The Disclaimer: I do not own Xena Warrior Princess or any of the characters associated with the show. If I did, I would be a very rich woman.
Violence: A tiny bit---nothing more than youd see on the show (if it was still on!)
Subtext: No --- its Maintext! Xena and Gabrielle love each other. Get over it!. If you have a problem with 2 women sharing a loving relationship, then dont read my story.
A Note: This is a sequel to my first story The Return. If you havent read the first one, you might not understand whats happening, or why Xena and Gabrielle are acting this way. So do yourself (and me) a favor and go read it!
This is my second attempt at writing fan fiction. I am a 50 year old Xenite, and proud of it! Keep the Legend Alive! Comments are welcome. You can reach me at RoseXena@AOL.com.
Beneath Twinkling Stars
By Rose Corsaro
Xena opened her eyes and blinked several times to bring her surroundings into focus. It was still night, and she saw the stars shining brightly in the sky. She was laying on her back, and quickly her head snapped to the right. Yes, Gabrielle was still there, sleeping peacefully on her side. She, like Xena was wearing a short shift against the chill of the night, but Xena could still see part of the colorful dragon/chakram tattoo that covered her back gleaming in the moonlight.
Xena carefully raised the blanket up over Gabrielles bare shoulders. She didnt want to wake her up. The night air was cool. Even though Gabrielle was now her equal in so many ways, she still felt a strong need to protect her. She wanted so much to still be needed by the one person who meant the most to her in all the worlds.
How long had it been since Gabrielle had brought her back from the Elysian Fields? Only two months. Xena was still having trouble coming to grips with the fact that Gabrielle had succeeded in bringing her back. She had died for Xena and, by her refusal to kill Akemi in front of the Elder Council of Higuchi, won the right to restore Xena to life.
How could she ever repay such a deed? In all her life, no one had ever almost sacrificed their life for her. No one had ever loved her the way Gabrielle did: so completely and unselfishly. She had not yet been able to find all the words to express her true feelings about what Gabrielle had done for her. Even after all these years together, that was still hard for her to do. In the heat of passion it was so easy for her to do and say things that were totally out of character for her Warrior image. But in going about their everyday lives, the words just wouldnt come out. Gabrielle was the one with the gift for words. Not her.
They had stayed in the old house in Amphipolis for several weeks after her return. It didnt take Xena long to adjust to being alive again. When she had materialized magically in the bedroom of the house, she had felt a little shaken, but otherwise as good as new. It just seemed that she found herself seeing things differently now. There was a strange joy in everything around her. The smells, tastes, sights, sounds, feel --- there was so much life around her. It felt almost like she had been reborn. It felt so strange at first. She was always so used to being aloof---keeping in control. But now it was hard to keep those old barriers up. Gabrielle noticed that she smiled more often, and she even laughed at her silly jokes. But she still had trouble with those damn words!
Gabrielle. She had been so eager to show off her new skills to Xena. They had stayed a part of her even though Xena was alive again. Neither one of them could explain it. She showed Xena how she could throw the chakram with deadly accuracy, and leap and summersault as well as Xena ever could. One day, Gabrielle had talked Xena into a wrestling match. Not that it had taken too much convincing. Xena had always taken her down with ease. But Gabrielles strength had surprised her and, try as she could, she could not take the upper hand. They ended the match as a draw.
Xena had realized at that moment that Gabrielle was no more the young girl from Potidaea who looked to Xena for protection. She had become a warrior. She was now Xenas equal. Part of her was so proud of her Bard. But part of her felt a sense of loss and a twinge of actual fear. Gabrielle could take care of herself now. Why would she ever want to stay with her older Warrior Princess. Xena felt it was only a matter of time before Gabrielle would want to strike out on her own. She had already talked about places to go, people to help, baddies who needed their asses kicked. No, this was definitely no longer the timid Bard of Potidaea.
Xena was brought back to the present when she heard a soft sigh beside her, and felt Gabrielle roll onto her back and stretch. Gabrielles leg touched hers, and Xena felt her own body tingle. She smiled. Gods how she loved the feel of Gabrielles soft skin touching her. In all her years, and in all her relationships, there had never been anyone who meant as much to her as Gabrielle.
