Xena and Gabrielle are owned by Universal/MCA, blah, blah, blah, no infringement is intended, blah, blah, blah. Sarah is owned by me, although the inspiration for this story came from the Sarah McLachlan song I Love Youı (which I think mirrors the thoughts of our beloved Xena), thus the Sarah namesake. Also, you should know that this story contains hints pointing toward love between two adult, consenting women, along with a great kissing scene. If this makes you uncomfortable, go watch cartoons. Feedback is appreciated at Geobon612@aol.com
My heart is pounding so furiously that I can hardly hear anything else. I have never known such fear. I am sitting atop a big black steed not far from the wooded road Iıve been traveling along, my hands bound tightly behind my back, a noose draped loosely around my neck. My face is swelling as I sit here and I feel warm blood running from my nose over my upper lip, mixing with the salty tears of frustration and panic that have wet my cheeks.
This dirty, angry man circling the horse and talking under his breath will not listen to reason. He thinks I am responsible for the horse thieving that has gone on at his place several miles north. I have explained to him over and over that I did not steal his mare, I found her wandering the dirt road and just as I gathered up her reins to take a closer look at her, he trotted up and began screaming at me. Before I knew how to react, he was on me, pummeling and yelling, calling me a no-good horse thief and telling me they hang horse thieves in these parts. I am a strong woman, but not as strong as a crazed and angry man, and he soon had me.
It took me a while, but I finally recognized that he must be the Angus Marvius that I had heard gossip about. They say he lost his beloved wife during the birth of their only son, who soon followed his mother, as he was not a healthy baby. Angus was so grief-stricken, they say he went nearly mad. Now he screams at everyone who comes near his property and has become quite a recluse.
I can tell by watching his dirty, bearded face and listening to him mumble nonsensically that he is far over the edge and I begin praying to the gods to let this be quick and painless, because I am certain that there is no conceivable way I will be saved. I try not to cry, but I canıt hold it in and more tears fall from my eyes.
³Thatıs right, horse thief, you cry. Cry for the crimes youıve committed and think about them in your last minutes on this earth.² His voice is halfway between a growl and a sneer. I try one more time.
³Sir, please. I swear to the gods I did not -²
³Save it! You can swear to the gods when you meet them!² He slaps the hind end of the horse and suddenly there is nothing to support my weight. I am falling. With a sudden and painful jerk, the rope tightens around my neck, sharply cutting off my air. This is it. I shut my eyes. It is not quick nor painless.
I suddenly hear a soft whirring sound and a clang and before I can open my eyes, the rope slackens and I drop with a very painful thud to the ground. I open my eyes at the sound of flesh hitting flesh in time to see Angus Marvius crumple to the ground, unconscious.
Standing over him is a woman. A tall, dark, intimidating woman with a sword sheathed on her back and heavy armor strapped to her torso. Everything about her is dark until she looks my way and I see the most beautiful blue eyes I can ever remember seeing. She looks angry and I suddenly wonder if I am now in more danger than I was just a few seconds ago.
I am entranced by this warriorıs beauty and strength and I am unable to back away or protect myself from her as she approaches. I donıt hear the other one behind me until gentle fingers are working at the rope binding my wrists and a soft voice asks, just inches from my ear, if I am all right. I turn my head toward the sound. Squatting behind me is a small, smiling woman with eyes of deep, emotional green and long, golden hair tinted red by the shining sun. She winces at the sight of my beaten face and gently touches my left eye. When my hands are finally free, she and the warrior help me up. I cry out at the stabbing pain in my right arm. The warrior pulls her hands back as if I had burned her, her blue eyes wide. She must think she hurt me. I try to smile apologetically, but it comes across as more of a grimace. ³I think my arm is broken,² I say to her. For a split second, she looks relieved. Then that look turns to concern and she catches the eye of the other woman, searching for help.
³Thereıs a stream just over that ridge,² the smaller woman says to me. ³Do you think you can make it that far? We really should tend to your injuries.² Her face shows genuine concern and I am touched by her caring. I simply nod.
She takes a few steps and turns abruptly back to me, smiling and shaking her head. ³I donıt know where my manners are. Iım Gabrielle and this is my friend Xena.² She holds out her left hand so as not to force me to shake with my injured right. I smile at the gesture.
³My name is Sarah.² I take her hand firmly and look first into her eyes, then into those of the warrior whose name I had instantly recognized. Despite my attempts to avoid them, tears well up in my eyes. In a choked whisper, ³Thank you,² is all I can manage.
