Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and Aphrodite are the property of MCA/ Universal. Elvis is dead. Flax is mine. This story is alternative. In other words if the thought of two women being in love is grody to the max to you, then, ah, get a life, dude! (grin) this story contains absolutely no violence, a little bit of sex and a lot of humor.
Thanks go to: Everyone at #SwordNStaff. You know who you are :) An extra special thanks to Zander for being kind enuff to archive this stuff :) And I also want to include a special thanks to all the fanfiction writers that did this before me. You are an inspiration.
And finally, this is for Smokey. I miss you buddy.
email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Mrrowww!" the plaintive cry once again shattered the evening quiet. Gabrielle jumped and spun around nervously, while Xena calmly resumed sharpening her chakram.
"What in hades was that?" the young bard stammered, returning to her blanket.
"Just some cat, stuck in a tree probably Gabrielle." The warrior hid an amused grin at her young friend's skittishness. 'Though, if the truth were to be told, I too almost reacted just as badly.' A sigh. 'My nerves are shot, and so are 'Ree's, we need a vacation. 'Ree?' Xena wondered to herself, 'when did I start using that name for Gabrielle?' Before she could ponder any further, another feline shriek interrupted her thoughts.
"Oh, Xena, he sounds so lonely and lost..." A tear was starting to form in the corner of Gabrielle's eye. "Can we, um, look for him? Please?"The bard lowered her head, almost sure that Xena would say no. 'I have no right to ask her to look for a silly cat, but I can't let a creature suffer like that.'
"Gabrielle, we just got settled in for the night, are you sure that you want to go out so late? You're hard enough as it is to wake in the morning." Xena's voice was soft, but Gabrielle could hear the slightly condescending tone that was lying underneath the words of concern. 'Great, now she's treating me like a child again! Well I won't have it!'
"Look, if you don't want to go, I'll understand. Rescuing cats in distress must not be high on the 'Warrior Princess list of honor restoring deeds.' I'll just go myself. You've said before that I need to do things by myself and I guess this must be one of them!" With that, the bard stood up, grabbed her staff and stomped off into the darkness, completely unaware of the stunned expression on the warrior's face.
"Gabrielle, wait...I'll.." Xena could hardly believe it, Gabrielle had all but said that she was too stuck up to go rescue a cat. 'I'm in shock. Doesn't Ree know by now that all she has to do is ask and I'll do whatever she wants me to?' There was that pet-name again. 'What the tartarus is wrong with me?' Xena's thoughts strayed to the sunset-haired woman who had so vehemently stormed off into the night. She thought of the bard's cheerful smile, her sea-foam green eyes, eyes that she could get lost in..'eyes that I could get lost in? Indeed? Xena-my-old-and-rare, I do believe you've fallen in love with that young lady.' She snickered at her realization, then sobered rapidly. 'I fell in love with a little snip of a girl. Well, I'll be a wet eel!'
"Well, duh!" A slightly nasaly voice caused Xena to spring to a crouch and let her chakram dangle from the tips of her fingers. Searching the campsite, she soon discovered the source of the voice.
"Aphrodite. How, pleasant of you to drop in." The ex-warlord's voice held equal parts courtesy and sarcasm.
"Cut the crap, Xena. Its just so not your style. I know you don't give a rat's ass for me, and frankly, I think your "image" like totally went out with the toga, but hey, who am I to judge? Just listen and then I'll make like a tree and leave." Xena rolled her eyes and nodded for the goddess of love to continue. Aphrodite seated herself on Gabrielle's pallet, barely hiding her distaste at being on such obviously inferior material.
"I'm here to give you some free advice."
"'Dite, nothing the Gods do or say is really free." The warrior cut in.
"Well, this is, now, like, put a sock in it and listen to me." Xena just rolled her eyes again and nodded.
"Being that I am the Goddess of Love and all that rot, I hear all love related thoughts, and believe me, I've been hearing yours for the last two years. I thought you'd never figure out how you were feeling for that paragon of innocence. Phew. I can't believe that she's like been married and is still so..so..googley-eyed innocent. Well, anyways, I gotta say this before my son finds out I'm meddling again. Look, Xena, don't like, beat yourself up over how you feel 'bout the bardling, just like, go with it, k? Cuz if ya don't, you're gonna like, lose the best thing that's ever happened to a mortal that my son and I didn't, well, you know.."
"Mess up?" Xena's comment earned her a glare from the Goddess, but she nodded.
"Ok, earned my brownie button for the day, gotta run. Toodles." Aphrodite blew Xena a kiss and vanished.
