Disclaimer & Notices

Copyright: I do not own the Xena concept and certain characters but the plot is all mine.

Violence: There is violence.

Subtext: Yes, this where subtext is maintext.

Summary: Set just after Xena and Gabrielle stop the Destroyer and Hope, they're headed to southern Greece to get away from everything that happened in Potidaea. But an overnight stay in a small village brings on news about a monster, which Xena promptly investigates while Gabrielle worries it may be the Destroyer again. Despite no evidence of it being the Destroyer, Gabrielle quickly discovers who the creature is and tries to help solve the creature's mystery.

Homepage: www . redhope . net

Started: January 27, 2009

Series 3: Putting the Puzzle Together – Story #27

The Warrior Gargoyle

by Red Hope

Chapter 1

Gabrielle sat back in the chair with a weary manner. She was exhausted from the long walk today, but she felt rewarded at having a warm, comfortable bed for the next days. She glanced over at her partner and noted the warrior seemed worn too despite she tried to hide it.

The Warrior Princess leaned back until her chair's back was propped against the wall. She steadily watched the tavern's traffic then she sensed the bard's stare. She looked over at Gabrielle.

The bard flashed a smile at her friend then mentioned, "I can't stop thinking about that bed waiting for us."

Xena grinned, and she thoroughly agreed after their long travels in the late fall weather. She switched her gaze to the barmaid that approached their table.

"Good evening, ladies." The barmaid was good natured and took the women's drink and dinner orders. She promised to be back shortly with filled mugs.

"After here, where we headed next?" Gabrielle inquired.

The warrior first shrugged but gave into the small talk. After three years, she'd become accustom with idle chitchat from her best friend. "Perhaps back north."

"Nothing in mind?" the bard probed.

Xena softly grinned. "No, how about you?"

Gabrielle chuckled and gave her own shrug. "Not particularly... we could stop in to see the Amazons." She waited for Xena's usual grimace, yet to her surprise Xena didn't do it. She concluded Xena was just too exhausted to play that card on her.

"Perhaps Ephiny won't cut my head off," the warrior weakly joked.

The bard softly sighed because she and Xena hadn't returned to the Amazon village after Xena had viciously kidnapped her. She shook her head, reached over, and gingerly touched her friend's warm hand. "Xena, I'm sure Ephiny will understand... I mean she knows what happened." She retracted her hand. "It's not like I'm completely innocent." She recalled all the reasons why her and Xena ended up in Illusia. Gabrielle was thankful it turned out alright after Solan's help.

Xena decided not to continue on the conversation about what'd last happened in the Amazon village. She instead offered, "We can stop there if you'd like."

The bard bobbed her head but honestly replied, "I'll think about it." She then peered over at her friend. "And thanks for the offer."

The warrior flashed a smile, but it was weak. She spotted the barmaid, who delivered their mugs of light wine. She was relieved to have something that may ease her headache that she'd acquired almost two days ago. She couldn't seem to shake it no matter what herbs she tried on it. She hoped a good meal and rest tonight would ebb it.

The friends enjoyed the home cooked meal that was heavy on their bellies tonight. Gabrielle was completely satisfied and only needed the bed to complete her perfect night. Although she knew her bed wouldn't be complete without Xena in it, and she noticed despite Xena's weariness that she still seemed restless. The bard sensed perhaps what it was, but she didn't dare bring it up. She never brought it up.

Together, the partners made the slow trek to the inn just down the street from the tavern. Xena's walk had slowed just by the steps, and she only went up two. Gabrielle stopped at the top step and looked back at her friend.

Xena wasn't sure how to say this to her friend so she just mentioned, "I think I'll take a short walk... check on Argo while I'm at it."

Gabrielle didn't press and instead tried, "No rush... I'll be in the room." She lowered her staff's end to the wood step.

The warrior licked her dry lips then nodded. "I won't be long," she promised then headed off with a wide stride.

The bard tapped her staff once against the board then murmured, "I won't wait up." She briefly watched her friend stroll off in the early sunset. She released a heavy breath and went into the inn. She knew she had very little say in Xena's late night actions that were becoming rare and few anymore. She just repeated to herself that as long as Xena came back to her each night then it was enough, it had to be enough.

The Warrior Princess indeed went to the quiet stable where they'd left Argo. She silently entered the torchlit building and went to her horse's stall. She was pleased that Argo was happy to see her, and she decided to give the mare a thorough brushing.

Argo looked back at her mistress and studied her features. She enjoyed the feel of the bristles on her and her mistress's warm hand.

"It's been an amazing three years," Xena mentioned to her horse.

Argo whined and tapped her right hoof once.

The warrior shook her head and muttered, "It's hard to believe how much my life has changed since I met her." She glanced over at her mare. "We'd both be alone if she hadn't caught my attention back in that glade outside Potidaea."

Argo huffed, but she recalled her mistress's dark mood that day. She was convinced she would have never saw her mistress again.

Xena shook her head and continued to silently brush down her horse. She found a certain peace by doing this repetitious chore much like she did with sharpening her sword. She slowed down at Argo's neck. "I tell her she deserves better, and she tells me otherwise, Argo. I will never see what she sees."

Argo whined unhappily and now stomped her right hoof in mild protest.

"Well at least you two agree on something," the warrior taunted. She finished up the brush down then returned the stable owner's brush to the rack in the stall. "Get some rest, girl. I'll see you tomorrow." With that, she quietly left the stall and wandered back to the stable's entrance. Xena stopped there in the doorway and leaned against it with her shoulder. She watched the sun slowly melt away behind the western horizon.

Xena thought about her restless urge that surged or receded within her from time to time. In the beginning, she'd easily walked away from Gabrielle at nights and found somebody to quiet her desires. But as the days passed by and she grew closer to Gabrielle, she found it incredibly harder to snub out her desires in somebody else's arms. Xena had concluded some time ago that Gabrielle knew what she was doing those nights, but Gabrielle never questioned her or stopped her. She often wondered why yet didn't bring it up either.

The warrior considered her past year and how hard it'd been on her and Gabrielle. She'd lost Solan and nearly lost her best friend in the process. She'd lied to Gabrielle and betrayed Gabrielle just as easily. All the same, Xena was given the same back from Gabrielle and Hope. Just as she thought she and Gabrielle had found that closeness again, Gabrielle sacrificed herself to stop Hope and Dahak. Xena lost the faint anger that'd buried itself in her once Gabrielle was gone from her life, from the world. After Gabrielle was reborn, Xena felt as if she too were reborn, and their friendship rekindled stronger than before Hope, before Dahak. Xena vowed she would do anything to make sure nothing came between her and Gabrielle again.

Xena straightened up from the doorway after her last thought, and she rested her right hand on the doorframe. She realized that perhaps her late night romps to quench her desire was something coming between her and Gabrielle now. After a moment, she decided to be stronger than her urge and would head back to the inn. She sadly smiled at her decision and took a last beat to enjoy the rim of the sun disappearing over the horizon.

With her promise in mind, Xena's hand started to brush off the doorframe, and she took a wide step. But without warning, Xena suddenly felt her headache explode like a lightening storm in the hot summer. She crumbled to her right knee and gave a low cry of pain with her hands to her temples, but she blacked out.

To be continued.