Having had some experience riding horses as a child, Brenna didn't have too much of a problem getting on Gabrielle's tall, brown roan. Or at least, that's what she thought was the steed's gender.
Did they really name the horse Amber? Can't they get these things right by post-production? Ye gods, what a season!
Resting her fingers nervously on the reins, the writer stole a glance to her left where Xena, sitting in the saddle, was quietly talking to Argo II. The warrior princess had a scowl on her face as she suddenly straightened up and nudged the horse to a start. Following clumsily, her companion took off right behind her.
Whoa, steady fella! Uncle Jeff may have had 'Bitsy' for me to ride back oat the farm, but I'm not in any way used to your pace!
To her relief, they slowly picked up speed and were able to comfortable match Argo's gait, covering a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time. Xena continued to look somber, as she focused on the terrain far ahead and nothing else. I think she's as upset and confused as Gabrielle, but there's no way she'd think of telling her. Should I even get involved with this? The thought of a chakram-wielding, pissed-off warrior princess doesn't much appeal to me. Damn your stoic nature, Xena! Why can't you just give her the comfort of knowing you still care what she thinks?!
"We'll be making a stop in that village up ahead!" the ex-warlord called over her shoulder. "Keep your eyes open for trouble."
Brenna nodded to the wind as the taller woman turned back to her course. If not for the delicate situation, the writer would have enjoyed immensely the feel of the wind flowing through her dark hair. But instead her features were wrinkled in concentration, trying to come up with a delicate way to approach the warrior without making her lose it. She'll probably tell me to butt out, I would too I guess. But this is too important to let go. If I can't see this happen on the show, then it's gotta happen here, right now.
Her thoughts were interrupted as she noticed Xena coming to a stop in a small grove situated on the outskirts of the village. With practiced, fluid motions she slid off the horse, giving her a pat on the nose before she turned to look at Brenna.
"This is a fairly small population, the place consisting of a tavern, an inn, a worship temple, and the council chambers. I'll look around the general area and see if the locals know where Eve went. You go to the temple and see if anyone there can give you information. We'll meet back at the chambers before the sun goes down to compare findings."
The warrior turned to leave but on an impulse, the younger woman walked quickly to where she stood and mustering some courage, took hold of her arm.
The tall brunette turned to face her, ice-blue eyes glinting dangerously. "Never, do that again."
Oh, good job clueless. Just risk getting your arm ripped off before the good stuff begins...
With an almost audible gulp, Brenna looked up and steeled herself for what she had to say.
"Listen, I know you and Gabrielle are having personal problems..."
Xena's eyes softened a touch, but only that. "And what business is that of yours?" she murmured low and menacing.
Eek. "You do know how much this is hurting her, right?" Blue orbs narrowed. "Well, having invested so much time in both of you, with regards to the show and my stories, I feel as though I know you both relatively well. You can't tell me that things are OK, as always, because I know you haven't talked about anything that's been troubling either of you for ages. The time jump, the possible loss of both your families and friends, Gabrielle's instinct to ki-uffff!"
A fuming woman pushing her and holding her back against a nearby tree cut her sentence short. Now she'd done it, gotten on an ex-warlord's bad side.
"What do you KNOW about how Gabrielle is feeling?!? Or what I'm feeling?!? You haven't had to face the problems that we've had or felt the pain we've been forced to accept!!! You've never lost a child or been forced to see that your second has become as ruthless as you have!!! Every night I have to live with the fact that I'm losing Gabrielle to these circumstances and that she is becoming more like me everyday! You have NO idea how hard this has been on us both!"
Hookay, I've had it. It was Brenna's turn to be angry as she furiously swiped Xena's arm away from her chest, releasing her grip. "All I can see is a coward who is to afraid to do what's right for the one she loves!"
NOW Xena looked like she was ready slice the writer's throat, but the younger woman was too filled with her own ire to notice.
"Both of you are at fault here, but I can't believe you can't just talk about it, dammit! She's supposed to be your 'soulmate', your lover, and your best friend - and still you can't take a few minutes to talk about what's wrong in your life together! Remember, I SAW you use your 'sexual whims' to lure Antony and Ares into your trap, just what do you THINK Gabrielle is supposed to think about it?!?"
"NOW WAIT A MINUTE!" the warrior roared in objection.
"No, YOU wait, I'm through with keeping quiet about it! I ALSO saw you throw that chakram at Gabrielle's head without a thought, without flinching. And don't blame it on instinct either, you could have easily just knocked the sais out of Gabrielle's hands instead of DICING HER SKULL!!! And then you feel a little guilty about it...and proceed to drag her on her face out of that burning hole while you cradle Eve. What is wrong with you??? Is the love you had for her so weak Eve's presence could so easily shake it."