Even their lovemaking had taken on new meaning since their return. Gabrielle had become her equal in that respect as well. She had become more willing to initiate things, more open in expressing her desires, and willing to be adventurous. Xenas smile broadened. That was one change she didnt find uncomfortable.
"Why arent you sleeping? Asked Gabrielle quietly, as if afraid to waken the woods around them.
Xena crooked her arm behind her head and answered, "Just enjoying the moment. The stars ..the sounds of the night."
Gabrielle raised her blond head slightly. "Fires gone out." She said in a voice that was only half awake.
Xena didnt move. "Sun will be up soon. You warm enough?"
She felt Gabrielle move in closer, drape one leg over Xenas thigh, and rest her head in the crook of her shoulder. Gabrielles arm encircled Xenas waist. "I am now," she said contentedly, her cheek against Xenas neck.
Xena caught herself smiling again. She couldnt help herself. They were both still spent from a wondrous night of lovemaking. This was a time for snuggling. "Go back to sleep," she said, kissing Gabrielles forehead tenderly. And it wasnt long before she heard and felt Gabrielles breathing slow, and her body relax.
Xena looked back up at the stars, but her mind was still replaying the last few weeks of her life. At one point they had ventured into Amphipolis for supplies. Gabrielle had been surprised that no one seemed to even flinch at the way she looked. Shed been mostly afraid of the tattoo. It had saved her life on Mt Fuji in their battle against Yodoshi, but this was Greece, and a woman with a tattoo wasnt seen everyday. To her surprise, nobody seemed to think anything of it. Everyone was just happy to see both of them again. The townspeople knew they were staying at the house, but it was well accepted that you just didnt bother Xena (if you wanted to keep your head).
They didnt have much money, but Gabrielle sold her blue silk robe from Japan. She told Xena "That thing covered me for three days while I was dead----Ill never wear it again!" It fetched 500 dinarsenough to keep them going for quite some time.
They ate lunch at the tavern, and accepted two mugs of ale from the bar-keeper. It was the first either of them had been around their own people since they had left for Japan. It did them both a world of good.
At the house, they had enjoyed a visit from Aphrodite. She just popped into the room one day with a bowl of fresh fruits, and dressed in one of her usual outrageous pink outfits. Xena had always thought that she was a little ditzy (especially for being the goddess of love). She always referred to Xena as "Warrior Babe". Xena could tolerate that, but she called Gabrielle "Gab" or "Gabby". It always made Xena want to grind her teeth. Her name was "Gabrielle"! But Gabrielle liked her for some odd reason, and it was nice to watch the two of them chattering at the kitchen table like children. Except for Xena and the Amazons, Gabrielle really didnt have any other friends. And Aphrodite was just so kind to both of them that Xena really couldnt find it in her heart to ever hurt the goddess feelings.
Even Ares had stopped by one night after supper. Neither of them had seen him since that day Gabrielle had brought Xena back from the Elysian Fields. It seemed that even he had undergone a transformation. He actually knocked on the door instead of just zapping himself into the room. He was a kinder, gentler god of War. Xena smiled at how odd that sounded.
Ares had played such an important part in Gabrielles attempt to bring Xena back that they both agreed he would forever always be welcome---as long as he behaved himself, of course. Gabrielle had even bought two cigars to put away, just in case he came to visit. He had protected her body for the three days that she lay dead. He had brought her back to life just like he said he would. He had shown Gabrielle a side of himself even he didnt know he had, and she would always be grateful to him. Gabrielle did have that way about her---bringing out the good in people. And even gods, too, it seemed.
Xena had found it both amusing and amazing that the three of them could sit around the fireplace and feel completely at ease. She had watched as Ares blew smoke rings, obviously enjoying his gift. He was still crude and full of wisecracks, and he seemed to enjoy his moments of flirting with both of them. But they had all been through so much over the years. He was strangely almost like family. Yes, they had all changed over the years.
Xena and Gabrielle had eventually left the house in Amphipolis to take to the road again. Gabrielle had wanted to stay just a few more weeks, but Xena had never been much for staying in one place for too long. Xena had still felt the need to be free---to wander. To get back to the only way of life she knew. It was one feeling she just couldnt seem to overcome. She had urged Gabrielle to stay at the house, promising that she would return, but Gabrielle wasnt about to let her go off wandering alone. She had had enough of being alone on the trip home from Japan. Xena had secretly been glad she wanted to come with her, but she wanted to give her Bard the choice---show her that she was free to be her own woman. In the time that Xena had been gone, Gabrielle had learned how to live on her own. Xena didnt want her to feel that she was now back to being the Warrior Princesses little sidekick. Gabrielle had made it clear she was coming with her, no matter what!