Gabrielleıs touch is amazingly gentle. We are sitting on the bank of a clear running stream and she is dipping a rag into the icy water and softly wiping the drying blood from my face. I study her silently. Her youth matches mine, yet she possesses a seriousness of someone older. She cups my chin in her hand and tilts my head up, wiping under my nose. I feel like a child and smile at the thought. She notices and responds with a dazzling smile of her own that warms me inside.
³There we go,² she says. ³I was beginning to wonder if Iıd get to see one of those.²
I sigh. ³Imminent death does things to oneıs mood, I guess.²
³I imagine it would.² She now dunks the entire rag in the freezing water, which is glacial run-off from the nearby mountain and a sharp contrast to the warm temperature of the early summer air. She squeezes out the excess and instructs me to hold it against my rapidly swelling eye. I take it with my free left hand, as she has bound the other in a sling. It is badly sprained but not broken. ³This should keep it from getting too much bigger.² She looks tentatively at me. ³So, what happened back there?²
I explain to her that I am returning to my home in Boderia, about another three or four days away, after visiting my grandparents. I have made the trek countless times in my life, often alone, and I have never experienced any problems. Oh, there has been an occasional road thief or two, but nothing I was unable to handle. Xena is making camp as I tell my story, but I can tell she is paying attention. I smile inwardly at the thought of impressing the legendary warrior. I continue to explain the story of Angus Marvius and I am surprised to actually hear pity for the man in my own voice. I end with the same plea I gave him, ³I swear to Zeus, I did not steal the manıs horse.²
³I believe you,² Gabrielle assures me. ³He must be a very lonely man. How sad.² We are silent for a long moment as we imagine the loss Angus must feel. Turning toward the warrior, she says, ³Xena? Donıt we have to go through Boderia to get to Sonas? Maybe Sarah can travel with us. I donıt think we should leave her alone with this arm.²
At the unreadable expression on Xenaıs face, I swiftly begin to protest, although I would be more than happy to spend time with this interesting duo. ³Oh, Iıll be fine. No need to trouble yourselves. I would only slow you down.²
³Nonsense.² Gabrielle strides over to Xena where they talk for a very short time in tones I cannot hear. They are quite a contrast in size and color. Xena is a full head taller than Gabrielle who is much lighter in hair and skin tone. Then Gabrielle smiles, squeezes Xenaıs arm, and walks back to me. I am sure I see a flash of something - affection? - in the warriorıs steel blue eyes. ³We will see you to your home in Boderia, Sarah, okay?²
I am more excited than I need to be and not quite sure why. ³That would be wonderful. Thank you.² I reach for my pack and offer my food to her. Sharing my supplies is the least I can do and Gabrielle goes about preparing us some dinner while Xena tends to her horse, whose named Iıve learned is Argo. I sit back to relax, noticing the pain in my arm for the first time in a while, and think once again how lucky I am that these two beautiful women came along when they did.
Xena has warmed to me a bit, which is good for my ego, as I imagine she doesnıt warm to many. We are finishing up the stew Gabrielle made for dinner and grinning over a story she has told us, as she is a storyteller by trade and a very good one, from what I have heard so far. This particular tale is about Cupidıs baby, Eros, getting loose and wreaking havoc with his love arrows. ³Xena was absolutely nuts about Draco, this horrible, nasty warlord,² Gabrielle tells me.
³Oh, come on,² Xena protests with a smirk. ³Nuts is a little strong, donıt you think, Mrs. Joxer?²
At that, Gabrielle bursts into hysterical laughter and falls back on the ground. ³Donıt remind me about that!² They are both laughing and it is contagious. I join in, even though I am left out of the joke.
³Whoıs Joxer?² I ask. They groan in unison, then look at each other and burst into another fit of laughter. I am envious of the bond they share.
Xena turns smiling steel blue eyes my way. ³Joxerıs a big pain in the --²
³Joxerıs very sweet,² Gabrielle interrupts.
Xena rolls her eyes. ³Okay. Whatever you say, Gabrielle.² Then she turns to me, shaking her head from side to side and mouthing painı.
³He means well,² Gabrielle explains to me. ³He just admires Xena. He wants to be a great warrior, too. He likes to follow her.²
³He likes to follow you,² the warrior snorts. She says this only half-jokingly and I swear I can hear a tinge of jealousy in her tone. A small part of my mind begins to wonder if there isnıt something more here than what meets the eye.
Gabrielle explains how she was hit with an arrow of love and the first person she looked at (that she would inevitably fall in love with, according to the rules of Cupid) was this Joxer and how Cupid himself had to come and remove all the love spells his mischievous son had cast.
³Damn near broke Joxerıs heart,² Xena says.
