GENERAL DISCLAIMER: the usual. Xena's not mine. Gabrielle's not mine. Yadda yadda yadda. Not making any profit. Wish I was. Yadda yadda yadda.
LOVE/SEX DISCLAIMER: this story contains scenes of a graphic sexual nature in regards to love between two women. If you can't handle it, go outside and play.
CONTINUITY DISCLAIMER: after I had already written this story, it was brought to my attention that Argo is not present during "A Family Affair" and in fact isn't present until the next week episode. Unfortunately for me, the scene in which she appears is a pivotal part of the plot and couldn't be rewritten without her. Therefore, I ask you, gentle reader, to kindly overlook that minor technicality. Let's pretend you're in my world and what I say goes, okay?
CREDIT DISCLAIMER: there is a certain theory that comes into play toward the end of this piece, and I must give credit where credit is due, since I did not create said theory. In short, thanks, Blade. ;-)
TIME DISCLAIMER: this story takes place at the very end of "A Family Affair". I felt it needed a little more closure with Gabrielle's family than the episode gave, so off I went with my keyboard and my silly little imagination. Care to tag along?
A FAMILY AFFAIR....CONTINUED
How can I be your way when I...Im lost myself? Gabrielle asked in quiet disbelief.
Xena struggled briefly, trying to come up with the right words. Im searching for answers, too. But how we look for them doesnt matter, as long as we look for them together. She held the smaller womans gaze, then whispered, You and me. She pulled her eyes away and studied her booted feet, surprised that she was able to express herself in such a straightforward statement.
Gabrielle suppressed a smile. It was so unlike her warrior to just lay her feelings out on the table. The bard sat quietly next to her and their eyes met in silent affirmation of those feelings. Gabrielle laid her head on Xenas shoulder, wrapping a small arm around her, stroking the warriors arm with her fingertips. Xena rested her head against Gabrielles and the stayed that way for a long while, simply glowing in the presence of one another.
Xena breathed deeply, savoring the delicious smell of the bards sun-kissed hair. She had never expected to smell it again, which made it even sweeter than she had remembered. She closed her eyes, silently thanking whatever god had returned the bard to her.
As Gabrielle continued to absently stroke the warriors arm, Xena felt the familiar tingle in her thighs. She lifted Gabrielles chin with her fingertips and slowly pressed her lips to those of the bard, memorizing every sensation that came from such an act. She reveled in the way their lips seem to fit together perfectly, regardless of their difference in size, the softness of Gabrielles flesh against her own, the way the bard slowly allowed Xena access into her mouth, the sparks that shot through Xenas body when their tongues met the first time, the small groan that came from the back of the bards throat.
Gods, I missed you, Xena rasped, pulling her mouth away from the bards. She took Gabrielles head in both her hands and looked deeply into the green eyes, so full of love for their warrior. She pulled the bard to her in a sensual embrace, her lips trailing along Gabrielles taut neck. She slid her hand slowly down the bards back, then her hip, the outside of her thigh and along the inside, where it was stopped short by Gabrielles own hand. Xena... she panted.
The warrior looked up and Gabrielle smiled at the almost-pout on her face. She stroked the tanned cheek with the back of her knuckles. I missed you, too. But, we really need to talk to my family. When they see the two corpses in the barn, I think they may be a bit confused, dont you?
What are you going to tell them? Xena asked.
Gabrielle took a deep breath. The truth.
...so, um, theyre both in the barn now, Gabrielle stammered to a finish.
Dead, Xena added.
The room was deathly still. Gabrielles family was seated around the table, their eyes glued to the two women who stood before them.
Lila opened her mouth several times to speak, but she ended up closing it each time, no sound coming out. Heradotus face was a complete blank. Xena and Gabrielle exchanged a glance.
She was your...child? Hecuba asked in a small voice.
Heradotus piped in then. And her father was this Dahak we keep hearing about? The one Seraphin was following?
Yes, Father. Gabrielle tried to be patient as her parents began to repeat the facts she had just given them.
He raped you? The pain in Hecubas voice was crystal clear as her soft green eyes filled with tears.
