Copyright Disclaimer: Any and all characters referenced from the Xenaverse belong to Renaissance Pictures and their respective parties.I don't own the characters otherwise we'd already have a movie and the series would have never ended the way it did. All superfluous characters belong to me.
Sex, Violence, Language Warning: They will all be present and they will probably be graphic. In specific reference to the sex portion of the warning I will say that any descriptive sexual text will be centered on that of the lesbian variety. If you like it, great. If you don't, I don't want to hear about it.
Spoiler Warning: Post ‘Friend in Need'.
Feedback: Seriously, I live on it. If you like this story even a little bit please drop me a line saying so either through email or comments at the Athenaeum. I would really appreciate it. All constructive criticisms would also be appreciated.
Author's Notes: This is the third book in my Living in the Past series. If you haven't read Book 1 or Book 2 you're gonna be a bit lost, so you might as well go check them out as well. ;) But if you really just can't be asked, there will be a brief synopsis going on in the beginning of this story that I hope will get you up to par. So grab yourself a cozy chair and a warm or frosty beverage and relax. The fun's about to begin.
Sarah's Journal-Fifth Entry
Dear Aunt Janice,
Right now I'm sitting on a cliff overlooking a visually stunning expanse of sea and shore. The air is salty, the birds are soaring, and the vampire chick that I'm dating is lounging around in her lair about a mile away. That's right, you read correctly, I am now dating a vampire. I know; we thought things couldn't get much more shocking after the schizophrenic klepto, but I have proudly one-upped myself at this point.
Now, I know you're probably not happy about this, but just keep in mind that it's not like she can kill me what with my skills in the area of immortality. And even though she does feed on human blood I've talked her into only killing the bad guys! Aren't you proud?
Nah, I didn't think so.
Here's the deal. The situation has spun so out of control at this point that I've really just kind of given up on trying to do what's smart. I've decided to go with the flow of the river instead of constantly trying to swim against the current. And the water has lead me to a woman that makes my insides turn to mush. Sometimes when she's close to me I have to remind myself to breath. And it's not just because she's a hot vampire. Though, I think we both know that's not hurting the situation; it's not the only reason. Even if I didn't have these feelings for her, I do have another reason to try to get close.
She has the chronostone.
Well technically her brother has it; it's mounted on his bed frame. But the important part is that, with a little finesse, I can get to it.
But that's also causing a lot of stress in my head.
Don't get me wrong, I want to come back home but doing so would involve leaving and possibly hurting a lot of people. I've kinda grown close to Eve and Rada; not to mention all of my Amazon friends. They stood up for me against their own queen. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life. And using the stone would mean that I never see any of them again. I can't just travel back and forth whenever I please. It wouldn't be right.
Plus, getting that rock pretty much means lying to Khepri. It's not like I can tell her the truth about where I came from and the powers that the stone holds. As much as I'd like to trust her with all of that information, I know I can't. It's too dangerous.
I'm so completely torn about what to do. I haven't even decided who I'm going to tell about finding the stone. So far you're the first. And I'm honestly glad the conversation is completely one-sided. I don't know that I'd want to see the look on your face right now.
But don't worry. I'll figure it all out. I always do.
All my love,
As she closed the journal and stashed it away in the pack on her back she couldn't help taking in all the beauty that surrounded her. There wasn't any concrete to cheapen the colors and textures of the beach, the only sounds that could be heard were those of the birds flying and the waves crashing. Cell phones, car alarms, skyscrapers… None of that existed in the world where she now lived. And Sarah wasn't sure if she really needed any of it back. She closed her eyes and let her other senses take over. The beams of the sun kissed her skin, warming it while the wind blew gently to soften the heat. As she contemplated what part of her ‘new' world she liked best the answer came with a deep inhale from her nostrils. It was the air. She didn't know what it was about the air that she loved so much, but it was certainly affixed in her mind. It was clean and sweet. Mild enough to overlook, but special enough to appreciate when it was noticed.
“Hey.” A gentle voice startled her from her reverie and a hand on her shoulder made her turn around and jump back.
“Shit!” She said as she lost her balance and nearly tumbled off the cliff.
Khepri's quick reflexes pulled her back to safety before she even had the chance to realize the perilous situation. As she fell into the arms of the vampire, her senses became immersed in a completely different part of her new world.
“Hey, are you alright?” she asked, rubbing a thumb across Sarah's shoulder blade as her fingers loosened their tight grip on her arm. “I didn't mean to startle you, I just… you um, left without saying goodbye and I wanted to make sure everything was ok.”
The vampire's dark hair moved with the wind and her blue eyes seemed magnified by the clear sky.
“I'm sorry, I was planning on coming back before you woke,” Sarah explained. “I just wanted a little time to think, that's all.”
“And I've obviously intruded upon that...” Khepri moved away, embarrassed.
“Oh no!” Sarah countered and sustained the physical proximity. “No, nothing like that. I just… a lot has happened in the past few days… stuff that has nothing to do with you, stuff that does… and I just needed to think about all of it.”
Khepri's nodded her head, but her eyes started to wander.
“And I'm just an asshole,” The time traveler continued. “It's one of those personality traits that I've been trying to work on, but I never seem to get rid of it.”
The vampire smirked and shook her head; finally her eyes moved back to Sarah's.
“If it's any consolation,” The girl pulled a bundle of brightly colored flowers from an exterior pocket on her pack. “I picked these for you on the way up. Because before I started thinking about the complicated stuff I kinda just let myself get lost in thinking about how beautiful you are.” She smiled softly, but looked down as her cheeks colored. “And I wanted to give you something beautiful.”
She offered the bunch to Khepri and the vampire smelled them as she clasped the stems in her hands.
“You know what I think?” Her eyes closed as she took in the flowers' bouquet.
“I think I have a weakness for charming assholes,” She smiled and opened her eyes. “Thank you for the flowers.”
“Thank you for last night.” The girl smiled back.
Both women became quiet for a few seconds as they recalled the events of the evening.
When Sarah came back in the cave after berating the sky for her current situation Khepri was waiting for her with a concerned expression painting her face. She knew the vampire deserved an explanation, but she also knew that she couldn't give her one.
“Can I just lie in your arms for a while and forget about everything else?” Her tone wasn't whimsical or giddy like it would have been in a different, more familiar, world. It was honest and tired.
