Rain

By Sailor Doc

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Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, & Argo are all owned by other more fortunate souls then I. I am only taking them out for a spin in my obsessed imagination. No copyright infringement is intended.

Subtext: Yes, I'm a believer

Violence: Nope, not this time...

Special Thanks to those who encouraged me to finish this piece, especially Watcher. This is my first attempt at this so please be merciful!

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The rain continued to fall, as it had been falling for the last several hours--in torrents. The incessant drumming of the rain was occasionally broken only by sharp flashes of lightening with their accompanying insults of thunder. Gabrielle looked across the dimly lit room at the quietly brooding face of her companion and sighed. She hated days like this because the forced inactivity always seemed to drag Xena against her very formidable will into those dark and dangerous areas of her life that she was trying so hard to forget about. The expressionless eyes and stoic mask that were Xena's face pulled at the younger woman's heart and she wished she could think of or do something to remove that look from her friends face. Walking across the tavern she placed a gentle hand on the warriors shoulder and spoke to her softly.

"Xena?"

No response.

Again. "Xena," this time with a little more force.

"Huh? I'm sorry. Did you say something?"

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You've been sitting here for the last four hours without saying anything to anyone including yours truly." Her voice softened. "I was worried about you."

"Oh," Xena said. "I didn't realize we'd been here so long."

Gabrielle could already see her mind starting to drift back to its own private black-hole.

"So," she said. "Think we should go ahead and get a room here for tonight? It doesn't look like this storm is going to pass on by. I think itís settled in for a while and we should do likewise."

Xena raised an eyebrow at the bard. Gabrielle could tell that she wasn't thrilled with the idea of having to spend the night in this place where she'd just spent the last four hours chasing demons from the past. Before she could protest Gabrielle raised her hand and said, "Look, I know you could think of more pleasant places to stay, but the problem here is that we'd have to go out in that rain to get there. I for one am not game for that kind of trip and I'll just bet you'd end up at the bottom of Argo's list too if you tried to take her out in this mess."

Xena scowled darkly. Then she let her features relax a bit.

"Yeah, I know you're right. This really is the best we can do for tonight," She reluctantly agreed. "Want me to make the arrangements?"

"Youíre better at it than I am," Gabrielle answered as she yawned and stretched lazily.

"I don't know about that," Xena said, smiling for the first time in hours, her eyes flashing with a rare and unexpected humor. "I've discovered that you're pretty damn good at it yourself."

Gabrielle felt her cheeks grow hot at the obvious meaning of the warriors words and was surprised to hear her sudden burst of laughter. She couldn't help herself, she too had to laugh. In her case though it was partly in relief for she had accomplished her mission and brought Xena safely back from the edge of her abyss. 'Now,' she thought, 'If I can only keep her occupied until I can get her out of this dump.'

"Xena!," she said with a shy grin as she tried in vain to hide her flaming blush. Casting her eyes quickly around the room she said, "That's not what I meant and you know it!"

"Well, maybe so and maybe not," the warrior drawled slowly, "but personally I'd prefer to draw my own conclusions. Would you like to give me the opportunity to prove my point or would you prefer that I prove yours instead?"

Gabrielle smiled sweetly and replied, "unless you get us a room in this place before there all gone there will be no way to find out will there? I do believe that the rest of the stranded travelers in this place are starting to figure out their not going anywhere else for a while either."

A quick glance around the room confirmed the wise words of the bard, and the warrior sprang from her perch with a new purpose and enthusiasm in her booted step. A soft voice from behind her caused her to pause.

"Xena?"

She answered with a slightly raised eyebrow.

"Have you forgotten something?" Gabrielle smiled at her secretly.

'Ye Gods!,' thought Xena. 'Surely she doesn't expect me to kiss her right here in front of all these tavern patrons? She knows how I feel about others knowing how much she means to me and using that against us.' Finally she warily ventured, "I'm not sure, did I?"

