The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others belong in their entirety to Universal/MCA, Renaissance Pictures, and all the other powers that be. No copyright infringement is intended. I wrote this story at the urging of my muse; it should never be used for profit. Please do not copy or cite elsewhere without express permission of the author.
Mentioned only in passing.
This story involves a loving friendship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it.
This story is post-FIN, and presumes that all the scrolls by all the hopeful bards somehow brought Xena back to Gabrielle in the flesh. Forget that "ghost-on-the-deck" ending. I was one of those bards. My attempt is documented in a scroll titled "A Friend in Deed," which can be found at: http://www.ausxip.com/fanfic16/a_friend_in_deed.htm
Many thanks to FiTanna for her fine beta work, to Kamouraskan for editing suggestions, and to my fellow pub crawlers at LaLa and Netgyrls Tavern Wall for their encouragement.
In this tale, Gabrielles scroll parallels (and perhaps precedes) Isaiah 2:4. He just had a better press agent.
The Bard tapped the feathered tip of the quill thoughtfully against her lips.
The Warrior sitting next to her heard the younger woman sigh and glanced up from the bridle she was mending.
"Need more ink?"
Silence. Gabrielles uncharacteristic reticence frustrated Xena.
"What then?" The Warrior Princess tried not to sound annoyed.
"The words dont they just wont they arent " The Bard trailed off with an exasperated groan.
"Going cryptic on me?"
Gabrielle cocked her head to one side and stared forlornly at her best friend. Unshed tears brightened sparkling green-blue eyes. Her gaze lowered to the scroll that rested on her lap. With a dejected shrug, she began to roll it up, taking great care to keep the ends even.
"Xena, do you sometimes get the feeling that Ares is up there on Mount Olympus laughing at us?"
"Of course. Hes a bastard with nothing better to do." The Warrior injected a note of teasing sarcasm, hoping to lighten the mood.
"I mean it seriously."
In Gabrielles terse statement, Xena heard genuine concern, tinged with a sharp edge of despair. She studied the woman sitting at her side -- a woman looking to the Warrior Princess for answers.
"Damn it," she thought, "I dont know how to answer this one guess Id better stall."
"Tell me what you mean, Gabrielle."
The Bard stared straight ahead. When she spoke, it was in a quiet, husky monotone.
"No matter what we do the cycle continues. Were caught, you know. Trapped." She tilted her head back and studied the dark heavens for a moment. "I thought Elis way might be the answer. Or maybe just becoming the old Gabrielle again no killing words before weapons all that. But its the way of the warrior for us, and for the world, isnt it? Ironically, we have to fight to end violence." She managed a tight, grim smile.
Xena listened in silence, wondering what had brought this up now.
"Its sad, dirty joke, right? Ares little jest at the expense of the world, the children "
Then, Xena knew.
They had passed through a settlement in Mesopotamia several weeks before. For such a large village, it seemed too quiet, too deserted. Yet, it didnt look like it had been raided. No battered walls or smoldering, ruined dwellings marred the scene. No bodies. No animals, living or dead. A few villagers wandered the streets, dazed, but carrying on packing to leave.
When they inquired about what happened, an old man told them of the warlord who laid siege to the town for over a year, finally starving most of the children to death. Then, the fever took the rest. The warlord hadnt attacked. He merely "embargoed" leading to slow, painful devastation. The villagers watched their children die one by one, until they finally surrendered. Too late. Once he achieved victory, the warlord raided their treasury, stole a goodly supply of Greek fire, rounded up the few villagers still healthy enough to sell as slaves, and rode away. It had been a long, cruel exercise in revenge for an affront to the warlords father many years before -- nothing more. Now, there was no one left to begin again.
Gabrielle remained strangely silent for almost two days after they rode away. Nightmares followed -- the worst since she led her Amazons up the blood soaked beach at Helicon.
Though not the most terrible sight theyd ever witnessed, her experience at the village tore into the Bards already tattered optimism.
Xena weighed her response, knowing her next words might be vital to the survival of Gabrielles heart and soul.
"To have peace, you need justice. And sometimes justice doesnt come without a fight. I learned that the hard way."
Gabrielle nodded in sad agreement as she packed her scroll in a worn leather saddlebag. A single droplet spilled from tear-filled eyes and slipped down her cheek. She made no effort to wipe it away.
The Warrior closed the distance between them and gently grasped the Bards forearm. Gabrielle stopped her activity, but refused to meet her partners gaze. Xena cleared her throat and spoke in a soothing voice.
"Youve written something there. Would you read it to me?"
Gabrielle shook her head.
"Why? Theyre just useless words, Xena. They arent the answer. Fighting isnt the answer. I dont know what is, anymore."
Xena resorted to her "pleading puppy" expression the one that invariably got her way with Gabrielle. A resigned grin supplanted the Bards frown.
"All right. You know I cant deny you anything when you look at me like that. But you get to read it. I cant."
She handed the scroll to Xena, and the Warrior began reading aloud.
Gabrielles scroll recounted the tale of two rival villages struggling to stop a bloody dispute whose origin had been lost in a century of mayhem. But it was the storys moral that captivated Xena. The Bard had written:
And the people of the villages proclaimed an end to war forever. They reached across the chasm, offering the hand of peace. They hammered their swords into plough blades and fashioned their spears into pruning hooks. They vowed to never again teach their children the art of war. They abandoned Ares and all his ways.
Xena looked up from the scroll and smiled at her companion. "Gabrielle, thats beautiful."
"Its hopeless drivel."
