"Watching Gabrielle Sleep"
by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "Watching Gabrielle Sleep" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
Xena ran into the clearing, her sword drawn, just as Gabrielle finished off the last of the thieves, whacking him soundly about the head with her staff and knocking him down. The thief scrambled away from her as quickly as he could, got to his feet and ran to join his friends.
"Yeah! Run, you geeky little mutants!" she shouted at them. Completely unnecessary, because they WERE running.
"Gabrielle! Are you OK?"
"Oh, sure. Do you believe those idiots? Why in the world are ten thieves traveling around together? How many men does it take to rob one person? Every time one of their little robberies doesn't go as planned they say to themselves, 'We really need a few more dim-witted morons in this group.' And then they hold auditions to pick the most uncoordinated idiot they can find, and they make him the leader."
"Gabrielle, I saw those men. They were big. They looked plenty mean to me."
"Oh, mean! What does mean mean? Mean means nothing, that's what mean means."
"Gabrielle, stop kidding around. Those men surrounded you. They were armed."
"Three of them had swords, and maybe one knew how to use his."
"You've never taken down ten men before."
"Oh, I didn't take down anyone. I just bopped some sense into 'em."
"I was worried, Gabrielle."
"Xena, it's OK! I wasn't in any danger. These guys, on a good day if they had a few more men, they could maybe rob Joxer. Maybe. I wasn't in any danger. I was fine."
Gabrielle smiled that adorable smile and gave her staff a spin, twirling it in one hand like a baton.
"Yeah," said Xena, "you WERE fine, weren't you?"
Gabrielle realized that there was still worry showing in Xena's eyes, or maybe it was disappointment.
"Oh, I get it. You were looking forward to rescuing me. Well, you can rescue me from starvation. What did you bring me?"
"Nothing. I was called away from the hunt when I heard those men."
"Oh, well. Vegetable stew tonight."
"No. I'll find us something," she said, and turned to head back into the woods. Gabrielle stopped her by putting one soft hand on her neck, and moving it up to Xena's cheek to cup her face and prevent Xena from turning away.
"Xena, it's OK. I'm fine. This wasn't even close."
"Then what's wrong?"
"Why do you always have to know everything that's wrong with me? Can't I keep anything private?"
"No. I love you, and I can't be happy if you're in pain. And I want to be happy."
"It's nothing, Gabrielle."
"You know I'm not going to let this go. I'll bug you all night if I have to. But because I'm hungry and I don't want to spend all night trying to figure out the truth, I'm going to show you once again that there's no one anywhere who knows you like I do. I know that you're the farthest thing from perfect, and sometimes you can be so petty. And I am going to read your petty little mind."
Gabrielle moved some black hair away from Xena's beautiful face. The bard's eyes were full of understanding and acceptance as she said, "You don't like that I'm getting better, do you?"
Xena's eyes closed and she tried to turn away, but Gabrielle wouldn't let her. Gabrielle picked some very inconvenient and frustrating times to be intelligent.
Xena was about to tell Gabrielle that she was being ridiculous, but instead Xena thought, "She promised she'd stay with you forever, and she meant it. She wouldn't have said so otherwise. You can be honest with her, she's seen worse from you than this. Much worse."
Xena looked the love of her life directly in the eyes, screwed up her courage, and charged into battle.
"Gabrielle, I need you so much I can hardly stand it. You make me smile, you make me laugh, you soothe me, you show me what love and forgiveness can do. You brought me back to life! Literally and every other way. I can't look at you with out these feelings of love overwhelming me and making me feel small and helpless. You've saved my soul a dozen times over, sometimes I'll bet you didn't even know you were doing it. And what do I give you in return? I protect you. And that's NOTHING! A trained ape could do it."
"Nothing! How can you call it nothing?"
"It is! Compared to everything you've given me, it's nothing! If you don't think so, you can't know everything you've done for me. You can't know everything you MEAN to me. And now it looks like one day you won't even need me for that."
