< Moving On >
So, a little Challenge was issued to me to write fan fiction. More specifically, a Xena and Gabrielle fan fiction since I'm a subtext leper. I have issues picking it up. So I tried it, and had a four story Xena/Gabrielle fanfic appear before my eyes. Please stand by for the disclaimers.
Timing: Directly after the episode The Bitter Suite
The Summary: After returning from Illusia, Xena and Gabrielle must cook up a scheme to keep the Amazons from putting Xena to death for the kidnapping and attempted Murder of their Queen. How will the girls ever get out of this one?
I do NOT own Xena Warrior Princess or any of the characters. They all belong to their respective owners. Plus no one will ever REALLY own Xena...well, except for Gabrielle.
The land of Illusia faded into a fresh memory as the Warrior Princess and her bard found their way back to reality. Although the strawberry blonde had forgiven the taller woman, she couldn't quiet forgive herself for some of the things that she'd said to Xena while in the echoing chamber. Sure they'd had a difficult time hearing one another in that chamber, but the hateful banter rang out loud and clear. Did she mean it at the time? Of course. Was it the way that she felt now? Not by a long shot.
“You okay?” the warrior asked her softly, placing a hand lightly on her shoulder.
“I'm pretty sure I'm as good as I'm going to be,” came the reply from the bard.
“The important thing, Gabrielle, is for us to never allow ourselves to let that much bitterness fester between us again. It'll destroy us. And we have enough warlords trying to do that without our help.”
Gabrielle nodded, knowing Xena was right. “I know. Xena, I want you to know that...what I mean is...I don't hate you.”
Xena offered Gabrielle a half smile, reassuring her blonde friend. “I know you don't. Losing a child, it just brings out this ferocious animal inside of you. I forget that you understand what that's like too. You had to survive without Hope almost right after she was born. I gave Solan up the night he was born. We've both faced a loss.”
“At least you could have gone to the Centaurs and seen him, if it hadn't been for my daughter,” Gabrielle half mumbled.
“Sh. We're not talking about that. It's over and done,” the warrior chided gently.
Gabrielle nodded, knowing there was no winning this argument with the taller woman.
“Even in my grief, I should have listened to what was right. Instead I allowed Ares to manipulate me into stealing you from the Amazon village,” Xena continued.
“By the gods,” Gabrielle breathed, eyes widening in alarm. “Xena, the Amazons!”
“I know. I'm going to have to make my apologies to them. Maybe even grovel a little. What do you think Ephiny would respond to the best?” the warrior princess chattered, mind moving at light speed as she surveyed the area cautiously.
Gabrielle placed her hand firmly on Xena's chest, pushing her back just a little. “Xena, you kidnapped their queen and attempted to kill me!”
“I know, and I'll apologize.”
“You don't understand. By Amazon law, kidnapping and attempted murder of the queen is...death.”
Xena waved it off nonchalantly. “Eh. I've died before. It hasn't killed me yet,” she sniffed quickly, wiping her bracer quickly across her nose.
Gabrielle smiled a bit. “Xena, that's not funny.”
“Then why are you trying not to laugh?” she teased.
“We're about to find out what's going to happen to me, Gabrielle. Drop your weapon,” Xena commanded, throwing sword and chakram at her feet and clasping her hands above her head in the Amazon symbol of peace.
Gabrielle followed suit, her eyes sweeping the surrounding trees, just as the pack of Amazon warriors began dropping from the trees.
“Queen Gabrielle!” Ephiny exclaimed. “Are you injured?”
“I'm better than I have been in a long time,” Gabrielle smiled at the regent.
“I am glad you are well. Bind that woman's hands!” Ephiny commanded, jerking her head in Xena's direction.
“No! You don't understand!” Gabrielle attempted to protest, but it fell on deaf ears as the warrior princess was bound and dragged away in the custody of four young Amazons.
“Where is she Ephiny?” Gabrielle demanded when they arrived back at the village. “By Artemis, if you don't tell me-”
“She tried to kill you!” Ephiny bit back. “All respect, my Queen, but even you cannot overwrite the most ancient of laws written by the Amazons.”
