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Disclaimer: As usual, the story is mine, the characters are not. No copyright infringement intended. There is some subtext here, but nothing explicit. It should be noted that this story was written before Gabrielle's loss of blood innocence in the episode "The Deliverer". Send any comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
chapters 1 - 3
chapters 4 - 6
Xena found Gabrielle at the mouth of a nearby cave. She was sitting on the ground, resting her back against the cave and hugging her knees to her chest. Xena slowly walked up to her but decided to stop before she got too close.
"I'm going to get some firewood. We can camp out here tonight, but we have to leave early before the king sends out soldiers to find us." Xena stated before going to find some wood.
Gabrielle continued to stare at the ground. Envisioning that man's eyes before he died. Before she killed him, she mentally corrected herself. She began to softly cry. Her body didn't shudder with sobs and her face wasn't hidden in her hands. But tears were flowing down her cheeks as they filled her eyes. She did not blink. She merely let the tears fall. A number of minutes had passed before Xena came back carrying an arm full of wood.
"Let's move a little more into the cave so we have more shelter. I hate sleeping out in the open like this." Xena said as she approached Gabrielle. The bard barely acknowledged her return but stood and followed the warrior into the cave. Gabrielle watched as Xena prepared the fire. She was reliving the past day in her mind when she suddenly remembered something from what seemed like an eternity ago.
"By the gods, Xena!" She exclaimed. Xena jumped, startled by the sudden sound, and looked concerned as Gabrielle approached her with a worried expression on her face.
"What is it?" Xena asked.
"You were stabbed." Gabrielle stated as she reached over with her hands to touch Xena and search for a wound.
"Gabrielle, I'm fine. It's just a flesh wound." Xena explained trying to calm the girl down. She grabbed Gabrielle's hands and made the bard look into her eyes. "Really, it wasn't that deep. I heal quickly and my leathers took the worst of it." She said pointing to the rip in her side.
"You're okay?" Gabrielle asked in a quiet voice.
"Of course I am." Xena answered. "Come here." Xena lowered them both to the ground near the fire. "I'm more worried about your head wound." Xena ripped apart the cloak that Gabrielle had been wearing over her clothes and pressed a long piece of it to Gabrielle's forehead and the cut that was scabbing over.
"I'm all right if you're all right." Gabrielle stated. Xena then wrapped her arms around the bard and lowered them even further until they were laying down. Gabrielle rested her head against Xena's shoulder. They were both quiet, lost in their own thoughts. Xena felt wetness on her shoulder and realized that Gabrielle was crying again.
"Hey." Xena whispered. She turned so that she was facing Gabrielle. Using her right hand, Xena wiped away the tears on Gabrielle's face then left her hand there to comfort the girl. "Gabrielle, I know that this isn't going to help you with...what you're going through, but I need to tell you....that I love you." A lone tear made its way down Xena's cheek. Gabrielle's eyes softened as she spoke.
"You're wrong Xena." She said softly. "It does help." Xena once again wrapped her arms around her bard. Gabrielle rested her head on Xena's shoulder and closed her eyes. Before she drifted off to sleep, Gabrielle felt Xena's lips press softly to her forehead.
Gabrielle could feel herself being shaken. Someone's hand was on her shoulder. Was that Xena's voice?
"Gabrielle, wake up!" Xena said. There was an urgency in her voice that caused Gabrielle to bolt upright. She silently cried out in pain as her movement reminded her about the slash on her stomach left behind from a guard's whip. Xena's hand was on the wound immediately, soothing it.
"Easy, now." She said. "We need to get out of here. The soldiers are just across the river."
Xena had already put out the fire. It was still dark outside. When they emerged from the cave, Gabrielle could see a line of torches on the opposite bank. She followed Xena down the shoreline, away from the cave. Xena wasn't sure where they were running to, just that they had to put some distance between themselves and the soldiers. She needed to find a way to cross the river so they could get back to Argo. On horseback they could cover more ground and get as far away from this kingdom as possible.
"Xena, stop!" Gabrielle yelled as she came to a rest in order to catch her breath. Xena turned around and went over to Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle, we need to keep moving or they're going to catch up to us." She said as she put her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder.
"No." Gabrielle breathed. "No more running. I have to take responsibility for what I've done."
"Gabrielle, they're going to kill you. I can't let that happen."
"So, what then? Do I keep running for the rest of my life? Xena, I can't do that. I can't live like that and I can't ask you to, either." Gabrielle looked up at Xena, seeing that the warrior was struggling with her emotions. The bard took Xena's hand and studied it as she mentally constructed her next sentence.
"Xena, if I were anybody else, you would tell me to face up to what I've done." Xena shook her head and opened her mouth to speak, but Gabrielle put two fingers from her other hand over the warrior's lips. "Let me finish." She took a deep breath.
"Remember when you were accused of killing those villagers when you were actually trying to save them, and it was Ares who set you up. They put you on trial and sentenced you to death, yet you refused to escape. You knew that the right thing to do was to face your fate, even though you were innocent." Xena squeezed Gabrielle's hand and lifted it to her lips. "Xena, I love you, but I need to do what's right."
Xena barely had time to react when a group of soldiers approached them. She was momentarily shocked since the soldiers did not come from the direction of the river.
"Gabrielle get behind me." Xena said as she unsheathed her sword and addressed the soldiers. Gabrielle did as she was told. There were four soldiers. The one leading the group had a torch.