Xena looked down at the angelic woman sleeping in her arms. "As if I could ever stop you from doing what you wanted," she thought. The sound of an owl in the woods caught her attention, and she heard Argo snort and shuffle her feet. She wasnt tethered, but one thing about Argo---she never went too far away.
Argo was delighted to have her mistress back. But to Xenas surprise, when Gabrielle had wanted to walk along beside them, Argo stood her ground and wouldnt budge. She whinnied and tried to nuzzle Gabrielles neck. Once Gabrielle climbed up to ride with Xena, Argo moved---prancing with a high step gate. Xena could only assume that Argo had two loves now, and she was happy that Gabrielle and the horse had bonded. They had spent a lot of years trying to just tolerate each other. Gabrielle used to swear that Argo would step on her foot on purpose, or that the horse was jealous! The first time Xena had seen Gabrielle put her arms around Argos neck and the horse nuzzle her cheek, it was Xenas turn to feel a twinge of jealousy. But it was just another change that she would have to accept. Yes, a lot of things in life were different now.
They traveled from Amphipolis southward, skirting far around Potidaea. Gabrielle did not want to go anywhere near her old home. One look at Gabrielle in her short red halter top, red shorts, silver jewelry, short blond hair, and that beautiful tattoo made it clear to Xena that Gabrielle had grown beyond the quiet little village of Potidaea. The only family that was still alive was her sister, Lila. And while she loved her sister, the woman still did not fully approve of Xena or the lifestyle she had chosen to live. Gabrielle didnt mind a visit once in awhile, but not now. Xena respected her friends wishes. Afterall, it was enough of a shock for Gabrielle when they awoke from their 25 year sleep in the ice cave to discover that her "baby sister" was now older than she was.
They had been riding in the direction of Mount Olympus when they came across a group of scurvy looking bandits. There were four of them intently busy beating a man senseless by the side of the road.
Almost as one, Xena and Gabrielle leaped from Argo and entered the fray. It wasnt much of a fight. With a few swift kicks and wrist flips, Xena had her two on the ground. Her attention turned to Gabrielle and she watched as the young woman executed leg spins, punches, arm blocks, and high kicks almost identical to her own. It was an amazing site to see. Xena was so mesmerized, she had almost failed to see one of the bandits she had felled rise from the ground and lunge at her with a knife in his hand.
Xena spun quickly. A well placed kick launched the knife into the air. Her left fist contacted the bridge of his nose, and she heard it crack as her right hand caught the falling knife. As he fell backwards onto the ground, Xena landed a boot on his chest, and pressed the blade of the knife to his throat.
That was when she heard Gabrielles voice yell, "Xena---dont!" Confused, she looked over at Gabrielle. The other three bandits were gone. Only Gabrielle stood there, breathing hard. Xena looked back at the man who she held at bay. His nose was bleeding, and there was genuine fear in his eyes as the point of the knife pierced his neck, and a thin trickle of blood appeared. It had given Xena a rush of power that she hadnt felt in so long. And yes---it had felt good.
Xena looked over at the young traveler they had attacked. His face was bruised and bloody, his clothes torn. He had staggered to his feet and he was holding his head. The stinking, filthy bandit beneath her boot deserved to die. And she leaned forward a bit more and prepared to rip the knife blade across his throat.
But suddenly Gabrielle was beside her, and her hand gripped Xenas wrist tightly. "No, Xena," she said firmly. "Let him go."
She didnt know why, but she backed away from the bandit who waited a moment to see if this was some kind of trick, then scurried to his feet and disappeared into the woods. Xena looked at Gabrielle quizzically. What in Tartarus had just happened? Gabrielle had dared to stop her when she was in her most dangerous emotional mode. Dared to touch her when she had a knife to a mans throat and was ready to kill him. Gabrielle spoke, as if reading Xenas mind. "No more killing unless we absolutely have to. You cant go back to the old ways. I wont let you. Xena, life is too precious."
