Title: Betrayed Cravings
Fandom: Xena Warrior Princess
Type: Alternative Fanfiction, pairing of Gabrielle and Xena.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters. I am not making a profit. No lawsuits allowed.
Rated M: For battle scenes, rough language and sexual tension.
Other Info: POV from Xena. Spoilers for the episode The Price: Season 2 of Xena :WP. I took the premise of the episode and ran with it. It is my favorite episode, and LL and RC did an excellent job acting the parts. This is part 1 in a 2 part story.
Teaser: Sometimes what you want most is right under your nose.
Gabrielle and I walked along the riverbank on our way to Athens. The sun shone down on our bare shoulders, warming my skin and turning her fair skin a reddish hue. I smiled as I listened to her talking about this and that as we walked. After several kilometers, I heard her stomach growling loudly.
I turned to her and suggested we stop to eat, getting an emphatic nod in response. I chuckled at her answer. She is as obsessed with food as she is about sleeping, and she would sleep all day long if I allowed her, but of course I don't. We foraged for two long, thick sticks to use as poles, figuring that fishing would be the quickest way to eat.
I tied some twine on the poles and we cast into the river. We caught fish after fish, they practically jumped onto the shore, no line or bait required, which was odd, but I didn't give it much concern. Normally I have to go and catch the fish with my bare hands because they evade our lines. Gabrielle was in the middle of explaining some philosophy of hers about the origin of people and fish when a man jumped out of the water, startling us both.
He rambled on about savage men, skinning his troops and the Horde. I immediately went still upon hearing the name of the savages called the Horde. Like a flash from a flint, fear raced through my veins, seizing the joy from my face and the love from my eyes. A brief image of my last battle with the Horde invaded my vision, blood and warm, pealed skin fluttering about the field of battle, before I shut my eyes to it. Opening my eyes and schooling my features, I said in a breathy voice, “Gabrielle, grab your things, we must leave. Now.”
She heard my tone and faltered in her stumbling away from the riverbank, her fishing pole still clutched firmly in her white hand. “What, why? Who's the Horde?”
I growled out, “will explain later. Get in the raft, we must go.” She dropped her pole and stood still. I grabbed her wrist and yanked, knowing she was about to dig in her heels and refuse to go; she always does when I won't explain immediately the situation.
Gabrielle is a talker not a fighter and I'm the opposite. Sometimes, she aggravates me so much, but over the past year, I've grown to understand her reasoning, though I don't always agree. I walked with her arm firmly clasped in my hand, our bags thrown over my shoulder, her staff clutched in her hand, and helped her in the raft, jumping over the edge to take the rear position, the rowing position for the strongest person.
I angled us away from shore and said, “Row, just row as hard as you can. Please.”
My use of the word please put any protest about to utter out of her mouth to rest; I don't ever request using the word please. I watched her eyes widen in understanding of the sudden danger we are in as she picked up her oar. I rowed and rowed as I watched Gabrielle do the same, fighting the current as best as she was able.
She said my name in a low and scared voice, a plea for me to save us, her voice shook and I noticed her knees bouncing in fear. I looked to the banks of the river, noticing the bodies of the soldiers strung up like trophies, or possibly beacons for the foolish enough to try to save them.
A low sound fluttered on the breeze and Gabrielle shouted, “Xena, there are soldiers, moaning. Alive, we have to save them.”
“They are dead already. We'd just die too. Get rowing faster. Push it.” I commanded in a strong voice.
She halted for a moment, then rowed as deep and fast as she could. I steered us as close to the middle of the river, and kept us there, fighting the current with each deep plunge of my wooden oar. After several strokes, I saw a man running along the shore, attired in Athens colors. He veered into the river and jumped to swim towards us.
“We have to save him,” Gabrielle pleaded in a squeaky, scared voice. She would sacrifice us for the sake of another. Not listening to my head but instead my heart, which sat two feet in front of me, I rowed us over to save the wounded soldier, and praying to Aphrodite as I rowed faster, that we live to reach the shore again.
I watched helpless as waves fluttered in the river, not the correct direction for the current. The Horde hide under the river.
