Violence: Yes. And please be aware that it will be rather graphic, too.
Subtext: Certainly. Really, is there anything else?
A Final Note: This could be considered an alternative ending to my first story "Falling". It isn't, really, but the idea came from that story. Sounds confusing, doesn't it? J Anyway... It is a rather dark piece and will contain scenes of emotional as well as physical violence. Please consider yourself warned!
Okay...the story is almost finished - only one more part to go. And I have made up my mind about the ending. J
Any comments on the story are welcome! firstname.lastname@example.org
Silence - Part 3
by Grit Jahning
Everything you are
Everything you'll be
Touches the current of love
So deep in me
Every sigh in the night
Every tear that you cry
And all that I am
And all that I'll be
Means nothing at all
If you can't be with me
Your most innocent kiss
Or your sweetest caress
I don't care about tomorrow
I've given up on yesterday
Here and now is all that matters
Right here with you is where I'll stay
Everything in this world
Every voice in the night
Every little thing of beauty
Comes shining thru in your eyes
And all that is you becomes part
Of me too
'Cause all you do seduces me
And if I should die tomorrow
I'd go down with a smile on my face
I thank god I've ever known you
I fall down on my knees
For all the love that we've made
Every sigh in the night
Every tear that you cry
Seduces me seduces me
And all that you do·seduces me
written by Dan Hill
- 8 -
Small wings fighting bravely against the wind causing a small body to tremble helplessly through the air.
Somewhere behind the massive walls of the building ahead a new morning tickled the outlines of the city. The air filled with the scent of wet earth, new, fresh grass and the ever so lightest traces of the ocean.
The little bee headed towards a sparkling beacon catching rays of sun. A spot of colour against the dark silhouette of the building. A scent of something fruity. A hint of spring yet to break through the remains of winter.
It was a small vase holding three single flowers. All three a deep red. But they didn't produce the tantalising scent that had drawn it here.
It was the small form behind them. Sitting in a big, cushioned chair. Huddled into a thick blanket. A top of pale hair hidden within. Green eyes smiling as the small insect hovered above the roses.
Its soft humming stirring the sleepy quiet of the morning.
It came to rest on top of one of the flowers. Its small body slowly making its way across the velvet ground.
Translucent wings catching a ray of light. Sparkling in a rainbow of colours.
Ahead, beyond the confines of Athens the sun washed away the night. Bathing mountains, pastures, forests in bright, golden colours. So in contrast to the still sleeping palace hidden in the shadows of a fleeing night.
The pale head tilted a little. The small form shifting slightly. A brief flash of pain wrinkling pale brows and green eyes closed for an endless moment.
And opened to look at a shadow hovering over her.
A smile shaped pink lips. Her hand reaching out to brush away a few stray, dark locks. Revealing pale eyes that warmed her to places inside no one ever touched. No one would ever touch·
A large hand, callused and used to death, but tilting her head up ever so gently. A thumb, rough skin, brushing along her cheek. Those pale eyes looking at her as if to memorise this one moment.
Then a light touch of soft, ever so soft lips. The warmth of the taller form encompassing her for a small eternity.
She kept her eyes closed. Huddled into the chair she simply listened to strong, heavy footsteps fading on the hallway. Waited for the scent that simply was Xena to fade to a light trace she knew only she would be able to detect.
The bee, oblivious to the scene unfolding, shook its wings and took off again. Breaking of one petal of the rose...immediately carried away by the strong breeze brushing past the walls of the palace.
Disappearing somewhere into the pale light of the morning. Followed by green eyes slowly shifting into an ocean-blue.
He started to annoy her.
Hades, he had annoyed her the moment he'd entered the room. All puffed up and dressed in heavy, expensive robes. Followed by a dozen Athenian politicians and a handful members of royal families.
All of them evidently feeling very important. Even though their city had just fallen to an enemy army.
The man in front of her had been talking for almost half a candlemark. His arms waving around in big gestures as he described the importance of the senate and its assembled members.
At one point she simply stopped listening to his annoying voice and started to imagine ways of killing him.
Where to start. Where to take her time.
Surveying her surroundings she noticed Spyros dozing off. Held up only by the column he stood next to.
It made her smile.
Which·what was his name?·apparently took as a sign of agreement because his voice got even more cheerful.
"I see we agree on this. This is very good·I think with a shared government we can bring Athens to new prosperity."
Pale eyes turned away from the amused observation of her second in command dozing off in an official meeting and settled on the annoyance in front of her.
Okay, she had enough. This was simply ridiculous.
