but she had been thinking around these edges for days now, and she decided that maybe it was time they talked about it. She had been stealing quick glances at the seemingly content warrior, not sure exactly how to bring up the subject; but then she decided that the direct approach would probably be the easiest way to get an honest answer from her usually remote friend.

"Xena..." she began, her quill having halted it's scratching.

"Ye-ess" the warrior answered with a quirk, she returned to her humming and never ceased the stroke of the whet-stone on her blade.

"Xena, do you remember what you told me, a long time ago..about the dead being able to hear our thoughts?"

"Mmm-hmm" the warrior responded.

"Well, I was wondering..." the Bard rose and wrapped her blanket over her shoulders. She walked over to where Xena sat stretched out on the ground and knelt beside the warrior. "What...exactly...did you hear while you were...you know...an unofficial member of the non-living?"

The Warrior cocked an eyebrow and a half grin at the Bards' avoidance of the d-word in reference to her and said, "Well, I know where you hide the sweets at the bottom of your scroll-bag."

The Bard glared at her sardonically, "Xena I'm serious. I mean...what was it like?" She pressed on, "Could you hear voices like a crowd in your head..with their thoughts all jumbled together?"

"No..." Xena began, slowing her motions with the whet-stone. "No. It wasn't like that at all Gabrielle." She had a pretty good idea where her friend was heading with her line of questioning but she wasn't sure exactly how much the young Bard was ready to hear. "It was more like...echoes..." she continued. "Like, if I concentrated on someone I could hear their inner-voice echoing their thoughts." She paused for a moment, staring intently at the young woman and then, "The voices sounded thin and kind of whispery, some of them a little ominous..but then some of them, like yours were..." The warrior shook her head thoughtfully.

"Were?" The Bard pressed.

"A comfort" She said simply.

The Bard held her gaze for a moment or two longer and then looked away. She chewed on her lower lip while she pondered what Xena had told her. It was interesting, but it wasn't quite the information she was looking for.

"Xena?" she began again.

"Yes Gabrielle" No quirk to her voice this time, but a little anxiety, she knew where this was leading and for the first time in her adult life Xena was actually afraid.

"Could you hear...specific thoughts? For example, ohhh-say someone was thinking about what to make for dinner...or maybe angry at their mother or their lover and was really cussing them out in their head or something...? Could you hear that?"

"Yes, I could hear exactly those kind of thoughts."

The Bard turned and captured her gaze again, chewed her lip a little more and then "Xena, could you hear my thoughts."

The warrior took a deep breath, dropped her eyes for a moment and looked away. When her ice blue eyes met again with the Bards she fell deeply into the green fields before her.

"Yes Gabrielle, I could hear you. Yours were the only thoughts that mattered."

Gabrielle licked her lips nervously, she felt almost sick with the dread of not knowing what the Warrior felt. She knew Xena cared for her more than just about anything else in the world. As a friend, a companion...but would that caring extend to anything more? She thought for a moment that if the big Warrior couldn't accept her love then she would not have the emotional strength to continue their travels. It was one thing to sleep night after night next to the woman she loved without knowing how she felt, but at least able to retain her hopes and fantasies. But if Xena denied her now she knew she wouldn't be able to go on.

She couldn't do it. She looked away from Xena and said in a small voice "I think I'm going to turn in now." She rose from her kneeling position and backed away from her friend slowly, "Don't stay up too long" she finished with a nervous smile.

"Gabrielle wait!" Xena leapt to her feet dropping her sword as if it were a piece of unimportant scrap. The Bard stopped in her tracks, her eyes grew huge as the Warrior approached and brought her hands up in one fluid motion. In a breath, Xena's long fingers were cupping her face softly, twining through the hair at her temples while her thumbs caressed the soft skin of the bards cheeks.

She stood so close that they were pressed breast to breast and Gabrielle could feel the rhythm of Xenas' heartbeat as it matched her own. She could feel every muscle in her body trembling as Xena's touch traced patterns across her skin, the depth of her love plainly displayed in the soft, tender caresses. The Warrior held her for an eternity it seemed, their eyes locked in a silent exchange that was one part request, one part permission and one part promise.

