General Copyright Disclaimers
Characters and backstory of Xena: Warrior Princess are the property of Renaissance/MCA/Studios USA. This story is not meant to infringe upon their rights. This story was not written for monetary gain. Anything not copyrighted to the above mentioned parties is copyrighted to me. If you wish to archive or link this story, please contact me.
This story is rated PG-13 for sexual situations and violence.
This story contains themes and descriptions of a loving, sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. This story is intended for a mature audience with an open mind. If it is illegal for you to read this story for any reason at all, please close this web page and find something that is legal for you to read.
This is a scenario I imagine could have happened leading up to the events in the episode Crusader.
A Good Day, A Family Affair,
Adventures in the Sin
Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What the Future Holds
Copyright December 8, 1998
It was the same dream, or rather, nightmare she had been having for the past week. She sat up and gasped with the pain that seized her entire body; she was covered in a fine sweat. Looking at the bedroll next to hers, she wondered when it would ever end. She wondered what she could do to change the future, for she believed that her dream was the Fates mocking her destiny.
Afraid that her partner would catch her crying, she wiped at her damp cheeks with a hasty hand. She took a deep breath and made an attempt to straighten her hair that had become tangled during the dream. For a moment, she lost herself in the memory it and her fingers lingered on her long hair. Her eyes drifted to her friend’s hand curled loosely in sleep. Nothing had changed…yet.
Closing her eyes, she vowed that she would never let the future come to pass.
Xena pushed herself to her elbows and squinted through the pre-dawn dark. Out of a habit ingrained over three years, her eyes traveled to her companion. She smiled wistfully when she saw that Gabrielle was healthy and whole, sleeping as she hugged her scroll bag under her head. Silently, the warrior hoped that today would not be the day that they would find their end. She needed one more day with the bard. She always needed just one more day.
There was so much she could do in that one day. She could finally tell Gabrielle how much she loved her and then teach the younger woman about the physical pleasures to be discovered between them. She could find a way to change the gloomy path their life together was taking. She could find a way to say goodbye to her beloved bard so that the end would never come.
The warrior’s eyes clouded and misted with pain and fear. The thought of losing Gabrielle to a death that was a result of their life together was greater than any battle-wound she had ever received. This pain cut her deep to her soul. She would rather face the dull, endless ache of life without her love and her light, than to see that incredible person sacrificed to the redemption of a tainted warrior.
Gabrielle was meant for bigger and better things – not for a brutal ending nailed to a Roman cross. Xena just knew that she was. The young woman radiated goodness that was becoming spiced with wisdom and hard experience. Some day, she would make a fine queen for her Amazons. Some day would never happen if they stayed together.
Swiftly, Xena rose to her feet and escaped to the dusky forest where she could cry alone. Ever since she had received the visions from Alti, she had been tormented by thoughts of Gabrielle dying. She had gone through that twice before and both times she nearly went insane with grief. She could not do that again. She had to find a way to save the woman she loved from a destiny that was never meant to be hers.
Gabrielle groaned irritably as the sun began to rise. She turned her face into her scroll bag and scowled when the rough hide scratched her sensitive skin. Sighing for the short sleep she had managed, the bard rolled up into a sitting position.
The first thing she noticed was that Xena was not in camp. A quick scan of their belongings revealed that the only thing missing was the warrior herself. Figuring that the other woman merely left to relieve herself, Gabrielle quickly rubbed the dried tears from her eyes. Grasping a nearby waterskin, she splashed her face and hoped that the strain of the last few days was not written clearly on her face.
She never heard her partner’s approach, but an inner sense alerted her to the fact that Xena had returned. Smiling brightly, the bard turned; her eyes locked with blue eyes haunted by some unspoken memory.
Gabrielle’s heart reached out a moment before her hand did. Standing, she slowly walked over to the warrior. She raised a hand and laid it softly over Xena’s forehead. "Are you all right?" she asked gently.