Gabrielle leaned slightly toward her, to whisper in her ear, "Xena," she breathed into the other womans waiting ear, "have you really forgotten?" She moved away from Xena's ear and gazed deeply into her eyes. Xena could feel the impact of the girls closeness all the way down to her toes. Her eyes were held captive by the murky-green depths of her loves eyes gazing into hers.

"Yeah, I guess I have," she said somewhat ashamed at her admission. She took a great deal of pride in her ability to remember even the most complex fortifications and battle maneuvers, facts and figures, weights and measures, names and places, even birthdays! But she had obviously forgotten something very important to the most important person in her life. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "What did I forget and how can I make it up to you?" She figured 'humble' was her safest approach right now.

Gabrielle moved in for the kill. Her face quirked into that funny grin that was all her own and she said, "to feed me Xena! Gods, we haven't eaten since breakfast and that was how many hours ago? Ten? Twelve? Come on, I'm STARVED!"

"Gabrielle," Xena's voice had a note of warning in it that would have scared the Hades out of most of the warlords they had encountered but the bard just continued to grin wickedly at her friend and wait for her reaction. Xena contemplated the situation for a few seconds and then with a nod of her head and a slight smile playing at the corners of her mouth she conceded this round to the bard. "Okay, you got me this time. Just remember---I have a long memory and believe me, I'll remember this one."

"Oh-h-h, I'm really scared now," Gabrielle said, faking a shiver of fright.

Xena just smiled and continued her trip to see the tavern keeper.

'Well now, at least it looks like she's coming out of that nasty mood,' mused the young woman. 'Wonder how long I'll have to keep her distracted.' Her eyes roamed across the tavern to see her companion in conversation with the tavern keeper. There was no doubt that she stood out in a crowd. Her bearing alone would have done that, but when you threw in her height, so unusual for a woman, her well-muscled body, her armor and obviously well-worn weapons, her casual air of arrogance, and the chilling effects of her ice-blue eyes there was little doubt that people knew when she walked into a room. Gabrielle smiled. Of course her reputation didn't hurt either. People tended to take a wide path around the "Warrior Princess". There was more than one tale, with the necessary witness's of what had happened to people who incurred her wrath. 'It's really a shame that they can't see the Xena that I know,' she thought. Her warmth and compassion, her dry sense of humor, her loving heart. 'Whoa,' she thought. 'I think I'll keep that loving heart stuff for myself.' Xena turned to look at her just then and catching her eye smiled reassuringly. Gabrielle felt a quick uncontrolled thrill in her heart that she knew was love, and smiled back at the warrior. 'Yes,' she smiled secretly to herself, 'I believe I'll keep that part all to myself.'

Xena was working her way back across the room, when she noticed the pensive smile on her friends face. "Hey," she said as she reached her, "where did you go off to? You look like your a million miles away. Are you alright?" She placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and lowered her eyes to make contact with the bards. The concern in her eyes was evident.

"Yes," she allowed her smile to broaden, "I was only lost in my thoughts for a few minutes."

"And where did your thoughts take you that was so far away?"

"Oh, they weren't very far away at all. As a matter of fact, if you must know, they were right here," she said, briefly resting her hand over Xena's heart.

Xena felt her breath catch in her throat. She could feel her heartbeat starting to accelerate under the warm palm resting against her chest and she knew that Gabrielle could feel it too. Their eyes seemed to be carrying on a conversation that only their souls could understand. The moment seemed frozen in time. Only another flash on lightning with its escort of rude thunder was able to break the spell, and they became aware once again of where they were and what they were doing. A quick glance around the room seemed to confirm that nobody was paying any attention to them as Gabrielle reluctantly withdrew her hand and Xena took a small step back from her.

"Well," Xena said after a few seconds, "I was able to get us a room. The Gods alone can guess what it will be like. If this room is any indication I'm betting on drafty and cold."

"How about FOOD Xena? I swear to you if I don't eat soon I'm convinced my stomach will begin to consume my backbone. Please tell me you were able to do something about that."

