Disclaimer: I do not own Xena Warrior Princess or any of the characters. I think of Xena and Gabrielle as my friends, and you can’t own your friends.

Violence: A moment of uncontrolled temper that causes a big problem.

Subtext: No --- It’s Maintext! Xena and Gabrielle love each other. Get over it! If the idea of two women who love each other deeply offends you, then don’t read my stories.

About Me: I am a 50yr old Xenite and proud of it! For those to whom these things matter---no, I am not gay. I am, however, a firm believer that Love is Love, and if you’ve been lucky enough to find your Soulmate, no matter who that may be---may you have happiness always!

Spoilers: None. I would suggest that if you want to know about some of the things mentioned in this story, you might want to go back and read my others first. Then it will all make sense—I promise.

Thank you: To Mary D at AUSXIP for making my dreams come true. And also to everyone who reads my stories, and especially to those of you who write.

Comments are welcome. Write to me at RoseXena@aol.com

 

 

Broken Hearts

By

Rose Corsaro

September, 2002

 

The sun was blazing high in the midday sky. It was a hot day, even for Amphipolis. When Gabrielle had suggested they go swimming out at the lake, Xena was more than willing to stop her work in the field near their house. Weeding out the vegetable garden on her hands and knees was hot, dirty work. But they were going to have a good crop this year.

Xena didn’t bother to saddle Argo. It was too hot to burden her with all that heavy leather. Even Xena had long since abandoned her leather dress for a simple dark blue halter top and tan shorts. It was Gabrielle who had convinced her to try wearing shorts. Gabrielle had been wearing them for years. She had made this pair for Xena and, while she would never feel comfortable going out in public wearing them, she had to admit they were rather comfortable.

She smoothly mounted Argo bareback, and effortlessly pulled Gabrielle up to ride in front of her. Gabrielle wasn’t all that used to riding without a saddle, but with Xena’s arms around her, she felt safe and secure. Xena had an ulterior motive: she loved holding Gabrielle close, feeling her body leaning back against her. Xena was going to take it slow. The lake wasn’t that far, the day was hot, and the three of them had all the time in the world.

At the lake, they both stripped off their clothes, and gleefully dove into the clear cool water. They both loved swimming in the lake, and they dunked each other, splashed around, and laughed like children at play. Gabrielle disappeared beneath the surface as Xena stayed afloat up to her neck. When Gabrielle reappeared, her face was only inches away from Xena.

Xena smiled and embraced her, pulling their bodies together tightly. Despite their difference in height, their bodies fit perfectly together. Gabrielle’s arms encircled Xena’s neck, and she kissed her Warrior Princess. Gabrielle’s lips were soft and warm, and Xena felt her tongue trace over her upper lip ever so lightly. Xena’s lips parted and she welcomed her Soulmate eagerly.

Between kisses, Gabrielle whispered, "I love you, Xena."

Xena looked into her adoring green eyes and answered, "Gods, I love you, Gabrielle!" And feeling the fires of her endless passion for her Warrior-Bard igniting deep inside she…………….

Xena awoke with a start. It was raining, and a flash of lightening and a clap of thunder rolled through the hills of Amphipolis. It was still night. It was a very dark night, except for the bright white flashes from the storm.

Xena sighed. It had only been a dream. But a wonderful dream. There were still times when she was haunted by nightmares of her past. Sometimes Gabrielle would wake her with a gentle touch and her soothing voice. But this was a good dream. She’d have to remember to tell Gabrielle about it in the morning. Gabrielle loved swimming at the lake, and Xena knew she’d jump at the chance to make that dream a reality.

She turned on her side and reached to gently pull Gabrielle up against her. That always made them both feel safe and secure. It wasn’t like Gabrielle to not be touching her as she slept. So often, the small blonde would end up laying sprawled on top of Xena. And Xena loved it.

Xena’s arm contacted with the empty feather mattress, and she was jolted back to reality. There was no one to comfort her through this stormy night. Gabrielle was not there sleeping peacefully beside her. Gabrielle was gone.

Xena balled her scared left hand into a fist and, as she fought against anymore than the one tear that ran down her cheek, she cursed aloud, "Damn you, Gabrielle!"

The storm raging inside was not unlike the one outside their home in Amphipolis. Xena rolled over on her side to face away from the empty pillow, and fitfully drifted back to sleep.

*************************************************

 

Xena stood in front of the wood stove wearing her linen sleep shift. Her normally deep blue eyes were lifeless and surrounded by black circles from lack of sleep. Her long black hair hadn’t been brushed in days, and lay around her shoulders in a tangled mess. She looked at the eggs sitting on the counter next to the iron frying pan. She thought of Gabrielle, standing where she now stood, cheerfully humming as she prepared breakfast. Greeting her with sparkling green eyes and a warm, loving smile. That was then. This was now. Xena picked up the frying pan and hurled it across the house. It smashed one of the vases of Aphrodite’s perpetual flowers in the main room, hit the wall, and clattered to the floor.

In the blink of an eye, Ares, God of War appeared in the room. "Xena, you’ve got to stop this!" The usually brash, suave God of War had a genuine look of concern on his bearded face. He knew Xena couldn’t keep going like this. She was tearing herself apart.

The anger in Xena’s blue eyes cut through him like a sword. "Get out!" she yelled at the god in black who stood before her.

Ares took a step toward her. "You have to…."

Xena pointed her finger at him. "Don’t you ever tell me what to do!" she ordered through clenched teeth. "Get out of my house! Get out of my life!"

Ares looked at her with sadness in his eyes. The woman he had always loved was filled with so much pain. He could feel her rage. He could sense her dark side lying close to the surface again. At one time he would have joyfully welcomed the return of the "old" Xena. Xena, Warrior Princess---Destroyer of Nations, feared Warlord with a heart as black as her hair, and a lust for power and destruction.

Now he would give anything just to see her smile. It would not be today. Perhaps it would never be again. There was no sense in trying. And he vanished as quickly as he had arrived.

