I wrote another thing real quick. It’s post-my ending (AKA THE REAL ENDING) of AFiN. It’s like… one part angst, two parts fluff? Maybe the other way around. Eh. IN ANY CASE HERE YOU GO
Tension hung between them as Gabrielle spread their bedrolls in the grass. Being back in Greece was a relief after everything that had happened in Japan, but something still didn’t feel quite right. Xena poked rigidly at the embers of their campfire, her eyes darting from her saddlebags to the fireflies in the distance and then back to the smoldering ashes. She was always quiet, but she’d been unusually withdrawn for the past couple of weeks.
Probably still upset about not being allowed to sacrifice herself for those souls. Gabrielle frowned. Did she really have that much of a death wish? Clearly her own faith in her redemption was weaker than Gabrielle had thought.
“Xena,” she said with a sigh and sat next to her. Xena didn’t look up until Gabrielle touched her arm.
“Are you okay?” It was a stupid question, but she felt compelled to ask it anyway.
A ghost of a smile tugged at the corner of Xena’s mouth. “Yeah,” she said, her eyes softening as they met Gabrielle’s. “I was just…”
“Thinking?” Gabrielle finished for her. She reached out to take Xena’s hands and ran her thumbs over the roughness of her knuckles. Xena squeezed reassuringly. They were a warrior’s hands, strong and hard, but they knew how to be gentle.
“Yeah,” Xena said again.
Gabrielle tugged at her, nodding towards the bedrolls she’d pulled together in customary pallet formation. “Don’t.” Xena started to shake her head, but Gabrielle insisted. “Come on, Xena. It’s late. Lie down with me. Please?”
Xena’s smile warmed a little and Gabrielle knew she’d won. “You know I can’t say no to you when you ask so nicely,” Xena said, a touch of humor in her voice. Gabrielle grinned. It was good to see her coming back into herself.
“I could ask a lot more nicely than that,” Gabrielle said, her voice low and sultry, as she ran a hand up Xena’s thigh underneath her robe. Xena swatted her away and she frowned. “What?”
“I just don’t feel like it yet.”
“Xena,” Gabrielle chided, pulling her down into their nest of blankets. “You can’t keep agonizing like this. You didn’t do anything wrong. Everything is going to be just fine. You’re allowed to enjoy yourself, you know.”
Xena turned away, her mouth half-open, searching for the right words. Gabrielle pulled one of her hands to herself and kissed the flesh of her palm and then the inside of her wrist. Xena shivered.
“No guilt,” Gabrielle whispered, massaging her hand as she planted another light, slow kiss farther up her forearm where the robe fell away, the muscle hard under her lips. “Just us.”
Xena didn’t meet her gaze. Gabrielle rose and moved to straddle her, reached for her chin and tilted her face to look into her eyes.
“I love you, Gabrielle,” Xena said, her voice breaking. Gabrielle’s pulse quickened. Her chest still fluttered every time she heard those words. She cherished them like the most rare and precious of gems. She swore she would remember each and every time Xena ever said those words.
She swept her eyes over the lean, perfect body beneath her, and then something occurred to her. She pulled Xena’s robe open and pushed it off her shoulders.
“Wait,” Gabrielle said softly. “I need to see.”
Xena shifted accordingly to help Gabrielle remove the last of her clothing.
Gabrielle reached out and touched her shoulder where an arrow had pierced her broken, hanging body. Understanding lit in Xena’s eyes as she took a long, shaky breath.
Her fingers trailed from one shoulder to the other, then down her arm, then down her chest to her stomach where she let her touch linger. No new scars. A vision of Xena’s body, mutilated and riddled with arrows, flashed in her mind and her throat clenched. She touched the familiar scar on Xena’s chest, the old one. It was still her body, somehow. It was still her.
“Gabrielle,” Xena said, softly this time, soothing and slow and warm. Gabrielle rolled off of her and collapsed into her, burying her face in her shoulder. Xena’s arms enveloped her, firm, solid. Real. “I’m here,” Xena whispered, running her fingers through her hair. Gabrielle pushed harder into her shoulder, wanting the closeness to chase the memories away. “I’m here now,” Xena repeated, kissing the top of her head. “I’m not gonna leave you again. It’s all right.”
