Dream A Little Dream of Me

 

As the warrior and the bard trotted silently along an isolated path, Xena on Argo and Gabrielle walking alongside, the bard yawned behind her palm. "Oh, I am so tired," she mumbled, rather unnecessarily. "Gabrielle we've only been on the road for an hour, we are not stopping yet," replied Xena firmly though she had to admit she hadn't slept too well herself lately. The warrior brought the horse to a halt and dismounted. "Alright. But only for a short while otherwise we'll never get to the village." The warrior knew she was such a pushover when it came to her friend but she was glad of the chance to rest her mind as well as her body. The bard flopped down and lay on the grass beside the road, releasing her limbs and closing her eyes. She wanted to sleep, to let her dreams entice and capture her again. She could feel herself drifting off so easily....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gabrielle found herself in the smouldering ruins of a decemated village. The hovels had been raised to the ground and only their charred remains were evidence of their former existence. Bodies, so many bodies were strewn in the mud, their limbs unnaturally skewed. Their fear stricken eyes stared up emptily at the blue sky. As she stumbled through the village in a daze Gabrielle witnessed heartless scavengers pillaging the homes and dead inhabitants. She wanted to lash out at them but knew it was futile, as they would return later to furtively roam the ruins like vermin. Something in the distance caught her eye - a cloaked figure on a golden steed, motionless and seemingly staring back at her. As she called out, the figure reared the horse and galloped off leaving her slightly breathless and alone....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Gabrielle," said an impatient voice from above, disturbing her daydream. "Gabrielle!" When the bard eventually opened her eyes, straining her gaze against the bright sunlight, she saw Xena looming over her with pursed lips. "I've been calling you for ages. What on earth were you dreaming about?" Inexplicably embarrassed, Gabrielle jumped to her feet and brushed herself down. "Nothing, nothing at all." She dismissed with a wave of her hand then picked up her staff and headed off jauntily towards the trail again. For a moment Xena followed the smaller woman with her eyes, sensing that her friend was deliberately keeping something from her. But, having neither the time nor the inclination to get to the root of it, she mounted Argo and continued on the path.

As her thoughts lulled to the steady rhythm of the horse beneath her, Xena felt her mind wander. She couldn't help thinking about the dreams that had been keeping her awake these past few nights. They weren't unlike the dreams she often had about her past deeds as a warlord. She had learned to live with those same old nightmares. But these dreams were slightly different. There was a village and she was there with an army under her command. They were ransacking the hovels and slaughtering the peasants, simply for being there. And she was enjoying it, relishing the sight of sheer terror in their pathetic eyes. The memory of such feelings made her shudder. "Xena?" The warrior glanced down at Gabrielle, disturbed from her morbid thoughts. Seeing the concern on the bard's face, she gave a reassuring smile. But her mind was still clouded. In the dreams, after she had divided the spoils with her men, she would return to the village. From nowhere a young woman would appear but for the life of her she couldn't remember what the girl looked like. Then she would wake up in a cold sweat.

After several hours of travelling Xena decided they should stop to eat and rest. The sounds of Gabrielle's rumbling stomach were audible even to Xena. Setting themselves down on a conveniently felled tree trunk they munched half-heartedly on a meal of bread and cheese. The warrior was too fatigued to hunt for anything more substantial. The bard noticed that Xena was picking at her food, not at all like herself. But then she didn't have much of an appetite herself and wondered if it was catching. "Xena, are you okay? You seem a little distant. Well, more than usual that is."

The warrior looked up ruefully at her friend. "I'm not the only one." She replied dryly.

"You want to talk about it?"

"Nope. Do you?"

"No."

They resumed eating in silence. It was getting dark already, as if even the night itself shared their lethargy, the sun sinking behind the mountains to the west casting an incandescent glow on everything. They decided to make camp for the night. As Xena made her routine sweep of the perimeter of their humble little camp, Gabrielle spread their bedrolls on opposite sides of the fire. When Xena returned there was a vague awkwardness between them. Both exhausted they turned in early, grateful that sleep, or at least feigned sleep, allowed them to avoid difficult attempts at conversation. The bard was snatched by her dreams almost as soon as her head hit the bedroll....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gabrielle found herself in that familiar village again but it was not the calm of the aftermath of the battle; she was in the thick of it. She watched in horror as mounted warriors chased stricken women and children, wielding maces, while bloodthirsty foot soldiers pummelled defenceless villagers. Some of the soldiers saw Gabrielle and leered, licking their lips in anticipation. They charged at her, swords high above their heads. Gabrielle gripped her trusty staff tightly, ready to beat them off. The bloodcurdling screams of the villagers distracted her momentarily and there was a sudden blow to her head. She stumbled to the ground. "Leave her! She's mine!" A voice screamed from behind. She was aware of a strong arm around her waist and she was hauled off the ground while the world faded to black.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The bard woke to find herself shivering. The sky was dark, dark purple and wisps of smoke from the dying embers of the fire merged with the night. She endured chattering teeth for a minute or so. "Xena? Xena - are you awake?" She said tentatively. "Xena?"

