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By C.A. McCord
Swords slice air and men curse and groan. A dry cackling laugh blends with the sound of breaking bones.
Xena is working, eyes blazing, teeth gleaming in a feral grin. Gabrielle helps, swinging her staff, thwacking heads and whacking knees. Together they free one more village from dirty bandits with vacant eyes.
Later the women sit by the fire.
"We could have stayed at the inn," Gabrielle says, and shivers.
"Umm," says the warrior, staring at the flames.
"I heard you," Xena answers. "I don’t want to stay in the village. I’m tired of the thanks, the fawning, the looks."
"But you, we, saved their village, They’re just grateful."
Xena shakes her head. "They all look alike to me now, these villages."
They both stare at the fire. Xena puts her arm around Gabrielle’s shoulder and pulls her close.
"You’re shaking," she says-"let me warm you."
Gabrielle nods and settles into the warrior’s strong arms. Soon she stops shaking and is almost asleep.
"Gabrielle," says the warrior, and the bard’s eyes snap open. "Do you ever get tired of this?"
Gabrielle is warm in the warrior’s arms. "This?" she says,"no, not ever."
Xena smiles. "No, I mean the fighting, the traveling, the small fires and the cold ground."
"You’re a warrior, Xena," Gabrielle answers, "and what you do makes a difference. Sure, I’d like to stay in an inn now and again. Maybe, maybe someday, after you’ve beaten all the warlords, maybe we could, uh, settle down."
Xena’s eyes widen. "Settle down?"
Gabrielle smiles. "Yeah, you know, live in a house, tend a garden, raise--"
"Raise what, Gabrielle?"
"Well," Gabrielle says hurriedly, "goats, maybe, or horses, or..."
"Children?" Xena adds, smiling. "Do you want to raise children?"
Gabrielle draws away a little. "Xena, I’m serious."
Xena’s smile fades, and she looks at the fire. She gets up and pokes around the wood pile, looking for a log. Some minutes pass, and Xena still picks through the logs.
"What’s the matter, can’t find the right one?" Gabrielle asks.
"Found it," Xena announces, and puts the chosen log carefully on the fire. She just as carefully avoids Gabrielle’s steady gaze.
"Sorry I brought it up," Gabrielle says.
"Actually, I think I brought it up, " Xena says, and returns to her seat beside Gabrielle. She puts her arms around her friend and holds her close. "We do need to talk about this. If you want children, I think you should have them."
Gabrielle’s hazel eyes look into Xena’s blue ones, and she opens her mouth to speak.
"We," Xena says quickly, " I mean we-you should have them and --we should raise them." She kisses Gabrielle before the bard can get out a single word.
Later, as they are falling asleep, Gabrielle takes a last look at the night sky.
"Mmumph," the warrior mutters. "Yes?"
"Did you mean it, about--"
"I don't say things I don’t mean, not to you," Xena tells her gently.
"That’s right, you don’t," Gabrielle laughs, and her laughter turns to sighs, and she finally falls asleep.
"Goodnight, my love," Xena whispers, and she watches the sky until she, too, sleeps.
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