A tragic event in Gabrielles young life occurs and she learns how to cope with it after she begins her travels with Xena. The story takes place after the "Sins of the Past" episode.
I have been told that Gabrielle cries way too much in this story, but stated below, the story is mine and Im just a big softy.
*The characters and places mentioned in the story from Xena: Warrior Princess belong to whoever has the bragging rights at this point. No copyright infringement is intended. All other aspects of this story are mine. Please contact me for copies, etc. etc. etc.
*WARNING If you cant handle expressions of love between two women, please stop reading now. Such a simple concept! If youre under 18, Im sorry. Theres nothing I can do except to tell you to hang in there until that blissful day when you can come back to read this story.
*I would greatly appreciate feedback, as this is the first thing Ive ever written outside of poetry. I can take constructive criticism just fine, but please be nice about it. Thanks!
*For those of us obsessed with the show : This story takes place after "Sins of the Past". The context of the story means that events depicted in several episodes of "Xena: Warrior Princess" that aired never took place. Such as Gabrielle being romantically involved with anyone other than Xena or getting married to Perdicas.
One last thing before we get on with this. A great big thanks to Special K and KamiraK for believing in me and letting me type all night to get this done. It only took a month, two weeks longer than expected. Next year, Ill have it finished before April 16! And a thanks goes to Robert Tapert and John Schulian for creating the show!
Finally, we move on to the story:
Supposedly, there is safety in numbers. Whoever said that should be drawn and quartered. What does it REALLY mean, to be safe?
I used to ask myself that question all the time. Then I met Xena and my whole world changed. After we began this journey together, I stopped thinking like that. I have felt safe with Xena ever since our first night together outside Amphipolis. I know that as long as I feel Xena's faith and love , I will always feel safe. There was a time that I didn't feel that way though.
It happened one summer day just after I turned 15. I was walking through town after leaving a friend's home. A man who looked as though he was lost caught my attention as he stood in front of the blacksmith's shop. Even though there were people everywhere, no one seemed to be helping him. I had never seen him in town before, and as I walked over to him, one thought raced through my head: "Don't talk to strangers." Mother had told me this for as long as I could remember. Ever since I had ventured away from home and Sylas had to bring me home because I had gotten lost. I figured I would be okay this time, too, because just about everyone from Poteidaia was in town, running in and out of shops, so I wandered over.
I took note of his appearance: he looked about 35, had brown hair peppered with silver and a bald spot on the back of his head that the sun reflected off of when he turned his head. He also looked to be on the plump side, as if he had eaten potato soup every day of his life. The skin on his hands and face looked as if it had spent too many hot, dry days tilling soil in the fields. He wore brown trousers that matched the brown of his eyes, and a cream-colored shirt that had sleeves that billowed when the small town breeze blew across the market square.
As I neared, I called out, "Hello!" to him. I must have startled him, for he jumped almost as high as Mt. Olympus as he
jerked his head back to my direction. He had been looking all around him, and it seemed, now that I think about it, that he
had been looking through me, not at me, when he had looked in my direction. After a few moments, he smiled at me and said, shakily, "Hello. C...Could you help me? I'm new to these parts and it seems as if I've gotten myself lost. Not to mention that I can't find my cart."
Something in his voice scared me and told me to run, but I remember how helpless I had felt when Sylas had found me when I got lost the first time as a child. "Well, I'll try to help you if I can."
"I...I'm looking for...uh...the road to...um...Andreas."
"Well, if you take the road to your left as you leave through the north end of town, go about an hour and a half due west and then take the road to your right, you'll be headed in the right direction. Just look for the sign that says 'Amazon Hunting Grounds-No Trespassing'."
"I'm not too good at following directions, even with a map right in front of me and I've gotten lost several times just trying to leave town. Would you mind showing me to the north end of town so that I won't get lost again? If I'm not home tonight, my wife will have me thrown in the stocks for days on end! It's our anniversary and I've spent most of the day so far been looking in the shops for a gift for her."
He seemed genuinely afraid that he would get lost again, so, ignoring the voice of Mother in my head, I began walking with him to the edge of town. While we were walking, we talked about the town and my life here. He asked how many of the people in town I knew, how long I had lived there and how far away I lived, what kind of farms were in the area.
" Well, I know just about everyone who lives here because I've lived here all my life. I live down towards the southwestern end of town at our farm. Most people don't know me that well, except to say hello in town because they see my face when I go into the shops for supplies. I usually stay inside writing when chores are done. Most of the farms here are sheep and cattle farms. Also some goat and pig and vegetable farms."
I didn't realize that we were out of town until I heard the man exclaim, "What a beautiful view of the forest! I must tell my wife about this place. She'll want to move out here just as surely as we're standing here!"
When I looked at the sky, I got the feeling that I wouldn't make it home before dark, so I told the man again how to find the road to Andreas and then I turned to leave. I didn't get two steps away when the man grabbed my arm and spun me around to face him. It was then that I saw the look in his eyes: possessive, hungry, cold. I heard Mother's voice shriek in my head to run, but the look in his eyes kept my feet rooted to the spot like a tree. His eyes terrified my soul. Then his voice made my blood run cold. "Don't run. It won't do you any good. I'm younger than I look. Don't scream either. No one will hear you. Just do what I say and everything will be fine."