Khepri nodded and moved back the covers. Within seconds of pulling the girl into her arms, soft snores started to escape her lips. She stroked the silky brown head that rested beneath her chin, then interrupted the strokes with a brief kiss before continuing on. Sarah's hold increased for a few seconds, then loosened as sleep consumed her completely.
“I hope you like this, Sarah,” she said, more to herself than her unconscious bed mate. “Because I'm pretty sure I'm going to want to do it again.”
“My pleasure,” Khepri said as her mind came back to the present.
Sarah breathed in deep. She could bring me to my knees with that voice.
Khepri's smile widened as she noted the increased breathing, but she decided not to call her on it.
“Listen, I know you probably need to get back to the village soon so I'll say my goodbyes for now and leave you to the day's events. But we are still on for tonight, right?”
“Absolutely,” Sarah nodded. “Should I bring anything?”
“Just yourself,” Khepri answered as she leaned in for a quick kiss on the cheek. “I'll see you around dusk.”
As the vampire walked away Sarah couldn't help but stare at the way the movements accentuated the curves.
“I am in so much trouble,” She smiled and continued to look on anyway.
“I still don't understand why you're so upset,” Xena said as she brushed down Argo II and smiled at the noble steed.
“Xena, how many different ways can I explain this!” Gabrielle threw her hands up and paced behind the warrior. “Your strength is kicking ass and bloodying noses. My strength is using words to resolve a problem. Last night the tables completely turned on me and I'm not happy about it.”
“Gabrielle you are talking about a fluke incident where our areas of expertise seemed to switch. I was bound to succeed at one sensitive chat at some point in my life; it's just a little ironic that it happened at a time when you didn't.” She turned and pointed her brush at the bard. “And I, for one, wouldn't take it so hard considering your subject. Sarah is about as crazy as me on the Fury dust and that's on her good days.”
“But Xena it means I'm losing my touch. Sarah really wanted to like us. She should have been incredibly receptive to whatever I had to say, but I got all… I don't know… protective over Eve and instead of trying to give her some simple advice about the situation I ended up berating her feelings and pretty much threatening her against actions that she may never take.”
“Yes and that's because you're a mother now” she continued the brush down. “Sarah's not the greatest influence on Eve and I think we can both agree that she's not overly concerned about her feelings. It's not as if you're the bad guy here, you were just making sure she understood the situation.”
“And my conversation ended with her storming off to drown her sorrows while yours ended with some big love fest between you and the woman who's now sticking it to your daughter! This just isn't the way it's supposed to happen, Xena.”
The warrior turned, eyebrow raised. “I'm going to ignore the lewd sexual comment you just made about my flesh and blood because it's obvious that you're a little sensitive about this whole subject, but I will suggest that maybe instead of looking at this predicament as a loss for you that we see it more as a win for me. You know, do the whole partner thing where my accomplishments are yours and vice versa.”
“Well if you look at things that way I guess we both sucked at talking to Sarah.”
“Ugghhh. You are being impossible.” She turned back to brush the horse with firmer strokes. “You wanna know why I think you're so upset about this?”
“Well you're obviously so insightful at this point that I'd be a fool not to hear you out,” the bard answered; half joking and half full of spite at Xena's new-found perspective.
Irritated lips forced a placating smile on the warrior's face. “It's because you just can't stand the idea of someone not liking you at this point in your life.”
“Xena, what are you talking about? People try to kill us on a daily basis and I'm fairly certain most of them don't like me in some way.”
“Yes, but those people don't usually know you. You have to admit that in the past few years it seems as though as soon as you enter a town someone starts falling over themselves just to admire you in some way. Beowolf, Brunhilda… come to think of it, even Akemi was a little more accommodating than she really should've been given the circumstances. And don't even get me started on Najara!”
“Oh come on, that was decades ago… literally.” Gabrielle threw her hands up in defense, but Xena proceeded.
“Yes, but it was the jumping off point for what some might call quite the boost to your ego.”
“Oh really.” The bard crossed her arms angrily. “And would you fit into the category of the ‘some' that might say that?”
“No, I fit into the category of the jealous lover who was too consumed with insecurity to realize that her girlfriend might be getting a little cocky about her ability to charm her way into the hearts of the masses.” Xena stalked toward the blond while pointing her finger. “And now I'm transitioning to annoyed partner who isn't thrilled by the path of this conversation.”
“Hey, you're the one who brought up Najara.” The bard's brow furrowed.
“Yeah, well maybe I wouldn't have to if you'd finally grow a pair and tell me what really happened between you two,” the warrior mumbled as she stalked toward the door.
“Oh, what! After you basically threw me at her because you weren't being honest with me about our impending doom?” Her voice was full of venom. “And how did we even get on this subject? I was trying to talk to you about my problems with Sarah.”
“Exactly! YOUR problems, Gabrielle. Forget about the fact that maybe I'm proud of myself for showing some restraint last night when I was dealing with Varia. Forget about the fact that I now have to do my best to resolve things with words now that I can't fully count on my body. No, let's focus on you, Gabrielle.” She walked back toward the blond. “Better yet, why don't you see if you can find someone else in the village that can give you just the amount of attention you need over this issue. I'm sure the Amazons will line up for it.”
“What?” Gabrielle asked, dumbfounded. Her anger was subsiding into worry.
“You heard me; I'm tired of talking about this.”
The warrior limped away violently and ran into Sarah just as she exited the barn.
“And you!” She pointed her walking stick at the girl who'd fallen to the ground. “You better pray you have the good sense to heed Gabrielle's warnings about Eve because you do NOT want to deal with the hell I'll put you through if you hurt my little girl!”
As Xena tore away the bard and the time traveler looked on at her with confused eyes. It was Sarah who finally pulled her gaze away and focused it on her companion.
“Did I miss something?” She asked.
“No,” Gabrielle swallowed sadly. “Apparently I did.”
“I want to break our bond, Zoe.” Meg explained. “The other night, when I stood with everyone against Varia, I felt more alive than I had in years and you were trying to hold me back from that nearly the entire time. Look, I love that you like to stick close to your comfort zone and try to keep your world in control, but that's just not how I want to live my life anymore.”
“And I don't get a say in this at all?” She tossed back. “You have an adrenaline rush after one night of excitement and suddenly the life we've lived together for years simply isn't good enough anymore?”