She held up a hand to stop the man's rambling. It took a moment but his trail of words slowly ebbed away and he looked expectantly at her.
"First·I don't share. Ever. Second·unless you want your family to pick your head up from a pike in front of the city gates you better stop annoying me. Third·the only reason you guys aren't in one of the dungeons of this place is the fact that my second in command over there is asleep·but if you aren't gone by the time I count to three·I will throw you in there all by myself."
She held up one finger.
The man swallowed and looked at his companions. Most of them already moved backwards towards the huge doors.
One dark brow lifted. Slowly she got up. Walking down the three steps leading up to the throne she had sat on and stopped in front of him. Topping him by half a head. "I can't·what?"
His lips moved and he clearly wanted to object and argue but all he was able to utter was a hoarse croak.
He turned and all but ran out of the room to catch up with his comrades that had left the moment Xena had got up.
She shook her head and released a slow breath. Hades, she hated politics - but she needed to hold up the front as long as possible in order to assemble all the resources she would need to go up against Rome.
"You scared him, I think." Spyros' voice held an amused tone.
She shrugged and turned to him. "He'll be back sooner or later."
He chuckled and followed her towards the huge windows allowing a view of the courtyard below. A few dozen soldiers were practising·others were clearly enjoying some spare time to catch a few rays of sun.
The sound of metal clanking against metal. Hoarse laughter. And even the scent of overheated, sweating bodies drifted up to her.
It reminded her of many hours spent out somewhere training her ever growing army. First a small troop of men and women of all ages interested in some adventure.
And by the gods·look where it had brought them.
But the thought carried a light, pained undertone and she shrugged it off. She didn't need that now·
The tall frame shifted forward. Hands braced against the window-sill, all her weight leaning on them·her gaze reaching somewhere beyond the confines of the city.
Behind her Spyros shifted a little. His uniform making soft creaking sounds. "It·" he paused but then continued. "It was nice to see Gabrielle yesterday."
For a long time the tall form didn't move but somehow her tall frame seemed to lose in height. Then, slowly, she turned. A small, sad smile on her lips as she looked at him through dark locks.
"Yeah·it's been a while."
A heavy silence settling somewhere between them.
Straightening to her full height again, she walked past him. Heading towards the courtyard to get another look at her troops and to make the rounds through the city.
"Xena·" His trembling voice stopped her short of stepping into the hallway.
This time she didn't turn. Couldn't afford to. "She'll be all right. She has to." Soft. Hoarse. Barely above a whisper.
And then the door closed behind her. Leaving him in the sudden and eerie silence of the room.
- 9 -
It was an unusually hot spring day. The air was glittering with heat and everyone who could afford it had fled the streets and sought shelter in the cooler interior of taverns or public baths.
Even the market in the centre of the eternal city was deserted. Only a few stubborn merchants defying the heat.
Dark eyes surveyed the huge city before him. Tanned skin covered by a fine layer of sweat. Purple robes disguising a well-trained body that nevertheless showed first signs of the comfortable life it had got used to.
A slow breath.
Strong fingers closing around a sheet of papers. Soft rustle as it surrender to the angry grip.
"When did · this · arrive?" A low, barely controlled voice.
Caesar turned around. Again assaulted by the heavy stench of decaying flesh. No surprise considering the two severed heads on the floor of his quarters. Already dozens of flies hovered greedily over the dead pieces of human body.
He looked at Brutus and shaking the hand holding the crumbled letter, stepped back into his quarters. "She is starting to annoy me. Really. I don't like that."
His second in command kept silent. Knowing that his personal opinion was of no consequence and would most likely get him killed. So he nodded and waited for instructions.
Caesar sighed. "I should just send the southern troops to finally get rid of her. She has Greece all stirred up and it's practically impossible to get spies through the borders."
He took a step forward and kicked one of the heads. It tumbled to the side·its blank, milky eyes starring at the ceiling not seeing the fresco painted there.
Brutus waited a moment but decided to go ahead. "Caesar, the southern troops·"
"Yes, I know!" A harsh shout. "I know I can't afford to send any of the troops right now!" Dark eyes alight with anger and frustration.
Then dark brows wrinkled in thought. He walked past Brutus and sat down on a huge, heavy wooden chair. His fingers idly tracing carved lines along the armrest.
"Remember that blonde we caught some years back?"
It took the smaller man a moment to catch up to his train of thought but then he nodded. Oh yeah, he remembered her. Her screams still haunted his dreams.
"Should have killed her when I had the chance. I think, it would have saved me a lot of trouble."
Caesar looked up a bit surprised as if he had forgotten that Brutus was still there. He shrugged. "I am not sure but something tells me Xena would have put up far less a fight had that bitch died."
