Conversation by Campfire: Part 3

by CN Winters

 

Disclaimers: The characters in this fan fiction are not mine. They belong to MCA/Universal/USA Studios and about a dozen other folks who I’m sure are making tons upon tons of money – unfortunately I am not one of them. This little tale contains adult themes and language and involves (you guessed) a love tale of two women.

Authors Note: This story takes place around Season Four’s Key to the Kingdom.

A Conversation by Campfire – Episode three

By CN Winters

"You’ll be back here in five sunrises . . . right?"

Gabrielle could hear the uncertainty and concern in the warrior’s voice and it broke her heart. Part of her wanted to bring the warrior with her but she knew this was something she had to do alone. Xena wasn’t the only one haunted by a past. She knew that she had things that needed to be dealt with as well. But SHE would deal with them and yes, she would return.

Gabrielle nodded as she packed the last of her belongings into her fur satchel. "It’s really not that long. You probably won’t even realize I’m gone," the bard grinned.

Xena knelt down, stopping Gabrielle’s movements with a gentle caress to her cheek. "Tell me you don’t really believe that?" she said softly.

Gabrielle turned her head and kissed the warrior’s fingertips. "No. I don’t believe that . . . because I know how much I’ll miss you."

Xena resisted the urge to ask once more to accompany the bard on this journey. Instead, she pulled the bard into her arms and kissed the top of her head affectionately. Xena relished the warmth, soaked in it, for as long as she could. She’d be missing it soon enough and she wanted to remember it for the cold nights that lay ahead without Gabrielle’s presence.

The bard pulled back and looked into the azure eyes above her. Gods, how she loved this woman with all her heart and soul. All the sacrifices she made were worth it now as she felt the warrior’s arms tight around her. Perfect eyes, perfect arms and perfect lips – she had to taste those lips once more.

Gabrielle cupped the warrior’s head and brought her down, giving a heartfelt and very passionate kiss. Xena was a woman of many skills, but kissing - Gabrielle had decided - was by far her best. At least up to this point. The Gods only knew what other gifts the woman possessed - gifts Gabrielle knew would soon be learned.

Xena felt those petal soft lips against hers and melted. The only other woman she had kissed was LaoMa but even the lavishness of LaoMa’s kisses held nothing to the young woman’s she now held. Desire was too petite a word to explain what Gabrielle invoked. Need was a better suited word but the feelings, the deep emotions, that flowed through her entire being were more far reaching than a simple ‘need’.

As lips continued to seek, hands began to roam. Skin felt ablaze and nerves began to tingle. Xena soon gave up Gabrielle’s lips to fixate on the pulse point of her neck, tasting the delicious skin. The sounds of pleasure that escaped the bard’s throat brought a deep ache within the warrior. Xena knew if she kept it up she would end up taking the bard here and now. And try as she may she couldn’t stop herself. A feeling of relief and sadness overcame her when she felt Gabrielle place a loving hand on her shoulder and gently push – putting a small distance between them.

"We better cool things off," Gabrielle chuckled, as she tried to regain her senses. Xena couldn’t form any words. She only nodded her agreement. "Besides you have a mission remember?" Gabrielle added, "When Joxer and Autolycus get together you know that can only spell trouble," the bard joked.

Xena smiled. ‘She’s got a point,’ Xena considered silently. She rubbed the bard’s arms affectionately from shoulder to wrist and back again. "I’m gonna miss you ya know," Xena whispered.

"I’ll miss you too," Gabrielle said locking her hands into Xena’s after another downward sweep.

"What should I tell them?" Xena asked.

"Don’t tell them anything. Don’t even mention my name. But if they ask . . . say I went to see Lila. It’s not a lie after all. I will see her."

Xena sighed deeply. "I wish you’d let me go with you." Xena stopped herself from adding more. She promised herself she wouldn’t badger the bard about this but that’s what it suddenly felt like. Her head dropped and shoulders slumped in disappointment with the outburst she fought so hard to control.

"Hey," Gabrielle said raising the warrior’s face with two fingers under the chin. "I know you do," she said understandingly. "But we both have walls Xena – things we need to let go of. For you, talking helps. That’s something you’re not used to and it helps strip those defenses away. For me – solitude, inner reflection is what I need."

The warrior smiled. "So in other words I never say anything and you never shut up," she grinned mischievously, "So to find our ‘answers’ we have to do the opposite – be more like each other?"