'Go with it, she says. Hades, I hadn't even begun to think about it. How the tartarus should I know what I'm going to do about these newfound feelings. Gods, I'm not even sure that I want to do anything about it.' Xena thought of Gabrielle and was surprised at the amount of feeling that welled up inside of her. 'I guess I will have to do something, but what? Should I tell her? Sweet Athena, is she ready to hear that the "Warrior Princess" is in love with her? I know that she knows that women to women relationships are possible, she couldn't have spent all that time in the Amazon village and not hear about it, or see it, could she?' Xena hung her chakram on her belt and rubbed her temples, which were beginning to pound. 'Gotta stop thinking about this right now, I should go and look for 'Ree, she's not back yet and I'm beginning to get worried.'
Gabrielle huffed to herself as she strode through the dense foliage of the forest. 'Lil miss 'are you sure? you can be so hard to wake up' well, I'll show her. I will. I'll find that cat, I'll rescue it, and I'll keep it and I'll even wake up before her in the morning. Won't she be so surprised?' The bard's face took on a slightly feral look as she finally came to the biggest, tallest tree in this section of the forest. She heard a hoarse, "meow", and looked up. Lo and behold, clinging to one of the branches was a kitten of indeterminate color. Gabrielle's heart melted.
"Ok lil one, let's see if I can get you down." She spoke calmly and quietly so as not to frighten the scared animal into going further up the tree. The kitten, for it was too small to be an adult, just looked down at Gabrielle and then laid itself along the branch it was perched on and began to wash its tail. 'Just stay very, very still little one.' The bard thought to herself as she slowly edged her staff up along the side of the tree. Nonchalantly, the kitten continued its bath. Gabrielle took a deep breath, her staff was now exactly where she wanted it to be. With a mighty heave, the young woman put the end of her staff under the side of the kitten and shoved. Hard. The kitten let out a hiss, then a frightened yowl as it toppled groundward. Dropping her staff as she caught the hissing, writhing ball of fur, Gabrielle immediately started making soft cooing noises to try to calm the kitten. Once the animal realized that the hands holding it were petting and stroking it, it ceased its attempts to get free. 'Ow, that lil one certainly has sharp claws!' Gabrielle ruefully glanced at her now bleeding hands, liberally cross-hatched with scratches. "Oh, yeah, Xena will be just so proud of me. I rescued a kitten." The sarcasm in her voice surprised even the speaker. The kitten just looked up at her and batted it's eyes, the adoration plain for her to see. "You are too cute." The bard giggled. "I think I'll call you..hmm..what will I call you?" Gabrielle curled up at the foot of the tree and let the now purring feline settle into her lap. The contentedness of that cat seeped into her. Her head resting against the tree, and, feeling at one with her surroundings, Gabrielle drifted off into a light sleep.
The warrior grunted as another low swinging branch connected with her face, leaving yet another stinging scratch. "Damnit Gabrielle, where did you run off to?" Xena wiped her sweaty forehead and paused to listen for any signs of her bard. Nothing. Just silence. Which, in and of itself was strange. 'Where is that blasted cat's cry? Did she find it?' "Goddess!" she exploded. "The things I do for one small bard." A wry grin, then, "its worth it though. Just to see her smile. And I would have gone after that cat if she'd given me half a chance." The grin now fully encompassing her face, Xena continued her search for Gabrielle.
Gabrielle was dreaming. She knew it. There was a certain unreal quality to her surroundings that told her that this was a dream. In her dream she was running. Her breath coming in short gasps, her sides aching with strain. Her heart was beating so fast she thought that it might burst. But she kept on running. 'What am I running from?' She wondered in her dream. All of a sudden, she stopped. She stood on a large, grassy plain. The sky was a dark, charcoal grey. The grass underfoot was stiff, and scratched her legs irritatingly. 'What is this place? Where am I? Where's Xena?' She looked around. "Xena?" she called out, her voice sounding thin and frightened. No answer. Dread began to fill her. "Xena?" she again cried out, the knife edge of fear cutting through her vocal cords. Still no answer. Then, "mrow?" a velvety soft touch on her legs. She looked down. The kitten was winding its way around her legs, his tail skimming across her knees.
"Hey, lil one, whatcha doing in my dream?" She reached down and stroked his head. His answering purr calmed her. "Where is Xena?" she mused aloud.
