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The Warrior's Love Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
This story contains some violence, no explicit sex, and discusses love between women. It is the third story that began the series with "To Trust A Warrior," followed by "Reconciliation" and now I offer "The Warrior's Love." While each story can be enjoyed on it's own, a better development of character and relationships can be appreciated through reading all three consecutively. © September 1997
The Amazon meeting hall still rang with the cheers and clamoring for more from the bard as Gabrielle and Xena left the hall arm in arm. After a difficult period of healing, the two friends were at last able to rejoice in their deep bond of friendship and trust. The young Amazon, Delia, who had helped Xena regain her strength after her debilitating injuries sustained on Gabrielle's behalf almost two moons ago, had developed a longing for more than friendship from the Warrior Princess. Delia had been fighting the crowd in her effort to reach Xena at the conclusion to Gabrielle's tale of "The Horde." Delia was frustrated to see Gabrielle reach Xena first and take her out under the harvest moon. When she finally made it to the door, she saw the pair walking a little way off and silently followed them.
Seeing that Xena still needed a few moments to regain her composure, Gabrielle began to make small talk. Xena smiled in appreciation as she fought to control her overwhelming need for cathartic tears.
"What a beautiful moon. So large and orange. And it is so nice and cool out here after the heat of the hall."
"Gabrielle, I need to talk." Xena said thickly as she took Gabrielle's hand and lead her to the viewing benches next to the practice field. They sat down. Gabrielle shivered at the coolness of the wood. Xena noticed and wrapped her arm around the bard. This close, she would not have to school her face as she broached the difficult subject. "Gabrielle, that was the finest, most dramatic tale I've ever heard you perform. "
"Thank . . ." Gabrielle began.
"Wait, Gabrielle. Let me say this or I won't be able to finish. You know how hard it is for me to talk about my feelings. I know I owe you this. I have been miserable for too many moons now. And I guess I have made you just as unhappy. . . . Wait. Let me finish. You don't need to say anything. Just listen. . . . I was worrying that I was too dark to . . . to ever be seen as . . . well, as human again. You had begun to make me feel that maybe I had a second chance in this life. However, you then saw me as I was with the Horde, and when Ares and Athena stepped in, I thought I was thrust too far down; you would never trust me again. I was lost. I just gave up. I felt if you could believe that I would kill your sister, then there was no one who could save me. I was not worth saving. . . . "
"But Xena I. . ." Once again Gabrielle tried to break in. She couldn't take the pain in Xena's voice nor the pain in her own heart at Xena's words. Xena held up her hand, and Gabrielle stopped. Though Xena had her arm around the bard to keep her warm and to shield her face from Gabrielle's eyes, still Gabrielle could read her body language. Xena was trembling very slightly. The bard's rock of a warrior was shaking.
"Gabrielle, please, let me get this out. . . . I know where we are now. But I want to tell you how much it means to me that you have so generously given me back my dignity, and your trust. I want you to know how much I value that trust, and that I will die before I ever give you cause to doubt me again."
"Oh Xena. I know that. Please, you don't need to thank me. You need to forgive me for letting you think I ever doubted you. Xena, I . . ." she could say no more. Xena's warm hand came up and covered her lips.
"Gabrielle. Please. Your story said it all. Let's go on from here. I can't take any more tonight." The two women hugged each other tightly. They had suffered through two moons without saying these necessary things to each other. Articulating it had left them both trembling with emotion too long suppressed. They went back to the hall. Xena left Gabrielle there in Ephiny's care while she took a little time to be alone to calm down. Xena did not want to break down in front of her bard. Her regained self- esteem was too new for that.
When she first followed the two women out of the hall, Delia was afraid she would find them making love. Yet what she witnessed gave her hope that Xena and Gabrielle's relationship might be platonic. Xena was now entering the forest beyond the great hall. She stopped only a few yards in and leaned against a tree trying to still her wildly beating heart and calm her breath. Finally she realized suppressing her emotions would not give her the release she needed, so she surrendered to her tears. Delia had learned the hard way not to approach the warrior without warning, so she announced her presence as she came up quietly.
"Xena, it's only me, Delia," she said as she gathered the woman into her arms. Xena trusted Delia and welcomed the comfort. Xena had no emotional attachment to Delia beyond respect for one warrior from another. She had no idea Delia felt differently. She saw the hugging and the stroking of her back and hair as Delia's way of soothing the sobbing warrior. However, when at last her tears were spent and she began to pull out of the embrace, Delia took that moment to express her love. She wiped the tears gently from Xena's face and then kissed the Warrior Princess full on the mouth. Tentative at first, the kiss soon deepened. Xena slowly, but forcefully, pulled free.
"Thank you, Delia. I feel better now. Let's go back to the hall." Delia was reluctant to release her, but saw that Xena was not going to be easy to seduce. She curled her outstretched hands into fists which she put behind her back with a sigh. Mindful of her feelings, Xena took her arm and said, "Come on my friend, it's cold out here."