"XENA! Look at me! You really thing that one day I'll be able to do everything you can do? You've been dippin' into the henbane, haven't you?"
Xena knew that she was supposed to smile, but she didn't feel like smiling.
"C'mon, Xena, the Furies have been through here again whackin' you with the nutty stick, haven't they?"
Xena smiled a little in spite of herself.
"I love you, Xena. I promised I would never leave you, and I meant it. And if you mention Perdicas you'll make me very upset. I can never make it up to him or you, all the mistakes I made with Perdicas, but that was a lifetime ago. What do I have to do to convince you I'm not going anywhere?"
"Tell me why you love me."
Gabrielle looked surprised. "What?"
"Tell me why you love me. Something that doesn't sound like hero worship, or teacher and student. Convince me."
Gabrielle closed her eyes, and thought.
"It WAS just hero worship, starting out. But I think I began to really love you when I realized you're not perfect, and your past is not something someone just made up. It's something that could come back to claim your soul any time. And I can help you with that. I can make a difference in your life. You have a genuine desire, a genuine need to do good. That's what I love about you. The fact that I'm willing to risk my life to travel with you and help you, doesn't that tell you how much I love you?"
"I don't know," she said. "It just doesn't seem like it's enough."
After the hunt and Gabrielle's cooking produced a tasty batch of rabbit stew, Xena and Gabrielle went to sleep, and Xena had that dream again.
She was in Gabrielle's home, just after saving Gabrielle and her friends and family from Draco's army. She was making ready to leave, telling Gabrielle that she was going to Amphipolis, and Gabrielle asked, "So what route do you usually take?"
"Don't even think about it," said Xena.
"Following me. You wouldn't want to make me mad, now, would you?"
Oh, you're so tough, Xena, intimidating this young girl.
But in this dream, Gabrielle sat in a chair and looked resigned to her life.
"Yeah, OK," she said. "I guess life with Perdicas won't be so bad."
Xena blinked. "What?"
"You go on your way. I'll be fine. At least Perdicas can give me a roof over my head. Protection from the cold winds at night. A few babies to bounce on my knee. Who needs adventures when you've got that? Children are the best adventure anyone can have."
However many times she had this dream, she still couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"No, Gabrielle, that's not how it works. What happens is that you follow me to Amphipolis, and you save me from getting stoned to death."
Gabrielle looked surprised. "I save YOU?"
"YES! You talk the villagers of my own hometown out of stoning me. But it's more than that, Gabrielle, you believe in me when no one else will. You see potential that even my own mother didn't see. You keep me from giving up! You show me that someone actually cares if I live or die!"
"Then why did you just tell me not to follow you?"
"Because I'm AN IDIOT, Gabrielle! I was so full of myself, I thought I didn't need anything or anybody! I thought strength on the battlefield was the same as strength of character, and it isn't. Ares keeps trying to tempt me back to being a warlord, and without you I don't have a chance against him."
"How do you know all this?"
"Because this is a stupid dream I keep having, Gabrielle, and I'm SICK of it. Please, please just say that you're going to travel with me, and I can dream something else for a change. Just a minute ago you said you wanted to be with me."
Gabrielle shook her head.
"I don't know what I was thinking. What kind of life is that, traveling around the countryside, living outdoors like a homeless person? What kind of a warrior could I ever be? Especially in my long skirt."
"You can get a shorter skirt, Gabrielle! No one anywhere is going to complain if you get a shorter skirt! Please just say that you want to be with me."
"Who would want to be with you, Xena? You're moody, you're sullen, you're short-tempered, you treat everyone horribly, you hardly ever talk, and when you do it's just to bark out orders. We couldn't be more opposite."
"Gabrielle, please! Do you want me to beg? I'm begging! Please, I can't have this dream again. Please, please, just say that you and I will be together. Say that you want to stay with me."
"Can you give me one good reason why I should?"
"I love you, Gabrielle."
"No, not why you want to be with me. Give me one good reason why I should want to be with you."