Xena gave a sardonic smile and said "yes dear---I was able to arrange for something. I just hope its edible, I'm not really sure about this place you know."

"No, I couldn't tell that at all," Gabrielle quirked.

Xena shot her the look, and the bard laughed.

"Come on Xena, it won't be that bad. What they've been bringing out to other folks has actually smelled pretty good."

"Gabrielle, don't even go there! I know you too well for that. They could walk out that door with roasted cotton over a bed of raw corn and you'd treat it like ambrosia."

"Look, I know I have quite the little appetite," Xena raised an eyebrow at the use of the word 'little' to describe the other girls ability to consume food, "but I also know whatís good and whatís not."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, really!"

"Seems to me I remember a little trip we took not so long ago on a ship. What was that you were eating then? Was it ell, or squid? I'm not sure...squid I think. Yes, it was raw as I remember too...," Xena let her voice trail off.

"Xena, thatís not fair! It was your fault I was eating that awful mess." Gabrielle looked a little green around the gills from the memories this particular story was bringing back.

"My fault? Excuse me, did you just say my fault?"

 

"Yes I did--I don't believe I studdered."

"Now just how do you figure that your ability to eat large amounts, and I mean LARGE amounts of raw squid was my fault?"

"You blocked my pressure points, thatís how!"

"Oh yeah, I remember that now," the warrior was obviously enjoying this immensely. "Help me out here though, if you would. I seem to be having trouble remembering exactly why I felt compelled to do that."

"Don't give me that," the bard said. "You know darn good and well how sea-sick I was."

"Oh yeah, its coming back to me now."

"Maybe so, but NOT the same way it came back to me, I'll be bound."

"Don't get so hot about it! Gods, you'd think you'd be over it by now, as many times as we've been at sea since then! Its not like I didn't warn you that the pinch might have some side-effects."

"Side-effects, huh? I'll say it had side-effects. I swear if I never throw up again It will be too soon. I could still taste that awful mess a week later."

"Well, at least it got you through the journey without heaving up your toenails," Xena observed with a wry smile.

"Could we please change this topic of conversation so that when our meal does get here I'll still be able to eat it?" Gabrielle was slightly miffed.

Xena chuckled. "I'd wouldn't like to see someone try to stop you."

Gabrielle glared at her companion for a moment. Their eyes met and then they both burst out laughing.

"Okay, okay already. I guess you got me back," Gabrielle admitted. Xena's eyes sparkled. Then Gabrielle continued ruefully, "all I'm hoping for is that you didn't order any sea-type food."

Xena's laughter rang out and Gabrielle could see tears forming at the corners of her eyes before she too burst out laughing yet again.

When their meal did arrive Gabrielle was delighted to discover that it was a rather good venison pie and even Xena had to admit, be it ever so grudgingly, that it was good. This was washed down with two mugs of a nice light ale. All together it had been a refreshing repast.

Outside, the thunder and lightning seemed to have past over, but the drenching rain gave the feeling that it intended to stay awhile. The last hint of sunlight had drawn out the shadows until it was obvious that they would soon take over the land and darken into night. There would be no stars out tonight, Xena mused. No, it was indeed a good night to be out of the elements. There was a chill in the air that felt as if it wanted to creep into ones very bones and she turned from her station by the window to see if Gabrielle had retrieved her cloak from their pack. The young woman did not take cold weather very well and Xena hated to see her down and suffering with anything, especially if it could be avoided. She saw her standing next to the hearth talking to the owner of the tavern and figured that she was seeing if they would like the services of a good bard for a while that night. Xena took this opportunity to observe her love at a distance and without her knowledge. There was no doubt that she was a beautiful young woman. Her graceful form hid a subtle strength that was surprising to those who under-estimated her. Though short in stature she gave an air of height that came from her body carriage. Her well-shaped head was crowned with reddish-blond locks that tumbled down past her shoulders, and smelled of wildflowers on a warm, sunny day. Her eyes were a deep, misty green, that could soothe Xena's soul with one look or flash with an inner light all their own in the next instant. Her greatest gifts though were her voice and her compassion for others. With her voice she could reach large crowds and hold them in the palm of her hand, or reach in and touch a soul in torment, 'like mine,' Xena thought, and smiled as she thought of all the times this wonderful woman had been there for her. 'Yep, Xena. You are indeed a truly twice-blessed woman, and don't you ever forget it.'