Gabrielle just sighs, looking a bit saddened. ³I know. I feel bad that he was hurt by the whole thing, but I could never really be in love with him.²
I feel there is more she wants to say, but she leaves it at that.
Gabrielle has gotten me all tucked in comfortably near the fire, ordering bedrest for my injuries. I decide to take her advice so I may regain some strength for tomorrow. I certainly donıt want to be responsible for slowing the two of them down. She is such a little caretaker and I have grown quite fond of her in the few short hours I have known her.
³All set?² she asks me, her green eyes twinkling in the firelight. I nod and smile my thanks. ³If you need anything during the night, just wake me up, okay?²
³Iıll be fine,² I assure her.
³Promise me youıll wake me if you need anything,² she says in a stern, motherly voice.
Xena speaks up from across the camp. ³Youıd better do what she says, Sarah. She can get pretty nasty when her orders are not obeyed.² I can hear the smirk in her voice and I chuckle.
³I promise I will wake you if there is anything I need.²
³Good.² She turns away.
³Thanks, Mom.² I canıt resist. I think Gabrielle is actually flattered by this.
³Get some rest.²
I snuggle into my blankets, trying to find the most comfortable position for my aching arm. I can see the two women across the fire standing close together as Gabrielle helps Xena out of her armor. They are very comfortable with one another in that closeness. Gabrielleıs touch is gentle as she unfastens buckles and clasps that would be difficult for Xena to reach on her own, although I am sure she could. Once the breast plate is removed, they sit on a blanket, Xena in front of Gabrielle. They are speaking quietly and I can hear their hushed voices, even though I canıt make out what theyıre saying. Gabrielle puts her hands on Xenaıs shoulders and begins to knead the muscles. Xena closes her eyes and bends her head forward as Gabrielle smiles and lovingly brushes the raven strands off Xenaıs shoulders, her hands expertly working away the tension of the day.
This goes on for quite some time. I am mesmerized by the bond between them. I donıt know why. I donıt know what it is. They radiate something and once again, I am envious. Then Gabrielle whispers something, gets up and walks past Xena to the saddlebags on the ground. As Xenaıs eyes follow her, I suddenly notice the same look I had seen earlier, when Gabrielle convinced the warrior to let me tag along. The look is the same, but magnified a hundredfold and I instantly recognize it.
The sun is halfway across the sky and we have been travelling for several hours. I am riding Xenaıs beautiful mare with Gabrielle sitting snugly behind me, her hands resting lightly on my waist to keep me from falling off, knowing I wonıt be able to catch myself in my condition, should I be jostled and lose my balance. Xena is on the ground, leading the mare, which I feel guilty about, despite their insistence that I ride. I do not like interfering in their routine.
Gabrielle has talked nearly nonstop since we started out, telling me stories of her adventures with Xena, many of which I have already heard through others. I love the musical sound of her expressive voice. I add details I have heard throughout Gabrielleıs versions and she nods if they are true or corrects me if the facts are wrong. ³Youıre quite a legend,² I say to the warrior. She merely snorts.
³Xenaıs very modest,² Gabrielle says in a low voice. ³She doesnıt like to take credit for the good sheıs done. And she doesnıt like to remember the bad.²
Weıve been making good time and Xena suggests we stop for a rest. We have been following a road that runs parallel to the same stream we stopped at yesterday. Xena takes Argo to get a drink as Gabrielle pulls out bread and cheese. We sit and eat. I am very much enjoying the company of this intriguing young woman.
³So, how did you come to travel with Xena?² I ask her.
She tells me of Poteidaia, the village she is from and how Xena rescued her from slavers. ³I thought it would be wonderful for my storytelling if I could actually experience some real adventure,² she says, with excitement in her eyes. ³I just decided I was going to tag along. Xena really had no say in the matter.²
³I couldnıt get rid of her no matter how hard I tried.² Xena had approached in complete silence. I jump at the sound of her voice. Gabrielle notices and giggles.
³Isnıt that the most annoying thing? She sneaks up on me like that all the time.²
Xena smiles affectionately at the little bard and I am reminded of last night. I wonder if Gabrielle has any idea how Xena feels. As I watch her cut a hunk of cheese for the warrior, I find myself smiling affectionately as well. How could one spend any amount of time at all with this glorious storyteller and not fall in love with her?
³We should reach Boderia tomorrow. Are you excited to get home?²
I simply nod to the bard, as I am not sure how to tell her I will miss the two of them severely. The three days I have spent with them have been.....I have no words to describe my happiness. Saying goodbye to them, especially to this nurturing, caring woman, with whom I have made such a connection, will be more difficult than I care to think about.
