by Leslie Ann Miller
Disclaimers- The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Violence - Yes, some. Nothing worse than what you'd see in the show.
Subtext / sex - Yes, this story depicts sexual acts between women. If that is illegal where you are, you should go read something else.
Hurt / Comfort - Yes
Other - This story is loosely based on the Hercules episode "Armageddon Now"
Thanks - I'm especially grateful to Fizz for all the help. Also thanks to the ex-Guards for their feedback and assistance.
Let me know what you think, good or bad! My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next day, I found Xena lying on the floor of her cell, feverish and incoherent.
Again, I climbed the wooden stairs to the warden's study.
"She's going to die if you don't help her," I said when Thelassa, again, ignored me as I entered.
"I know. " She looked up and smiled. "Perhaps with Xena out of the way, we can be friends again."
"What?!" It was the first time it occurred to me that Thelassa might be mentally unstable.
"You and me, Gabrielle, can't you feel the connection? We.... we were meant for each other! We shouldn't argue over Xena. "
I backed up as she stood and took a step towards me. Gods, after the past few days, I felt more connection to Xena than I did to her.
"Don't be afraid, Gabrielle. When you massaged my arm... I knew it then, that we would spend the rest of our lives together. You can't tell me that you didn't feel it, too." She took another step forward, and I took another step back. I was now standing in the doorway. Another two steps, and I'd be backing down the stairs, not an easy thing to do on crutches.
I swallowed hard. Dear Athena, how did I get myself into this mess? "Thelassa, we had a pleasant evening together. It's true that we have many things in common, but..." I took another step back.
"But? But?! But what, Gabrielle?" She was standing directly in front of me now, and she lowered her face to mine.
I didn't dare back up any further. What was she doing?!
Thelassa gently touched the side of my cheek, then ran her fingers through my hair to the back of my head. Suddenly she pushed my head forward as she planted her lips squarely on my own.
"Mmmmmph!" I was so surprised, my first kiss, I wasn't sure if I should enjoy it or be furious. I tried to pull back, but Thelassa's strong arm held me in place, and I was loath to release my crutches for fear of losing my balance.
Finally, she released me, staring into my eyes with such longing that it left me breathless. I was suddenly aware of the heat of her body radiating against me, of the rise and fall of her breasts pressed against my own. "You belong to me, Gabrielle," she whispered.
That did it. I did not belong to anyone. I felt the rage well up inside. How dare she kiss me without my permission?! Without a conscious thought, I slapped her.
She staggered, then straightened. I watched as the surprise on her face transformed into an anger that matched my own. Before I could react, she shoved me backwards with all her might.
I flew off my crutches and down the stairs. My body exploded in pain as I landed, hard, and tumbled head over heels the length of the stairway. I lay stunned at the bottom, hurting far too many places, only dimly aware of Thelassa shouting above me and the sound of feet running towards me.
Gentle hands rolled me over, and I groaned as the movement sent ripping pain through my head and leg.
Thelassa's voice cut through a red haze of pain. "Take her to Xena's cell and throw her in!"
I forced my eyes open and saw the horrified expressions of the two guards beside me. "My Lady?" one of them asked.
"Take her to Xena's cell!" Thelassa screamed at him. She used that voice; the voice I knew they'd obey. I lost consciousness even as they grabbed my arms to carry me away.
Pain. My head hurt. My leg hurt. My back hurt. I forced my eyes open as a loud clang sounded behind me. Guards.... they were leaving. I was in Xena's cell. So much for never unlocking her cage. She was lying only a few feet from me, her naked body glistening with sweat, feverish, oblivious to my presence. The light grew dim as the guards retreated back up the steps, taking the torch with them, leaving me alone in the pitch dark. Gods, I hurt. I panted for air. I was cold. Cold in body, cold in mind, cold in spirit.
I fought to stay awake. I felt sick to my stomach. There was enough pain that I knew I must be hurt rather badly, but I couldn't think straight. Beside me, Xena moaned quietly. No, not alone. I smiled despite myself. Xena was too hot, and I was too cold. Biting my lip against the pain, I pulled myself to her side and wrapped my arms around her heated torso before passing out again.
