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The sun shined bright in the morning sky, the fire from the night before now burned down silently. "Gabrielle, Gabrielle, it's time to get up." Xena says in a low toned voice.
Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes, looking up and seeing the all to familiar face staring down at her in anticipation to head off early this particular day......
"Can't you let me sleep a little more, its not like we have anything important to do" Gabrielle says in a slightly annoyed manner.
Xena ignoring Gabrielle's comments, turns and walks towards Argo.. "Hurry up Gabrielle we have to go"
After a moment Gabrielle scrambles to her feet, catching a glimpse at Xena, who had already started down the trail. "The least you can do is wait for me." Gabrielle shouts
The trail was long and rough having been troubled many times by farmers and their wagons. Xena is riding in silence listening to Gabrielle tell the heroic stories of their journeys.... the fifth at that...
"Take a break Gabrielle, the town of Epedia is across that clearing, we will be there in a few hours, you can entertain the villagers their with your ..... Gabrielle interrupts...
"Do you find me that annoying Xena?"
Xena gives Gabrielle the look, and simply replies.." NO, not always..
They finally cross the clearing and begin their way into the town of Epedia. There isn't much to see, the houses are run down and worn from the weather....the town drunks are scattered along the Tavern doors.
"Doesn't look like a very fun place" Gabrielle moans as she eyes the villagers, who are aware of strangers in their town..
"We wont be here for long, lets go get some food, then we will be on our way." Xena says abruptly..
The tavern grows silent as the two women walk in. The air smells of ale, and the drunken men now stumble to their feet.
"Stay close." Xena says while on her guard.
They walk over to a table and sit down, not a moment later a drunken man stumbles his way over to where Gabrielle is sitting... He grabs her arm and lifts her to her feet, knocking the chair from under her.
"What's your name pretty.. before he can finish.. Gabrielle interrupts
"Sorry your not really my type, Gabrielle says out loud, hoping that Xena would stay out of this situation and let her handle it.. the man now persistent tightens his grip on Gabrielle...
Xena now annoyed with this chap, decides its time to step in.. she stands and turns to the man..
"She's with me, and if you don't get your hands off of her I'm going to show you what 'type' I like"
The man stares at Xena for a moment, and then looks back at Gabrielle
"Oh I see, a woman, that is your type!" he laughs out loud.. Then in an instant his laughter turns into a painful scream as Gabrielle's knee makes contact quite hard into his groin...... The drunken man now in anger, strikes Gabrielle across the face, she lands back against the table..
Xena's eyes fill with rage.. she reaches out and grabs the man by his throat and throws him across the room... She takes her sword and starts to walk across the room where the man had landed... She leans down over him and picks him up by the hair, getting him to his feet.. she stares at him with a cold expression...,......... She takes her sword, and lowers it near his trembling hands,
"Don't you ever touch her again, or next time you wont have any hands to strike with!"
She continues to stare into his now fearful eyes, wanting to drive her sword straight through his heart, but then in an instant, she slams his head upon the table...she lets go, and he falls to the ground... he is now motionless.... Xena scans the room for any other foolishly brave people...
Xena turns and walks back over to Gabrielle and asks "Are you all right?"
Gabrielle is silent.....
Xena now persistent..."Gabrielle, are you OK"
Gabrielle looks up at Xena, " Yeah...... I'm ok.., I'm ready to go"
They walk out through the tavern doors side by side, Xena being cautious, looking over her shoulder until they are safely outside..
Outside the tavern, Xena stops Gabrielle and puts her hand on her now bruised cheek..
"Are you sure you're all right?"
Gabrielle, looking unsure, "Yea, I think so.."
Xena now growing concerned, for she had never seen that look on Gabrielle's face before...
"Come on, let's go, Says Xena while getting onto Argo, she stretches her hand down to Gabrielle......
"Your riding with me."
Gabrielle does not object, and reaches out to meet Xena's helping hand..
They ride off in silence, getting back on the trail.. Gabrielle now staring down the back of this mighty warrior, her best friend, a brave woman not afraid of anything.. or she thought... O how she did admire her though.. She is my friend, my family, my mentor, she thought to herself... What would I do without her?... Gabrielle now so wrapped up in thought and emotion, didn't even notice the tears starting to fall down her face..