"Well," Gabrielle began in mock defense, "I wouldn’t go so far is to say I NEVER shut up." Gabrielle lost her resolve at trying to look angry and had to chuckle. Eventually she nodded and agreed. "You’re right, I do talk a lot but-

"But I wouldn’t have it any other way," the warrior said, silencing anything else she might say. After a few moments the warrior chuckled to herself.

"What is it?" Gabrielle asked curiously, cocking her head.

"Just thinking of when we started traveling," Xena reminisced. "I don’t think I said five sentences to you that first week."

"You’re wrong – you said six," Gabrielle countered.

"Oh yeah well what were they Miss Know It All," Xena teased playfully.

"Don’t touch that. Keep quiet. Go to Sleep. If you can cook better go for it. Leave my horse alone and last but not least, Who do you think you are?"

"That’s amazing," Xena said dumbfounded. "How did you-

"Remember?" Gabrielle interrupted with an arch of her eyebrows. Xena simply nodded. "Because my dear warrior, I was in love with you from the start . . . And I remember everything."

The simple comment almost set Xena on the verge of tears. Gods, how could she have been so blind? And how is it that Gabrielle stayed with her when she could be so cold and unfeeling at times? Xena swore that she would remember everything about Gabrielle from this time forward. The sound of her voice rising when she’s happy, the way it dropped an octave lower when angered, the different shades of blonde and auburn in her hair, the way those dumplings taste right out of the frying pan. Even the little things like how the bard laced her shoes or combed her hair would be committed to memory. Oh yes. From this day forward, Xena would remember those things and take them with her wherever she might go.

Right now, she realized she had to look after Joxer and Autolycus. She had to see they didn’t get themselves killed in their latest scam she was sure they were working up. Xena prayed to the Gods that Joxer wasn’t the ‘brains’ in this deal. If that were the case, her time might be even more limited.

"Go on," Gabrielle prodded, giving the warrior one last delicate kiss on the lips. "Five days," she whispered. "And if you’re not back here," the bard threatened playfully with a pointing finger. "I’m huntin’ ya down warrior."

"I’ll be here with bells on Gabrielle . . . Just bells." The warrior couldn’t resist and loved the flush that came to the bard’s cheeks when a mental picture took shape in her mind.

With that Xena mounted her mare and without looking back started a gallop toward the kingdom. Five days, Xena told herself as she rode. It’s only five days.

 

 

It had only been a few months since she and Xena last visited Potidaea but it felt like so much had changed. In fact, a lot had changed. And not just their newfound love for one another.

Since then they’d been trying to put things back together, rebuilding their trust after what had been a horrible year. Little by little, bit by bit, things were coming together for them once more. Gabrielle knew she and Xena would become stronger, more unified than they ever were before.

With that thought she held her head high as she walked through the market place of her hometown.

Moments later she was standing outside of the farmhouse she grew up in. She took a deep breath and walked up the steps of the small porch. She tapped lightly on the door. When the door opened she was greeted with a large smile.

"Sweetheart! Come in!" her mother exclaimed before calling into the kitchen. "Herodotus; Lila! Gabrielle’s here."

Hecuba looked around outside briefly, "Where’s Xena?"

Gabrielle was a bit surprised that Hecuba had asked but grateful that her mother ‘expected’ the warrior to be with her.

"She’s gone to a nearby kingdom to help a few of our friends and I wanted to visit so . . . here I am."

By now Lila and Herodotus had made their way to the living area. Lila rushed over giving her big sister a hug. Herodotus, for his part, had a warm smile and placed a loving kiss on Gabrielle’s cheek.

"Well come to the kitchen," he said leading his girls inside, "Dinner’s ready."

 

 

"That was wonderful," Gabrielle said licking her fingers. "Best chicken I’ve had in months."

"THAT warrior should feed you more often," Herodotus said, rising to get a pitcher of milk, "You could use a few pounds." He playfully squeezed her arm. The surprise with the muscle structure he found there showed on his face.

"I’m not as small as you think," Gabrielle teased. "And Xena’s an excellent hunter. In fact she takes very good care of me. Three meals a day. Clothes when I need them and a warm bedroll at night. I think I’m very lucky. Actually I KNOW I’m very lucky. I wouldn’t have it this good with anyone else."

No one commented on Gabrielle’s declaration as she was hoping. It was almost as if they were denying the existence of the warrior in her life. Gabrielle considered for a brief moment that perhaps she should have brought Xena. If the warrior asked her parents for her hand then she wouldn’t have to explain. But as soon as the thought entered Gabrielle vanquished it.