There was a moment of silence then a growled reply. "I am now. What is it Gabrielle?"

"I'm cold. And, you know, two generate more warmth than one..." The bard said then bit on her lower lip. With a heavy sigh Xena stood and stomped over with her bedroll. The bard grinned as Xena lay down beside her and wrapped her arms grudgingly around her friend's waist. Without the slightest hesitation Gabrielle snuggled closer and rested her head lightly on the warm cushion of Xena's bosom. "Goodnight, Xena." Gabrielle said cheerfully, her voice muffled by the warrior's ample cleavage. It wasn't long before the steady thud of Xena's heartbeat lulled her back to sleep. The warrior could feel her recurring dream creeping up on her and she resisted. But it had its hold on her and she couldn't shake it. She was just so tired....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The massacre was still raging and Xena could hardly see what was happening. It was exhilarating, the chaos and confusion. Adrenaline was pumping through her veins. The screams lifted her and she let out an ecstatic scream of her own, emptying her lungs of air. She shared her men's glee as they attacked the villagers. But in the corner of her eye she saw some of her soldiers circling a girl. They eyed the young girl like a pack of wolves. Xena somehow seemed to recognise the young girl.

Then the scene seemed to fade out before her eyes and she felt something akin to fear in the pit of her stomach. Rearing the horse around she rushed at them, just as the girl received a glancing blow from the pommel of a sword to her skull. When the soldiers saw the rage on Xena's face they quickly dropped back. Swooping down, Xena locked an arm around the girl's waist and hoisted her up onto the horse. They galloped out of the village at break-neck speed and into the surrounding countryside. Xena just kept riding and riding, but not even aware of where she was going. When the horse, finally exhausted from it's run, refused to go any further.

She gazed down at the girl and pressed two fingers against her neck to feel for a pulse. To her relief, Xena could feel the steady pulse moving under her fingertips. Quiet murmurs came from the girl; her voice seemed strangely familiar.

Gabrielle was acutely aware of the sharp pain in the back of her head. It struck her how quiet it was. She wondered if she had gone to the other side, but it couldn't possibly be the Elysian Fields, it was too dark. Then she realised that she had her eyes shut. When she opened them she found herself in a grove in a secluded forest. She glanced around herself in confusion, wondering how she had found her way here. Then she heard the faint bray of a horse nearby. A name bubbled up through her thoughts but meant nothing to her: Argo. Propping herself up on one elbow she managed to get to her feet and walked rather dizzily towards the source of the sound. A few yards away she saw a golden horse tethered to a tree trunk. Beside the horse, grooming the mane, stood a cloaked figure apparently unaware of Gabrielle's presence. As Gabrielle dizzily approached, a twig snapped underfoot and the figure jerked but did not turn. Finally Gabrielle stood beside the horse and reached out to the figure. She closed her eyes in anticipation.

Xena leaned in to kiss the girl without a word. But when her mouth met the girl's lips there was a sudden spark of recognition. In astonishment she broke off the kiss. When Gabrielle opened her eyes she saw the hood of the cloak had fallen back. For a second the sight failed to register. She stared at a woman with the most startling blue eyes that seemed to pierce right through to her very soul. And she was utterly speechless.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Xena?!?"

"Gabrielle?!?"

They stared at each other in disbelief. The bard drew back from the pillow of Xena's chest and blinked. The warrior's blue eyes were wide in shock. "Did you...? Were you...?" Gabrielle stammered then trailed off. She already knew the answers to her half-formed questions. But what truly silenced her was the knowing look in Xena's eyes and Xena's fingers were stroking her cheek the way they had always been meant to. Although it was what the warrior did next which most surprised Gabrielle....

 

The End