Gabrielle moved to the front of the room with a mug of water in her hand and after a brief introduction to explain who she was and break the ice, she began her familiar routine of stories and Xena drifted to the shadowed corners in the back of the room. Even after all this time she was still uncomfortable when Gabrielle told stories that included her. She usually went for a walk or groomed Argo while Gabrielle worked unless the room looked unfriendly and then she was very much there. This time however the bard showed a rare restraint and limited herself to only one Xena story. Xena recognized this as a gift and made a note to thank her later when they were alone. She told a tale of Hercules and another of the beautiful Helen of Troy and as the hour was growing late Xena got her attention and indicated that she thought it was time to head up stairs to their room. Gabrielle nodded to show that she understood and then with a slight twinkle in her eye, she raised her index finger and one eyebrow to ask if Xena minded if she did one more. Xena smiled and nodded; she knew the bard was having as good a time as her audience obviously was. She could admit to herself that she thought Gabrielle was the best bard she had ever heard but she didn't want to tell her that...not yet! She would never hear the end of it! Besides, Xena consoled herself, she never asked!! She looked again at the front of the room as Gabrielle took a sip of her water and then began another story, a new one that even Xena had not heard her or anyone else tell before.

"A long time ago, long before your great-grandfathers great-grand-father, the horses were the most beautiful of all the Gods creations. Beautiful and graceful though they may be today, they are clumsy indeed compared to the majestic creatures that once they were, for in those long-ago days they rode the skies on colorful wings that spread out from their withers, capturing the wind and bending it to their will. Can you even begin to imagine what they must have been like then with their bright and colorful wings spreading out in flight, their nostrils flaring and their eyes brightly observing the world from their lofty habitat? They must have been a sight indeed, but they had a horrible flaw that married the perfection of their beauty...they knew it! They knew that no other animal was as fast,

or as bright,

or as smart,

or as beautiful,

or as witty,

or as ( yes, we'll say it! ) PERFECT as they!

"And believe me, they didn't hesitate to let the other animals know it too! Oh yeah, they'd prance around on their delicate hooves, prick their dainty little ears, look down their long noses at the other living things created by those same Gods and snorting their disdain take off toward the heavens in a whirl of color and the thunder of their graceful wings. After many, many years of being on the receiving end of all the snubs, rude comments and general bad manners of the overly self-absorbed horses, the other animals appealed to the Gods for intervention and as much as it saddened them to do so, they knew that the other animals were right--the horses had begun to think that they were more beautiful and clever than even the Gods themselves, and that of course would never do. After much debating among the Gods about the problem and what would be the most appropriate punishment, Zeus himself ended the debate and passed judgement on the vain and silly horses. No longer would they be able to laugh at and lord it over their fellow creatures from the lofty heights--oh no! Henceforth their colorful wings would be no more and they would walk the earth, living in fear of the other animals and bowing in subservience to man. And so it was and remains to this very day. But Zeus is merciful and not wanting all memory of one of his most beautiful creations to fade away completely, placed the symbolization of Pegasus, the most stunning of all the winged horses, into the heavens, carved in the very stars themselves where you can see him even now, on bright and starry nights, captured in eternal flight."