No. This was her duty. These were HER parents. And Xena wasn’t going to come in on her gold mare and save the day. This was what she came here to do and by Zeus she’d see to it. When no one was offering anything to the conversation, Gabrielle decided to press on.

"Actually I’ve realized something . . ."

All eyes turned to Gabrielle and she knew it was now or never. Of course she could live out her life with the warrior and her family would be none the wiser to her relationship with Xena. They wouldn’t know. But she would. And that fact bothered her. She was always very honest and outspoken with her parents and sister. She didn’t want her mother holding onto a dream of her ‘outgrowing’ her ‘wanderlust’ and settling down with a nice ‘stable man’ in the village. She owed her mother – all of her family – the truth.

"What’s that?" Hecuba asked when Gabrielle didn’t add more after her pause.

Gabrielle cleared her throat and took a deep breath.

"I realized that my life is with Xena. I’m going to stay with her for the rest of my life."

By the look on their faces Gabrielle could see the point just wasn’t sinking in. She’d have to be more direct.

"I’m not going to marry anyone . . ."

Hecuba chuckled. "Oh come now dear. There’s a great guy out there for you. I know it. You just haven’t found him yet. And just because you’re a widow doesn’t mean you’re less wanted nowadays. Especially a girl as pretty as you."

Gabrielle rubbed her temples in frustration. This was not going as well as she planned.

"She’s right you know," Lila offered. "Why just after you and Xena left this spring Daniel – the butcher’s son – was going to ask dad if he could court you."

Gabrielle sighed deeply. ‘You’re not helping here Lila’ the bard thought silently.

"Look," Herodotus said rising from the table, turning to Lila. "Why don’t you and your mother clean the table? I’d like to show Gabrielle the new mare we bought."

"But dad-

Herodotus held up a finger that silenced Lila instantly.

"Yes sir," she replied defeatedly.

With his wife and youngest daughter clearing the dinner table, Herodotus took Gabrielle by the elbow. "Come on Sunset," he grinned. "Come see the latest edition to the family."

Gabrielle wasn’t sure how to take the request – especially since he attached his pet name of ‘Sunset’ for her to the soft-spoken order. The name was given to her because of the color of her hair. It was much more auburn then. He told her it reminded him of the setting sun and every evening he would remember, as the sun went down, how lovely his daughter looked.

Gabrielle was unsure of his true intentions but in any event, Gabrielle followed him out to the barn. Chances were he was missing the point too. And Gabrielle resolved that perhaps tomorrow she would just come right out and declare her undying love for the warrior – no mistakes could be made then.

"She’s a beauty isn’t she?" he said as they walked inside. She was as black as night – the coat reminding Gabrielle of the color of her warrior’s hair. Gabrielle walked up and examined her. She wasn’t a horse person by any means but after four years with Argo she did know a thing or two.

"Yes she is," Gabrielle grinned, stroking the mane, listening to her father’s shuffling feet behind her.

"Not as beautiful as your warrior though huh?" he remarked.

Gabrielle’s back was turned. She heard the words but she wasn’t sure if he was angry or not. One thing was obvious however. HE UNDERSTOOD what she was trying to say earlier in the kitchen. Only trouble now was how to respond. Facing him would be a good start but Gabrielle felt very stationary at the moment. Once more she found herself nervously clearing her throat to speak as she turned

"No," Gabrielle responded, willing herself to face him. "Not as beautiful as my warrior."

She didn’t add more. His face was unreadable. No comforting grin. No angry scowl. He walked closer to her.

"I love your sister," he began. "She’s a pretty girl. And talented. She can see a dress in the marketplace in the morning and have a finished replica completed by dusk . . .But you Gabrielle – you’ve always been beautiful and clever and witty . . . Lila couldn’t have ANY man she desires – like I said I love her but I’m being realistic. You, on the other hand . . .could just bat your eyes and they’d come running . . . I guess I just can’t see it. I don’t understand why you’d pick that woman."

"She has a name father," Gabrielle replied.

"Yes I know – Xena. I’ve heard it many times in hushed tones as I walk through town."

Gabrielle grinned for a brief moment at her father’s attempt at guilt.

"Well I’m sorry that you feel hurt by the narrow minded townsfolk," Gabrielle said sincerely. "I never meant to bring pain to you or the family by searching for some happiness."