::Look for the truth in your heart, fair one.::
"Huh? Who said that?" Only a loud, thrumming purr answered her. Golden eyes met Emerald ones. "Well. Heh." She laughed nervously. "I guess I should try to wake myself up, hey?"
::No. Look in your heart first. You must.::
"Why? I know my heart." She stuck her chin out defiantly. "I want to wake up now, please."
:: No, you don't. If you did, you wouldn't be here.::
"Yeah, right. As if I knew where here was." Gabrielle was getting mighty annoyed with this "ghostly voice in her head" business. Now, how was she going to wake herself up? Maybe she could...no, that never worked before. Maybe...Gabrielle thought hard, concentrated on waking herself, like she would do in a nightmare. Sweat broke out on her brow. She got a headache, but, no, she opened her eyes, which had closed in her attempts. No, she was still standing on the dreary plain, the kitten staring her in the face.
::Are you finished?:: Gabrielle sighed in resignation.
"All right. You win. What do you want me to do?"
::It's not what I want you to do that's important, but, if you'd like, you can sit down and scratch my ears.:: Gabrielle's touche hit the ground with a soft thump, her jaw not far behind.
"You're the cat?" She squeaked.
::You were expecting, perhaps, Elvis?:: The mellow voice had a tinge of amusement to it.
"Who, or what is El-vas?"
::Nevermind. Forget I said anything. Now, listen, I know this may sound a bit on the strange side to you...::
"Oh, as if a talking cat wasn't strange enough."
::Shush. Listen. Your blindness to certain things has upset a very powerful personage's plans, and unless you'd like to spend the rest of your days as a toad, you'll do what you have to to rectify the situation.::
"Great. Just who did I piss off now? Is it Ares?" Gabrielle felt her anger rise just thinking of the meddlesome God of War.
::Unfortunately, no. Ares would have been much easier to deal with. No, this time Gabrielle, you've managed to annoy the fates. Particularly Lachesis.::
"What did I do now?" The bard whined.
::Don't whine. It doesn't suit you. I can't tell you what you did or didn't do. This you must discover for yourself. Look for the truth in your heart. Listen to it.:: With that, the cat got up and scampered off, chasing a butterfly that materialized from no where.
"Look for the truth in my heart he says. Okay." Gabrielle closed her eyes once more. When she opened them again, Lila was standing in front of her.
"Lila!" Gabrielle jumped up and hugged her sister to her. "I've missed you so much." A tear crept down her sister's face.
"Why, Gabrielle, why did you leave us? You were so happy here. Why did you have to follow that, that warrior? Why couldn't you just be happy at home? Why didn't you love us?"
"Lila? You know that I wasn't happy at home. I had to go. I had to find my destiny."
"Your destiny should have been with me." A soft-timbred voice caused chills to run up and down Gabrielle's spine.
"Perdicus..." Tears slipped from the young woman's face.
"Why Gabrielle? Why didn't you stay and live as my widow? Why did you have to leave? Why did you leave the place where we were so happy? Why did you follow Xena? Why didn't you love me?"
"Perdicus, I, I couldn't stay. I couldn't live with the heartache." She was sobbing now.
"Why Gabrielle, why did you leave me for him? Why couldn't you be happy to be with me? Why couldn't you love me?" Through her tear filled eyes the bard looked up to see Xena standing before her, a lost look on her face.
"Love you? Xena..." Gabrielle spoke in a harsh whisper. Her thoughts were whirling. She needed time to think. Time to feel. 'Listen to your heart.' The cat had said. Lila. 'I feel guilty about leaving, but I know I had to leave. I was slowly going insane in Poteidaia.' The image of Lila vanished with this thought. She turned and looked at the wraith of her beloved Perdicus.
"My sweet love." She reached to caress his face. Her hand passed right through him. Her heart constricted. She looked at him. And looked. Her heart was overflowing with emotion. She let it flow. The feelings washed over her, rocking her to her very core. Admiration, trust, intense friendship. But not heartstopping love. "Oh, Perdicus. I have wronged you so." She inhaled sharply. "I never should have married you. I thought I could be happy, but I think if Callisto hadn't killed you, I would have killed your spirit by leaving." The revelation stunned her. "My friend, I am sorry." She hung her head, then turned to face the shade of Xena.
"Xena. I don't know what to say, what to feel."
::Look for the truth in your heart, bard. It's there. Listen.:: Once again, Gabrielle turned her thoughts inward. She listened. She felt. And then, she heard.
"I love Xena." Green eyes already too dry from crying misted up. "My gods, I am in love with Xena. I, I always have been. How could I have been so blind?" And then she woke up.
