Season of the Battered Bard

Cath, Bard

The characters of Xena and Gabrielle, their “extensions,” and others belong in their entirety to Universal/MCA, Renaissance Pictures, and all the other powers that be. No copyright infringement is intended. I wrote this story at the urging of my muse; it should never be used for profit. Please do not copy or cite elsewhere without permission from the author.

None. There is a bit of naughty language, though.

This story involves a loving relationship between two consenting adults, in this case, woman and man. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something else.

WARNING: This story takes place during Season 5 of “Xena: Warrior Princess.” It may contain spoilers for parts of the season. It is also an “uber” tale, so the references may be slightly obtuse.

Many thanks to Netgyrl and my pals at the Tavern Wall BB, where this tale was originally posted. Your feedback and encouragement mean more than you know.

This is part of the “Professional Standards” series (“The Introduction,” “Season of the Battered Bard,” and “Endings and Beginnings”). It might make more sense if the reader starts with “Professional Standards I.” Then again…

Part 1

Jake Wyler aimed the remote control at the VCR and used the "Stop" button to launch an imaginary missile at the television screen.

"Fire one!" he shouted as he halted the videotape. Jake punctuated his action with a massive "Kaboom!" then hit the "Eject" button.

The tall Kiwi glanced over at his diminutive, blonde companion, who studiously ignored his outburst. Erin sat curled in the other corner of the couch, annotating a script and only half-attending to the video they had just watched.

"Doesn't that bother you a bit?" Jake inquired.

"What?" Erin responded, looking up from the script. She lifted her reading glasses and rubbed her eyes. Turning 29 was "the pits." She hadn't expected her vision to start its downhill slide so soon. Of course, the rest of her body was in almost perfect shape.

Jake continued his tirade.

"Damnit, Erin! This season alone, you've been caged twice, beaten bloody, tied up spreadeagle no less than two times, manhandled, threatened at swordpoint and knifepoint, frozen in ice… Who's running this series? The Marquis de Sade?"

Erin started to laugh, but the look on Jake's face stopped her.

"At least they didn't crucify me like last year, or the year before," she quipped. "And I've been at swordpoint since the first season."

She noticed the bulging veins in Jake's neck, and his scarlet complexion.

"I must be doing some pretty good acting to get you so riled, mate." Erin used their mutual term of endearment, hoping to calm her partner.

Jake was not pacified.

"And now this!" He fumed as he pointed at the screen. "Your best friend splatters your brains all over her whatchamacallit round weapon in a moment of anger?"

"Jake, it's called a chakram, you know that. And she was protecting her daughter from me when I tried to kill the kid under the influence of the Furies."

Erin attempted to make it sound rational, but had a hard time believing the script herself. She continued her "lecture."

"Further, Chris did not splatter my brains. I sustained a serious head wound."

Jake refused to give in.

"Erin, Chris plays your best friend. You've been partners and allies for five years, and in a moment of motherly protectiveness, she kills you. That's stupid and you know it. You wouldn't take that kind of abusive shit in real life. Why take it here?"
Erin shrugged.

"All right. I admit I tried to get them to change that scene - maybe have her hit me in the shoulder or cut off a hand before I stabbed the girl. But they really wanted to show off that new special effects stuff that looked like brains dripping from the chakram. Turned out to be strawberry jam, by the way."

Jake snorted in disgust and rose from the couch.

"I'm heading for the cooler. You want a beer?"

"No thanks. Diet soda would be nice, though."

From the way the big man stalked to the kitchen, Erin knew this conversation wasn't over.

Part 2

Jake returned with a bottle of ale for himself, and handed a can of soda to Erin.

“Thanks,” she said as she took it, without breaking her concentration on the script.

Jake stood there, watching the woman he loved – a woman so shy and gentle when he first met her that she chose not to inform him that she played a butt-kicking heroine on a television series. Erin let him believe she worked on the set of the show, as if she was a member of the crew. Something in her modesty brought out a tenderness and protectiveness in Jake. They became friends, then lovers. Together, they built a house on the outskirts of Auckland, and had just announced their engagement.

Soon after they met, Jake discovered that Erin's genuine sweetness covered an equally authentic toughness and independence. She was an exceptional athlete and now did many of her own stunts on the show – much to his concern. He had nursed her through various sprains, strains, and a few stunt-induced black eyes during their four years together.

In turn, Erin gave Jake a grounded, settled feeling – a home he'd never known, having been a tough rover for most of his youth. Despite their crazy schedules and cultural differences, they managed to create a special place for themselves in each other.

Jake respected Erin's intelligence and dedication to her craft. Erin liked the way Jake challenged her to do her best at whatever she tried – from sailing to rock climbing to more comedy on the show. He had an unexpected sensitivity that touched her heart.

It bothered Jake that the series' producers insisted on skimpier costumes and more violence for his partner's character with each passing season. Erin joked that she'd be fighting naked by the seventh season, except that the sixth season, next season, had been announced as the program's final year.

“Ending there might be a relief,” Erin commented when their conversation turned to tinier tops and more cleavage. Jake had helped her overcome her shyness about showing off the fine, fit physique she worked so hard to achieve and maintain. Reluctantly, he even accepted her choice to do a provocative, semi-nude photo shoot for an Australian men's magazine. However, when she read the hack article that accompanied the impressive pictures, Erin vowed “never again.” The interviewer had quoted her off-the-cuff remarks totally out of context. As she put it, the article made her look like a complete “ditz” – and she withdrew more and more from publicity.