Brutus swallowed. Vividly remembering the crumbled and broken body they had left in that clearing all those years ago. Remembered the way the heavy rain had pooled around the small body·forming an ocean of fading red.
A frustrated huff. "Well, can't change that now. Tell Charisteas I want to talk to him."
Brutus straightened and turned without another word. Leaving Caesar to study a map in front of him. Displaying the Roman Empire and in one corner·insignificantly small but annoying nevertheless - Greece.
His fingers drummed around the spot that indicated Athens.
"What's going on in that head of yours, huh?" He leaned forward. "What's your next step?" He starred in silence at the map until a light, scraping sound of boots on marble floor caught his attention. Looking up, a slow grin broke on his face. "Ah...Charisteas..."
A slim, strangely dark figure stepped closer.
Caesar gestured him to sit down. Getting up himself, he perched on the edge of his table. Still grinning. "I need you to do me a little favour."
- 10 -
Love at first sight?
She snorted at the thought. But by the gods, it had been something at first something, that's for sure. Crossing her arms behind her head, she stretched her length out along the bed and starred at the ceiling of her small room.
She closed her eyes. Already a by now too familiar warmth spreading through her body. Reaching places it had no business being.
She had meant to spend a week at tops in this small village. Just to warm up. Stack up on some travel food and then just be on her way.
Pale eyes traced to the window.
Outside she could just make out the first traces of spring. Small buds of light green on the tree in front of her window.
Ah well, so much for that.
She actually ended up helping them rebuild part of the village after a rather severe storm. And it wasn't her fault that it usually meant spending a lot of time in the close proximity of a certain, small blonde.
She got up and walked over to the window. Leaning against its frame, she returned a few greetings from passing villagers.
Next to the door at her back stood a small backpack and new saddlebags for the horse they had given her as a way of thanking her for her help.
Pale eyes drifted past the village.
She had every intention of leaving today. Well, four hours ago·but she would leave today.
A shout from below caught her attention and she looked down to see one of the young boys of the village waving at her.
"He is all ready. I gave him two apples·hope that was okay."
She smiled and nodded. Watched him·Mikis·head towards his father's inn with a last wave. Strange, he was one of the first boys she had met here. The day, she had arrived. The day, she had met·a small smile·Gabrielle.
A hand reached up to touch the spot where the snowball had hit her.
She could stay, she knew.
But she also knew, that this wasn't what fate had in store for her. But nevertheless, there had been more than one day she had actually thought about staying.
A deep breath.
Turning, she picked up her pack and saddlebags and without one look back left. Said good-bye to Giannakos and Lila. Forcing herself not to look around as she headed towards the stables.
The day had started with a wall of pale grey clouds dulling the sky. It wasn't cold but the air was crisp and a playful wind tugged at her hair.
Her horse·she had yet to find a name for him...greeted her with a soft snort. The scent of fresh, dry hay and dust was heavy and she took a deep breath.
Arranging her bags on his back, she finally stopped and shook her head at herself. Closing her eyes, she leaned forward. Touching her forehead to the cool surface of the saddle.
"Okay·so, you know her name, you have talked a few times·she does smile when she sees you·has touched you a few times but it doesn't mean anything, does it? So, get a grip and on that horse and leave, dammit!"
And turned and walked out of the stables. Heading straight to the small school they had set up in the back of the village.
But she would never know, if she didn't ask, now would she?
"So·if you have one fish and Michelis gives you another fish that makes two fish." Eager, big eyes looked at the small blonde in front of them and fuzzy, curly heads nodded. "How much do you have if he gives you two more, then?"
Small brows wrinkled in concentration as some of the children started to count the numbers with their fingers.
It made her smile.
The school wasn't much more than a shelter consisting of four post holding a roof. Trees taking down by the storm a few weeks back had been cut in half and now served as make-shift chairs for the kids.
"Four!" Cheerful voices cried.
Green eyes sparkled with the smile shaping pink lips. "Good. Now, if he wants two dinars for each fish·how many dinars would you have to pay him?"
Xena chuckled. Not quite able to hold back the remark tickling her tongue. "Too many, if you ask me."
The children turned around at the sound of the low voice. Smiling and laughing as they recognised the tall woman. Who as they had discovered during winter was a lot of fun to play with.
Gabrielle's smile turned into an amused smirk as she shook her head a little. "Maybe·but that's not the point."
Green eyes met her gaze and for a moment she could have sworn to see a soft blush colouring Gabrielle's face.
