Disclaimers - Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and any other characters that have appeared on Xena: Warrior Princess are the property of RenPics/Universal/MCA. We're borrowing them for a short while, but no copyright infringement is intended. This story cannot be sold or profited from in any way. The story line itself and extra characters belong to Carrie and/or AJ. It contains spoilers for every season they've done so far. This is the third and last part of a story arc beginning with Past Tense by Carrie Carr and Present Tense by AJ and Carrie Carr.
There's very little sex, violence, or naughty words. Although there is a theme of two women who love one another. If this is illegal where you live, or twists your knickers, then hit the back button. You won't hurt our feelings (much, anyway). Let us know what you think - Carrie can be emailed firstname.lastname@example.org or email AJ at email@example.com
By AJ & Carrie Carr
The sun had been up for a few candle marks when the light-haired woman awakened and slipped from their soft pallet. Gabrielle studied the peaceful look on her lover's face for a long moment, then shook her head and pulled on her leathers. She walked quietly through the foliage, careful not to disturb the sleeping warrior.
She found a large rock to rest upon and began to think of how she came to be where she was. More exactly, how her heart came to be where it was. She examined her life before Xena, their first years together, and many roads they traveled that brought them to the place they now were.
She remembered the thrill of sneaking out of her parents' home, declaring to her sister that she was going to be a warrior, like Xena. Gabrielle smiled to herself. It was like that time when she decided to be a traveling merchant and see the world. She had followed a traveling merchant and ended up being carted, none too ceremoniously, back to her angry parents. Another time she followed a traveling bard with the same results. She was always following someone that she thought would allow her to realize her dream of seeing the world.
However, it seemed that all her parents ever saw was a child that they concluded was out of control, a habitual runaway, irresponsible and somewhat daft. Marrying her off didn't turn out to be the answer to settling their troublesome daughter, either. She quickly dismissed Perdicus, and was not in the least bit shy about letting him know that marrying him was not her idea of what she wanted for her life.
I do remember playing dress up with Lila. I used to drive her crazy because I was never the same person twice in a row. She was always certain of who she was and what she wanted. It seems that all I ever understood about myself was my desire to see the world. Fortunately for me, when I followed Xena, she didn't take me back to my parents. She understood that longing to be who you are and do what makes sense to you. Trouble is, I didn't really know who I was. Just that I loved being with her, and I could tell she loved me, too.
Gabrielle remembered how they learned to care for each other. That was such a confusing time for me. I loved Xena so much! I needed her. But I kept hurting her. I followed anyone and anything that came along. It hurt her so much. I remember dropping everything that I was doing, to return to my parent's house after Xena and I had been lovers for just over a year. Left her finishing up the bridge that I had volunteered to rebuild, and ran off to see my sister. I remember that last time we made love. Why couldn't I tell her that I loved her? Why couldn't I give myself completely to her? And, worse, every time she wanted to talk about it, I'd try to distract her by having sex with her. It felt empty for her and for me, and it ended up hurting her because she could tell that a part of me was missing. The part that could promise her that I'd never leave her.
When I overheard Lila tell her what she thought about me, it hurt. I knew there was truth in what she was saying. I'd been role-playing. When I became Xena's lover, I played a role. I had done what so many others had tried to do before, and failed. I had won the heart of the Warrior Princess. I did love her, but not in the way she loved me, and it hurt her. When Xena promised to wait for me, I thought it was an empty promise. But I should have known her better than that. Xena never makes empty promises. And she did wait for me.
My feelings for her were so confused. I wanted to love her as she loved me, but I couldn't. If I had accepted her completely, as Lila tried to tell me that I didn't, I would have had to accept everything that went with it. That it wasn't role-playing. I really lived a life that often ended up in violent acts. I really loved a woman who had committed more than her fair share of them. And I really was the soul mate of a woman that I kept trying to change into what I wanted her to be rather than who she was. I was immature. I was stupid. I nearly threw away the best thing that ever happened to me because I couldn't accept Xena for whom she was and what I thought it made me to love her.
Gabrielle stood up and paced back and forth for a few moments while she allowed the complex and jumbled thoughts in her head to settle into a picture that made sense to her.
When did I know things had changed? In Chin. It was in Chin. When I said that sometimes a person is your home. I thought I was just giving an answer that would allow the subject of me settling down to drop, but when I said it, I knew it was true. Somehow, I had accepted Xena as my home. Not just in words, but in fact.