These thoughts ran through Jake's head as he plopped down on the couch some distance from Erin. He watched her – lost in study; preparing for another performance. The series' scenes of violence and bondage, mostly directed at his mate, drifted through his imagination

The Kiwi drained half a bottle of ale in silence, then gazed out the window as he asked her quietly, “Do you enjoy it?”

Part 3

Erin pretended she didn't hear him.

Jake repeated the question, gently, but insistently.

"Erin, do you enjoy it?"

The actress closed her script, carefully marking the page with her ever-present pencil.

"Enjoy what, Jake?" She responded with a slight touch of exasperation.

"Being the poster child for bondage and sadism on worldwide television."

Erin flinched. Her partner had intended lighthearted sarcasm, but his remark struck a deep chord in the gentle, young woman.

"All part of the job, love." She looked at him steadily, fighting for control. "Let's face it. This isn't Shakespeare at the National Theater. I've always been the damsel in distress."

"Don't you get tired of it, though? I mean having them…" Jake searched for the right word, "…display you like that?" Again, it came out sounding harsh; not at all as he intended.

With a sudden fury that surprised them both, Erin launched to her feet and hurled the script across the living room, pencil and all.

She faced him, fighting back disappointment, anger, and tears – all buried beneath her professional demeanor during long months of watching the series' writers diminish the character she had created, and loved to play.

"Yes. I'm tired of it. Is that what you want to hear? I am damned tired of the same old attitude toward my character this whole season."

She continued to mumble and fume as she retrieved the document.

"Oh, oh," Jake thought. "Maybe not the best time to hold this conversation."

"Forget I asked," he offered. "Hey, do they take away your limousine service if you tear up your script?" He grinned.

Erin studied the battered object in her hands. She couldn't suppress a smile. The blonde strolled back to the couch and sat close to her companion.

"Sorry about that." She began apologizing for the rare flash of temperament. "I do what I have to and make the best of it."

"Hey, it's not your fault if the writers have their heads up their arses most of the time."

Jake wrapped a large, strong arm around her. He could feel the powerfully tense muscles of her shoulders and neck.

"You could really use a rub," he noted. He began kneading the base of her neck. She leaned into his firm touch, closing her eyes, and exhaling a deep, weary sigh. It had been a long season, and wasn't over yet.

"You can do that for another fifty years, Wyler," Erin murmured, pleasure evident in her tone.

Jake moved closer and nipped the side of her neck. He loved the taste and smell of her.

He turned her away from him and began an intense, deeper massage of her neck and shoulders, occasionally pausing to run his hands through her short, silky hair.


Jake's hands traveled down Erin's back to the bottom edge of her t-shirt. He lifted it gently and stroked the soft, bare skin, dragging the shirt up and over her head. She habitually shed her bra when going "casual" at home, so he encountered no more barriers.

Strong fingers roamed her back and sides, tracing the hard-earned muscle, sensing the tension, stopping here and there to work on an especially tight knot. Erin closed her eyes and let her head droop forward.

After awhile, his hands wandered to her front, caressing and kneading; feeling her response. She eased back into him with an erotic groan. Again, he kissed and nibbled her neck and shoulders.

She entwined her arms up and behind, wrapping them around his neck. The effect was to thrust herself more completely into his explorations.

"This is how I want you," he whispered. "Mine alone."

Erin sat forward, then turned to face him, arms folded across breasts. She stared directly into his eyes, and he saw total arousal in hers.

Swallowing hard, but her gaze never wavering, she asked her next question.

"Would you like me like this if I was tied up?"

Part 4

Several recent fantasies flashed through Jake's imagination as he pondered Erin's query. Part of him objected strongly to many of her scenes this season. Another, different, consciousness found some of them stimulating.

The big man blushed! He tried to answer, but just sputtered and stammered.

Erin bit her tongue, holding back both a grin and a wry comment. The woman sensed her lover's arousal, and his discomfort at the source of that arousal. Both sensations pleased her.

She caressed his cheek with a surprisingly large hand. He turned his lips to her palm and kissed it.

"Jake, we all have fantasies," she explained gently. "Wanna know how I got through some of those scenes?"

"How?" he mumbled into Erin's palm, working his way up her forearm, planting more kisses along the trail.

"I imagined I was doing it for you."

Jake stopped mid-nibble and gazed into stunningly deep, clear, green eyes, where love mingled with lust. Erin noticed the same mixture in Jake's expression.

"Whew!" he exclaimed.

Erin stood first, and hauled her companion to his feet. Jake arched a suggestive eyebrow. She smiled broadly.

"You'll forgive me if I don't tie you up, oh damsel in distress. It seems we're fresh out of rope."

The muscular blonde giggled and allowed her towering lover to lead her toward their bedroom.

At the threshold, Erin stopped him with a tug on his arm. She wrapped him in a firm, possessive embrace.

"Maybe I won't have to do this kind of stuff next season. Meanwhile, I've got to earn my keep and pay those dues. I enjoy it too, most of the time. I'm just sorry you get the brunt of the bad days."

Jake nodded side-to-side.

"You do damn well with what they give you. Sometimes it's great, but sometimes you deserve better."

Jake paused, searching for a way to say what was in his heart without sounding like a jealous jerk.

"I just want that private part of you to stay here at home, with me. I don't want to share you with the world. Selfish, huh?"

"No, Jake. I understand. But it's my job. It's what I do…”

Jake kissed her and they fell into the room, onto the bed.

"…Only for one more season, " Erin thought with relief and sadness.

Jake was thinking something else entirely. A sly grin played across his handsome face as he pinned her arms above her head with one strong hand, and reached for the zipper of her jeans with the other.

Erin's surprised, sensuous smile told him she had forgotten about the script.

Part III

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