THE HEART KNOWS
By Pink Rabbit Productions
|Disclaimer: These characters
belong to MCA Universal, Renaissance Pictures, et al.
Furthermore, there's sex ahead--though frankly, it's of such a
benign form, that I can't see where it could possibly be
construed as illegal, other than in Iran, however, in the
interest of playing by the rules--so, if it's illegal where you
are, you're underage, easily offended, or inclined to worship
Newt Gingrich, you should just head out now.
Xena awoke abruptly, muscles tense, ears alert for the sound that had
disturbed her sleep. She snapped to a half crouch, her movements only
slightly less graceful than normal. She still wasn't used to the
unfamiliar body. Once again, she cursed Callisto and Ares for the
machinations that had trapped her in a madwoman's flesh. Her eyes
touched on Gabrielle's blankets, a frown creasing her brow as she
realized the bard was missing. Heart pounding with fear--had Callisto
found her way out of Tartarus again--she searched the surrounding
forest. She let out a soft sigh of relief when she finally spotted the
pale glow of Gabrielle's hair. She was sitting on a downed log, a
considerable distance from the fire, arms wrapped tightly around her
upthrust legs, chin resting on her knees, rocking gently as she stared
into the distance. Her narrow shoulders trembled with every harsh
The sight was enough to shatter Xena's heart. As much as it hurt, she
accepted that the bard had loved Perdicus. Losing him was tearing her to
pieces and seeing Gabrielle in so much pain was doing the same to Xena.
She didn't even know if she should offer the bard a comforting
shoulder while wearing the face of her husband's murderer. Afraid she'd
only make things worse, she stood paralyzed with indecision as the soft
shudders went on. Finally, she couldn't ignore her friend's pain
anymore, and she moved forward. Her voice low, as though speaking to a
frightened animal, she whispered the younger woman's name.
"Gabrielle." And curved a hand to a trembling shoulder.
Tear rimmed eyes lifted to meet Xena's gaze, and the warrior felt the
shiver that shook the bard. Startled, Gabrielle started to pull away,
only to catch herself mid-gesture and freeze in place.
A barely controlled urge to flee knotted the muscles beneath Xena's
hand, and she flinched from the pain in her friend's eyes. "I...I'm
sorry," she stammered, believing her proximity had further
disturbed the younger woman. That was the last thing she ever wanted to
do. "I...I'll go..." She started to turn away.
"No..." Gabrielle breathed almost inaudibly.
Xena froze as warm fingers curved to her palm.
"Okay," she exhaled uncertainly as she pivoted back.
Gabrielle swallowed hard, and struggled to speak for a moment, before
settling on the bland apology. "I'm sorry I woke you."
Xena shook her head, and sank down onto log, well aware of the rough
bark against the back of her legs. "Don't be," she dismissed,
pushing blond hair away from her face as she questioned, "Do you
want to talk about it?"
The bard shrugged one shoulder, but maintained her hold on Xena's
hand as she stared off into the distance.
"I know you miss Perdicus," Xena began gently, but
Gabrielle shook her head.
"Not really," she disagreed. "It's like it wasn't even
real...." She paused for a long moment, struggling to collect her
thoughts before she spoke again. "Everything's happened so fast....
I keep thinking it's just a nightmare...and hoping...hoping I'll wake
up." She looked over at Xena, only to jerk her head back around as
she caught sight of the body that now housed her best friend. "It's
all so insane," she muttered to herself.
Xena started to curve a hand to Gabrielle's shoulder, but pulled back
just before she contacted warm flesh. She dropped her fingers to her own
thigh, without Gabrielle noting the gesture. "I'm sorry," she
apologized, uncertain whether she was asking forgiveness for the crimes
committed by the body she was in, her own failure to protect her friend,
or even the events that had brought Callisto into existence.
"It's not your fault," the bard sighed sadly.
"Isn't it?" Xena stared down at her free hand, noting the
unfamiliar length and slenderness of another woman's fingers. She closed
them into a fist, feeling less strength than she was used to. "My
actions brought this about...my failure let it continue...and my guilt
brought it back to life." She slowly opened her fingers, studying
the lines that crisscrossed Callisto's palm. On the dreamscape, she'd
told the madwoman she had to deal with her own crimes, but it wasn't
quite the truth. Gabrielle had to deal with them as well. "I'd give
my life to undo the damage," she admitted.
"Don't say that," Gabrielle hissed, and tightened her hold
on Xena's hand while keeping her eyes straight ahead.
The resolute way she stared into the distance was very nearly Xena's
undoing. "You can't even look at me," she whispered, so lost
in her own misery that she wasn't aware she'd spoken until the words
were already out of her mouth.
