Written By: Caina Q. Fuller
Xena and Gabrielle were finally able to settle down for the night. The day had been a long and grueling one as they had fought from sun up to save a small village from a band of cutthroat thieves. They had managed to turn back the attackers but not before they took their fair share of cuts and bruises. There had been so many close calls for both of them this day that Gabrielle thanked whatever power was left for seeing them through it alive. She now watched Xena settle down to change the bandage on a wound Gabrielle had advised Xena to stitch. Now that it was bleeding again, perhaps the stubborn warrior would reconsider.
Gabrielle, pass me the medicine roll will ya?
Sure thing. Gabrielle tossed the small leather roll that held their medical supplies and catgut for stitches over to Xena, who caught it without a second thought. As she worked to disinfect the wound and prepared to follow Gabrielles earlier advice for stitching, she studied her companion.
I love you Gabrielle. You know that dont you?
What had brought this on? Of course I know that. I love you too.
Listen, Ive been thinking.
Interesting, Gabrielle thought, butterflies creeping up in her belly. Why would Xena be talking about secrets? Especially tonight? What about them Xena?
Do you have any you think you should share?
Immediately Gabrielles eyes went to the scroll sticking out of her carry case. Had Xena gotten into them when she wasnt looking and read them? No. Xena would never invade her privacy like that. Never. Yet Gabrielle was beginning to wonder if Xena had found out about her and
Gabrielle looked up at her lover in concern, searching Xenas eyes for the answer to her questions.
Yes I do.
Xena flinched as if shed been pinched. Perhaps she had In her heart, where she was most sensitive.
Dont you have secrets Xena?
From my past. Nothing since we cleared everything in Illusia.
Not so with me, Gabrielle thought. She looked into the glittering heavens. The peace that had begun to blanket her was being replaced by something that was rapidly becoming fear.
Xena began to sew the wound on her leg with expertise only years of practice could bring. In seconds she had it closed up. Do you have anything you havent told me since Illusia?
Gabrielle felt herself becoming angry. She knew her anger wasnt directed at Xena. These were, after all, questions she felt Xena had a right to ask as her best friend and lover. She just felt angry with herself for doing something she would even have to keep from the one she loved most in the entire world. Every time she thought about what happened, she was filled with regret, yet there was nothing she could ever do to change it. It had happened over twenty-five years ago, yet it felt like yesterday
I do have one secret yes.
I see. Xena said the two little words in what Gabrielle called that tone. Whenever Xena used it, it always made Gabrielle feel as if she were five years old again.
Xena lay back and turned to her left side, away from Gabrielle. Like you once said, part of being a friend is letting each other keep secrets.
The Bard knew Xena wouldnt pressure her to tell but she also knew that every time Xena looked at her a question as to what Gabrielle had done would be in the back of her mind. How long would they be able to live with that between them?
The sweat from todays battle is drying on me. Im beginning to itch. I think Ill go up to that hot spring we passed and bathe.
Want some company?
No, Id rather be alone.
Fine, Xena said, her tone sharper than she wanted it to be, and she knew Gabrielle had heard it.
Gabrielle opened her pack and took out the scented soaps Aphrodite had given her as a parting gift on her last visit to the temple. The scroll that contained the story of her secret spilled onto the ground. As she reached for it to replace it to the bag, she caught Xena eyeing her every move. Purposefully Gabrielle lay the scroll on the ground next to the bag and walked away. She knew Xena had gotten the message: If you want to know the secret, here it is. Its your choice to find out what Ive been hiding all these years.
Gabrielle disappeared into the darkness to take her bath and Xena eyed the scroll that had been left out in the open. She knew it was Gabrielles way of telling her the secret that had been hanging between them since theyd left for Egypt. Something had happened between the time shed left Gabrielle to collect her mother and the time theyd returned. She had an idea of what that something was but she couldnt be sure. In fact, before that night so long ago, she would have thought it impossible.