Xena pushed a clump of bushes out her way, took a deep breath and slid through the opening. Her breath caught at what she saw. Gabrielle, lying at the base of an ancient oak tree, bathed in silvery moonlight. 'By the gods she's beautiful.' She stopped and just looked at the young bard, her mouth slightly parted and her breath coming in short gasps. Then she heard a slight murmur from the girl. Quietly, she moved closer to catch what she was saying.
"I...love.." the rest too soft to hear. 'Who? Who does she dream of?' The warrior raged within. 'I have to know.'
"Gabrielle." Xena's mouth caressed the shape of the bard's name.
"Uhn?" Gabrielle's eyes opened and she rubbed at her face sleepily. "Xena!" She exclaimed while jumping up. The kitten protested loudly at being so rudely dislodged. The bard practically flung herself into the startled ex-warlord's arms. Unsure of what to do, Xena just hugged Gabrielle to her fiercely.
"Don't ever run off like that again." She growled at the smaller woman. "You gave me fodder for a thousand nightmares."
"I'm sorry. I won't. I promise." The words rambled off of Gabrielle's tongue. "Look, Xena I found the kitten." She dislodged her body and bent to retrieve the still complaining feline. "Isn't he just so cute?" She held up the charcoal colored kitten for Xena to inspect.
"Cute? He looks more like a rat to me." Was the warrior's sardonic reply.
::Rat? RAT? I am not a rat.:: The cat's golden eyes bore into Xena's sapphire hued ones. ::I am a feline. A proud descendant of the greatest felines in the known world.::
"Gabrielle, did that cat just TALK to me?" Xena couldn't quite keep the disbelief from her voice.
"Yes, isn't it so neat?" Gabrielle beamed.
"Yeah, I, ah, guess so." Xena looked at the cat. "Ok, mr-talking-feline, what's your name? Or do you have one?"
::Well, at least you have the courtesy to ask. That one,:: he flicked his ears back towards Gabrielle, ::just knocked me from my comfy perch without so much as a how-do-you- do.::
"Hey, I thought you were stranded. You were crying rather piteously." The bard defended herself.
::Can't a guy sing once in a while? Well, nevermind, the damage is done. My name is Flax.::
"Nice to meet you Flax. Xena, can we keep him? Pleeeeease?" Gabrielle looked up into the warrior's face and put on her best contrite look. Xena's eyes began to harden.
"Gabrielle, I don't think..." she began. The bard pulled out all the stops. Her lower lip curled out, her eyes filled and she let just a tiny quiver travel up her jaw.
"Please?" she whispered huskily. Xena's heart melted as she knew she would let it. 'Best not to show her how easily she won, though, or she'll never stop.'
"Oh, all right. If you must. Now, can we go back to camp and get some sleep?"
"Yipee!" Once again, the enthusiastic bard threw herself into Xena's arms. 'Hmm, twice in one evening. I'm not sure how much more of this my heart can take.' Xena thought to herself as she cuddled Gabrielle close.
::Hey, can a guy get some air down here?:: Flax wriggled around between the two women. 'Bast! Humans are so silly. Why don't they just sniff one and other's tails and be done with it? I don't like this chase-the-tail style of game. Ah, well, teach me to do favors for Lackey. Never again.' Finally managing to wiggle himself up under the bard's chin, he snuggled up with a sigh. 'Although, I must admit that Gabrielle is one hell of a cuddly human.'
Back at camp, Argo and Flax made acquaintances while Xena and Gabrielle laid out their bedrolls. At first, Xena laid hers on the opposite side of the fire from Gabrielle's, but Gabrielle, when she saw this, put a stop to it.
"Xena, would you please sleep next to me tonight? I'd feel more comfortable if I knew you were closer."
"Is something wrong, 'Ree?"
"No, not really. I, ah, just want your company, is that ok?" 'Ree? Ooo, I like that. Now, how am I going to tell her?' Gabrielle's gaze followed the warrior around the campsite. Her eyes drifted from the tips of Xena's toes, up her shapely calves to her knees, then up her muscular thighs to her soft, rounded hips. From her hips she slid up to the taught abdomen. Unconsciously, the bard's own hand grazed across her own ribs and abs. Xena caught a glimpse of this and felt the rush of heat that this unthinking caress brought to her center. She swallowed, hard.
Meanwhile, Flax was having a conversation with Argo.