“It hasn't exactly been good for a while now.” She paused, knowing the information would not be received well. “And I think you know that. It's just that neither one of us wanted to say it.”
“Wow! I'm sorry that I wasn't aware of how obviously unhappy we were.” She threw her hands up. “Here I was thinking that everything was going well.”
“You know that's not true, Zoe. How many times have you asked me if I was down about something, or depressed. How many times have I left the parties just to go to sleep. I need more out of life than what this village has to offer.”
“You mean what I have to offer.” Zoe's defenses were on high alert.
Meg thought about it for a second and then spoke. “What you're willing to offer.”
“What are you talking about ‘willing to offer'? We share everything, what more do you want me to give you.”
“Zoe, I want to see more of the world,” her eyes looked away and became distant. “I want to fight bad guys and sleep under nothing but the stars. I want to scream for joy at finding a fruit tree because food has been scarce and revel in the clean sheets of an inn after months on the road.” She looked back to Zoe. “There are rumors that Sarah and Rada may be leaving the camp soon and if that's true… I want to go with them.”
The older woman's jaw clenched as she prepared her next sentence.
“Let me get this straight.” She moved closer to the brunette. “You're breaking up with me because something was awakened in you by a situation that could have gone horribly wrong and ended up in your own death.”
Meg tried to interrupt, but Zoe wouldn't have it.
“Then you heard rumors that two people, of whom you hardly know, might possibly be leaving the camp to embark on adventures that may or may not be dangerous and rewarding.”
“I never said...”
Zoe didn't miss a beat. “So in conclusion, you've gone completely insane and I've been dumped in the process.”
“It's just not that simple.” She crossed her arms and shook her head.
“Actually, that brings me to my next point. All this makes a whole lot more sense if there's a little more in it for you than leaving a safe and happy life in the village for starving on the road.”
“And what's the extra incentive?” Meg asked, annoyed at what she thought the answer might be.
“Are you sleeping with one of them?”
“I'm not even going to dignify that with a response.”
“Well, of course. You're not really giving me any good reason for breaking up with me, why not continue on with that pattern when your fidelity comes into question.”
“So this is how you want it to be?” The brunette's voice increased in volume. “You want us hurling insults at each other and making a scene for the entire camp to watch with drinks and snacks?”
“No, what I want is a sensible answer for why you're ending our relationship!” Zoe's voice boomed as well.
“Because I'm not in love with you anymore!”
The shout was no doubt heard at least three huts over, but the silence that hung in the air was most potent in the hut they shared. Zoe's eyes fell to the floor.
“Yeah, I guess that just about covers it.” She said as she strode purposefully out the door, leaving Meg to deal with the gravity of her truth.
“Hey Zoe!” Sarah greeted her with a wave and a smile.
The Amazon forced the girl to the ground with a hard shove.
“You really don't want to talk to me today.” She warned before quickly moving on.
The time traveler looked on with complete confusion.
“Why does this keep happening?” She asked as she picked herself up and dusted herself off for the second time that day.
“Rada, you can't just go around sleeping with every girl in the camp!” Eve spoke sternly to the Slav as she nursed her bloody lip.
“Hey, it's not my fault this entire camp is one big pit of jealousy. You people are crazy to put this many horny lesbians all in one spot. I'm surprised you don't have more fights than you already do.”
Eve jerked her chin forcefully and continued to chastise her while she cleaned up the blood. “Most of the girls in the camp know who is and is not off limits. You need to ask around before you just start hitting on someone.”
“I did! The girl's friend told me she was alone at the party.”
“Yes, but that doesn't mean she hadn't just gotten out of a relationship with one of the best warrior's in the village. You have to ask these questions too.”
“You can't be serious.”
The Messenger's eyes answered for her.
“Seriously, you cannot expect me to get a girl's full history before trying to take her to bed.”
“Did you even get her name!” Eve was becoming angry.
“What? Why would I ask her name before the sex? That is what pillow talk is for.”
Eve growled and threw the cloth at the Slav.
“You can tend to your own damn wounds. I can't listen to this...” She threw open the door to exit the healer's hut and knocked it into something hard.
“Shit!” Sarah yelled as she rubbed her forehead. “What the hell is wrong with you people today!”
“Oh my God!” Eve put her hands over her mouth. “Are you ok?”
“No, I am not ok! Everyone in this fucking camp has gone…” Sarah lashed back before she realized who she was talking to, then eased up. “Sorry, I guess everyone's just having a bad day.”
Eve noted the change and hated it. Something was going on with the time traveler that was causing her to act differently whenever they were together. Whatever it was, the Messenger was not happy about it.
“Yeah, well maybe if they'd all just talk things out everyone wouldn't be in such a bad mood.” She said through clenched teeth before trouncing away from the hut.
Sarah looked down at the ground and heard Rada coming up beside her.
“We need to get out of here, Sarah. These women are completely crazy.”
“No shit.” The time traveler's eyes moved to follow Eve's vanishing form.
“What's wrong with you two?”
Sarah brought her eyes back to her conversation partner.
“Sorry, I've just got a lot going on in my head right now. What the hell happened to you?” She asked after noticing the blood on her friend's lip.
“Apparently I slept with the wrong Amazon.”
“Which one was the wrong Amazon?” The time traveler asked with a chuckle.
“All of them.” The Slav answered seriously with a shake of her head.
The time traveler decided a walk through the woods and some fresh air was in order. There were far less doors to run into in the forest. As she walked purposefully along the path her nose detected the sweet smell of tobacco burning a couple of feet away. Her gaze fell upon a head of brown hair circled by a halo of smoke. She made a beeline, in hopes that Meg would be willing to share.
“Please tell me you have some of those smoke sticks, because I've been I'm fairly certain asking Zoe would end up in me taking on even more bruises than I already have.” Sarah sat down next to Meg at the river banks.
The Amazon pulled one out of her pocket and Sarah lit it quickly. They both inhaled the toxic smoke then exhaled as if to purge their troubles.
“So what are you out here trying to escape from?” Sarah flicked at her cigarette.
“I just broke up with Zoe.”
Sarah's face scrunched as she tried to understand how this may have affected her.
“Well that explains her cheerful mood.”
“What'd she do?” Meg pinched her brow.