When Xena's lips descended on hers, Gabrielle felt a sighing moan escape her. Her hands somehow found their way to the Warriors hips, and then gradually up around her back as high as she could reach; all without her even realising they had moved. A gentle caressing slowly grew to a bold searching, and then more quickly to a burning hunger. Gabrielles lips had long since parted way and their linking tongues danced madly around one another.

Xena's fingers were threading nimbly through the strawberry-gold of Gabrielle's hair, grasping in double handfuls to pull the young womans lips closer to her own. The Bards hands had begun their own journey as they worked their way over the Warriors body in earnest. Gabrielle caressed down the plane of Xena's back, feeling the dip at the small of her back. She actually shocked the Warrior into gasping at her boldness when she clutched the womans buttocks and kneaded the fleshy globes.

Their passion was growing into something frenetic and their kisses had begun to change; they became more needing and more frenzied. They all but fought each other for space in the others mouth as their tongues mingled and teeth began to gnash against each other. Xena was moaning while Gabrielles' hands were raking their way up the warriors spine, half pulling her shift off in the process. The Bard was whimpering in her frustration at not being able to feel the Warriors skin.

Finally, breathless...Xena pushed the Bard away. Panting, she stared in awe at the lust she could read plainly in the others eyes. With no lack of confidence at her acceptance, Xena feverishly lifted her beloved bard into her arms and carried her to the other side of the fire where the bedrolls lay spread side by side. As soon as her feet left the ground Gabrielle locked her arms around Xena's neck and began kissing her again. Her mouth left the Warriors lips and then her tongue traced a line down the curve of her throat, along with gentle nips.

Xena lowered her to the blankets and pushed the young Bards legs apart with her own. She lay gently on top of Gabrielle, propping herself to support most of her weight. The Bard was caught in a fever of lust and had untied the laces of her top, pulling the Warrior's head down to nuzzle between the cleavage of her breasts. Xena moaned and began lavishing the Bards skin with kisses and soft bites.

"Gabrielle, I love you." Xena whispered huskily.

In between kisses she told her "I have wanted you for so long. Dear Gods I never Dreamed you would actually want this..."

"Oh Xena" she sighed breathily as the warrior kissed her way to the Bards aroused nipples. She sucked one completely into her mouth and brought her empty hand up to take hold of the other. Wrapping her fingertips around it, she pinched and teased it in a way that caused the Bard to let out a loud gasp. Gabrielle brought her hands up to her lovers hair and wrapped the lengths between her fingers, pulling eagerly she forced her nipple further into the hungry Warriors' mouth.

Gabrielle was drunk with desire. As she moaned and writhed under her lovers' attentions she could feel her centre dripping. Every cell on her body was aroused with the feelings this woman was creating and she almost felt as if she was floating. She watched with fevered eyes as the Warrior rose to a kneeling position just long enough to pull off her own shift; and then with a hunger beyond reason she growled "Off"


Her frenetic desire showed in her actions, feverishly she reached underneath the Bards' body and grasped the hem of her short skirt. Pulling, she got no objections as the soft cloth came away. As soon as Gabrielle was naked she dropped back down to her body like a child in need of it's mothers' milk. She resumed her suckling at the Bards' sweet skin and began to work her way down to the place she most needed to be.

As she kissed and licked at her lover, Gabrielles' hands came back to her head. Slowly encouraging the Warrior to go down, down. "Make me yours, Xena," she pleaded. She spared one mournful thought for her long-dead husband; poor, sweet Perdicus. Her love for him had been more pity for a soul in need of comforting than the actual love of soulmates, and she never really believed she'd have a chance with Xena. She almost felt a pang of guilt, but then the Warrior ran her tongue across the Bard's tight stomach muscles causing them to jump and twitch, while her hands caressed the sides of Gabrielle's young body. She swirled inside the Bards belly button tasting the mingle of sweet flesh and sweat. Any thoughts of Perdicus and guilt left her. In her heart she knew she was where she belonged. Where she had always belonged.

