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Fandom: Xena: Warrior Princess alternative fan fiction
POV: 3 rd
Summary: S1. No one could change half a lifetime's habits in less than a fortnight.
Gabrielle was used to second-guessing herself by now. It was her natural state of being. She made decisions like most people breathed; without thought and instantaneous. The second—and sometimes third—thoughts always came just a little bit too late to be of any real help.
She'd been in trouble for that very reason off and on since before she had even learned to crawl, or so her mother had told her—and often. Gabrielle was inclined to believe her for more than one reason. For one, Hecuba never lied when she was irritated. And for another, Gabrielle's earliest, clearest childhood memories were of being scolded for some impulsive decision or another.
It just figured that this was one of those decisions. Gabrielle resisted the urge to sigh. That would draw attention, and that was the last thing she wanted. Each time that piercing blue eyed glare touched her, she had to firmly clamp down on the desire to squirm like she always did when an adult looked at her and guilt for things they couldn't possibly know about got the better of her.
Gabrielle shivered, and this time it wasn't because she was cold—well, not just because of that. She just knew Xena was looking at her again. She didn't need to pull the borrowed, rough saddle-blanket away from her face to confirm it. The hair on the nape of her neck was standing on end.
Xena was dangerous. Gabrielle figured she'd have known that even if she hadn't heard countless tales of the Warrior Princess's reputation. She could feel it... you know, in that way that the sheep back home sometimes sensed that there was a wolf nearby. It was like the very air around Xena was responding to her presence, and her mood, and warning people off.
Predator was the perfect word for Xena. She was strong, and violent, and had the lethal skills to back it up. And she was gorgeous. Gabrielle winced at the familiar vein of the stray observation.
Yeah, she'd been having second thoughts about this little misadventure since she'd stumbled into Xena's campsite earlier that evening. She'd had fourth and fifth thoughts, even. The warrior made her nervous. And if that wasn't an understatement, then Gabrielle didn't know what was.
It was trouble waiting to happen. She could, Gabrielle knew, ask the warrior to take her back home. Xena wanted her to. But one look at Xena, and Gabrielle was struck mute...and dumb.
Gabrielle wasn't hedging her bets on the cause. Because she really, really didn't want to marry Perdicas. And she wanted to see the world. As much as the thought of being confronted by her attraction to women terrified her, the thought of being trapped in Potidaea was even worse.
She bit her bottom lip to keep her teeth from chattering. It was really unseasonably cold. She would have scooted closer to the fire if she wasn't working so hard to pretend to be asleep. There was at least one other way she could think of to get warm, but she wasn't going there... ever .
In spite of the chill of the night air, Gabrielle felt warmth suffuse her. The contradiction made her shiver again. At this point, the tremors were almost constant. She figured her ruse of sleep was obvious to anyone who cared to look, despite the thick blanket she was cocooned in.
Gabrielle got her confirmation a few seconds later, and nearly jumped out of her skin in the process. She hadn't even noticed that Xena had left her spot across the fire. One moment Gabrielle was just lying there, and the next, the blanket was tugged off of her in one sharp motion. She couldn't help the startled yelp she let out and the strong hand that clamped down on her shoulder was the only thing that kept Gabrielle from scrambling away from Xena in reflex.
“It's just me,” Xena warned in a low burr.
It's just me, she says, Gabrielle muttered internally even as she gave a jerky nod in acknowledgement to Xena's words. Sure, sure. It's just you, and I'm just me. But which one of us is oh so terrifyingly intense and far too dangerous to my mental state?
“What—what's wr—wr—wrong?” Gabrielle barely managed to stammer.
Gabrielle hated speaking to someone without looking at them, but she was making an exception this time. It was difficult enough to get a word out as it was, but now, with Xena touching her... uh-uh. Xena's hand was scorching to Gabrielle's chilled skin, even through her blouse. And Gabrielle was pretty certain it wasn't just because of the cold night or the light breeze.
“You looked cold,” Xena replied, and Gabrielle registered a strange note in Xena's voice that did strange things to her insides. “I figured I could help you with that, if you'd like.”
Nothing could have surprised Gabrielle more. Well, almost nothing.
Xena was uncomfortably aware of the girl lying across the fire from her. Gabrielle was a tangible reminder of the distant past and the more recent. Xena clenched her jaw as she felt that invisible fist tighten around her heart again. Really, she could have done without that extra stimulation.
There was no chance she would forget. Xena still ached from her strenuous battle against Hercules. Her body still bore the physical mementos of her army's betrayal. And now, every time Xena closed her eyes, she was confronted with the vivid memory of her mother's disgust.
It hurt. How it hurt. Still, tears didn't come, even as Xena's eyes burned. She wouldn't cry; not when she knew she deserved so much worse. Xena stared unseeing at the surrounding forest.
Since Cortese' attack on Amphipolis, she'd scarcely felt anything but rage and hatred. It burned inside like a fire blazing out of control. It drove her until she'd forgotten the cause, and in doing so she'd lost track of who she was. It took a long time for that kind of fire to burn itself out. By the time it had, the damage she'd wrought was so far spread she had no hopes of making it right.