Herodotus sighed. "Tell me something if you would?" he asked.

Gabrielle was a bit surprised. Her father was always a stern man. He never asked. Always ordered. But she nodded her agreement.

"Has she harmed you?"

The question hung in the stable for a moment. "What do you mean?" the bard finally asked.

"Has she hit you? Does she beat you to keep you ‘in line’?"

"No," Gabrielle answered. "She doesn’t whip me into submission if that’s what you’re thinking."

"Has she ever raised a hand against you?" he prodded.

"Why are you asking me this?" Gabrielle said growing defensive.

"Just answer my question please," Herodotus said trying his best to keep his rising temper at bay.

Gabrielle had always been honest she reminded herself. She had to be honest now.

"Yes she has," the bard said keeping her head held high. "But-

Herodotus shook his head and flailed his hands. "No ‘buts’ Gabrielle. That’s not right. I’ve been married to your mother for 25 summers and never once have I struck her."

"You’ve never lived the life that Xena and I have," Gabrielle countered.

"All the more reason why she-

"No," Gabrielle said cutting him off. "Listen to me please. Just listen?"

Herodotus held his tongue and motioned with his hand for her to ‘get on with it’.

"Hope killed Xena’s son. She was angry and she took her vengeance out on me as a result. It’s not an excuse father. And even to this day, Xena is mortified by it. She regrets it and I know that it will never happen again. She gave me her word."

"And you believe her?" Herodotus bantered.

"I do."

Herodotus scratched his head, trying to find a way to get through to his daughter. "Sarpon, the blacksmith’s wife heard that story many times. This spring they found her dead by the river – beaten to death. He was always sorry too. Even at his trial he talked about how much he loved her. Do you want to end up like Sarpon?"

"That’s not going to happen to me." Gabrielle said with conviction. "Xena would throw herself down on her sword before she’d ever raise her hand against me."

Gabrielle was unprepared for what happened next. Her father began to cry.

He quickly coughed it away and wiped his eyes, mumbling something about the hay bothering his head. Gabrielle walked up and wrapped her arms around him, holding back her own tears brought on by seeing his pain and concern.

"I know you’re worried but please don’t be. I’m safest with Xena. I know this to be true father. She’s risked life and limb to keep me safe. She’s battled Titans, power hungry amazons; even Poseidon himself to keep me safe. She’s tended my wounds. She’s mixed my healing herbs when I’ve been ill. And when she thought I had died she went to the ends of the earth just to see me – just to let me know how much she cared. But in truth she didn’t have to. I already knew how much she cared. And not just because of these fearless tasks but all the little things she does day in and day out . . . She was there when I needed her but she was there when I didn’t . . . I could easily wash the dishes myself each night and I could easily put out the bedrolls. I’ve never asked for help . . . but she gives it freely, expecting nothing in return."

Herodotus didn’t offer a response. He just stood in the barn, holding his eldest daughter, wishing that she was a little girl again so he could stop her from making this mistake that could very well take her life one day.

"Remember that story you always told me? The one about how Zeus created people. About how he separated everyone and we have to look for our souls."

"It’s just a tale Gabrielle," he argued.

"No I don’t think it is father," Gabrielle responded. "Because it’s with Xena that I feel my best. She’s a dark person but there’s a light within her that most people don’t see . . . And as for me – well let’s just say that I’m capable of darkness that I never dreamed of. I’m not the innocent, caring small town girl that so many folks see."

"What are you saying Gabrielle?"

"I’m saying she ‘completes’ me. Makes me whole . . . and I her . . . It’s like some kind of destiny, fate. I can’t explain it – all I know is my place is with her. Xena and I have BOTH had are dark moments but for the most part . . . we bring out each other’s light . . . I know that can’t be a bad thing. And I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else but her."

Gabrielle stepped from her father’s embrace and started to make her way to examine the mare. But as she turned she noticed Lila peeking inside the barn. By the look on her face, she understood now what Gabrielle was trying to say at the dinner table. Herodotus noticed her presence as well and resolved that his side of the conversation was over.

"I can’t talk any sense into her," he told his youngest. "Maybe you can Lila."

With that, her turned his back on Gabrielle and walked out of the barn. Lila, who had crept inside shortly before, closed the door after he left.

"He’s right Gabrielle. I always thought your place was with Xena, helping people, but if she’s hurting you-

"Lila you don’t understand."