"Oh Xena..." the Bard moaned, as she felt her lovers' tongue Dance teasingly down her body. She softly traced patterns across the Bards lower belly and then left a trail of fire as she snaked her way lower. Nuzzling softly in the fine hairs that hid the Bards erotic treasures. Gabrielle gasped and brought her hands down to the warrior's head. She grasped her lover and spread her legs wide giving Xena as much access to her swollen flesh as possible.

Gabrielle could feel the breath of cool air on her most private of parts and being so exposed heightened her excitement. "Xena please!" She begged, her voice breaking on the last word. Xenas' own arousal had reached beyond the limits of her control; the sight and scent of Gabrielle, companion, best friend-now lover completely at her mercy drove her over the edge. One eyebrow arched, and her face broke into a cock-eyed, feral grin into the Bards pleading eyes and then without warning she darted forward and burrowed into the Bards erotic centre.

At the first touch of her probing tongue Gabrielles' head fell to the blanket and her back arched. Xena wasted little time, for she knew that Gabrielle would not last long. She found the sensitive bud of the Bards clitoris and sucked it eagerly between her teeth, using her tongue to swirl little circles around the aroused nub of flesh. She did this for several heartbeats and then drew her tongue in a long path down the parted lips.

The warrior used her hands to pull the now moaning Bard further into her mouth and when her tongue flicked across the opening to her centre she greedily tasted all that her new lover had to offer.

Gabrielle was on fire. Her body writhed and bucked beneath the warriors ministrations, and it became hard to think coherently. Her hands were buried in the raven locks of her lover and her breath came in heaving pants. As her passion rose she began moaning the warriors name until it became a litany repeated over and over: "Xena...Oh Xena..Xena..OH XENA" her voice rising with each moan.

She was so close when she felt Xena shift again, and as soon as the Warriors tongue passed another stroke across her swollen clitoris it sent her over the edge. "Oh Gods!" she cried. She grabbed hold of Xenas' head and kept her in a death grip buried between her lips. Her hips bucked and threatened to kick her legs free of the warriors grasp, but Xena held on. She sucked the Bards throbbing nub into her mouth and held it, giving it the occasional flick of her tongue while the bard spasmed beneath her, moaning and crying "Oh Xena...oh baby!"

Her hips finally began to slow down, and still the Warrior did not release her. Xena stroked lazy patterns along the Bards inner lips. As Gabrielle calmed, Xena slowly emerged and raised herself up to her knees. She began massaging the Bard, working from her thighs down to the ankles of both legs and then back up again. She did this for a good long time while her young lover lay back and recovered her breathing.

When Gabrielle finally managed to open her eyes, she smiled up at her lover with an expression that was nothing short of ecstatic satisfaction. Xena left off her massaging and crawled cat-like up to lay beside the young bard. She propped herself up on one elbow and gazed down at her wearing her own slightly smug grin.

"Mmmm..." Gabrielle sighed wrapping her arms up around the big Warriors neck. She shook her head in wonder, and with a little emberassment, told her "Xena...that was the most amazing...I...I've never felt anything like that before in--" she started to babble, "I mean, I didn't even know I was capable of feeling anything like that--"

"Shhh..." Xena pressed her lips still with a fingetip..."It's ok..I know" The Bard smiled and whispered up at her Warrior "I love you, you know..."

Xena nodded..."I know that too.'

"Right..." Gabrielle began again.."That whole 'dead people can hear our thoughts' thi--" This time Xena stopped her with a kiss, and when they broke apart she gazed thoughtfully down at the bard...

"Did you just call me baby?" she asked quizzically.

Gabrielle squeezed her eyes shut and wondered just how many shades of red there were...

As the last of the morning sun waned and the noon hour passed, still Xena did not return. Gabrielle was lost in her blissful reminiscing and as it always did this particular memory sparked an arousal within her. She felt a soft moan escape her lips as the images dansed behind her closed eyes. She brought her hands up and ran them sensuously over her abdomen, and continued until they were cupping her breasts.

