An innocent discussion about bacchae bites turns into a declaration of something...more.
Gabrielle looked up at the warrior, lost in thought, on Argo.
"About when I was a bacchae..."
Xena pulled on Argo's reigns, and looked back at Gabrielle, meeting the bard's green eyes.
"Sorry I bit you."
Xena raised an eyebrow. "That's alright. It didn't hurt."
"Really? Not at all? You felt nothing?"
Xena's eyes gleamed wickedly, and she said casually, "Oh, I wouldn't say that."
The pair continued on for a while, before Gabrielle spoke up again.
"Can I ride for a while?"
"Course. Here-" Xena hoisted the small woman into the saddle behind her. "Hold on tight."
Not a problem...Gabrielle thought, wrapping her arms around Xena's muscled abdomen.
"Why did you want to ride?"
"Um..." What do I say? I can't say that I just wanted to look at her neck, can I? "My feet hurt."
"Well, now your legs are going to hurt, so I hope it's a fair trade."
Gabrielle grinned despite herself. "Definitely," she muttered.
"What was that?"
The bard reddened. "Nothing."
"Okay..." They rode in silence. Gabrielle kept trying to drag her eyes away from Xena's neck, but she was unsuccessful. You have to tell her! The bard told herself.
"Umm..." But, she couldn't do it. "I-uh...you smell good?"
Xena frowned. "Thank you?"
"Yup. No problem."
"Do I really, though?"
"Oh. Yeah, you do.
"Shouldn't I smell...I don't know, sweaty, or something?"
"I guess...but you don't. You smell good." Gabrielle rested her chin on Xena's shoulder.
"You know, I can honestly say I have never been told that before."
"Huh. Well, there's a first time for everything."
"Is that really what you were going to say?"
Gabrielle sighed. "No. But you do smell good."
"So what were you going to say?"
"It's nothing. Never mind."
"No, tell me!"
"It's not important."
Gabrielle hesitated. "You'll get freaked out!"
"I promise I won't! Now, tell me, what were you going to say?"
Gabrielle furrowed her brow. "It's just...it's already been a few days since the bacchae thing, and you know, I, well...It should have worn off by now." She glanced at the ground, awkwardly.
"That's what this is about?"
"No wonder you think I smell good!" Xena teased.
"Xena! Come on, be serious!"
"I am, I am. So, what hasn't worn off, exactly?" Xena reached up a hand to protect her neck. "You're not going to bite me, are you?"
"I thought you said it didn't hurt!"
"It didn't. I think bacchaes have some pleasure-releasing pheromone or something, when they bite their victims."
Xena paled, realizing what she'd said. "Well, yeah, you know."
Gabrielle grinned. "So you liked it."
"Come on, admit it. You liked it when I bit you!"
"You so did! You thought it was-" She stopped mid sentence, and Xena twisted in her saddle a little, to face her.
"What? I thought it was what?"
Gabrielle swallowed. "Hot."
If one had had the fortune to look upon this traveling pair, they would have seen a very red-faced, small blonde woman, clutching tightly to the back of a tall, very beautiful warrior, who appeared cool and composed. Only one who knew her well, say, the small woman behind her, would have seen the inner turmoil behind those icy blue eyes.
Xena didn't speak, and for once, Gabrielle was unable to fill the uncomfortable silence with mindless chatter. She was worried she was going to have to say something, when Xena spoke up.
The bard froze. Yes? Yes? Yes what? She couldn't possibly mean...
Feeling slightly more comfortable, she attempted to lighten the mood.
"I knew it!" She chattered, in an unusually high voice. "I was a bacchae, for Zeus' sake and I could still tell! You should have seen your face, Xena! You were totally enjoying it."
The warrior woman suppressed a grin, enjoying toying with her friend.
"And just when did this conversation become about me, thank you very much? I thought we were discussing the fact that you still wanted to bite me." It appeared she had overstepped a line, as neither woman could manage anything to say.
Suddenly, Xena was very aware of the small hands clinging just below her belly button, the hot breath on her neck.
Gabrielle felt the change, but instead of moving away, she laid her chin on Xena's shoulder, and hugged her tighter. The silence that ensued was pleasant, friendly.
"Yes?" This was it. Xena's either going to tell me to get off the horse and walk back to the village until I get this out of my system, or...Or what? Ask me to bite her again? Get real, Gabrielle. She doesn't think of you that way, and you know it!
"Do you love me?"
Gabrielle was surprised at what usually passed so easily between them
"Of course, Xena. More than anything."
She appeared to be fighting some inner battle, perhaps with her conscience, perhaps with her fear. Whatever it was, Gabrielle was getting impatient.
"Xena, just say it! I'm not going anywhere. No matter what you say, I'm not leaving you. Remember that obnoxious little girl from Potidaea, who stalked you like a panther?" Xena chuckled a bit at that. "Well, I'm going to follow you, even better than she could have, because I've learned so much from you. Okay? I will never leave you! So, get used to me being here, and spit it out!"
"I love you."
"Xena we've been over this. I love you too, you mean the world to me, and all that. What's on your mind?"
"Gabrielle." Her voice was soft, pleading Gabrielle to understand. "I love you."
"I-you..you...oh! OH!" Gabrielle's voice went through multiple stages of confusion, before ending on an excited 'OH!'
Xena smiled ruefully over her shoulder. "Still wanna stick around?" She said, somewhat sadly.
"Are you kidding me? Yeah!"
"Xena, for a genius fighter, and strategist, and all that, you're pretty stupid. I love you too, you stupid warrior!"
"No, Gabrielle I-"
"I know what you mean!" Gabrielle beamed, and kissed Xena, on the neck, the shoulder, everywhere she could reach, tightening her arms possessively around the taller woman.
As if she was undeserving of her good fortune, tears leaked from Xena eyes, even as she reached an arm up to clasp Gabrielle's hand tightly.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
"I don't deserve you."
Exasperated, the bard tossed up her hands.
"Will you stop with the self loathing already? You. Are. A. Good. Person. You help people! Okay? You deserve to be happy! So just shut up and ki-" she was cut off and Xena turned as far around as she could without falling off Argo, and kissed Gabrielle square on the mouth.
*A/N: Thanks for reading! Dedicated to my favorite Beta, (for our obsessive emails about Xena's face during the bacchae bite). You know who you are! I Love you!*