Xena tried to think of everything Gabrielle had told her. But she couldn't remember anything.
'I I can't."
"I didn't think so."
Gabrielle headed out the door. She turned around when she was at the doorframe and looked Xena in the eyes.
"Gabrielle, please don't say what you're going to say next. Please just give me that much."
But Gabrielle just stepped closer to her, never taking her gaze away.
"I don't love you, Xena. No one loves you."
Then Gabrielle turned and walked out the door.
Xena sat on the bed and balled her hands into fists.
No tears, Xena. Gotta be strong. Be tough. At least get through this without weeping. Make some progress against this nightmare or it's going to destroy you. Since when does Xena need the love of anyone?
And the answer to that question is the same as the answer to most questions about the Warrior Princess.
Xena woke with a start, but she managed to avoid crying out and waking Gabrielle. She looked toward Gabrielle. Gabrielle was asleep with a big smile on her face.
"Glad my insecurity makes you happy," she thought. "And if I had the nobility of a bullfrog I could say that sincerely. I should be happy just because you're happy. I know you could do the same for me. But there's so many things you can do that I can't. Forgive. Entertain. Inspire."
Ah, but Xena is good with a sword. And that chakram comes back every time, yes it does.
A little perspective, Xena. What you do isn't exactly valueless. Hundreds of villagers wouldn't call it that. You've done a lot of good in this world, and it's not over yet.
"Gabrielle," she thought, "you didn't convince me that you really love me, or that I'm worthy of it. Maybe someday I'll believe it, but not today. But maybe it's enough just to be needed. Maybe what you want is not so much to love or be loved, but just to be needed. And no one will ever need you more than I do, my sweet Gabrielle."
But doesn't Gabrielle need you? Maybe what's needed is just to rescue her a few more times. Maybe you're just suffering from rescue interruptus.
Sure. What's needed is a really spectacular, breath-taking, death-defying rescue, something that will put that look of admiration into her eyes, and make you forget that she wouldn't need rescuing if she weren't fool enough to travel with you in the first place.
Xena touched her own eyes and her face. No tears this time. Good. Xena stayed tough. Stayed strong.
She rolled to one side, propped herself up on one elbow, and gazed at Gabrielle.
"Ah, well," she thought, "time for some therapy."
This therapy is very simple and effective. It's called "Watching Gabrielle Sleep." But the first step is a little difficult. The first step is to find the most beautiful, wonderful, kind, loving, gentle, adorable woman in the world. If you're very lucky she finds you, and if you're very stupid you spend a lot of time trying to send her away and get rid of her, right up to the time when realize that you can't live without her.
Then you only have to watch Gabrielle sleep. That's it. And even though you can't see her beautiful green eyes or hear her lovely voice, it's better in a way, because you know you'll have nothing else to do for hours but watch Gabrielle sleep, and because Gabrielle is a sound sleeper you won't have to worry about looking away when she catches you staring at her.
And there was a time when the therapy involved telling her all the things you could never say when she was awake. But eventually that's gone, because when she's awake she will find a way to make you say all those things you never thought you could say. You'll tell her you love her, and that you can't live without her, and you'll beg her to never leave you. And you won't believe that these words are coming from you even as you say them.
But sometimes it's comforting to say these things anyway, so you'll say aloud. "I love you so much, Gabrielle. Please, please don't ever leave me."
And then you watch Gabrielle sleep, and you watch the lovely light that glows within her, and you drink it in. And you keep watching, and soon you will hear a kind of music in your soul. Or maybe it's music that you feel rather than hear, but the music will be there. It might take five minutes or an hour and a half, but the music will find you. And then you will smile. Oh, yes you will. You will smile.
And then you will lose all control, and the tears will come. But it's OK, because they're not tears of despair. You've really managed to convince yourself, just for a minute, that she will never leave you.
And then you play this little guessing game, and try to guess which benign god or goddess was responsible for giving you the gift of Gabrielle. And then you close your eyes and pray, and the prayer sounds like this:
"Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you."
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