SEVEN DAYS IN POMPEII
Grand Theatre - Pompeii
Gabrielle wiggled, trying to make herself as comfortable as possible on the hard stone bench. Folding her hands in her lap, she sighed happily, looking around at the enormous theater and the even more impressive stage.
Imagine performing in such a place, she thought to herself and spared a glance up at her partner. Xena was sitting straight-backed with legs crossed patiently waiting for the show to begin.
"I hope you won't be bored," Gabrielle whispered, leaning over so Xena could hear.
"I won't be."
"After all, serious drama is the highest form of art. Sometimes it's hard to follow, it can be so metaphorical."
"I'm sure I'll understand it just fine."
"If there's something you don't get, just ask."
Xena glanced down at her friend and raised a brow. "Do you have any idea what play we'll be watching tonight?"
"No," Gabrielle admitted, "But I'm sure it'll be one of the classics. After all, look at this place! Only Aristotle, Sophocles, Aristophanes would be worthy of this theater." An idea popped into the bard's head and she grabbed Xena's forearm in excitement. "Maybe we'll get to see Prometheus Bound! Wouldn't that be fun?"
"A blast," Xena mumbled, but smiled at Gabrielle anyway.
"Well, if anything goes over your head, just let me know. I'll be happy to explain," the bard said, giving her partner's forearm a gentle squeeze.
Xena was about to make a cynical retort concerning height when the curtain began to lift and the crowd quieted.
"It's starting," Sappho leaned over and whispered.
A hush fell over the theater. Gabrielle sat, back straight, posture perfect, her face shining with anticipation for some great theater to begin.
Any dreams Gabrielle might have had for a night full of classic Greek drama were dashed when a large, man-made, horse rolled out onto the stage. It turned its rump to the audience, lifted its tail and out popped Paris, dressed as a caricature of Caesar himself. He fell, ass first, on to the floor followed promptly by a resounding fart.
"BWAAA HAHAHA HAHAHA!"
Gabrielle looked up in surprise at Xena who, like the rest of the audience, was howling with laughter.
Back on stage, Caesar was trying to stand, none too successfully because he kept slipping on piles of brown fodder, parting gifts the horse left behind as it exited the stage.
Caesar slipped once again and rose with a face full of the stuff.
"BWAAAA HAHAHA HAHAHA!"
Gabrielle stared at her partner in amazement. "You think this is funny?"
"Let me know if you don't understand somethin'," Xena said, wiping the tears from her eyes. She would have said more, but Brutus had just walked onto the stage and bent over.
"BWAAAA HAHAHA HAHAHA!"
Gabrielle folded her arms across her chest. "THIS is Pompeian theater? It's nothing but a farce!" she exclaimed, looking at Sappho for support.
The poet was trying to catch her breath to answer, but the look on the bard's face only made her laugh more.
Xena glanced down, noting the look of disappointment on her bard's face. She grabbed Gabrielle's hand, entwining their fingers together, and gave a small squeeze.
"Come on, Gabrielle, relax. So, it's a comedy."
Up on stage, Caesar was being bounced between the bosoms of two robust women.
"Rude, perhaps. But you have to admit, it's very funny." Xena pulled the bard's hand, giving her a shake and staring at her, daring her to smile.
Before she could stop herself, a crooked smile began to work its way onto Gabrielle's lips. The grin gave way to a full belly laugh when Caesar's wife hit him in the head with a frying pan.
"That's more like it," Xena whispered, giving the warm hand another squeeze and refusing to let it go.
Gabrielle finally relaxed and actually found herself beginning to enjoy the show. She was chuckling in spite of herself at the antics on stage, but mostly she was enjoying watching Xena enjoy the play. Between being able to see her partner laugh louder than she had ever seen her laugh before, and having her hand held, the bard didn't think she could have asked for anything more.
"Excuse me. Which way is the ... latrine?" Gabrielle asked a young man who was kneeling in front of a wall.
He lifted his head from his work, scribbling something on one of the few bare spots left on the painted stone in the rear of the theater.
"Keep walking. First door on the right," he answered and turned back to his task.
Gabrielle peered over his shoulder at the writings, which were everywhere. "What are you doing?"
The young man paused and looked back up at her. "I feel like leaving a message."
Gabrielle nodded, trying to understand. "But it's such a beautiful wall. Why does everyone want to write all over it?"
He smiled, recognizing that she must be a tourist and unfamiliar with Pompeian customs. "It's art. And what better place for art than in a theater? Look at it. The hearts and minds of all of Pompeii, immortalized forever as words on a wall."
"Huh. I never thought of it that way." Gabrielle bit her lower lip, thinking it over. She leaned closer, trying to read the words he was writing.
