THE BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES
(or what happened between the episodes)
For Disclaimers, see "Looking for Trouble"
2.3 Enemies, Friends & Assorted Would-Be Lovers
(post Giant Killer)
Gabrielle: "Look--Xena has changed."
David: "Hey, I
know all about
G: "You write stories?"
D: "Mostly psalms--you wouldn't understand."
G: "I know what a psalm is. It's a religious poem. I'm pretty good with a story myself."
D: "Really? Think you can make up an escape story, and get us out of here?"
G: "I already have. But, you wouldn't like it. Xena leads the way."
- Giant Killer
After I left home to follow Xena, I always thought I'd meet someone special out here in this great big world. And I have. But nothing ever went quite right. Granted, I didn't always have the best judgment. Sphaerus was easy on the eyes, but that whole warlord wannabe thing would have gotten in the way. True, he seemed like he wanted to change his ways, but there are only so many reformed warlords I want to take on in one lifetime, you know?
I could have been the bride of Morpheus, but dying would have put a real damper on the honeymoon.
Then there was Phyleus. He was so sweet, and he worshipped me, at least a little. Not necessarily a bad thing. And he was almost my first, but for all the wrong reasons. I was so mad at Xena, I almost gave away something very precious to a boy who was practically a stranger to me, just to try to prove to her that I'm an adult.
Oh, and Iolaus. Now you'd think he would have been the perfect man. Gentle, kind, brave beyond measure, attractive, and a good kisser. And I think, in another place and time, things might have gone differently between us. But my emotions were too fragile. I almost lost Xena when she and Hercules went up into that mountain, and it was almost all I could think about - that I might not see her again. When Iolaus and I said goodbye, all I wanted was to get away with Xena for a little while and recover, and make sure she was okay, and see if my beating heart could slow back down to its normal cadence.
Talus. Now Talus, he broke my heart. What a kind and gentle soul. A fellow poet with a heart of gold. I don't know that telling me he was dying would have made things any easier. Would I have tried to stop Xena from rescuing Celesta? I think I would have done the right thing. If I've learned anything from Xena, it's that the greater good often calls for difficult choices. But I think I loved Talus, at least as much as I could have in the short time I knew him. I think we could have had a good life together.
And we ran into Perdicus at
You would think if I was going to fall for anyone, I would have fallen for Orion. He is a fellow bard, after all -- a kindred spirit, and I'm pretty sure he fell for me, but there was just nothing there on my part, except friendship. Maybe it was his overbearing father. Or maybe it was that I had to be the strong one for him - he was unsure of himself, and I've never been attracted to people who aren't strong within themselves. Or maybe I just missed Xena so much that I couldn't concentrate on a potential relationship that was right in front of me.
And oh gods, there was Petracles. What in Tartarus was I thinking? I almost fell for my best friend's ex-fiance. He was smooth, too. And attractive, and definitely a good kisser. Boy, that was a surprise. I was confused for several days after all of that. I can't figure out if I was trying to prove I could measure up to Xena, or if I was trying to make her jealous, or what. I know I hurt her, and I think we're over that now. At least I hope we are.
Democritus was a sweet boy. Kind and intelligent, and definitely smitten with me. We bonded as only two almost mortally wounded people can. I got the impression Xena was pushing us together. She can be subtle when she wants to be. But that was so confusing. By that time, there was nothing in me that could fall for Democritus, or any other boy.
Things had begun to change between Xena and me. And somewhere along the way, I quit noticing every young man we encountered. She and I have grown so close, or at least I thought we had. I'm not a little girl anymore, and those were not sisterly kisses. There was that one night, when we almost . . . I don't know. All I know is what I felt, and what she was feeling, but she put a stop to it.
And ever since I died and she brought me back, she's been forcing the distance between us. It's tearing me apart. I know what I feel. It's the strongest thing I've ever felt for anyone. But she's obviously not having any of it, and we've never talked about this. Not in so many words.
I'll not jeopardize our friendship by putting it out there to make her uncomfortable. If she wants what I think she does, or what I thought she did, she's going to have to be the one to say. But I don't think she will. She doesn't seem to feel the way I thought she did before.
Lately, she just looks sad and lost, but she won't let me in as much as she used to. It hurts so much to be as close as I am to her, every single day, if not every single moment, and have that wall thrown up. Just that one little bit of space holding me back where she apparently wants me. I don't know how much longer I can go on, loving her and knowing she's not going to allow it.
So when I met David . . . oh, gods! What a mess. Here was this warrior poet, this beautiful man who is giving everything he has to his god and his people. So unselfish. His words were amazing - they touched me deeply - enough to make me curious about this one god he worships, making me wonder if there are any gods who can love the way David seemed to think his god could.