Now the scroll lay there with a question screaming at her through the still night air. Open it or not? Xena played her fingers over the smooth papyrus, debating the question until the answer came to her in her heart. She picked up the scroll, turned her back to the fire for light, then unrolled it and began to read aloud.
Gabrielle studied her Sai in the light of the fire that burned brightly in the hearth. The warm glow reflecting off the polished metal of weapon reminded her of the desire she used to see in Xenas eyes when the Warrior Princess looked at her. Now that fire had dimmed. Not from a lack of interest, but from a lack of love for another: Eve.
Gabrielle examined her feelings for the newest addition to their family for the millionth time since her birth. She loved Eve dearly, and she knew she would die a thousand deaths for the child without giving it a second thought. She didnt mind risking her life and fighting day in and day out against the gods whod created the world she lived in. It was just that since Eves arrival things had changed between her and Xena.
Its just not the same, Gabrielle found herself saying aloud. She lay her Sai aside then laid back onto the soft bed. Shed rented a room for the night to get away from the rain that was pouring down outside. How shed always loved thunderstorms. Theyd always been a good reason to crawl into bed with her parents when she was a child, and theyd been a good reason to snuggle up to Xena before theyd admitted their feelings and consummated their relationship for the first time.
The problem is, she continued thinking, is the way Xena treats me. Xena didnt touch her quite the same way and the passion that had once heated her kiss had cooled. Maybe it was lack of energy. Xena was up all hours of the night tending to the baby, and that had put an end to their spontaneous early morning romp sessions. Now now she was lucky if Xena had it in her to pleasure Gabrielle once a week. Even then she wondered if Xena viewed it as more of a chore than an act of love.
Xena put the scroll down before she could read the truth of what se had suspected since shed returned to Gabrielle with her mother and Eve to go to Egypt, though shed done a fairly good job of convincing herself that Gabrielle would never be unfaithful to her. Never.
Also, Xena was surprised to learn of Gabrielles true feelings on how their life was after Eves birth. Looking back, Xena could remember Gabrielles remarks about their lovemaking (or better yet their lack of love-making). At the time shed taken it for granted that Gabrielle understood how tiring it was to be a warrior and a new mother. Now she saw that while Gabrielle had understood, it had been hard on her, and Xena had been blind to it all.
I was blind and I pushed her into the arms of another, Xena said, debating whether or not to continue. Did she really want to know whom it was Gabrielle had given herself to? As soon as she asked herself that question, Xenas thoughts turned to Marc Antony, and she could only imagine how seeing her in his arms had made Gabrielle feel.
Joxer! What are you doing here? I thought you were on your way to help Meg move into her new place.
Gabrielle stepped back to allow her bumbling idiot friend easy access to the room, re-sheathing her Sai as she did. He entered and went over to the fire, rubbing his hands to dry and warm them.
I was but this rain picked up. Xena said I should come back here.
She said right. You can have the spare bed.
Joxer was clearly grateful. Say, thanks Gabby.
Sure thing. Gabrielle poured them each a goblet full of wine then took up a place in front of the fire beside him.
How are the wrists?
Hmm? Joxer looked at his wrists, which still had rope burn from his stint in the Amazon camp. Oh, theyre fine.
Gabrielle giggled as she remembered Joxer tied between the posts and the Amazon children that taunted him day in and day out. She also thought about how happy they could be if theyd stayed
No, thats not right, Gabrielle said, correcting herself. I know how happy I would be, but not Xena. Like she said, all that togetherness just isnt her style.
Gabrielle brought herself up short. What the hell is wrong with me? Joxer isnt handsome hes hes Joxer. She put her wine down, deciding shed had too much when her insides started to tingle at the sight of his rather large hands.