Xena’s broad shoulders slumped, and she dropped heavily into the nearest kitchen chair. Elbows on the table, she held her head in her hands and said aloud to the empty house, "Why, Gabrielle? Why are you doing this to me?"

She knew the answer. She also knew she was as much to blame, and much of her anger was directed at herself. How long had it been now? Two full moons had passed. If only she had the power to turn back time. Not even Ares could help her with that wish.

*************************************************

 

The day had begun like every other since they had returned from the Northlands. Gabrielle had been so glad to be home. Even Xena had admitted she missed their house in Amphipolis. The Wanderlust had been purged from her system --- for now, at least. So many months of traveling. Struggling through snow and cold. Sleeping out in the open or in that cave one night during a blinding snowstorm. Seeing Odin, and feeling the exhilaration of being a Valkyrie once again. Meeting Erik the Red. Searching for the Rheingold. Discovering she still had the will and stamina to walk the Gauntlet. Killing Borias and sending him back to Tartarus where he belonged. Having Gabrielle at her side throughout the journey. It had been like the old days, before they had settled down. Even Gabrielle had regained her warrior spirit. It had been a grand adventure.

But home was a safe harbor. She loved lying awake in the stillness of the night during her "thinking time" as she had come to call it. The soft feather mattress beneath her, the soft warm body of her Soulmate laying on top of her. Enjoying the luxury of making love all day, or just sitting alone up on the hill, back against a tree watching the clouds drift by. Drinking in the beauty of the world around her.

Life had slowed down again. And Xena was very much at peace. But there was that day. The day when everything changed for both of them.

*************************************************

 

They were going back to the house after a visit to Amphipolis. Gabrielle had wanted to go into the village to buy some new parchment for her scrolls. She was in the middle of writing about their grand adventure, when she ran out of paper. She hadn’t had much to write about since their wedding, and she was having a wonderful time with this.

Xena enjoyed watching her laying on her stomach on the fur rug by the fireplace as she wrote. Sometimes she would stop and go deep in thought, or she would turn and ask Xena to fill in a part of the journey she couldn’t quite recall. She wanted to get everything right. Gabrielle was still very much the Bard of Poteidaia.

She had talked Xena into going into the village with her. It wasn’t hard. Xena enjoyed their visits to Amphipolis. And it was always more fun with Gabrielle. Of course, she would never admit that shopping was "fun". But Gabrielle had a way of making everything fun.

Amphipolis had undergone some changes over the years. It was more than a little farming village now, but less than a town. Even by Greek standards it was still small. But there was a blacksmith, a silversmith shop, a drygoods store that was always interesting. Amphipolis had become sort of a crossroads for traders traveling from as far away as Rome and Chin. And the store almost always had something new to look at. There was a butcher, and an inn, and the tavern.

Xena often thought of her Mother, Cyrene, when she saw the business the tavern did. When her family had run a tavern in Amphipolis, Cyrene made enough dinars to raise her children well, but she was never what one would call wealthy. If only she was alive to run it now. Of course, this wasn’t her Mother’s tavern. That had been burned to the ground. Xena tried not to dwell on the circumstances of her Mother’s death, but it still pained her.

Xena and Gabrielle were beginning their 25 year sleep in the Ice Cave. Believing that her two daughters were dead (she had always loved Gabrielle as if she was her own), and not knowing if her granddaughter, Eve, was alive or dead, she sunk into madness. The townspeople believed she was possessed, and burned her at the stake. The tavern was burned. Even the family tomb had been desecrated.

Xena did not hold any hatred for the town. The people who had done this were long dead. Their descendents were not to blame. And thanks to Ares gift, Cyrene had been allowed to return for the wedding of her "two daughters". And she had set Xena’s mind at peace by her happiness in the Afterlife.

Xena dropped Argo off at the blacksmith to be fitted with new shoes. Their long journey had worn her horseshoes down to almost nothing. She owed her life to Argo so many times over the years. Making sure she was comfortable was always a priority.

She stayed awhile with Gabrielle in the drygoods store. There were a few new items that caught her eye, but mostly she just enjoyed watching Gabrielle. She still had not lost that childlike wonder: examining everything, and gushing over things she thought were just so beautiful. Xena always tried to remember the things she had particularly liked. When she did odd jobs for the townspeople, she accepted any payment they wanted to give. And if it was in the form of money, she always kept a few dinars to hide away. That way, she could save up for a little surprise for Gabrielle. She never thought of herself. It was always Gabrielle.

Today Gabrielle happily bought several rolls of new crisp parchment, and Xena had the shopkeeper throw in two new quills and a full bottle of ink. Gabrielle was thrilled. And that made Xena smile.

Their trip was highlighted by stopping for lunch at the tavern and chatting with some of the townspeople. The food was always good, and they got to catch up on the news. While Xena was finishing her mug of ale, Gabrielle surprised her with a little gift of her own she had managed to buy without her knowing. It was a new sharpening stone.

It wouldn’t seem like much to most people, but every night Xena sat on the porch steps polishing her brass armor, and sharpening her sword and chakram. Just that Gabrielle had noticed that her old sharpening stone had gotten small and chipped made this gift special. She didn’t think Gabrielle paid much attention to her nightly ritual.

They picked up Argo at the blacksmith, and headed home. Argo seemed quite happy with her new shoes. Her step was high and proud. They were about halfway home when Gabrielle decided that she wanted to walk. Xena stopped Argo in the road, and when Gabrielle dismounted, she decided to join her. It was a nice day, there was a cool breeze, and they were in no hurry. The walk would do them both good. Argo trailed along behind them without being led. She was loyal to her two mistresses. She would follow them anywhere.

As they walked side by side, Gabrielle aimlessly kicked at a stone in the road. "Xena," she asked, "Can I ask you something?"

How many times had Gabrielle started a conversation with that line? Xena smiled and answered, "Of course. What?"

Gabrielle kept her eyes on the road ahead. "Have you ever thought about us starting a family?"