First, there was awareness of pain, next, the semi-coherent thought that my head hurt. I opened my eyes to darkness. Where was I? I seemed to be lying on my back on a freezing, hard floor, and it was more than just my head that ached. My good leg... I fought a moment of panic. What happened? I couldn't remember. Where was I? I was so cold. I tried to lift my head. Big mistake... my stomach rebelled.
"Easy there," a voice said in the darkness, scaring me half to death. Chains rattled, and a warm hand squeezed my shoulder, holding me in place. "Don't try to get up."
My mouth was dry as sandpaper, and my tongue felt thick and awkward, but I tried to speak anyway. "Where...?"
Silence, then finally, "What's the last thing you remember?"
It was hard to concentrate. I was having trouble remembering anything. Alexander. The palace. A boat ride? "Shark Island...?"
"Good!" The voice sounded surprised. "Do you remember your name?"
"Gabrielle," I answered after a moment.
The hand squeezed my shoulder. "Good. You're doing better."
"Do you remember fighting with Thelassa?"
"Oh, little one, you are such a mess," the voice laughed quietly.
"This isn't f-funny!" I protested weakly. I was shivering now, and my head was throbbing terribly.
"Oh, but if you knew the irony!"
There was something eerily familiar about the voice, but I couldn't place it. "Who...are you? Why c-can't I see?"
"You can't see, because it's very dark in here. Who I am will wait a little longer, I think."
I was having a terrible time holding on to any thoughts. "So cold...."
"Even with the blankets?"
I heard a long, slow, intake of breath. "Well then. Promise not to hold this against me when you get your wits back, all right?" A very warm body curled up next to me, head on my shoulder, arm across my waist.
Almost instantly, a wave of drowsiness washed over me. "So sleepy..."
"It's all right. I'll wake you up again in a little while. Maybe next time, you'll remember this."
The voice was comforting and seemed to help soothe the pain. Soon I drifted off into the welcome oblivion of sleep.
I opened my eyes to pitch darkness, wisps of unhappy dreams clouding my consciousness. Where was I? My head ached terribly. "Ouch," I said for lack of anything more profound.
"Gabrielle?" a voice asked next to me.
Memory came back in a rush. Thelassa...the stairs...Xena. Gods, I was locked in Xena's cell, wasn't I? "Xena?!"
My sudden panic must have been reflected in my voice, because it was several seconds before Xena replied. "I'm afraid so. Do you remember how you got here?"
"Thelassa...guards ... How long...?"
"About three days."
Three days! I'd been in Xena's cell for three days, and I was still alive? Alexander often said that the gods loved fools and poets. Perhaps he was right. "Thelassa?"
"Haven't seen her. Nor her precious Captain."
"Bunch of cowards! They won't even open the door! At least they brought blankets and extra food."
"I've eaten?" As if on cue, my stomach rumbled.
Xena chuckled. "A little bit. I've saved some for you, also, although it wasn't easy. Ares may never forgive me."
"Ares?" I was confused.
"Oh, uh...one of my tame rats." She sounded embarrassed. "I got tired of killing them, and, well, started taming them instead. I share a little of my food with them every day."
Xena, Destroyer of Nations, sharing food with her tame rats. I couldn't help myself. I smiled.
Xena snorted. "Pretty pathetic, huh?"
"No, touching! Really."
After a long pause I heard her chuckle and shift positions. "Gabrielle..."
"Xena..." I said at the same time.
"You first," she said.
"I... uh..." Well, wasn't this just an incredibly awkward situation? I knew Xena had plenty of cause to wish me dead, and she'd obviously had ample opportunity to make that wish come true. "Thank you for not killing me," I said simply. Yet. I supposed I owed her something for that, at least.
She was silent for an uncomfortably long time. "Oddly enough," she finally said, "I have no desire to hurt you, Gabrielle."
I breathed a sigh of relief. It sounded like she was telling the truth. "I'm glad."
More silence. "Do you think you can eat something? " she eventually asked. "The guards left a full waterskin."
"Water first, then food," I smiled.
"I'm going to help you sit up. Don't try to help me. I don't want you to put any pressure on your leg.
"My leg?" It ached dully, but mostly felt numb.
I felt faint. "Oh gods...!"