Xena studied the words carefully.
"Maybe not hopeless. Maybe just a little ." she searched for the right term, " premature."
The Bards forehead wrinkled. Xena discerned the question in her young companions eyes and continued.
"The world might not be ready for this. But dont you dare stop. Its what you do best. With everything that has happened to you to us its still your nature to heal and make peace. You have to stay true to that or " The lump in Xenas throat choked off her sentence.
Gabrielle sensed her companions hesitation, and the start of other tears.
"Thats OK, Xena. I know what you mean. I just get a little down sometimes." She moved closer, but Xena leaned away.
"Let me finish this."
The Bard paused. She sat beside the Warrior, waiting patiently. No matter how long they traveled together and despite a familiarity far beyond friendship, Gabrielle marveled at the effort it took for Xena to let go, to be sentimental. She admired the older woman for continuing to try so hard. She knew that Xena did it for her.
"One day, Gabrielle, maybe not in our lifetimes, but some day, the world will know the wisdom of your words. The longing for peace will be stronger than the God of War."
"And until then we just have to be faithful to our path, huh?" Gabrielle asked thoughtfully. She gave her partner a teasing nudge. "Gee, Xena, youre beginning to sound just like me."
"And thats a bad thing?"
The Bard laughed outright, and wrapped an arm around the Warriors broad shoulders, drawing her into a fierce hug. They sat like that for several minutes, comfortable in their stillness.
Finally, Gabrielle could no longer stifle a threatening yawn. She stood and stretched slowly -- her small, strong body silhouetted by the firelight.
"Guess its time to quit trying to save the world and get some rest."
"Yeah. Rome wasnt built in a " Xena winced as she bit off the statement.
The Bard chuckled softly, then began her bedtime ritual, using a small root to clean her teeth, rinsing her hands and face with water that had been heating near the fire. She removed her boots, then her top, and finally her skirt and underclothes, facing away from her companion.
She turned just in time to catch the lusty gleam in Xenas eyes. The Warrior managed to keep the rest of her expression stoic, but there was no mistaking her thoughts. Gabrielle decided not to wear her sleeping shift. She knelt and slipped gracefully between the light blankets that had replaced their usual sleeping furs in the midsummer heat.
Gabrielle watched Xena complete her own nighttime routine. The Warrior laid her weapons near their bed then joined her companion.
The Bard sighed as she felt soft, warm skin against her own. They lay on their backs, side by side.
"You know, once upon a time that Rome remark would have cut pretty deep "
"Im sorry " Xena began, but a gentle squeeze on her arm stopped the apology.
"Dont be. Thats the past. Its still there, but the memories dont hurt as much now," the younger woman continued, whispering to the night as much as to her partner. "Its all still with me every memory, every desire. I havent stopped dreaming."
Gabrielle rolled onto her side and nestled closer.
"Umhmm." Xena planted a tender kiss on a bare shoulder, more for reassurance than arousal.
"Deep down, I still want to break the cycle of violence." The Bard grasped the hand that began to caress her cheek and brought it to her lips. "Do you remember what we were like back then?"
"Of course." The Warrior felt her own memories prick sharply.
"You were so tough, Xena. So full of guilt. Youve come a long way."
"So have you "
"And now Im a warrior too."
"A very good one, I might add -- Gabrielle, the Battling Bard of Potidaea." Xena spoke the title with heartfelt pride
"But youre still the best, though, Warrior Princess. Youve even developed some of the poets sensitivity."
Xena pondered that one for a moment. "Thanks. I think."
The laughter of true soulmates filled the darkness.
Gabrielle burrowed into the warm body behind her. A strong arm found its way around her waist and hauled her close. A callused palm caressed the soft skin just below her breasts -- fingers tracing flesh and muscle. She murmured soft words of grateful pleasure then rolled onto her back when a loving nip to her shoulder signaled that Xena was as ready as she.
The tall woman knelt astride her partners hips -- hands and knees lending charged distance. A single moments pause while crystal blue eyes explored the green depths below, seeking permission already given. Then began a familiar dance -- small smiles blossoming to lusty grins; whimpers and moans spiraling to throaty growls; each urging the other higher and higher.
The Bard ached to be consumed by the heat that surrounded her the fire of her soulmates passion. The Warrior sensed her willingness and fed the flames, searing a tortuous path along the stunning body with lips and tongue, teeth and fingertips; reaching her warm, wet destination and lingering there, slaking her thirst for all that was Gabrielle.
The young Amazon whispered her lovers name over and over -- without thought, without shame, completely and joyfully lost in everything that was Xena.
With an ecstatic cry, the Bard climaxed first, followed immediately by her Warrior.
The taller woman collapsed into a strong, welcoming embrace, planting soft kisses wherever her lips found inviting skin. Gabrielles fingertips drew light, loving circles on Xenas back.
They took their time coming down, waiting until each could feel the slowing heartbeat of the other.
"Whew " Xena puffed when her breathing returned to something resembling normal.
"Yeah I second that." Gabrielle sounded exhausted and elated all at once. In a series of practiced moves, she managed to reverse their positions until her head rested on the Warriors shoulder -- one leg draped casually over the lower half of the tall womans body and an arm tossed across the her midsection. Xena grinned at the familiar resting places her companion seemed to favor.
Gabrielle voiced her next thought with just a touch of wonderment. "You know, its a lot easier to be faithful to the path when you share it with someone you love."
"Aint it the truth."
"Ill work on that scroll some more tomorrow."
"I knew you would."
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