“I know the ancient laws, Ephiny, but she was perpetuated by grief! My child killed her son. My child that Xena told me was evil from the beginning. Can you blame anyone for being angry over the loss of a child?” the bard asked, the question ending softly.
Ephiny grew quiet. “No. I can't, but I can hold her responsible for endangering my queen. It is my job, our job, to protect our queen.”
“She's the queen's champion. There has to be a pardon for that,” Gabrielle argued. “There has to be a loophole.”
“If there is, you'd better find it, Queen Gabrielle, if you hope for her to survive. On the eve of the next full moon, her light will be extinguished.”
“That's in two days!” Gabrielle exclaimed.
Ephiny quirked her eyebrow at the pint sized bard. “You'd better start searching, my queen.”
“Where are the scrolls?” Gabrielle asked. “There has to be something in them.”
“I'll bring them to you directly,” Ephiny replied, bowing her head quickly.
“Move,” Gabrielle said coldly, winding her way through the Amazon guards who were protecting the prisoner's chambers.
Xena's head snapped up at attention as the blonde came charging through the door of the hut. “My Queen,” she said teasingly.
Gabrielle stood in front of her friend, aghast at her appearance. The being standing before her didn't even look like Xena. Her eyes were bruised and blackened underneath. A deep gash lined the right side of her forehead trailing across her temple and becoming lost in the mass of hair, napped together with congealed blood.
“Gods...what have they done to you?” the Amazon Queen asked in a choked whisper, her eyes crinkling in confusion as her fingertips gently reached out to caress down Xena's cheek.
“They did exactly what I would have done if anyone else had tried to do to you what I did,” Xena said honestly, licking her dry cracked lips.
“You could have taken them out,” Gabrielle said vehemently. “You could have dropped every single one of them. Why didn't you fight back?”
“Because I was wrong, Gabrielle. I was wrong, and I deserved it. They're going to kill me for having a short temper. Looks like I'm finally going to pay for all of those less than savory things that the Destroyer of Nations did.”
“Stop it!” Gabrielle hissed, getting closer to the warrior. “I think I've found a way around it.”
“There is no way around it!” Xena hissed back. “I've been listening to them talk Gabrielle. I'll be dead in thirty-five hours, and they've made their minds up to not allow you to pardon me.”
“That's my choice. Not theirs,” the bard glared. “Plus, I've found a way that no one can deny a pardon to you.”
Xena quirked her eyebrow, grimacing as the skin furrowed around the cut. “I'm listening.”
Ephiny stared at the tiny queen in disbelief. “She tried to kill you, and you want us to let her go?”
“Ephiny, please try to understand,” Gabrielle said softly.
“I don't understand at all,” Ephiny replied, anger tinging her voice.
Gabrielle swallowed hard, the realization of what she was saying fully hitting her for the first time. “Xena and I want to be married at sunset tomorrow. We love each other, and if she is my intended, by Amazon law you cannot keep her held captive.”
“As you wish, my queen, but I must tell you, I cannot bring myself to trust her after that.”
“She will work to regain your trust Ephiny. She treasures your friendship. That I promise you. You have to allow her leniency for grief.”
“I am her friend, Gabrielle,” Ephiny said, softening a little. “But you must understand my position as well. I am torn between my duty to my people, our sacred laws, and my friendship to both you and Xena. I know she was motivated by grief, and that she would never harm you when in her right frame of thinking. You also need to understand that you are our queen, and the queen leads by example, otherwise, there is discord.”
“I am leading by example,” Gabrielle stated earnestly. “I'm teaching my people to follow their hearts.”
“You love Xena?” Ephiny questioned, still doubtful of the situation at hand.
“More than myself. She's my whole world,” Gabrielle whispered.
“Then, as Regent and queen in your absence, I will officiate a union between you and Xena at sunset tomorrow,” the curly haired Amazon assured her.
“Thank you, Ephiny.”
“I will go release your wife to be,” Ephiny nodded, thinking to herself that it was about time that the two women realized their love for each other.
