Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle and Cyrene are property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures; no copyright infringement is intended. The rest of the story and characters are my own, written for entertainment purposes and (unfortunately) for no profit whatsoever. If you are younger than 18 or this material is illegal where you live, then stop now, you naughty dickens, and read no further.
Subtext: Oh yeah, you betcha. This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women, even if they do take forever to get there. 🙂 If depictions of this nature disturb you, I’m not sure what you’re doing in the Xenaverse, but you’ll probably want to find another story.
Note: This is a “first time” story, set sometime after the first two seasons of XWP. So no spoilers or violence at all, but lots of mushy stuff.
Worth Waiting For
It was getting worse, Gabrielle reflected. The tension between her and Xena was definitely building, and it couldn’t be explained away as one of the many conflicts they had survived in the past. It had started gradually, a snappish reply here, a spate of irritation there. They had both passed it off as the result of exhaustion, or the timing of their moon cycles. But over time it had subtly increased, a moodiness that would strike one or the other of them in turn, and once both of them at the same time, causing a blow-up after which they had not spoken to each other for two full days.
Gabrielle began to suspect that it had something to do with the fact that they spent virtually all of their time together…maybe they were starting to get on each other’s nerves. Finally, she suggested that perhaps a vacation was in order. To her surprise, Xena agreed immediately, underlining the seriousness of the situation. The bard proposed visiting the Amazon village, but Xena preferred to stay at her mother’s tavern. Eventually it was decided that they go their separate ways, with plans to meet in Amphipolis in five days time.
At first, the time apart seemed to solve the problem. Gabrielle enjoyed visiting with her friends, although she missed the company of her taciturn partner. Though she wasn’t one for idle conversation, Xena’s presence always made itself felt, and Gabrielle had grown accustomed to it. Rather than try to explain their unusual separation, she made up a story about Xena having to go alone to handle tricky negotiations with the centaurs. She found herself reluctant to confide in her friends, even Ephiny, since she didn’t fully understand the situation herself.
For her part, Xena missed the bard as well. Seeing Gabrielle’s normally sunny disposition deteriorate had disturbed her deeply, since she suspected herself to be the cause of it.
Maybe my darkness is finally getting to her, the warrior thought. After all, she’s not the kid I picked up in Poteidia, she’s grown into a young woman. A beautiful young woman, Xena conceded with a sigh. Maybe she’s grown tired of the constant battle of life on the road. Surely she must long for the things most women long for — a home, a family…a husband. They never discussed Perdicus and her tragically brief marriage, though Xena had tried on a couple of occasions to bring up the subject of companionship.
“I have you, who else do I need?” Gabrielle had replied cheerfully. “You’re a great companion. Although you are a little too active in the mornings and do tend to be hard on the cookware,” she teased.
No, I’m talking about a lover, Xena had wanted to say. But she found it impossible to voice in the face of her friend’s naiveté. And, to be honest, she had been relieved to hear that Gabrielle seemed perfectly satisfied with things as they were. But that had been several months ago, and things had since grown rocky.
Her days in Amphipolis settled into a lazy pattern. Wake early, exercise Argo, help gather food or repair things around the tavern, and eat the fine meals her mother prepared. In the late afternoon she would practice with her weapons, then have supper and a couple of glasses of port before turning in, her body pleasantly tired from the rigors of the day.
When Gabrielle arrived a few days later, they greeted each other with an eagerness that had been missing as of late. Both were relaxed and in good spirits, and for a couple of days it seemed as if things were back to the way it had been before the strange tension had taken over. Then came the night of the dance.
It was Cyrene’s idea. Several merchants and a traveling minstrel were boarding at the tavern, and she suggested a celebration in the village square. They would light a bonfire, slaughter a sheep, and have musicians play. The tavern’s guests readily agreed to participate, and the minstrel was persuaded to lend his talents in a song or two. Gabrielle agreed to tell a few stories as well, though she had to promise that there would be none about the Warrior Princess, as Xena hated to have her exploits regaled when she was in the audience.
The evening was a beautiful one, a gentle breeze springing up to cool the effects of the sun as it blazed down into the ocean. The sunset was particularly glorious, a riot of color in the cloud-streaked sky.
“Look,” said the minstrel Timon, pointing overhead, “the Muses have stolen the finest of Hera’s crimson and gold silk scarves, and they whirl madly in a dance for our pleasure.” With a laugh, he threw his head back for a pull from the wineskin.