At that moment, from the bushes on the other side of their campsite she heard the almost imperceptible sound of a gasp and a slight rustling of leaves. Her eyes flew open and her battle-trained senses had her off the ground and across the clearing in seconds. She grabbed her staff from beside the firepit and was upon the intruder before he was aware of the danger. She judged the spot where she had heard the noises and jabbed the long pole into the bushes. The Bard was rewarded with a loud yelp of pain. Howling her own battle cry she swept the staff along the ground at calf height and heard the thud of a large body.

"Oww!!" a familiar voice cried out. Moaning followed, and the voice called "Stop...stop..I give up!" She peered into the bushes in surprise and then reached in between the shrubs. Her aim was true and when she pulled she had a very large, and dirty earlobe pinched between her fingers.

"Joxer!" she cried in dismay.

"Ow-ow-ow..I hate when you do that." The bumbling form of the warrior-wannabe fell forward and the bard pulled him into the clearing.

"Joxer you scared the life out of me!" she told him crossly. "What are you doing here anyway!?"

"Ow-ow..!" he moaned again as she gave one final twist before letting go of his ear. He pulled away from the angry bard and began straightening his gangly figure. Shrugging his 'armor' back into place and fixing his sword, he told her: "Xena asked me to come out here and check on you."

"Xena?" she glanced at him inquisitively. "When did you see her?"

"I ran into her in the marketplace..about a candlemark or so ago. She asked me to tell you she was having a little trouble at the leatherworkers. Something about Argos' bridle" Gabrielle nodded her response. Xena had mentioned wanting to replace the snaffle on the bridle for her four-footed companion.

"Well, why were you hiding in the bushes...watching me?" the Bard bristled.

The bumbling warrior turned beet red..."Ohh..ummm...well." He struggled to find a valid excuse; for as long as he'd known the Ex-warlord and her devoted Bard he had always entertained the hope that one day Gabrielle would fall for him. Deep down, he was aware of the bond between the two women, and he recognised it for what it was, but still...he hoped. He didn't want to tell her that he had been watching, simply because he loved her and she was the most breathtaking creature he had ever laid eyes on. Instead, he grasped upon the obvious and started to babble: "Well...I came down the pathway there, and I heard you talking to someone, or at least it sounded like you were talking to someone but when I got close enough to actually see you..."

"Joxer.." she tried to interrupt.

"It turns out that someone was actually a something... and it was a..." He broke off "Why were you talking to a tree anyway?" he finished finally.

The Bard rolled her eyes in an exasperated manner and heaved a frustrated sigh. Joxer was the last person she wanted to explain her problem too. But, she supposed it was probably better than nothing, and it might actually do some good for the poor guy to deal with the reality of her relationship to Xena.

"I was talking to the tree because I...was practising." she mumbled.

"Practising?" He looked at her in confusion, "Practising what?"

"Practising a speech Joxer, a speech to propose to Xena" she told him gently.

"Oh!" he said brightly, "A speech to propose an ambush right?? Some fierce warlord in the neighbourhood has got a bunch of young virgins and he's holding them hostage like he did to you in Potadeia right?" He grinned brilliantly as the Bard shook her head in stunned disbelief. "Hey..is it Draco?" he asked. "I can help...I've always wanted to take a crack at that guy."

"Joxer...there's no warlord." she rolled her eyes as if she were dealing with a 3 year old.

"Oh." he sighed crestfallen.

"I'm talking about a marriage proposal Joxer. I wanna ask Xena to marry me." she rapped on his helmet with her knuckles. "You know...marriage...Amazon wedding with all the fancy costumes and canapes?" The bard was babbling now in her frustration.

"Ohhh..." he nodded understanding. "Oh!" He said flatly as it really sunk in. "I see." He looked away from the Bard, shielding his hurt.

Gabrielle felt it nonetheless and her face contorted with sympathy. She instantly regretted speaking so harshly and she reached one hand out to touch the warrior on the arm.

"Joxer," she began. "Hey, I'm sorry."

He moved away gently and swallowed his loss for the last time. "Oh, hey no...it's...it's no big deal." He turned to look back at the Bard dropping a mask of false indifference across his features. "I mean...it is a big deal. Ya know for you guys and all. But, ya know, I uh...I got over that little crush thingy a long time ago" he shrugged, pursing his lips. "Yep..a lonnng time ago. Hey, I'm Joxer the Mighty..I got babes throwing themselves at me all the time."

