Gabrielle had been doing her best to keep her emotions from hitting her after the latest close call. Xena had saved her yet again, but she couldn't get the images of herself being covered in mud to be roasted on a spit out of her head.
Not only had she been chased through a forest by cannibals who she couldn't understand, trapped in a cave, test bitten for meat levels, and captured in a cell where she was taught not to eat so she wouldn't be eaten, but now she was having all of it replay in her head in detail on an endless loop every night. Something about the knowledge that it was such a close call between her having dinner and being dinner made it hard to look at a fire the same way. But after all she had been through with Xena she didn't have it in her to show that she was struggling again. Xena deserved a break.
This was why a good 30 minutes or so after Xena's breathing had evened out she took the time to really think and process what had happened to her, her eyes slowly starting to brim with water beyond her ability to contain the tears. The tears were fine but then she started to actually cry and that meant she was beginning to breath harder and Xena was sure to hear her.
She turned into her furs hoping to muffle the sound but her body had other ideas, letting a quiet sob, almost a whimper slipped out soon followed by another and she couldn't stop it.
A few moments later she is startled by a soft hand on her shoulder. She jumps but then relaxes when she realizes it's just Xena. Gabrielle wiped away what tears she could and told Xena not to worry about her. It's just a nightmare. Xena looks at her with a knowing look and opens her arms for her to come cuddle closer.
The moment she is wrapped safely in Xena's arms she starts to fully give in and the tears are coming out full force. She is crying too hard to make any form of words come out coherently but Xena just stroked her hair softly and held her.
"It's ok not to always be strong Gabrielle. I'll always be here for you."
Gabrielle felt a slight dampness on her shoulder and realized that Xena was crying too.
"I know Xena." She gasped out between hiccuping sobs. "I love you."
"We will get through this. I love you too and I'm not letting anyone get in the way of that."
The two cuddled together like that until Gabrielle fell into a soft sleep. Xena still alert to keep Gabrielle safe, but both as comfortable as could be.