The question didn’t come as a shock. Xena had been wondering when the subject would come up. "Gabrielle…..Neither of us has had much luck with children." She said gently. She had given a lot of thought about how she should handle this subject with Gabrielle. But she didn’t see Gabrielle wince at her comment. The memories of her daughter, Hope, still caused her pain. And she knew that Xena still missed Solon. And they hadn’t seen Eve in years, though they heard from travelers that she was alive and well far away, still preaching about goodness --- atoning for her sins when she was the evil Livia, the Bitch of Rome.

"Xena," Gabrielle said quietly, "Don’t you think this time would be different? I mean, this would be our child."

Xena wasn’t taking this part of the conversation too seriously. "And who is going to go through the morning sickness, swollen body, and the wonderful agony of giving birth?"

Gabrielle touched her arm gently, and they stopped walking. "Me," she said gazing up into Xena’s eyes.

Suddenly Xena could see that she was serious. She tried to handle this delicately. "Gabrielle, if we could make a child of our own, that would be beautiful. But in case you’ve forgotten, my Love, I don’t have the needed equipment."

That made Gabrielle laugh. "Xena, I know you don’t. Believe me, I love you just the way you are. But…." She began walking again.

Xena frowned and took a few long steps to catch up with her. "But what?"

Gabrielle sighed deeply. "Well….there are ways I can get pregnant."

Very little shocked Xena, but she could not believe what she was hearing coming from the lips of her Warrior-Bard. "Gabrielle!"

"No, no. Hear me out, Xena, please. The Amazons….."

"I know about the Amazon way, Gabrielle!" Her voice showed her disapproval, and she found herself walking faster to put some distance between them. She hadn’t planned on the direction this conversation had taken, and she found herself suddenly angry that it was happening at all.

She had stayed with the Amazons long enough over the years to learn their ways. When an Amazon desired to have a child, she went in search of a suitable candidate. It was never difficult to convince any man to submit. What man would turn down the chance to lay with an Amazon. Their beauty, strength, sexual prowess, and history was legend. What few males knew was that most of the time when the mating was completed, the Amazon would cut their throat. They were no longer needed. Sometimes, if an Amazon was feeling generous, or had had an exceptionally satisfying experience, the man was allowed to live.

Gabrielle was an Amazon Queen. Xena knew she had been taught about these skills, but she never in her life ever imagined she’d be hearing her blonde Warrior-Bard from Poteidaia wanting to discuss such things with her. Xena’s anger was building as visions began flooding her mind. She stopped, turned to face Gabrielle and said sternly, "I won’t have you lay with any man, Gabrielle!"

"Xena…."

"NO!" she shouted. She held out her scared left hand. "You married me. Our blood is one. I’ll kill any man that touches you!"

Gabrielle was stunned. She had never seen Xena so, so---not just agitated. No, she was furious. She was pacing the road, running her hands through her long black hair, clenching and unclenching her fist. She had always known that Xena had a jealous streak. She would quickly scare off any man or woman who seemed to be getting too close or too friendly with her. She could do it without saying a word. There was her body language, and The Look that said Gabrielle was off limits. But this was the first time Gabrielle had ever heard her threaten to kill anyone.

Gabrielle held up her hands. "Xena, there isn’t any love to it…."

"NO!" she repeated, and stormed off down the road. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She knew she was jealous. She’d been jealous ever since she knew she had feelings for Gabrielle all those years ago. Even before she knew how deep those feelings really went, she felt a natural instinct to want to keep others away from her.

Oh, she had let Gabrielle have her own life and make her own decisions, but the anger seethed inside. There were times when Gabrielle was off on a date with some handsome young man. And Xena was off somewhere in the woods hacking at an unfortunate tree with her sword. Anything to release the pain she was feeling inside.

Gabrielle had married Perdicus. Attending that wedding was one of the hardest things she had ever done. Smiling and trying to look happy for Gabrielle when all she wanted to do was scream. She wanted Gabrielle to be happy, but she was losing the only person in her life that she had ever cared about.

The following day, when Perdicus lay dead at the hands of Callisto, Xena felt sorrow for the happiness that her blonde Bard had lost so quickly. But there was a part of her mind that also rejoiced because she knew Gabrielle would be with her again. It was wrong to think that way. At the time, she couldn’t even explain it to herself. The fact that she had actually fallen in love with Gabrielle seemed so wrong. Not because she was a woman---in her dark years as a feared Warlord, Xena had conquered many men and women. She didn’t want to conquer Gabrielle---she wanted to love and be loved. But she fought it for so many years, telling herself that Gabrielle deserved better than an old Warrior Princess who could offer her nothing.

But things were so different now. The union of their blood in the garden ceremony behind their home had made it different. They belonged to each other. Gabrielle was loving, gentle, compassionate, giving. She called Xena her Soulmate----her love. How could she even think of resorting to the Amazon ways now?

Xena was brought out of her thoughts by Gabrielle yelling, "Xena---wait! Please!" She stopped in the road and waited for Gabrielle to catch up to her.

Gabrielle ran up in front of her, breathing heavily. It was amazing how much ground Xena could cover with her long legs. "Ok, OK---bad idea. I’m sorry, Xena. I didn’t mean to make you so angry. I just thought….."

"Gabrielle, can we just drop this for now?" Xena asked firmly. She knew that her apology was real, but she just needed a little time to get over the shock and calm down.

But Gabrielle was stubborn. Once she got an idea in her head, there was just no letting go. "What about taking in a baby? You know the Tribe is always rescuing orphaned babies. I’m sure they’d have one….."

Xena looked into the gentle green eyes of the woman she loved and said, "You want us to raise someone else’s child?" This was another idea that was not sitting well.

"Xena---a baby." Gabrielle smiled up at Xena. "It would grow up learning the best from both of us. Would you just think about it?"

Xena didn’t need to think about it. "It wouldn’t be our baby. No, Gabrielle. No children. I’m done talking about this." And she pushed past Gabrielle, and walked on toward home.