And strangely enough, Xena understood. She had given up her life so she could defeat Yodoshi. She had forbid Gabrielle to restore her life so the 40,000 souls of Higuchi could be at peace. And Gabrielle could have lost her life permanently trying to bring her back from the Elysian Fields.
Xena looked at the knife in her hand and heaved it far into the woods. Gabrielle was right. That last journey in their lives had been too close to really being the last journey. Life was precious.
They tended to a very grateful young traveler, and continued on their way. Both of them were very quiet for the rest of that afternoon. Xena had been glad for the silence. Silence wasnt something Gabrielle was known for, but it seemed she sensed that Xena needed time to think. "I sure did", Xena muttered at the memories passing through her mind.
Xena felt Gabrielles body shift slightly against her, and it brought her back to the present. She hoped she hadnt woke her up by talking out loud like that. She gazed down at her sleeping Bard. No---not just Bard any longer. Not Amazon Queen. Warrior Princess. Her Warrior Princess. Xena carefully brushed a lock of blond hair away from Gabrielles closed eyes. Her Warrior Princess. Xena looked back up at the stars. Yes, she liked the sound of that.
They had missed out on so many times like this for so many years. So many wasted years. Xena realized that she must have fallen in love with Gabrielle almost from the first day they met. At first she told herself it was just a lark---the scrappy little bard tagging along like a puppy. Always talking. Always trying to please. She never expected her to stay long.
But she did stay, and their friendship grew. Xena had never had a friend. Gabrielle proved to be a trusted and helpful companion. And Xena realized just how lonely she had been for so many years. She found herself praying to the gods at night that Gabrielle would never leave her.
She treated Xena like a sister. They would eat together, sleep together, bathe together. Gabrielle would help her put on and take off her armor. She would kneed the knots out of the muscles in her shoulders with gentle yet firm hands. And all the while, Xenas feelings grew stronger and stronger for her.
All those years of keeping her feelings inside. Afraid the young woman would never feel anything except friendship for the tall strong woman in black who had rescued her from the slavers and a life of boredom in Potidaea. Afraid of letting her stoic guard down to allow another human being in. Afraid she would scare Gabrielle away by a roughness and strength she wasnt sure she could control.
There she was---Xena, Warrior Princess, Destroyer of Nations, Conqueror of Warlords---scared to death of a small blond innocent storyteller from Potidaea.
It would have been so easy just to take her by force, but that wasnt what she wanted this time.
It had been so confusing. Love? She had loved men and women across the known world. But being in love was different. It was something so foreign to Xena. While it wasnt unpleasant, it was frustrating. All her life she had taken whatever she wanted. She didnt know how to give.
Over the years there had been so much pain between them. Gabrielles marriage to Perdicus, his untimely death the day after caused by Callistos revenge. Her rape by Dahak, and the birth of her demon daughter, Hope. Xena finding her son, Solon, dead at the hands of Hopes evil. Gabrielle forced to poison her own daughter. The rift between them that tore them apart and almost caused them to lose their souls. The torment and final healing in the Land of Illusia. No, things were not always happy between them.
Xena closed her eyes tightly against the visions flashing through her mind, then forced them to open and focus on the twinkling stars above. "I dont want to go there, anymore," she thought. She stared up at the night sky, and suddenly felt the tenseness that had overtaken her body begin to subside. As if the stars had heard her plea, nicer memories began to flood her mind.
Xena sighed peacefully. She couldnt remember the exact day when everything had changed. But she could recall clearly finally discovering that Gabrielle had always felt the same way about her, but was just as afraid as she was. And how she eventually, with Gabrielles gentleness and tenderness, allowed all of her defenses to drop. That first night with Gabrielle would live in her mind forever. Their first tentative kiss that bloomed into passion. The first time they touched each other not as friends, but as lovers. The melding of their bodies and souls into one. The night she gave herself completely to another human being, and found a love she had never known.
Xena remembered how, for one of the rare times in her life, she had wept. Not out of sorrow this time, but from sheer happiness. Gabrielle had held her in her arms and rocked her gently. And Xena knew she had found her Soulmate. And time and again over the years, they renewed their bond to each other. Even in the Elysian Fields, they had made love beneath the stars. Even in death, that bond could not be broken.