And where in Tartarus were *you* when this was happening? Heradotus was suddenly on his feet, pointing a shaking finger at Xena, his face red with anger. You were supposed to protect her!
Xena swallowed hard under his ferocious stare, unable to meet his eyes. Her own guilt pressed down on her like a slab of granite. Heradotus was right. She had left Gabrielle unprotected that day, her obsession with Caesar giving her tunnel vision. Before she could attempt to tell Heradotus he was absolutely correct, that she had failed his daughter, Gabrielle stepped between them.
Xena did her best to help me, Father. I told you she was battling Krafstar, trying to get to me, but he was very strong. She was finally able to beat him and keep me from falling into Dahaks fire pit. Heradotus calmed himself and reluctantly resumed his seat as Gabrielle continued. Im a big girl, Father. You and I can blame Xena all we want for taking me to Britannia. I even made sure she would blame herself. She glanced back at the warrior then, clearly ashamed. But it comes back to that same little fact. Im a big girl. I chose to go. I didnt have to. I know how Caesar affects her. Ive seen it before. I had no reason to believe it wouldnt happen again. She took a deep, relief-filled breath. Look, its taken me a long time to come to terms with this whole thing, and Xena and I have done some truly rotten things to each other over it. Ultimately, it was my decision. I chose to go with Xena because I love her, and I would do it again.
Xenas eyes welled. The last thing she wanted to do was cry in front of Gabrielles family, but what the bard said had been such a relief to hear. Maybe now they could finally stop blaming each other. Maybe Xena could stop blaming herself. Her throat closed up, making words impossible. She simply laid a warm hand on the bards shoulder. Gabrielle immediately covered it with her own.
Xena loves me, Father. And I love her more than you could possibly imagine. I know thats hard for you to accept, but youre going to have to deal with it. Its not going to change. Heradotus opened his mouth to protest, but his daughter silenced him with an upheld palm. No. Please. Dont try to talk me out of it or tell me its a phase or any of that. I know what I feel. I love Xena and Im going to stay with her. Thats all there is to it.
The room fell silent once again. Nobody seemed able to make eye contact and the awkward quiet seemed to last an eternity. Finally, Xena said softly to Gabrielle, Ill go tend to Argo for a bit.
The bard nodded and the warrior left quietly. Gabrielle pulled the fourth chair out and sat down at the table with her family, waiting until somebody could speak.
Xena murmured softly to Argo as she brushed the big, golden mare. She was thankful the stables and the barn were two different things. She knew shed have to help get rid of the bodies, but she couldnt do it just yet. Xena was not squeamish by any means, but it was too hard to look upon the evil goddesss body, so closely did she resemble Gabrielle.
She knew by the heavier weight of the approaching footfalls that it was not Gabrielle coming to see her. Too light to be Heradotus . Too determined to be Hecuba.
Hi, Lila, she said, without looking toward the door.
Lila looked behind her in surprise, wondering how the warrior had known it was her. Hi.
After several awkward moments, Lila took a brush off the wall and began to brush the other side of Argo. Xena suppressed a smile and the two worked in silence for a long while.
Shes beautiful, Lila commented.
She certainly is.
She seems extremely loyal to you.
Shes the most loyal companion Ive ever had, Xena answered carefully.
You must have a lot of enemies, given your vicious reputation. Lila continued to brush.
I have enemies, yes.
I would think they could use her against you if they thought about it. That puts her in quite a bit of danger, huh?
Xena stopped her brush in mid-stroke, absorbing the girls words. It can happen, but weve managed to avoid such a situation pretty well. She knows how to handle herself.
Do you love her? Lilas blue eyes seared into Xenas and the warriors suspicion that they werent talking about her horse was confirmed. The warrior saw no anger, only concern and a need for reassurance from somebody other than her sibling. Xena rested both hands on Argos broad back and looked steadily at Lila. Then she did something she was rarely able to do. She spoke from the heart.
I would go to the ends of the earth and back for her. I would fight giants, monsters and gods to protect her. I would climb to the top of Mount Olympus and spit in Zeus eye, if thats what she needed to make her happy. She is my savior. She is my light. She is my life.
