Disclaimers: The following contains spoilers for Path Of Vengeance
Now I know how my father felt. . . She’s gone. She just walked away. I couldn’t do anything to stop it. What the hell, she’s a grown woman. And isn’t that just what my mother said about me? They couldn’t lock me up. I was a grown woman free to do what I wanted to do – make my own choices. . . Damn it I wish they were alive. I’d go back home and tell them I understand.
"Whatcha thinkin’ bout bard?"
Xena’s voice brought Gabrielle from her thoughts. "Oh nothing really. Just . . . remembering, I guess."
Gabrielle watched as Xena straddle the bench with two mugs of ale. "Thought we could both use it tonight," she said as she slid the cup over the wood table they sat. Xena lightly pushed Gabrielle’s hair away from the cut she got in the brawl with Varia. "Swellings gone down. Might not even bruise."
"Please," Gabrielle said as she held back her tears while removing Xena’s hand carefully, "I was hoping to forget about that."
"You might have lost Gabrielle but it worked out in the end," Xena countered. "Like me on those rare occasions - you might have lost, but you were never beaten. Not for a second."
Gabrielle didn’t respond. She just looked into the bottom of her ale after taking a few large swallows.
"Come on Gabrielle. What’s really going on?" the warrior asked.
Gabrielle swished the ale around in her mug. "I don’t know. I feel like I failed you. I failed Eve. Maybe if I had won then Eve might have stuck around for awhile…I just don’t feel much like a ‘father figure’ is all. Fathers are strong and brave – they’d kill for their children if need be. Right now I don’t feel very strong or brave because I miss Eve. And in some odd cosmic connection, I miss my parents too. I finally GET IT, you know? When I watched Eve walk out of this village today, I finally understood what my parents must have felt when I left. . ."
Xena was a woman of few words but she made the ones she used count.
"Exactly," Gabrielle grinned bittersweetly. "I feel helpless. And I don’t do ‘helpless’ real well."
"So I guess that makes me a real baby for blubbering the way I did earlier huh?" Xena grinned.
"No, that made you sweet," Gabrielle grinned. "One of the reasons I love you very much because it’s a side few have ever seen."
"You and mother," Xena answered.
"What?" Gabrielle asked, a bit confused.
"You and my mother are the only ones to ever see me cry – at least that hard anyway. Not even my other family members saw me cry. I remember when I broke my arm. I was six on a hunting trip with Toris and my father when I fell out of a tree-."
"You? The warrior princess? Fell out of a tree?" Gabrielle chuckled.
"I didn’t always have many skills Gabrielle," the warrior answered playfully. "Anyway, I didn’t shed a single tear until my mother took me to my room to tend to my arm. I balled my eyes out then," she chuckled. "She almost started crying too. She hated to see me in pain. . .And when we first found Eve and I could feel her pain, her anger . . . I knew just how mother felt that day. And many days afterward for that matter. So I guess the point is that yes it hurts to be a parent. But it also has wonderful rewards so try not to be too upset. Cry a little, morn the fact we won’t have her near us . . .but realize we’ve done the right thing. We may not have raised her as a child but we showed her a new way that she can live and learn - - and that’s the greatest gift a parent can give a child."
Gabrielle grinned and took another long drink of her ale.
"Feel better?" Xena asked.
"No," Gabrielle chuckled.
"Me neither," Xena answered as she downed her ale. "Let’s say we get real drunk and fool around all night long."
Gabrielle choked on her drink and Xena patted her on the back.
"Just caught me off guard."
"Well the ‘kid’ is ‘out of the house’. We can act like newlyweds again," Xena said with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
"But we’ve never been wed to begin with," Gabrielle countered.
"Yeah, why is that? You know something? We should get married Gabrielle."
"I think it’s the stress of the ‘nest’ being empty that has you not thinking clearly," the bard answered.
"No I’m serious," Xena replied.
"No," Gabrielle countered. "You’re getting drunk."
"I am not!"
"You always want to marry me when your drunk and I always turn you down. Ask me when you’re sober and I’ll consider it," Gabrielle said coyly.
"Will you at least sleep with me?" Xena asked.
"You already know the answer to that question warrior," the bard said, grabbing Xena by the breastplate and bring her inches from her face. "You don’t even have to ask."
"I don’t huh?"
"How about I take you right here on this table?"
"Now I KNOW you’re drunk. Besides you wouldn’t want all these horny amazons admiring your naked bard now do you?"
"I’d kill ‘em all," Xena growled, starting to look around at the thought of them ogling HER BARD.
The warrior’s lip still quivered like a mad dog ready to strike out.
"Oh boy what did I start?" Gabrielle chuckled. "I think I better get you to a hut quick."
"I think you better kiss me before you do anything else," Xena warned playfully.
Gabrielle rose up and slid over until she straddled Xena’s waist. Her fingers pushed their way through Xena’s hair at her temples until they locked together in the back. Delicately Gabrielle kissed Xena high on the forehead while the warrior’s face became buried in the bard’s cleavage.
"How’s that?" Gabrielle answered.
"You’re so bad," Xena chuckled.
"And you wouldn’t have it any other way would you?"
"Not on your life."
"To the hut then?"
Xena rose taking the bard with her, still wrapped around her waist. "To the hut."
CONTINUED IN PART XIV: HEAT OF BATTLE