Wrote this way back in 2009. It was pretty much just an excuse to put together some little vignettes that I'd written (mostly during math class in school...). So it's kinda just a series of flashbacks.
Unable to sleep, she lay on her side leaning up on her elbow, and looked fondly down at the slumbering form curled up against her while gently stroking strawberry-blonde hair which was splayed out across the blankets. "Gabrielle…" She sighed, loving the feel of that particular name flowing from her lips. And loving the woman that it belonged to.
Gabrielle. The young farm girl from Potidaea. At first she had seemed to be just an annoying, talkative child, with a bad case of hero-worship, but she had quickly proved to be a lot more. She had such innate goodness, such a kind and pure heart; the exact thing Xena had needed to counteract the dark past that she hoped to leave behind.
Gabrielle was a fast learner, and had quickly become accustomed to travelling with Xena, though there were still some things about the dark-haired warrior that puzzled her.
She had learned how to defend herself during their visit to the Amazons, and had even become a princess among them after putting herself in danger to try and protect Terreis, sister of Queen Melosa, and next in line to rule the Amazons.
Xena couldn't stop a smile from spreading across her face as she thought of all the remarks people were always making about Gabrielle being an annoying little tag-along, and how much people always underestimated the young bard. It had to be her kind demeanour; her open and loving face; that beautiful smile that crinkled her nose, lighting up an entire room and making everyone around her feel an irresistible urge to smile along with her…
No one would've guessed from looking at her that the energetic little bard had made such a difference in Xena's world, or that Xena relied on her and drew strength from her each and every day…
Xena tried, and failed, to suppress a grin at her choice of words. Little. Her mind wandered back to last Solstice, their third one together since having met each other…
The events that had transpired the last time they had visited the Centaurs, and all that had happened afterwards, still weighed heavily on their minds; Callisto, Hope, Solan, Dahak. But they had put it all aside for Solstice eve, sitting by their campfire, each of them lost in their own thoughts.
Just like any other night, they had eaten dinner, and Xena sat leaning up against a large boulder with her sword in her lap, methodically running a sharpening stone along it's edge, and checking it for dull spots in the light of the fire. Gabrielle sat across from the warrior, on the other side of the flames, leaning against the trunk of a large tree, writing in one of her scrolls.
During their first year together, Xena had often wondered whether her habit irritated Gabrielle, and each time she had sat by the fire with her sword, she had been half expecting the bard to crack at any moment and tell her to quit it. But it seemed that Gabrielle had been only fascinated by this peculiar ritual, and the meditative state it instilled in the fierce warrior.
Over time, Gabrielle had appeared to become accustomed to the scrape of stone against metal, and in fact seemed to write a lot more when that sound filled the air.
When the fire was starting to die down a little, and the full moon was high in the night sky, Gabrielle put away her scroll and quill, and Xena set aside her weapon. They moved to their bed rolls without speaking a word, and lay down next to each other. It was a chill night, so Xena had her arms wrapped tightly around Gabrielle, and they were snuggled beneath two thick blankets instead of one.
As usual, Xena woke early the next morning with Gabrielle's small form still huddled asleep beside her. She touched Gabrielle's cheek softly, trying to decide whether she should wake the bard or let her sleep some more.
'It's Solstice day,' she thought. 'I'll wake her.'
Xena lifted an arm out from underneath the blankets, and reached into the saddlebags sitting on the ground nearby, careful not to jostle Gabrielle too much. She pulled out a scroll tied round the middle with a strip of leather, and held it up near Gabrielle's face, using the back of her hand to nudge the blonde awake.
"Gabrielle," she whispered. The bard stirred at hearing her name, but didn't wake.
"Gabrieeeelle," Xena said more insistently, in a playful sing-song voice.
Gabrielle slowly opened one eye, and then the other, blinking to try and focus her blurry vision. The first thing she saw was Xena's smiling face watching over her.
"Happy Solstice," Xena said softly, with a gentle smile.
Gabrielle smiled back at the warrior and quietly replied, "Happy Solstice…"
She sat up, pushing the blankets off and taking the scroll that Xena offered, and she continued to look at her friend as she untied the strip of leather holding the scroll closed.
As Gabrielle unrolled the scroll and began to silently read, Xena looked away and started fiddling with the edge of one of the blankets as she remembered what she had written – Well, what she had tried to write anyway – And she hoped that she wasn't going to have to endure one of those intimate situations that always made her feel so awkward.
