Damage Control by Della Street

Xena swung down off the horse and reached for a brown saddlebag. She wordlessly handed it to Gabrielle, who glanced up toward the house. Unwillingly, the bard's eyes strayed to a smaller residence farther down the road. That was where she would find Perdicus' parents. She closed her eyes for a moment.

"This is a good idea," she said to Xena's back, dipping her hand into the bag. "It'll be good to be home for a while." She pulled out two apples and stuffed them into Xena's satchel. "What are you going to do?"

The other woman did not reply.


No response.

Gabrielle looked at the stiff shoulders in front of her, her brow furrowed. She shrugged it off. Another one of Xena's cryptic moments. "When are you coming back?"

The warrior stood silently with one hand motionless on the saddle strap. She had rehearsed the words over and over in her mind, but now that the time had come, she couldn't say them. Her throat felt painfully swollen. She was close to losing it.

"Xena?" An edge of fear crept into the younger woman's voice. Gabrielle could be so perceptive. Sometimes.

"Xena?" Panic now. She knew. Xena wouldn't have to say it. She forced herself to swallow.

"It's for the best--" She wanted to add her friend's name, but couldn't. She used to like saying it. Loved it. But that was before.

"What are you saying?" Gabrielle's voice quivered; she was near tears. The knife slowly cutting Xena's heart in two twisted deeper. She had to get out of here.

Because I love you, Gabrielle, and I can't stand the pain anymore. Because you don't want me; you want to live here and have a family. A husband. Because I can't take the pain of waiting for someone else to come along and take you away from me. It's what Xena wanted to say, but she couldn't. "It's for the best," she repeated dully. She felt Gabrielle close the distance between them and stand directly behind her. If she tried, she could probably feel her friend's breath on her shoulder. She didn't try.

"You're not leaving me," Gabrielle said, more a plea than a question.

Xena mounted the horse in a quick motion. Summoning her strength, she met Gabrielle's tear-filled eyes. Her heart ached, but the pain that had been inflicted on it gave her the strength to finish this. "You'll be alright here. It's where you belong. Goodbye, Gabrielle." She turned Argo quickly and urged the horse into a gallop, willing herself not to look back.

* * *

Gabrielle disassembled her staff and placed it into her bag under the watchful eyes of her younger sister. "I'll bet you're glad to get out again," Lila said. Gabrielle shrugged.

Lila watched as her sister quietly continued preparations for the trip. It was nothing new; everything Gabrielle did over the past few months had been quiet. Still mourning over Perdicus, her mother assumed, but Lila had her own suspicions.

Gabrielle had described without difficulty, almost emotionlessly, Perdicus' death, but only shook her head when questioned about her parting from Xena. The Warrior Princess' name had been uttered by her only once, followed by a look of such pain that Lila had changed the subject quickly.

A month ago, a traveler had brought with him a new tale of the warrior. Lila reclined on her bed, deciding whether to mention it. "I spoke with a man from Terisae today," she said tentatively. Gabrielle had continued with her needlework, but Lila could tell she was listening. "He said--" She paused. Should she do this?

Gabrielle turned her head and raised her eyebrows in gentle inquiry. Lila traced her finger around a pattern on her quilt. "He said Xena was there a while ago." She glanced up and saw that Gabrielle's expression had changed. Lila couldn't quite place it, but there was something different. Her eyes . . . .

"She fought some of the king's guard who were attacking women in the village. He said," Lila smiled, almost giggling, "he said she caught them by dressing as a young maiden and going for a walk outside the village." She laughed. "Can you picture Xena as a helpless young maiden? I'll bet they were a little surprised."

Gabrielle returned her attention to her sewing, and did not reply.

"Have you ever seen Xena without her armor? I mean, in a regular dress?"

"Yes." Then nothing more from the bard.

Lila thought back to that day. Gabrielle had been interested -- intensely interested -- in hearing about Xena, but every word had seemed to strike her like a blow. Whatever had happened between them, Lila was sorry to see her sister so unhappy.

And now she was leaving for another adventure. Well, not much of an adventure, compared to what she was used to, Lila knew, just helping their cousin and his wife make the trip back to their home. Still, it was better than sitting around in Potedaia, doing the washing, ignoring the speculative gazes of the village's young men. Lila had seen them staring, intrigued with this new Gabrielle who seemed so . . . worldly. And that outfit she sometimes wore . . . .