She stepped into the prisoner's hut, dismissing the guards at the door. “Xena,” Ephiny called into the darkness, grabbing a torch from outside the hut. Observing the sight before her, she could not believe what she saw. Xena looked as if she'd been in battle with armies from every known country on the earth. The ropes around her wrists had been tied entirely too tight and were cutting into her flesh. Ephiny was hoping that the darkened areas on her friend's face were just shadows being cast, but she knew that the gashes and bruises were deepening even as she spoke.
“Who brought you in?” Ephiny demanded. “I can assure you that they will be dealt with according to our customs.”
“Your customs are tired, Ephiny. Laws upheld in that nature died long ago. I understand wanting to stay true to your ideals, but placing an over zealous young girl in the block for two full moons for bearing down on a prisoner is a bit much. Don't you think?” Xena asked.
“You're aware of our laws,” Ephiny commented.
“Very aware. It was a long time ago, but when Cyane was queen, I had genuinely wanted to be an Amazon. I had, and still have a great respect for your people. She always said that I was an Amazon at heart, whether I ever became one or not.”
Ephiny was humble at the truth in Xena's words. “I have read of your relationship to our former queen. I have also read of your betrayal.”
“Well, there was that,” Xena said, shame becoming evident on her features. “Alti poisoned my heart against the Amazons. She filled my head with lies, and like a sheep I followed her. I was seduced by her promise of power. I've done terrible things. Most of those, I will never forgive myself for. What happened with Gabrielle today is one of those. Ephiny, Gabrielle is my heart. She's my home. I would never hurt her, and my actions today frightened me. Solan, my son, because he recognized that the anger inside of us was turning to bitterness and hatred, he spared our lives, mine and hers, and made us face each other. We have to let it go, and move past it, but first, we needed to be honest with ourselves.”
“And that honesty has led you to believe that you're in love with each other?” Ephiny asked.
“Gee, you're a tough customer,” Xena commented, quirking a half smile.
“Xena, play nice,” a voice said from the doorway.
“We were just talking about you,” the warrior princess smiled, the movement causing the split on her parched lips to to widen.
“All good, I hope,” Gabrielle said stepping fully into the hut. She walked to where Xena was still tied.
“I was just telling her that I think I can handle you because you only snore sometimes.”
“I do not snore,” Gabrielle defended, brushing a hand lovingly down Xena's arm. “Let's get you out of these ropes. Ephiny, would you give me a hand?”
“Yes. Of course,” Ephiny stated, propping her staff against the wall of the hut, and assisting the shorter woman.
Xena waited patiently while the women untied her bindings. Her shoulders ached as they were finally lowered, her wrists raw and burning as the air hit them. “Thanks,” she smiled, a wince evident in her icy blue eyes. “Could I have some water?”
“I'll bring some immediately,” Ephiny said, rushing from the hut.
“Do you think we're going to be able to pull this off?” Xena asked Gabrielle. “I feel horrible deceiving them.”
“Have you lied yet?” Gabrielle asked. “We are going to be married, and we do love each other. Where is the deception?”
“But we don't exactly have a marriage type of love. Do we?” Xena asked.
“Fresh water, and I only had to hit two Amazons to be allowed to bring it to you,” Ephiny announced, returning triumphantly to the hut.
Xena smiled, almost glad for the interruption. “Thanks,” she drank greedily from the roughly crafted mug presented to her. The cool water immediately began to sooth her dry throat and put moisture back into her cracked lips.
“I'm going to take Xena back to my hut,” Gabrielle told the Amazon Regent. “I want her with me during our stay here,” she explained further. “After the way she was treated, I think we should be keeping an eye on some of the women in the fold.”
“I don't understand why they did this. Even protecting the queen, we've always had a sense of justice about us,” Ephiny agreed.
“It was a blood lust,” Xena explained. “The ones who did it got a thrill from being able to do this to me. It's a power play. Actually, Gabrielle, sparring with me may not be a bad idea.”
“Why is that?” Gabrielle asked.