“You don’t know what it was like,” Gabrielle said, her voice muffled and quivering. “Finding you like that and—“
Xena cut her off and pushed her back to look into her eyes. “Shh. Don’t, Gabrielle, no.” A pleading note edged her voice. “It’ll just upset you more. Looks like we both have some things we need to work on not thinking about, huh?”
Gabrielle nodded, shaking now. Xena hugged her and held her tight. As usual, Xena put her own feelings aside to jump to comfort her partner. She was always doing that. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and one of the things Gabrielle loved best about her.
Gabrielle sat up and sighed. Xena looked up at her, her eyes light and piercing even in the dark. Those eyes begged her to forget, to be happy, to love her and let herself be loved. The constriction in her chest slowly unfurled as she touched Xena’s cheek and then her lips. Xena kissed her fingertips, sending tingles shooting up her arm. She pulled at the strings on Gabrielle’s own robe and watched it fall away.
Xena sat up, reached behind her neck and captured her lips. Gabrielle moved willingly into her, craving the contact, the familiarity, the assurance that everything between them would be the same as it’d always been. She pushed Xena’s mouth open with her own and sucked in a hard breath at the warm, curling pressure of Xena’s tongue against hers. Xena responded in kind, and for a moment the kiss was almost frantic, Xena’s ragged breaths and reassuring murmurs filling her ears as their fingers raced to shed the rest of their clothes.
Then she twisted and Xena caught sight of her tattoo and paused. “Turn around,” she said, marveling—reverent, almost. Gabrielle slumped.
“I hate it,” she said. It was just another reminder of everything that happened, everything she would burn the Fates’ loom a thousand times over to take back. Xena adamantly shook her head.
“It suits you. It honors your strength…” She kissed between Gabrielle’s shoulder blades and the bard found her breaths quickening again. “…your courage.” Another kiss, lower this time. “You—“ A kiss at the small of her back. Xena’s hands roamed over her body as she spoke. “—are the bravest person I’ve ever met.” Gabrielle stiffened as Xena’s hands worked at her hips, traced patterns over her inner thighs. Her eyes fell closed and her blood sang. “And the kindest, and the purest.”
She wheeled around to push Xena back down, her hand resting in the center of her chest. She stared down at her, her gaze unyielding, taking all of her in by force. Xena froze, staring back, seeming to give way to her command. Her breathing drowned out the chirping of crickets and crackling of the embers in the fire. All of Gabrielle’s senses were flooded with nothing but Xena, the nervous flicker of her eyes, the clean smell of her, the pooling of her long, dark hair against their pillows.
“You are my tree in the forest,” Gabrielle said, her voice even and serious, her gaze still unbroken. Xena reached to trace the curve of her hip, her lips parted slightly, as she returned Gabrielle’s stare in open, unadulterated awe.
Xena looked at her like that the whole time and it filled her with a heady, reckless joy. Every time she looked into those endless blue eyes she saw herself as Xena saw her: a golden lioness in the night, an idol, a goddess. Xena worshipped her with her hands and her mouth, made her tremble and cry out and dig fresh marks into that new, unmarred flesh.
“Now, these are battle scars I can wear with no guilt,” Xena said, motioning at the scratches on her back and arms, with a lightness that filled Gabrielle with relief. They both laughed, uneasily at first, but then again with abandon and bliss.
Xena kissed her tenderly, cupping her cheek, and she was fragile and young again for a few fleeting moments.
“Xena,” she whispered, trailing her fingertips across her lips, “you’re mine, aren’t you?”
Xena grabbed her hand and kissed it over and over. “Only yours. Forever.”
They lay together, safe in each other’s arms, and Gabrielle felt as infinite as the night sky. Xena’s lips painted stars on the canvas of her body until she could no longer sense them, lulled into half-sleep by the final darkness left in the campfire’s wake.
No matter what happened, her mind whispered as dreams took her, some part of her would live forever in this moment. No future could take this away from her: the peace, the warmth of Xena’s arms against the cool night air. She had never once been more sure of every decision—every mistake, every tortured step down every rugged path—in her life that had led her here, to where she belonged, and to the place she’d always remain.