Big, dark eyes moved between the two adults looking at each other. Being all quiet. A funny expression on their faces.
It was Gabrielle that broke their gaze and cleared her throat. A trembling hand brushing stray locks behind one ear.
"Okay·how about a short break, huh?"
Cheers were her answer as an ocean of small bodies jumped from their seats and raced outside towards the small clearing behind the school building.
It left them in a strange silence as they both tried to avoid the other's eyes. Xena scratched her jaw and gestured to the empty seats.
"You enjoy teaching, don't you?"
Gabrielle laughed softly. "It's fun, yes. Not always·", she rolled her comically, "but yes, most of the time it is a lot of fun."
Xena nodded. Okay, so that answer wasn't really encouraging in·whatever she had meant to ask.
Taking a deep breath, she crossed her arms. Trying to pretend a nonchalance she didn't feel. "I came to say good-bye."
Something flickered through green eyes and Gabrielle turned away. Taking the few steps back to her table. Her fingers trembling as she smoothed out a few parchments. "Oh·."
"Well, you know, I've been here far longer than I had planned. It's·I·" Xena would have liked to slap herself for stuttering like a teenager. She might still be one but, really·this was ridiculous. "I have places to go, people to meet, you know."
"Of course." Gabrielle's voice was soft and she still hadn't turned around. But even from her point of view she saw the light shiver going through the smaller frame.
And just then a ray of sunlight broke through the wall of clouds, bathing the young woman in golden warmth. And something inside actually hurt at the sight.
"·come with me·"Hoarse. But strong enough to carry across the small room.
Gabrielle turned around. Her face the most peculiar mixture of shock, joy and something she couldn't quite name...
"Do I even want to know what you are thinking about?"
Berra's teasing voice broke her out of her memories and she turned and smirked at the older woman.
"Naw·I don't think I want to share."
They stood in the huge kitchen of the palace. It still looked somewhat messy since Berra was just starting to organise things the way she wanted them. Staff hurried past them·curious glances flickering towards them only to shy away from cold, pale eyes meeting theirs.
She grabbed an apple out of a basket near the fireplace. The small smile on her lips refusing to disappear. She could still remember the tickling sensation inside her stomach as Gabrielle had walked up to her. Pale brows wrinkled in puzzlement. The way her skin had prickled in anticipation as a small trembling hand had reached up to ever so lightly caress her cheek·an almost unconscious gesture. An ever so fleeting touch.
It had caused the most ridiculous fuzzy warmth inside her.
She chuckled. And frowned as she noticed the silence around her.
Turning around, she was met by unbelieving and curious stares. Berra simply shook her head. Laughing softly. "Go on you lot·I want this finished by tonight!"
Xena rolled her eyes. Meeting pale, almost colourless eyes, she shrugged. "I'm ruining my image, don't I?"
The older woman laughed and walked over to her. Taking her by the arm and leading her out of the kitchen into the backyard. Here a small garden had been set up and the heavy scent of herbs and fresh vegetables filled the air.
The morning had turned into a beautiful, warm day. A few stray clouds spotting the pale blue of the sky and somewhere above the city a flock of birds headed to some destination of their choosing. Their excited voices carrying easily through the fresh air.
"Do you still plan to have this party tomorrow?"
The dark head nodded. "Yup·appease the natives, you know. I don't need them up and in arms trying to kill me every time I turn my back. And the troops need some time to just chill out."
She turned away. Her eyes travelling along the cleanly shaped lines of the garden.
"We all need some time to relax and heal."
Berra refused to let the turn in mood happen and clapped her hands. "I almost forgot·have you had time to look around this place, yet?"
Knowing pale eyes studied her but then dark brows lifted in silent question as she shook her head.
"I just know the place Gabrielle and you would love!"
That caused on brow to decent in mock-indignation. "You know, we really need to talk about boundaries one of these days." But the words held no real anger, just some amused resignation.
Berra simply shrugged. "Honey·I am way past the age of respecting boundaries, so just indulge me, okay."
It would take about ten steps to make it from the window to the bed. Gabrielle sighed. Even with crutches it was a small eternity.
A brief flicker of anger as she moved the blanket and looked at her legs.
But then stern determination settled on gentle features. She set the present Gregorios had brought her carefully to one side and reached for the two crutches Xena had made for her.
Preparing for the stab of pain, she slowly pulled her body out of the chair. Gods· She bit her lower lip to keep the soft cry from escaping. Releasing a slow, trembling breath, she took one step.
This time the pain darted right into her stomach and for a moment she was afraid she would be sick.
Another deep breath. The warm traces of tears on her face.