* * * *
Gabrielle stayed only long enough to see that kiss. She did not see Xena break away. While chatting with Ephiny in the hall, it dawned on her that Xena should probably not be alone. Rather, she wanted to be there to comfort her. Gabrielle could easily see her warrior needed to let her feelings out, and she wanted Xena to feel she could do so with her. Therefore, the bard left the hall and tried to find Xena. She was too late; Delia got there first. 'Tartarus, why was Delia always there?' When she saw Delia kiss HER warrior, she suddenly realized how jealous this made her. Running back to the main compound, Gabrielle's thoughts were very confused, and she was furious. Once in her hut, Gabrielle lay on the bed and thought. 'Is that what Xena wants, or needs. She is a very beautiful and vital woman, and I love her deeply. Is this what I want? What we both want or need?' The bard's mind roved in this vein for some time. She thought back to the many sapphic scrolls she had seen at the Bard College in Athens. At the time she had appreciated them as beautiful romantic poetry. Now she thought of them in a different light. She considered the magnetic personality of her best friend. How wonderful Xena made her feel! Xena was a goddess to her. Putting her on a pedestal, as she had done so often, made the Warrior Princess inaccessible. Xena's stoic demeanor and fear of vulnerability also raised a barrier to love. But her sense of fun and fair play made her human as did her deep caring and bravery. Gabrielle knew when she witnessed the trembling and saw her bleed, that Xena was very much a human woman, yet this made her actions even more heroic. Goddess, but she loved this woman. And now maybe she understood that she loved her in many ways. But did Xena love her too, that way? Or were her affections engaged with Delia? Or Hercules? Or was she still pining for Marcus? Gabrielle was so confused.
When Xena finally made it to their hut, Gabrielle was asleep. The warrior woman quietly shed her leathers and climbed into the huge bed in the queen's hut. As always, she turned her back to the bard and kept to her side of the bed. It had been an emotionally traumatic evening. Xena wondered if Gabrielle would have any suggestions for easing Delia down gently. Xena couldn't understand how she had been so blind about Delia. She should have noticed Delia was becoming attached. But Xena had been so focused on the bard and her need to regain Gabrielle's trust, she had been oblivious to Delia. Xena prayed Delia would not be as hard to convince as Howar had been in Laurel. This animal magnetism stuff could surely be a pain. True, she had used it to her advantage at times, but this was not a battle. Ah yes, love and war. Well, she'd think about it tomorrow.
A certain urgency woke Gabrielle earlier than usual. Returning to the bed on the warrior's side, Gabrielle's breath caught in her throat at Xena's recumbent form. Gabrielle had grabbed the covers in the night, revealing the Warrior Princess in all her glory. Gabrielle's eyes drank in the lean and luscious lady. Feeling her partner's eyes upon her, Xena woke and stretched luxuriously, arching her back and exulting in the morning. She opened her eyes and said, "Good morning, little one." Then she finally focused on the bard's staring eyes. She was reminded of Delia from the night before. 'Gods! What was this, a full moon thing?' She nonchalantly pulled up the covers and shivered. "Ooh! It's cold this morning; why don't we go to the hot springs to get clean and warm?" At that Gabrielle snapped out of it and blushed.
"Um, yeah, let's do that." Somehow she couldn't look Xena in the eye.
The two women were soon comfortable in the hot springs. Xena was comfortable, that is. Gabrielle was becoming increasingly aware of Xena's physical presence. Gabrielle felt as if scales of blindness had dropped from her eyes. Now everything drew her to the Warrior Princess. The tone and texture of the warrior's skin, her fragrance, the delicate curve of her neck, those eyes. Gabrielle had always loved Xena's eyes, but now they seemed to glow with an inner light, calling to her soul. No, she was not comfortable. To make matters worse, there were quite a few of the Amazon women bathing this morning, so Xena drew close to the bard to talk privately. Gabrielle backed up a little till she was against the edge of the pool. Now she was trapped. Her lovely, unaware warrior came indecently close and spoke softly to her bard in the deep voice that sent shivers down her spine.
"Gabrielle, I need to talk to you about Delia." Xena began. Gabrielle's heart began to beat wildly. 'Oh goddess, I'm not ready for this. Now she is going to admit her love for this upstart Amazon. Now, when I finally see that I love her, desire her, in a way I never thought possible.'
She blurted out without thinking." I know all about Delia, Xena, I saw you last night."
"Oh good. That makes it easier. What are we going to do?" She asked innocently.
"Do! Xena, surely you know what to do. Why are you asking me? Do you want my blessing? Well, forget it!" Gabrielle was all but yelling as she climbed out of the pool, barely grabbing her clothes as she fled back to their hut. Xena was dumbfounded. Ephiny was among the cluster of women closest to the duo. She glided over and put her hand on the warrior's arm as Xena made to get out and follow Gabrielle.
"Xena, what is the matter?" she asked as Xena turned back to her.
"I think it's the full moon. Gabrielle has been a little strange lately. And then last night Delia kissed me, and apparently Gabrielle witnessed it. If I didn't know better, I'd think Gab was jealous."
"Xena, I don't think you do know better. It is very apparent to me that Gabrielle is indeed jealous. And this is not the first time she has shown her jealousy. For an intelligent woman, Xena, sometimes you are not very smart."
"But, Ephiny, Gabrielle can't be in love with me that way. She loves me like a sister. She knows I prefer men for physical love."
"Xena, that does not make any difference. You have half my Amazons in love with you. And I want you to be gentle with Delia; she is very young and new to our village."
"I know that Ephiny. I am not cruel, despite my reputation. That's what started this whole thing with Gabrielle. I was going to ask her if she had any ideas on how to let Delia down gently. Then she blew up." Xena was getting pretty riled up herself. Ephiny moved in closer so that none of the other women would hear her.