Xena brought her hand back at this last remark to deliver a jaw shattering punch, and the younger woman, for her part, jutted out her chin, daring the Warrior Princess to give it to her. Brenna was terrified but determined to see this out, one way or another. But just as it seemed that she would be welcoming the painful realm of unconsciousness, Xena simply dropped her arm and scowled.
"I don't have time for this, I've got to find Eve and return your miserable self back to your own world. I'm leaving."
And with that she began to walk to the village. Her body and spirit seemed to have lost some of their legendary strength, as her head bowed slightly and her back hunched in what Brenna took to be sadness or despair.
"Look inside you, Xena! Reach out to the other half of your soul..." the shorter woman pleaded before the warrior woman sprinted out of sight.
Gabrielle still sat in her chair, drying her tears for some time after her two companions had left. Tapping her fingers idly on the wooden table, she tried to sort out her thoughts.
Why am I really here? I should be there with Xena, helping her look for...'our' child. Hah! What a joke! It's not like she ever saw anything past Eve when we became three in this family. Somehow, I stopped being her light and simply became her shadow. Gods, I miss the times when we could just share a thought and not be afraid of getting into an argument. I miss comforting and being comforted when things got too hard to take. I miss making love in the cool night air, watching her eyes glow as she undressed me and I undressed her.
I miss my best friend.
All at once Gabrielle became tired of crying, of feeling sorry for herself. One of them had to say something for them both to work it out, and it was obviously not going to be a stubborn, blue-eyed warrior. The amazon queen stood up, and with decisive movements set off on foot to find her soulmate and their guest.
It's time... she thought grimly, as she walked out the door.
"Well this is nice, yup, can't beat these lively colors..."
The temple was dark with heavy blue and black draperies covering the walls, windows and doors. High above Brenna's head was a small skylight of sorts letting in just enough of the sun's rays to watch where she was stepping. At the entrance there had been a placard with a set of symbols indicating who the temple was dedicated to. Too bad she couldn't read ancient Greek.
Fortunately, there was a torch hanging in a room close to the entrance, so she proceeded to light all the available candles for a better view. That done, she returned the torch to its spot and proceeded to get a better look at the place.
Wow, stone and wood sure go a long way in this time period. I feel like I'm in a grave, it's so cold. Aren't there usually offerings or flowers adorning places like this? A prayer scroll or two for the devout? This place gives me the willies...
More than a little spooked, she walked down a long corridor towards the next room. On either side of her, the walls were covered in murals depicting famous stories in history. She could see Jason proudly holding the Golden Fleece, battle scenes from the Trojan War, even Hercules had his own corner; his well-known deeds pictured neatly in order.
Oh c'mon, don't tell me there's nothing about Xena in here? Xena... Brenna stiffened at the recollection of their earlier conversation.
...You used to be my hero.
Putting away the empty feeling for later, the writer cautiously pushed open the doors to find a huge altar with carvings of monsters, nymphs and heroes in the stone. White marble and alabaster surrounded her, and the room was bathed with an eerie blue light streaming in from yet another opening in the ceiling.
The writer knew her mouth was hanging open as she took in the beauty around her, and silently wished she had brought her notepad and pencil to the past. This was too wondrous an experience to forget, and she hoped that she could absorb every detail to describe it later in a story.
Hmmph, not that there may be too many of those if things continue to be as they are with my favorite warrior women and this show. This show...am I tapped into it somehow or really witnessing a historical site? All of this is really beginning to make me dizzy, not to mention nauseous.
Without warning, the heavy door she had just entered from slammed shut and before Brenna could turn back to open it again (and run for her life,) she noticed swirls of white smoke emanating from the altar.
"You...you're behind this?"
It was almost nightfall and Xena's mood had changed from extreme rage to extreme fear. Not a sign of Eve had been found and she would be forced to search the surrounding towns and forest for her. She felt miserable, as Brenna's words had struck a nerve and she had been made to see something that she had been running away from since she and Gabrielle had come back to life. At first she had tried to brush it off, telling herself that the young writer didn't know the two women at all, and never could comprehend the complexity of their relationship. But then Xena realized she herself was having a hard time understanding it.
After leaving Argo at the tavern stable to be cared for, she took a walk to a quiet part of the village and absently sat on the edge of a lonely stone well. The draw bucket, having been recently used, allowed little droplets of water to fall into the dark spring from which they had been taken. The 'pueet, pueet' sound echoing against the wall and giving Xena a hard time concentrating on her thoughts. But those were louder, clearer and more disturbing than the drips themselves.