They held one anothers gaze for several moments.
So, would that be a yes then? Lila finally asked, trying to hide a smirk.
Xena released the breath she hadnt realized she was holding and laughed heartily. Yes. That would be a yes.
The evening was almost pleasant, with Gabrielles family beginning to adjust to the warrior and what she meant to the bard. Lila gave her bed to Xena, while she and Gabrielle slept in the identical one on the other side of the room. Xena didnt think Lila would have minded if her sister and the warrior had shared a bed, but Gabrielle didnt want to take the chance. Xena relented, allowing the sisters to have their time together, knowing she would finally have the bard all to herself the following night. She stared at the ceiling, listening to them giggle and whisper. When they finally slept, Xena simply watched, marveling at how much she missed the simple act of watching Gabrielle sleep.
The following morning, Gabrielle came out of her parents house just as Xena led Argo from the stables. Hecuba and Heradotus trailed after the blonde, Hecuba chatting all the while.
Here, take this extra blanket. I bought it from Ronya. His sheep had amazingly thick wool this year. She handed Gabrielle another small bundle. There are some new socks in here that I knitted for you. If you dont keep your feet warm, youre bound to catch your death of cold.
Gabrielle smiled at her. Thanks, Mother.
While Hecuba fussed over her daughter, Heradotus approached Xena with a wrapped package. He handed it to her, not meeting her eyes. Theres some dried beef in there, along with some bacon a couple of chops. You cant keep up your strength on just the fish and vegetables shell be wanting you to eat all the time.
Xena swallowed hard, truly touched by the effort he was making. Thank you, Heradotus. She held out her arm, which he gripped firmly, finally looking directly at her.
You take care of my girl.
Xena met Gabrielles surprised eyes over the mans shoulder. Ready? she asked.
Ready. She fastened the items her mother had given her to the saddlebags and turned to her father.
He held out his arms and scooped her to him, holding as tightly as he could. Bye-bye, Peanut, he whispered in her ear. You be careful out there.
I will, she promised and turned to her mother.
Oh, I promised myself I wouldnt cry, Hecuba whimpered, wrapping her arms around Gabrielle.
Its okay, Mother. I love you.
I love you, too, Gabrielle. She let go of her daughter and approached Xena. Taking the warriors face in her hands, she looked deeply into the blue depths. Then she raised onto her tiptoes and kissed Xena softly on each cheek. Youll take care of her, wont you?
Ill take care of her, Hecuba. Dont worry.
All right! Enough of this mush! Lilas voice cut through the thickness of the emotion in the air as she came out of the house. Go already, so I can have my room back. She smiled at her sister and gave her a big hug. When her lips were next to Gabrielles ear, she whispered, Youve got something amazing here, dont you screw it up. People would give their eyeteeth to have the bond you two share. You listen to her. Shell take good care of you. I know she will.
When she released Gabrielle, the bards eyes were filled with tears. Lila swiped at her own cheeks, then waved her sister away. Go on, for crying out loud, before we all become quivering blobs of jelly.
Xena winked at her and mounted Argo, holding her hand down to the bard. Gabrielle was surprised when Xena settled her in front, rather than behind her. Xenas arms came around either side of her and picked up the reins. They waved as they headed off and Gabrielle sighed, sinking back against the warrior. She couldnt remember the last time she felt so safe.
The mare sauntered easily through the thick green grass of an open field. Gabrielle wasnt sure exactly how long they had been traveling. She was dozing against Xenas chest when the warrior suddenly pulled Argo to a halt.
Gabrielle? Xena whispered.
Mmm hmm? the bard replied lazily.
I cant wait anymore.
Gabrielle opened her eyes, a little smile playing across her lips. Shed only turned her head halfway around before Xena grasped it in both hands, her mouth coming down hard on Gabrielles.
They kissed roughly, passionately, seemingly attempting to devour one another, until Xena felt she would explode. She managed to pry her lips from those of the bard long enough to dismount Argo, pulling Gabrielle with her.