"I’m just tired," Xena replied, leaning unconsciously into the feather-like touch. She closed her eyes at the heat that radiated from Gabrielle’s hand.
Trailing a loving caress down the warrior’s cheek, Gabrielle smiled softly with understanding. "I know what you mean," she agreed. "I’ve never felt so exhausted before." Silently, the bard contributed her own weariness to the fact that her battles of late had been as emotional and spiritual as they had been physical. Slowly but surely, it felt as though all of her resources were being depleted.
Xena caught Gabrielle’s hand and brought it to her lips. She sighed mentally with relief when the younger woman did not protest the affectionate gesture. Emboldened, she reached down, caught the other hand, and kissed it as well. For a long moment, she lost herself in the bard’s adoring gaze; her heart began to pound a rhythm of hope, love, pain, and fear. Unwilling to lose another day with Gabrielle, the warrior suggested, "Let’s stay here for a few days. We can rest up. You can catch up on your scrolls and I can hunt up some meat for us to smoke for the trail."
The bard nodded her head slowly. She could use the time to think without having to worry about some raider or warlord attacking them. "Sure, that sounds great," she replied with a soft smile. "What do you want to do first?"
"How about some breakfast and then we can go down to the river and wash up?"
"Sounds good again," the bard joked with a crooked grin. "You keep this up, Xena, and we may get through this little rest without either of us throwing things."
Chuckling wryly at the younger woman's quirky humor, Xena dug some bread and cheese from the saddlebags. "We just might, my little bard," she said with a fond expression.
After finishing their simple breakfast, the couple went to the river and stripped off their clothing. After more than three years together, there were no awkward feelings between them. There was only an affection that yearned to grow and blossom into the love that they both had for the other.
That desire, however, was tempered by the harsh reality that their lives had become over the past year. They were cautious, afraid of losing their souls to a love that would be ripped from their arms by death.
It was a bittersweet existence, but they knew of no other way to be with each other, and yet, to remain separate. Their love was a dance that drew them close and then pushed them back when the emotion and desire became too intense to resist. They were familiar with the steps; they knew when to step back for the other's comfort.
As they washed each other in the river, however, their thoughts turned to the course of their relationship.
Gabrielle tilted her head a bit so that Xena could run a soapy hand up the elegant slope of her neck. The bard shivered when the warrior's long, supple fingers lingered along the line of her jaw. Closing her eyes, the young blonde fought to resist a shiver. Tears burned behind her eyelids and she cleared her throat with discomfort.
Recognizing the sign of distress, Xena stepped back; her lips thinned with acute disappointment. Wordlessly, she handed Gabrielle the soap over the smaller woman's shoulder. When the bard took it, the warrior gazed lovingly on blonde hair and silently wished that she had the strength to damn all the fear.
She wanted Gabrielle more than anything in the world. If the bard had been anyone else, Xena would have already taken her. The woman inside her, however, held the conqueror at bay; Gabrielle deserved nothing less than perfection. There was still so much pain and betrayal for which to atone.
Xena silently cursed the Fates that set her and Gabrielle on that road at the same time that the Romans were escorting Khrafstar and his men. She cursed her own narrow focus that cost her and Gabrielle so dearly. She regretted the day she ever took up the sword.
Her hands trembled and she scowled with her weakness for the soft skin that beckoned her touch. Taking a deep breath, she slipped down under the surface of water and let her body float with the lazy current. She longed to let go of her will; she wanted to feel nothing but the love that left her crying in the deepest of nights. For just a moment, she tried to pretend that she was the water without form or purpose.
Gabrielle watched the river carefully; her brows began to furrow with anxiety when Xena did not reappear after a few long heartbeats. The bard's breath became quick and she realized, she remembered what it meant to be separated from her warrior. It made her dilemma that much more complicated.
When Xena finally did burst through the shiny surface of water, Gabrielle exhaled painfully. She had not realized that she was holding her breath. Desperately needing to touch the woman she thought that she had lost, the younger woman met the warrior halfway. Hesitantly, she raised a hand and pushed dripping bangs from her partner's forehead; she longed to pull the taller woman down for a reckless kiss.