All the world's a stage and all men and women merely players …
"That's good," she said, smiling down at him. "Are you a bard?"
He shook his head. "Nah, but I'd like to be. A bard or a scribe. Unfortunately, my father is in the Navy. He's an admiral. Wants me to follow in his footsteps, serve Caesar and Rome."
Gabrielle gave the young man's shoulder a squeeze. "You should follow what's in your heart. Your father will love you no matter what you choose to do."
He smiled up at her, surprised at the insightful words. "You think so?"
Gabrielle nodded. "I know so. I know because that's what happened to me. My parents expected me to live a certain kind of life, but I had other ideas. I followed my heart and even though they really don't understand, I know for certain that they still love me. They always will."
He seemed to think about this for a moment, before letting a handsome smile grace his features. "Thanks!" he said, wiping his hand on his pant leg and rising to shake the bard's hand. "My name is Pliny. Pliny, the Younger. My dad is Pliny, the Elder. Maybe you've heard of him."
Gabrielle took Pliny's hand and gave it a friendly shake. "No, I haven't heard of him. But then, I'm not from around here."
"I figured as much," Pliny said with a smile. "Here." He handed his quill and ink to Gabrielle. "Would you like to write something?"
Gabrielle took the quill with a delighted smile. "Thanks. Maybe I will."
She pressed the tip of the quill to her lips and thought deeply for several seconds. Her eyes scanned the wall, finding an appropriately clear spot amidst the scores of messages.
Finally finding adequate space, she dipped the quill in the ink and wrote.
Xena, you are the warrior of my heart. - Gabrielle
"That's nice," Pliny commented as he looked over her shoulder. "Are you a bard?"
"Yeah," Gabrielle answered with a big smile as she returned the quill and ink. "I have a feeling you will be, too, one day. Thanks for letting me write something."
"My pleasure. And thanks for the words of support."
Gabrielle gave him a small nod and left the wall, heading in the direction of the latrine.
"Your words will be here forever!" Pliny called after her and then bent back to finish the rest of his own message.
By the time they got back to Vettii's house, Gabrielle was exhausted. Although Sappho had invited a handful of people for late-night drinks in Vettii's triclinium, Xena and Gabrielle gracefully excused themselves and headed back to Xena's bedroom.
No sooner had they entered the chamber than Xena flung herself onto the bed with an exhausted moan.
"What a day!"
Gabrielle walked into Xena's room and stood in the middle, feeling a little bit ... what? Uncomfortable? Excited? Her stomach rumbled in answer.
"Don't tell me you're hungry?" Xena exclaimed, lifting her head from the pillow to stare at Gabrielle incredulously.
Gabrielle blushed and grinned. "That, amongst a number of other things."
Xena answered with a sly grin. "Why don't you sneak out to the kitchen and get us a tray of snacks?"
Gabrielle nodded briskly in agreement and turned to dash off on her mission.
"Bring the snacks back here," Xena ordered, stopping the bard mid-step.
"Don't take too long."
Gabrielle shook her head. "I won't."
"Don't talk to anyone on the way. Especially Sappho."
Gabrielle smiled. "Right."
"And come right back here."
"I'll be right back. I promise."
"Good," Xena said and let her head drop back against the pillow. Her head popped back up quickly. "DON'T let Sappho talk you into anything."
Gabrielle grabbed the door handle and pulled. "Not tonight," she answered with a big grin.
Xena's reply was a bright smile and the return of her head to the pillow.
Gabrielle let the door close itself gently behind her as she left.
"Don't forget some wine!" she heard the Warrior Princess call as she hurried down the hall.
True to her word, Gabrielle avoided the dining room, Sappho, and the after-show party altogether. Two nice servants helped her put together a tray of delicious tidbits. With a flask of wine tucked under her arm and a tray full of food in her hands, she tiptoed passed the triclinium and made her way back to the living quarters completely unnoticed.
Pressing her back against the door, she let herself into Xena's bedroom.
"As you commanded, Warrior Princess!" the bard said brightly as she entered the room.
She was greeted by a loud snore. The Warrior Princess had fallen dead asleep, in full armor, boots and all.
"I don't believe it," Gabrielle mumbled.
Xena's chest rose and fell, emitting another soft noise that sounded more like a purr.
The bard put the tray down on a table and quietly stood over her partner, watching her sleep.
"How many nights have you gone without sleep this time?" she asked quietly and got another snore for an answer.
"Well," Gabrielle sighed.
She pulled a chair up to the table, sat, and rubbed her hands together. Picking up a piece of cheese and onion bread, she paused before tearing it in half and glanced over at the bed.
Xena's peaceful face twitched once and then came the sound of another gentle gurgle.
"A woman cannot live on love alone," Gabrielle stated before popping the bit of bread into her mouth.
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