When did that happen? We'd been through so much. When did I know that I'd accepted the part of Xena that I'd been so ready up until then to change?
Gabrielle sat down again and drew in a ragged breath. When we were brought back to life. When I reached over and took her hand and all I knew was that the woman I loved was there with me, and that her hand was warming up as mine was, and that we were alive. Tears trailed silently down her cheeks, unnoticed.
When she couldn't remember her dark side and needed it to protect herself, I knew everything I'd ever wished for her had been wrong. It was wrong for me to want her to lose that part of herself. Without what I called her dark side, she was defenseless, and so were those people who looked to her for their protection.
That's when I grew up. The day that we were put to death on our crosses, I learned that nothing was more important to me than Xena. Not my lofty principles, not the role I thought I should play. Xena's life mattered. Only that. That's when I committed to the 'way of friendship' as I called it. But it was really the way to loving Xena for who she was.
How foolish I was when I was starting out with her. The thing that attracted me to her was the very thing I wanted to change. I loved that she was a warrior. I wanted to be like her. But I didn't want to have to see people die. We weren't children playing a game. We were in life and death struggles, and in them, people die. I couldn't accept that. I couldn't accept us being part of that. It allowed me to leave her again and again, and to cause her pain and suffering as I convinced myself that it was for her own good.
Why she didn't give up on me, I'll never understand. Even being soul mates. A person can only stand so much. But she stood by me again and again. She always let me know that I was the most important person to her in the world. And I took it for granted. And I betrayed her love.
Warm arms surrounded Gabrielle. She'd been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't heard her lover come up behind her. Xena lovingly caressed Gabrielle. The loving touches caused more tears to fall from Gabrielle's eyes.
Xena was instantly worried. She was about to panic because she thought that maybe she'd made another mistake. Even though Gabrielle said she had committed to her, had she really? Her heart beat faster and she bent her head as her own tears streamed down her face. She couldn't bear it to be wrong about this. She felt something with Gabrielle last night that she'd never felt from the young blonde before. There was a sureness about Gabrielle. She couldn't be wrong. Please...
"Xena? You're crying! Why? Why, love?"
"Gabrielle..." was all Xena could choke out, her heart too overcome with emotion to speak.
"Xena? Please, love, tell me what's wrong?"
Xena shook her head. She couldn't speak. All she could do was clutch Gabrielle to her as if she were trying to merge their two bodies together.
Gabrielle thought for a moment, and then realized that Xena must have seen her tears and thought..."OH NO! No, Xena. Not that. It's not that. I love you! Please don't cry."
"Gab...Gabrielle? Are you sure about this? Are you sure about us? I couldn't bear it if...."
Gabrielle silenced Xena with a kiss. "I'm sure, my love. Very sure. I've had more than 30 years to think about it, and I know and I accept that I'm in love with you. I loved you before, Xena. I always have. But you were right. I wasn't ready to accept it. I couldn't accept all the implications of loving you. I was immature. I didn't know who I was. How could I commit to you when I didn't know who was doing the promising? Was I a warrior like you? A bard? Someone destined to be a wife and mother? Who was I? And if I committed to you then, for me it meant accepting that my life was about loving a woman whose life was filled with violence. I couldn't accept that view of myself."
"But, Gabrielle. We were unconscious for 25 of those years." Xena let a small smile escape. "And...I'm still a warrior. How can you...?"
"Because I learned that you're so much more than that. You're just and fair, and you don't fight without a good reason to. You have a good heart. You love more than you ever hated. And your beauty is not just external. It permeates your soul. We're soul mates. That's true. But before it scared me. Now I welcome and embrace it. I love you, Xena. I love you for who you are, how you think..."(and she smiled as her sister's words came back to her mind even 25 years later) "I love what makes you tick."
"Gabrielle," Xena lifted her love's hand and kissed her open palm. "When you knelt before me last night and promised yourself to me, I felt like someone had handed me the world. I didn't question it because I was so happy that you'd made that decision. All I thought was, "She won't ever leave me again." I wanted to take you and hold you and worship you. Everything I'd waited for was finally mine. You were finally mine."
"I won't ever leave you, Xena. Even in death..." Xena's eyes grew wide as she heard Gabrielle repeat the words she had said to the small blonde so many years before. And Xena knew it was true. They had faced death together. They had died together. Gone through heaven and hell. But their love for each other was the most powerful force they'd ever known. They returned to life together. They would go on together. Through countless years and countless lives...the two soul mates would go on together.
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