"Xena, I want you to think very carefully before you do anything. Delia needs to know as soon as possible that she does not have a chance. But you need to be very sure of your feelings before you do the same to Gabrielle. I know you don't want to lose her. . . and Xena . . ." Ephiny said, drawing the warrior down close with her hand on the back of her neck so that she could speak into her ear. "You are a very sexy woman," she whispered huskily, brushing her hand against Xena's breast as she kissed her on the mouth. Before Xena could react, Ephiny moved off, chuckling softly.
"Tartarus! Well, what can I expect from a woman who makes love to centaurs."
When Xena made it back to their hut, she found Gabrielle crying on their bed. She dropped her stuff and climbed onto the bed next to her bard. She gathered her in to her arms and tried to comfort her. At first Gabrielle welcomed her attention, crying softly into her chest. Then Xena's warmth, fragrance, and the swell of her breasts through the thin tunic claimed Gabrielle's attention. She roughly pushed Xena away.
"Don't torment me, you warrior hussy!" She said. Xena laughed and drew her back in.
"Gabrielle. Relax. I don't love Delia. I was asking you for advice on how to let her down gently. She's just an impressionable, young, Amazon warrior. She does not love me; she just admires me as a warrior. It's the full moon. Everyone is acting crazy. Come on now, it's just another Howar-type situation."
"Oh Xena, you just don't get it do you? They all fall in love with you. I fell in love with you. Xena, can't you understand?"
"Frankly, Gabrielle, I can't understand it. They don't even know me. And if they did, they would be repelled; they would see there is nothing there to love." Xena sat back, and leaned against the wall. She gazed out the window and wrinkled her brow. Gabrielle contemplated the confused look on her beautiful warrior. She reached up and smoothed the lines from Xena's forehead. Her hand ran down the smooth cheek and turned Xena's face to her own. Xena looked into her eyes and saw all that love shining out, and it frightened her.
"Xena, I know you very well. And I see so much to love. You know that I love you. I think you love me too. Or are you so full of self-hate, you are incapable of love?" Confused and afraid, Xena did not know what to do. She needed some time to think. Time away from Gabrielle. And Delia. She had to get out of there, yet she needed to say something to Gabrielle. Something to make her understand how much she mattered to Xena but without committing herself.
"Gabrielle, I love you with all my soul. Never, never doubt that." She hugged the bard fiercely, then jumped out of bed, grabbed her clothes and ran for the stable. Gabrielle soon heard the pounding of hooves as Xena and Argo left the compound. Gabrielle sighed. She knew they were in for a difficult time, and just when they were coming back together again after the recent traumas. Gabrielle knew she should not have complicated things right now with her love, but Delia had forced the issue. She could not afford to lose her Warrior Princess to that young Amazon.
Xena and Argo galloped through the woods. Xena was practically screaming with the need for action. Her nerves were jumping from all the emotion and sexual tension generated back in the Amazon village. She needed a good fight to calm her down. The closest town was Amphipolis, but she couldn't go home right now for her mother would certainly not thank her if she got into a fight in her tavern. Well Hades, if nothing else, she could always chop wood for the inn. Besides, the ride there should burn off some of her excess energy. But it didn't really do the trick. Four candle marks later a heaving Argo was being carefully walked down the main street of Amphipolis. Xena wanted to cool her down before stabling her. News of her arrival soon reached Cyrene who had not seen Xena for more than two moons. Xena was practically a mute and a shadow of her former self then; she had left to defend Gabrielle's life from a challenger, and to try to reclaim Gabrielle's trust. Cyrene rushed out of the inn as her daughter drew near. She was delighted to see Xena looking so healthy and vital again. Mother and daughter hugged each other heartily.
"Oh Xena. I'm so glad to see you!"
"Hello, Mother." Always the mistress of the understatement.
Almost afraid to ask, but needing to know, Cyrene questioned her daughter, "Where is Gabrielle? Is everything all right between you again?" She examined that beautiful face for a clue. She saw a slight grimace before Xena answered.
"Mother, Gabrielle is back at the Amazon Village. We are closer than ever. Almost too close." She mumbled the last sentence. Cyrene's left eyebrow shot up. 'Hmm?'
"Why isn't she with you, Xena?"
"Umm, Mother. I don't want to talk about it quite yet. Is there some wood I could chop for you or something?"
"Xena, you just arrived. Aren't you tired from the ride?"
"No Mother. I need to work off some energy, I've been too lazy lately." 'Yes,' Cyrene thought, looking her daughter up and down, 'You are practically jumping out of your skin.' Soon the warrior was carrying casks of wine up from the inn's cellar to the tavern's bar. That done, she moved on to chopping the wood she craved, and lastly she put a hand to washing dishes. But it was when Cyrene had her sit down and eat some dinner that the action she was looking for finally arrived. Dear Delia, whom she was fleeing as well as Gabrielle, provided that action. The young Amazon, hearing that Xena had ridden out, obtained leave from her duties and followed the warrior. It had taken her a while to track the Warrior Princess to Amphipolis. If she had known it was Xena's home, she would have come there directly. She walked into the inn, drawing some stares from the younger men. Delia was an attractive woman. She was tall, lithe, and had delicate features. Her Amazon garb marked her as an oddity, and stirred up the interest of the young men. Amazons were much speculated upon and, hence, a bit of a challenge.