“Pushed me to the ground and told me not to talk to her.”
“Wow, my slang is picking up fast around here.” Sarah took another drag. “So, why the sentiment?”
“She thinks it's your fault.”
Sarah was starting to realize that Meg was a fan of single sentences that didn't exactly point out the plot. She wasn't sure if that was because the Amazon was dealing with her own life or an indicator that she wanted to talk.
“Great. And why would she think that?” The time traveler prodded.
“Because I told her our life wasn't good enough for me anymore and that I wanted to leave with you and Rada on the off chance the rumors of your departure were true.”
“Well, that'll do it.” Sarah's bit her lower lip.
“Sorry.” Her tone was sedate, but when she looked up her eyes were sincere.
“Eh, it's just how my day's going.” She took another drag. “Not completely your fault.”
They sat in silence for a few moments, then Sarah couldn't take it anymore.
“So, before we go into the fact that I have no clue as to what the hell the future holds for me… Did you really mean it? You don't want to be with her anymore?”
“Yes.” She didn't even hesitate.
Sarah nodded. “Well then it was the right decision.”
Meg looked over at the girl for a moment and pulled herself from her own issues.
“Why are you out here?”
“Because I've got about a zillion problems right now that I can't fix.”
“You want to go into them right now?”
“Hah!” She couldn't help herself. “It'd take a lot more than an afternoon, honey.”
“Well, let's start with just one of them and then go from there.”
Sarah smiled at the girl. She felt an ease within the conversation that she'd needed for a very long time.
“I think I'm bad for one of my closest friends.”
The time traveler nodded. “Gabrielle thinks that I'll only end up hurting her if we continue on the path that we've been on.”
“Is she right?”
Sarah thought for a moment then took one last drag from her cigarette. “She may very well be.”
Meg nodded. “Being good to the people you love is hard sometimes. Acquaintances are easy. You hold up your end of the bargain, they hold up theirs and usually it's painless and effortless. But truly getting to know someone means that you're beholden to them to some extent. Expectations start to rear their ugly head and before you know it, the action of causing pain isn't only a factor, it's kind of inevitable.”
Sarah regarded the girl and realized that there was so much more there than she'd thought before.
“Well then let me just go ahead and complicate things a bit more, Meg. If Rada and I do decide to leave the village and travel the world, I'd certainly like you to be a part of our little caravan.”
The Amazon smiled for the first time during the entire conversation.
A twig snapped audibly behind them and they both turned to investigate the source of the noise. A blond bard stood sullenly near the path as regarding the two girls. Meg looked from Gabrielle to Sarah and realized that the talk she was having may need to switch players.
“I need to get back to camp and do some damage control with the rest of the Amazons. They tend to take the side of the dumpee in these situations. I should rally some support before the drinking begins.” The girl patted her friend on the shoulder and regarded Gabrielle with a smile and a nod as she walked past.
Sarah looked up at the bard and patted the vacant spot next to her. The blond took it and plucked a blade of grass to focus her eyes on as she tried to figure out if she wanted to talk about her problems with Sarah. She'd initially only come into the woods to collect herself, but now she was feeling a little more compelled to talk than she thought she would.
Sarah watched the bard fiddle with the grass and tried to keep quiet. She didn't like long bouts of silence, but she preferred it a lot more than discussing last night's conversation again. Just when she thought she might be off the hook she heard Gabrielle clear her throat preparation for speech. Then she dropped a bombshell.
“I kissed Najara.”
“What! When the hell did she arrive in camp?” Sarah's eyes nearly popped out of her head. “And isn't she like way older than you by now?”
“Not today.” She rolled her eyes. “Back when we first met. I kissed Najara after Xena left me with her to protect me from the visions of our death.”
“Oh.” Sarah's face took on an expression of understanding, then turned right back to confusion. “What? Why are you telling me this?”
“Because it's coming back to haunt me now and I need to talk it through with someone else before I talk to Xena about it.”
“Don't you think Eve might be better suited to deal with it than me?”
Gabrielle shook her head. “It's not exactly the kind of thing you discuss with your child.”
“Yeah, I guess it is easier to talk these things over with strangers.”
“You're not a stranger.” She smiled softly at the girl. “Not only did you read my scrolls, you risked you life to find them. You know some of my greatest triumphs and losses.”
“Apparently I misplaced the scroll where you got cozy with the zealot.”
“That wasn't exactly something I felt like writing about for mass consumption.”
“It would have been for a niche audience, that's for sure.” Sarah smiled, enjoying the trust Gabrielle was placing in her. “So why is this all coming up now?”
“Xena is feeling insecure about my love for her and she's always had suspicions about me and Najara.”
“Well, I hate to play the part of the pessimist here, but given that she's already having doubts about your relationship I'd say now probably isn't the time to bring up your little smooch with the loon… It was just a kiss right?”
“Yes, but that kiss made me realize so much more about my love for Xena. If it weren't for the time I shared with Najara, I may have left my soul mate.”
“You're probably gonna have to elaborate on that one a little bit for me.”
“If you read my scrolls you know that things weren't always easy for Xena and me. The entire Hope situation really took its toll on our relationship. After the funeral at the fire pit we weren't exactly as… intimate as we had been before. We tried to get back on track after Illusia, but she was so afraid of hurting me after what she'd done that she started to distance herself. Then there was the vision of our death and her way of dealing with that was to dump me in the hands of the first able bodied warrior she could find.”
“Gabrielle are you sure that you should be telling all of this to me instead of Xena.”
“I'm working my way up.” The bard explained.
“Ok, but if it's all the same to you I'd rather this practice run stay between you and me. I'd hate to imagine the awkwardness that would manifest by the next time we had to be in the same room together and Xena knows that I've heard about your intimacy problems.”
“Fair enough.” Gabrielle nodded. “The fact of the matter is that I was angry, hurt and tired of constantly being left behind. And Najara…” The blond paused to search for the right words. “She was everything I wanted if I couldn't have everything I wanted.”
Sarah smirked sadly. “I understand.”
“I kissed her because I wanted to see if it was even possible for me to have the same connection with her as I did with Xena.”
“And it was nice. As far as technique goes she was top of her class.”
“Ok, when you tell Xena, that part definitely stays out of monologue.”