Lila knew, and Gabrielle had to know, that the men had held back only out of respect for Perdicus. The reprieve wouldn't last much longer. She had already been approached by two or three anxious for her to partner with them at the festival next month.

A light rap sounded on the door, which swung open slowly. Their cousin Armus poked his head into the room. "About ready, Gabrielle?" His face wore that sweet, genuine smile that had always made him a family favorite.

Lila sighed. She didn't care about the age difference, she had told Gabrielle more than once. If Armus was available, she would marry him in an instant. She smiled back at him.

"I'm ready," Gabrielle said, picking up her bags. Armus hurried into the room and took them from her. "Um, I can handle it--" she began, but Armus was already outside with the bags.

"He's so gorgeous," Lila whispered.

Gabrielle frowned affectionately. "He's married, Lila."

"Hey, a girl can dream, can't she? There's someone out there for everyone." She took a chance. "Including you, Gabrielle."

The smile faded, and Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor. Lila walked over and placed her hands on her sister's shoulders. "Gabrielle, you lost someone you loved, but don't give up. You'll find someone--"

"OK, we're set." Armus had returned.

Gabrielle started to follow him, then turned back to her sister. "I don't think so," she said. She walked out the door.

* * *

The wagon rolled in on a dusty road which cut the village in two. "Do you want to get down?" Armus asked his pregnant wife. Very pregnant. Gabrielle had serious doubts as to whether they'd make it to Dyrrha before the big day.

She slid off the end of the wagon and walked up beside the other woman. "I'll get you a fresh washrag," she said. "Do you need anything else?" she added quietly as Armus dismounted on the other side.

The older woman shook her head, smiling.

Gabrielle glanced over at her cousin, who had stepped over to a water trough, and leaned in closer. "Are you feeling any better?"

"Yes. We don't need to stop."

"Tilda, if you're not well--"

"I'm fine."


Gabrielle's head jerked up at the sound. It wasn't hard to pinpoint its origin; bits of furniture and assorted men were expelled rapidly from a structure farther down the street. Suddenly a moving pile emerged, which Gabrielle recognized as half a dozen men clinging to a familiar form.

Armus hastily returned to the cart and positioned himself between the women and the trouble ahead. Annoyed, Gabrielle stepped out from behind him for an unobstructed view.

She heard a loud grunt, and one of the men fell under the impact of a dark boot. A feminine laugh followed, and two others were swung together by strong arms, their skulls colliding with a loud thud. The blonde head turned to see another half dozen men run from the building and jump on the Warrior Princess, knocking her to the ground.

Gabrielle hurriedly grabbed her saddlebag and pulled out the two pieces of wood. With quick motions, she assembled the staff and started for the fray, only to find herself held up by her long skirt. She reached down and, taking a firm grip on the bottom of the cloth, tore it forcefully. Armus and Tilda turned at the sound, surprised to see their little cousin wielding a sturdy weapon, her skirt rent all the way up to her thigh.

"Gabrielle, what--" Armus reached out to her, but Gabrielle raced past him, striking out at the first ill-mannered brute she saw. Her staff came down on another of Xena's attackers, then another. Xena, still on the ground beneath a mass of humanity, was obviously inflicting some damage of her own. Gabrielle couldn't see what she was doing, but she occasionally heard masculine cries of pain, followed by injured men flying or crawling past her.

She drew nearer to the center of the action, dodging a fist aimed in her direction and returning the favor with a sharp blow to the solar plexus. She raised her staff, but the pile writhing on the ground was too fluid; she couldn't be certain she would miss Xena.

A determined shout floated up from the ground, and the three men still hanging on to the warrior flew outward in all directions. Gabrielle heard a triumphant laugh, then felt her leg pulled out from under her. In an instant Xena was on top of her, her fist raised.

"Xena, no!"

"Gabrielle?" Xena gazed down into those stunning eyes . . . .

A board cracked across her back and head, and she collapsed on top of the smaller woman. She raised her head, slightly dazed, and twisted it enough to see the coward raise the board again. She positioned herself to shield the body beneath her, and absorbed the full impact of the blow, blood spilling onto Gabrielle's cheek.

Xena snarled and leapt to her feet. Before her attacker could react, she had grabbed the makeshift weapon and tossed it away, then landed a blow with her fist that silenced him. She looked around; none of her challengers remained on the scene.