She heard Gabrielle call out to her, "Everything always has to be your way, doesn’t it, Xena?" Her voice was shaking. "What about me? Don’t I get any say in this?" Xena did not break her stride. Gods, she didn’t want to feel this way. She just knew it wouldn’t work. She couldn’t giver her love to someone else’s child. Not even for Gabrielle. It wouldn’t be the same. Suddenly Xena felt Gabrielle’s fist slam into her back. "Hey, Warrior Princess!" Gabrielle shouted, "I said what about my feelings?"

Xena gritted her teeth. "Gabrielle, don’t." They had had arguments before, but this was not an argument. The force behind Gabrielle’s fist to her back had been real. This had escalated into a fight. And Xena just wanted it to end.

But Gabrielle was angry. It took a lot for her to show anger. She had such a gentleness in her soul. But not on this day. "Just because you married me," she yelled, "doesn’t mean you own me!" She punched her fist into Xena’s back once again. "You’re no better than a man who thinks he owns his wife!"

Up until now, Xena had been able to control her temper. But with that last comment, something deep inside snapped. It was a moment she would have never dreamed would have been possible. She spun around to Gabrielle, and backhanded her hard across the face.

Gabrielle recoiled from the attack, but stayed on her feet. Blood began to trickle out of the corner of her mouth. The look in her eyes was a mix of shock, anger, and deep hurt. But that was quickly replaced by a dark green icy stare.

Xena was immediately desperately sorry for what she had done. She had many sins from her past to atone for, but few pained her as much as the times she had lashed out at Gabrielle in anger and despair. Yes, she had struck her before when the dark side she fought so hard to control reared its ugliness. But Gabrielle had always been so quick to forgive her: wanting to console her and tell her she understood that the blackness was not the Xena she knew and still loved.

And then there had been The Rift that nearly drove them apart. She had been so devastated by the death of her son, Solon, at the hands of Gabrielle’s demon daughter, Hope. Riding into the Amazon village, she had lashed her whip around Gabrielle’s legs and dragged her behind Argo at a full gallop. Reaching the cliff, she had raised Gabrielle’s torn body over her head to throw her over. Gabrielle broke free and screamed "I HATE YOU!" and, lunging at Xena they both plummeted over the cliff, into the water, and into the land of Illusia. There, they had overcome their pain, and returned with new respect and love for each other. And now this had happened. She had never meant to strike her, but her words had cut into her so badly.

She reached for Gabrielle to comfort her and show her how truly sorry she was, but Gabrielle backed away, holding up her hands. "No,!" she said firmly. "Don’t touch me." This was not the "old" Gabrielle who needed her. It was often difficult to remember that this Gabrielle had inherited all of her skills on that ill-fated journey to Japan. This Gabrielle was strong and confident. This Gabrielle was a Warrior. And she didn’t need Xena anymore. She was with her because she chose to be. Her hurt gaze and immediate forgiveness were part of the innocent young Bard from Poteidaia. And that was not the woman who stood before her now.

Xena let her arms fall to her sides. Tears were running down her face. "Gabrielle…."

But Gabrielle had already turned around and started to walk toward Argo. She gathered up Argo’s reins and climbed up into the saddle. Argo was quite fond of Gabrielle. She had rescued her from the blacksmith’s stable in Athens after Xena’s death in Japan. Right now, she was torn between her two mistresses. But Gabrielle seemed to need to get away, and she broke into a quick gallop as soon as Gabrielle pressed her heels into her flank.

 

When Xena finally arrived at the house on foot, she saw Gabrielle fastening her bedroll and pack at the back of Storm’s saddle. She had kept the gray mare that had carried her to the Northlands and back. They had become good friends on that journey. Xena approached her slowly. Gabrielle swung up onto her horse, and stared momentarily at Xena. The blood was still on her face. The look in her eyes was cold.

"Please don’t leave me," Xena said quietly. She was not used to begging, but her heart was breaking. She would do anything to show Gabrielle how sorry she was. Gabrielle gathered up the reins, and secured her feet in the stirrups. "Where will you go?" Xena asked.

"To my people." Gabrielle replied unemotionally.

Xena knew that she meant the Amazons. "How long?" she asked, and realized that her voice was cracking.

"Don’t follow me!" Gabrielle ordered.

The tears flowed freely down Xena’s cheeks. "I’m so sorry," she whispered. Gabrielle said nothing. She urged her horse forward past Xena, and Storm galloped off down the dirt road. Xena, the stoic, fearless Warrior Princess dropped to her knees on the ground as the love of her life, her Soulmate, disappeared from view.

*************************************************

 

It had been many years since Xena had been truly alone. The depth of her sorrow and her loneliness the first few days after Gabrielle had gone was so overwhelming that all she could do was cry. She had never felt so empty---so alone. She had never poured out such gut wrenching sobs. She hated herself. She had done many truly evil things in her life. She had been burdened with self-loathing for years, and had tried so hard to atone for all the sins she had committed.

Even in the deepest depths of the darkness that at times still haunted her, she had sworn never again to turn her anger on Gabrielle. The sweet, na´ve little blonde bard from Poteidaia had trusted her from the first day they had met. Even knowing about Xena’s past, she still wanted to go with her. She was never afraid of the Warrior Princess. Over the years, she had given Xena everything: her loyalty, humor, compassion, kindness, friendship, love. She had brought Xena out of her darkness. She had made it possible for her to feel real love for another human being---something she had never known before. She had taken away the loneliness. She had given her life to bring Xena back from the Elysian Fields. She had given her blood on their wedding day.

And in one moment, Xena had destroyed everything. She had lost her only reason for living. The one person in the world who meant more to her than life itself. How could she ever hope to repair what she had done. The look in Gabrielle’s eyes haunted her constantly. They had been so cold. So emotionless. The love that had always gleamed from her emerald green eyes was gone. Xena hadn’t seen hate in her eyes---she would have rather seen that. What she had seen was Gabrielle looking at her as if she meant nothing to her now. If Gabrielle had plunged a dagger in her heart, it could not have hurt worse than that look.

By the end of the third week, Xena could stand it no longer. She had to try to see Gabrielle. At least she had to try. She rode to the Amazon village, but was barred from entering by a half dozen women with their fighting staffs, and knives strapped at their side.