Gabrielle let out a small laugh and nodded her head before continuing. “Good form can't really compete with the melding of two souls. The first time Xena kissed me, it was like… It was like I'd found the answer to every question I'd ever wondered about and didn't know how to ask. And my body! By the gods, I didn't know my body could feel so alive. Like I'd tapped into this portal of erotic strength that was so powerful that any effort to fight it would have been futile. Everything became so warm and…”
“...And I've totally got the point now, hon. How bout we not go quite so far down this path on memory lane together?”
“Sorry.” The bard blushed and shook her head as she focused on the ground.
She hadn't meant to share those feelings with Sarah, they just started to tumble out as she thought back to a moment so burned into her memory that its effects were still powerful enough to make time stand still as her mind went back to that life altering night. But now was not the time to let it wade in and soak in those waters.
“So, you see, me kissing Najara was a good thing. It solidified the certainty of my bond with Xena forever.”
“Ooo. There's another road you don't want to go down when you talk to her about this. Saying that kissing another chick seals the deal on your love is definitely not gonna patch things up.”
“Well, what am I supposed to say? It's obviously still bothering her and I have a chance to put it all to rest.”
“You're the bard, honey.” Sarah grunted as she stood and offered her hand to the blond. “I'm sure you'll think of something. Just try to speak from your heart. That should be easy to do with Xena sitting in front of you.”
Gabrielle to the offered hand and pulled herself up but she didn't let go once she'd found her footing. Instead she pulled the girl in for a hug.
Sarah smiled gently at the action. “What's this for?”
“You're a good listener, Sarah, and I really needed someone to listen to me about this without judgment.” She gave one last squeeze then moved back. “I wish I'd extended you the same courtesy last night.”
Sarah looked at the ground and shook her head. “No, you were right last night. I probably would only end up causing harm to Eve in one way or another. It's best that she start to settle in here and make a life with the Amazons.”
The bard let a small snort escape as she shook her head.
“Nothing.” Gabrielle thought about leaving it at that, but elaborated just a bit. “I guess the stubborn gene doesn't diminish even after thousands of years of maturation.”
Sarah giggled. “Yeah, well if I'm what you call mature you may need to rethink your definition entirely.”
As they walked back to camp together a sense of kinship started to creep slowly into the background of their idle chatter. The bard's tension had eased and the time traveler's mood had lightened. Something neither of them would have expected to come from each others' presence just an hour ago.
Rada eyed the beetle traversing the grooves of a tree nearly twenty paces away from her. The concentration in her gaze and the steadiness of her hands manipulating the bow were admirable considering she was suffering from a mild hangover. Taking her time she studied the movements of her prey and the intervals in which it halted and proceeded forward. Then, once she felt the wind was just right, she released her arrow and let pure physics take care of the rest. The beetle gave no cry of agony as the sharp tip pierced its body. In fact the only sound that could be heard at all was the sound of metal penetrating wood. That, followed quickly by the snap of a twig five paces behind her. After swiftly pulling another arrow from her quiver, Rada turned to face whatever might be on the approach.
“Whoa there killer, ease up. I just needed a walk in the woods and couldn't help trying to get a closer look at your skill with that bow.”
Lowering the weapon quickly, Rada nodded at the warrior princess. “Sorry about that. Guess I'm just a little on edge right now.”
“Well with blood sucking monsters traipsing around the camp I can't say I blame you.”
“I was actually more worried about the overly jealous Amazons that have decided I'm bad news for the camp, but yeah; I guess the vampires are a little scary too.”
Xena smirked. “You been sleeping with the wrong Amazons?”
‘Something like that.”
The warrior chuckled knowingly.
Rada sized up the situation for a brief moment and came to the conclusion that there might be something on the warrior's mind. She wasn't much for small talk, but the chance to spend some time with the so called ‘warrior princess' intrigued her.
“You got women problems to?” She pretended to be asking with vague interest.
“Don't we all.”
“Well obviously.” The Slav smirked. “But is there something specific bothering you?”
Xena thought for a moment about whether or not she wanted to share intimate details about her relationship with a complete stranger, then decided that an unbiased ear may be just the ticket to working out what was on her mind.
“I was a real jerk to Gabrielle this morning.”
Noting the open invitation, Rada beckoned the limping warrior to a fallen tree nearby. Xena obliged and gingerly sat down next to her.
“So what happened with you and the blondie?”
“Her name is Gabrielle.” The warrior's tone was one of warning.
Rada rolled her eyes for a brief second, but offered the respect that was being demanded.
“Ok, so what happened with you and Gabrielle?”
Xena thought for a brief moment about how to sum up nearly seven years of beautiful turmoil and on-the-run happiness.
“Things haven't always been easy for us. It takes a lot of effort and stubbornness to even get along with someone like me; much less get into the messy situation of love.” Her gaze took on a far off expression. “But Gabrielle always did it effortlessly. Still does, really. But there's so much history with us… so many times that I've hurt her and in turn caused her to hurt me. Telling you that we just had a fight over something that's bothering me now wouldn't really explain anything. You'd have to know a lot more to the story.”
It was obvious that the statement was more of a plea on the warrior's part.
This sounds like it's gonna be good. Rada though to herself.
“I don't really have anywhere to be anytime soon considering the mob that's probably forming in the camp right now.” She explained to Xena. “So why don't you explain it to me.”
“From the moment I first saw Gabrielle my first instinct was to protect her. There she was, just a simple village girl standing up to a gang of warriors. There wasn't even a hint of fear in her eyes when she offered herself up to save the village.” The dark head shook with pride.
“She awakened something inside of me that I didn't even know I had; the need for redemption. At a time when I couldn't feel anything, she made me feel everything; the darkness that I didn't want to face and the good that I could do to help quell the demons of my past. She wanted to follow me and even though I told her not to, she did. My quest for redemption truly started with her, and she stood by me through nearly all of it.”
There was a brief pause as she let the truth of her words was over her.
“But things weren't always so simple when it came to protecting Gabrielle because at some point I started to realize that I would also have to protect her from myself. I left her behind on more than one occasion and I did it while watching her heart break.” Memories of Chin and Najara crept forth. “I diminished her love for me by not trusting it and it nearly tore us apart more than once. That's what I think I'm trying to do now.”
Rada nodded in understanding. “So what's the problem right now? Why are you trying to push her away?”