“If they believe that they can best a known warrior princess, and the Destroyer of Nations, then someone, like yourself, who wasn't raised in the world of fighting would be easy pickings for them.”
“I'm a good fighter,” Gabrielle said to Xena indignantly.
“I know that you are, and without question, you're skilled, but it would be safer if you were trained just a little more. The Amazons train daily, or they used to.”
“We still do,” Ephiny spoke up. “It's one of our daily practices.”
“Gabrielle, if one of the Amazons challenge you, I'm out of commission to be able to fight as your champion, but I can spar with you and teach you,” Xena said.
The blonde queen thought for a moment, contemplating her response. After a long moment, she looked Xena in the eyes. “I would love for you to teach me,” she said, her tone holding a double meaning, which didn't go unnoticed by the Regent. Gabrielle breathed a sigh of relief as Ephiny excused herself for the evening, leaving the bard and warrior looking into one another's eyes. “Let's go to my hut,” Gabrielle whispered. “No one will bother us there.”
Xena nodded, feeling the air surrounding them spark with electricity with the waves of chemistry passing between the two women. “If there's trouble, I'm going to have to fight, and to be honest, I don't know how successful that's going to be right now.”
“I can handle it,” Gabrielle said calmly, walking in front of Xena.
“I said I can handle it, Xena,” the bard said, voice firm.
“Alright,” Xena agreed. “I was just saying that an Amazon nation in upheaval isn't something you're used to. I've gone through this before.”
“This is my tribe. I can make them listen,” the blonde assured her, lowering her voice. “Will you just trust me?”
Xena blinked for a moment, recent memories flashing through her mind, flowing as quickly as the River Styx.
Gabrielle looked at the pained expression on Xena's face. “Of course. How can you trust me after all the things I've done?”
“Hey,” Xena said, reaching for her shoulder, and urging her to look into her eyes. She tucked a long strand of golden hair behind the Amazon Queen's ear. “I do trust you, Gabrielle. We've had some trouble, and a lot of heartache, but I do trust you. Lead the way,” she said, caressing the blonde's face tenderly.
Gabrielle reached up to her cheek, cupping Xena's hand with her own and raising forest green eyes to look into Xena's cerulean blue pools. She nodded her silent agreement. “Together,” she said softly, eyes searching the warrior princess's.
“Till the end,” Xena said softly, feeling her heart tug under the gaze of the shorter woman.
The bard released Xena's hand, and turned to lead the way out of the prisoner's hut, and as expected, she was greeted by a cadre of Amazons, all of whom were on their guard, and several who were crouched in fighting stances. Gabrielle lifted her chin, taking Xena's hand in her own, and pulling the battered warrior behind her protectively from her would be attackers. “If any harm befalls this woman, if any of you so much as think of hurting a single hair on her head, I will order your imprisonment in the stocks and two hundred lashes with a whip, and I can assure you, the arm will not spare in its punishment. Are we clear?” she said regally, looking out among the crowd of angry and confused faces.
Xena stood silently behind Gabrielle, amazed at how much this young, naive girl from Potedeia had changed into a wise and mature woman. Gabrielle's tone held no sense of judgment, only the resplendent tone of a queen ruling her people.
“I asked if we were clear,” Gabrielle's voice rang out again, louder this time than her original address.
“Yes, my queen!” Ephiny began the response, followed quickly by Eponin and Solari just as eagerly, before the crowd began agreeing as a whole, a few grudging agreements scattered at the end of the response.
Gabrielle nodded, satisfied with the outcome. She clenched her hand into a fist, and held it tightly to her chest. “To a strong Amazon Nation!” she closed.
“To a strong Amazon nation!” came the chorus of voices, mimicking the queen's movement and holding their fist in her direction, their way of paying tribute and respect for her orders.
Gabrielle took Xena's hand and walked through the crowd, half amused by the way the sea of people parted to allow herself and the tall, bruised woman safe passage to the queen's hut.
“Ephiny,” Gabrielle spoke, voice strong but no longer angry.
“Yes, Queen Gabrielle?”