She turned at the sound of Gabrielle picking herself off the ground, and they faced each other. "Are you all right?" Xena asked, resisting the urge to touch Gabrielle to reassure herself as she had done a hundred times before.

"I'm fine, but you're hurt," Gabrielle said. She reached out her fingers to dark, bloody hair. Xena pulled back, and Gabrielle withdrew her hand.

Armus rushed up to them. "Gabrielle, are you all right?" He pressed her head against his chest. At her nod, he turned to the striking figure standing before him, an arm still around his favorite cousin.

"Are you all right, uh, . . . ."


"Xena," he repeated, and then his eyes widened. "Xena? The--" The woman's face darkened, and he cut off his question. "You took quite a blow," he said, afraid to say anything more. One couldn't take a chance on angering the Warrior Princess.

He tilted his head down to the woman under his arm. "Gabrielle, honey, why don't you go back to the wagon. Check on the water." When Gabrielle did not move, he turned back to Xena. "We're on our way to Dyrrha."

Xena could feel herself growing faint. She needed medical attention, but she was riveted to the spot. "What's in Dyrrha?" she asked casually. She couldn't bring herself to address Gabrielle.

"My home. We were just in Potedaia for a visit, and now we're headed back."

Xena looked at him, at his protective arm around Gabrielle, and stumbled slightly. She raised her hand to her head and drew her fingers away, noting the blood. Gabrielle started to reach for her but was held back, more by Xena's wary expression than by her relative's embrace.

The warrior held out her palm. "I'll be fine. Thanks for your help," she said to Gabrielle. She didn't know whether to be grateful or irritated for the man's presence, which prevented her from saying anything further. She turned and headed back toward the building.

As she reached the entrance, she stumbled again, obviously weakened by her injury. Gabrielle instinctively began to move toward her, but a young, dark-haired woman approached and slid an arm around Xena's waist. Gabrielle couldn't hear what the two were saying, but Xena put an arm around the woman's shoulder and leaned against her as they walked back inside.

Gabrielle stared after them. She didn't know why she was surprised. Xena had gotten used to travelling with someone; she seemed to like it. Of course she would have a new companion. They had separate lives now.

"What were you thinking, Gabrielle?" Armus laid a hand on the bard's shoulder. "That was the Warrior Princess."

"I know."

"She might have killed you."

"No, she wouldn't." Gabrielle shook her head.

"I know she seemed nice just now," Armus said, "but you should hear some of the stories about her."

"I've heard them. She's not like that any more."

Armus nodded. "Uh huh. You shouldn't believe everything you hear, Gabrielle."

"That's right," she replied curtly. She didn't want to listen to this. "I'm going to get some fruit," she said, striding quickly away from him.

A few minutes later, a blonde head peeked through the window at the back of the grocer's shop. Swinging her leg over the sill, Gabrielle climbed outside and edged behind the building next door, which turned out to be a tavern. Of course. Taverns rarely remained unscathed when Xena paid her custom.

She tiptoed across the threshold of the back entrance, intending to slip up to the main room and sneak another glance at the Warrior Princess and the other woman. After a few steps she froze, and pressed herself against the wall. She could hear them clearly in the back room.

"There. Does it still hurt?"

"No, it's fine."

"I think the bleeding has stopped."

"Yeah, it's fine."

A small smile crept across Gabrielle's features. Typical Xena, no injury worthy of the attention of others.

"You certainly have a lot of . . . encounters," the unfamiliar voice said delicately.

"I know a lot of people, and a lot of people know me. I have a history with some of them."

"Is that why we went around Potedaia? You've had trouble with someone there before?"

There was a slight pause. "Something like that."

"I don't know, Xena. Maybe we should stay here until this heals."

"Hey, we have a commitment, remember?"

"Of course I remember." Xena's companion was smiling, Gabrielle could tell. "The happiest day of my life. But a few more days won't matter." Silence -- Xena declining to respond, thereby informing her listener of the finality of her decision, Gabrielle translated -- and then the other woman spoke again. "I'm a little nervous about meeting your mother."

"She'll love you. You're family now, Carissa." Gabrielle cocked her head; it sounded like Xena was getting to her feet now. "Come on, let's get packed up."