Delia was focused on Xena as she made her way to the warrior's side, therefore, she did not notice the stir she was creating. A hand reached out and grabbed her arm, foolishly attempting to catch her attention. Before the young man could extend his invitation to join him and his friends at the table, Delia grabbed his wrist, wrenching it as she threw the man over her shoulder. Immediately his friends jumped up and prepared to engage the Amazon in battle. Xena was suddenly there standing between Delia and the foolish farmers.
"Forget it boys. You should know better than to grab a young lady like that. Move on."
"Young lady? She's no lady, she's an Amazon. Is she your lover, Xena?" Big mistake. Xena was on him like a landslide. In a red haze, Xena wiped the floor with these young men. She didn't come out of her berserker behavior until Cyrene broke an urn over her head. And then she was out cold. Delia helped Cyrene carry Xena up to her old room. The two women stripped Xena and put her to bed. Delia suggested she stay with Xena in case she needed anything in the night. Cyrene had seen how Delia was looking at her daughter and decided this would not be a good idea. Besides, she wanted to talk to this young woman and find out what was going on. They went back downstairs. By now the tavern had emptied, and Cyrene closed up with Delia's help. Finally they were able to sit down with mugs of mulled cider and talk.
"So, Delia, how do you know my daughter?"
"I was assigned to help her recuperate after her battle with the assassin, Matari. I am a healer's apprentice as well as a warrior."
"When did this happen? Who is Matari? Who won?"
"Why Xena won of course. Matari was challenging Gabrielle for her right of caste. Xena killed her, but she lost a lot of blood and took a sword through her left shoulder. It took almost two moons for her to regain her strength. Oh, Cyrene, I'm sorry. I forgot she's your daughter. But as you can see, she is fine now." Delia had suddenly noticed Cyrene's pallor. "I can understand how you feel. Xena has become very important to me. She is my best friend at the Amazon village. We have spent almost every day together since I met her. She is the most wonderful warrior. And so beautiful. Why she has defeated every one of our new warriors. Even some of the veteran fighters. Only Phaedra was able to beat her in battle, and that was because she was distracted during a critical moment. Luckily she was able to parry that last blow, or she would have been beheaded. As it was she . . .Oh, Cyrene, are you all right?" She grabbed Xena's poor mother just before the woman fell off the bench in a faint.
Cyrene quickly regained her composure and decided bed was in order. She showed the young Amazon to a spare room and went to check on her daughter before going to bed. Xena was gone. On her bed was a short note: "Sorry Mother. I did not want to bring violence to the inn. I have gone back to the Amazons. Please try to delay Delia for at least a day. Thanks. I love you. Xena. P.S. Can you try to persuade her that I am not the woman for her?"
Xena was almost as exhausted as Argo when she eventually slipped into bed next to her bard. As a result, she was still asleep when Gabrielle woke up the next morning, delighted to find her partner back. Gabrielle had had a very hard day. It grew worse when she found out Delia was gone as well. But now she had a gift. Xena asleep in her bed. She was not about to waste this opportunity. She propped herself up on her elbow and took a moment to admire her warrior. Xena was lying in the prone position. Although Xena had taken the time to don a sleeping shirt, she had not washed up. Her loose shirt gapped at the neck, and was rucked up at the tail. There was blood on her neck, seemingly from a blow to the back of her head. Yes, peering closer Gabrielle could see the cut and small swelling there. Her hands were nicked here and there as if she had done some hard manual labor. Probably chopping wood, Gabrielle figured. She knew Xena's habits. And how the warrior woman dealt with her emotions. 'Hades, she left to get into a fight. That's why she is such a mess.' Xena was facing her; her classic features relaxed. 'I wish she looked this peaceful more often,' thought the bard. She reached over and traced that whimsical left eyebrow. Her touch roused the warrior woman. Xena opened her eyes and smiled. 'Tartarus! What amazing eyes she has! And such a warm smile. Too bad I see it so seldom.' Thought Gabrielle. "Good morning, my love, welcome home. I was worried about you yesterday," she said.
"Sorry, little one. I needed to get away. Mother sends her best." She reached over without thinking of the implications and caressed Gabrielle's cheek. Gabrielle grasped her hand and brought it to her lips. Xena was tempted to snatch it back, but at the last moment was able to control this reflex. 'Damn, what have I started here?' she thought. Gabrielle did no more than hold her hand and look into her eyes.
"Xena, I was very worried yesterday when you disappeared. And then Delia disappeared too. Did you see Delia?" Gabrielle was watching her very carefully. Xena felt a cold sweat start on her brow. 'Hmm. I need to be completely honest.'
"Yes, Gabrielle. She tracked me to Amphipolis. She started a fight when she came into Mother's tavern. I had to beat up some farmers to stop it. Mother was so mad, she broke an urn over my head. I left Delia with Mother. I hope she will be able to talk some sense into her. Gabrielle, I think it's time we got back on the road. We have been too long here. Maybe we should leave before Delia gets back." She ended hopefully.
"Xena, we can't run away from this. She will certainly follow you if your mother can't make her see you don't want her."
"Hmm. I guess you are right. But I do still want to get going again soon."