“See that no one disturbs Xena and myself tonight. I would like for Eponin and Solari to guard my hut outside of earshot for the sake of our privacy.”
“I can stand guard for you,” Ephiny protested.
“I appreciate the gesture, Ephiny, but you'll need to be getting some rest,” Gabrielle told her kindly. She turned to face the throng of Amazons that were still parted on either side. “Tomorrow night, Xena and I are to be married, and she will reign alongside me as my consort. We have both fought against this feeling long enough, and it took the tragedy of the deaths of both of our children to bring us to each other in such a manner. I hope this is a lesson in mercy to all of you. Sometimes, vengeance is not the path to take,” Gabrielle announced, moving toward the hut with Xena, without giving any member of the crowd a moment to respond to the news she had just delivered.
The queen's hut was lit with dim torches, and was nicer than the other living huts in the village. The other huts totaled enough living space for a bed, and a single chair and small table. Gabrielle's hut, on the other hand, offered a larger bed plus a smaller cot, large enough to hold one person. This was made in case the queen were ever to fall ill and be in need of twenty-four hour attention. The table would hold up to three visitors.
“That was some pretty amazing queening out there,” Xena said, clearing her throat. “You really know how to rouse a crowd.”
“Xena, stop it,” Gabrielle said softly, voice choked as tears began filling her eyes.
Xena frowned slightly. “I mean it, Gabrielle. What you did out there, the way you commanded their attention, the way you led them. That was amazing.”
Gabrielle covered her face with her hands in frustration, rubbing them against her face before yanking them away and clenching them into fists at her side. “And what about having to rescue you, Xena?”
“You didn't have to rescue me,” Xena said defensively.
“They would have killed you. They were ready to kill you, and you're making jokes about the way that I command them?” she asked in disbelief.
“Gabrielle, no. Look, I was being serious about the whole thing. You were great,” Xena assured the small blonde.
Gabrielle put her hands on her hips, craning her neck to the side to observe the warrior princess. “Why does this whole thing have to be so complicated?”
“No. Us,” Gabrielle said softly.
“Look, if this is about the getting married thing, we don't have to do that. I can sneak off when they're all sleeping. Solari and Eponin can't stay awake that long,” Xena muttered.
“You want to leave?” Gabrielle asked, eyes widening.
“They don't want me here. Why stay where I'm not wanted?”
“Because I want you here, Xena!” the blonde raised her voice. “I want you here,” she whispered. “I just announced to my entire village that you and I are to be married, and you already want to run away?”
“I didn't say that. I said that if you don't want to do the marriage thing that I can leave. If you want me to stay, then I'm here. If you're pardoning me anyway, why even get married in the first place?” Xena pointed out.
Gabrielle sighed deeply. “Because I can't pardon you. The only way out of this one is for us to be wed, Xena. I've looked at everything.”
“So we get married and we separate,” Xena shrugged, grabbing an apple out of the bowl on the table and taking a bite.
“Xena, it's not that simple,” Gabrielle stated, plopping down at the table in an ungraceful manner.
“I don't mean like split up, and go our separate ways. I just mean we magically won't be married anymore,” Xena said, lightly tapping Gabrielle's shoulder.
“I know what you meant,” Gabrielle said, returning her face to the palms of her hands. Gods, why can she not see how difficult this is for me?
Xena grabbed a chair, pulling it up beside her friend. “Cheer up, Gabrielle. You and I are going to be together for always. We don't have to be married for that.”
“What if I want to be married, Xena?” Gabrielle asked, head whipping to face the tall warrior. “What if I want to stay married to you?”
“Well, I don't have any other plans,” the warrior responded, crunching the apple again.
Gabrielle yanked the apple out of Xena's hand and threw it across the room, leaving a very surprised, wide eyed, slack jawed warrior princess staring at her. “I'm serious!” she said, voice a bit louder.
Xena leaned close, thinking that she was finally up to speed on what Gabrielle was doing. She got close to the Amazon's ear. “Are they listening to us?” she asked, lowering her voice considerably.