Gabrielles' smile was sweet, and tender...and one could not blame her for the sympathy that also showed.

"Yes...I'll bet you do" she told him gently. They locked eyes for a moment or two and then Joxer cleared his throat, breaking the moment.

"So, what's the problem?" he queried. "I mean, you love her and she loves you, so just walk up to her and say 'Hey let's get married'..."

Gabrielle sighed and moved away. "I know it should be simple, but every time I try to find the right words I get nervous. I want it to be special; I want it to be heartfelt and meaningful and something she'll remember for the rest of our lives."

Joxer stepped up behind her and said "Gabrielle, no matter what you say, it will be special because it's you who'll be saying it"

She turned and smiled at him, "it's just my nerves I guess."

"Well maybe you need to practise some more," he suggested. "But not on a tree. You need to talk to a real person."

"Oh great, Joxer and just who do you suggest I practise on? You?!"

He cleared his throat with an emberassed cough and looked at the ground, scuffling his feet he told her "Well...that was sort of what I had in mind." The Bard stared at him for a moment and then realised he was serious.

"Wouldn't that be kind of..ummm, awkward?" She asked quietly.

"Eh-he-he naww..." he stuttered, "No...I mean..we're friends, right?"

She pondered his offer for a moment, and then reluctantly agreed. "Ok, I'll try it." She told him, "But don't do anything-just listen..and don't make me laugh!"

Joxer nodded in his fumbling, eager puppy dog manner and they settled themselves on the ground next to the firepit. The Bard took a deep breath, and focused her mind on the one person she loved more than life itself. The only person that she truly needed to make her life complete: her Warrior, Xena. And then she spoke, pouring all the love and need that she had into her voice.

"Xena," she began, "I want to tell you a story."

"A long time ago a young woman from Potadiea was squandering her life aimlessly. Living each day with no real purpose; she had Dreams, much like the other young women of her village, but no clear way of fulfilling those Dreams."

"As it usually does, trouble managed to find this young woman...often." she grinned wryly. "But along with trouble came salvation." Her eyes took on a soft, and misty hue and with her own words Gabrielle was transported. Joxer no longer sat before her, in her minds eye she saw her love; her mighty Warrior leaping to her rescue over, and over.

It was at this moment, that the Warrior in question came strolling down the path; arms laden with packages and a new bridle for Argo. The old one had proved unrepairable but she had been forced to wait at the tanners while he finished work on a saddle for the town mayor. Damn the man anyway she had cursed silently all the way back to camp. If he had just told her right away that she'd need to buy a new one she could have been back with her Bard a candlemark ago.

She came within earshot of the camp, but was as of yet out of sight from the pair that sat beside the firepit. She knew that Joxer would probably be there when she returned and she was going to have to do some fast talking to soothe Gabrielles' ruffled feathers for sending him to 'check up on her.' Therefor the sound of voices did not surprise her, the words that her keen hearing caught, however, stopped her dead in her tracks.

"You have to know how much I love you." She heard the Bards voice clearly. "From the moment I laid eyes on you I knew that we were destined to be together."

Xena felt her mouth drop open and all the saliva dry instantly in her throat. Her eyes widened and she felt a sudden deadness settle on her chest, as if all the demons in Tartarus had suddenly descended on her. She took another two steps forward and peered around the bushes to see who the Bard was talking to.

In the clearing, Gabrielle was gazing deeply into Joxers eyes, in her mind she was seeing Xena, but Joxer was gazing back at her; so caught up in her speech that his eyes had glossed over with starry rapture.

"I want the world to know of our devotion. I don't want to hide any longer." The Bard paused. Joxer held his breath. Xenas' heart froze.

"Marry me, my love. Join with me and be my own forever." she finished her outpouring, staring directly into eyes that were not ice blue but watery brown. She came back to herself as Joxer let out an enormous heartfelt sigh, "Yes...oh yes."