Blinding white waves of pain.
By now her body was shaking and she tasted blood on her lip. But her legs didn't give in. They were the source of searing pain but they held her weight.
A muffled cry·a long shaking breath.
A dark line of promising peace tickled her mind and for a moment she was tempted to give in. She swallowed, gripping the crutches more tightly. Her knuckles turning white under the pressure.
Just one more·
The pain had reached a point where it had taking over her entire body. Turning it into one living mass of bright white pain. But she knew that now it couldn't get worse.
And just as she took the last step one foot hit a corner of the bed·
Her cry · and the heavy door slamming open and Piraeleus rushing inside happened almost in the same instance of time. He dropped to one knee at her side. His face clearly showing his worry as he reached out to touch her.
It was like any air had been forced out of her lungs and she had to take short, calming breaths to fight the tempting caress of unconsciousness.
"·watch·that last·step, huh?·" Her eyes were closed tightly against the nauseating waves of pain.
His dark eyes studied her almost helplessly. "What happened?"
After another long silence, she moved very slowly to look at him. Green eyes sparkling with tears.
His brows wrinkled in puzzlement. For some reason it made her smile. He was a nice, surprisingly gentle man. His height and massive build betraying the warmth inside him.
Closing her eyes, she took another deep breath.
And somewhere found another smile as she looked at him again.
"Will you do me a favour?"
The young man·Nikos·dropped down on a rolled up blanket and released a tired but happy sigh. He felt pleasantly exhausted after his training with some of the older soldiers and now he was looking forward to a quick bath and some of whatever smelled so good over at the other side of camp.
Gregorios watched him with a fond smile. Gesturing to the thin remains of a bandage on his head. "How does it feel?"
Nikos blinked and then reached up to touch his forehead as if he just remembered the wound he had received there during the battle three days ago. Zeus, had it only been three days?
"Oh·better·it doesn't hurt anymore."
The older man chuckled. Slapping him on his back as he stood up to greet a small group of soldiers that appeared to be of his age.
Nikos tugged at his uniform. Getting rid of the chest armour, curiously eyeing the other men.
They all appeared to be at least in they forties. Their faces tanned and weathered. Scattered scars lining some of them·one was missing three fingers on one hand the young man noticed as he reached up to slap Gregorios on the shoulder.
They laughed at something. Their voices husky.
Then one of them turned and Nikos sat up a little at the expression on his face.
Shock, at first. Then an almost parental pride and joy. His face breaking into a broad, happy smile as he gestured to some place out of Nikos' sight.
It was Gregorios' trembling whisper that caused him to get up and take a look at what had them so mesmerised.
Well, them and the rest of camp.
He swallowed and felt a soft blush warming his face.
There was one giant of a man walking through the camp. His face stoic as he studiously ignored the stares of the men he passed. But it wasn't him they stared at·it was the blonde woman in his arms that had them gaping with undisguised surprise and curiosity.
Her long hair had been pulled back in a loose tail and only a few stray strands danced around her face as she smiled at the group of men surrounding Gregorios.
Nikos felt a soft trembling inside as she included him in her smile.
They stopped and she tilted her head a little. Green eyes dancing with delight and humour. "Well, gentlemen...anyone care to offer me a seat?"
The air trembled with her soft laughter as the older soldiers all but jumped to get her a chair.
The soft splashing sound of waves caressing whispering grains of sand. The scent of clean water mixed with the faintest traces of some fruit she couldn't quite place.
She knew baths like that from a trip to Rome some years ago. Large rooms, lined with tiles and pools sunken into the ground. Here, someone had gone the extra steps and had actually planted birch trees around the huge pool.
Turning to Berra, she chuckled. "I know that Athenians had an·extravagant taste in pretty much everything but this·"
The older woman shrugged. "But it's perfect, no?"
Pale eyes turned back to the calm surface of the pool. She took the few steps leading up to the edge and crouching down, dipped her hand into the water. Pleasantly cool.
She could probably stand in the middle of it and the water would only reach up to her shoulders she guessed from the size of it.
But a smaller person could easily float in the soft current.
She turned back to Berra who smirked at her. Obviously quite pleased with her discovery. "I can have a table and some food brought here within two hours."
A dark brow rose.
Turning, the older woman waved her hand dismissively. "Just in case you need it, let me know."
Xena took another look at the pool, then at the door that had closed behind Berra as she disappeared into the hallway and slowly got up.
"We really need to talk about boundaries.", she muttered, but in her mind already a few ideas formed as to how she could use this new discovery.