Gabrielle shuddered at the softly spoken comment, and her chin came
around. "It's not that," she denied, barely forcing the words
past the tightness in her throat.
"It's okay...I understand...." Xena murmured. "Seeing
me...like this...must..." She took a deep breath, and let it out in
an effort to calm her raging emotions. "If you want me to go, I
will...I don't want to hurt you...ever...."
Gabrielle tilted her head back, staring briefly up at the stars as
though they might help her with what lay ahead. "I know that,"
she choked. Her expression turned oddly reflective. "I've always
known that." She lifted the hand twined with hers, studying the
complex array of bone and sinew. That hand had driven a sword through
Perdicus, ending the life of the boy she'd grown up with. She ran the
pad of her thumb lightly over the ridge of Xena's knuckles. But now, the
mind that drove it belonged to her best friend. "That's
why..." She shook her head. It was all so confusing. "I should
have known..." She outlined the complex path of pale blue chords,
and veins that moved across the back of Callisto's--no--Xena's hand.
Focusing on that narrow field of view allowed her to ignore the dark
eyes watching her so intently, and the darker thoughts flowing through
her brain. "You'd never try to ... hurt me...like that...."
Xena frowned, not understanding. "Gabrielle?" she
whispered, brushing silky, strawberry blond hair away from the bard's
forehead. Dread making her heart pound painfully hard, she voiced the
question suddenly gnawing at her. "How did she hurt you?"
The young woman just shook her head.
Xena continued tenderly petting Gabrielle's hair, soothing her the
same way she would a frightened child. "Whatever happened? You can
tell me about it." Even as she said the words, Xena had to struggle
to breathe through the band tightening around her chest. A part of her
was terrified of the truth, wanted to run away from it. As long as she
didn't know, maybe it wasn't real. No-- she couldn't help Gabrielle that
The bard let out a soft whimper, shaking her head and she tightened
her hold on Xena's hand. "I should have known you
wouldn't....want..." she trailed off. "But, I'd
thought...wanted...for so long...." She fell silent again, knowing
she wasn't making any sense, and not wanting to reveal anymore than she
already had. Finally, she just shook her head. "You wouldn't,"
she repeated, sounding heartbroken.
Xena tucked her fingers under the bard's chin, bringing her head up
until their eyes met. She had to resist the urge to flinch as she saw
Callisto's image reflected in the expanded pupils of the bard's eyes.
Her voice was soft, but clear, and rich with command as she murmured,
"Wouldn't what? What happened, Gabrielle?"
Diamond tears slipped over softly rounded cheeks, and full lips
worked silently for a moment.
"I can't," the bard's voice creaked mid-word.
"Yes, you can...I can't help you, if you won't talk to me."
Gabrielle suddenly let out a half hysterical burst of laughter, and
buried her face in her upthrust knees.
"Okay," Xena soothed. "It's okay." She wanted to
take Gabrielle in her arms, and undo all the pain Callisto had caused,
but knew it wasn't that simple. She slid an arm across the bard's
shoulders, absorbing the shudders that wracked her slender frame.
"Please, talk to me," she begged.
Silence hung between them for a long time before Gabrielle spoke
softly, her voice muffled. "She came to me that night...I thought
it was you..."
Xena just held onto the bard tightly, letting her tell it in her own
"She wasn't...wearing...anything...and she kissed me...she
said...now I'd been...with Perdicus...I...it...was time...."
"Oh...God...no..." Xena breathed so softly that the young
woman didn't hear her.
"I...didn't know...what to...do...so she took...it
Xena felt hot tears burn her eyes as she hugged Gabrielle close.
"I am so sorry," she whispered, her voice rough with emotion.
Silently cursing Callisto for hurting the one person who'd never done
anything to deserve it, Xena whispered comforting nonsense phrases.
Callisto had realized just how much she was in love with Gabrielle and
used it against them both, making certain she could never be a part of
the bard's life without the spectre of rape lying between them.
"I'd thought about...touching...you...I...wanted....I
"It's not your fault," Xena insisted intently. She
carefully lifted the bard's chin, stroking her smooth cheek with a
"I...thought...it... was...you..." Gabrielle whispered in
an anguished voice. "That's the only...reason...I...."
Xena could guess at what was going on in the younger woman's mind and
wanted to spare her any further pain. "You don't have to say
anymore," she murmured, trying to draw Gabrielle close again.
The bard pulled back, shaking her head. "You don't
understand," she rasped. "Even though it hurt...a part of
me...enjoyed it...because I thought it was you...What kind of person
could like...that...." Disgust and self-doubt threaded through her
voice, tearing at both of them.