It was Ephiny who came to the gate to meet Xena. Ephiny, who was second in command to Gabrielle and Queen during Gabrielle’s absence from the tribe. Ephiny, who had named her Centaur son Xenon, after her friend Xena. But the look on her face told Xena that they were no longer friends. She told Xena that Gabrielle would not see her, and she was no longer welcome in the Amazon nation. "Your name is wiped from our memories," she told Xena. "Go!"

Xena could have resorted to force once again. She could have easily killed them all. But while not an Amazon, she had always for the most part loved and respected them as family. She had always been welcome in the village. She had lived with them, taught many of the younger ones how to use a sword. She was Queen Gabrielle’s Consort, and was treated with respect. But now, she had lost them, too. To the Amazons, she was dead. And probably to Gabrielle, as well. As she rode back to Amphipolis, she found herself wishing that she was dead.

*************************************************

 

Xena spent most of her days lost in a haze of wine and port. Drinking eased the pain, and she would drink until she either fell asleep or passed out cold. In the sober light of day, she remembered to feed the animals and Argo. But there was no joy even in attending to her most trusted companion. Argo could sense that something was very wrong, and would try to comfort her by pushing her muzzle against her, and making soft whimpering sounds. Xena would rebuff her. She didn’t need love from anything anymore. It was love that caused all this pain.

Xena raised her head from her hands as she sat at the kitchen table and sighed. So here she was, two months later facing another empty day. She got up, looked once again at the eggs sitting on the counter, and decided she didn’t need breakfast---she needed a drink. She filled her mug with wine from a cask by the well-sink. Her eyes drifted out the window to the garden, now dead and overgrown with weeds. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except killing the pain. She gulped down the wine, refilled the mug, and carried it and the cask to the table. She sat back down, and began drinking herself into oblivion.

 

*************************************************

 

Xena tried to open her eyes, but the brightness of the room forced her to close them quickly. Her head was pounding. She forced her body to sit up. Even though she was sitting still, everything seemed to be spinning in circles. Her eyes opened slowly. In a moment of panic, she realized she was not in her own bed at the house. Where was she?

It was a large room filled with plush furniture, billowy curtains, pillows all over the place. Almost everything was some shade of pink. Xena looked down at herself. In place of her linen shift, she was wearing a frilly pink nightgown. Oh, she knew where she was now----and she was not happy!

"Aphrodite!" she shouted at the top of her lungs, then grabbed at her head as the sound of her own voice echoed inside her brain.

In less than a blink of an eye, the Goddess of Love was standing near the bed. She was wearing a short, low cut pink dress, and she was smiling. Aphrodite almost always seemed to have a smile on her lips. "Finally awake, Warrior Babe," she said cheerfully.

Xena swung her legs over the side of the bed and her bare feet touched the cool marble floor. "How did I get here?" she grumbled.

"Ares found you passed out on the kitchen floor, Sweetie. He carried you to the gates of my temple. Couldn’t come in, you know. God of War thing. Got some of my gorgeous attendants to being you in." Xena knew her "gorgeous attendants" were scantily dressed men and women who waited on the Goddess of Love hand and foot. Aphrodite held out her hand, and a silver mug appeared. "Here, drink this."

Xena frowned. "What is it?"

"Just my special tea. It’ll help the hangover, Warrior Hunk."

"Aphrodite," Xena said sipping the tea, "Would you just use my name for a change?" The tea really did taste good.

"Hey, no problem, Sexy in Pink. Ooopps…..Sorry, Xena." The Goddess of Love really did seem to be sorry.

Xena looked down again at the bright pink gown. "How’d I get into this, anyway?" She realized that she was clean, and her hair had been washed and combed.

"Took awhile to clean you up. You were a mess. Worked on you myself. Couldn’t have anybody else touch my Warrior Babe." Aphrodite smiled. She knew what she had said. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue. She had always had a special place in her heart for Xena. Xena had been her greatest success story. Bringing someone like her out of darkness and into the beauty of love---wow, what a job that had been!

Xena just let the name calling pass. Aphrodite could be ditzy sometimes. No, come to think of it, she was ditzy most of the time. But Xena had grown fond of her. She was good to Gabrielle. Now she was taking care of her, too. "Thanks, Aphrodite," she said, taking a gulp of tea.

Aphrodite snapped her fingers and a soft pink chair appeared beside the bed. She sat down and crossed her shapely legs. "So you gonna just keep this up forever, Xena"

Xena lowered her blue eyes, stared at the mug in her hand, and sighed. "You don’t know….."

"My poor Warrior," Aphrodite laughed, "I know EVERYTHING! I am the Goddess of Love, you know."

"I don’t have anymore love in me," Xena said flatly.

"Oh, pish! I know you better than that. What I don’t know is why you didn’t call on me before this got out of hand."

Xena drained the mug dry, and set it on the table beside the bed. "I don’t need you, Aphrodite."

"So your way was better?" she asked, folding her arms across her ample breasts. "Little Gabby wants a baby, and you hit her?"

Xena rose to her feet quickly, felt dizzy and sat back down again. "I didn’t mean to hit her. I….I was angry."

"Cause you don’t want anymore children….."

"Because I couldn’t give her what she wanted!" Xena shouted, ignoring the pain in her head. "I didn’t mean to hit her!" She raised her hand. "If cutting off my hand would take it back, I’d do it! I was angry. She kept on me. She thought I was being cruel. I wasn’t trying to hurt her. I lashed out because….because I wanted it to be ME! And it couldn’t be our baby! I just wanted her to stop."

Aphrodite shook her finger at Xena. "I told you that temper of yours would get you into trouble…"

"Don’t preach to me!" Xena growled. She stood up again and began to sway. She was very dizzy.

Aphrodite was on her feet in a flash, holding Xena by the shoulders and looking into her eyes. "Xena," she said softly, "I could have told you how."

Xena blinked. "How what?"

"You thick headed Warrior! How to give her what you both wanted."