Xena sighed. “I used to think I wasn't good enough for her because all I had to offer was darkness and bloodlust. But now…” She took a cold, hard look inward and continued. “Now I think I'm not enough for her. I'm a burnt out warrior with a limp. I can barely protect her at all anymore and I'm scared to death that once she figures that out she won't want to be with me. I just don't think I'm enough for her at this point.”
“Is that what you said to her earlier?”
The warrior rolled her eyes. “No. I of course dodged the entirety of my insecurities and put everything on her by bringing up some woman from our past that I think she had a romantic connection with.”
“Ok, I'm confused. Sarah told me you were the big bad warrior and that Gabrielle was the sweet, innocent talker.”
An eyebrow raised in warning, but the confusion on the Slav's face didn't change. “I'm still the big, bad warrior, Rada, it's just that things are complicated now.”
“What's complicated about it?” The dark haired woman stood and offered a hand her downtrodden companion. It was reluctantly accepted. “Being tough isn't just about what's on the exterior. It's about being strong enough not to hurt the ones you love just because you're feeling insecure on the inside. You may have been a force to be reckoned with as far as your physical skill was concerned, but have you always been this scared of not being loved?”
Xena warred with herself for a brief moment before realizing that Rada had a point.
“I know I am. You see that's what's wrong with us brave, warrior types. We are the way we are because we know all about fear and rejection and we don't like feeling either one of them. Looks like your problem is that you've been letting it screw up your relationship for a long time.”
The warrior nodded. “Now, I've just got to suck it up and be brave enough to tell her how I feel.”
“Well not too much.” Rada explained. “You still gotta look tough.”
Xena chuckled. “I think I can handle that. Thanks for listening.”
“Yeah, just don't think it's gonna happen often. I gotta rep to protect.”
“Of course you do; couldn't have any of those Amazons thinking you were a decent human being or anything.”
“Exactly.” Rada said before quickly pulling an arrow from her quiver and striking fast on a nearby snake. “You want some lunch?”
Sarah's mouth salivated as her nose caught a whiff of the aroma emanating from the mess hall. She moved quickly to see if they had anything left; being that the lunch hour was long past.
“Anything left?” She asked the lone Amazon cleaning up the remains of the days meal.
She was met with a sigh, and a soft scowl that brought her right back to her high school days.
“I think I can manage one last bowl of stew.” The woman said.
“Thank you so much.” Sarah smiled as she took the bowl.
As she turned to find a seat she noticed that nearly every seat was empty save for the one taken by the only person in the camp that she'd been trying to avoid.
Eve had seen her enter the room and her anger started to rise only to be heightened by the girl's decision to sit five tables down. Her mouth took on an angry grin and she nodded her head as if she knew how things would play out.
“Wow. You can't even share a meal with me anymore. I think I've just been downgraded from acquaintance to social leper.” The statement was loud enough for even the cooks to hear.
“Shit.” Sarah said under her breath as she begrudgingly picked up her bowl and moved to sit with the Messenger.
“Oh, don't put yourself out to sit with me. I'd hate to think I was imposing with my irritated tone.”
“You're about to get us both kicked out if you keep making a scene.” Sarah whispered fiercely. “Are you drunk?”
“No, Sarah, that's how you solve your problems; by drinking them away. I am simply pissed off and wondering when it was that you lost your nerve. Because something's obviously bothering you and I wish you'd just… just grow something and talk to me about it.”
“Grow a pair.” She corrected.
“Grow a heart.” Eve countered.
The time traveler swallowed the stew in her mouth and pinched the bridge of her nose.
“Eve, I know you're not happy with me right now, but I promise it won't last long.”
The Messenger squinted her eyes as if that would help her understand the statement. “What does that even mean?”
Sarah breathed in deeply then exhaled. “It means that I'm not that big a deal to lose, ok? You've already noticed that I'm a drunk and I'm a shitty friend anyway. That's not someone you want hanging around.”
“Well, last time I checked I got to decide who I chose to hang out with.”
“Look, I'm not good for you!” Sarah's voice raised and she instantly cowered, realizing how loud she was being. “It's better this way.”
“Better for whom? For you? You just decide that I shouldn't be a part of your life and I have to be on the same page? I'm sorry, Sarah, but that's not how friendship works.”
“Well it doesn't work the way it has been, with you following me around hoping to latch onto some kind of insight into yourself or me, or human beings as a whole. You're not going to find the answers you're looking for if you keep trudging around with some loser who spouts off a witty line now and then. I'm not a test case, Eve.”
“Is that how you think I see you?”
Sarah exhaled angrily. “I honestly don't know how you see me. One minute we're at each others' throats because I don't particularly like you, then the next we're hugging in a cell because we're best friends. Flash forward to a few hours later and you're telling your girlfriend how to disable me. This isn't the way friendship is supposed to be.”
“Oh and how is it supposed to be, Sarah? You're such an expert in the subject and all; tell me how it's supposed to be. Is it you acting like you don't give a shit about anyone on the planet because you're too afraid to let someone actually get close to you? Is friendship about everyone accepting you for who you are even though you don't give the slightest concession to those who don't fit in your mold?”
“This is the exact reason why I don't want to give anything else to you.” Sarah threw her spoon into her bowl. “You don't understand a God damn thing about who I am, because if you did you'd have figured out by now that I'm doing this all for you.”
She stood up to exit the mess hall and Eve stood up as well, grabbing her arm.
“No, you don't get to just make a statement like that and leave. You owe me an explanation for your actions.”
Sarah smirked and let out a puff of air.
“The person you think I... am absolutely gets to do that.” She jerked her arm away and moved to exit the room.
There's something to be said about the level of anger one can draw out of a non-violent person, there's even more to be said about someone who can cause said person to leap from their seat and engage in a full-on tackle.
Eve bounded for Sarah with the agility of a cat and the strength of a gorilla. She slammed the girl to the floor and struggled to turn her body without losing the upper hand. Sarah fought wildly, not caring if she hurt Eve or herself at that particular moment, but in the end, realized that her opponent did have ascendancy.
Eve straddled Sarah and held strong to her hands as she tried to stop the bucking of her legs and midsection. Once all movement ceased she realized she'd been yelling and growling the entire time and stopped at once to try to center herself. Sarah's face was to the side and she was breathing hard with anger as she focused on the leg of a chair that sat nearby.
