Conversation by Campfire: Part 2
by CN Winters
Disclaimers: Please see the first installment.
A Conversation by Campfire Ė Episode Two
By CN Winters
"Please tell me. Is it me? Have you changed your mind about-?
"No," Xena affirmed quickly, cutting the bard short. "I love you in ways I never dreamed possible. Iím all right really. We need to get moving to warn the city."
"No." The defiance in the bardís voice stopped Xena in the task of rolling their bedroll. Their eyes locked and the bard moved to her knees in front of the warrior. "Tell me whatís going on. Iím not a mind reader Xena . . . I have to admit this . . . resistance. . It makes it difficult to believe Iím not the problem."
Xena took the bards hands in hers, giving each one a single affectionate kiss. How can I make her understand without hurting her even more? Xena thought silently before speaking. They had already endured so much pain together. She didnít want their road to being lovers see any more harm.
"Honestly. Itís not you. Yes there is something wrong but itís nothing that youíve done Gabrielle. Itís me. Itís my problem. My burden. . . It isnít your concern."
"By Tartarus itís not!" Gabrielle said snatching her hands away from Xenaís embrace. "You promised me Ė no more secrets, no more silent treatments! And if you have a problem then ĎIí have a problem."
Why canít she just let it go? Xena wondered.
"No Xena," the bard said beginning to sob. "Youíre reluctance to talk to me . . . to be honest, it hurts. And it worries me . . . if you canít trust me then I canít move forward with you. And I know I canít move back to where we were last week."
"Itís not about trust. Itís about protecting you," Xena plead. "Please donít make me explain any further."
The bards sigh was deep. Xena was missing entirely missing the point. "Donít you see by now that Iím not the only one who needs protection and care. You need it too . . . and whatever it is thatís haunting you now . . . itís destroying us before we even have a chance to truly begin . . . Whatever it is . . . have faith that I can handle it . . . Please."
Xena released a raged sigh. She had to tell Gabrielle of the vision now. And she realized what the bard said was true. If they were ever going to survive as a couple they had to have equal footing with one another. That equality was something that was missing from all her previous relationships.
She usually had the upper hand with her lovers. She could take them or leave them. But Gabrielle . . . she realized she couldnít just leave her. She never could. She always came back to her, even in the worst of times. And the thought of being so taken by someone who was so taken with her, frightened her, excited her but above all else comforted her. With that she went into the vision that Alti showed her, hoping upon hope that Gabrielle wouldnít leave screaming for the hills. On the other hand part of her was hoping that Gabrielle would depart, saving her from an untimely and young death. Xena felt truly torn.
After she finished, Gabrielleís reaction surprised her. She seemed almost angered by what she had been told and most certainly disbelieving. Xena knew in her heart the vision was real although Gabrielle denied it. So much of what Alti showed her had come to pass. The burning village as they fought the Romans, the battle with Najara. She had to make the bard see the threat was real but Gabrielle just wouldnít buy it. As they loaded up the camp Xena, realized it was a lost cause.
"Gods forbid should I mention it again," Xena said lightheartedly. But her heart was anything but light. Gabrielle wanted the truth Ė now she had it. And Xena wondered if perhaps it was a mistake. She could tell that even in her resistance to believe, the bard was now troubled. Her burden was now Gabrielleís and she wondered yet again . . . How many times am I gonna hurt her?
It took time and few deaths too many but Xena uncovered her former slaveís plan. She had spared the city from ruin but in doing so she had to walk through one of the most painful times of her past. She sat at the campfire with Gabrielle, once more, as always, at her side. The bardís presence comforted her. Gabrielle wanted trust. She wanted the walls around Xena to come down so they could Ďmove forwardí as the bard had called it.