"Yes, Xena, I know. But we don't have to leave right this minute. Come here." Gabrielle said, pulling her warrior closer. She leaned in to kiss her lips. Xena placed her hands on Gabrielle's shoulders and held her off. "Gabrielle. Please. I'm not ready for this yet." 'Oh goddess, what am I going to do?' thought the confused warrior. 'I love Gabrielle so very much, but not this way. Can I do this? Should I do this? It would not be fair to Gabrielle. She deserves someone who can love her as she wants. Tartarus, I need time to think.' She looked at Gabrielle's crestfallen face. 'Oh gods, I can't destroy that love.'
"Xena?" Gabrielle tried to get her attention again. Xena pulled her in and kissed her very chastely on the lips. It seemed to satisfy Gabrielle for the moment. She smiled shyly at the warrior woman.
"Come on, Gabrielle, I'm starving. I didn't get to finish dinner last night." She grabbed the bard and pulled her out of bed. The two women hurriedly dressed and went to the eating hall. Gabrielle had paused long enough to give herself a sponge bath before dressing. Xena was about to do the same when Gabrielle commented on the fact that the warrior needed a bath, being all sweaty and dirty from her labors the day before. 'Now there's an idea,' thought the warrior, and she paused only to wash her hands before eating.
Xena worked on that thought. She rode Argo, fought all comers on the sparring field, and would drop into bed at night, exhausted and dirty. When Gabrielle asked if she didn't want to bathe before sleeping, Xena would respond. "No, too tired." Finally, just when Xena thought she was developing a good funk, and was thinking her ploy was working as Gabrielle had begun to maintain some distance, her plan was undone. Apparently Gabrielle had a talk with the warrior's two friends. When Xena came to bed that evening she found Solari and Eponin waiting for her in the queen's hut.
"Good evening, your high stinkiness; the queen has ordered you a bath." Before she could resist, the two Amazons picked her up and rushed her to the hot springs. The three of them were ensconced in the hot water in no time. With Xena between them, Solari and Eponin scrubbed the Warrior Princess till she glowed. Then they washed her hair and gave her a thorough dunking for her foolishness.
"So, Xena, don't you feel better now?"
"So what was that all about then? It was not like you to let yourself go that way."
"I was trying a new look."
"Well it was not a very attractive one."
"That was the point."
"You want to clarify that please."
"Not really, but we are old friends, I guess I owe you two. Maybe you can help me. But keep this quiet. I don't want your queen to be embarrassed."
"You can count on us, Xena," said Eponin.
"Okay, I don't know how this got started, but on the night of the harvest moon, Delia made a move on me, and Gabrielle saw it. She became jealous and decided she was in love with me. I think she thinks I want her the way Delia wants me. Anyway, they have both been after me, and I can't dissuade them. So I decided to be less desirable."
"Xena, that's the coward's way out. Besides, it doesn't work."
"I see that now. I just don't want to lose Gabrielle, or hurt Delia. Delia is out of the picture for the moment. I left her in Amphipolis; I hope my mother is having better luck talking her out of this infatuation. Gabrielle is more complicated."
"Are you sure you don't love her Xena?" Asked Solari.
"Oh, I do love her, Solari, that's the problem."
"But how is that a problem?"
"Solari, I love her with my heart, my mind, my very soul. She means the world to me. But I don't love her the way she seems to think she loves me. My love for her is a chaste love. I would never think of her in the ways of animal lust."
"Xena, why do you keep saying 'thinks she loves you?' Don't you think she loves you?"
"Eponin, I know she loves me. She just doesn't know what form that loves takes. I don't think she really wants me as a lover, she hasn't thought this through."
"Why don't you show her."
"Solari, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying why don't you make love to her and show her just what that means. Just what that involves. It might scare her back to reality if she is wrong.
"What if it doesn't. What if that's actually what she wants."
"Then you'll both know."
"But that would not be honest. Gabrielle deserves better."
"Xena, as far as Gabrielle is concerned, there is no one better than you. You are what she wants. Don't you love her enough to do this for her?"
"Solari, I love her too much to do this to her. Besides, I don't know how to make love to a woman."
"Yes you do Xena. Maybe you are afraid it's what you want too."
* * * *
It was a very thoughtful Xena who silently entered the queen's hut. She was almost afraid to face her Gabrielle. The bard was already in the bed, with her knees drawn up to make a desk; she was working on her scrolls. She looked up and smiled to see her warrior once more her gorgeous self.
"Oh Xena, don't you look lovely," she said, embarrassing the Warrior Princess.
"Um, sorry, Gabrielle. I guess I was just too busy to notice what a mess I'd become."
"Well you are clean now. Come to bed. I want you to listen to this new poem I've written." Gabrielle began to recite in a loving, mellifluous, voice.
"Ode to The Warrior Princess"
Exquisitely eloquent in your silence
You would suffer alone.
Open your heart and lips to me.
I see you only as you are now
So beautiful and honorable.
You shine out of the darkness of your past
Radiant now in your redemption.
Your bard would honor you with more than words.
Share your warm smile and azure eyes,
Let your rich soul flash through those brilliant orbs.
I look up to you always.
Let us now recline so that I may shelter you with my body,
My love, my heart.
Let your laughter embrace us
For Fate had split our soul and now has brought us together again.
Come let me love you
Surrender unto us, who are one.
My love, come."