Xena wanted to hit something, and keep striking until she didn't have
to think anymore. How dare Callisto use her body to do this to
Gabrielle. Damn her the deepest part of Tartarus. But, she couldn't give
way to the rage, not if she was going to help the bard. She smoothed a
hand through silky hair as much to calm her own raging emotions as to
soothe Gabrielle's pain. She swallowed hard, struggling to find words.
It had never occurred to her that Gabrielle had ever thought about them
together as anything but friends. She leaned forward until their
foreheads just touched. "You are the...finest...person I've ever
known. Callisto's actions can't change that...nothing can change
that..." Her eyes slid closed as the words were torn from her
chest. She felt the faint touch of Gabrielle's fingertips on her cheek.
"You're crying," the bard exhaled.
"I only wanted to protect you, and I couldn't," Xena
whispered in a self-lacerating voice. She blinked in shock, a heartbeat
later when she tasted the gentlest of kisses. Gabrielle pulled back, as
though uncertain the gesture would be welcomed. "It's all
right," Xena exhaled, her warm breath washing across the younger
woman's face. She slipped her fingers into the baby-fine hair at the
nape of Gabrielle's neck, neither pulling her closer, nor pushing her
Gabrielle lifted the hand still linked with hers to press her lips to
the back, tasting the warmth of Xena's skin. "It wasn't you,"
she breathed as if to remind them both.
Soft shivers slid down Xena's spine in response to the light caress.
She'd wanted the younger woman for so long that she didn't quite know
how to deal with this. "Gabrielle," she husked, and used the
hand resting on the back of the bard's neck to gently tug her head up.
"I don't know...what you...want," she faltered and fell
silent, well aware of the green eyes studying her face with desperate
intensity. She didn't move--couldn't move when she felt Gabrielle shift,
slowly unfolding her legs as she lifted her free hand to Xena's cheek.
She closed her eyes, hiding her face in the curve of Xena's throat.
"Say my name," Gabrielle whispered.
Frowning, Xena murmured, "Gabrielle?" She could feel the
warmth of the bard's breath on her throat and chest, while delicate
fingers outlined the unfamiliar planes of Callisto's features.
"Again," the bard pleaded, while she continued the tactile
study of her friend's new visage. There was always a special intonation
when her name slid off Xena's lips, and she desperately needed that
small bit of comfort and reassurance. During that moment, she could
almost forget the recent tragedies that had blown through her life.
"Gabrielle," Xena sighed, her voice low and unconsciously
sensual. Despite her best intentions, desire thrummed through her veins
with every hard beat of her heart. She spread her fingers, gently
massaging warm skin as she drew Gabrielle's head up. Their gazes locked
with shattering passion. "Gabrielle," she whispered a final
time, then canted her head. The bard's lips were soft and warm, tasting
faintly of something sweet and forbidden. She'd wanted this for so long,
that it almost had the quality of a dream. She didn't force the kiss,
just let Gabrielle lead the way.
The bard pressed closer, her breathing ragged as she parted her lips
to make the first tentative foray into Xena's mouth. Kissing hungrily,
they lost themselves in each other, exploring the sensitive rises and
hollows of smooth flesh.
It was the warrior who finally broke away, pulling back just far
enough to take in all of Gabrielle's softly rounded features. Fingers
gently cupping the younger woman's jaw, she used her thumb to outline
the bard's lower lip. Gabrielle's tongue darted out, tasting battle
toughened skin, then she leaned into the caress, letting Xena feel the
sharp edge of her teeth.
Xena swallowed hard, startled by the fast-moving thrust of pleasure
that sang through her nerve endings in response to that simple bit of
contact. She moaned a second later when soft fingers brushed her bare
midriff. It took her best efforts to keep a clear head, and resist the
urge to take charge of the situation. "Gabrielle," she panted
the bard's name. "You do understand where this is going, don't
you?" Xena needed to hear the words, make certain there was no
misunderstanding. She wouldn't risk hurting her friend anymore than had
already been done.
Gabrielle's only answer was to gracefully rise to her feet, then tug
the warrior up beside her. One hand still wrapped around Xena's, she
silently led the taller woman back to the fire.
Xena could feel her heart slamming painfully hard in her chest as she
watched the bard slowly turn. "I understand." Firelight
gilding her pale skin and making her hair glow like a blazing torch,
Gabrielle quietly questioned. "Do you?"