She felt Gabrielle move again, and she looked down into the most beautiful green eyes she had ever known. "Youre supposed to be asleep," she said quietly.
Gabrielle frowned. "How can I sleep when youre awake?" She lifted her head off of Xenas shoulder, and raised herself up on one elbow. "Whats wrong, Xena?" she asked with genuine concern. It wasnt like Xena to lay awake for so long. They had traveled long that day, eaten a good meal of fresh rabbit, and made love in the moonlight. She should still be sleeping soundly.
Xena shook her head and said "Nothing is wrong, Gabrielle." She turned on her side facing Gabrielle and brushed the back of her hand lightly over Gabrielles soft cheek. "Ive just been doing some thinking."
Gabrielle nuzzled Xenas hand. "That could be dangerous," she said seductively. "Thinking about what?"
Xena withdrew her hand, and propped herself up on one elbow facing Gabrielle, who moved in closer until their breasts touched each other lightly through the shifts, and their faces were only inches apart. Xena fought the flame of desire igniting inside her body. It was never easy, but she could still keep control over herself if she really wanted to. And even with the delicious feel of Gabrielles breasts exuding warmth through the shifts they both wore, she wanted to keep control right now.
"Ive been thinking about the past, the present, the future. Our future, Gabrielle."
"I have you back, Xena. I dont want to think about anything else." She lay her hand on Xenas thigh and began to explore upwards under her shift. To her surprise, Xena stopped her. "Xena?" Her eyes showed her confusion. It wasnt often that she was spurned like that.
Xena used every ounce of willpower to continue her train of thought. "Gabrielle, listen. Where are we going?"
Gabrielle withdrew her hand and moved her body so they were no longer touching. "Well, right now, it looks like nowhere." There was a touch of hurt in her voice at being rejected.
Xena shook her head. "I dont mean that. I mean our lives. Are we going to just ride around Greece looking for trouble for the rest of our lives?"
Gabrielles mind flashed back to a similar conversation a long time ago. She suddenly sat up completely, her gaze turning from one of hurt to one of fear. "Xena, the last time we talked like this, it was me asking that question," Her breathing began to quicken. "And the monk came out of the woods with Akemis message ." The flashback made her entire body shudder.
Xena bolted upright and pulled Gabrielle into her arms. "No, Gabrielle. Its alright .thats in the past its over."
Gabrielle clung to her tightly. "Itll never be over for me, Xena. No matter how hard I try, I can never forget."
Xena held her close, gently rubbing her back. And she kissed her neck lightly, tenderly. Gabrielle had been through so much. More than even Xena could fully comprehend. It was she this time who rocked her lover gently in her arms, and slowly she felt Gabrielles body begin to relax. Xena smiled. Her Warrior Princess was still her Gabrielle, and she still needed to be held and protected.
Xena kissed her forehead. "Gabrielle, Im not trying to hurt you. I just need you to listen to me. The world is changing. There isnt as much need for the likes of us anymore."
Gabrielle looked up at her with those beautiful green eyes. "I "
Xena gently put her index finger against Gabrielles lips. "I want to ask you something, and I want an honest answer." She waited until Gabrielle nodded. "Of all the places weve been, where were you the happiest? Egypt? Rome? Athens?"
Gabrielle gently kissed the finger touching her lips. "Anywhere I was with you," she replied.
Xena tapped her lightly on her nose. "Not an answer."
She saw Gabrielle sink deep into thought. She bit her lip, frowned, and after what seemed like an eternity, she looked up into Xenas extraordinary blue eyes. "You want the truth, right?"
Xena nodded. "Yes." She really had no idea what Gabrielle would say. They had been to so many wondrous, beautiful places over the years.
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "Your house."
Xena released her from her grasp. She hadnt been expecting such a simple answer. "My house? In Amphipolis? The one we just left a month ago?"
Gabrielle felt as if she hadnt given the answer Xena had wanted. She was probably hoping she would say one of those other places they had been. They held danger and excitement, and beauty. The house in Amphipolis was run down, secluded, and quiet. But it held such memories, most of them wonderful, and there was a peace there she didnt feel anywhere else. It was Xenas childhood home, and Gabrielle felt comfortable there. She let her eyes drop and said, "Im sorry, Xena. Its just that .well .I miss it."
Suddenly Xena laughed, and raised Gabrielles chin until their eyes met. "Know what?" she said, "So do I." And she really did mean it.