Gabrielle finished her story to applause that sounded thunderous in the small room, and smiling shyly, she accepted the thanks, both in word and coin, from her most grateful audience. There was an audible groan of disappointment as she left her perch and moved to the back corner where she could just make out Xena watching her as she crossed the room. One young man, intent on making the bards acquaintance, followed her as she worked her way through the crowd. He noticed that she had stopped in a dimly lit corner and appeared to be speaking to someone standing there. As he approached from her back he caught a flash of electric blue that seemed to come from the corner itself, just over the bards shoulder. Then he realized that what he was seeing were the eyes of the woman to whom the girl was speaking; eyes that seemed to lock on him and drill a hole right through his forehead! He could see she was a warrior, and that now was most definitely not the time to try to talk to the cute little bard... maybe that pretty barmaid over there...The young man changed course abruptly and decided to pursue a different new friend.

"So, You've been holding out on me," Xena said as Gabrielle approached her. She sent a quick look of warning to the eager young man fast approaching her bard from the rear. After seeing his change of heart, she turned her full attention back to her partner. "That was a new one."

"Did you like it?" Gabrielle asked quickly. She knew that Xena was a tough audience and would always tell her what she really thought, not what she knew Gabrielle wanted to hear.

"Did you write it, or did you pick it up from someone else?" Xena asked, with that eyebrow of hers raised ever so slightly.

"What do you think?" the bard shot back, with a grin. "You tell me!"

"Okay, even though I have never even heard you rehearsing this one, I can tell its yours, you sneaky little bard!"

"How could you tell?" Gabrielle asked, though she was thrilled that Xena could.

"Oh please, Gabrielle! After all this time and all the stories I've heard you tell? I'd have to be pretty dense not to know which ones are yours and which aren't."

"Alright, alright, itís mine," Gabrielle confessed with a shy smile. "You still haven't said if you liked it or not."

"Haven't I?" the former warlord asked with a lofty smirk. She had intended to play with the bard about it until she saw how important her answer was going to be to her, so she decided that now was not the time to play. Taking both of Gabrielle's hands in her own, she looked deep into her eyes and spoke from her heart. "I loved it! I think its the best I ever heard you create." She lightly squeezed the hands held captive in her own. "I am constantly amazed at the stories you come up with. How did you get the idea for this one?"

"Star-gazing with you."

"Oh... really?" Xena asked slowly, a quiet glow in her eyes.

Gabrielle smiled warmly up at the warrior and gave the time honored and expected reply as she answered her, "Yes... really!"

They were both reminded of the many nights they'd lain side-by-side, trying to make out pictures in the stars, and never seeming to agree on the same one. It was still one of their favorite games.

Xena smiled at her. "Are you ready to go upstairs now?" she asked.

"Yeah, I just need to make sure the tavern keeper and I are squared away on dinars. He owes me a little commission on ale/sales, ya know."

"What?" Xena was shocked. "You gotta be kidding me. Ale/sales commission? How did you finagle that?"

"It was easy," the bard replied. "Besides, you seem to have forgotten... I too have many skills!" Her eyes fairly sparkled and with a turn of her head and a twitch of her hips she was on her way to the bar to collect her 'bonus'. "Go on up, I won't be long," she added over her shoulder.

Xena had to smile. The girl was nothing if not totally unpredictable. She turned and headed for the stairs thinking to check the fire and light the candles in the room before Gabrielle joined her.

When she reached the room, it was dark and the fire almost completely out. Xena scowled as she set about re-lighting it. Something about that cold, dark, and empty room wounded her. 'Guess this is what my soul looked like. I know it felt like this,' she thought to herself. 'How did I ever end up here, at this point in my life, after all the things I've done, and said, and thought, with such a wonderful person? To me it just doesn't seem fair. Here I am, happier than I have any right to be, sharing my life with the woman of my dreams and after all I've done where's the justice in that? Am I just lying to myself? Will I ever be able to do enough good to make up for all the evil that I was? It's like I've been given a second chance at life! Why? Why me? Maybe there really is good in me after all... Mi'lla saw it. So did Loa Ma, and Herc, yeah, he saw it to.' She walked to the window and looking out into the rain-soaked courtyard allowed that train of thought to continue. 'Then there's Gabrielle...' She sighed. 'She sees it too. Gods! She deserves so much better than me, but sweet Artemis, I couldn't go on without her! I only hope that one day I'll be worthy of her... I don't ever want to disappoint her."