Thats not all thats large on him she caught herself unwillingly thinking. An image of a naked Joxer sprang to mind as she remembered the time Aphrodite had put obsession spells on them in an effort to steal the Mystic Diamond from the temple of the Heavens. Shed seen then her friend was incredibly well endowed. Though It had barely been two years since that happened yet it might as well have been a lifetime. So much had changed.
What are you smiling about? Joxer asked her. His tone of voice was so subdued. He seemed like a completely different man, and that wasnt the wine talking.
I was just thinking about our past.
Like when you told me you loved me.
Joxer looked away, embarrassed and for one short moment he was his old self. Then the embarrassed smile faded and he was once again this new creature that had knocked on her door this night.
Why didnt you tell me before?
Instead of blurting out the first thing that came into his mind, Joxer thought over his answer. This both surprised and pleased Gabrielle. She liked this new behavior in him.
A lot of reasons I guess. I didnt want to make you uncomfortable for one.
Gabrielle didnt have a hard time believing that. Joxer was one of the most considerate men she knew. Thats what she loved about him. The other reasons?
I was afraid youd do exactly what you did.
That cuts like a knife, Gabrielle thought. Just as his words had wounded her when hed been dying from a cut from one of Apollos warriors whod been trying to kill Eve. She could hear the tenderness and love in his voice then, just as she could now. Joxer was so so loving. Hed always been like that. Just like Perdiccus had been.
Im sorry Joxer. Its not you its-
Xena. Your path lies with her, I know. I dont think any man will ever separate you two.
They fell back into silence again, only this time it was uncomfortable. There was so much she wanted to tell him, so much she needed to know. She watched Joxer sip his wine and noticed for the first time how strong his neck was. It was long and powerful. Kissable. Memories of Perdiccus own strong hands easing her back onto their marriage bed came to mind. She remembered how hed planted kisses over her body and easing his fingers into her as suckled her nipples gently at first and then harder.
As she remembered her only night of passion with a man, she imagined Joxer repeating those actions. In her mind she saw them under the sheets of the bed she was to sleep in tonight. She could see, indeed almost feel, her legs wrapped around his waist as he entered her over and over with his massive manhood, riding her into pleasures like shed only known-
She almost slapped herself. What the hell is wrong with me? She thought to herself. This is Joxer were talking about.
Gabby? You ok? You look a little flushed.
Yeah. Maybe youre too hot. Why dont you scoot back from the fire a little?
Joxer you have no idea how hot I am right now.
Predictably the comment went right over his head and he only shrugged, turning his attention back to the. After all, shed made it perfectly clear there would be no Joxer/Gabrielle couplings of any kind, so what was the point in letting his mind wander in that direction?
Gabrielle tossed back her wine and immediately regretted it. She had been drinking on an empty stomach, and now shed added fuel to this bizarre fire burning within her. Maybe it was a bad idea for him to be here.
so I think Ill get to bed now.
Joxer had been talking and she hadnt heard a word hed said. She was embarrassed to be caught yet again ignoring him. Im sorry Joxer, what was that?
She saw that Joxer had thrown his boots towards the door and was now pulling off his shirt. Funny, but she didnt remember him as being quite so lean before. He looked really, really good. Really strong.
I said Its been a really long day so I think Ill get to bed now.
Oh, right. Gotcha.
Gabrielle stood as he did and they found themselves facing one another beside the fire. The fire it was making his skin glow in its light. He was so young and he had that unruly mop of hair falling back into his face again. She lifted a finger to brush it away, and as their skin connected the veil lifted from Joxers regrettably dull mind, and he could see the desire burning in her eyes and hear the passion in her elevated breathing.
Joxer did something he never would have dreamed of doing before this moment, unless he was looking to lose is life. With a bravery he didnt know he had, Joxer lifted a hand still hot from the fire and eased it beneath Gabrielles top. He cupped her breast in his hand, the nipple hard to his touch in the palm of his hand.