::So, flathoof, how d'ya like being the cargo transport for the warrior princess and her pet bard?::
::Oh, I just loooove it.:: Argo whinneyed. ::Fresh grass every day, oats and barley when we stop in a town and Xena always grooms me to a shining perfection.::
::Yeah, but I hear that you and a certain bard have less than fellow feelings for one and other.:: The cat pressed.
::Oh, you mean Gabby? Well, she's not too bad. When she's not chattering like a jay that is. She can be downright amusing, when she's not being a pain in the rump.:: Argo's tail flickered and an ear twitched. ::Don't let this get out, but I am rather fond of the red maned filly.::
::I take this to mean that if the "filly" and your lady were to become, ah, intimate, that you wouldn't mind?:: Flax paused to groom a paw.
::Mind? Hades no. I'd be grateful. It's getting rather tiresome these days to have to slow myself down to the filly's gait. If she and Xena were intimate, I'd be able to run more.:: Argo ducked her head into the feed bag, nosed around for a bit and continued. ::And it would make my mistress very happy.::
::Then I can count on your support if I have need of it?:: Flax's ear rolled forward.
::Of course. What do you need me to do?:: The horse leaned in closer to the cat.
::This is my idea...:: Flax's mental voice took on a conspiratorial tone.
"I don't know, Gabrielle." Xena finally managed, tearing her eyes away from the bard's still wandering fingers.
"Oh, why not? I don't bite." Gabrielle let just a hint of a pout creep into her words.
"No, but you do snore." Xena's eyes flashed merrily.
"Do so." Now she was grinning.
"Warrior Princess, I do not snore." Gabrielle put her hands on her hips and stamped her foot.
"Yes, you do." Calm, even tones belied the amusement in her gaze. Gabrielle walked over to Xena, hands still on her hips, chin set grimly. She cocked her head up and stared the warrior in the eyes. 'Gods, I could fall into the eyes forever.'
"Take it back or I'll..."
"You'll what, Gabrielle? Tell dirty stories about me?" Xena laughed at her own joke.
"Ooooooo. Sometimes, warrior princess, you make me so mad." Gabrielle took another step forward. 'Uh-oh, maybe I shouldn't have teased her about her stories. Oh, well, too late now. I'll admit, I'm going to have fun wrestling her though.' The warrior woman thought as she backed up a step. For once however, her keen senses did not alert her to the danger behind as Flax, who had been waiting for just such an opportunity, lithely wrapped his body around Xena's feet, causing her to stumble. Argo was right behind him, "accidentally" sidestepping into Xena's back, which overbalanced her just enough to send her sprawling into Gabrielle. Both women crashed to the ground.
"Oof! Xena, that armor weighs a ton." Gabrielle managed to get out between gasps for breath.
"Sorry." Xena pushed herself up. "When I get my hands on you Flax..."
::Not a chance, warrior.:: Xena started to roll away, when Gabrielle placed a restraining hand on the warrior's side.
"No. Stay. Please. I, um, I..." she blushed.
"What is it 'Ree?" Xena looked down into the bard's face, into her eyes. And saw. She saw the barely hidden desire struggling to break free. Her own repressed needs flared into life.
"Gabrielle?" she whispered, hardly daring to break the silence, fearing that everything she was seeing was just a dream.
"Xena, please, just, kiss me. Please?" A tear formed in the corner of the bard's eye. Xena lowered herself down til her face was just a breath away from Gabrielle's. She inhaled the younger woman's scent. Sandlewood and musk. She could hear Gabrielle's heartbeat echoing her own. "Ree, if I...if I let myself love you, I won't be able to stop." she managed.
"I know. Please. I, I love you too Xena. I always have. Please kiss me. Make me yours. Now and forever." Gabrielle raised her head just enough so that her lips brushed against Xena's as she made her vow. The last of Xena's defenses melted as the fire of her passion consumed her. She claimed Gabrielle's mouth with her own. And then the bard claimed the warrior's soul.
Watching from the safety of a tree limb, Flax nodded to himself. 'Ahh, another job well done. Lachesis should be pleased. And I can thank Bast its over and move on to more interesting things. Like about a week's worth of sleeping in the sun'
::That's what you think little one.:: a feline voice, charged with power wrapped around his mind.
::My lady? I thought...:: His eyes narrowed.
::This job is for life Flaxon. I have chosen them.:: The use of his true-name was enough to convince the young cat.
::As you wish, my mistress. But, can I, um, have some fun this time?:: He felt a twitch of whiskers behind him, then a rough tongue was washing his ears.
::Don't you always, My Son?::
A Time of Vengeance