“Gab..r…ielle…we need to get to the riverbank. We're not safe out here.” I rowed and steered us into the shore, knowing the minute we set foot on dry earth, the Horde will attack and kill us. What choice do we have though, die in the water or die on the dry dirt.
As the boat touched the shore, a couple of Horde appeared before us, marching towards. I helped Gabrielle out of the raft and held her arm tight, then let go and raised my sword. If I am to die, I want to die fighting.
The bushes off to the left shook violently as I faced two of the Horde, parrying their ax strikes rapidly, the muscles of my forearms burning with the speed of my thrusts. Three men in Athens uniforms leapt beside me and aided my fighting. They helped me to scare off the attackers and carry their wounded man from our raft.
I introduced Gabrielle and me, agreeing to follow them to their encampment. As they gathered their supplies from their nearby sleeping sacks, I sat down beside Gabrielle on a log, my sword at the ready by my side, and explained my history with the Horde. I uttered in a cold voice the devastation these painted savages caused me during my days as an army leader.
Gabrielle grabbed my wrist, hanging on tight, supporting me through touch during my narrative. I only let Gabrielle touch me and lately she takes advantage at every opportunity.
She stayed quiet, her green eyes widening as my story grew more and more gruesome. I sighed, and ended by explaining that once the Horde gets you, there is no way out. They surround and tear a person apart like a pack of wolves, chomping down the kill quickly. I look to the grass surrounding my blood-splattered boots, lost in past thoughts for a few heartbeats.
The reality that we might die before sundown hits me in the gut, spasming my empty stomach, and I feel my heart cry out for Gabrielle's death next to me. I never considered my death as a devastating situation, but looking into shining eyes full of affection for me; I realize I'm not ready to greet Hades. I felt a brief flash of peace, knowing Gabrielle will greet Hera in the fields, while I will be tortured for eternity.
Determination to get us out of here suddenly floods me, layering my fear with a newborn anger, a vengeance to slice the savages for perseverance sake. I smiled and I clasped her warm hand, intertwining our fingers briefly before arising and tugging her up to move on. We need to get to an enclosed structure and fast.
The Horde is on the hunt, and we are the prey they seek.
A short walk between the five soldiers and we arrived at the fort, walking quickly inside and shutting out the danger with large wooden gates. Gabrielle was with me at Troy, and knows I need to talk with the Generals immediately, so I politely head in the command room direction, leaving Gabrielle to get acquainted with our temporary home.
I kept my glance on her until I moved out of sight, watching her approach the dirty soldiers. I flashed jealousy then quickly shut it down, realizing she is just exploring, getting comfortable the best way she knows how, through the people.
We are so opposite yet so similar; I raise my sword in inquiry and she opens her mouth, but we both are able to reach the answers we seek.
In the command room, two large men hunched over a table, defeat slumping their shoulders lowly. Our eyes meet, mine determined and theirs confused. I introduced myself, then explain in a low commanding voice that I am taking over. The shorter man argued, but I raised my hand to stop him.
“I am taking over your command. Your men are defeated and demoralized. They need to fight or they will die without ever raising their sword.”
The tall one said, “Okay then, what can we do?”
“I have a plan…” I explained my plan of building spikes to protect the encampment and using the dead as decoys, perching them up on the walls.
The smaller one called Menicles argued, “But that's immoral. Those men are brothers and sons to the living here. It's disrespectful to use them as scarecrows.”
I growled out, “Do you have any better suggestions. We need to fool the Horde into thinking we have plenty of soldiers available and this is the only way to go about it.”
“Yes, okay. I'll go and tell the men the plan, and tell them to put a quick hand forth.” The tall one called Mercer said, then he spun on his heel and marched out the door without a backwards glance.
I leaned forward and whispered to Menicles, “how are rations? Water?”
He sighed then answered, “We are very low. The men haven't eaten in three days and are on limited water. The wounded are dying from infections because the Doctors were killed in the first wave of attack. Bottom line, we're dead in the water.”
“When will reinforcements be here?” I asked.
“They won't. You brought in a man whom led the pack from Athens. They are all dead.” He stared at me then continued in a low whisper, “and soon so will we be.”