“Well spoke!” Cyrene called back. “You are truly a poet, young Timon.” She leaned over the table where her daughter and Gabrielle were sitting, and addressed them in lowered tones. “The boy is quite talented, with a face as comely as his voice.”
“Oh, he’s handsome enough,” Xena agreed carelessly, eyeing the curling black hair and sparkling eyes. “But he doesn’t know much about the immortals if he thinks they dance for anyone’s pleasure but their own.”
“Umm,” Gabrielle murmured, agreeing with Cyrene’s, rather than Xena’s, comment. “I’m looking forward to hearing him sing a tale.”
Something in the bard’s voice made Xena look at her sharply. Gabrielle’s gaze was focused on the laughing young man, and a small smile lingered about her mouth. Xena’s brow rose as she considered this unexpected development.
While they ate, various storytellers stepped up to entertain. Gabrielle’s story about Artemis’ battle with the serpent woman Echidne drew many cheers from the crowd. They called her back again and again, until finally, she protested laughingly that she needed to quench her thirst. Xena handed her a mug of ale as she sat down at the table.
“You were inspired tonight, Gabrielle,” said the warrior with a smile. “Your story about Achilles was spell-binding. I think you do better when you stay away from stories with me in them.”
“Are you kidding? You provide my best material!” Gabrielle countered. “If you think the crowd liked those stories, wait till I tell them about the time you defeated Bacchus.”
“Don’t you dare,” Xena warned, with her best narrow-eyed glare. “You promised me to stay off the subject of the Warrior Princess tonight.”
Gabrielle merely smiled and sipped her ale.
“C’mon, Brie,” Xena’s tone changed, and lowered so that no one else could hear the pleading in it. “I’m on vacation!”
“All right,” Gabrielle agreed. “Since you ask so nicely.”
The warrior made a face at that, which had the bard laughing unexpectedly. It was nice to be back on the old footing, where they could tease one another and Xena showed a playful side that very few people got to see.
The sound of cheering drew their attention to the platform, where Timon was being urged by his friends to take the stage with his lute. He climbed up and smiled at the crowd, and at Gabrielle in particular.
“I will do my humble best, though it was not my choice to follow such a talented bard.” He bowed deeply to Gabrielle, who blushed and smiled back. “Since I cannot rival her in beauty, perhaps a comedy is called for.” And he launched into a bawdy tavern song about a drunken farmer and his long-suffering horse. His voice was a rich baritone, with just a touch of melancholy to balance the hilarity of the tale, and the audience laughed and cheered loudly.
Xena found herself chuckling as well — the boy really was quite talented. But from the corner of her eye she subtly watched her companion. Gabrielle was humming along with the song, her eyes glowing and her face flushed with pleasure. She looked happier than Xena had seen her in a long time.
When the song ended the audience called loudly for another, and then another after that. After the fifth song, Timon pleaded thirst and stepped down, as Gabrielle had done. Several men offered to buy him a drink, and he gladly accepted a tankard or two. A group of musicians got up to play, and soon tables were pushed back to make room for dancing. Children and younger couples jumped up to whirl merrily along with the music.
Gabrielle turned to Xena with a smile. “Are you going to dance?”
The warrior’s brow rose. “To this? Do I look drunk to you?”
Gabrielle laughed. “Well okay, how about when the music slows down?”
Xena shook her head. “My dancing days are behind me, Gabrielle. But you go ahead.”
Gabrielle smiled wistfully but shook her head. “No, I’d rather keep you company. Tell me what you’ve been doing while I was in the Amazon village.”
Xena opened her mouth to reply, but her attention was caught by an approaching figure. “Looks like you may get your dance after all, Gabrielle,” she said softly.
“What?” Gabrielle turned around in puzzlement, just in time to face the young minstrel, who sat down beside her.
“We were not introduced, but my name’s Timon,” he said with a smile. “I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your stories.”
“And I really enjoyed yours!” The bard exclaimed. “Where did you hear the one about Ajax and Hector’s battle? That was great!”
“In the court of King Priam,” he replied. “The servants were buzzing with the tale when I visited there last spring. Of course, I may have exaggerated a bit about the size of his weapons.”
“A bard’s privilege,” Gabrielle assured him. “I do it myself occasionally, for dramatic effect.”
“But not where Xena is concerned, I’m sure,” Timon said gallantly, inclining his head in her direction. “Everyone knows the Warrior Princess is certainly capable of the feats you describe.”
“I’m sorry to dis