Gabrielle heard two sets of footsteps fade away. She leaned against the wall and replayed the conversation in her mind. After a few minutes, its immediate import made itself known to her. Xena and the other woman were headed for Amphipolis. She and Armus and Tilda were headed for Dyrrha. It was the same road.

She hurried out the back and around the building to the wagon. "Let's go," she said, hopping up onto the riding board. She checked on Tilda, who was resting comfortably in the back. "Come on," she urged.

"What's the hurry?" Armus asked.

"I've heard there's been some trouble in this area at night," she said. "If we leave now, maybe they won't catch up to us."

"Catch up to us?"

"I mean we won't be in the area if there's trouble. I really think we should go." Gabrielle leaned in close to Armus. "For Tilda's sake," she said.

Armus shrugged, and urged the horse forward.

* * *

Gabrielle helped her in-law walk slowly back from the creek. She didn't like Tilda's color; the woman wouldn't admit it, but Gabrielle suspected she was feeling ill again. "Why don't we rest here?" she suggested, sitting on a log and helping the other woman down beside her. She started to speak again, but suddenly she heard a loud cry from the direction of their campsite, followed by another.

She jumped up. "Wait here."

As she drew near, Gabrielle's heart raced. The bard easily recognized the sounds--men were attacking the camp. She ran faster, knowing that gentle Armus would be no match for them. She tore through the bushes, now even more alarmed that the noise had stopped.

With a determined leap, Gabrielle emerged into the clearing, then halted. Her cousin sat stiffly on a log, cradling an arm that was bleeding badly. Next to him, bandaging the wound, was Xena.

Gabrielle glanced around, noting three still forms in various locations, then returned her gaze to her former travelling companion. She walked over to Armus and looked at his arm, conscious of her nearness to Xena.

"Our paths cross again," Armus laughed nervously. "Funny."

Yeah, funny, Gabrielle thought.

"I don't know how to thank you, Xena," Armus continued. "I don't know what I would have done--"

The warrior cut him off. "No problem. I'm just glad I was nearby."

"And why was that?" Gabrielle asked.

Armus looked up at her, trying to warn her with his eyes. Of course Gabrielle didn't mean it that way, but the question almost sounded impertinent.

"I'm on my way to Amphipolis," Xena replied. "It's the same road. I'm camped not far from here."

Gabrielle moved her head at the sound of a branch crackling. "Help me move these," she said, grabbing the closest of the bodies by the ankles. Good, it was in one piece. She turned to Xena. "Hurry!"

Armus closed his eyes. By the gods, the girl had no common sense. Ordering the Warrior Princess around like--He looked up, surprised, as Xena strode quickly over to another corpse and dragged it in the direction Gabrielle indicated.

"What's the rush?" she asked.

"Tilda's coming." Gabrielle grunted as she shoved her burden into the brush. "I don't want her to see them."

Xena tossed the third body unceremoniously next to the other two, then stepped back into the clearing. "Who's Tilda?"

"My wife," Armus answered, just as the woman in question came into view across the campsite. Gabrielle walked over to her and extended a hand.

"Your wife," Xena said evenly.

"Yes. I'm sorry I didn't introduce ourselves earlier," Armus said. "I didn't think you'd-- Uh, anyway, my name is Armus, and that's my cousin, Gabrielle."

"Your cousin."

"Yes. My wife hasn't been well. Gabrielle's helping us make the trip home."

Xena watched the gentle bard help the other woman into a comfortable position on a thick bedroll, then looked away as Gabrielle straightened and turned in her direction. "Well, I'll be going now," she said. "Good luck on your trip."

"Wait! Please, have some dinner with us," Armus urged.

Xena shook her head. "I really need to get back to camp," she said. "I left a friend there."

"Are these woods unsafe?" Tilda asked.

"No," the warrior reassured her, "I don't think there's anyone else out here."

"Well, then a few minutes won't hurt," Armus said. "Please."

Xena glanced surreptitiously at Gabrielle, and decided her expression was encouraging. It wasn't openly hostile, anyway. "Thanks." She sat back down on the log.

Armus handed their guest a wing, and she brought it to her lips. Xena looked across the small campsite at Gabrielle, who was silently working on a thigh. She couldn't take this any more. "How's your mother?" she asked quietly.

Armus exchanged confused glances with his wife. He opened his mouth to speak, but then heard Gabrielle's soft voice. "She's fine."