Xena had given up long before she'd ever reached Potidaea . Hercules' words of redemption hadn't even reached her. It wasn't until she saw Gabrielle in that clearing that Xena actually gave any real consideration to what she was going to do. The sight of a simple village girl standing up to a group of raiders against the odds had reawakened Xena's formidable strength of will.
Gabrielle hadn't stood a chance against Draco's men. She was untrained, she was smaller than them, and she was weaker than them. And yet...she'd still tried. That was when Xena realized that maybe she didn't stand a chance either, but she could still try to make amends.
Xena had no idea what she was doing. She'd gone home to get an idea of where to start. From the beginning was usually the best, right? Fatalistically, Xena figured she'd also gone because she knew her mother well enough to know Cyrene could hold grudges with the best of them.
Xena hadn't been surprised at the actions of the villagers in Amphipolis. Part of her had welcomed it. She was tired, so tired. She'd lost everything to Cortese, only to become him in the end. Despite her reasons for returning, Xena hadn't been able to deny Cyrene her vengeance.
Then Gabrielle had stepped in. Xena gave an inaudible chuckle of disbelief as she refocused on the girl. She didn't need her keen eyesight to note the trembling that shook the stiff saddle-blanket. A faint smile of fond remembrance softened her expression. Gabrielle was far too stubborn for her own safety, much like a younger boy Xena had known almost a lifetime ago.
Oh, Lyceus, Xena sighed silently. This was your doing, wasn't it? It's my punishment, right?
She should, she knew, take the girl right back where she came from. It was the right thing to do. It would be the smart thing to do. Xena winced. But there was a part of her that didn't want to.
It wasn't just the reminder of Lyceus that made it painful to look at Gabrielle. In Xena's time as a warlord, she had done a lot of despicable things. She'd tortured, murdered, stolen, lied, and she'd raised entire villages to the ground. But you couldn't list her victims and leave out the young women, because there were as many of those as there were leaves on the trees.
Even in Xena's darkest moments, children had been off limits. Those were sacrosanct to even the Destroyer of Nations. But young women, those just past marrying and child-bearing ages, they had always been subject to whatever whims struck her. Not that Xena was particularly sadistic—rape was out of the question; but bribery and seduction, those were right up her alley.
She'd reveled in making captives want her even when they hated her; especially when they hated her. It was a type of conquest that stirred a fire inside her belly even now. It made her sick. She'd taken and twisted young women to her desires, and she was all too aware where she'd learned it.
Xena shuddered in memory of her own disillusionment. It hadn't been just one lover, but several, that taught her those lessons. For as fiercely angry and violent a young woman as she was, Xena had barely been seventeen winters old—the age Gabrielle was now—when she'd found herself on her own. It took a while to break her self of that naïve belief that sex meant love and trust.
Gabrielle was idealistic enough that Xena knew without question that it was a belief she still held. Xena's hands clenched the rough homespun blanket draped over her lap until her knuckles faded to bone white. Another time, another place, Xena would have delighted in breaking her of that innocence. Now and here, Xena found her self reluctant to let Gabrielle out of her sight.
There was nothing noble about it. Xena wanted Gabrielle and she didn't want to take the chance that someone else would get her. It had been weeks since she'd found that kind of release and Gabrielle was just her type. No one could change half a lifetime's habits in less than a fortnight.
Oh, was Gabrielle her type. Xena chuckled humorlessly. Gabrielle was still in her awkward adolescent phase. Xena could see it in the way the girl struggled to communicate with her. It was more than intimidation that made it so difficult for Gabrielle to talk to Xena. It was attraction, and Xena was haunted by her need to exploit the discomfort Gabrielle had failed to hide.
It took a lot of willpower to resist. She was trying. It was the reason she'd been so brusque with Gabrielle from the moment they first spoke, and she'd been quick to rebuff Gabrielle's attempts to cajole her into letting her tag along. Then Gabrielle followed her to Amphipolis. Now, the longer the night wore on, the more aware Xena became of Gabrielle, and the harder it became.
The sudden drop in temperature tonight really wasn't helping Xena's endeavor. The chill might have cooled Xena off some if not for the effect it was having on Gabrielle. The young woman was obviously freezing; she could hear the chattering of Gabrielle's teeth from where she lay. The temptation to help warm Gabrielle up was likely to be Xena's breaking point, and soon.
Those thoughts were made all the worse by the fact that Xena genuinely liked the kid. Gabrielle was full of life, and love, and had a vivid imagination that Xena was intrigued by. Xena's only consolation was the fact that she didn't really want to hurt this one. She just wanted her.
It was the sudden lack of sound that did it. Xena's unwilling mind provided an image of Gabrielle's neat white teeth clamped down on a full lower lip, and Xena went rigid. Her whole body pulsed . Then Xena was up and moving; her blankets flung aside, forgotten.
Xena had seen and done too much, and knew the Gods far too well, to ever doubt the existence of the afterlife. She had long since resigned herself to the idea that she had condemned her soul to an eternity in Tartarus. They'd never show one with a soul as black as hers any kind of leniency; not even the God of War's Chosen. But Xena just knew there would be a special place reserved just for her in the lowest depths of Hades' kingdom for what she was about to do.
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