Xena sensing something was wrong, stops Argo, and turns to face her friend..
"What's wrong Gabrielle?" she asks with great concern...
"Nothing......... I'm ok." Gabrielle replies as her eyes wander across the countryside..
Xena stares at Gabrielle for a moment, and then hesitantly turns back around
"We will make camp early tonight," Xena states while looking up into the sky
Gabrielle slowly leans forward, and lays her head on Xena's shoulder.. and simply says.."good.."
They find a clearing surrounded by tall trees a little further up the trail.. and decide to make camp there.
Xena helps Gabrielle down from Argo, she turns to her still holding her arms... "Gabrielle.......I.." Xena is hesitant..
"What is it Xena?" asks Gabrielle..
"Nothing never mind.. I'm gonna go gather some firewood.. stay here."
Gabrielle lays the blankets down on the slightly damp soil and sits silently with her thoughts... After a few minutes Xena returns with an arm full of fire wood.. she quickly builds a fire, she can feel the chill in the air, for the sun is already starting to go down.. They sit there side by side for a few moments, not exchanging a word.. Xena catches Gabrielle's eyes wandering into the now starless night..
"Are you going to tell me what's wrong Gabrielle?" Xena's voice now at its lowest tone...
Gabrielle turns to Xena looking into her now concerned looking eyes...Gabrielle's body now consumed by her emotions....
"Xena... back at the tavern, an incredible feeling came over me"... Gabrielle pauses.......
Xena's attention is now entirely focused on her friend...
"What is it Gabrielle? You know you can tell me anything.." Xena's voice now soft and full of reassurance..
Gabrielle takes a deep breath.. and continues to speak slowly....
"I saw the anger in your eyes tonight.. you wanted to kill that man.. Xena.. I have always feared that look, but tonight, I looked past all your anger, and seen inside your heart.. Gabrielle pauses again.. and wipes the tears from her eyes..
"Your not going to get mooshy on me are you?" Xena asks, trying to break the tension of the moment...
Gabrielle cracks a small smile.... "It needs to be said Xena" Gabrielle wiping the remaining tears from her face, turns and looks at her friend.. she sits up and continues on...
"I have seen the real person under that cold exterior, I've seen the side of you that no one else has ever bothered to look for... I have seen the pain in your eyes, and the sorrow on your face..." Gabrielle reaches over for Xena's hand, "but tonight, I found in you what I've been looking for..... I found the love in your heart, and the strength you need to make peace within your self".... Gabrielle grows silent, as she sees the expression on Xena's face.
Xena .. now starting to shed tears her self... looks deeply into Gabrielle's eyes and speaks softly..
"I wouldn't have that love in my heart if it wasn't for you. You have learned much from me, but I have learned far much more from you, you are my strength when I feel weak. The pain from my past lays a heavy burden upon my shoulders.. but you.... you ease that pain in my heart.." Xena stops as she feels her own emotions grow heavy upon her body..
Gabrielle now seeing the pain return into Xena's face, reaches out to her.. Xena falls heavily upon Gabrielle's shoulders.. All her fears, and all the pain she has held inside for so long now start to come out upon the friend she had been so afraid to show herself to for so long.. The friend that would always be there to lead her in the right direction.
Xena gently pulls away from Gabrielle and places her hands gently on Gabrielle's shoulders.. Xena begins to speak,
"I have never known a friend like you, I know I don't say it enough, but you are the most important thing in my life right now, without you by my side," Xena starts to laugh softly, "annoying me every waking hour, I think I would have given up my self a long time ago."
Gabrielle now showing a smile places her hand on top of Xena's which is still resting on her shoulders and begins to speak..
"True friends are so hard to come by that when you find one, you sometimes take for granted that there always going to be there, and then something happens and you realize that things can change in the blink of an eye"
Gabrielle pauses and leans forward, looking deep into Xena's now tear-filled eyes.... "I love you with all my heart........and now its time for you to make peace within yourself."
Xena's lips now displaying the hint of a smile...she pulls Gabrielle towards her, she embraces her.... now having no control over her tears.... "I love you too....my friend."
The burden now lifted for a moment... but not forgotten..