Xena grabbed my shoulders firmly as I started to struggle. "Whoa! Don't panic. It will heal. I've set it, and I've numbed the nerves so you can't move it. As long as you don't move your body around too much, it will be fine."
I was shaking uncontrollably, now. I couldn't bear the thought of going through this again, of being so completely helpless and immobile; of months of pain and indignity. Who would take care of me? I couldn't do it! Not again.
Xena shook me gently. "Gabrielle, it will heal. Do you understand me?"
I couldn't help myself. I started sobbing hysterically.
Xena groaned. "Don't cry. Please don't cry."
She sounded irritated, but I didn't care. "Better to die... better to die..."
"Oh Gabrielle..." She repositioned herself behind me. Strong hands lifted my shoulders into a semi-reclining position, and she held me in her arms. "You wouldn't let me die, so I won't let you die," she whispered in my ear.
In retrospect, I know I was still slightly irrational from my head injury, but at the time, I was aware only of a rising righteous anger. I tried to struggle out of her grasp. I tried to hit her with my elbows. "You did this to me! You did this! If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here! Damn you, Xena! Damn you! I hate you!"
I don't actually remember what happened after that. Xena swears that I launched into one of my better orations on the vicious cruelty of the Conqueror while at the same time doing my best to claw her face off. She didn't have much trouble protecting herself, but she wasn't able to protect me at the same time, and in my efforts to hurt her, I managed to undo everything she had done to set my broken leg.
Needless to say, when I finally came to myself again, I was in considerable agony. I couldn't feel Xena anywhere nearby, and I was dazed and confused. I could feel my leg twisted at an odd angle, and it scared me horribly. I didn't want to die like this in the dark, alone. Tears came again, unbidden. I didn't want to die. I didn't want to live. I didn't want to be crippled. "Help me," I finally whispered; to the gods, to Xena, to the voice in the white light. Somebody, anybody. "Please help me."
"Why should I?" Xena snarled from the darkness.
I choked back a sob. "Please... don't leave me like this..."
When all I got was silence for an answer, I covered my face with my hands and began to cry in earnest.
"Oh for the love of Zeus," Xena exclaimed in disgust. "You survived a crucifixion but go hysterical over a broken leg? What is it with you, anyway? Please tell me you weren't this weepy around pretty-boy..."
I heard her move towards me; felt hands trace the curve of my hip. Suddenly, she jabbed me twice, and my leg went numb. I gasped at the freedom from pain, almost dizzy with relief. "What did you do?" I asked incredulously, wiping the tears from my face.
She sighed audibly. "It's an old trick a friend taught me."
"I don't suppose you could use it to get rid of this headache?" I only half joked.
"No. Now, this is going to hurt. Just try to relax."
I sniffed. "Relax. Right. I'll just...AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" I didn't actually mean to scream, especially not after her comment about me being weepy. But by the gods, I swear she tried to twist my leg off. Not only did it hurt excruciatingly, but the grinding sensation as the bones grated against each other was extremely disconcerting.
"There," Xena said, "all better." She sounded smug even in the darkness.
"Oh gods...you enjoyed that, didn't you?" I moaned. I felt sick again.
"Yeah," Xena replied. "Are you still hungry?"
"Oh gods!" I groaned again, more urgently this time.
"Oh no." She seemed to know what was coming, because her hands clamped down on my leg. "Roll onto your side. I'll make sure your leg rotates with you."
I did as she suggested and promptly vomited. My stomach was pretty empty, so it wasn't especially messy, but even the dry heaves weren't very pleasant. I rolled back onto my back.
"Feeling better?" Xena asked.
"A little." I felt a little more in control of myself, anyway. I was too drained to feel much of anything.
"You're welcome. Would you like some water?"
It was a moment before Xena repositioned herself and handed me the waterskin. She held my head up so I could drink.
I was very thirsty, and it was good to get the awful taste of bile out of my mouth. "Thanks," I said when I was done.
"You're welcome." She took the waterskin from my hands, and let my head down gently. She touched my cheek. "Gabrielle..." she started, then stopped.
"Yes?" I prompted.
Her hand stopped touching me. "Nothing. Are you comfortable? Do you think you can rest?"
As a matter of fact, I was quite exhausted. "Mmmmmmm." It didn't take me long to drift off to sleep.
To be continued in part 8
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