"Then make me understand. Because there are lots of great men who could love you. You don’t have to settle for Xena."

Gabrielle chuckled. "You don’t get it. I’m not ‘settling’ by choosing Xena. I haven’t decided to spend my life with her for lack of quality suitors. Grant it, most of the men I meet are scum but there have been those I met that would bring a smile to mom and dad’s face if I brought them home."

"Well then what is it?" Lila asked. Her voice held genuine curiosity, not contempt. "What’s the appeal?"

Gabrielle smiled as she thought of her warrior. "I love her. The way she walks, the way she talks. Her dry sense of humor. The fact that she’s dedicated to helping others. She has a beautiful body and a caring but battered soul underneath. She takes care of me if I’m ill. She comes to my aid when need be. She excepts my quest for growth . . . She’s everything I ever wanted in a mate Lila."

"Then how could someone who loves you so beat you Gabrielle?"

"Lila," Gabrielle sighed. "It’s like I told father. She was grieving over her son. My actions played a part in his demise and she took her fury out on me. But she saw that what I did was based out of love for Hope – my own child. It had nothing to do with trying to hurt her. When she realized that fact she was so grief stricken she wanted to leave. She wanted me to go back to the amazons and live out my life with them. But that was something I couldn’t do. My place was with her and I wouldn’t take no as an answer."

The bard chuckled in remembrance of how she and Xena went round and round about all the reason they should part, and how the bard came up with every reason she should stay. The warrior was exasperated by the end of the conversation and showed it physically with her rubbing her eyes and yawning. The chuckled Gabrielle had for Lila soon vanished as she remembered the events that soon followed.

"She made a vow to me then that no matter what might happen in the future she would never raise a hand against me again. In fact a few weeks later we came across the Persian Army. I nearly died from an arrow wound. I would have died if it wasn’t for Xena . . . but that’s not the most important thing about the whole event . . . I was convinced after that . . . she meant what she said, Lila. She would die protecting me and of all the places I could be – I’m safest when I’m with her.

It’s been almost a year since that happened. I don’t think Dad can lump Xena together with the town batterer. It’s not the same situation. Not at all. And besides Xena made me promise that if it ever happens again that I will leave – and leave for good. But it’s not just a promise I made to her. It’s one I made to myself. Like I told dad, I won’t end up like Sarpon."

Lila took a moment to reflect on what her sister had said. "I believe you – of course I doubt mom and dad ever will but . . ."

"Yeah," Gabrielle sighed. "I know . . . but they had to know the truth. I owed them that much after all they gave me."

Lila nodded her agreement. "Are you going to stick around still?" she asked hopefully.

Gabrielle smiled for show. "I would but I doubt that I’ll be welcome. I think dad is in shock now," she chuckled. "Once that wears off, I’m sure he’ll get angry – and mother too . . . I think it might be best if I just left."

"Well, let me walk you inside," Lila grinned. "You might need to use me for cover."

Gabrielle chuckled and put her arm around her sister as they left the barn. "I love you Lila," she said affectionately, stroking her sister’s hair.

"I love you too Gabrielle."

 

Lila went inside first with Gabrielle close behind. She saw her parents sitting in the living area. It was obvious her mother had been crying.

"Looks like dad explained things to you," Gabrielle commented softly.

Hecuba rubbed her forehead, as if trying to relieve a headache. "I always knew you were . . . eccentric . . . Gabrielle. But this . . ."

"I’m not trying to hurt you mother," Gabrielle replied.

Hecuba stood and looked her daughter straight in the eye. "Too late."

Hecuba turned and went to her bedroom. Gabrielle could feel her bottom lip start to quiver just a bit and Lila felt her sister tense.

"It’s okay," Lila whispered.

"By Tartarus it’s not okay!" Herodotus exclaimed. "Look at what you’ve done here today. And for what? That murdering harlot?" Herodotus was starting to pace but held his ground. "I think you should go Gabrielle. Go back to your whore but when she’s used you up don’t bother coming back here. You’ve been warned."

"However it has to be father. It’s your choice."

Lila was amazed at how cool headed her sister was taking all of this. And the confidence that Gabrielle showed made Lila really admire her. "Father," Lila started, trying to reach him.

"Stay out of this Lila!" he shouted. "It’s not your concern or place."

"By Hades it’s not!" Lila countered just as loud. "She’s my sister regardless of who she loves!"

"Lila! Go to your room!"