Gabrielle stared at him as if he had lost it.

Xena stepped forward.

The Bard, knowing of the Warriors' famous hearing, leapt to her feet and wondered just how much of her 'practise session' had been overheard.

"Xena!" she said with obvious delight, tinged with a shade of embarassment. "I'm so glad you're back!" Joxer clambered to his feet and stood cheerfully next to the Bard.

"Hi Xena." he said, raising one hand in greeting.

Xenas' face was a closed mask. Her eyes moved from Gabrielle, to Joxer and then back to rest on her beloved Bard. She didn't move. Couldn't, in fact; her mind still numb with the echoing words she had just overheard. Xena was well known for being able to analyse a situation and offer a solution in mere heartbeats and this was no different. If Gabrielle wanted Joxer, then Xena would step aside and allow them to be together. She would do anything, make any sacrifice to see to her Bards happiness. Even if it meant destroying her own.

Gabrielle, could see right away that there was something wrong with her lover. "Xena..." she stepped forward with concern. "What is it? What's wrong?"

Xena shut down. A false smile softened her features and she shook her head as if to dispell any doubts. "Nothing Gabrielle. Everythings fine." She glanced aside and said flatly "Hello Joxer." The smile disappeared and she stalked past the 'newly engaged' pair to where her belongings were piled. "We need to get packed up," she said brusquely. "It's time to go." She dropped the supplies next to Argos saddlebags and got down on her knees basically ignoring the Bard. She began unpacking the goods and distributing them into the leather pockets of her bags.

Gabrielle watched her with mounting anxiety. She knew Xena well enough to recognise that something was bothering the stoic Warrior, she wondered if it had anything to do with her conversation with Joxer. Xena finished unpacking, the last item was a small green velvet pouch embroidered with the letter G. in gold thread. She looked at the bag with disappointment, caressed it with a delicate touch and then tucked it into her tunic.

Gabrielle, her eyes never leaving Xenas' back, called to the bumbling Warrior and said "Joxer, I think now would be a good time for you to take a walk. Maybe go back to town."

"Aww..but Xena said you're leaving, I was hoping I could travel with you guys for awhile" he protested.

"Joxer!" Gabrielle seethed in a frustrated voice. "I think Xena and I need some time alone right now! You know..to talk?" The Bard turned to glare at him and missed the tensing of her Warriors body. The last thing Xena wanted to do right now was talk.

For a moment he looked like he didn't comprehend, but then the light of understanding hit him and he nodded, smiling. "Ohhh...right..ok."

"You guys need to talk" he motioned italics with his fingers. "I'll just head back to town, and maybe...catch up with you in a few days."

Gabrielle nodded, patting him on the back, practically pushing him out of the clearing "You do that Jox...see ya later."

He ambled off, whistling and then breaking into the opening lines of his 'theme song'. Gabrielle closed her eyes and prayed to Artemis to give her strength. She turned to see that Xena had moved, she had taken a hunk of cheese and a small paring knife out of her saddlebag and was sitting on her bedroll, munching away quietly but not looking at the Bard whos' eyes were on her so heavily.

As soon as Joxer was out of earshot Gabrielle walked over to Xena and knelt beside the Warrior, facing her; just as she had so many moons ago on the first night they had made love. She was quiet for a moment. She sensed a sadness in her lover that she didn't understand, but believed herself to be the cause.

"Xena?" she began softly. "I don't know why you're sad, but if it's something I've done...if I've hurt you in some way please...you have to tell me." She reached out with one hand and brushed a strand of the Warriors raven locks away from her face.

Xena contemplated how to answer the question. It wasn't Gabrielles' fault that she loved someone else, she knew the Bard didn't set out to purposely hurt her, and she started to tell her just that.

"It's not your fault Gabrielle, you haven't done anything." she could feel the emotions so close to the surface, and though she tried to hold back she could feel the tears seeping unbidden from her eyes.

"Well then what is it!?" Gabrielle demanded, her own heart almost breaking at the sight of the Warriors' pain. She leaned forward and grasped the dark woman in her arms and pulled her to her chest.