When Gabrielle entered the room the candles had still not been lit, the only light in the room coming from the small fireplace. She saw Xena leaning against the window frame, her face half in shadow, half in light as she gazed outside at the steadily falling rain. She was obviously in deep thought as she didn't even turn when the bard came in. Gabrielle watched her for a few moments and then walked up behind her, slid her arms around Xena's waist and laying her cheek between the warriors shoulder blades squeezed her gently and said "Do you have any idea how much I love you?"

Xena turned in the bards arms taking her in her own and returned Gabrielle's hug fiercely. "Do you have any idea how much I needed to hear you say that, love?"

Gabrielle smiled at Xena's use of the endearment as she said, "Yeah, I kind of had the feeling you could use a little love and affection. Are you going to be okay now, or should I continue to worry about this melancholy mood your in?" Gabrielle was always concerned about how to deal with Xena when she was like this. Thank the Gods it didn't happen all that often!

"Yeah, I'll be fine. Guess I just let this rotten weather get to me. You won't let that happen though, will you?" Xena said with a rueful smile.

"Nope. I think it says somewhere in my job description that I have to keep my Warrior Princess happy, healthy, and whole. Well, no doubt you're healthy!" She stepped back a bit, though still held captive by Xena's arms and looking her up and down brazenly commented, "oh yeah, I can safely say you are most definitely whole..." Gabrielle's hands gently squeezed the warriors waist and she smiled as Xena chuckled softly.

"What about happy?" Xena asked wistfully.

"Well, that one bothers me just a little," Gabrielle said as she slowly slid her hands up, then around to the back of Xena's neck. "But I have this theory," she said softly as she tugged down ever so gently.

"Oh? And what would that be?" Xena asked just as softly as she allowed herself to be pulled closer, oh so much closer to the bard's lips.

"That the love we share now is bigger and more powerful than any of your enemies or the demons from your past, or our present and future." Gabrielle locked her eyes on Xena's. The warrior couldn't have looked away if she had wanted to, and truth be told, she didn't. In the unbelievable intense gaze of the usually bright and cheery young woman in her arms the warrior saw all of Gabrielle's feelings for her laid bare for her view. There was the love and desire, yes, but so much more than that. There was devotion, admiration, loyalty, understanding and forgiveness but there was something else too. What was it? Then it hit her and she knew. In Gabrielle's eyes she could see what she thought she would never have much less deserve--her own future, wrapped up tightly with Gabrielle's. Her heart gave a lurch as she realized that she wanted this, no, she needed this. And as it was so willingly and freely given she would accept it gratefully for the very real gift it was.

"I love you, Xena of Amphipolis. I intend to spend the rest of my life proving my theory--and I hope that makes you as happy as it does me." Then she sealed her words with a gentle kiss, and pulled the warrior into a nurturing warmth that came from her love and commitment.

Xena allowed herself to float in that warmth for a long time before she moved again, and when she did it was to capture Gabrielle's lips with her own. At first her kisses were gentle as she swore allegiance to her love again in these timeless pledges of all lovers, and then as is natural they became more intense as if in sharing the intensity of their kisses they also shared their souls, which in truth, they did. They broke off the kiss only when Xena reached down and swept the bard up in her arms and as they looked into each others eyes all thought of less important things faded into a fathomless gulf and were totally forgotten in favor of more important matters. As Xena lowered the bard onto the surface of their bed she again renewed her vow of love.

"I love you, Gabrielle. I have never in my life loved as I love you, and I know I never will again. There is, and can be only you. You fill my soul as you fill my heart and I would never survive if you were to ever leave me."