Gabrielle proudly looked up from reading her ode to her Warrior Princess to see a stricken look on Xena's face. "Xena, what's the matter! I thought you'd like it." The warrior took a deep breath before speaking. She was feeling her way as she began. She had to bring Gabrielle to her senses somehow.
"Gabrielle. As always, you have written a very fine piece. But it is a fantasy. Aphrodite would love it, but Ares would laugh to think his wicked warrior had become someone's love object. I hope you won't recite this in public."
"Since when would you care what Ares thought?"
"Well, you are right. I don't care. What I meant is, no one would believe it."
"Delia would!" Gabrielle pouted angrily.
"Delia is a lovesick idiot." Xena shouted.
"I guess she isn't the only one," Gabrielle whispered as she blew out the candle and threw her scrolls off the bed. The warrior woman's keen hearing picked that up. Her heart fluttered in pain. She couldn't help herself. She slid into bed next to her bard, gathered her into her arms and began consoling her.
"Gabrielle. Please don't cry. I'm the idiot. It's a lovely poem, and I appreciate your feelings. I just don't understand them."
"That's your problem Xena. Not mine," she hissed. But she did not pull out of the embrace. In fact she held onto Xena's arms more tightly, trapping the warrior in for the night. Xena sighed and gave in. They slept.
* * * *
Delia joined them at breakfast. Both Gabrielle and Xena were uncomfortable with the young healer. Delia seemed oblivious, and eager to see them both. She bowed to her queen and then flashed Xena a disarmingly bright smile. Gabrielle had had enough. She decided to punish the young Amazon.
"So Delia, where have you been these last few days?" she said sweetly. Delia looked questioningly at Xena, who shrugged in reply.
"Why, my Queen, I was in Amphipolis. Didn't Xena tell you? I was getting to know her mother. And I met her brother Toris as well. It is good to meet your intended's family." At this brazen pronouncement Xena spit her mead across the table. All over Delia, as it happened. Both warriors stood up, knocking the benches over as they did so. Delia distractedly wiped herself off as Xena quickly helped Gabrielle up, mumbled an apology, then turned on the young Amazon.
"What the Tartarus do you mean by saying that! I AM NOT YOUR INTENDED!" She yelled, forming her hands into fists and shaking them at her sides, trying to control the urge to throw the woman across the room. She started to move toward her anyway, but Gabrielle and soon Ephiny and Solari seized her around the shoulders and waist. Eponin grabbed Delia's arm and dragged her from the eating hall.
"Good, Xena, that was so gentle and subtle. I think we all got the point. Thanks for your consideration of our young warrior."
"I'm sorry Ephiny; she went too far." Xena said as she began straightening up the furniture in an effort to avoid looking at Gabrielle. She need not have bothered, Gabrielle had already left the hall.
It was a subdued Gabrielle who went looking for Eponin and Delia. She felt quite guilty and sheepish for having precipitated that outburst. It had also started her thinking. 'Why was Xena so angry? Was it because Delia spoke without consulting her? Or because the thought of being with Delia disgusted her.' Gabrielle was beginning to wonder if her assumptions were wrong. She needed to talk to her rival.
The bard saw Eponin before she found Delia. "She's over there Gabrielle. I think she still doesn't get it. She thinks Xena is just playing hard to get." Then Eponin decided to throw her part into the mix, "Doesn't Delia realize Xena's heart is engaged elsewhere?"
Gabrielle looked at Eponin very carefully. "Is it?" she said as she moved off.
"Delia." Gabrielle said as she came on the young warrior who was now twirling her staff in the warm up exercises. Delia put down her staff and came over to her queen.
"Yes, my Queen?"
"Delia, please call me Gabrielle. I want to talk to you about my Xena."
"Your Xena, Gabrielle?"
"Yes, Delia. I claim Xena for my own. I should have told you earlier, but I thought everyone knew."
"Does Xena know?" Delia was starting to look uncomfortable now.
"Of course, why do you think she has been resisting your advances?" Gabrielle tried to look worldly and very sure of herself.
"But she hasn't been. I mean, I kissed her on the night of the harvest moon. And I have massaged her whole body a number of times."
"But Delia, your are a healer, massaging is part of your job."
"But Gabrielle, it did not seem that way to me. And that kiss; it was so wonderful. I had been wanting to kiss her for so long, and there she was, so warm and strong in my arms, but yet so vulnerable. She was crying, and trusting me to comfort her, and shield her from the eyes of others. Her lips were so tender, and her taste was ..."
"Delia! Enough! She is NOT available!" Gabrielle ran back to the queen's hut. 'Goddess but that little warrior is obnoxious.'
Meanwhile Xena, having been harangued by Ephiny, was also looking for Delia. She went to the healer's hut. "Where is your apprentice?" She asked Ama.
"She's in the back, Xena. She came in weeping, after talking to the queen. I don't want you trifling with her affections again."
"Again? I have never given her any encouragement, Ama. This has all been in her imagination. It's a sad misunderstanding. I am here to try and smooth it over."
"Xena, you better be very careful what you say. And keep your distance; if you touch her she'll never understand."
"Ama . . . I .."
"Just remember what I said, Xena, don't touch her."
"Tartarus! Maybe I should just leave things as they are. I only wanted to apologize."
"Well then, just be very careful." She opened the way to the inner room. Xena entered to see Delia lying on her back, her arm over her eyes. "Delia?" began Xena.