Xena pulled free and fell back onto the bed. "Aphrodite," she said laying back down, "You know I wouldn’t let you change me into….well, you know." She felt embarrassed to even say it.

Aphrodite pursed her lips together trying to figure out what Xena was talking about, and when it came to her she laughed heartily. "A man? Oh, Sexy in Black Warrior Princess---that’s a good one! Noooooo----it’s a lot easier than that."

Xena lay her arm over her eyes. The light still hurt. "Sure, Aphrodite."

"Okay, don’t believe me," she said, a little hurt that Xena didn’t seem to be interested.

"It doesn’t matter now. She’s gone."

Aphrodite frowned. "And so what now? You’re just giving up? You don’t want her back?"

Xena turned her head and glared at the goddess. "Gabrielle doesn’t want me. Not after what I did to her."

"So you’re just gonna give up and drink yourself to death?"

Xena was beginning to feel very sleepy. "If I’m lucky," she mumbled.

"Self pity." Aphrodite shook her head. "Not your style, Warrior Babe."

Xena fought to keep her eyes open. "Aphrodite….what….what was in….that tea?"

The Goddess of Love pulled the pink silk sheet up over Xena. "You need real sleep, Sweetheart. We’ll talk later."

Xena felt her body relaxing. "No….talk…." Her eyes closed, and her hand slipped to her side.

Aphrodite planted a gentle kiss on her forehead as she slept. "Don’t worry, Xena," she whispered, "The journey isn’t always easy, but I’ll always take care of both of you." And she vanished, leaving Xena to the first peaceful sleep she had had in months.

*************************************************

 

Xena rode Argo slowly through the woods toward the Amazon village. She was dressed in her full leathers and armor, but her chakram and sword hung from Argo’s saddle. She would show them that she was coming in peace.

She felt very much like her old self again. She had stayed in Aphrodite’s Temple for almost a week. She had slept for almost two days. Even she was unaware of how much her mind and body had craved sleep. And how her grief and anger had been tearing her apart. Aphrodite fed her well. She hadn’t been eating either. And Xena stopped the heavy drinking. She had passed out on the floor for the last time.

She could have gone home at any time, but there was nothing there but an empty house full of silence and loneliness. Aphrodite had convinced her to stay awhile "to keep her company". And she made sure Argo and the animals were taken care of.

They spent a lot of time talking. Xena had never really thought of Aphrodite as anymore than a ditzy blonde goddess who popped around gushing love and happiness, and had a weird obsession for anything pink. But Xena discovered something during her stay. Aphrodite was a good listener and a good storyteller----and a good friend. One night as she lay in bed crying, Aphrodite appeared and gathered Xena into her arms and just held her as she cried. It was strange, but Xena had felt no embarrassment at being weak and vulnerable in front of her. The Goddess of Love knew her pain, and gave her what she craved most----comfort.

Xena had finally decided to try to see Gabrielle once again. A lot of time had passed. Perhaps now she could at least see her----talk to her. Xena didn’t know if she would ever come back to her. She didn’t know if Gabrielle could ever love her again. But she wanted the chance to try to make up for what she had done. All she wanted today was just to see her. She was prepared to go home alone. Even to go on living alone. As long as there was the chance Xena could just see her once in awhile, she knew she could go on living----and hoping.

When she was within sight of the main gate, she brought Argo to a halt. She dismounted and, unarmed, walked toward the gate. Four Amazons appeared, brandishing colorfully decorated staffs, and knives in sheaths tied to their leather skirts. Xena recognized one of the women. Her name was Jaro. She was a young woman Xena had taught to use a sword many years ago. "We can’t let you in, Xena," she said.

"Do not speak her name!" shouted another young Amazon, shocked at what Jaro had done.

"She is not a spirit," Jaro said sternly. She looked at Xena. "She was once my friend."

Xena admired her boldness. To the Amazons, she was supposed to be dead. Jaro had taken quite a risk acknowledging her by name. Such an act could be regarded as treason, punishable by death. "Jaro," Xena said calmly, raising her arms away from her sides. "I’m not armed."

"We have our orders," said the young Amazon who had reprimanded Jaro just moments before.

"Are the orders from Gabrielle?" Xena asked.

"And from me," said a familiar voice. Xena turned her gaze to the left and saw Ephiny walking toward the gate. "I told you before, you’re not welcome here." She said, looking at Xena with cold brown eyes.

"Ephiny, all I want to do is talk to her. I’m not going to hurt her."

"You already did that, Xena." Said Ephiny. The Amazon guards looked shocked. Their second in command and Queen in the absence of Queen Gabrielle had just spoken the name of She who was dead to the village. Only Jaro allowed herself a very small smile.

"This is between Gabrielle and me…."

"Queen Gabrielle does not want to see you!" said Ephiny, gripping her staff horizontally in front of her.

Xena was beginning to get annoyed. There had been times when Ephiny could be sweet and kind. She ruled well as Queen when Gabrielle was away. But she could also be ruthless and cold when she wanted things her own way. She was an Amazon. And she rose to her rank of power because she was one of the best of her people. Still, Xena was not about to give in just because of who she was.

"When I hear that from Gabrielle’s lips, Ephiny, then I’ll go away. Right now, I’m coming inside." Xena took several steps forward. The guards (even Jaro) held out their staffs and overlapped them to bar her way. Xena looked at Jaro and said, "I don’t want to hurt any of you."

From somewhere off to the right, Xena heard the wooosh of an arrow. Ordinarily, she had extraordinary reflexes. She could easily catch arrows in flight. But this attack had caught her off guard. She had not expected the Amazons to shoot, and she failed to react in time. The arrow struck her above her left breast, missing the breastplate and entering flesh. The force jerked her body backwards, and she fell to her knees. The arrow had gone through, and the point was protruding from her back. Blood was running freely down her chest. Xena had been shot enough to know it was not life threatening, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. No one made a move to help her.

