Summary: The Conqueror leaves Greece to visit Cleopatra and meets a slave/gladiator named Gabrielle but all is not what it seems.
Disclaimer: See Part 1
Authors Note: I wasn't going to post this chapter straight away, but I decided that I couldn't leave you all hanging. As always, if you want to email me about this chapter, my address is jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
It was late when I finally returned to my room, my head spinning with all this new information. I had come to Egypt with my second for a few moons of relaxation with the Queen of the Nile and to help form a bit of peace between our countries. Instead I had discovered some secret plot against me, had my second in command and only true friend resign and leave me, and now I was left with doubts about my lover.
I looked up in surprise to find Gabrielle sitting on the edge of my bed, smiling uncertainly at me. Her eyes held so much adoration and concern as she gazed at me, obviously worried over the intense frown on my face. I smiled slightly, feeling some of my doubt seep away. How could I not trust this woman?
"Xena," Gabrielle repeated softly. "I'm so sorry about last night and today. I shouldn't have left and I shouldn't have avoided you, it was childish. You were worried about Alexandria and I should have been there for you, but I overreacted instead."
"It's okay, Gabrielle," I smiled warmly at the slave. "I understand and I'm sorry too."
I walked towards her, cupping her face in my hands before leaning down to kiss her tenderly. She returned my kiss, pulling back to look up into my eyes with a loving smile. "I've missed you, Conqueror."
"And I've missed you, gladiator," I replied affectionately as I sat down besides her. I rested my hand on her thigh, rubbing her soft skin with my thumb as I thought about how I would tell her about this new information. I decided quickly to just be blunt, as usual. "I need you to do something for me."
"What do you need me to do?" She asked, her eyes already telling me that she would do whatever I asked of her.
"I need you to pack your bags," I said seriously, looking into her eyes. I knew if Cleopatra was planning something, I needed to return to Greece immediately. I had a sudden feeling that something was wrong in my Empire.
Gabrielle stared back at me with wide eyes, full of shock and disbelief. "What? Right now?"
"Yes, right now," I said gently, giving the slave a reassuring smile. "We're leaving."
"What? Why?" She asked, her brow furrowed with confusion. "I didn't realise we had a plan yet."
"This isn't a part of any plan. I've discovered a plot against me. I'm not sure what it is, but I know it's not good and it means that we need to leave as soon as possible."
There was silence for several moments as Gabrielle stared at me. Finally, she averted her eyes and spoke so quietly I had to strain to hear her. "And you want me to go with you, now?"
"Of course," I whispered, taking her hand and holding it to my lips. "Gabrielle, if Cleopatra is plotting something, I need to go back to Greece and find out what. I can't leave you here.
Gabrielle... I lo-"
"Don't say it," she whispered, her voice full of pain as she squeezed her eyes shut.
"I have to," I replied with a small smile, turning her head towards me and caressing her cheek until she gazed at me once more. Gods, her eyes were so beautiful; like the ocean. "I've kept this inside for too long. I want this to be real, Gabrielle. I want us to be real. I love you. I love you so much, Gabrielle, I feel like my heart will burst."
"Oh Gods," she half whispered, half sobbed. I stared at her in confusion as I watched tears stream down her face. They didn't look like happy tears.
"Do you know how much I've wanted to hear those words from you?" She cried as she looked at me, her emerald eyes full of pain. "I've wanted it so much, but I can't. I can't do this, Xena, not now."
"What?" I whispered, my heart in agony. I felt like someone had stabbed a dagger deep into my chest and twisted. "Why?"
"Because it was me," Gabrielle sobbed, her eyes red from her tears, making her green orbs even more intense. "I was the one that sent the letter to Antony."
Everything seemed to be going in slow motion as I stared at my lover. She had been the one that wrote the message? I couldn't believe the words that had fallen from her beautiful lips. All I could think of was, Alexandria had been right. Gabrielle had betrayed me.
I pulled away from her as if her touch burned me, which only seemed to increase her tears. She stared at me with sorrow filled eyes as she tried to apologise through her sobs, but I didn't hear her words. All I could hear was the blood rushing in my ears as the beast clawed at my chest.
"Why?" I said slowly, my voice incredibly cold.
"It was my orders," she hiccupped as she looked at me pleadingly. "I didn't have a choice, Xena. He sent me here with a message for Cleopatra to invite you to Egypt in hopes that I could seduce you. It was all a plan to keep you occupied, while he sent his army to Greece."
I felt my blood run cold at her words and my anger was raging out of control. It had all been a lie. Every touch, every look, every word had all been apart of a plot to take my Empire. I had been played by the woman that had come to mean everything to me. I stood up, needing to be away from her. I couldn't even look at her without wanting to strike her. With every second that passed, I could feel the ice she had melted, slowly begin to wrap itself back around my heart, freezing it completely.
"Leave," I growled, my voice deadly quiet. I rose gracefully from the bed, waves of anger radiating from my every muscle like a dangerous animal.
"No, Xena, please," she begged as stood and moved towards me. "Please, I love y-"
"Don't you fucking dare!" I roared, pleased at the way she flinched. "It was all a lie! You don't love me and you never did."
"I do love you!" She cried, gripping the hem of her tunic with trembling fingers; as if holding onto it would stop her from reaching out for me.
"Then why?!" I shouted, throwing my hands up in the air in defeat as I stared down at her. I was so angry and hurt and I felt tears burning in my eyes but I refused to let them fall. I would not give the slave or Antony that satisfaction.
"It was my orders," Gabrielle whispered weakly. "I didn't have a choice, you have to understand."
"Why didn't you just tell me?" I replied, my voice cracking. "Why didn't you just stop? It didn't have to be like this."
"Because I'm a slave," she replied, her voice defeated and her shoulders slumped. She could no longer meet my eyes and her gaze was directed at the ground in front her. It was the first time she had ever truly looked like a slave in my eyes. "I was ordered to occupy you and that's what I did."
I stared at her for several moments before shaking my head slowly. She was right, she was a slave, but that didn't change anything now. I could have helped her, changed things, but obviously she hadn't trusted me enough. No matter how much she loved me, she would rather see me lose everything than tell me the truth and face the punishment that I would have saved her from. I couldn't trust her, she had proved that. She made her choice and she betrayed me and broke my heart in the process.
"Leave," I whispered once more, my voice dangerously quiet as I turned away from her. I waited for several moments in silence before voicing my next words, coldly. "Leave this place now, or die where you stand, slave."
"They were right," I heard her soft voice from behind me and I squeezed my eyes shut, not wanting to hear her words. "You proved me wrong, Conqueror. You proved me wrong."There was silence for several moments until I heard the door softly click closed behind her, leaving me alone in my heartache.
To Be Continued
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