She had attempted to write a poem for Gabrielle - something that the bard had always made seem so easy - but in the end she had given up, drawing lines through her words and instead writing: 'I wanted to write you a poem, I know you like poems. But I couldn't find the right words to describe what you mean to me…'
It didn't seem like anything special to Xena, and the warrior didn't think that those words really expressed what she felt, but she knew that Gabrielle had a way of looking past even the most pathetic of words to find the meaning hidden beneath – A concept that the warrior hadn't managed to grasp, except when reading a coded message that hid some bad guy's evil plans.
Xena tried to put some distance between herself and Gabrielle, knowing that the situation would be more bearable for her if she could avert her eyes, or busy herself with some unnecessary chore, such as brushing down Argo or organising their saddlebags.
Just as Xena tried to stand up, Gabrielle, knowing full well what the warrior was trying to do, stuck out a hand and gently pulled her back down, her eyes never leaving the scroll which she continued to read and re-read over and over.
Xena couldn't help but smile at the way the bard's eyes squinted a little, and the way her lips moved silently as she tried to read the words hidden beneath the many scribbled, black lines.
The warrior had found good reason to cross out the words which had taken her hours to find within herself;
She had tried comparing Gabrielle's eyes to emeralds; but had crossed it out when she decided that Gabrielle's eyes were far lovelier than even the most perfect of emeralds.
She wrote of how Gabrielle's hair felt like silk; but then decided that the bard's beautiful, honey-coloured hair felt better when it ran through her fingers than even the finest of silks ever could.
She had written of Gabrielle's body – That it was as flawless as the body of the goddess Aphrodite herself; but had later realised that she adored the small, faded scars that were scattered around Gabrielle's body, remnants of the accidental injuries she had received while exploring and playing as a child, and also a semblance of her youthful and adventurous nature. And of course the goddess of love had no such scars.
She had tried writing that Gabrielle's joyous smile was more radiant than daylight itself; but she knew that if Gabrielle was to never smile again, then daylight would be darker than nightfall. It was the bard's smile alone that made Xena's day so bright, and there would be no radiance without it.
She'd had just as much trouble while trying to write of Gabrielle's personality - her kindness, her willingness to help all who needed it, her desire to change the world for the better, the wisdom she possessed which seemed far beyond her young years…The goodness in her heart.
So she had given up, simply writing instead that she could find no words to tell of Gabrielle's worth to her.
Gabrielle finally stopped reading the scroll and turned slowly to face Xena. Her eyes were wet with unshed tears of love, joy and happiness, and her lips bore the smallest, shiest, and by far the most adorable of smiles that Xena had ever witnessed.
'I was right,' Xena thought. 'I wasn't able to write the things I wanted to, but she understands…Since the day I met her, she's understood me better than anyone ever has…'
When Xena returned Gabrielle's small smile, a tear escaped down the bard's cheek and she threw her arms around the warrior, closing her eyes and burying her face in long, dark hair.
Xena rubbed her cheek tenderly against the top of Gabrielle's head and planted a gentle kiss on the young girl's temple, and she discovered that she rather liked these sorts of intimate moments, the ones that didn't make her feel so awkward; the silent ones.
Xena generally tended to have trouble with deep, intimate conversations, and with revealing her true feelings, but she had a talent of being able to express her love for Gabrielle through even the simplest of gestures; Whenever she wrapped her arms around the bard, it told more of her feelings than words ever could.
After a moment, Xena felt the bard's body shake a little, and she heard a small giggle come from the face buried in her neck.
Xena slightly pushed Gabrielle away from her to look her in the eye, and with a raised eyebrow, she asked in a flat voice, "What is it?"
Gabrielle grinned sheepishly and said, "Your hair tickles."
Xena just looked at her friend for a moment, her expression dead serious, her eyebrow raised impossibly high.
Gabrielle was just about ready to break out into a fit of giggles when a broad grin spread over Xena's face, and the warrior began to chuckle.
They laughed together a little, and exchanged a few playful pokes, before Gabrielle suddenly remembered her Solstice gift for the warrior.
"Oh, Xena, I got you something too!" Gabrielle said somewhat excitedly.
Xena's eyebrow shot up into the air once more.
"Oh, really?!" she replied, mocking the excitable bard.