Gabrielles eyes lit up brightly. "You do? Or are you just saying that to make me happy?"
"Yea, I mean it. And yes, Im also glad it makes you happy." Xena swung her body around so that she was sitting cross-legged facing Gabrielle. She tugged at the shift she was wearing to cover a bit more skin on her legs against the slight chill of the night. "Gabrielle," she asked, "How would you like to settle down."
Gabrielle couldnt believe what she was hearing. She shook her head to clear it, and tried to see into Xenas eyes to see if she could really be serious. "You mean a real home?"
Xena raised both hands and encouraged Gabrielle to come closer. Gabrielle assumed the same cross-legged position, but fit her legs perfectly against Xenas. It was as if two puzzle pieces meshed perfectly. Xena nodded to her. "My house. Our house. You and me .together."
Gabrielle squirmed with excitement. "Could we fix it up?"
"Anyway, You want."
"And get some farm animals like when we helped Ares?"
Xena was so pleased by her enthusiasm. "Chickens, cows, whatever you want."
Gabrielles mind was spinning. "And a garden. And Ill bet we could get Ares to give us a few chairs and a new table from Mt. Olympus."
Xena scowled. "We dont change the bed."
"Of course not! But Im sure Aphrodite would help with curtains and pillows ."
"Theyll all be pink!" Xena groaned.
"Okay, Ill make the curtains .." Suddenly Gabrielles voice trailed off. Xena could sense her excitement had subsided, and she saw Gabrielle sigh and shake her head. "It wont work, Xena." She said dejectedly, picking at the lint on the blanket just for something to do other than look into her lovers eyes.
"Why?," Xena asked. Getting no response, she lay her hand on Gabrielles and asked again. "Why?" She had to know. It really had seemed like such a wonderful idea.
Gabrielle pulled her hand free. "Xena, were dreaming. You know we cant stop being what we are."
"I didnt say that we would." Xena struggled to find just the right words to say. "Gabrielle, there will always be people who need our help," She paused. "But we can limit our help not so far away from home."
Gabrielle tilted her head sideways and glanced up at Xena with a slight smile on her lips. "No more trips to Japan, huh?"
Xena faked an overdone shiver. "Thats a promise!" And she was relieved to see Gabrielles smile broaden. "Give me your hand," she said quietly. Xena took Gabrielles outstretched hand and pushed it against her breast tightly. "What do you feel?"
Gabrielle smiled. "Your heart beating."
"Thats where you live in me, Gabrielle. You are the most important thing---the best thing in my life. You know how much I love you."
Gabrielle knew how difficult it was for Xena to let her true emotions show, and she was so touched by this genuine moment that she felt the tears welling up in her eyes. "You know how much I love you too, Xena."
Xena looked up at the twinkling stars and then back to the ones that reflected in her lovers green eyes. "Im not good with words ."
Gabrielle covered Xenas hand with her free one. "Youve gotten better."
"I want us to spend our lives together, grow old together, meet again someday in the Elysian Fields ."
"Hopefully, not again too soon," Gabrielle chided.
Xena let her hand drop. This was so difficult and she felt that Gabrielle just wasnt taking her seriously. "Im trying to be romantic here. Gods, Gabrielle, its hard enough ."
Gabrielle saw how serious this was to Xena, and she lay her hand on her leg. "Im sorry. Dont stop."
"I want us to have a real place we can call home. Where we can be just Xena and Gabrielle."
"Id love that, too," she admitted.
Xena wasnt sure how to approach what she wanted to say next. She had played it over in her mind again and again over the years, and especially since Gabrielle had brought her back from the dead. But the words always refused to come out. Xena knew she had to say them now. No matter what Gabrielles answer was or how silly she thought she was being, she had to let them out. "Gabrielle .will you marry me?"
Xena saw a strange blank look appear in Gabrielles eyes. She felt her heart tighten. She should have never said that. Damn, why couldnt she ever say the right things. What had she done. Gabrielle was looking at her as if she had just said something shocking. They had been living together for so many years. Xena just assumed that Gabrielle would like to take the final step in their uniting, but had always been waiting for her to ask. It looked now like she had been very wrong.