As she told the tale of watching her lover die and giving her son away, Xena bared all to Gabrielle. She knew the bard understood how it felt Ė leaving the child you bore. Xena did it to give Solon a better life. Gabby did it to save a life Ė to save the child from Xena herself. Xenaís tears fell more frequent as she continued. It wasnít just the pain of the distant past but the recent past. The bard had given up so much for her, more than anyone should be asked. However, despite all that, here she sat Ė close at hand, stroking the warrior, consoling her. Had Xena ever consoled Gabrielle at the loss of Hope? No, she realized. She had not. Yes the child was from Dayhok himself but Gabrielle bore the brunt of that terrible fact. She should have done more. She should have done something to help the bard heal. In that instant she realized she would show no more restraint with Gabrielle when it came to showing her feelings of affection.
Gabrielle kissed her lightly at the temple and murmured words of reassurance. Xena turned and faced the woman she had grown to love. The woman she would never let go Ė under any circumstance. They belonged together Ė their love could transcend anything. Vision or not, they were destine for each other. Xena cupped the bardís face and she brought her in for a passionate kiss. Gabrielle was well aware of the intent behind it.
"Xena youíre really upset right now. And I think-
"Then comfort me," Xena answered going back for another kiss, which Gabrielle was more accepting of this time.
Gabrielle groaned in frustration at her lack of reserve. They had shared many passionate kisses since the confession the week before, even some light petting. But Gabrielle knew Xena wanted more tonight. And if things kept up there would be no going back Ė for either one of them. The Ďpoint of no returní was getting shorter and shorter with each day that passed; each caress they shared.
"Please Xena," the bard begged. "Not like this. Youíve been through so much tonight. I want you to be sure youíre ready."
"Iím ready," Xena grinned mischievously.
"Okay," Gabrielle replied with a grin as well but keeping her hands on Xenaís shoulders. "I need to be sure youíre ready . . . And Iím uncertain . . . You need comfort now . . .I know. I can see it in your eyes . . and Iíll give you comfort." Xena moved in closer but Gabrielle stopped her. "But not that kind of comfort," she grinned. Xena looked defeated and slumped back to her side of the bedroll, giving up the pursuit.
"Hey," Gabrielle said getting her to meet eyes. "Iím not playing the tease here."
Xenaís eyebrow shot up in question making Gabrielle laugh out loud.
"Honestly Iím not . . . Just think for a moment Xena," Gabrielle replied, her voice becoming serious again. ". . . Have you ever given yourself to someone expecting nothing in return?"
The warrior considered it and after a brief time realized no, she hadnít. With Borias and the men in her army it was about power. With Marcus it was about her release. With Hercules it was about . . . comfort . . . Xena realized Gabrielle was different then all of them put together. Gabrielle wanted her Ė mind, body and soul. Tonight, Xena realized she couldnít give Gabrielle that. And after all that the bard had been through, that was what she deserved.
Once more Xena started to cry.
She cried because she couldnít be what the bard needed now. She cried because the bard continued to stay by her side Ė both in joy of the situation and in fear. Fear of the path Xena might lead her on. Xena never imagined in all her dreams that falling in love could be so painful but she realized she built many walls around her - walls that were tumbling into rubble more and more everyday with Gabrielleís love and commitment. It would hurt, Xena resolved. But to have the bard, on the terms they decided, well that would make it all worthwhile.
Gabrielle scooped her into her arms. "Shhh, itís okay," the bard cooed. "Weíll get there Xena. We will . . .I have faith." Although Gabrielle claimed she wasnít a mind reader, Xena had to admit the woman did have her moments. Moments like this one where all her doubts and insecurities were displayed in a single second.
No more words passed between them that evening. Gabrielle gently laid the warrior down, gathering the strong, trembling body in her arms. Xenaís shaking subsided and her breathing evened out. She was fast and deeply asleep, safe in the crook of the bardís arm.
Only then did the bard cry silently, not wanting to wake the sleeping warrior beside her. She cried for Xenaís pain, perhaps even her own. The vision worried her as well but she had to go on living. Right now she had to be strong for both of them. But in the shadows of night and the light snore of her warrior, Gabrielle let go of her strength. And in spite of losing that strength she showed all evening, she still had one thing.
She had faith.