DISCLAIMER: Xena and the rest of the Xena universe are copyrighted characters owned by Ren Pics and Universal.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This takes place between the Rheingold trilogy and "Old Ares Had a Farm". Everyone has their thoughts on when (if) Xena and Gabrielle became lovers. Well, this is mine or at least one of them.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Long Wait
We had left the northern lands this morning following the Rhine River south towards home. The biting cold winds and dreary skies so common to Beowulf's home gave way to a crisp breeze and a deep blue canopy as we neared our evening destination. I knew it was late in the day because the blues transformed slowly into reds, oranges, and brilliant yellows. The hues highlighted my companion's contemplative face bringing out the bronze tones in her skin.
Neither of us had spoken much. That wasn't uncommon for her, but for me, well, it was obvious something was on my mind. The beautiful day had passed with little notice from me. It wasn't like the warrior to bring up matters of the heart. For years we had been traveling together and here in this strange land with their strange gods, we finally admitted how we felt. I thought that surely we would talk about what had happened, about the kiss, about the memories our souls couldn't erase even when our minds had. I even expected a terse comment about Beowulf's and Brunhilda's overt advances toward me. Nothing came.
We found an inn located along the river. The quiet valley village existed beneath a towering castle where their noble lord lived. Evidently the castle lord was kind to his people, sharing in the wealth, because the inn was larger than any other we had seen in our travels. The dining hall was immense. Several long tables that could easily seat twenty people lined the center of the eating area and musicians sat in a corner playing fast-moving rhythms that many patrons were dancing and drinking to. As was the usual case, Xena made a beeline for a small, private table near the door where she could see the entire room.
"I'll go see about a room and dinner," Xena merely nodded at me as she sat, laying the saddle bags at her feet.
As I stood at the bar waiting for the innkeeper to finish other orders, I felt my patience with the warrior thinning. I couldn't take much more of this. After all we had been through and after all that had been said, we should be more. I had known this for a long time, ever since she had kissed me when she was in Autolycus' body. I don't care what anyone says. It was her. I could feel the softness of her lips just before I became aware of Autolycus' scratchy beard. We always come so close before something else, some new adventure, some town needing to be saved gets in the way.
I rubbed my temples trying to figure out a way to fix this awkwardness. I turned to look at Xena. She was staring into the center of the room, her expression blank. She was thinking that much was clear. It wasn't like her to not be completely aware of her surroundings at all times. Then it struck me, watching her being so oblivious, that she was as unsure as I was. If my brave warrior didn't have the courage to take the next step, then maybe I should.
"Miss?" The barkeep startled me back to the present. "Can I help you?"
A mischievous smile crept across my lips, "Oh yeah, definitely."
A few minutes later I returned to the table with drinks in hand. I thumped one down in front of Xena, grabbing her attention, "Thought I'd lost you there for a minute."
It took a moment for me to realize she wasn't speaking of our most recent close encounter, "Nah, they're just incredibly busy tonight. The special tonight's lamb stew. The barkeep says that always draws a large crowd."
"Hmmm," Xena went back to cleaning her sword, and I pretended to be writing in a scroll. When the food finally arrived, I hadn't put a word to paper. I looked to the rotund innkeeper who gave me a quick nod and wink. I returned the nod hoping Xena hadn't seen the exchange. The last thing I needed was her ruining my plans with a fight. Instead she reached for a bowl of stew and handed it to me.
"Thanks," I looked into her blue eyes. There was a slight flicker in them like I had seen only a day ago when I awoke to her kiss.
"You're welcome," she smiled and for a moment I thought this may all work out with little effort from me.
We ate in companionable silence, enjoying the meal and watching the villagers laugh, sing, and dance. Xena drained the last of her pint.
"Do you want some more?" She was in motion gathering our dirty trays and mugs together.
I let out a big fake yawn, "Actually, I'm pretty tired. I think I'm ready for bed. The last day or so has been pretty crazy!"
"Yeah, it has. Tell ya what, you go on up and I'll be there in a minute," she gestured to the tray in front of her.
When I got to the room, I was surprised to see just how many candles were lit. They lined every window sill, the entire perimeter of the steaming tub except for just enough room to get in and out, and every inch of the mantle over the fireplace. What I didn't expect were the rose petals strewn across the bed and littering the water in the tub.
"Guess I'll have to tip the innkeeper an extra dinar for that!"
"For what?" her husky voice startled me, making me jump, "Oh!" It was barely a whisper. Her arms, like so many times before, circled my waist from behind. The touches and caresses, even cuddling on the same bedroll, had become so commonplace we thought little of it. I relaxed in her arms mindlessly stroking my fingers along her arm.
"I was thinking about Brunhilda," Xena tensed slightly, but I continued, "She declared her love for me, Xena. She was in love with me."
"And?" The slight hesitant inflection let me know she feared the response.
"And, I couldn't return it. I didn't feel that way about her," I took her hand in mine and turned to face her. It was now or never, "There's only one person I feel that way about."
I tried desperately to control my pounding heart as I attempted to casually stroke my fingers through her ebony hair and down the side of her neck. The unsteady cadence of her pulse against my fingers let me know she was just as nervous as I was. This steeled my confidence so I could look into the deep blue eyes of the woman who had stolen my heart, only to give back to me a life I had only dreamed of.
I gently pulled her closer, never breaking eye contact until the moment our lips touched. When I felt her nuzzle my lips apart, I relaxed and leaned into her strong body, letting her wrap her arms tight around me. This was different. There was no life-saving desperation, no thrill of coming back from the dead, nowhere we had to be except right here, right now, in each other's arms. We had all night and I shivered at the thought, my mind racing with images, whispered words, hopes and dreams that I was beginning to believe would never become a reality.
With a gasp, Xena pulled back. I took the opportunity to nuzzle and nip at her neck, taking in the scent of Xena that was purely feminine and intoxicating.
"Gabrielle," her raspy voice whispered in my ear, sending shivers down my spine.
I hooked a finger into her breastplate and pulled her backwards with me toward the tub, "It's time, warrior. I've waited for you long enough."
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