Deciding to take a small tour through the temporary barracks lining the courtyard and to pay a brief visit to the camp outside, she stepped into a wall of warm, humid air. Unusual for this time of year. And looking down at her clothes, she was glad that she had chosen light pants and one of her lighter tunics.
Dark brows wrinkled in slight puzzlement as she saw a group of soldiers rush towards the camp located just outside the city gates. Wondering what had them in a hurry like that - aside from food it usually meant some fools had decided to start a fight.
Well, not in her army.
Changing her course, she stepped through the city gates and onto a small path leading to the outer lines of the camp. The frown got deeper as she saw not one soldiers here.
Sure, some were on patrol, others in training but there had to be quite a number of troops around at this time of day.
She slowly made her way through camp, noting idly that they had cleaned up the remains of the dead bodies that had been burned yesterday.
But still no-one anywhere near. No-one sitting in front of their tent repairing amour or polishing weapons. No round of men or women laughing and singing. Even though this fact didn't necessarily worried her - it was unusual.
That's when she entered the centre of the main camp and saw them. Half her army standing in a large circle around one of the tents and even from here she could see that they were not cheering a fight.
No, they were quiet and an intent look was on the faces of the few she could see.
As if they were listening to -
- a cold spark of anger branded through her body as realisation darkened pale eyes.
He was lucky that he lived in this tent and therefore had a seat directly in front of the young woman Gregorios referred to as "My Lady".
It gave him a perfect view of the most beautiful green eyes he had ever seen. He knew that behind him a large crowd was listening to her story because he felt their weight and warmth on his back. Heard the muffled breaths and whispers.
But he didn't really care. He was as entranced by her voice as everybody else.
She just finished a story and smiled as they started clapping and cheering. An ever so faint blush visible on her face.
He was about to shout along with the rest of the crowd for yet another story but a low, cold voice froze them all in place.
"Just what do you think you are doing here!?"
He had been with this army only a short time but even he recognised the voice immediately and jumped to his feet. Coming to attention.
As did the rest of the assembled soldiers that had slowly crowded the space around the chair the young blonde sat in. Telling them stories. Mesmerising them with a gentle, lilting voice.
But somehow all their fascination vanished as out of the shadows an equally dark form appeared. Rays of sunlight highlighting pale eyes·sparkling with undisguised anger.
Not that she paid attention to any of them.
The ocean of bodies parted as she stepped closer. Grown men and women that had seen more death than anyone probably should shied away from her. Nobody meeting those pale eyes as she surveyed the crowd.
Even Piraeleus who topped her by at least two heads, shrunk away from her gaze.
Taking a deep breath, she finally looked at Gabrielle.
Very aware that her anger was unreasonable at best but at the moment unable to control it. Around them it was eerily quiet and only the soft rustle of leather and boots crunching dry sand stirred the silence.
She knew that would she say anything now, she would be yelling and saying things she'd regret the moment she said them, so she simply leaned forward. Gathering Gabrielle in her arms...giving her the time to adjust her position.
Felt something inside cramp, as small hands tightened for the briefest of moments in her tunic. A soft sound only she heard.
"...there better be a damn good reason for this..." A low, hoarse whisper only Gabrielle picked up as she dropped her forehead against a broad shoulder.
Straightening to her full height, Xena looked at the soldiers still standing around them and slowly lifted a brow. It took a moment but they got the hint...hesitantly they moved away. Walking back to their tents. Now and then looking back with a hint of worry in their eyes.
Nikos looked at the scene before him. Not sure what to make of it.
Gregorios and the rest of his friends didn't look afraid or worried - well, they looked worried but not in a bad way.
The young man felt his knees weaken as Xena walked past him and not knowing where he took the courage, said: "She was just telling stories..."
It stopped the tall frame immediately. Slowly, she turned and he found himself trapped within icy blue eyes. Saw the muscles in her jaw move rapidly as she took one step closer to him.
"...Xena..." A soft, gentle request.
But he saw it in her eyes. Knew that if it wasn't for the small blonde in her arms, he would have found out first hand if all those stories about her were true.
And for a moment he wondered what that drumming noise was that he heard until he realised that it was his heart beating wildly in his chest.
She all but felt the anger inside Xena.
It was like her body was humming with the pure energy of her emotions. But even now, with her anger so obvious, she still felt safe. Sheltered in a pair of arms that held her gently...trying to avoid jarring her body as they made their way across the uneven ground of the courtyard.
A flicker of muscles in angular features.
She tried to move a little to be able to look into her face but by now her body refused to ignore the abuse it had to endure during the last few hours and she barely muffled a soft sob in the thick fabric of Xena's shirt as cramped muscles announced their presence.