"Oh Xena," cried the young warrior as she jumped up and threw herself into Xena's arms. Ama glared at Xena. Xena grasped Delia's arms and tried to disengage herself. Delia held on tighter. They tipped over and fell on the bed, Xena on the bottom. Delia began kissing the warrior, speaking softly between her kisses. "I knew you'd come," she said, then "Gabrielle doesn't know you love me does she?" Ama came over and grabbed Delia by the hair.
"Delia! Get up this instant. Xena has something to say to you. Now!" Her apprentice responded automatically to her mistress. She immediately got off Xena and stood to attention next to the healer. She looked quite subdued, her head down. "Now Xena, explain to Delia what you came to say." The Warrior Princess felt like a little girl being disciplined. She practically scrambled off the bed and stood at attention too. At the last minute she caught herself, stood up a little less quickly, and tried to reclaim her dignity.
"Um, Delia, I came to apologize for this whole misunderstanding. I want you to understand that I think you are a fine warrior . . . ." Ama began glaring at Xena again, "and healer, and I hope that someday soon you will find someone to return the love you have so generously offered me. But I can not accept, though I am honored."
"It IS Gabrielle then!"
"Um, yes. It's Gabrielle. I am glad you understand; I am very sorry." Xena thought 'I guess I'll have to go with that if it will work for Delia. Tartarus! This is so complicated.'
"I understand then. Gabrielle just told me she had claimed you. I thought you did not know or care. I won't bother you again. That way. But . . . can we still spar and be warriors together?"
"Yes, Delia, I would like that. Thank you." Xena raised her eyebrows to Ama, who nodded her head. Xena made to leave when Delia gave one parting shot.
"Xena, your mother did not know that you are a lover of women." The Warrior Princess struck her forehead with her palm and left the healer's hut.
Xena was not having a good day. She decided she needed to do something physical to get her mind off things. She rounded up Eponin and Solari to scale the cliffs for exercise and to gather points for old fashioned arrow heads. But she could not get thoughts of Gabrielle and the current mess out of her mind. Her concentration was shot, she slipped often when climbing, scraping her knees and knuckles. Finally the warrior trio stopped for lunch, becoming refreshed by the hilltop breezes as they enjoyed their repast. Eponin and Xena had both brought wine. Solari and Eponin kept glancing at each other as Xena consumed more and more wine. They were worried. Worried that she would fall on the way back down, and worried that she would not be in good shape for that evening. They knew Xena was working herself up to the ultimate confrontation with Gabrielle. They had heard the rumor spread by both the foolish healer's apprentice and Gabrielle, that Xena was the queen's love. But Xena had not spoken to Gabrielle. She had told the warriors what had happened. They were sympathetic, but only up to a point.
"Xena, don't you think you should stop," Solari said as she laid her hand on the warrior's drinking arm. "You'll need your wits about you when you see our queen."
"Your queen, not mine. She's only my sidekick." The Warrior Princess answered cruelly.
"Xena! I can't believe you said that. Yes, I agree, she is not actually your queen, but I thought she was at least one of the most important people in your life."
"Oh, Solari, what am I going to do?" she pleaded for the answer to her dilemma.
"Xena, you'll do what ever is necessary to make Gabrielle happy. I tell you this as a friend, but as my queen's loyal warrior, I warn you, if you hurt Gabrielle, you will have me to answer to."
"And me too," chimed in Eponin. Xena groaned and put her reeling head in her hands.
That evening the three warriors wove their way into the dinning hall. Solari and Eponin guided Xena to the queen's table and helped her sit down gracefully. They decided to stay with her. Ephiny was already there with Gabrielle. She raised her eyebrows at the warrior, and then glanced sideways at Gabrielle. Gabrielle saw only that Xena was there. She smiled foolishly at her Warrior Princess. Xena responded to that smile by pushing Solari off the end of the bench and inviting Gabrielle to come to her side of the table. Gabrielle giggled and joined her wonderful warrior. They were soon holding hands. Then Gabrielle noticed the state of her warrior's hands.
"Oh, Xena, what have you done to your hands," she said as she noticed the skinned knuckles and broken nails. The Warrior Princess pulled her hands free as the bard began to kiss each finger better. Xena looked pointedly at Solari and then draped her arm over her bard's shoulders. The other three exchanged glances, wanting to be elsewhere, but afraid to leave their queen alone with Xena in her present state. Yet as the meal progressed, Xena seemed to be behaving, often whispering things into Gabrielle's ear that would have her either blushing or laughing. Unfortunately there was more wine with the meal. Gabrielle was drinking too. Ephiny signaled to Eponin to take the wine pitcher away. Xena tried to stop her, but Eponin claimed she needed to get more. She brought back watered wine. The Warrior Princess was too far gone to notice. She also did not notice that the more affectionate she became, the quieter Gabrielle became. The other members of the party began to notice this though, and wondered and worried. Should they stop this now, or let it run its course and let the issue be resolved? They pondered too long.
"Come, Gabrielle, I want to go to bed. I've had a very long day." She sounded very articulate, her words unslurred. But her eyes . . . they seemed a little unfocused and heavy lidded. Gabrielle's eyes were very, very open. She looked terrified. The two got up and left, the bard steering. The remaining diners shook their heads and prayed for the happiness of their two friends.