Gabrielle poked her tongue out at Xena as she reached for one of the saddlebags and began rummaging through it.
She found what she was looking for, and left it hidden just inside the bag as she spoke to Xena.
"This had seemed like the perfect gift when I thought of it a few days ago, but after the scroll you gave me…" The bard's voice fell to a whisper with her next words. "Well, my gift for you is not quite as special…"
She pulled her hand out of the bag, along with a medium-sized box.
"Close your eyes," She said. Xena obeyed, a smile playing at her lips.
Gabrielle sat in front of the warrior and opened the wooden box. She pulled something out and told the warrior to open her mouth.
Xena obligingly opened her mouth wide, and, just to get a giggle out of the bard, she let out an "Ahhh," as if she were getting her mouth checked by a healer.
Gabrielle shook her head, but let out a little laugh anyway, before popping the small item into Xena's mouth.
Holding her curiosity at bay, Xena kept her mouth wide open, awaiting further instruction, just to bug her friend.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "Chew" she said, emphasising the word.
Xena suppressed the chuckle that was threatening to break loose, and closed her teeth down on the mystery food in her mouth.
Her teeth sank into pastry, and something sweet oozed out onto her tongue. She recognised it instantly, and her eyes flew open, lighting up.
"It's the-" She began.
"-Dumpling with the red stuff inside," Gabrielle finished for her, doing a fair imitation of the warrior, and smiling at Xena's past description of the tasty treat. "It had seemed like a great gift - I know how much you love these…" Gabrielle repeated, her voice again a mere whisper.
Xena held her arms out to the bard, and Gabrielle moved into the warrior's strong embrace with a smile.
"It is the perfect gift," Xena assured her. Dark hair formed a curtain around their faces as Xena leant in to whisper into the bard's ear. "It's the little things in life that make me happy."
"Really?" Gabrielle asked sceptically, wondering whether Xena really meant it, or was saying it only to cheer her up.
Xena gave a short, simple, and honest reply; "Yes."
Gabrielle pulled back to better look at Xena, and with a smug little grin more suited to a five year old, asked, "Like what?"
Xena once again leaned in towards the bard, a lopsided smile on her face, and mischief in her blue eyes. She kissed the bard softly on the cheek, then breathed her answer into her friend's ear.
Gabrielle once again pulled back, this time slowly, and with a hint of danger in her narrowed eyes. She stared Xena down until the warrior couldn't hold it in any longer and let out a quiet laugh.
"Was that a crack about my height?" Gabrielle tried to sound as menacing as she could - Which she knew wasn't very menacing at all – And she patiently awaited the infuriating answer that she knew would surely come.
"Yeess," the warrior said with a grin, dragging the word out.
Gabrielle was on her in an instant, tackling her to the ground, both of them laughing freely as they poked, tickled, and wrestled each other on the blankets –
Xena's wandering mind was brought back to the present by the feel of Gabrielle shifting next to her, trying to move closer. The warrior's gaze, usually sharp and calculating, softened, and she ran her fingers gently over the soft skin of a muscled arm, admiring the bard's perfect form. Xena thought that Gabrielle looked a lot like an angel, with her golden hair and friendly smile…
Xena remembered the very first time that thought had crossed her mind; It was that afternoon when she and Gabrielle had come to the aid of a poor family who were being attacked by a greedy tax collector; he was trying to take from them money that they didn't have.
Xena had heard the family's cries of anguish, and she and Gabrielle had run towards their shabby house to find them inside, being beaten nearly to death by a round, filthy little man who was demanding payment from them.
The dynamic duo had easily sent the brute scurrying away, with injuries that surpassed those of his victims and that, if left untreated, would surely kill him.
They had decided to stay a few days to tend to the wounds of the small family, and to ensure that the man, woman, and both their daughters would make a full recovery. Gabrielle had gone out for some medical supplies, taking her staff with her in case she should encounter any trouble, while the warrior stayed with the family in their little home, lighting candles and gathering water and clean rags.
The sun was just beginning to set when Gabrielle got back, and it was then that Xena's breath had left her...The warrior recalled what her exact thoughts had been at that moment, and it was as if she was experiencing it all again…
The hairs on my neck and arms are tingling; someone's there. A shuffle of feet at the door – There's no mistaking it, it's Gabrielle; I'd recognise those footsteps anywhere. I turn my head to look; she wasn't gone long, but already I am missing her. The shabby wooden door is swinging open –
I swear by the Gods that time is slowing down as I look at her standing there in the doorway. Why is her face so shrouded in shadows? Oh, I remember, no windows in here, the whole place is dark and dank. But she looks amazing. The light from the setting sun behind her is making her glow, the bright orange outline of her body so luminous in contrast with the darkness of the room…It's as if the light is emanating from her body rather than the sun.
