“A Vineyard by the Sea”
Lori A. Meyers
Xena: Warrior Princess is © to Universal Pictures, Renaissance Pictures, and Networks USA. I’d love to own the characters of Xena and Gabrielle, but, alas, it’s not to be. There is love here between our two heroes, and a little romance, and, a little sex as well. Go away if you’re under age, or if the thought of two women together isn’t your cup of tea. I’ll have Earl Grey…
Spoilers: When Fates Collide. With apologies to Katherine Fugate, I’ve altered the balcony scene a little.
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There it was before me, another life that I had not really lived but was burned forever in my memory. I remember the groves of grapes as they crisscrossed their way up the hill, away from the villa. From the porch, that runs around the entire villa, you can watch the ocean waves as they crash upon the shore, then go around to the back of the house and watch as the laborers go over the fields, picking the ripest of grapes.
The house is beautiful, inside and out, with frescoed walls and beautiful tiled mosaic floors. There is a kitchen that looks out to the fields, with a rather large dining room next to it. There are several rooms—a library, bathhouse, sitting room, and a few bedrooms—on three different levels. The master bedroom is huge, with its own fireplace, and a rather large bed in its center, piled high with pillows. I lived most of my adult life in that beautiful house, overseeing the vineyards, writing plays and poetry, and spending several nights in the warm company of good friends, come to taste the prior year’s harvest. I even entertained them with my poetry. Which was dutifully praised by all, even when it was a little silly.
“You’re doing it again.”
I am startled out of the memories by the sound of her voice. These days there is a melancholy there that breaks my heart. “I’m sorry.”
Xena glances over at me, and then continues to sharpen her sword. “I can’t give you that vineyard by the sea, Gabrielle.”
I feel my heart crack. “I know you can’t.”
She stands abruptly and sheaths her sword. “Then why do you keep doing that—loosing yourself in those damn memories!”
I know that I’m hurting her, but I can’t help it. The memories are real because I lived them. I wasn’t altogether unhappy in that life, and she knows that. She even knows that I had entertained a few lovers, if not love itself. I look up into the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. “Gods, Xena, I don’t want to hurt you.”
“But you do, Gabrielle.”
I let out a frustrated breath. How can I make her understand my predicament? “My life wasn’t exactly like heaven, you know.”
“And mine was exactly like hell. Don’t you understand that?”
I stand and take two steps towards her. “Oh, Xena…”
She retreats from me and holds up her hands. “No, don’t. Don’t touch me.”
She is gone, deep into the forest and I’m left standing, watching as her form blends into the blackness beyond. We’ve had this argument before, and it’s driving a wedge between us that I can’t seem to penetrate. But, then again, I haven’t been trying very hard, and neither has she.
We’re both cowards and I know it. Neither of us is bold enough to voice that unspoken truth.
I’m stuck—we’re stuck—on a point that neither of us has dared to voice—that neither of us has dared to say aloud. We fell in love in that other universe—quickly and suddenly—and felt a passion that we’ve not experienced in this lifetime. If only she would stick around long enough for me to gather some courage, courage to ask her if she loves me like the Empress did. I’ve tried, gods how I’ve tried. But the words elude me, as if I’ve never been a bard in this lifetime.
I wonder if the truth is a clear to her as it is to me. If only I could make her understand why that vineyard truly haunts me. It brought me to Rome, to her, so how could I ever forget its significance in my life.
I’ll never forget that fateful night. I was stunned by the invitation to Rome. My own plays had never ventured beyond my simple homeland, or so I thought. Then a royal escort is at my door, along with the local magistrate. They hand me a scroll with the Imperial signature of Rome imbedded into the wax. I remember looking up at Aristaios and wondering if, perhaps, they had the wrong villa. He smiled at me and nodded to the Imperial messenger.
If I had known then what I know now I don’t think I would have accepted the invitation; not if it meant that Xena had to die. I would not be the cause of her death, not in any lifetime, real or imagined.