³Well, I have to say, I will miss having somebody to talk to who actually talks back to me.² She says this with a slight smile, but doesnıt look at me.
³Xena doesnıt say much, does she?²
³Sheıs just a woman of few words.² Her voice holds a touch of defensiveness. Not much, but enough for me to pick up.
We are sitting on the bank of the stream - which is now practically a river, having grown wider and deeper the closer we get to Boderia - dipping our feet in the water and relaxing after our dinner. Itıs not as cold as it was three days north, but itıs still too cold to submerge our bodies. Xena is at the camp, brushing down Argo. She was murmuring affectionately to the big animal when we left her. We are sitting side by side on a big, flat rock, the sun just a sliver of light on the horizon.
She gently touches my face, studying it. ³Your eye looks much better. Itıs healing up nicely.²
³Gabrielle, do you have somebody? Back in Poteidaia?² I am not sure exactly where this came from, but Gabrielle is not offended. Or surprised. She removes her hand, lays her head on my shoulder and sighs.
³I was married,² she says softly.
³Oh.² Her tone makes me unsure if I should continue. I do. ³Where is he?²
She is quiet for a long while. ³He was killed by Callisto.²
I nod my head as I recognize the name of the evil warlord. I am not sure what to say.
³Perdicus was a good man and he didnıt deserve to die like that.²
I nod again.
We are silent.
Suddenly, she lifts her head (much to my dismay) and lightly punches me on the shoulder. ³Howıs that for a downer?² she says in a cheerful voice, squeezing me with one arm. I exhale with relief. ³Sorry about that. Letıs talk about something else. What about you? Do you have somebody?²
³Nothing serious,² I say, thinking of Mila, her brown eyes smiling lovingly at me. I turn to look into deep green ones. ³Donıt you ever get lonely, Gabrielle?²
³Oh, sure, when Xena has to go off on her own, which doesnıt happen often, but often enough. Sometimes I really miss her. You know how I love to talk,² she grins.
Then she and Xena are not together? But the way Xena looks at her...I am still unsure and decide to push on. ³No, I mean...you know...lonely...like that.² I canıt believe I am asking her this. Again, she does not seem surprised.
³Oh. Like that,² she says with a smile, mimicking me. She sighs again and smiles wistfully. ³Yeah. Sometimes, I guess I do.² She turns those smiling, sea-green eyes my way and I suddenly canıt stop myself. I lean toward her and brush her lips with my own. This time, she is surprised and she jumps, but does not pull away. I brush them again, for my brain has no control over the situation. Only my body. And my heart. In one startling second, as I possess Gabrielleıs mouth with my own, the realization hits me.
She is kissing me back.
The fire in me is fueled by this fact and as her tongue demands entry into my mouth, I wrap my good arm around her and pull her closer to me, my hand in that baby-soft hair. She slides her fingertips up my thigh, sending shockwaves through my body. Our tongues meet in a delicious union of passion and a soft whimper escapes her throat as my hand brushes her breast through her green top. As I fumble with the laces on the front, our mouths still locked together, I get a sudden vision, like a flash of lightning, but blindingly blue.
Xenaıs eyes in the firelight, clouded with desire. Unspoken desire. Desire for Gabrielle. And something else. Something I didnıt see...or chose not to see.
I pull away from the bardıs electrifying kiss, breathless. Gabrielle opens her eyes, confused, startled and - something else - ashamed? ³Gabrielle, please, Iım sorry,² I say through ragged breaths.
She smiles awkwardly and for the first time in the three days I have known her, she does not know what to say. She takes my hand, unable to meet my eyes. ³Sarah, itıs okay--I--um--²she tries and I think I understand what sheıs feeling.
³No, itıs not okay,² I withdraw my hand as gently as I can without jerking it away. ³Please, Gabrielle, forgive me, I shouldnıt have done that.²
I stand abruptly and hurry back to the camp, not knowing what else to do, leaving her sitting bewildered and confused, Iım sure.
My home is just over the next ridge. The last half day has been nothing if not quiet.
Gabrielle has been unusually ponderous, telling few stories. I am sure Xena has noticed, although she does not comment. She just watches closely. She looks at me with those steel-blue eyes, eyes that have haunted me ever since the kiss, and Iım not sure what she is thinking. She is a master at unreadability.
I feel terrible about Gabrielle. I watch her walking, thinking. I wonder what goes on in that beautiful head. Does she hate me now? No. I donıt think Gabrielle is capable of hate.