She looks like an angel.
I know I've never been too good with words, but I don't think that even the great poet Sappho herself would be able to find words to describe this vision of beauty that is Gabrielle…
Still lying on her side, Xena laid her arm flat on the ground, her head resting on top, and brought her other hand over to Gabrielle's waist, pulling the lightly snoring bard closer. She brought her hand up to brush back a blonde fringe, and then leant over to plant a gentle kiss on the young woman's forehead. She couldn't imagine life without Gabrielle; it was simply too painful a thought to ponder.
Gabrielle gave a near-silent sigh as her eyes flickered open for a moment, and she gave Xena a small, lazy smile before slipping back into Morpheus' embrace.
Morpheus. This triggered yet another memory for Xena. This time she was thinking of one of her earliest adventures with Gabrielle, when the bard had been kidnapped and then thrown into a 'Dreamscape' in the hopes that she would shed her blood innocence by killing another to save herself. After doing this, she would be sacrificed as the bride of Morpheus.
Luckily, Xena's lessons from earlier on that day had remained with Gabrielle, and the clever blonde had managed to evade her attackers without resorting to violence; Gabrielle had begged the warrior, that very morning, to teach her to wield a weapon. However Xena had refused, telling the bard that there were other ways to survive:
"I don't want to learn how to kill; I want to learn how to survive!"
Exasperated, Xena stopped walking and turned to face Gabrielle, Argo's reins still gripped firmly in one hand. She wished that Gabrielle could see things her way; Maybe then the blonde would finally understand the warrior's reluctance to teach her to fight. She decided she'd give Gabrielle some other options, and just hope that the bard would listen.
Xena took a deep breath, let it out, and then began.
"Alright, the rules of survival; Number 1: If you can run, run. Number 2: If you can't run, surrender…Then run. Number 3: If you're outnumbered, let them fight each other while you-" She pointed a finger at the bard for emphasis "-run. Number 4: …"
Gabrielle held up her hands to bring the warrior's words to a stop. "Wait. More running?"
Xena held back the smirk that was trying to slide onto her face. "No, 4 is where you talk your way out of it - And I know you can do that."
Thankfully, the bard had been paying attention, and had used those 'rules' to keep herself alive long enough for Xena to make it through the Dreamscape and rescue her.
Although she hadn't openly shown it, Xena had been rather proud of Gabrielle, and had realised at that moment that all those boring village folk back at Potidaea really had underestimated the bard. She'd decided that it was no wonder that the young girl had jumped at the chance for some adventure outside of her village.
Xena had also realised that she'd become quite fond of Gabrielle, and that she no longer kept the talkative girl around simply because she was amusing. She had known on that day in Amphipolis that she had made a good friend in Gabrielle; when in Lyceus' tomb she had said that it was hard to be alone, and a voice behind her had replied that she wasn't.
The look that Xena had witnessed in Gabrielle's eyes when she turned to see who had spoken was one of such kindness and sympathy, that she had known right then and there that Gabrielle was a lot more than anyone would think at a first glance.
However, Xena hadn't really noticed just how much Gabrielle meant to her until her new-found friend had been taken by Morpheus' worshippers. The wave of pure terror that rushed through her when she realised that Gabrielle was missing was unlike anything she had ever felt before, and for a moment she had been unable to do anything except stand there shouting out Gabrielle's name at the top of her lungs.
That same feeling had hit her a hundred times harder when she had watched Gabrielle fall into the larva pit, taking the daughter of Dahak with her. The next day Xena had walked around in a zombie-like state, thinking that it was perhaps just a particularly horrid nightmare, and that she would wake from it any minute to find herself lying out under the stars by a warm campfire, Gabrielle fast asleep beside her. But she had quickly realised that it wasn't a nightmare, that she really had just lost Gabrielle.
So, as is Xena's way, she had taken action and set out to find Gabrielle before the creeping tide of helplessness could set in – Something that she wouldn't be able to bounce back from if she let it consume her. Xena felt as though she would die if she just gave up and acknowledged that her best friend was gone, and she had in fact told Gabrielle the very same thing just a couple of years before…
Xena prodded the fire with a stick, straining to hold back her tears.