"Xena please. I love you so much, don't shut me out. "You have to tell me. Whatever it is we can work through it together." The Bard kissed her on the head and started rocking the now slightly confused Warrior.

"Gabrielle, it's ok...really." She pulled away from the Bard slightly and lost herself in field green eyes. "I should never have expected that you would want to stay with a broken-down ex-warlord. I should have known that some day some man would come along who would...would...sweep you off your feet." Xena couldn't believe she was using these words in reference to Joxer!

The Bard stared at her lover completely dumbstruck.

She pulled even further back...and with a shake of her head demanded "Xena...what in Tartarus are you talking about?!"

She peered into the Bards' eyes sadly and told her, "Gabrielle, I heard you."

The Bards heart started to thud nervously in her chest. "You heard me what Xena? You heard what?"

The Warrior couldn't hold her loves eyes, she hung her head and in a small voice filled with loss she whispered, "I heard you ask Joxer to marry you."

The Bard was stunned. She sat with her arms still partially draped over the Warriors shoulders; her mouth hung open and she didn't think she could have been more shocked if someone had told her that Ares had decided to trade his 'God of War' status to become a sheep herder. It was only the look of utter dejection and agony on her lovers' face that kept her from laughing.

"Xena." she began gently, reaching out to lift the Warriors face. "I don't know how to tell you this sweetie but you are out of your ever-loving mind if you think I am ever going to marry Joxer."

The Warriors mouth dropped open, she was speechless for a moment and then she began sputtering: "But..but..you said you loved him I heard you. I heard you ask him to marry you."

Gabrielle placed two fingers over her lovers' mouth silencing her, then she leaned in and kissed the Warrior; long and deep with a promise of passion to follow.

"What you heard was me practising." she told her lover, when they came up for air.

"Practising?" Xena screwed up her eyes and stared at the Bard.

"Practising." The Bard stared deeply into the twin pools of blue ice.

"Practising what!?" Xena asked in an exasperated voice.

"How to propose marriage...to you silly woman."

Xena felt as if she'd been pole-axed. The look of stunned Warrior did cause Gabrielle to chuckle. But only for a moment, before she leaned in and kissed her foolish Warrior again.

'Well I'll be damned to Hades!' Xena thought to herself. 'I think I'd have been less shocked if someone had told me Ares was gonna become a rabbit farmer.'

After several moments passed they broke their kiss and sat with their foreheads pressed up against each other. Then Xena sat back and reached into her tunic, pulling out a small green pouch. She smiled lovingly at her Bard and told her: "I was going to save this for a special occasion, but I guess getting engaged is the perfect occasion."

Gabrielle smiled, "Does that mean the answer's yes?"

It was Xenas' turn to chuckle, "I don't know...what was the question again?" Gabrielle gave her a soft jab on the shoulder and then the warrior nodded to the velvet bag in her Bards' hands. "Open it," she instructed.

The Bard pulled the little drawstrings that released the bag and turned it over spilling the contents onto her hand. It was a ring. She let out a small gasp and her eyes widened as she turned the delicate braided circle over on her palm. "Oh Xena, it's beautiful!" the Bard told her. "Wherever did you find something so unusual?"

It was a gold band, but unique because of it's design. Xena explained, "I took a lock of hair from each of us, braided them, then took them to a jewelsmiths and had him dip and shape them in molten gold."

"I can't believe you thought of something like that. Xena that is so romantic!" the Bard told her.

Xena grinned, "hey even us ex-warlords have a little bit of romance in our souls." She took the ring from Gabrielles' palm and slipped it onto her finger. With a sensuously evil grin the Bard pushed her back on the bedroll, swinging her legs over to straddle her lover. She pinned the mighty Warrior Princess to the blanket and warned her "Mmm...I hope you have more than just romance in your soul." Leaning over she licked the Warriors lips and then captured them in a kiss, forcing her tongue between the other womans teeth.

She pulled away and the Warrior sighed, "Mmm Baby."

With practised hands she began to remove the Warriors armor, but then paused. Looking down at her lover with mischief in her smile she asked: "Did you just call me Baby?"

Return to the Academy