Anger surged in my veins at his defeated tone, and without thinking, I grabbed his garment, yanking him up and onto his toes, looking into his wide gray eyes and said, “soldier, you will cease your babble. Get out there and be the leader Athens best military trained you to be. You are the elite for Zeus's sake. GO!” I released my grip and turned my back on him, but still listening to his gasping breath and his quick heartbeat echoing loudly in my sensitive ears. I waited in silence for him to stab me. He turned and left instead.
Left alone with my thoughts, they flipped to Gabrielle. I briefly smiled in the empty darkened room, remembering just this morning and our shared joy over fishing in the cool river. She looks so happy when she laughs, the laughs of an innocent. This morning we laughed a great deal.
The smile slips from my lips, remembering why I stand in this dark room. I wonder where she is and what she is doing. I suddenly missed her presence at my side, and decided immediately to go and find her. In times of melancholy, like now, I want her green eyes next to me, her endless chatter filling my ears, keeping my demons outside of my built up gates.
I turned and exited through the double doors and stride across the compound to the healing room, figuring Gabrielle needing to help out, headed there. I approached the room, standing outside and listened to her command the people inside to gather up bandages and situate the wounded. I smiled as I walked inside, seeing her walking about the room. She saw me and relief flashed across her face.
“Oh Xena, do we have anymore water?”
My smile faded as I said in a whisper, “No. We're saving the rations and water for the soldiers. Get some for yourself.” She frowned at me, her eyebrows raised in confusion. I sighed and continued, “I need the bodies in here for the wall.”
“These men need water, and what do you mean bodies? What‘s going on?”
My previous felt peace in her presence quickly disappeared in the anger shooting from her eyes and mouth. I matched her deep tone and whispered, “I want you to live and be safe, and that means clean water for yourself. Understand?” She nods slightly, her jaw clenched and mouth in a line.
“The bodies are for decoys. If we intend to get out of here alive, then we need to use trickery. I need the walking wounded as soldiers too, get them out to the wall. Gabrielle, just… Do as I say. The soldiers will be in to get the bodies soon, get them ready.” My hands itched to touch her skin, reassure her that I'm only thinking of her safety, but her anger halted me.
I watched her eyes darken and narrow as I turned around and strode out the doors. I pushed Gabrielle, and it's only a matter of time before she pushes me back. I care for her and feel the need to protect Gabrielle, but I can't when she doesn't want my protection.
I kicked the loose dirt as I walked up to Mercer and Menicles, they stood gathered at the wall, staring into the clearing, murmuring about attack patterns. The soldiers were tying up the wounded to the wall, keeping them upright and at the 'ready'. I laughed at my ingenuity as I strode up the stairs to the highest point.
“Ho men, how goes it?” I asked.
“They aren't there Xena. We have been watching the trees and there's no movement at the edge.” Mercer responded and leaned on the stonewall.
“They're there. Have no fear. It's just a matter of time. Keep the men working, and correspond rotations so they all get a descent crumb in their bellies. I'll be in the command room.”
Mercer followed me down the stairs and we talked of battle strategies of the past. He's an easygoing man and I was glad to have him at my side.
Getting an idea, I turned to him and said, “I want to test them Mercer.”
“What do you mean? Test us or test the Horde?”
“Both actually. Get a party of about six men and I want to lead them into the clearing. Gather all the helmets and shields you can locate. Put some archers up on the wall to help take them out when they come to attack us.”
“Xena, what makes you think they will attack so quickly? They wait until darkness to attack. It's a suicide mission.”
“Just do it.” I shouted at him, stopping for a beat then continuing my walking.
My throat was parched and I needed a cool drink. I grabbed a water pouch, unscrewed the top, sniffed the contents and took a huge gulp. Swallowing my drink, I remembered when I once took a drink out of a skin and got a mouthful of trickle; a soldier relieved himself in my skin as a prank. I took him to my tent that night for entertainment, and unleashed my more torturous side. He walked funny the next day, too bad we walked so far too. I never heard about him pulling his prank on any others.
Despite the situation, I realize I missed being in command of an army. I miss the worship after victory and the bonding after a defeat. Gabrielle, though she worships me through good and bad, isn't an army of sweating, endorphin filled soldiers.
I never cared for any of my charges though as I now care for Gabrielle.
Frowning at the thought of Gabrielle and her venom-filled voice, I put down my pouch and walked over to the command room to grab a helmet for the attack party. I pulled the helmet on and strode over to the doors where the party gathered, weapons at the ready.