"I thought you were gone," Gabrielle whispered; her pain was clearly evident in her shimmering eyes.
Xena lowered her head, turning it a bit so that she could bestow that desperate kiss for a brief moment upon the bard's palm. "No," she replied softly, "I…."
The words froze in her throat. She could not voice her reasons or her madness. Her eyes fluttered closed when Gabrielle laid a gentle finger upon her lips.
"Shh," the bard whispered as she traced the warrior's lush bottom lip with a callused thumb. "I know." Gabrielle took a deep breath; she bowed her head and leaned against the warrior. "Every day that I wake up, I am so grateful that you are with me," she said. "When we…were apart, I was lost…more than I've ever been," she said, voicing her fear and uncertainty of her own life. "I don't want to wake up tomorrow and find you gone without…." The bard paused and looked up into Xena's eyes. The heavy emotions behind her words were naked in her own gaze. "Xena, I love you. I love you more than anyone or anything."
Xena's hand was trembling as it wiped away tears that began to fall down the bard's cheeks. "I love you, too, Gabrielle," she said, pulling the smaller woman into her body. "I love you like I never believed I could ever love."
The two women clung to each other as the water flowed around them, for none could pass between. They each carried their own nightmares and fears. What they had in common, however, was the fact that they would do anything to keep the other from dying.
"Come on," the warrior urged after a while, "if we don't get out of this water, we'll shrivel up into nothing."
The bard nodded and let Xena guide her to the bank where they had left their towels.
Afraid of breaking the contact that had been tenderly joined, they dried each other in comfortable silence. When they finished and were dressed, they returned to their camp.
Xena stirred up their fire and stared into the growing flames as she contemplated the day. "Is it all right if I go hunting?" she asked. "I'd still like to get that meat before we head out for Phoenicia."
Stifling in her pleas for Xena to stay, Gabrielle nodded and forced herself to smile. "Sure, go ahead. I need to work on my scrolls any way. I really haven't had time to lately."
"All right," Xena said as she collected her weapons. "Try not to get too distracted and keep your staff at your side," she cautioned unnecessarily.
The bard patted her weapon of choice as it laid on the ground at her side. "Never leave home without it," she joked.
Xena grinned crookedly and nodded. "I won't go too far, so I should hear you if you cry out or anything, all right?"
"All right, already," the bard said with a hint of exasperation, "go hunt, warrior woman." Her face ached with the effort to smile until Xena left. She never knew that it was so difficult to hide pain; she wondered how Xena managed so well.
When she was sure that the warrior was out of sight, she lowered her face into her hands and cried. Each tear that she shed was an innocent ideal lost along the road; each scalding trail was a litany of confusion she dealt with every time she joined a battle.
After everything that had happened the year before and then finally seeing her daughter die, Gabrielle was tired of the violence she and Xena met during their travels. She wondered if perhaps she had made a mistake in following the warrior in the first place. She cried for the little girl she would never be again.
Underneath all of the pain, though, was a blanket of love that comforted her and gave her strength. And it was that love that caused the greatest fear of all. Crossing to their bedrolls that were still laid out, Gabrielle fell onto Xena's and ran her hands across the wool in soothing motions. She closed her eyes and remembered. It was not difficult to grasp that fear, for the nightmare was indelibly scarred into her soul.
She had seen bits and pieces of the future before…as recently as Tripolis. Even that prediction, however, paled next to the one that had been haunting her sleep lately.
It always started out the same.
She could feel the cold, biting wind and the frigid snow that landed on her bare skin. She ached from head to toe as if she had been beaten. When she tried to move in order to investigate her discomfort, she realized that her hands and feet were tied. When she turned her head, she found Xena tied as well, to a cross.
The warrior's face and body bled from various cuts and abrasions; her eyes though, were full of tender emotion.