Gabrielle closed her eyes as a small moan of desire escaped her. She felt her womanhood flood with wet heat as his tongue found its way into her mouth. His kiss was soft and gentle, just the way she liked it. This man may be a fool on the battlefield, but in the art of love he seemed to have some skills.
Ill give myself to him, Gabrielle thought, and blame it on the wine. Its not the turmoil Im feeling over the change in my relationship with Xena. Its the wine.
Seeing Gabrielle wasnt resisting, Joxer pulled back.
Are you sure about this Gabby? You want me? Not because your under a spell or because your drunk. You want me for me?
Gabrielle could hear the hope in his voice and knew this was his dream come true. With their life in constant danger from the gods over Eves fate, this may be the last chance they have to love one another physically. This may be her last chance to do something kind for Joxer. Besides, deep down in her heart, she knew it wasnt entirely the wines fault.
Yes Joxer. I want you. Not because Im under a spell or because Ive been drinking. I want you for you.
Xena rolled the scroll up and put it back where Gabrielle had laid it out. She couldnt read another word with her emotions in such turmoil. She was hurt that shed failed Gabrielle, which in turn had driven her to be with someone else, yet at the same time she was angry with Gabrielle for the betrayal. Betrayal with Joxer of all people.
Thats not fair, she found herself saying aloud after a few moments of consideration. If Gabrielle was going to share her love with a man, who deserved it more than Joxer? Hed been their most loyal friend, and Xena didnt doubt hed loved Gabrielle every bit as much as she did. Hed dreamed of Gabrielle, and for one night that dream had come true.
Xena felt her anger cool, but the hurt within was strong. Raw. She still felt betrayed, and maybe she would for a long time yet. What should she do?
Without waiting for an intellectual answer from herself she followed her emotions and went to the hot spring. Gabrielle sat in the water, the moon light making her skin seem to glow with a light of its own. By the look on Xenas face, she could see her only secret was out.
Xena stripped and then sank her body into water that was uncomfortably hot, especially on her wound. The rock inside was as smooth and flat as glass as she slid over to Gabrielle. She felt under the water until she had her soul-mates hand in her own.
I read the scroll.
What tipped you off?
The way you acted as we headed out to Egypt. Your demeanor towards Joxer changed drastically after that. You treated him like a man instead of Xena caught herself before she said something cruel. You treated him like a man. Gabrielle, I never knew how hard it was on you, after I gave birth to Eve.
I felt like I was losing you Xena. I felt like I had to share you.
You did have to share me. I neglected you and that drove you to anothers arms.
They studied one another in the moonlight, and both were struck by the others beauty. Im hurt Gabrielle, but I understand.
Gabrielle needed Xena to know how sorry she was for being so selfish that night with Joxer and giving in her own desires instead of being more concerned with her loyalty to Xena.
Xena, I am so, so sorry. Ive damaged your trust in me havent I?
Instead of telling Gabrielle what she wanted to hear, Xena carefully examined her own feelings. After a silence that Gabrielle found alarmingly long, Xena found the truth deep within herself.
I trust you Gabrielle. Always.
They came together in a soft kiss. Not a kiss born of lust but of the pure, simple love of two close friends.
I love you Xena.
And I love you Gabrielle.
Youll never have to wonder again, because it will never happen again. I just hope you can understand why I did-
Xena lay a long finger across Gabrielles lips, silencing her talkative lover. It was the wine.
Gabrielle considered these words. Knowing Xena the way she did, she knew her friend was attempting to put the entire incident behind them and move on, but should it be that simple? Gabrielle thought about how Xena must really be feeling inside, and if the woman she loved was willing to forgive and forget, then she was too. Xena was sometimes wonderful in that way, and she loved her for it. Gabrielle nodded in agreement.
It was the wine.
Xena pulled Gabrielle to her and together they enjoyed gifts this life had to offer. They had the moon, the stars and the scent of the flowers that was perfuming the air around them, but most importantly they still had their love.
Return to The Bard's Corner