I looked over towards the healing room and to my surprise, narrowed green eyes met my blue. The toe of my boot caught on the loose dirt and I briefly faltered in my strides, then I caught my balance and turned away from her gaze.
I needed to focus on the mission.
The guards flung the doors open and we marched out to wait, crouching down slightly. An arrow flew meters by my head. I ducked and raised my shield.
A group of four Horde ran over the grassy hill to attack us, their axes swinging about.
I dove and parried, blocked and ducked the blows aimed to end my life.
Menicles yelled retreat and we backed up, marching quickly through the double doors, the Horde following blindly, swinging and trying to kill us.
One soldier took an arrow in the chest and we dragged him back inside the walls as we retreated. I slit the throat of one particularly vicious Horde as he raised his axe to slice my arm off. I met green eyes as my blade slid through soft flesh, ending his life quickly.
The remaining Horde retreated and ran to the double doors. I watched one as he ran and to the shouts of my men, raised the stolen axe I clutched in my hand and threw it, watching it as it landed in his spine, killing him instantly.
I smiled in victory as he crumpled to the ground. I walked across the dirt, nodding my head to my men as they shouted my name until I locked onto disgusted green glancing my way. She shook her head and turned her back to me, walking to the healing room without a backwards glance.
My joy at the death of the enemy died along side the held out hope for Gabrielle's congratulations on a victory well received.
I needed reconciliation with her and fast. The Horde will attack again and I might not live.
My feet carried me over to the healing hut, nodding to my men as I blindly walked. I dejectedly pushed open the doors, listening for Gabrielle's voice before entering.
It was quiet within as I stepped inside, and closed the doors softly shut behind me. I looked to each corner of the room and did not find her. I saw a wounded soldier picking at his cloth bandage, but no Gabrielle to scold him about touching the freshly wrapped wound.
I walked over to a bowl of water and plunged my blood-covered and sticky hands in, rinsing them off and then drying them on a section of cloth set to the side. Somehow, asking for forgiveness with brown stained fingers just seemed wrong.
I swished my hair about, settling it from my sweaty face as I walked down the hallway. I paused in my walking as I recognized my actions as primping for Gabrielle. I shook my head and continued on.
I approached the closed doors to the supply area and heard soft gasps. I stopped walking and listened more intently. Another soft gasp met my ears, followed by a low whimper. I yanked open the doors and stepped inside.
I noticed Gabrielle in the corner, situated on a wooden barrel, her knees pulled up to her chest and her face buried under her disheveled hair. Her shoulders shook with the force of her whimpers.
A giant sized kick of guilt hit me in the stomach and crept up my throat, making me nauseous. I walked up to her and knelt at her feet. I grabbed her ankle, ignoring her dirty boot and gave it a shake to get her attention. She raised her head and looked into my eyes, tears streaming clean trails down her dusty cheeks.
She shook her head side to side, not speaking to me, and then rested once again on her knees, jerking her ankle closer in and away from my fingers. I closed my eyes in shame at causing her to pull away and cry over what I've done.
I cleared my throat, coughing against the sudden lump, and said softly, “Gabrielle, I'm sorry.”
“No… you're not. Don't… lie to me.”
I stood up and looked down at her ducked face. Reaching out my hand, I brushed her soft hair before she once again jerked away from my touch.
I stepped back and said loudly, “I protected you and for that, I will never be sorry.” I turned and took a step to walk to the doors, planning to exit without speaking another word. The damage was done, the guilt settled in my chest, weighing my beating heart down.
As I stepped through the doors, I heard her whisper, “murderer.” She gasped and whimpered, crying her pain.
The warmth in my body seeped out, replaced by an impenetrable bitter coldness upon hearing that word drift past her lips. I closed my eyes and answered on a whisper, “I know.”
I held in my tears until I reached the blocked out area used for the privy. I stood behind the stone and rested my chilled body against the cold dampness, my face shaded by my cascading hair as the hot tears rolled down my dirty face. I took shaky deep breaths to calm down before one of the men happened to walk by and see me in my weakness, showing my feelings.