Gabrielle suddenly spoke. Her voice was quiet and she seemed to be choosing her words carefully. "Xena, Im an Amazon Queen. By law, I have a right to take a mate, but ."
Xena sighed. "Its alright, Gabrielle, dont .."
"No now I need you to listen to me. If we did that, in their eyes you wouldnt be Xena, Warrior Princess anymore. Youd be my Consort."
"And in your eyes?"
That brought a smile to Gabrielles lips. "No matter how we live, youll always be my Warrior Princess." Then her face turned serious once again. "But why now, Xena .after all these years? Youve been through so much these last months. I know theres times when youre still not yourself. You should take your time. You need to be free to get your life back. You know Ill always be here for you. We dont need a ceremony to bind us together."
Xena knew a refusal when she heard one. She couldnt let Gabrielle see how she really was feeling at that moment, so she tried as hard as she could to make light of things. "Awww, it was a dumb idea anyway. I think those stars up there just bewitched me for a second. Forget what I said."
She lay back down on the blanket and turned her head away from Gabrielle. She didnt want her to see the tears forming in her eyes. She bit down hard on her lip, hoping that the pain would snap her out of this. She had to get control again. She had to stop feeling so .human. She had to remember who she was. "I am Xena, Warrior Princess," she told herself. "Stop! Oh, gods, let this night end!"
She jumped when she felt Gabrielle touch her arm. "Xena "
She swallowed hard and said, "Go back to sleep, Gabrielle. Theres a little while till sunrise." She tried to sound normal, but there was a quiver in her voice that didnt go unnoticed to Gabrielle.
Suddenly she felt Gabrielles warm hand touch her cheek, and she allowed Gabrielle to gently turn her head to face her. "Xena, youre crying." She whispered.
Xena sniffed, and wiped her hand over her face. "Yea so what? Isnt like youve never seen me cry before." In reality she was ashamed at that moment of her own weakness. These werent tears of happiness: these were tears of hurt.
Gabrielles eyes began to well up with tears, and they ran freely down her cheeks. "Oh, this is just great," Xena thought, "Now youve gone and got her crying, too."
"Xena ." Gabrielle said a little shakily, "Will you ask me again?" Xena looked into her eyes trying to see if this was some kind of cruel joke Gabrielle was playing on her. "Please, Xena."
Xena sat up and dried her face using the bottom of her shift. This seemed to be so ridiculous. Saying it again was only going to make everything worse. But Xena never could say no to Gabrielle, no matter what she requested. Trying to keep her voice from shaking, she said, "Gabrielle of Potidaea ..will you marry me?" She couldnt look into her eyes. The last time had been painful enough.
Gabrielle placed both hands on Xenas face and forced her to look at her. And to Xenas complete amazement, through all the tears still running down her face, she was smiling. "Xena, do you know how long Ive wanted you to say those words to me?"
Now Xena was totally confused. "Then why ."
"I guess I didnt think you were serious. I know you do things sometimes just because you know it would make me happy."
Xena reached up and stroked the hair of her blonde Bard. She still wasnt sure herself if Gabrielle wanted this as much as she did. "Gabrielle .will you make me happy?"
Gabrielle slid her arms around Xenas neck and pulled her in close for a deep, passionate kiss. "Xena of Amphipolis," she whispered as their mouths intertwined, "I most certainly will marry you."
Xena pulled back her head and looked into Gabrielles eyes. They sparkled with happiness. Xena started to laugh. She couldnt help herself. She hugged Gabrielle tightly and Gabrielle smothered her face with kisses. They fell back onto the blanket together, and Gabrielle began to laugh along with Xena. This was one of the happiest moments of their lives together. Unknown to each other, both women swore at that moment to spend the rest of their lives making each other happy. Such was the bond of the Soulmates.
The dawn was just beginning to break. Xena forced herself to stop kissing the wonderful, beautiful, woman in her arms. Against Gabrielles mild protests, she got to her feet and held out her hand. "Come on, take my hand," she said giving her The Look that always made Gabrielle melt inside.
Gabrielle grasped it, and Xena pulled her easily to her feet. "Where are we going, Xena?" she asked as they embraced once more.
Xena looked over Gabrielles shoulder at the sun peaking above the horizon, and then back into the eyes of her Soulmate, whose eyes were shining more brightly than any sunrise. And Xena whispered one word ."Home."
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