I want to explain to her. She deserves to know why I have avoided discussing yesterdayıs situation. I want to smooth the furrows that have formed between her eyebrows since then. I want to tell her that I am in love with her and ask her to stay with me in Boderia. I want to ask her if she loves me, but I donıt want to hear the answer. I want to ask her if she loves Xena, but I already know the answer. The way she talks about Xena, the way she looks at her, why are they not together? They have such a bond. Am I not seeing something? Gods, I hope I am doing the right thing. Am I throwing away what may be the best thing that ever happened to me because of a hunch?
But Xena saved my life. I owe her.
I pray silently to the goddess of love to help me.
³Is that your home?² Gabrielle asks, pointing to a small house in the distance.
³Thatıs it.² I feel no joy upon my return. Only apprehension. ³I guess this is where I get off.²
I dismount Argo slowly and Xena helps me to untie my things from her saddle. I look straight into those gorgeous eyes. Itıs now or never. ³I need to talk to you.²
She arches her left eyebrow questioningly. I see Gabrielle approaching us.
³Alone. Please.² I walk several lengths away into the trees and wait for her.
My breaking heart breaks a little more when I see the look of hurt and confusion on Gabrielleıs face as she casts a glance in my direction, then walks the other way and sits on the ground.
Xena approaches me. Again, she raises an eyebrow and I am struck motionless once more by her beauty, the same way I was on that first day. I take a deep breath and dive in.
³Okay, Xena, listen to me because I can only say this once. And please donıt interrupt me or Iıll never get through it.² She is listening intently. I take a deep breath and launch into the speech Iıve been rehearsing since I pulled my protesting lips from Gabrielleıs, before I lose my nerve. ³You have been given such a gift. Such a gift. Why you donıt do something about it is beyond me, I just donıt understand that. Sheıs right there in front of your eyes and yet you do nothing! What is that?²
Xena looks puzzled. Am I rambling? Is she following what Iım saying? Gods, Iım not even following what Iım saying. ³Okay, Warrior Princess, here it is. Do something about your feelings for Gabrielle.² Xena looks as if Iıve slapped her and I realize that I am getting through. ³I have the feeling that she loves you as much as you love her, but sheıs so sweet, I donıt think sheıd be able to stand your rejection, so she just doesnıt say anything. I donıt know if she ever would. She is the most wonderful person I have ever met and she deserves somebody who can make her happy. I think you can, but you have to open your mouth. Gods, you talk more to your horse!²
Almost done and I am approaching anger now. Anger at what, Iım not sure. Anger that I am giving up something I want so badly? Anger that Xena canıt see whatıs right in front of her face? Anger at the situation in general, I guess, although, deep down, I am sure that this is the right thing to do.
I lean in close to the warrior and kiss her softly on the cheek, much to her surprise. ³I am eternally grateful to you for rescuing me, Xena. I will never forget you for that. You saved my life.² I look at her pointedly. ³Now Iım trying to save yours.² Her eyes are clear and I am certain she gets my meaning. I reach deep inside myself to summon the courage it takes to actually threaten the warrior. ³But mark my words.² I poke her in the chest. ³If you donıt make your move soon, I will snatch Gabrielle right out from under your nose. I think youıre in love with her. I know I am.²
With that, I leave the stunned warrior standing alone in the trees and walk over to where Gabrielle is sitting. I hold out my hand. She looks up at me for a long moment, then takes my hand and I pull her to her feet. As she opens her mouth to say something, I lay my finger over her lips.
³Shhh.² I smile at her. ³Gabrielle, I know youıre confused and I apologize for that. Just please trust me. You will understand soon enough. Everything will be okay.² I am putting an awful lot of faith in Xena.
She starts to say something, then closes her mouth, thinking better of it. She sighs and shrugs, looking at me with soft eyes. ³Okay,² she says simply.
The relief I feel is immeasurable. I pull Gabrielle close to me and hug her as if I will never see her again. As I realize that this may be all too true, I squeeze tighter, tears forming in my eyes. ³Promise me that you and Xena will look after yourselves. And each other. Be happy.² My voice is barely above a whisper as the lump in my throat threatens to make all sound impossible.
I force myself to let her go. She looks into my tear-filled eyes and gently wipes away the one that is coursing its way down my cheek.
³Thank you for everything. Iıll never forget you, Gabrielle.² I lean down to place a light kiss on her lips. As I look up, I notice that Xena is not standing far away. She smiles softly at me and nods almost imperceptively. I smile back.
I sling my pack over my shoulder, wave to both members of the duo that will be seared in my memory forever and head toward home. I suddenly have the strong sense that I have done something good, despite the ache in my heart. All at once, I am certain that Xena and Gabrielle will find each other and I smile for them.
I decide that I will cook dinner for Mila tonight.
I do not look back.
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