As I wiped my wet face on my dusty arms, I longed for the joy of this morning, Gabrielle smiling over my fishing technique, not a care in the world. I never imagined her beautiful green eyes would gaze upon my body in disgust and hatred.
I left my shelter for the command room, a feeling of emptiness within my chest as I strode with purpose to avoid any prying eyes glancing my way. I reached the closed doors and halted my entrance upon hearing arguing voices from within. Anger pushed my frozen muscles into action and I strode into the room, my face in a scowl.
“What is going on here?” I shouted at Mercer and Menicles standing face to face.
“We need to go get reinforcements. I counted the unwounded men and our numbers are low. We need more live bodies. One of us has to go.” Menicles said while resting his hand on his sword hilt, ready to fight for his right to go.
I squashed the urge to punch them both in the jaw and leave the encampment myself to get the reinforcements. I walked over to the table and gazed down at the map, thinking. “Mercer, I'm afraid you have to go. As much as I would love to go, I can't because the men need me to lead them.”
“She's right. The men would run if she went and probably run us through.” Menicles muttered.
Mercer stared at the map and said, “I'll go to the river and upstream to this boundary here,” he pointed and then said, “they won't follow me. I'll be safe Xena.”
“No, you won't. You need to go North up the passage and around this cluster of woods. You can slip right by. Unfortunately, they are guarding the river, which is the fastest route to the city.” I commanded, hoping he would not argue with me, and cede to my knowledge of battle.
“You're right. I will go get ready.” Mercer spun on his heel and left through the doors at a fast walk.
Menicles turned to me and said in a low voice, “How is your friend doing with all this? I noticed she only carried a staff, no sword when you came here. She looks young.”
My breath caught in my throat, not expecting him to get personal. I bit my lip briefly then said in a flat voice, “Gabrielle is doing fine. She is helping the wounded and staying out of the fighting. I‘m sure she‘s fine.” My voice shook at the end.
“I watched her watching you. Don't let her run Xena.” He whispered, then walked away from the table and out of the doors.
I leaned heavily on the table thinking about Gabrielle.
“Where would she run to?” I mumbled to the empty room. “Away from me.” I answered my own question with a bitter laugh.
I remained leaning on the table, staring blankly at the map for half a candle mark at least.
I heard a commotion outside the room and ran out to see what was going on. I squinted my eyes against the low sun and glanced about the encampment. Three men stood by the parted gates as Mercer waited off to the side to leave on his mission.
A party of Horde waited outside the gates.
“Close those gates.” I shouted at full volume. Three more soldiers pushed the wood and stone in an effort to block the reciprocating Horde. The gates clanked shut with a bang.
A flash of wood slipped by not a few feet away. I turned my head and looked over; it was an arrow. More arrows rang out, so I shouted, “take cover,” to the men standing at the walls.
A soldier fell as an arrow clipped him in the neck. Gabrielle stood on the stairs leading up to the top of the wall. I was running before I sent the message to my legs and headed towards her shouting as I stepped, “get down, duck.”
An arrow flew at my head, but I caught it before it landed in my temple, my stride never faltering. I reached Gabrielle and leapt out to land on her, pulling us to the ground and covering her with my armor clad body.
She angrily growled, “Xena, get off me now.” She squirmed beneath my hips, rubbing me and sending my thoughts tumbling in an unwarlike direction.
“Ga..Brielle. Stop moving.” I firmly commanded.
“No. Get off me…murderer.” She ignored my tone and squirmed harder. “Why do you care if I get slit with an arrow? Would you be sad someone else got to do it before you did?”
I jumped back off her squirming body, not dignifying her insult with a remark, and walked in a crouch to avoid the flying arrows, leaving Gabrielle unshielded and vulnerable. She hurt me and she knew it. I moved over to the crouching Mercer and watched as he slipped out of the now open gates to head up river. He went the other way than what I instructed him too.
I walked out of the gates with three others and fought the Horde off with my sword. We captured one of the wounded and jerked him inside to interrogate him. I never once looked in Gabrielle's direction as we led the prisoner to the command room.
I stepped inside the room and walked up to the kneeling and bound prisoner. My second and third in command followed me to witness my questioning methods.
I grabbed the folded map, thrust it into the prisoners face, and asked, “Where?” And pointed to the river and woods. He turned his head away, so I slapped him twice.
