Disclaimer: See Part 1
Authors Note: This is just a short chapter that I needed to add before I start getting to all the exciting stuff ;) I'm sorry that it's taken my so long to update this story and hopefully the next chapter will be updated sooner. If you want to email me, my address is jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
After leaving the dining hall, I returned to my camp to spend some time alone. I spent the rest of the night and the next morning wondering if I should just leave. I was putting myself through Tartarus by being here, having somehow thought that maybe Gabrielle didn't really want to marry Miranda. That maybe, with some luck, she would see me again and everything would go back to the way it was before. Of course I had been wrong and had only ended up making Gabrielle uncomfortable and putting myself through even more pain.
I cursed Alexandria repeatedly for bringing me here and wondered if she had only done so to give me a taste of the pain I had caused her all the moons ago. I deserved it after cheating on her with Gabrielle, only to also end up leaving Gabrielle again in the end. Gods, how had I been so stupid as to think it was the right thing to do by walking away? I dropped my head into my hands, berating myself for the worst desicion I had ever made in my life.
It was almost time for the midday meal and I was still wandering around my camp, considering packing my bags and going home. I knew that Alexandria would bring my mother and my daughter home safely if I decided to leave, so I didn't have to worry about that. I was pulled from my musings as I heard a twig snap behind me and quickly turned around to face the intruder.
Gabrielle's smile rivaled the sun and I thought I would be blinded with the brightness of it. The beauty of it weakened my knees and I leant against a tree, attempting to look casual while feeling as if my legs would collapse from beneath me. I couldn't help but smile back weakly as she strode into the small clearing, a basket tucked under her arm. I wondered for a moment why she was here, but quickly decided that it didn't matter. Despite my thoughts of leaving only moments ago, any time that I could spend with Gabrielle before she was married was time that I would cherish.
"Hey," Gabrielle grinned as she dropped the basket besides the now dead fire. "I brought you lunch."
"Hi, I was just about to leave and join everyone in the village for lunch," I lied through my teeth, plastering a small on my face. In truth, the thought of having lunch, especially in the village was the last thing on my mind.
"Oh, well I thought it might be nice to spend some time together," Gabrielle said, her voice faultering on the last few words. I gave her an encouraging smile and she returned it before sitting down on my bedroll and pulling the basket towards her. I hurried to join her and leaned over her shoulder to see what she brought for lunch.
The first thing I saw made my heart leap into my throat and my eyes mist up with tears. I quickly blinked them away as Gabrielle pulled a small plate out of the basket and set it down before me, giving me a small wink as she did. It was a plate of my favourite pasteries, the ones she used to make for me with the red stuff in the middle.
"I made them last night," Gabrielle said with a smile as she continued to pull food from the basket, enough to feed half the Amazon nation in my opinion.
"Thank you," I replied softly, glancing up to meet her gave and feeling a shock of electricity race down my spine as she smiled at me warmly.
"You're welcome," she said in an equally soft voice before finally tearing her eyes away and clearing her throat. "Where did you go last night? Eve was wondering where you were."
"I just came back here," I replied, feeling guilty at having not said goodnight to my daughter. "I needed some time alone."
Gabrielle seemed to process this information, her hands faultering as she pulled two plates from her bag. She glanced up into my eyes, a sad but understanding smile on her face as she passed me a plate before turning back to fill her own with food. As always, I was in awe of how much food she heaped onto her plate, but I smiled. It felt like old times again.
"So," The bard started slowly, picking at the pile of food as she spoke before popping a piece of venison into her mouth. "Do you plan to stick around at all after the wedding?"
I almost choked on the piece of carrot I had just swallowed, and took several gulps of sweet Amazon wine to help it go down. The feeling remained though, uncomfortable and slightly painful as if my heart had risen into my throat and it was being constricted painfully.
"I hadn't really thought about it," I managed to choke out, feeling my appetite vanish. "I think Mother wants to get back to the tavern as soon as possible. You know how she is, she doesn't like leaving her home in other peoples hands, no matter how much she trusts them."
Gabrielle nodded though she refused to meet my gaze. We fell into an uncomfortable silence as I knew we would. It was inevitable really. We were trying to be just friends after so many years of being lovers, a fact that neither of us could forget. It wouldn't work and we both knew it. But that still doesn't explain why I spoke my next words.
"Do you love her?"
I'm sure Gabrielle's gaping expression matched my own, both up shocked over my abrupt words. I don't know what possessed me to ask, but I only then realised how desperately I wanted to know the truth. It would help me, I reasoned with myself, knowing that it was a lie. If I knew that Gabrielle truly loved Miranda, then maybe I would be able to move on.
"I- Uh," the Amazon Queen stuttered, hesitant in her reply. She looked up from her food and met my gaze and I felt a brief spark of hope from the emotions in her eyes and the uncertainty in her voice. But she responded exactly as I knew she would, nonetheless. "Of course I love her. Why?"
"I just needed to know," I replied honestly before turning back to my meal. I could feel her eyes on me as I ate, but I decided to ignore it. I wasn't sure if Gabrielle spoke the truth about her feelings for her consort, but hearing the words spoken hurt. I really wish I didn't come here, I thought to myself miserably. If only to have saved myself the pain of hearing those words.
"Why did you need to know?" Gabrielle's voice was such a soft whisper, almost inaudible.
Once again, I decided to reply honestly. It wasn't like this conversation could become any more tense or awkward anyway. "I just wanted to make sure that this was the right thing for you. I need to know that this is what you want, Gabrielle. I know it's not my place anymore, and I know you don't need it from me, or probably want it, but I'll always want to protect you. I just needed to know."
I was right of course; the silence was tense and extremely uncomfortable.
"I don't," the words were half spoken, half sobbed. I looked up in alarm to see Gabrielle's emerald green orbs fill with tears as we gazed at one another. For a moment, I thought that she meant that she didn't want my protection, until she continued. "I don't love her."
I felt my heart hammering in my chest as my plate slipped lifelessly from my fingers, though I didn't take any notice of it. I wanted to lean over and kiss her, though I resisted. It didn't feel like the right time and if Gabrielle wanted me, she would let me know. For once, I would give her the control that I had previously gripped so tightly.
"Gabrielle," I whispered, my eyes shining as I looked at her. I reached over to touch her arm, hoping it would come across as comforting but she didn't give me a chance. She stood up abruptly, wiping the tears that had leaked from her eyes.
"I can't," Gabrielle whispered over and over again, like a mantra. I stood in confusion as she backed several steps away from me. "I can't do this again. It hurts. It hurts, Xena."
"Gabrielle," I repeated, my voice a broken whisper. I wanted to tell her that it didn't have to hurt, not anymore. I wanted to sweep her into my arms and take all her pain away, the pain that I had caused her. I felt my heart rip in two as she sobbed loudly, holding her hands up in front of her body as if trying to defend herself from a physical attack when I stepped closer.
"Please, don't," she cried, though she didn't give me a chance to step any closer as she rushed from the clearing and into the forest. I wanted to follow her and it took all my will power not to. I wanted her to have the control. I wanted her to choose if something more would happen between us.I desperately hoped that it would.
To Be Continued
Return to the Academy