"What about this?" Xena questioned, gesturing to her
newfound form. A gentle hand touched the underside of her chin, and she
could feel the bard staring at her as though she could see through to
Gabrielle caught one of Xena's hands, and lifted it to her chest,
where the warrior could feel the steady beat of her pulse. "My
heart knows who you are, Xena," she exhaled at last. "That's
all that matters." She flowed into the warrior's arms, sliding her
hands around the back of her neck. Strong hands curved to Gabrielle's
hips as they shared more sweet kisses and fumbling caresses. After
several minutes, they sank to the blankets. Trading soft words of
endearment between kisses, the lovers continued exploring each other,
learning which erogenous zones would bring low groans of pleasure, which
caresses would cause shudders of sensation. As time went on, clothing
was loosened, then finally, discarded in the quest for more contact.
Sweat and heat making their skin slick, the lovers moved together,
each thrust bringing a fresh gasp, or groan. With gentle words and
encouragement, Xena taught Gabrielle how to make love to a woman without
the darker elements of power and pain that Callisto had inflicted. Lost
in erotic stimulation, the bard forgot about the uglier events of the
previous months, to give herself over to her lover's tender
ministrations. Pleasure ebbed and flowed, before melding into the hot
rush of orgasm.
Breathing hard, Gabrielle collapsed into the blankets.
Legs tangled together, bodies pressed breast to breast, they lay
together. Xena pushed up on her elbows to stare down at her lover.
"I love you," she whispered. Soft hands trailed up her narrow
back, searching out, and following, the corded bands of muscle. "I
never intended to." Xena gently smoothed pale bangs away from
Gabrielle's damp forehead. "I certainly never
Gabrielle's hands stilled against her back. "Are you
sorry?" she questioned, half-afraid of the answer.
Xena shook her head, a soft smile curving her lips. "No."
She rolled into a sitting position, drawing her lover against her chest,
and a blanket around them both. Gabrielle snuggled into the safety of
Xena's hold, while the warrior continued talking. "When I met you,
I barely knew who I was. I'd been lost in the violence for so
long." She shook her head, her expression distant as she remembered
the woman she'd been. "I don't think I could have resisted
returning to that life, without you." She pressed a light kiss over
the soft red hair at Gabrielle's temple. "You give my life
"I'm sorry I left you," Gabrielle whispered, suddenly
understanding what it must have cost Xena to watch her marry Perdicus.
"I--I didn't understand."
"I know," Xena soothed.
Gabrielle curled her fingers to the arms wrapped around her
midsection, cuddling even closer. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Silence stretched between them for a long moment, before Xena
answered. "I didn't want to make the decision for you."
"So instead..." Gabrielle trailed off, thinking of the
young man who'd grown up with her, and so briefly been her husband.
"So, instead, I rushed into something else," she said sadly.
Xena pressed another light kiss to her temple. "I am sorry about
"It wasn't your doing."
Lost in their thoughts, both lovers fell silent for a long time, each
drawing strength and comfort from their closeness. Gabrielle snuggled
into the strong arms holding her, and eventually dozed, unaware of the
dark eyes that watched her constantly while she slept.
"I love you, Gabrielle," Xena whispered inaudibly.
"Love you too," the bard murmured sleepily, shifting as she
woke again. Blue eyes opened, then abruptly widened, and Xena felt the
woman in her arms stiffen in surprise. "I..." Gabrielle
started to speak, then suddenly fell silent, and relaxed in Xena's hold.
"Sorry," she apologized muzzily. "I forgot..."
Xena nodded in understanding, a slight frown creasing her brow.
"It's bound to happen for awhile," she sighed knowingly. She
wrapped her fingers around Gabrielle's small hand. "Whatever
happens," murmured, knowing that Callisto's actions might well hang
between them for a long time to come. There were no simple solutions to
what her enemy had done, and one night of passion wouldn't erase the
damage. "I want you to remember how much I love you, and that I'll
always be there for you."
Gabrielle twisted to peer up at her with a look of trepidation.
"Real love isn't nearly as simple as it seems like in the tales we
bards tell, is it?"
"No." Xena smoothed a hand over silky hair. "It
"I do love you," the bard repeated earnestly.
"I know." Xena shifted, and scooted down, tugging
Gabrielle's head against her shoulder. Blond hair spilled past the jut
of her collarbone, blending with darker red locks. Xena sighed softly.
It was going to take a lot of getting used to for both of them.
"Get some sleep now." It startled her a heartbeat later when
Gabrielle reached up to finger several strands of pale, blond hair.
"It doesn't matter," she insisted.
"Yes, it does," Xena disagreed. "But we'll work
They both fell silent then, and within moments both slept.