“Xena. Stop.” Gabrielle pleaded from the doorway. She must have slipped in behind Menicles.
Staring down at the prisoner, I said loudly, “Go away Gabrielle. This isn't for the innocent. You don‘t want to watch me kill him.”
I thrust and shook the map in his face, and then asked louder, “Where?” He shook his head. I kicked him in the stomach and when I heard Gabrielle pleading yet again to stop, I reached out and touched points in his neck, cutting off the blood flow to his brain. The prisoner gasped but stayed quiet. His face flushed and his lips parted.
“You will die if you don't speak,” I shouted at him, my frustration showing in my tone. He still stayed quiet. I removed the clamped points on his neck and shook my head in disgust.
“Take him to the supply room, and make sure he is securely bound.” I faced forward as my two soldiers took him away, leaving me with Gabrielle.
I said in a flat tone, “Don't you ever question me in front of my men.”
“Who are you Xena? What happened to the Xena that I know?”
“Gone.” I spun on my heel and faced her wide eyes. She gasped at the heat emanating from my own.
I walked up to her, looked down into stormy green, and said, “If losing her is the price for saving us all, then I'll pay it. You said it yourself, I'm a murderer. I belong in command, thrusting my sword into the enemy, letting hot blood spill down my sharp blade. Go tend to the wounded Gabrielle and leave the fighting to the experienced.” I stepped around her and prepared to leave, but was halted by her clamping hand around my bicep.
Strong fingers gripped my muscle with bruising force.
“I am not leaving you.”
“The new Xena won't be changed as easily as the old one Gabrielle. I've felt the blood spill and hunger for it, like a true killer.” I snapped my teeth, my eyes wild, and yanked my arm.
She still held tight.
She stepped up to me and looked into my eyes, an intensity coloring the green a shade I've never before seen, dark and cool, shiny and mystic. She firmly said in a whisper, “You won't scare me off.”
“If I'm to die today Xena, then I want to go to the fields satisfied,” Gabrielle grabbed my other arm, clamping on tight.
I felt warm lips on mine before my brain defined the touch. I responded without hesitation, pushing down onto her lips, kissing her without restraint. I felt the past few days' battle lust boiling up my loins, heating my arousal faster than a petrol lit fire, roaring up and out of control. I gazed down into her eyes and watched as her lids drifted shut, feeling her hands unclamp from my arms to move up and wrap around my shoulders.
She attacked my mouth with a skill I've never experienced before; she possessed my lips, stroked my mouth, sucked my tongue as she deepened the kiss and plunged inside my warmth. The need to breath overwhelmed me and I pulled my head back, my eyes still remained shut.
After all the trauma of the day, the insults and the hurt we caused each other, I realized with one brush of her lips that I trusted Gabrielle in a way I've never trusted before; I love her with every fiber of my being.
I opened my eyes and gazed down into jade, whispering, “I love you.”
I closed my eyes once again, sacrificing my dignity and letting her know with my closed eyes, how much my declaration rings true. Gabrielle is smart and knows I don't close my eyes often, putting my safety in another's hands.
I faintly heard the whisper of extracting steel but kept my eyes shut, expecting the sharp pain. I expected to die by the sword in a grand battle, but I never imagined my beloved would be the one to thrust and twist the steel into my gut, taking my life just as I willing gave up my heart.
Sweat gathered at my brow as I held my breath, waiting for the piercing pain of a gaping blade wound, but it never came. I let my eyes flutter open to gaze down into wide green. A slip of cold steel touched the side of my neck. In my entrancement of Gabrielle's caress, I neglected to listen for the footsteps of another inside the command room. The air behind me shifted and I smelled the stench of an unwashed male body.
Gabrielle's eyes remained wide open and her mouth parted in a gasp. I remained still; the only movement I made was a gentle inhale of breath and my eyes moving to glimpse the figure behind me. I glimpsed a mirrored short sword, the very tip placed right over my blood-life line.
One wrong twitch and I would die within a few swift beats of my heart.
Gabrielle nodded her head softly, and mouthed the letter O. Octobeius. The shorter young soldier I reprimanded twice for sitting on his butt when he should have been guarding the wall. He must really be a dense fellow. I know how tall he is and where to jut my elbow to knock him out when I make my move.