“Look at me,” Eve said, then demanded. “Look at me!”
Sarah's eyes closed for a moment and the muscles in her jaw clenched before she turned her head to meet Eve's angry gaze.
“Look at what?” She spat. “Look at the peacemaker who loses her shit over someone she's trying so hard to be friends with?”
Sarah raised her head and brought it just a bit closer to Eve's as if to strengthen her point.
“You have stood by and watched as so many people fought for their lives and lost. You've refused to take action even when the people you love were in danger. But a couple of comments from me can bring out a fire in you that you thought you buried a long time ago.”
Eve's snarl fell and Sarah pressed on.
“I am not good for you, Eve. All you have to do to see that is take a look at yourself right now… take a look at what you've done in the past few days. You wanna know why you care so much about our friendship, I'll tell you.” She moved in even closer. “Because I not only bring out this side of you; I fuel it. I accept you for not only who you are, but who you were, and it's giving you a reason to slip further back into your old mold.”
Eve's breathing started to quicken as the situation continued to wash over her and Sarah noticed the shift.
“You don't have to worry, though. I won't be around for much longer.” She was able to twist their bodies until she was on top. “I found the stone and I'll be using it to go home soon.”
The Messenger watched her move away and head toward the door, but didn't dare say anything. Her mind was going a mile a minute trying to piece together everything that had been said.
As the day started to wane, Sarah decided having a soak in the tub was probably a good idea considering she had hot date in a few hours. The water looked incredibly inviting as she stripped down and eased in; dunking her head briefly, then resting it back against the stone. She'd nearly managed to fall asleep, but was roused by the rustling sound of someone entering the bath house.
Her eyes widened and heart sped up as she recognized the new occupant of the room to be Varia. And if her luck was running anything like it was this morning, she was probably gonna end up knocked to the floor again.
“Sorry, I wasn't aware it was like, the Queen's bathing time. I'll just grab my clothes and get out of your way.”
Varia smiled with a grunt. “The Queen doesn't get her own bathing time around here. You're well within your rights to bathe whenever you wish.”
“Yeah, but I'm sure you'd prefer to bathe alone.”
“Actually, I wanted to have a word with you about a couple of things.” The queen freed herself from her top and moved on to her skirt.
“Great.” Sarah nodded sarcastically.
“I'm not making you nervous am I?” She asked as she removed her undergarments and slowly entered the tub.
“After beating the shit out of me and threatening to cause permanent immobilization of my legs? Nah, why would I be nervous?”
“Hey, you started that whole fiasco.”
“In an attempt to help save your people from annihilation.” Sarah bristled.
“I think you're getting over that whole nervous spell.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she smiled. “So what do you want to talk about.”
“Of course.” The time traveler splashed water on her face.
“It's just that you probably know her better than anyone in the camp with the exception of Xena and Gabrielle and I can't very well talk to them about our relationship.”
“You mention anything having to do with your sex life and I swear I'll drown myself in this tub right now.”
This made Varia chuckle.
“No, nothing to do with that. We're doing fine in that area.”
“Oh, what I'd give for a side arm right about now.”
“Nothing, just go ahead with whatever non-sexual questions you had.”
“It's just that… though I know in the end she was doing the right thing, it did make me pause when she betrayed me and came to your defense. I don't really know how to deal with that.”
“It's not really so much that she betrayed you, more than she protected me.”
“How does that make it any different.”
“It's all about perspective. You see, we as humans are designed to be incredibly self obsessed. We think everyone's actions have something to do with ourselves, when really they don't.”
Varia looked at her quizzically.
“You see, when Eve set up that entire situation she wasn't thinking about you or me. She was thinking about herself. She wanted to fight the vampires, then she wanted to fight against me, then she targeted you. In the end it was mostly just a chain of events that all leads back to Eve's desire to find an outlet for all that aggression that has, no doubt, been building inside her for years. I mean, you don't just go from slaughtering whole villages to walking the way of peace and never have a craving for your old life. Whether it's right or wrong, we're all just innocent bystanders in the way of her psychological evolution.”
The queen looked at her, completely dumbfounded.
“Ever since you've been here, all you've been interested in is drinking, fighting, and chasing vampire tale. When did you decide to grow a brain?”
“Oh, I've had one this whole time, I'm just not a fan of using it in public. Kinda gives me the advantage when people think I'm just a drunken simpleton.”
“Right.” Varia nodded. “So what's your advice to me then?”
“Make her feel bad enough to treat you to a back rub, then get on with life.”
This warranted an actual chuckle from the queen.
“You know, I think I'm starting to see how you garnered so much support from my subjects. Life really is just that simple for you, isn't it?”
Sarah erupted in laughter. “Oh if only that were true. I'm a long way from home. I'm fighting with… well everyone, and I'm about to go on a date with someone who eats my kind for dinner.”
“Speaking of which, do you really trust the vampires to stick to their word?”
The time traveler thought for a moment. “I trust Khepri to stick to her word. The prince, I'm not so sure about. But it really doesn't matter in the end.”
“Why is that?”
“Because we don't know how to kill him.”
“That's not what I wanted to hear.”
“Well, to put your mind at ease, I can almost guarantee you that he'll behave as long as Khepri has something to say about it.”
“Yes, but doesn't that all depend on how well the two of you get along?”
Sarah's entire body tensed as she realized just how right Varia's last statement was. Khepri's cooperation was predicated on an interest in her.
“I actually hadn't thought that far ahead.” She said, more to herself than her companion.
“You've got to be kidding me,” Varia leaned further in towards Sarah. “Are you telling me that you hadn't thought about the fallout of this little fling you're having with one of the most dangerous beings in the world?”
“I have a date in a few hours, I'm wondering what the hell I'm gonna use for chewing gum. Past that any other worries have been a little off the map.”
“Look, do you really think the best thing you can do right now is make me even more nervous for this, now, incredibly important first date that I'm about to have? Because that seems just a bit counter productive to our plight here.”
Varia let out a frustrated sigh and leaned back with her palm to her forehead. “How do you deal with wreaking so much havoc everywhere you go?”
Sarah thought for a moment then answered, “I kinda just assume that god hates me and I'm pretty much screwed no matter what.”
The Queen looked at her as if to ask if she was serious and, deciding she was, opted to end the conversation. “Make sure to compliment her right away.”