That of course caused another low growl. A rumble she felt drumming against her body.
No response. Just set features refusing to answer her gentle request.
Gabrielle swallowed. That's what scared her the most. The silence. She could take yelling...cursing...but not silence.
"Xena." This time it was almost a plea.
Blue eyes flickered to her. There was no anger in them - just·just a well of emotions. Too many to name them all. But above all a warmth only she was allowed to see.
It didn't change the cold mask but it lightened those pale blue depths. And around her she felt muscles relax as Xena slowed her walk. Felt more than she heard the deep breath.
She was still angry.
But it would be okay.
The relief she felt was almost deafening in its force and she closed her eyes against the sting of tears she felt forming. Curled her body closer towards the warmth encompassing her entire being·her soul.
Felt a gentle touch on the top of her head.
"·you really are a pain in the butt. I hope you know that·" The low voice reaching right into some deep part inside.
It made her laugh softly. Placed an equally gentle kiss on Xena's neck. The scent of her warm body overwhelming. "·yeah, but I am your pain in the butt·so that's okay, right?·"
A low chuckle.
Green eyes strayed to their surroundings and blinked in puzzlement as she realised they were not headed to their quarters.
Instead of taking the huge steps leading to the second level of the palace they had turned left and were now making their way through a small corridor. One side was broken in intervals by small windows allowing a view of the courtyard and the city beyond. And just at its edge, outlined by a blaze of sunlight...the Acropolis.
Straying a little to get a better look, she suddenly froze. Her entire body turning into one big cramp.
Her hands tightened around pieces of fabric and this time she wasn't able to hold back the tears. Felt the arms holding her tighten ever so lightly. Heard the soft trembling breath stirring stray locks of hair.
Closing her eyes, she simply gave in to the pain and allowed herself to float in a whispering haze of oblivious peace.
Knowing that she was safe.
And in the end that was all that mattered...
It was....she exhaled slowly.
Her body was immersed fully in pleasantly cold water, gently caressing along her nude form. Adding nice sensations to the warmth at her back and large hands rubbing slow circles across her belly. Ever so often straying playfully...
It had her in a fuzzy state of pleasant arousal and simply, profound contentment.
"Okay?" A tickle of warm breath on her neck. Followed by teeth gently nipping her skin.
"...mmh..." And it was. Her body had a chance to finally fully relax and pacify angry muscles. Her legs were in a state of numb oblivion floating somewhere beneath the surface of awareness.
She turned her head and placed a light kiss on the collarbone conveniently near. Closed her eyes and listened to the soft breathing underneath her ear. A steady heartbeat - that just then skipped a beat.
"You shouldn't have gone down there, today."
A silent sigh.
She had wondered when Xena would finally say something. They had arrived here almost an hour ago. An unconscious smile as she remembered the slow, teasing act of being undressed. Her fingers idly trailing along smooth skin.
But Xena hadn't said anything.
Her anger had faded into the background but it had still been there. Barely recognisable - but she knew that look in her eyes too well. Recognised the slight frown shaping dark brows.
"I had to."
Xena's hands stopped their gentle motion. "Do you mind telling me why?"
Using the current weightlessness of her body, she pushed away from the warm body at her back and slowly turned around. Playful waves splashing against her ...a brief chill on her warm skin. Her hands grabbing broad shoulders for support as she starred into angular features frowning at her.
"Xena, I have been doing this ever...ever since we started this army."
Blinking blue eyes. Large hands coming to rest on her back. Hesitant fingertips caressing along her skin.
Saw her swallow. "So?"
Pale brows rose. "Are you telling me that you don't want me to tell stories anymore?"
Blue eyes closed for a brief moment. A deep breath. "Of course not...but I don't want you out there when it's still too unsafe. Do you have any idea what could have happened?"
The blonde head in front of her tilted ever so slightly. "Piraeleus was with me....half of our army all around me...what to you think could have possibly happened?" Quiet. A soft flicker of...something...clouding green eyes.
The words tickled her lips. But wouldn't come.
Gabrielle dropped her head and released a slow breath. Then gentle green eyes, shifting into a dark blue, looked at her again.
"Every time you go out to a battle...no matter how small or how big...I worry myself sick. I am trapped in a tent days behind you and no one can tell me what's happening.....whether you are alive...or....." A trembling pause. "...all I have is my faith in these men going into battle with you. I have to trust them to protect you.
This time....gods, Xena...at one point you were almost a month ahead of us. And there was barely any message coming back. And each new day I felt something fade inside......" Another pause. "...but...it's not like I could do anything, right?"