Losing herself in those eyes, Gabrielle could only say the first thing that surged from her soul. She told Xena that she loved her. And then the gravity of the situation hit home.
The Romans were preparing her and Xena for crucifixion.
Even though in the surreal vision, she and the warrior were calm, in her dream-state, the bard always became panicked and agitated. She knew that she did not want to die and she most certainly did not want Xena to die. Every night when she woke from her private torment, she would lay awake and ponder her future. She had to find a way to keep Xena off that cross. She could not lose her warrior to Death's embrace again.
Gabrielle never got to her scrolls, for she laid on Xena's bedroll, trying to think of a way to keep the warrior from dying. She knew that they had to avoid Romans at any cost, not only because of the vision, but also because of the recent humiliation they had dealt Caesar and Pompey.
To her desolation, she realized that perhaps the only way to save the woman she loved was to leave her. Gabrielle knew that she was a liability for the warrior. How many times had Xena sacrificed her own life to rescue her? If Xena was focused only on herself, she would probably evade any capture.
A firm determination swept through the bard. She sat up and splashed some water on her face from one of the skins. Rubbing her eyes vigorously, she stood and began to pace. Somehow, she had to leave Xena with the warrior none the wiser as to her reasons.
Gabrielle ran a hand through her hair and sighed.
"Hey, you miss me already?" Xena called as she stepped out of the brush.
Fighting hard to control her impulses to jump from being startled and running to the other woman to take her in a fierce embrace, Gabrielle grinned sheepishly. "I always miss you, Xena," she replied truthfully.
"You may think differently," the warrior said with a chuckle as she held up a scrawny rabbit. "There isn't much game in the area. I saw some wolf droppings all through the forest. They're probably overhunting here."
"What does that mean?"
"Well," Xena answered with a frown, "that means that this is dinner and we'll have to move on tomorrow. I don't want to take any chances if there are hungry wolves out there."
Gabrielle nodded and added more fuel to the campfire as Xena bent to clean her catch. "Will we be safe tonight?"
"If we keep the fire high, yeah, we should be all right."
Taking the rabbit from her partner, the bard sighed. "So much for a vacation," she said wryly.
"Well, I'm sure that Phoenicia will be better," Xena assured her, squeezing the blonde's shoulder affectionately. "Who knows what we'll find there."
That evening, Xena took care to bury the remains of their meal. She added more wood to the fire and sat on her bedroll, absently polishing her sword. She glanced down at Gabrielle; her mouth twisted into a grimace of pain.
The young woman looked so peaceful and innocent in her sleep with one arm wrapped around her bag and her other hand clutching a bit of Xena's skirt.
Xena blinked to clear the vision of a beaten bard from her mind; she reached out to comb her fingers through long, blonde hair.
She knew that the only way she would be able to spare the young woman any more suffering would be to leave her somewhere. She dreaded the argument the bard would give. She fought against the rising desolation in her own soul.
Gabrielle could not be hurt because of her…not any more. After losing her the last time, Xena was determined that she would find a life somewhere that she could be happy.
A lone tear fell off the warrior's long, dark lashes. She fought against a sob that threatened to explode from her chest. Needing to feel the other woman for as long as possible, she set her sword and cloth to the side and laid down. Gently, she pulled Gabrielle into her embrace; she buried her face into a handful of hair as if to memorize its texture and smell.
She lay awake all night, listening for any encroachers and holding Gabrielle's warmth close. She shed a few more tears as she contemplated what life would be like without having the woman she loved at her side. But keeping Gabrielle alive and perhaps making her happy was worth any personal agony the loss would cause.
Gabrielle was her responsibility and she would do anything in her power to keep the beautiful woman from any more suffering. Xena figured that the cost and her misery were just two more steps towards atoning for her past.
She knew that it would only be a matter of time before she found the solution to her problem. Perhaps in Phoenicia, she would find her answers.
Who knew what tomorrow would hold for them?
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