“But be sincere, don't say something if you don't mean it.”
Sarah smiled to herself and nodded.
As the day drew to a close and evening started to set in Xena made her way back to her hut in an effort to clear her mind. When she sat down to remove her boots the door opened and Gabrielle stepped into the room cautiously.
“Gabrielle, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have unloaded all of my insecurities on you.”
“But Xena you were right, I didn't even stop to think about how you might be feeling about…”
“I can't expect you to be a mind reader though, you are always…”
“Xena, stop!” She sat down on the bed next to the warrior and placed a finger on her lips to silence her. “I need you to be quiet and just listen to what I have to say. It's going to be rough for a few minutes, but please just hear me out.”
After receiving an unsure nod from the dark head, Gabrielle took a deep breath and decided to proceed.
“When you left to take care of Marat I knew that you'd probably decided to leave me behind with Najara. I couldn't help but think about what it would be like to move on with my life. To settle onto a path where I wasn't constantly worried about losing you one way or another. We were always in danger and you just couldn't let go of your past. I mean, we'd just gotten past your trip to Shark Island. I was angry that you would let go of me so easily; as if I were simply the annoying blond that still couldn't take the hint.” She looked down at the floor, unable to meet Xena's eyes for the next portion of the story. “Najara helped with that.”
Xena's stomach lurched at the words.
“She knew all the right things to say. She talked about always being at my side. Giving up fighting so that I wouldn't constantly have to worry about our safety. Reading my scrolls… All the things that I craved so much from you. And after she said all of these things she looked at me with such longing and admiration.”
The fear on Xena's face was evident, though Gabrielle had only glimpsed such a sight a few times in all their years together. Still she continued.
“She kissed me. And for a few seconds I kissed her back.” The bard swallowed as her eyes watered from the pain of the admission. “I'm sure that had I been any other idealistic, wide eyed girl I would have felt a great deal from that kiss. But I didn't. It felt completely wrong and I stopped her.”
A tear fell down the warrior's face and the bard moved in to wipe it away.
“As much as it may hurt to know this now, I need you to understand that I don't regret it. Because even though I may have had faith in my love for you before, I knew after that moment that it wasn't a matter of faith anymore. I felt deep in my bones that what we had wasn't something that I could have with another person.” She stroked the sad face and forced blue eyes to meet green. “The love that we share isn't something that can be duplicated, and it's not something that can weakened by circumstance.”
Xena's jaw clenched as she took in the importance of the bard's words.
“Part of the reason I overlooked your insecurities about your place in the relationship is because I can't possibly imagine ever wanting someone other than you. The idea is so ludicrous to me that it honestly hadn't even crossed my mind. That's why I never thought of reassuring you about how I felt in this relationship; because as far as I'm concerned, there's never been another option.”
The blond leaned in a placed a soft kiss only the woman's lips as tears fell from her own eyes.
“I'm so sorry, Xena.”
“I'm sorry too, baby,” she pulled her partner into a fierce hug. “We've gone through so much over the years that sometimes I need to see things through your eyes to truly understand where we are today.”
They held each other close for a few moments before the warrior broke the silence and pulled back to look at the bard.
“For exactly how many seconds did you kiss her back?” She asked with a small quirk to her lips as the only indicator that she was fooling around with her.
“Like two… three tops.”
“Xena, do you really want to talk about a mediocre kiss, or would you rather experience one that you can feel all the way down to your toes?”
The warrior simply looked at her with fiery eyes and leaned in to oblige.
Sarah checked herself over one last time in the mirror and flipped Rada off as she rolled her eyes.
“You know the reflection isn't gonna change just because you keep looking at it. For God's sake, she asked you out; she wouldn't have done that if she didn't like the way you look,” the slav commented, then thought for a moment. “And you've had bruises all over you since the day you two met!”
“I'll remember to have this much sympathy for you when you're getting ready for a date. That is if you ever choose to have one in place of simply hitting on some drunk girl at a party.”
“Hey, my method works.”
“Tell that to your face,” Sarah gave her a soft punch to the arm. “I'm out. Don't wait up.”
Rada chuckled. “How long should I wait before I come looking for you with bite marks on your neck?”
“Well the standard lesbian date is usually about 48 hours, but I've got a meeting with Varia tomorrow, so you should see me back here, with the good kind of bite marks on my neck, around lunch time.”
She left with a smirk and one last glance at the mirror. The sun was just starting to settle on the horizon and there were some lilies placed so perfectly near the gate that she couldn't possibly pass by without grabbing a few. As she made her way past the entrance to the camp she spotted Khepri leaning sexily against a tree, waiting for her. Her smirk evolved into a smile and she drew closer. Pushing herself off the bark, Khepri moved in as well and took her hand as they met.
“Thank you,” She said as she accepted the flowers. “You ready to go?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Sarah said before taking in the view before her. “You look fantastic... Of course, you kinda always look that way so I guess it's not all that special.”
She thought about her words and her face turned crimson.
“Not that you're not special, I mean, I think you're very special... In a very non-smothering, not too soon for me to say that, kinda way.”
Khepri tried to control the smile that was begging to burst from her lips.
“Unless you want to be special to me and all and then in that case we could discuss exactly what the appropriate level of special for you to be to me... at this point.”
“You know if you stop breathing, you may pass out before we even get to the “dinner” part of dinner,” Khepri offered her a life saver.
Sarah's blushed softened as she breathed in deeply and smiled.
“I think you may be more nervous right now than you were when I took you hostage,” the vampire observed.
“Don't be silly,” the time traveler rebuffed as she offered her arm. “C'mon, let's go.”
The arm was accepted as both women made their way into the forest in tense silence. It was Khepri who broke it.
“You are more nervous, aren't you?”
With a nod of the head and a crooked grin Sarah conceded. “Yeah, the kidnapping was way less stressful.”
Khepri shook her head and thought for a moment. With a succession of swift movements, the taller woman worked her way behind her prey; holding her wrists captive with one hand and placing the other gently around her neck.
“Although it isn't exactly the way I'd envisioned our first date, I guess desperate times call for desperate measures,” she said before offering a soft kiss to her captor's cheek. “Start walking prisoner.”
Sarah laughed out loud and followed orders as she thought, She gets me... I may be in even more trouble than I imagined.
To be continued…
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