The pressure of the blade against my throat fluctuates with his shaking muscles. I have two beats to twitch and knock. I blinked at Gabrielle and looked back in Octobeius direction. Gabrielle opens her mouth and begins to do what she does best, talk.
She stepped around me to get a better glimpse of my captor. She stood at my side, her bicep rubbing the warm skin of my bicep, supporting me and calming me. I listened to her cadence of speech while she told him stories of her childhood.
Gabrielle is good at calming the wildness within people. She got me calmed down often enough when her annoying habits pushed my patience to the limits and killing her seemed like an excellent idea. The now warm steel blade moved just a finger width away from skin while Gabrielle spoke. I made my move. I ducked, twisted and thrust back.
“Hea…” Plop, echoed against the stonewalls of the room as Octobeius hit the floor, skull bouncing up and then down, and he was knocked out. His blade hit the floor with a resounding clatter. I bent over at the waist, catching my rapid breath and feeling dizzy from the excitement.
“Thank you,” I whispered after I gazed down at the sprawled man for several deep breaths and thrumming heartbeats. “You saved my life.”
Gabrielle walked up to me and wrapped her arms around me, squeezing me so tight I could only gasp for a breath. She looked up at me, her face drained of color, and kissed the skin above my breastplate, over my heart.
Loud footfalls echoed outside the room and a group of five soldiers thrust through the doorway, faces flushed and eyes wild, glancing about the room in confusion.
Menicles stepped forward and said, “Forgive us Xena, but we heard a rumor…Oh.” He looked down at the sprawled soldier laying on the floor, his short blade a few foot lengths away from us.
“No deal Menicles. Gabrielle knocked him out cold.” I looked down into her eyes, not looking to the men and smiled at her. Her cheeks turned red and she ducked down, hiding underneath the swinging lengths of her hair.
I turned my head and said, “Thank you, but if you would get him out of here and jut him into a cell. I'll let him live for now.” I winked at Menicles and stepped back from Gabrielle's death grip embrace. I walked over to the table and turned my back on the door until I heard the doors clanging shut. I whipped around and crooked my finger to Gabrielle in a come here gesture. She walked up to me and gazed into my eyes. I heard her fast breathing.
“Xena…I'm sorry for what I said, outside during the arrow rain. I love when you protect me from injury. I love when you put my safety above yours. Even at the expense of your trip to the Elysian Fields.” She shook her head, gazing down at my feet.
“I am a murderer. You only spoke the truth.”
“I don't hate you, and I don't ever want to be anywhere but at your side Xena.”
I stepped to up to her, reaching out and lifting her ducked chin, forcing her watery green eyes to meet my own watery blue. “I love you Gabrielle.”
She nodded and wrapped me up in her quivering arms, mumbling into my leather covered breast, “Zeus help me, but I…love you…too. I‘m afraid for you.”
I leaned down and brushed my dry lips against hers in a kiss of affirmation, feeling her love for me and letting her feel my own. She exhaled against my lips and wrapped her arms around my neck, pulling me down for a better angle. She brushed my lip with her warm tongue, then pulled back to gaze into my eyes. I licked my lips, as our eyes remained locked. I closed my eyes in wonder and pleasure, humming under my breath. She laughed, a deep rumble I've never heard issue from her mouth before.
I opened my eyes and gazed towards the closed doors, knowing that at any beat, we could be disturbed again. I want to continue our kisses, but I don't think I will be able to stop there right now. I need to talk to Gabrielle before we feed our hunger of the body. The middle of a war is not the time for our first dance of intimacy.
“I'll be okay. I have you to guard my back.” I joked about our incident of earlier, though her green eyes grew darker and her mouth dropped into a flat line, amusement not paramount on her features.
A knocking at the door pulled me away from her arms. I strode to the door and yanked it open as hard as my shaking arms would allow. Menicles stood outside the doors, a sword at the ready.
“What are you here to kill me too?”
“No…No Xena.” He sheathed his long sword, stood up at attention, and said, “The savage is muttering Kalltakka in his language. None of us knows what that is exactly. Do you or your companion?”
I shook my head no and turned to Gabrielle, an eyebrow raised in question. “I don't know. Gabrielle?”