"You!" Xena gasped as the group got closer. The man holding the torch stepped forward, acknowledging Xena's comment. "You were the one who asked us for help."
"That's right." The man said. "But now that we've gotten what we wanted, we don't need your help anymore. You're free to leave."
"What!" Xena said, visibly upset. "In case you haven't noticed there is an entire army after us." She paused as her mind processed what the man had said. "What do you mean now that you've gotten what you wanted?"
"We wanted the king's brother dead. Your friend gave us that, with a little help."
"What do you mean a little help?" Gabrielle asked as she stepped closer, away from Xena's protective form.
The man smiled wickedly. "Do you mean to tell me that you actually believe that you're responsible for his death?" He chuckled to himself. "You didn't see the man sneak up behind him and push him into your blade?"
"No...I.." Gabrielle didn't know what to say. Xena stepped in front of her again and spoke. "You put us in this predicament on purpose, why? What's in it for you?"
"Well, the entire army is out looking for you. Security at the castle is minimal. I have assassins in place now. The king will be dead by morning."
"You plan on killing your king. Why?" Xena asked, disgusted.
"Well, perhaps I should introduce my self first. I am Tobin, cousin to the king." He stated proudly.
"You're going to inherit the throne." Xena said.
"That's right. The king never had any children so his brother was next in line, with me coming in third. Now, it's my turn to rule this kingdom."
Xena swallowed hard as she contemplated their options. The army was at their backs ready to take Gabrielle to her execution, and the ones responsible for this mess may be the only ones who can help them out of it. Xena flinched as another thought processed its way through her mind. If Tobin succeeds with the assassination then Gabrielle will be free of these murder charges.
"Come on, Gabrielle. We're getting out of here." Xena grabbed the bard by her arm and began to escort her off, all the while keeping her eyes on Tobin. Gabrielle didn't bother to protest. She knew what that look in Xena's eyes meant. It meant business.
As the pair made their way from Tobin and his army they heard him give the order to attack the soldiers making their way across the river.
"Xena." Gabrielle said as she squirmed her way out of Xena's grip. "We have to do something." Xena refused to stop walking.
"We are doing something, Gabrielle. We're getting you out of here."
"But Xena, we can't let them kill the King." She stared at Xena as they continued to walk. "We have to at least warn him!" she protested.
"Gabrielle, we don't have time." Xena argued as her eyes pierced the dark through which they were traveling. She stopped in her tracks and held her hand up to stop Gabrielle from going any further. Just then a soldier surprised them from behind. Xena intercepted him and pushed Gabrielle out of the way. She was too busy to notice that another soldier had arrived.
Gabrielle was watching Xena fight, and then everything went black.
"Gabrielle?" Xena's voice reached Gabrielle's ears as she began to regain consciousness. She became aware of the bed she was lying in, warm sheets covering her. Slowly she opened her eyes.
"Xena?" She whispered. She realized Xena was holding her hand and she squeezed it in response.
"Hey there." Xena whispered, trying to keep the quiver out of her voice. She reached up and brushed her hand over Gabrielle's face, pretending to brush away a lock of hair. Deep down she just craved the feel of the bard's skin.
"Where are we?" Gabrielle asked as she tried to sit up.
"Hey, easy now." Xena said as she helped Gabrielle into a sitting position. "You've been out for a while. You need to be careful."
Gabrielle put her hand on her head when the movement made her dizzy. Then she focused in on Xena's words. "Now, you tell me." She blinked a few times and then glanced around the room. "Xena, where are we?"
"We're in the castle. The King's letting us stay here until you're well enough to travel." She said as she sat down on the bed next to Gabrielle.
"All right, obviously I've been out of it for a while. Exactly how did we get from the part where the King wanted to kill me to where the King is letting us stay in his castle until I'm feeling better?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena took a deep breath before beginning her story. "After they knocked you out, I surrendered and they took us to the castle. By the time we got here the King had already heard about the ambush, the mutiny, and his cousin. Tobin didn't succeed."
"So, I'm not going to die?" Gabrielle asked.
"No, Gabrielle, not today." Xena whispered as she reached out to touch the bard's face again. Gabrielle was touched by Xena's show of affection.
"Xena, you look tired. Come lie down with me."
Xena stood and removed her armor and arm bracers. She then crawled into bed beside Gabrielle. The bard snuggled back against Xena's chest and reached around to pull Xena's arm around her waist. The warrior bent her head down and pressed her lips to Gabrielle's head. The bard turned in her arms and looked into the warriors eyes.
"Xena, you know that I love you, right?"
"Of course I do, Gabrielle."
"No, I mean...I love you."
"I know, Gabrielle. I love you, too." Xena bent down to kiss the bard again, this time on the lips. As their lips met, Xena moved her hand up to frame the young woman's face. As the kiss began to deepen, Xena pulled back.
"I...think we should just go to sleep. You've been through a lot. I don't want to hurt you." Xena said tenderly.
"Hey, you're not going to break me." Gabrielle insisted.
"I know. But you need to rest. I don't want to rush this. I want everything to be perfect.." Xena said.
"It will be." Gabrielle whispered. She reached up and met the warrior's lips again. Then, just as suddenly, rolled over and leaned her back into Xena resuming their previous position. Xena wrapped her arms around the bard and closed her eyes. Thank the gods this day is over.
chapters 1 - 3
chapters 4 - 6
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