Too soon for Gabrielle, they arrived at the queen's hut. Candles were already lit, and someone had put some of the fragrant night blooming sirius flowers in a vase by the window. The evening's breezes wafted the heady perfume over the bed. The romantic setting sobered Xena up briefly. She stopped suddenly by the bed. As Xena had her arm around the bard, Gabrielle too came to a sudden halt, yet the momentum carried her around to stop, face to face with the Warrior Princess. Xena looked down into her bard's beautiful face and noticed how lovely she was. Gabrielle began to tremble at the smoldering look in Xena's eyes which seemed almost black by candlelight. The warrior woman began to slowly undress the bard. All Gabrielle could do was move her arms or whatever was necessary to aid the Warrior Princess to disrobe her. She seemed to have lost her will. Xena began removing her own clothes, never letting go of her bard completely as she worked. Gabrielle helped her. It was a slow process; the articles of clothing and armor fell to the floor as they were shed. At last they were skin to skin. Xena picked up Gabrielle in her arms and carefully laid her on the bed. She lay down next to her and propped herself up on one elbow, regarding the attractive young woman beside her with wonder. Gabrielle looked up at her warrior's classically beautiful face and tried to remember how they had come to this. Gabrielle's trembling began again. 'Goddess' she thought 'I can see why Delia wants to make love to this woman, but I . . . I . . . don't think I can do this. I love Xena. Oh, how I love her! But I realize now, I don't love her this way. Now what am I going to do? What can I do? If Xena wants this, I will try.' Even so, the bard was trying hard not to flee. Xena leaned over and very gently kissed Gabrielle on the lips. 'Hmm. Not too bad,' thought the bard. Then the Warrior Princess deepened the kiss, opening her mouth and urging the bard to reciprocate. Her hot, wine flavored mouth was becoming too much for the bard. She slid her arms between them and firmly, but slowly began pushing Xena away. Suddenly it was too easy. The Warrior Princess was on her back by the bard, no longer touching her. Gabrielle was afraid to look at Xena. Afraid to see the hurt from her rejection. She tried to soften the blow.
"Xena, I love you. I truly do. But I see now that my jealousy over Delia forced me into a position that is not really me. I can't make love to a woman. If I could, you would be that woman. You know how important you are to me. Xena, can you forgive me for leading you on, tormenting you this way? Xena?" Xena did not answer her. The silent warrior act again. Finally Gabrielle could not take it any more. She sat up and confronted the warrior woman. Gabrielle couldn't decide whether to be angry or relieved. Xena was passed out cold. Finally the bard began to laugh. She laughed until tears rolled down her cheeks. 'Was this the behavior of a woman in love? A woman bent on seducing a young bard? I don't think so,' she thought. 'Why Xena was just as afraid as I was!'
Early next morning Xena woke up with the bard draped over her chest. She was naked, but her bed partner was wearing her usual sleeping tunic. Xena's head was pounding and her mouth felt wicked. She let out a groan and moved to climb out of bed. Gabrielle stirred and tightened her grip on the warrior's shoulder; Xena's heart started to flutter. 'What the Hades happened last night?' she wondered in horror to herself. Gabrielle opened her eyes enough to see the fear in Xena's face. She smiled inwardly. 'I need to be sure Xena does not desire me.' She let her hand slide down the warrior's chest and stop on her breast. The warrior's reflexes kicked in and Gabrielle's wrist was grabbed less than a second after her hand came to rest in violation of Xena's peace. Gabrielle sat up and looked at her Warrior Princess. Xena examined her face and tried to read something in her eyes. The bard felt the searing query. "Xena, good morning. Don't you want to make love like we did last night?"
"Um, Gabrielle . . . What did I ? . . . um, did we ? . . . um , Gabrielle, I'm sorry, I . . ."
"Are you telling me last night meant nothing to you!" The bard sat up straight in indignation, wresting her arm free from Xena's grasp. But then she refrained from continuing. A tear was sliding down her warrior's fine face. The joke was over. She hoped nothing more was.
"Oh Xena, I'm sorry. Nothing happened last night after the first kiss, you passed out."
"Gabrielle, I'm so sorry. I'm a failure as a lover. I drank too much because I was afraid I wouldn't be what you wanted. I am not what you want; I have to be honest with you. You deserve so much more than I can give you. I did not want to lose you, so I thought that if this is what you wanted, somehow I would be that for you. But I can't. It's not fair to you. " Gabrielle reached over and stroked Xena's back.
"Xena, you are EXACTLY what I want as a best friend. Though that term is too tame for what I feel about you. Yet being my best friend is all I've ever wanted from you. For a while there, I was afraid I was going to lose you to Delia. When I saw you and Delia kissing, I thought maybe that is what you wanted. I know that I love you with my very soul, and I began to think that maybe I wanted you as Delia did. But last night I was terrified when I thought we were going to go through with it, then you passed out, and I was so relieved. But I still did not know how you felt. That's why I was testing you this morning. Can you forgive me? Why can't we just be honest with each other? Why do our hearts make us play these foolish games?"
"The games are over, Gabrielle. We come back once more to that issue of trust. I think we can go on from here. Knowing that we do trust each other, we should never again be afraid to ask or tell each other anything. Come here, my bard," she said holding out her arms for a hug. The covers dropped away, revealing her luscious warrior once again to Gabrielle's gaze.
"Xena, could you get dressed first?"
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