"WHO FIRED THAT SHOT!" yelled a very familiar voice. Xena looked up and saw Gabrielle running toward the gate. Gabrielle. She looked so beautiful. She was wearing her skimpy Amazon clothing. Her body was very tanned and muscular. The way she moved! For a moment, Xena actually forgot she was on her knees with an arrow sticking through her body. Gabrielle was out of breath when she reached the entrance to the village. "WHO DID THIS?" she demanded.

From about twenty feet away, an Amazon stepped forward, bow in hand. "I did, my Queen." She admitted.

Gabrielle grabbed one of the staffs from the guards, and moved quickly toward her. In one swift, powerful blow she struck the archer in the arm, breaking it. "I said stop her----not kill her!" Gabrielle shouted at the woman who was now screaming in pain.

Gabrielle turned and walked toward Xena, but Ephiny stepped in front of her. "Gabrielle, you can’t do this!" she said sternly.

"Get out of my way, Ephiny." She said, raising the staff in front of her.

Even Ephiny knew better than to challenge the Queen. She stepped to the side with a slight bow. Xena pushed herself to her feet as Gabrielle walked slowly towards her. Her green eyes did not seem as cold as the last time Xena had seen them. Oh gods, it was so good to look at her again. Xena felt herself getting dizzy, and she dropped back to her knees. With one hand, she snapped off the feathered shaft of the arrow, and threw it to the ground. That only made the hole larger, and the blood flow faster. She couldn’t reach the point sticking out of her back.

Gabrielle stopped in front of her. Xena looked up into the face that she adored, the face she had missed so much, the face she had struck in her foolish anger----and tears began to stream down her face. If tears were a sign of weakness, she didn’t care anymore. Gabrielle’s expression did not show anger or happiness. But very slowly her hand reached out, and her fingers lightly touched Xena’s hair for a brief moment.

Xena tried to stand, but her legs were too weak. She collapsed to the ground on her side, but before she passed out she heard Gabrielle order, "Bring her to my hut!" And Xena smiled.

*************************************************

 

It was night when Xena awoke. A candle burning on a table gave enough light to show her where she was. This was the Queen’s Hut. She and Gabrielle had spent many wonderful days and nights here. She was laying on a straw mattress. A blanket covered her body. Gabrielle’s bed across the room was empty.

Xena tried to move, and felt the pain above her breast radiate through her body into her back. She groaned. She pulled the blanket away from her neck. Surprisingly, she was naked. The arrow had been removed, but the wound was not covered. There was a patch of red and black skin over the hole. It had been burned to seal it. The Amazon way. Someone had done a good job. There wouldn’t be much of a scar when it healed. Her body was clean. The blood had been washed off. She covered herself with the blanket and sighed. At least she had gotten in to see Gabrielle. No pain was too great.

The door to the hut opened, and Gabrielle entered carrying a small wooden bowl. Xena felt her heart leap in her chest. She was so beautiful in the candlelight. "You’re awake," she said quietly. "How do you feel?"

Xena was so grateful. Gabrielle was actually speaking to her. The tone of her voice was still not warm, but Xena was just so glad to hear the sound of her voice once again. Hesitantly, she replied, "Like I was shot with an arrow."

Gabrielle dropped to her knees beside her. Xena could smell her. Oh, how she had missed even the smell of her Soulmate. She stirred a wooden spoon in the bowl. "It’s leftover stew from supper. Hungry?"

Xena could only nod her head. She was afraid to say anything. Afraid the words wouldn’t come out right. With her right arm she pushed her body to a sitting position. The blanket slipped, and she wrapped it around her to cover her nakedness. It seemed foolish, but she felt suddenly shy about Gabrielle seeing her that way. There was no glint of pleasure or happiness in Gabrielle’s emerald eyes. It was as if she was looking at a stranger.

Gabrielle handed her the bowl and rose to her feet. "Please….don’t go." Xena said almost in a whisper. "You don’t have to talk to me. Please stay." There was a quiver in her voice. If Gabrielle left now, she might never see her again.

Gabrielle nodded, walked across the room to a fur rug, and sat cross-legged on it. Xena was content. Even if Gabrielle didn’t want to be near her, she had agreed to stay, if just for a little while. She began to eat the stew, slowly at first, then quickly. She was hungry. It was as if just having Gabrielle in the same room had made her feel better. She didn’t even notice the pain from her wound as much.

It was quiet for some time. There was no tension in the air. Xena was grateful for that. Gabrielle watched her as she ate, but her expression did not change. Xena finished eating the stew, and set the bowl on the floor. "Thank you," she said with sincerity.

Gabrielle folded her hands in her lap. She continued to just look at Xena for several minutes before finally speaking. "I never wanted you hurt," she said.

Xena nodded. "I just….wanted to see you."

"It’s been awhile."

"You look well."

Gabrielle nodded. "I’m alright. My family takes care of me."

That comment cut into Xena’s heart. The Amazons were her family. Not her. The Amazons had taken care of her. Not her. All she had done was cause her pain. All she had done was hurt the only one in her life that she had ever loved. Xena swallowed hard as a myriad of emotions began to flow through her. She had buried them deeply for so long, and now it was as if they were screaming to burst free. She knew she had to keep control. She wanted to say so much. She wanted to find just the right words. But all that she could speak was the simple truth. "I’m so sorry, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle noticed the sincerity in her voice and actually looked her in the eyes. Xena thought that she saw those green eyes soften just a bit as she said, "I know you are."

Looking at her, Xena suddenly knew what she had to do. No----what she must do. The woman sitting across the room was not the cute, young blonde Bard from Poteidaia. She was not the companion who had tagged along with the jaded Warrior Princess. She was not the partner who had joined her in journeys and battles all over the world. She was not the lover with whom she had discovered bliss. She was not her Soulmate. She was not even the woman she had married in the bonding ceremony in the garden behind their home.

No. This woman was Gabrielle, Queen of the Amazons. She was strong and intelligent. She commanded a nation of powerful women with skill and determination. She was respected, honored, and loved by her people. There was only one way that Xena could show the respect that she deserved.

