Disclaimers: The standard. Characters not mine just borrowed. Alt tale, be warned. This story takes place after Return of the Valykrie.
"Did you love him?"
The question was spoken so lightly that, even with her acute hearing, Xena almost didn’t catch it. Her hand, that had just begun to work it’s way to Gabrielle’s breast, came to a sudden halt. The lips Xena was kissing just moments before were now trembling.
"Did I love him?" Xena repeated in a much clearer voice.
All she got was a weak nod.
I thought we went over all this earlier today. Xena paused a moment and realized that in the bard’s mind perhaps they didn’t. She asked if I slept with him but she didn’t ask if I loved him. "The answer is no. I didn’t."
Gabrielle gave another nod and tried to pull Xena back to her for another round of kisses. But Xena couldn’t comply. At least not yet when she knew something was weighing on Gabrielle’s mind. "Why do you ask?" the warrior posed.
"Curiosity," Gabrielle answered with a grin. A shaky grin at that. Xena knew that the bard was trying very hard to get past her recent nuptials . . . and not having much success.
"C’mere," the warrior whispered.
Xena rolled over onto her back and pulled the covers over their naked bodies. She opened her arms and the bard took the invitation by snuggling into the warrior’s shoulders before giving a deep sigh.
"I’m sorry for ruining ‘the mood’," Gabrielle told her sincerely.
"You have questions that need answers so this can wait," the warrior answered with a sweep of her hand at the way they were embracing each other. "What can’t wait however is putting your mind at ease, k?"
Xena could feel the grin on her shoulder although she couldn’t see it. When Gabrielle didn’t add more the warrior continued.
"I didn’t love him. I was grateful that he had found me. I was grateful that he took care of me. And with no memory of myself I didn’t have much to depend upon."
"I’m not blaming you Xena," the bard remarked.
"I know that," Xena said pausing to kiss the blonde crown under her chin. "I just want you to realize that I agreed to marry him because he offered. I agreed because he told me I was this other person – that he and I had plans for our lives. With no other memories I guess I felt I had no choice but to believe him. But the longer I stayed with him the more memories would creep back. I couldn’t fall in love with him Gabrielle because I think deep down I knew I loved you – or at least someone else."
"What does that mean? Someone else?" Gabrielle asked moving to her elbow to look at Xena.
"I mean. I didn’t think Hrothgar was my soulmate. It felt like there was someone else out there for me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And the nearer I got to the wedding day the more flashes of memory would come back to me. Images of you, of the ring, other people we knew. I had events, I had faces but I didn’t know how to put it all back together . . . So no Gabrielle. I didn’t love him. And I certainly didn’t care for him in the way I love you. I’ll never love anyone the way I love you my bard."
Gabrielle leaned up and placed a slow burning kiss on Xena’s lips. "Thank you," she whispered.
"For tellin it like it is?" Xena replied.
"For putting my mind at ease," Gabrielle answered.
"My pleasure," Xena grinned. She felt the bard take each of her hands in her own, pinning them to the bed as she straddled her waist.
"Your pleasure huh?" Gabrielle replied, her voice so smoky, Xena found it difficult to breath. "As you wish."
Xena was never comfortable at first when it came to being ‘captured’ but with the right inspiration she often gave up her need for ‘control’ and simply sank into the bards domain, giving the little blonde anything she requested. Xena, warrior princess, destroyer of nations, 6 foot tall and 200 pounds of muscle lay helpless under the 5 foot nothing, 130 at best, battling bard of Poteidaia. And the warrior wouldn’t have it any other way.
Gabrielle saw the look in her warrior’s eyes and she knew – Xena was offering her everything. Her trust, her heart, her soul. It was all there for the bard without reservation. Marriage or no marriage Gabrielle realized that Xena was hers, would always be hers and nothing would change that. Gabrielle also knew that she would live and die for this glorious warrior that lie waiting beneath her.
The bard cocked her head and examined her closer. Slowly a grin grew on the warrior’s face.
"What?" Xena finally whispered.
"Do you realize how much I truly love you? Everything about you – darkness and light?"
"If it’s anything like I feel for you then yes, I do."
Gabrielle smiled and stroked the warrior’s face that soaked up the attention like a sponge in an ocean.
"So beautiful," Gabrielle whispered. "So incredibly beautiful."
"We have a lot in common," Xena replied before kissing the fingers that swept by her lips.
"Well then," Gabrielle said with a husky sigh. "We must look spectacular together."
"Ares said he’d pay to see that," Xena replied.
Gabrielle stopped kissing Xena’s earlobe she was working on and chuckled into her shoulder instead. "Well if we’re ever hard up for cash-."
"Well never be THAT hard up I can assure you," Xena said as she chuckled too.
They both calmed down a bit and stared deeply at each other.
"I love you Xena."
"I love you Gabrielle."
Gabrielle’s face wore a coy grin that Xena loved greatly. "Then show me."
And show her she did. Repeatedly.
Spent, thirty and hungry the duo decided to leave the quietness of their room to travel downstairs to the noise of the tavern. Looks like the rift raft haven’t moved on, Xena said making a mental note.
"I think I’m beginning to loose my appetite," the bard confessed.
After some chitchat at the bar Gabrielle could tell by that look in Xena’s eyes trouble may lay ahead. It never ceases to amaze me Gabrielle thought. A lover on moment and a fighter the next. She grinned inwardly. For as gentle as those hands were moments ago I’m sure they’ll do some serious damage in this bar if need be.
And sure enough as Gabrielle predicted the fur began to fly. She found herself reluctantly called to action and with a roll of her eyes she jumped into the melee too. And as the last man fell she realized . . .
I love this life.
CONTINUED IN PART X: DOWN HOME