“Gods!” Gabrielle yelled, throwing her hands toward the heavens. “Nobody's listening, Xena,” she said, lowering her voice just in case the Amazons decided to become suspicious.
“Then, I don't understand why you'd want to stay married to me,” Xena replied, searching emerald eyes with her own.
Gabrielle broke her gaze with the former warlord. “Because I love you. I'm in love with you, Xena,” she said softly, lifting her eyes to look into Xena's once more.
The warrior princess stood frozen in place, searching Gabrielle's eyes for some evidence of jesting.
Gabrielle stood still, breath hitched in her throat.
“What?” Xena asked, expression blank as she stared at the Amazon queen.
“You cannot be this blind!” Gabrielle, raised her voice, covering her eyes and her forehead with her hands.
“I don't know what you're talking about!” Xena said, voice rising a decibel, getting as irritated with Gabrielle as the blonde was with her.
“I'm talking about me being in love with you!” the bard shouted.
“Stop saying that!” Xena snapped back. “Just stop!”
“Xena,” Gabrielle ground out. She paused, taking a deep breath, definitely not wanting her sisters to hear an argument between them. “I can shut up. I can not say it, but I can't stop feeling it,” she said, voice so quiet that Xena had to strain to hear it.
“You're gonna have to make yourself stop feeling it,” Xena said lowly, voice near a growl.
“I can't!” Gabrielle said, voice just shy of a yell.
Xena took a deep breath, trying to school the fiery temper that she felt trying its best to surface. “Gabrielle, things just got over being really bad between us. Let's not let that happen again, okay?” she asked, placing a hand gently on the blonde's shoulder.
“Bad? Xena, how in the name of Hades is me being in love with you going to make things bad between us?” Gabrielle threw her hands up.
“I said, stop saying that,” Xena said, taking a few steps forward and backing Gabrielle against the wall. She saw the slightest glimmer of fear in the Amazon's eyes before it was replaced by stubbornness.
“What is so wrong with me saying that? If you don't feel the same way about me, then that's fine, but you can't keep me from-”
“I do feel the same way,” Xena snapped.
“Then, what is going on?”
“Look. You don't know me. Not the way you're supposed to know somebody you're in love with,” Xena reasoned.
“I do know you. I've seen you at your darkest, and I love you anyway.”
“No, you haven't seen me at my darkest. My darkest comes when I relish in killing an entire Amazon tribe. Or when I have heads on sticks that belong to an entire army after their leader begged me to spare them. Or how about when I sell slaves from villages, just like Potidaea, just like your sister, your mother, you, to some rich warlord for his harem, knowing what will happen to them. You have no idea about my darkest,” Xena finished quietly.
“Then, talk to me,” Gabrielle said gently, reaching to cup the warrior's cheek. “We're about to get married. Fake or real, whatever you want to call it. Don't you think I should know?”
Xena broke eye contact with the bard. “It's not that I don't think you should know. It's that I can't bring myself to tell you,” she said softly, voice peppered with shame.
“Xena,” Gabrielle began.
“Get some rest, Gabrielle,” the warrior princess said quietly. Then, without another word, she turned and exited the queen's hut. Walking a good thirty feet or so in front of her, she passed by Eponin and Solari, nodding in greeting to the women.
The Amazon queen stood in the doorway of the hut, watching the taller woman's retreating back. She felt a lone tear slide down her cheek as she reflected on the conversation between them.
Does she not trust me enough to confide in me? Gabrielle asked silently. In her heart, she knew that wasn't the right answer, but it was all she was able to come up with for now.
On the other side of the Amazon village stood a six foot tall warrior kicking herself in the leathers for not talking to her best friend, the woman she wanted to be more than friends with. She may have just sealed her fate on that. She knew the Amazon ways enough to know that if she fled they would view Gabrielle as a traitor, so running was out of the question. Not marrying the bard was also out of the question, but she could help but feel that Gabrielle's heart would be crushed by a marriage based on falsehood. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at the moon. It was round and full, and seemed to swell as Xena sent a silent, hesitant prayer towards it.