She was so beautiful that night. I didn’t notice her until the end of the play. I was too busy backstage—making sure costumes fit, that makeup looked good—and didn’t come out until the play was over and my lead actor called me out, to take my rightful bow.
I looked up at her as she threw her rose, and time stopped. All I was aware of was her eyes, how they bore down on me with such intensity that it robbed me of my ability to think, or speak. I remember how her countenance faltered, at the same time mine did, and I had to look away. Later, when some semblance of sanity returned to me, she approached me at the reception and asked me the most remarkable questions about myself. She made me think, and when our eyes met over the rim of her glass, she made me feel. But, suddenly, she was gone. Her husband came and escorted her away.
I tried to forget about her, about all that I’d seen and felt when she looked at me, but I couldn’t. I was thankful that the night’s performance and been a one time thing, and I would be on my way back to Hellas soon the next day. I didn’t think I could stand another moment in her presence without reaching out, touching her, bringing her sweet lips down onto my own.
I walked out to my balcony that night, hoping to catch some fresh air. The night was still young, and revelers abounded on the street below me. I watched them for a few moments, while running my hand over the terrace, and thought I probably should have joined them for a night’s debauchery. But when I looked up, she was there. She’d been hiding in the shadows.
How long we stared at each other I’ll never know. But when her lips parted to take in a ragged breath I knew I was lost. And then she did the something I’ll never forget. She backed up a few feet then took a running leap at the balcony, easily vaulting over the space between our two worlds. She landed with a thud and I backed up a few steps, mostly out of surprise.
She closes the distance between us and is suddenly just inches away from my body.
My name is like a prayer from her swollen lips. I back up to the wall and try to catch my breath. “I didn’t…I didn’t think I’d see you again.”
She smiles, a lopsided grin. “I know. I can’t stop thinking about you.”
“I know the feeling.”
She is pressed firmly into my body and runs her hands up my trembling arms. “Are you cold?”
Just the opposite. “No.”
She continues to gaze down at me and lowers her head, our lips almost touching.
She breaks contact and whirls back to her own balcony. There is a woman standing there, with her hands on her hips, the most hideous look on her face. The woman looks like she might be evil herself.
Xena turns back to me, a look of infinite regret on her face. “I’ve got to go.”
Before I can say anything she is gone, back into her own room, and I stumble back into my own. And the rest is, how shall I say, history, so to speak.
I try to sit by the fire but its no use and I know it. Tonight is the night. I will try to reach her, to help her understand why my memories have me in their grip. I rise to my feet and straighten out my clothes, my hands are shaking but I try to relax. My gaze travels to the path she took, and, stealing myself, I walk into the woods.
It doesn’t take me long to find her. She is sitting on a log at a stream’s edge, looking out into the dark night. What she is experiencing or reliving must be riveting, because she doesn’t hear my approach until I am upon her.
She stands and turns away from me. “You shouldn’t have come, Gabrielle.”
She hurts me as much as I hurt her. “Please, Xena, don’t turn from me, not tonight.” A quick glance over her shoulder tells me she won’t run this time.
“I can’t give you that life you want, Gabrielle.”
There it is, out into the open, her inner pain. “I’ve never asked for it from you, have I?”
She turns to me then. ‘I can’t provide for you like the way you deserve.”
“What is it you think I deserve?”
“A safe home, a quiet life—one where I don’t constantly hurt you, or put you in danger.”
The pain on her face is so great that I think I might cry out for the agony of it. “I don’t want hearth and home, not if it means a life without you.”
“But look at me, Gabrielle, I’m a broken shell of a warrior.”
My heart is broken. “How can you say that about yourself? Why can’t you see all the good you’ve done, all the people you’ve helped?”
“What’s the point of it all? Huh? I can’t even provide for the one person I lo—care about the most.”
She almost said the word that I want to here the most. How many times have we said we love each other? More times than I can count. But it’s not what I need to hear tonight. I need to see the eyes of the Empress again, to feel her arousal. I need to know if she loves me like that, because I can’t live another day without it.