Please, Gabrielle, she pleaded breathlessly, leading the bard into the grass. I need to touch you. I missed you so much. The warrior lay them down in the lush grass, her lips found Gabrielles again and they kissed for several long minutes. Xena had spent the previous night thinking of this very moment, the moment she would have the bard again, back in her arms after so much time apart. She wanted to make love to her slowly, lovingly, but she found herself unable to control her desire. She felt Gabrielles hands in her hair as she made short work of the skimpy, green top and closed her lips around a swollen, pink nipple. The warriors moan of pleasure was matched by Gabrielles sharp intake of breath. Gods...Xena....
Xena slipped her hand beneath the rugged, brown skirt, felt the wetness coat her fingertips and closed her eyes against the onrush of bliss that threatened to overtake her. Gabrielle lifted her hips to meet the warriors questing hand, her muscles straining to create a suitable rhythm.
Too fast. She was moving too fast, but she couldnt help herself, and it seemed, neither could Gabrielle. Xena slowly slid her finger into the warmth of the bard, who closed her eyes tightly, gasping at the sensation. Xena set an easy, sensual pace, using her thumb to stroke the wet folds, even as her finger slipped easily in and out. She shifted her body so the two of them were nose to nose, eye to eye, as they moved.
Gabrielle, she whispered. Open your eyes. Please.
The bard did so with effort, her breathing fast and ragged, and met the ice blue gaze overflowing with love.
I want you to look at me, Xena said, quickening her pace. I want you to know its me making love to you. Its me making you feel like this. I want to see you. In only a few short minutes, she felt Gabrielles muscles tighten, her fingers digging into Xenas back.
Stay with me, the warrior pleaded. Gabrielle kept her eyes riveted to Xenas even as her own breath held and the crushing force of their passion crashed over them like a tidal wave, blinding in its intensity, Gabrielle moaning Xenas name in a ragged cry. Im right here, baby, Xena soothed, slowing the movement of her fingers little by little, never looking away from the green eyes trying so hard to stay focused on her. Im right here. Ive got you. I love you, Gabrielle. I love you.
The bard tried unsuccessfully to suppress a yawn as she sat down to begin making lunch. Sleep hadnt played much of a part in the previous night.
I love you.
Gabrielle looked up from the fish she was gutting, surprise written clearly on her face. Xena rarely made that statement unless the two of them were in the throes of passion or facing possible death. The bard smiled at the ice blue eyes studying her. I love you, too.
She held Xenas gaze for a second too long as she continued to work on the fish, the knife cutting into her hand. She yelped and dropped the utensil. Xena leapt to her feet.
Let me see.
No, no. Its fine. Gabrielle covered her injured hand with the other.
Well, then, let me have a look at it. Xena reached for the bards hand. Gabrielle promptly snatched it away.
No, Xena, really. Its okay. Just a nick. See? She shook it around. Not even bleeding.
Xena smiled suspiciously, narrowing her eyes at the bard. Okay, she said finally and returned to tending the fire.
Gabrielle watched the warrior add wood to the fresh flames and then returned to her own task. After a couple of minutes she said, Damn. I think I left that other towel on the river bank. Ill be right back.
She was trotting away before Xena could utter a word. As soon as she was out of sight of the camp, she stopped and scrutinized her injured hand, afraid of what she would see.
Sure enough, there between her left thumb and index finger was a gash at least half an inch deep. She wiggled her thumb back and forth. It didnt really hurt, just felt kind of weird. It was really nothing that couldnt just normally be stitched up. Xena was good at that.
But she couldnt let Xena stitch it. The warrior was a good healer and would certainly want to know why there wasnt one single solitary drop of blood anywhere in or around the cut.
Gabrielle had asked herself the same exact question when one of the spikes on the destroyer had scraped across the skin on her shoulder two nights before. It wasnt deep, but it should have drawn blood. It hadnt.
Gabrielle swallowed hard, her heart racing, wishing with all her strength that she could recall the time between falling into the pit and waking up at the Hospice.
Whats happened to me? she whispered.