I wanted to fall for him. I really did. If anyone could have made me forget . . . I can't even think it. I wanted to run away, and I thought he might be the answer. Meeting his betrothed pulled in the reins on that one, and just in the nick of time, because Xena needed a friend that night.
And that's just it. She needs a friend. I can be that for her, and I am that for her. Taking her hand as she spoke of Goliath's family, that was the very least I could do. I wanted to do so much more. I wanted to hold her, and comfort her, and tell her everything will be alright.
But for her, I sometimes wonder if that will be an eternal lie. She had to engineer the death of a friend. A friend she owed her life to. But she chose the greater good - the lives of innocent people who would have died merely to aid in Goliath's revenge on Garath. Goliath was wrong. Xena knew that. And so, despite their friendship . . . despite the debt she owed him, she did what she had to do.
She scares me sometimes. Would she turn on me, if she thought I was wrong about something? I can't imagine a situation that would warrant her killing me, but would she turn her back on me, if we ever strongly disagreed? And how much more would that hurt, if this love I feel doesn't dissipate, at least a little bit?
It scares me, because as fundamentally alike as we are in some ways, in other ways, we are so fundamentally different. Xena can kill on instinct. She doesn't murder people, but she can and will kill them in a fight - to protect herself, or to protect someone else.
She is frighteningly beautiful when she fights - poetry in motion. And her eyes - there is joy in the battle there. She loses herself then, I think. It's a time she has to concentrate on the moment at hand, and she can forget everything else.
And after a fight, she gets quiet for a while, and I know she's feeling what she's done. She broods. She broods, and I try to bring comfort. She ... "Yah!!"
"Gabrielle?" She pats me on the shoulder and I almost jump out of my skin. I've been sitting on this log, looking out over a creek, just thinking. I thought she'd gone to find Argo. "Sorry." She sits down beside me. "Didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay." My heart is pounding a mile a minute. "You snuck up on me."
"Not hardly." She snorts. "Came through that brush back there like a herd of warthogs. You really didn't hear me?"
"No." I look down, wiggling my toes in the mud.
"You looked like you were a million miles away." She nudges me.
"Just thinking," I mumble.
" 'Bout what?"
Gods. The one time she actually asks me, and I'm thinking about how much she scares me. I glance over at her, and wish I hadn't. She's got that sad expression again. I take a deep breath, and dive in. Okay, I cautiously wade in. "I was wondering what you think about when you're fighting. Or is it all instinct, and not much thought?"
She appears genuinely startled, her eyes wide and surprised. "Mmmm." She reaches down, picking up an earthworm and holding him in the palm of her hand. He wiggles around and then curls into a knot. She lays him gently back down in the wet mud, and he burrows in. She seems to watch him for a long bit. "The fighting part . . . that's mostly instinct," she answers slowly.
"So you aren't really thinking about anything? Xena, that's amazing." Despite the undercurrent of fear, I have to acknowledge how truly skillful she is, and how hard she's worked, to get to where she is now.
"Didn't say that." She digs a hole in the mud with her toe, finding another earthworm. She draws her foot back and watches him wriggle away from her. "I used to not think much at all."
"Used to?" She glances at me quickly, then looks away. "So now you think while you fight?"
Gods, she is infuriating at times. It's like drawing a thick strand of thread through the very small eye of a needle. "If you aren't thinking about fighting, what are you thinking about?"
"You." She doesn't look at me this time, but raises her head, looking out over the calm, pale blue green water before us. "I listen, some. Make sure I can hear you. Seeing you is better, though. But yeah, I think about you, making sure you're safe, making sure I . . . " she shakes her head and trails off.
"Making sure you what?" I scoot closer, nudging her leg with mine.
"Making sure that if you're in trouble, I can get to you."
She looks at me, and this time, our eyes meet. It breaks my heart, the sadness under the surface. She's fighting so hard to not feel this. I know it. And I can't fix that for her. I'm not going to force it. Especially not if . . . "Xena, that's not safe!" I grasp her arm, giving it a squeeze. "You can't be distracted like that. Someone is liable to see that, and get inside your defenses."
"Wouldn't matter. If anything happened to you." She looks down, folding her hands in her lap. "If that happened, they might as well run me through. I couldn't go on if . . ."
Suddenly, she gets up, moving away from me and away from the bank, then stops a few feet behind the log. I turn to look at her. "Xena . . ."
"Look, Gabrielle." She looks like a deer trying to escape. "'Don't worry about me, okay? I can take care of myself. It's alright." She kicks at a stone, sending it bouncing down the trail that leads toward our campsite. "I need to go brush Argo. See you back at camp, alright?"
"Alright." She nods, and turns, and I try to watch her walk away, but I can't, because of the tears in my eyes.
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