She had just lost an old friend and lover, Marcus, after convincing him to give up the bad life he was leading and to join her in doing good.
Gabrielle had tried comforting the warrior, but she knew that there was not much she could do, and had eventually retreated to the log that sat a couple of metres from the large boulder on which Xena was sitting.
She had studied the warrior's face for a while, her mind wandering, and eventually a question began to form on her lips before she could stop it.
"Would you cry if I-" Gabrielle caught herself before the last word could leave her lips, and she stared at the floor, her face turning red – partly due to embarrassment, and partly from her anger at herself for nearly asking such an insensitive question.
Xena was hurting. Now was certainly not the time to ask her what she'd feel if something was to happen to Gabrielle. That'd be like comparing herself with Marcus, and would no doubt bring only anger, hurt, and awkwardness.
"Would I cry if you what?" Xena asked quietly.
Gabrielle sighed. Too late. "Nothing, never mind," She mumbled in reply.
But Xena was curious. She could tell from Gabrielle's expression that something was nibbling at her, that there was something she really wanted to say but was too afraid. It intrigued the warrior.
She moved from her perch, and went to sit beside Gabrielle on the large log, taking the younger woman's hands in her own. Gabrielle looked up at Xena slowly, feeling mortified. 'How could I be so stupid?!' She wondered.
Xena stared into Gabrielle's marvellous green eyes, searching, as if she might find in them the question that the blonde dared not ask, if she only looked into them long enough.
"What is it?" Xena whispered. She could sense the bard's discomfort, and it only fuelled her curiosity and imagination.
Gabrielle shook her head, hoping to dismiss the whole situation. "Nothing, don't worry, it's stupid."
Xena just held Gabrielle's hands a little tighter and continued to stare at her. Gabrielle once again sighed, knowing that Xena would persist until she found out what she wanted to know.
"I…I was going to ask you if-" Gabrielle faltered. She really wished she'd kept her mouth shut. "If you'd cry if I…If I died…"
There. She said it.
Xena broke eye contact, and drew her hands away from Gabrielle's.
'Stupid!' Gabrielle silently scolded herself. "I'm sorry, it's really insensitive of me; just forget I said anything…"
She moved to rise from the log, but Xena caught her hand and pulled her back down. Gabrielle saw a look of pain and hurt flash across the warrior's face and she took it to be pain at Marcus' death and hurt at her inappropriate question. However, Xena's words made her wonder if that was so…
"No, it's fine…Actually, the same thing crossed my mind for a moment just now when I was thinking about Marcus."
Xena swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat and she once again took Gabrielle's hands into her own, giving them a light squeeze as she spoke.
"If you had asked me this same question a few months ago, I would have said yes, I would cry if something were to happen to you. But now…Now it's so much more." Xena took a deep breath, searching for the right words, and Gabrielle tried to decide whether it sounded as though Xena was leading onto something good, or something bad…
"Gabrielle, you've made such a difference in my life. You believed in me when no one else would, when I was finding it hard to believe in myself. You gave me hope, hope that I could change, that I could become a better person, and that I could build a new life. You've stood beside me each day, making me strong, putting your faith in me so that I could have faith in myself. Each day you help me to go on, even those days when I don't feel that I can."
Gabrielle was astounded at Xena's words and the vulnerability she was displaying. The warrior always seemed so withdrawn, so reluctant to share her thoughts; and yet here she was, pouring out her heart.
Xena's voice was choked with emotion as she whispered her next words.
"I wouldn't cry if I lost you…"
A momentary look of hurt and confusion crossed Gabrielle's pretty features.
"…Gabrielle, I would die if I lost you…"
Gabrielle's eyes filled with tears at Xena's words, and she knew from the earnest look on the warrior's face that she really did mean it. Her heart melted at the look of love in those soft blue eyes, usually so fierce, and she threw her arms around her friend, clinging to her tight.
Xena felt a tear roll slowly down her cheek at the memory, and she hastily wiped it away. Running her fingers lightly over Gabrielle's skin, she whispered words of love to the sleeping bard. She then kissed her lightly on the temple, and wrapped her arms around the blonde's small body.
Content, she slipped into sleep, thinking all the while of her lovely bard.