The tall frame had gone very quiet. Felt muscles barely move underneath her touch.
"But every time they bring you back to me....and if all I can do to thank them is to tell a few stories....I will."
Red lips started to form a reply but Gabrielle shook her head.
" Yes, I hurt....but it's nothing compared to the pain I feel when I am not with you, Xena...." A trembling breath. Glitter of tears. "...nothing compared to the pain I'd be in would you not return to me...." Soft. Pained.
A long silence where there was only the sound of water. And their breathing. And two souls desperately reaching for each other.
It felt like hands closing around her heart, her soul. Gently, caressing - and yet igniting a pain no wound could ever cause. And she knew were these hands ever to let go...
"...I love you..."
In response, Gabrielle released a trembling laugh as she leaned forward and touched their foreheads together. Revelling in the warmth spreading through her.
A low, rumbling chuckle. And hands starting to explore her body in earnest.
- 11 -
Soft drizzle of rain. Light sounds as countless drops burst on leaves and the dry, greedy ground.
He took a deep breath.
The overwhelming scent of wet earth. Humid air leaving a thin layer of sweat on his skin. Shifting his position, he tried to get more comfortable in the patch of undergrowth he had chosen to hide until nightfall.
Dark eyes peering through scattered leaves up at the sky. In a few minutes the rain would be pelting down in thick walls of fluid. Heavy clouds obscuring the moon. Covering the world beneath in uncaring darkness.
It would mean that the border patrols were going to be less careful about guarding than they were about staying dry. Assuming that no one in their right mind would be out and about in a night like this.
A small smile shaping thin, pale lips.
Sometimes it seemed too easy.
He closed his eyes. Perfectly content to wait another candlemark before he moved again. Two more days - and then he would be in Athens.
Already his entire body was tingling with anticipation.
Two more days.
Silver light illuminating a countryside peacefully asleep. Soft whispers of wind brushing through leaves. Thin layers of translucent clouds fading into a pale grey as they passed the silver circle of light.
Reflected in two spots of pale blue.
She had woken sometime during the night. But had been unwilling to move from her position. Gabrielle laying on her belly...one hand tugged under her head. Her own longer, broader frame covering half of Gabrielle's much lighter from. Their fingers entwined where they met next to gentle features completely relaxed in sleep.
Slowly, gently she moved her fingers. Loosened their hold ever so lightly. As silently as possible she got up and took the few steps towards the window.
Her tall frame outlined by moonlight...and yet blending effortlessly into the lingering dark. A deep breath...tasting the first hints of rain on the back of her throat.
She closed her eyes and listened.
Dismissed the soft sounds of nature. Noted idly the tired, aching sighs of the massive walls of the palace. Filtered the subtle noise of guards making their rounds across the city walls. Somewhere the sound of laughter and muffled singing. Dogs barking.
Heard them...and dismissed them until there was only one sound left.
A soft, even breathing.
She turned. Her features completely hidden in shadows - only her eyes visible within the darkness.
Gabrielle hadn't moved and playful moonlight flickered across her nude form. Danced along soft skin, highlighting pale hair like a halo of light framing the soft features of her face.
Pale spots of light disappeared behind closing lids.
A soft, even breathing.
She forced herself to dismissed this sound, as well. This fine lifeline that kept her sane each new day.
And then there was only silence.
A deafening, humming silence drowning her in despair and dark loneliness. And there was nothing that would keep her rooted in this one last ray of light sheltered within her soul.
A long, deep breath.
Taking the few steps back to their bed, she dropped to her knees next to it. Waited for a moment until soft movement and the light wrinkling of pale brows meant that Gabrielle reacted to her presence.
Quite without conscious thought her hand reached out and ever so lightly caressed soft skin of a small hand. A small smile shaping red lips as its fingers almost immediately closed around hers.
Then...a brief flicker of eyelids and green eyes, almost grey in the moonlight, blinked at her. Gentle fingers tightening their hold.
Two heartbeats blending into each other.
A million words she wanted to say.
"...I'm scared..." A hoarse, helplessly uttered admission.
A long, trembling breath. Pale eyes darkening with quiet sorrow. Her tall frame losing in height.
"...promise me..." Her low voice barely above a whisper as she tumbled into green depths.
They looked at each other for a long, silent moment. Then movement. Shifting shadows. Rustle of sheets. A small, trembling hand tracing along chiselled features. A featherlight touch.
They met halfway. Losing themselves in the warmth that was their love for a small eternity.
Then a soft whisper. Fading in drumming heartbeats.
"... I promise..."
To be concluded in part 4...
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