"Xena," Gabrielle said as she held the warriors face in both her hands, forcing eye contact. "How could I ever leave you? You're my soulmate, the other half of who I am! Without you I could only live half a life! I will never leave you, ever. Tell me you believe that!"

The warrior hesitated, removing her eyes from contact with Gabrielle's and denying herself the happiness this knowledge would give her.

"Xena! Stop that! I know what your doing and you stop it right now!" Gabrielle forced Xena to look at her again.

"I love you too! I'm not going anywhere, at least not without you! I should think you would know that, especially after all we've been through recently...," she allowed her voice to trail off softly. " You, oh mighty 'Warrior Princess' should know by now that you can't get rid of me! No ma'am, I'm stuck to you like glue and don't you ever forget it!" Gabrielle shook the warrior poised over her and grinned playfully at her. "Ya got that?" she asked with a mock growl.

"Yeah," Xena relented seeing how silly she was being. "I got that," she said as she sheepishly smiled down at the lovely bard. "Sorry, guess I'm still feeling kinda sorry for myself. And yeah, you're right," she said, quickly placing a hand over the bards lips with a smile. " I do know better." She released her lips. "Forgive me, love?" she asked, her blue eyes echoing the request.

"I don't know," the bard replied, giving the startled woman above her an airy look. "I think you'll really have to do something special to make this up to me."

Xena smiled broadly. "Oh, really?" she asked as she slowly lowered herself toward the bard.

"Yes, really!" the bard whispered, and their lips met and time melted away into nothing as they melded their hearts together again in the passion of their love.

Xena awoke sometime later, Gabrielle sleeping peacefully in her arms, her cheeks still slightly flushed from the intensity of their love-making. She couldn't help but smile as she remembered their last few candlemarks. To her, Gabrielle never looked as beautiful as she did right now, washed in the afterglow of their love. Outside, it was still pouring though it did seem to have slacked off a bit, and she could smell the heavy moisture of the rain hanging in the air. The fire was still going, although it had died down a little from neglect, both of them having other fires to attend for sometime!

As they lay there together, snugly wrapped in their love for one another, it occurred to Xena once again that this was indeed a gift. Even though she may not ever believe she deserved it, and she didn't believe it, someone, somewhere must know that she needed it. Here in her arms was her reason to go on, her moral support and guide, and her only hope of ever finding redemption. She sighed and snuggled closer to her sleeping love, holding her protectively in her arms and offered an ackward and uncertain prayer to whatever force had brought Gabrielle into her life in just the right place, at just the right time.

"I don't know who you are, and I'm not real good at this praying stuff, but whoever you may be, I am eternally grateful for this wonderful person you've brought into my miserable life. I know I'm not worthy of her and never will be, but I swear to you now by all I do hold sacred to guard and protect her even unto my last breath, and to love her and support her in all she does until my dying day."

It was strange, she later thought, this peace that seemed to descend on her as she finished her prayer, and in her heart she knew that it had been heard and accepted. She only wished she knew by whom. 'Oh well...' she thought, smiling softly as she gently hugged the sleeping bard and closed her eyes. Knowing the Gods as she did, she was sure that if she needed to know it would be revealed to her in time. There were plenty of other things to worry about without stressing over things she had no control over. They still had a long way to go before they reached Amazonia.

'Amazonia?' she thought to herself. 'Why do we need to go to Amazonia? That wasn't the plan and they haven't sent for either one of us...oh well,' she yawned. 'I hope this rain breaks,' and she fell into a deep and much needed sleep.

From the corner of the room stepped a vision of light and Artemis smiled happily at her Amazon Queen wrapped protectively, even in sleep, in the arms of her chosen champion and consort. "Yes my children, you are both gifted and blessed! Watch over one another... I will be watching too!" and with a soft rippling of the light she was gone, leaving behind a strange silence and stillness that marked the end of the rain. The air was crisp, cool and clean, promising the dawn of a bright and hopeful new day.

 

The End