What have I done, love? Was I really so dense that I couldn't get my heart to reconcile with my mind? Hades, I knew that things were quiet between us, but I never realized how much I've been hurting you. All I've thought of was my selfish pride and instead of giving you - giving us the family we wanted, I counted you out. Do you even love me like you used to? I died with your name on my lips, but it's been forever since I've spoken it from the heart.
Propping her elbows up on her knees, Xena rested her head on cupped hands under her chin. She sat there for some moments, staring straight ahead into the distance. The local women who had come for some of the well's sweet liquid turned back, some afraid of the quiet warrior, others simply leaving her alone in her musings. Finally, a light hand rested on Xena's right shoulder.
"Hey," the quiet, familiar voice intoned.
"Hey yourself," Xena responded, turning her face to meet green eyes with a small smile.
"Is Eve around?" Gabrielle asked quietly.
The taller woman frowned a little and looked down at the soil at her boots. "No, she isn't here. And Brenna hasn't come back from her search...I don't think she will."
The bard's eyes widened a little as she took in the information. "What happened?"
"She tried to tell me something important - and I almost ripped off her head. Probably too full of anger and guilt because she was telling me the truth about...something."
Silently, Gabrielle sat on the well an inch or two away from Xena. She tried to keep her expression neutral, unsure if her friend was going to say anymore about it.
Biting her lower lip as she collected her thoughts, the Warrior Princess turned to her companion and looked solemnly into her eyes.
"Gabrielle...we're overdue for a talk aren't we?"
The blonde woman looked down at her hands resting in her lap without saying a word.
Xena began again. "There are so many things I want to say to you, so many things have happened...." she paused to clear her throat.
"There are so many times where I've treated you like the child you used to be those 5 years ago. I tried to convince myself that I was only trying to protect you, but in reality I was thinking about how I could get Eve out of the trouble she was in. I hardly spared a moment to realize that I was losing you too."
Gabrielle's lower lip quivered slightly, and her hands shook a little, but she didn't say anything.
"I knew I was pushing you away. And I knew that things were no longer the same between us. Do you remember, standing outside of Cleopatra's gates in silence? I was too busy feeling sorry for myself, for getting Antony killed. I felt even worse knowing that I had actually been attracted to him, and used him to complete the mission."
She gently used her right hand to lift Gabrielle's chin and could look her in the eyes. They were clouded in sadness and confusion, steadily breaking Xena's heart.
"But do you know what I feel guilty of now? I betrayed you, Gabrielle. Plain and simple. I forgot that someone I loved was watching me sell myself to Antony, to Ares, to the notion that I could have my way through any means necessary. Even if it meant hurting the person I love best in all the world."
Tears slowly started to roll down the bard's cheeks. It seemed there would be no end to them! She shot Xena a questioning look. Where was she going with this? Then, she saw it.
Xena was crying too.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart. I've really messed up every moment that we've had together since...since we were given that second chance at life. And I almost lost you again to my own stupid panic. I look at my hands in the mornings and again I see blood! Your blood oozing from your beautiful face after I slashed it with my fucking chakram!"
Here, the ex-warlord took the still-shaking hands of the woman before her and raised them to her lips, gripping them tightly. Icy blue eyes held verdant ones in supplication.
"Gabrielle, you've become everything to me. You are a strong, brave woman who can take her own chances and make her own decisions without having someone like me around to hurt you. If you want me out of your life, I'll go. I don't want to lose you, but I want more for you to see my faith in you, like you've always had in me. I love you, Gabrielle."
The blonde woman bowed her head momentarily wracked with sobs, the warrior still holding her hands. After a few moments she lifted her hand again to look at her best friend.
Her voice was strained and deep as she finally spoke. "And I need YOU more than anything else on this earth, can't you see that? How could you ever think I want to be away from you? Not for a day and certainly not forever. I love you Xena, I love you..."
The force of their confessions left a tangible aura in the air between them. Nothing else existed but their love, and it would be strong enough to see them through anything. No more lies, and no more misunderstandings. They both knew what they needed, what they had ALWAYS needed.
They both wiped away the other's tears with tender caresses and then silently gazed into the pair of reddened eyes before them. Finally, they met each other halfway in one powerfully renewing kiss. There was not a hint of lust, but of pure love flowing from one soul to the other in a blissful wave of forever. Two hearts beat as one as they were once more united in their bond. Both deepened the slow, soothing exploration of lips and tongues as they wordlessly promised themselves to each other once again, just as the day they first realized they had fallen in love, in the dreamscape.
Eternity seemed to pass before they separated and held each other in a powerful embrace. Catching their breaths and exhaling with sighs of contentment and relief.
They could face anything now.