Timeline: Somewhere in the beginning of the fourth season.
Author's Notes: Very short story. Only 3 pages. All POSITIVE comments are welcome. Negatives I will simply ignore. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The clouds are starting to worry me. I smell the rain in the air. Gabrielle is due soon. Three weeks apart. Gods, how did I ever stand it? I hear a distant roll of thunder. The storm is approaching. I hope my bard makes it here before it hits. Luckily, I found a small rock formation that is just big enough for our bedrolls to fit under. It is far enough off the ground that we don't have to sleep in the mud. It is only missing one thing, Gabrielle. All our belongings, that she did not take with her, are safely tucked away.
After lying on the 'rock bed' I made, for over two hours, I am now walking the perimeter of the clearing. Gabrielle knows this territory as well as I do. There is no way she can become lost, but I still worry for her safety when I am not around. I take a seat on the dead log next to the once burning fire. I put it out over an hour ago, knowing the rain will do that anyway. When I am alone, totally alone, I find my thoughts drifting to my bard. Gabrielle knows I love her very much. I know she loves me. That's all that really matters. I think back to the naive village girl want-to-be bard I picked up nearly four years ago. She is none of those things now. She is a grown woman, a beautiful grown woman.
With love comes the worry, the loneliness when she's gone. Its a price I gladly pay for the moments we share together. I turn as I hear a sound. I smile. I know Argo's hooves anywhere. I smile as Argo gallops into my view. I notice how well she has done with learning how to ride Argo alone. Of course, I do not complain when her arms are around me when we are riding double. "Xena!" I quicken my pace to a slight jog so I can be there to help her down. Her arms reach down and I ease her to the ground. Immediately I bring her into a fierce hug.
"Gods, I missed you." I breath into her hair. Another crack of thunder, this one too close for comfort. I pull away and take another look at the very dark sky. "You go on and get under the rock formation over there. I'm going to put Argo in a safe place for the night."
"Okay." I reach over and unthread her staff from the saddle.
"There you go." I toss it to her. She smiles and turns away to walk to camp. For a second, that smile paralyzes me. The thunder, however, reminds me to get moving.
After securing my horse I return to her. I climb up and into our small stone 'tent'. "The wind was really beginning to pick up, so I rode faster. Didn't want to get stranded out there."
"I don't blame you." I smile as I shove over the blankets. I sit down next to her. Crossing my legs in front of me, I mimic her sitting position, indian style. As soon as I do that, Gabrielle moves. She puts her head in my lap, stretching out. I run my fingers slowly through her hair. "Tired?"
"Mmmm." She is.
"How far did you ride today?"
"About ten miles." she yawned. I hear the first few drops as they fall on the rocks above us. Then it begins to pour, pounding the ground. "Just in time." she chuckles as she watches the storm. I continue to stroke her hair as I gaze out. A streak of lightning flashes, lighting up the dark clouds. I rather enjoy storms. They soothe me when I am hurt. They relax me when I'm happy. Right now I'm very relaxed. I start to scoot backwards. I gently pull Gabrielle's head back with me, keeping it in place. She wordless moves back with me. I feel the rock against my back and I use it to prop myself up, extending my legs out and crossing them at the ankles. "If you were any taller, your feet would be wet right now." she jokes. This shelter is just big enough to accommodate my height in this position.
These are the rare moments that I just wish we had more of. Relaxing, cuddling, I love it. Never thought I would. If anyone in my army saw me now, they wouldn't believe it. A hardened warlord 'cuddling' with a young woman. "Gabrielle."
"I love you." She turns over from her side onto her back, looking up at me.
"I love you, too." I feel the grin crack across my face. I see her head coming up towards me. I lean down, meeting her halfway. A gentle, soft kiss to the lips. Her hand goes to the back of my head, asking me to open my mouth and I do. I feel her tongue slide easily into my mouth. I groan. I hear one from her to match mine.
Suddenly a loud thunder burst exploded very close to us, causing Gabrielle to break our kiss and reflexively move closer to me.
"Its okay. We're safe."
"Xena, that scared me."
"I know, Love." I rub her back. She had turned onto her other side and now she is cuddling into me. The storm was getting worse. Luckily, the direction of the wind is not blowing onto us.
"Is Argo going to be okay?"
"Ohh yeah. She'll be okay. She's survived a whole lot worse than this." The rain was so thick, I couldn't see very much past the end of our shelter. The campfire three feet away, on the ground, was not visible. I would hate to be a traveler caught in this storm. I shudder at the idea of Gabrielle being out there without me, if she hadn't made it back in time.
"There's no shelter for miles." she said quietly. Sometimes, I feel she can read my thoughts.
The air is beginning to chill. I wrapped Gabrielle's blanket around her shoulders. She
insisted I take half of it myself. I didn't mind her leaning against me. I knew she was tired. She had rode hard today. "Xena."
"I'm getting colder." I looked over at the head resting on my shoulder. I coaxed her to lie down with me as moved from a sitting position to the floor of our shelter, making my body the closer one to the opening. I knew she wanted to snuggle with me. Soon she will be fast asleep. I always envied Gabrielle for her ability to sleep so easily. I fight for sleep to claim me, unless I'm just plain exhausted.
"Mmmm." The mumble came from my shoulder. I smile, rubbing my hand through her hair. I turn my head to watch the heavy downpour. I sigh deeply. Its getting worse. Yawning, I turn on my side away from the cold air and rain I readjust Gabrielle. She is all ready asleep, just as I expected.
"I love you, Gabrielle." I whisper. I smile when I don't get an answer.