“No Menicles. I don't know right now. Maybe it's their God or something.”
“Could be. I heard the soldiers on the bank pleading for Athena as we passed.”
“Well Xena, will you accompany us to speak with the savage again. We need information on their location. I know this time you will get it out of him.”
I turned to glance at Gabrielle before turning back and muttered, “Lead on.” I flicked my fingers to Gabrielle for her to follow me and be at my side. I needed her with me with a deep intensity I didn't quite understand, but knew it had to be. She nodded and followed us in silence.
We stepped into the supply room and all three of us glanced to the savage as he knelt bound on the floor, his head ducked in defiance, refusing to look up and meet our curious gazes. I walked up to him without hesitation and lifted his head with my outstretched hand. He shook his head to shake off my grip, but I only gripped him firmer.
“Kalltukka?” I said loudly.
He nodded his head and repeated Kalltukka. Menicles spoke up and said, “I think it is his name.”
“No it can't be. I heard the wounded others of his kind pleading out Kalltukka as they lay on the ground. If it is a person, it is their God.” Gabrielle moved over to the water barrel to take a drink and as she raised the full dipper up to her mouth, the savage started to say Kalltukka as loud as his raspy voice would allow him.
“Water. Kalltukka is water.” Gabrielle said, her hand clutching the dipper, frozen between the cool liquid in the barrel and her parched lips. She walked over to the savage.
“No Gabrielle.” I growled before she could step within his range of motion. I wanted her to stay safe and being next to the creature would not be the safest spot. She glared at me and walked up to him, lifting the dipper to his open lips, tipping some liquid into his mouth, then stepping back to refill and give him another half dipper full.
“Save the water for us.” Menicles muttered as he watched Gabrielle helping our prisoner.
With a plop, Gabrielle dropped the dipper into the barrel and said, “The dying men just want water Xena. We have to get them water.”
“We'll figure something out. Meet me in the command room in a tick.” I spun around and walked out of the supply room, stopping outside the doorway to wait for Gabrielle to fall within my steps. I mumbled, “we can't give out our rations, the men will revolt.”
“What can we do? We have limited options and many needs.” She hissed out, the anger creeping into her voice but she held it in, for which I was grateful.
“I'm going to take a waterskin out and give some to our wounded.”
“The Tartarus you will. It'd be suicide. They would kill you so fast. I can't bear to watch you get sliced before my eyes while I stay here. No Gabrielle. We go out together or not at all.”
“Grab a waterskin Xena because I'm going out.” She stated, leaving no brook for my argument. Stubborn indeed.
“Fine, let me get helmets and an archer to watch our backs.”
“Can we trust the soldiers? One tried to kill you.” Gabrielle smiled at me.
“I made a fool of him so he retaliated. They aren't all so hate filled.” I heard her mutter under her breath, “You hope so.”
“I do hope so, Gabrielle, because a mutiny during a war is an issue we can't deal with right now.”
“Okay then, let's go. I'll fill up the skins and meet you at the gate.”
“Keep them hidden just to be safe. They might attack us to keep the water. Menicles became upset when we gave some to the Horde, and I bet the others share the same idea.”
“Good idea. Be back soon.” Gabrielle leaned up and kissed me briefly on the lips before turning back to stride to the supply room. I walked toward the command room, but stopped to gaze about the encampment, not wanting to step foot inside the room and risk being attacked again. I waited for Gabrielle.
I noticed a few soldiers up on the wall looking down at me in disgust. I wondered why their previous worship of me now appeared to be skeptic. Maybe Gabrielle was right and I can't trust the soldiers to keep us safe. I walked over to grab a short sword from the stack and slipped it into my belt adding to my arsenal. I know I am able to protect us, even against a few raving Horde.
I grabbed a dagger for Gabrielle to slip into her boot. She doesn't like blades, but I have explained the necessity for them during an attack and her reasoning will override her emotions, Zeus, I hope so. Gabrielle appeared out of the room, her cloak fluttered around her knees, hiding the water skins and her shining blonde hair from the watchful eyes of our enemies.
I turned around and gave the signal to open the gate, my sword drawn and at the ready.
End of Part One
Continued in Part Two
Return to the Academy