Xena, Warrior Princess, Conqueror of Warlords, Destroyer of Nations, stoic and dark and cold to the outside world, knew what she must do. She dropped to the floor on her stomach and, ignoring the pain, began to crawl face down toward Gabrielle. The blanket slipped away, and she continued crawling toward her, naked and vulnerable. Gabrielle remained silent. Xena knew not to look at her face. When she reached the fur where Gabrielle sat, she raised her head only slightly, and gently kissed Gabrielle’s foot. "Forgive me, my Queen," she said, lowering her face again to the floor.

Gabrielle had not moved. At this moment, she was the Amazon Queen. She knew very well what Xena had done. It was the Amazon act of submission. She also knew that Xena had never crawled to any human being or any god, for that matter. It meant a complete surrender of her power---of her soul. And Gabrielle, who had believed her heart was dead, felt it stir once more.

She lay her hand on Xena’s head, and stroked her black hair. "Xena, I want you to look at me," she said gently.

Xena swallowed hard. She was beyond tears, but her heart was so broken that she was afraid to see what might be in Gabrielle’s eyes. "I can’t."

Gabrielle grabbed hold of her arms. "Yes, you can. Come here." She helped Xena ease onto her back. Gabrielle pulled her up so that her head was laying in her lap, and she flipped the fur so that it covered Xena’s body. Xena still could not look at her. Oh, how she had missed Gabrielle’s touch. The warmth of her body. She raised her eyes slowly, and saw that Gabrielle’s green eyes were soft and warm. Despite herself, tears welled up behind her own blue eyes.

"Xena," Gabrielle said quietly, "Aphrodite came to see me. She forced me to see what you’ve been going through these past months. I know I pushed you too far. I shouldn’t have said what I did." Xena turned her face away, but Gabrielle gently touched her cheek and forced her to look at her again. "You hurt me," she said, a tear slowly running down her cheek. "And it’s gonna take a long time to get back what we had. But I do forgive you."

Xena felt as if she had just been given back her life. She very slowly raised her hand and touched the back of it to Gabrielle’s cheek. Gabrielle did not flinch or pull away. Gods, how she had longed to be able to touch her again. "I love you, Gabrielle," she said, her voice shaking with emotion.

Gabrielle’s lips pulled into a small smile. "I know you do."

Xena realized she had not reciprocated that love, but it was enough to see her smile once again. "Don’t leave me," she pleaded.

Gabrielle tucked the fur around them both, and stroked Xena’s cheek. "I’m here. Go to sleep, now." She wrapped one arm around Xena’s waist and pulled her close. Xena released the deepest sigh Gabrielle had ever heard. She closed her eyes, relishing the feel of Gabrielle’s arms around her. She never thought she would feel this happiness again. She was in the arms of her Soulmate. She had found forgiveness. She had found peace.

*************************************************

 

They returned to Amphipolis the next day. The Amazons were not happy to see their Queen leave with the one who had hurt her so deeply. Ephiny was especially vocal, questioning how she could ever trust Xena again. Gabrielle made it clear that her decision had been made of her own free will, and she turned the leadership of the Amazons back to Ephiny. Before she left, she also expressed her gratitude to the tribe for their love and care.

Gabrielle rode behind Xena on Argo, who seemed to be especially happy to see her other mistress again. Xena was well aware that Gabrielle did not put her arms around her waist, as she had always done before. She grasped Xena’s arm for support in the saddle. There was also a great deal of silence on the way home. But Xena kept quiet about everything. She was just grateful that she was not going home alone.

They settled back into the daily routine. Xena’s wound healed. Gabrielle’s wounds were deeper. They talked, ate together, did the chores, went shopping in Amphipolis, and occasionally shared some laughter. In many ways, it was like they had lived long before they became lovers. Any touch was casual. They did not kiss. They did not speak of love. They were starting over----rebuilding their relationship from the base of many years of friendship. At night they slept in the same bed, but clothed in their sleep shifts, and far away from each other.

Xena didn’t mind. Gabrielle was there. They were sharing life together again. She knew she could live this way forever if she had to. Oh, it was difficult sometimes. She caught herself more than once reaching out to touch her, wanting to be close, wanting to kiss her and express the profound love she still felt for her Soulmate. But she had always in the past been good at keeping her emotions under control. There had been so many years when she had kept her love for Gabrielle to herself, afraid that the small, blonde Bard from Poteidaia would find the idea repulsive and leave her. She was willing now again to wait forever for the chance that Gabrielle might come to her. It had to be her decision.

By the fourth month of Gabrielle’s return, they were once again quite comfortable with each other. Ares and Aphrodite were welcome visitors once again. Gabrielle would surprise Xena with something she knew she would enjoy for supper. Xena would shyly give her some of her favorite wildflowers she had gathered by the lake. Neither of them ever spoke about that fateful day. They were both trying very hard to work beyond that now.

*************************************************

 

Xena sighed contentedly. It was a beautiful night. She was back to her routine of waking up during the night, and just laying in bed enjoying the memories of the day. It was nice to have good memories again. And there was the smell of the woods, the cool breezes, and the sounds of Gabrielle breathing (and sometimes snoring) on the other side of the bed.

"Xena?"

She was momentarily startled by Gabrielle’s voice. "What are you doing awake?" she asked quietly.

She felt the bed move as Gabrielle turned over onto her back. "Can I move closer?" she asked, her voice almost a whisper in the night.

Xena smiled and raised her right arm, slipping it behind her head. "As close as you want, Gabrielle." She hoped Gabrielle couldn’t hear how fast her heart was beating.

Gabrielle inched over slowly until she was resting on her side up against Xena. Before she lay her head in the hollow of Xena’s shoulder, she very gently kissed her on the cheek and said, "I love you, Xena."

Xena lay her cheek against her Soulmate’s blonde hair, and brought her right arm down slowly around her. "I’ll always love you, Gabrielle," she replied. A tear ran down her cheek as she felt Gabrielle’s body relax against her. And when she was sure that Gabrielle was sound asleep in her arms, Xena whispered the words she had been greeted with upon her return from the Elysian Fields. "Welcome home."


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