"And Lila?"

The two women were focused on each other now, their astonished audience forgotten.

"She's good," Gabrielle said. "How have you been, Xena?"

"Oh, you know, the usual. People trying to kill me." She smiled. "How about you?"

"I haven't been so good."

Xena could sense where this was headed, and she got to her feet. "I'm sorry to hear that. I've got to be going," she said to Armus.

Gabrielle rose. "Are you really?"


"Sorry to hear that."

"Of course I am. I care about you."

"Then tell me why."

Xena raised her hand. "I don't want to argue with you, Gabrielle. It was nice to see you again, and to know that you're all right."

"I don't want to argue," Gabrielle said. "I just want to know why."

Xena looked at her, Gabrielle's expression somewhere between anger and despair. She couldn't tell her.

Gabrielle turned away. "Fine. Go back to your friend. She probably thinks you ran out on her."

Xena stared at her back for a moment, then pivoted and started away from camp. She didn't want to discuss it, especially in front of strangers. Your friend. The way Gabrielle had said it . . . . Xena halted her stride. Did Gabrielle think she had wanted a different companion? She turned back. "By the way, Toris says hello."

Civility took its place over anger. "How is he?" Gabrielle asked.

"Fine. He's getting married next week. I'm escorting his betrothed to the wedding," she added casually.

"His betrothed?"

Xena nodded. "Her name's Carissa."

Gabrielle paused, absorbing the new information, then realized she hadn't responded. "Oh. That's nice. Tell him hello for me."

"I will." Then Xena was gone. Gabrielle gazed at the spot where she had stood.

"You know the Warrior Princess?"

Gabrielle started. She had forgotten about her relatives. "We used to be friends," she said. She began to pace, her mind churning.

"Friends? With a--" An image of Gabrielle swinging her staff popped into his head, and Armus let the question fade.

"I told you, she's not that way any more," Gabrielle answered mechanically, irritated at the distraction from her train of thought.

"So what happened?"

She raised her head.

"Why aren't you friends any more?" Armus asked.

"I wish I knew." Gabrielle laughed weakly, and then the smile faded. She did want to know. Desperately. "I'll be back," she said, and disappeared into the trees.

She followed Xena's trail easily, clear moonlight lighting the path. Gabrielle saw a flash of light, and noticed a small reflecting pool ahead to the right. She returned her eyes to the trail, but something registered from the corner of her eye and she stopped. Xena was there, perched on a flat rock, pitching strands of grass into the water.

Gabrielle considered her options, but knew she really only had one. No matter what she did, Xena would know she was coming. Gabrielle just hoped she wouldn't run.

She walked slowly up to the silent figure. The bard debated for a moment, then sat down on the edge of the rock Xena was sitting on. "I miss you, Xena," she said. She hadn't planned it, but now it was out.

Xena sighed. "I miss you too, Gabrielle."

"Then why did you leave me?"

"It was the best thing for you."

Ordinarily a statement like that would have triggered a fiery lecture about Xena patronizing her, but this hurt too much. "Why?" she asked softly.

"You wanted to get married, go home, have a life there," Xena said. "You weren't going to have that with me."

Gabrielle studied her face. "Why didn't you let me make that decision?"

Xena weighed her response. It didn't matter any more if she lost Gabrielle by telling her; she'd already lost her. She was too tired to fight it any longer, anyway. "Because I couldn't."

Gabrielle waited.

"I couldn't take it any more, Gabrielle." Xena sighed. "You're not going to want to hear this." She looked over at the bard. Of course she wanted to hear it. "I loved you, and you left me."

"You . . . ."

"Loved you, Gabrielle." She avoided her friend's gaze. "I was in love with you, had been for a long time. I wasn't what you wanted, and I knew that. But it was worth it to be with you. You were there, even if . . . ." Xena shook her head, chiding herself. "When you left to get married, I realized I had to save my own life. It wasn't worth the pain any more."

They sat silently, watching moonlight glimmer on the water nearby.

"How do you feel about me now?" Gabrielle asked quietly.

"I don't know." It was a lie. She loved the woman sitting next to her more than she could ever hope to love anyone. But she had already made enough gut-wrenching confessions for one night.

"I want to be with you, Xena."

The warrior closed her eyes. She needed to take control of this situation before she lost it completely. "Well, you can't," she said bluntly.