I take another step towards her and I know she is tempted to step back, but in doing so she would step into the stream.
I see her loathing and self-recrimination and I want to shake it out of her. “What if I said I don’t want to settle down, ever?”
She shifts from one foot to the other. “I don’t believe you. You’ve thought of nothing in the last few weeks but your vineyard by the sea.”
“Is that what you think I want, a house?”
Her eyes dart up and pin me with a hard stare, and, before I know what is happening she has grabbed me by my wrist and is pulling me along with her. After a few breathless moments we end up at our camp. She looks around, wildly, and then grabs one of her saddlebags, shoving it into my face.
“Look inside, Gabrielle.”
I am baffled by this move. “I don’t understand…”
“I said look inside!”
The tone in her voice tells me that she expects to be obeyed. I look inside and find only a brush, bits of soap, a few rumbled shirts, and dagger she owns but never uses, and a few feet of rope. I don’t know what I’m supposed to looking for.
“That’s all that I have, Gabrielle. You won’t find any dinars in there, or deeds to any land that I own. What’s in that bag is all I have to show for my life.”
The tears are flowing freely down my face, and I take the bag and throw it aside. “This is not why I love you!”
She backs up and wipes at her own tears, still too afraid to let me see her in her moment of weakness. “Maybe if I was the Empress again I could give you what you want.”
“Do you even know what I want?”
She is upon me now; she reaches me in two strides and grabs my shoulders, holding me away from her. “You want—“
I can stand this no longer. I cry out and throw my arms around her neck, pulling her head down upon my own. My lips touch hers in a way that could never be misinterpreted as friendly. My tongue begs entry into her mouth, and, after a moment’s hesitation, she surrenders.
This is what I’ve wanted, what I’ve wanted for far too long.
She breaks the kiss and stares at me. She tentativly reaches up and slowly wipes at my tears. “I’ve been so afraid…”
“You and me both.”
She bends her head and whispers in my ear. “What do you want, Gabrielle?”
“I want these hands—hands that have crushed a man’s windpipe, and brushed away a baby’s tears—I want these hands on me.”
And finally, after all these years, I feel her weight on me as she pushes me down on the blankets. I can’t believe my inner most dream is about to come true. I am under the warrior princess and her hands are on me, scorching a path from my waist to my eager breasts.
Xena bends down and crushes her lips on mine, sending me into a rapturous daze. We both work at the laces to my top and in a short while my breasts are freed from their prison. She feasts upon them as if her very life depended on it. My head is thrown back and I cry out my pleasure. She is impatient in her want, and I help her to hike up my short skirt over my waist. My hands find her bottom and I press her more intimating into me. It is her undoing. She rips off my underwear and pulls her own battledress up over her hips, and then she parts my legs with her knees.
Our first coupling is raw, like fire on a hot summer day, and after, we both collapse on the bedroll.
Her head rests against my shoulder and turn my own to look into her eyes. “That is what I’ve wanted. I’ve wanted you for years, my beautiful warrior.”
She smiles and nods. “Even before the Empress?”
“Yes.” And I realize the truth of my answer. “Yeah, years before her.”
A small frown touches the corners of her mouth. “Do you miss her?”
I smile as I take her face gently into my hands. “Sometimes, yes.”
“Why?” Barely a whisper.
“She loved me, in ways I thought you couldn’t.” I cup her face and place a tender kiss on her inviting lips.
Xena shifts her weight on me, and I can feel her arousal press against me. “I’ve loved you forever, Gabrielle. Can you ever forgive me?”
“Forgive you for what, Xena?”
“For not being the Empress—for hiding from you all these years.”
I wrap my legs around her again, and move sensuously beneath her. “You’re here, now, Xena, and that’s all that matters.”
She lifts on her hands. “I love you, Gabrielle.”
“I love you, too, Xena.”
The End…or just the beginning...
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