Lila was about to add more but Gabrielle put her hand on Lila’s arm stopping her. "Please do as he says Lila. He’s right. It’s my fight. Not yours – as much as I respect you trying, let it go. I’ll write you soon. I promise."

Lila relented to Gabrielle’s request. This was difficult on Gabrielle. She didn’t want to add to it so she did as Gabrielle asked and slipped away.

"And another thing," Herodotus continued to Gabrielle. "Don’t ever bring that wench into my home again. Do you hear me?!"

"Loud and clear," she replied, picking up her satchel and staff. She turned and made her way to the front door. "Take care of yourself father. Tell mother I said goodbye."

She didn’t wait for a reply. She simply walked out, not looking back.

 

 

Xena sat by the water’s edge, skipping stones into the lake, looking rather bored but still quite sexy in the process. Gabrielle had to smile at the image before her. The warrior’s bronze muscles flexing with every throw. Her raven hair blowing around in the lake breeze. By the gods, she was magnificent – perfection personified.

Gabrielle was near the clearing when Xena turned around, probably sensing her presence, the bard assumed. Quickly Xena dusted herself off as she rose and walked over to meet the bard. Those pearl white teeth blazed brilliantly and Gabrielle realized when she saw that smile that she had made the right choice. The only choice.

"You’re early," Xena remarked, opening her arms. "That means it either went really good or really bad."

Gabrielle sighed and slipped comfortably into the warrior’s waiting embrace. She squeezed tighter when Xena kissed the top of the bard’s head.

"How’d it go at home?" the warrior asked.

"I am home," the bard answered snuggling closer.

The response warmed the warrior instantly. "Okay, then how’d it go at your folks house?" the warrior posed.

"You don’t wanna know," Gabrielle sighed heavily. "Let’s just say we won’t be visiting my parents for any solstice parties in the near future. You’ll never have to deal with the in-laws."

"That bad huh?" Xena said nervously. "You know I never-

"Don’t even go there Xena," the bard warned.

"Go where?" Xena replied, trying to look innocent.

"You know where," Gabrielle chuckled. "The speech routine – about how I’m better off without you, my parents have a point, yadayadayada . . . Don’t even."

"Okay," Xena smiled. "You’re stuck with me then. I promise - no speeches. I would however like to find out what happened in Poetidaia."

"After dinner," Gabrielle answered. "I promise. Right now I just wanna hold my warrior if that’s okay."

Xena playfully posed in thought. "Ummm . . Okay. I think I can do that."

After a few moments, Gabrielle reluctantly pulled away and tugged the warrior with her down toward the lake again. "So how did your outing go? I take it Joxer and Autolycus are doing well."

"They’re fine but there was an added element I didn’t realize."

Gabrielle’s eyebrows crunched in question.

"Meg," Xena answered.

"Oh Zeus," Gabrielle swore.

"Yeah," Xena chuckled. "Seems their get rich quick scheme had some added complications but everything worked out in the end, at least for the most part."

"What do you mean?" Gabrielle replied. "What happened?"

"Well they kidnapped a baby," Xena chuckled.

"What?! They were going to ransom a child?!" The bard couldn’t believe her ears. That didn’t seem like anything any one of their friends would do.

"No – not exactly. Look, that’s a long story too. Why don’t we set up camp and swap stories over dinner uh?"

"Okay," Gabrielle grinned. "Me - wood patrol and you – kill fuzzy cute animal?"

"Sure," Xena smiled. "I’m so happy to see you I’ll even be the one to skin it tonight. What do ya say?"

"Ahhh, now that’s love," Gabrielle chuckled. "I might even make you those dumplings with the red stuff inside," she grinned coyly.

Xena placed a loving kiss on Gabrielle’s lips. "I’m glad you’re back," she whispered sincerely.

Gabrielle took her chance to return the gesture with a kiss of her own. "Glad you’re glad," she smiled.

With that, Xena strolled confidently into the surrounding woods for dinner. Gabrielle didn’t rise immediately. Instead she opted to watch her warrior walk into the woods, the walk she loved to watch. Did she make the right choice, she wondered. When Xena turned around giving yet another brilliant smile she realized . . . yes she had.

Once the fire was lit and the flames grew larger Gabrielle took a spot on their bedrolls. She considered everything that had happened in the past two days. Tartarus, even the past four years. As she stoked the flames with more kindling she knew – they could finally move forward. Perhaps creating a fire of their own.

TBC