"I want to be with you for the rest of my life."

Xena opened her eyes.

"I love you, Xena. I love you, and I have never loved anyone else. I thought I did, but I know now." Gabrielle let loose the words that had been bottled up for months. "I want to marry you."

Xena stood abruptly. "You don't know what you're talking about, Gabrielle. I can't give you a home, I can't give you children." She looked down at the younger woman. "You don't even know if you . . ." -- she hesitated, trying to be delicate -- "would like . . . ." She pursed her lips, searching for the words.

"Making love to you?"

The Warrior Princess felt herself coloring, something she hadn't experienced in years. She didn't reply.

Gabrielle rose. "I know I love you, and that I want to make you happy." She stepped closer to Xena. "And I like touching you." She put her hands on the leather waist.

Xena removed her hands. "Don't, Gabrielle."

"You said you loved me. Don't you want to touch me?"

"Of course I do," Xena replied, then realized what she had said. Gabrielle raised her fingers to the taller woman's face, and Xena felt her heart pounding. No. This was happening too fast. For all she knew, her friend was just reacting to seeing her again. If they made love and then Gabrielle decided to leave her, Xena didn't know how she would get through it.

"Wait," she said quietly. Gabrielle paused. "I want you to think about this, Gabrielle." She held the smaller hands in hers. "If it's right now, it'll be right later."

* * *

Xena walked tentatively through the forest. She hesitated, afraid to go any further, then took a deep breath and continued. She approached the pool and slowed her stride, eyes wandering across the area.


The warrior's heart sank, and she sat down on the rock where Gabrielle had professed to love her a month earlier. She closed her eyes. She wished she hadn't seen Gabrielle again. Now she had even more pain to push aside. She sighed.


Xena's head spun around. A sleepy-eyed Gabrielle sat up from behind a low bush and rubbed her face. She looked beautiful, mussed hair and all. The bard stood and faced her, smiling. "Sorry. Guess I fell asleep."

"How long have you been here?"

"Three days." Gabrielle met Xena's gaze. "I didn't want to miss you."

Xena felt a dull thud begin in her chest.

Gabrielle walked over to her, stopping a few feet in front of the warrior. "I'm glad you came," she said.

Nothing could have kept her away, but Xena would not admit that. "Did your cousins make it home?" she asked.

"Barely." Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "Tilda had her baby two days after we arrived. A girl. How was Toris' wedding?"


Their eyes met, and the women were silent for a moment. Then Gabrielle spoke. "Have you thought about what I said?"

"Have you?" Xena dodged.

Gabrielle drew closer until there was almost no space between them. "Have you thought about it, Xena?" she persisted.

Xena could not look away. "Yes."

"I've thought about it too," Gabrielle said. "Every day. You know what I thought about?"

She shook her head.

"I thought about how much I love you. And how much I need you. And . . . ."

Xena waited, her heart pounding.

"And . . . how much I want to touch you." Gabrielle leaned down. "And kiss you," she whispered. She touched her lips to Xena's, and closed her eyes. After a moment, she spoke again, her voice low. "Make love to me, Xena. Please."

Gabrielle took Xena's hand and tugged her gently to her feet, then led her to the blanket where she had been sleeping. Gabrielle lowered herself to the blanket and gazed up at the woman she loved. The dark-haired woman looked at her and sank to her knees.

* * *

Xena relaxed into Gabrielle with a groan. The bard's arms circled Xena's back, hands smoothing while her lover's breathing calmed. After a moment, her fingers gripped Xena's shoulders, then trailed suggestively down the muscular arms.

Xena lifted her head, an eyebrow raised.

Gabrielle smiled back at her. "I like it," she said.

"So I gather."

Gabrielle took Xena's face into her hands. "This is our ceremony," she said, kissing Xena gently.

Later, Xena thought back to those words. Their ceremony. She smiled. Certainly the nectar on her lips was as intoxicating as any celebratory wine, she thought, and Gabrielle's utterance of her name at the height of ecstasy as telling as any ritual vow.

She gazed at the beauty sleeping beside her, blonde head resting against her shoulder. She brushed back a strand of soft hair and smiled. Desire began to stir again, and Xena considered waking her young lover. She looked down again at Gabrielle's peaceful expression, and decided it could wait. They had the rest of their lives for more ceremonies.



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