As he took me deep into the forest, I knew that he meant to rape me, maybe even murder me. My mind, always so full of words, was suddenly and utterly blank. I had no idea how to stop him without getting hurt. I began to put myself down for not following the advice of the voice in my head. After several minutes of berating myself, my mind began to clear and all I could think of was getting out of the woods and back home without losing my life. Everyone always told me that I could talk Ares out of starting a war if given half the chance. Somehow, I was able to talk him into taking me back into town before he could destroy me completely. He hadn't had enough time to do more than grope me under my skirt before I was able to talk him out of raping me. I didn't realize it at the time, but he had done more damage to me than if he had murdered me. What he had done was enough to ruin my life and sense of self for several years. He took me back to the spot where I had first seen him and, before he left, he told me to never speak of what had happened to anyone or he would find me. I had believed him because, in my innocence and youth, I had told him where I lived as we walked to the edge of town. Then he disappeared.
I never saw the man in real life again. But for a long time, I heard his voice in my head say, "Just do what I say and everything will be fine." But everything wasn't fine. And it wouldn't be for a long time.
As I walked home, the sky was filled with the brilliant mystical colors of the hour before darkness settled in. But they were lost to me at the time. When I arrived at the front door to my home, it was almost completely dark outside. When I went inside, my parents asked me where I had been. I told them that I had gotten lost in the woods, which was pretty close to the truth, considering that I had lost something. They didn't seem to believe me, but they didn't push for answers that I was not ready or willing to give them. When I headed to the room I shared with Lila, my sister, they asked if I was okay. I told them that I thought I had caught a chill in the woods and wasn't feeling well. I crawled into my bed, pulled the blanket up to my chin and shivered until I was so exhausted that I fell asleep. But, Morpheus was not good to me as I slept. More than once that night, and for several nights afterward, Lila was at my bedside as I woke, screaming and sweating. I stayed in bed for several days, hoping that I would finally rest, but it never came. Just the nightmares and screams. In my nightmares, I would run from him, but he always seemed to be able to catch me.
I kept seeing the man in my mind, whether I was sleeping or awake. I just couldn't get away from him, no matter how fast my legs moved. During this time, I didn't write at all. I didn't speak, either, unless someone specifically asked me a question. I could barely think at the time, so I knew that speaking and writing would have to be put on hold for a while.
I finally left my bed a week later, but I didn't go outside for months. Fear overwhelmed every aspect of my life, whether I was asleep or awake. Doing my chores was near impossible, the thought of eating nauseated the core of my soul. And the idea of sleeping so that my mind and body could refresh itself? Inconceivably and totally unthinkable. Every time I went near the front door, the man's face would pop out in front of me. If I had to leave the house, Lila went with me. But I didnt leave the farm. I couldn't go into town. That's where that man was waiting for me, to finish what he had started. My feet would stop moving forward as soon as I neared the end of the road at the farm. After a while, Lila would go into town with me. But I was always looking all over and all around for him, expecting that when I turned the corner, he would be there to grab me. And what if he grabbed Lila? Would my mind freeze up like it had before? Or would I be able to save my only sister before he could hurt her the way he had hurt me? The panic, at times, was almost completely unbearable. I would feel it in my stomach, then it would go into my heart, where it felt like Hercules was squeezing all the life out of it. The panic would then seize every other muscle in my body and I would shake so badly that people would cross to the other side of the road. Eventually, it would start towards my throat where, if I opened my mouth, I knew I would scream. Finally, it would hit my mind and I would begin to babble when I tried to speak. Needless to say, Lila was less than thrilled to have her "big" sister go into town with her.
When I was 16, I was betrothed to Perdicas. I knew that I would never marry him, so I went along with it to please my parents. I think Lila was praying to Hestia for my betrothal because she seemed so relieved that she would no longer have to go with me into town. Perdicas could now take me to town. After several months of Perdicas walking with me, I finally felt strong enough to go into town by myself to meet him. I never told him what happened, but I think that he sensed my fear of going into town alone. We had been friends since I was 6, and he noticed that I wasn't as outgoing as I had been as a child. He did his best to comfort my fears and make me feel safe, but in my heart, it wasn't enough.
Then Draco's men came to town.
The day that I met Xena was one of the most extraordinary days I had ever known. As I watched her fight with Hector and his men, I saw the strength that she possessed within her and I vowed that I would learn from her how to get that kind of strength. She didn't want me to follow her, but she finally came to accept the simple fact that I wasn't going to go back home. That's when she began to accept me enough to let me into her life a little bit. With each passing day, we grew closer and closer. I shared my conscious hopes and dreams with her and she shared her dark past with me. That was when she learned what friendship was really about: because I had accepted her darkness and all that came with it. But I had more to learn about friendship than Xena; much more. And my knowledge would soon grow a titan-sized amount within months of that first day we met.
After several months of traveling together, I began to feel that I could share just about anything with her. After all, I put my life in her hands every day. Unconsciously, I began to think about that day when I was 15, and it began to show in every area of my life. I think Xena sensed it, but if she did, she didn't say anything. What could she have said, anyway? 'Hey, Gab. What happened to you when you were younger that made you start acting so strange lately?' Then the nightmares and screaming started again. When I would wake up, I could feel Xena watching me as I tried to pull myself together enough to go back to sleep. About a week after the nightmares began again, I woke up one morning and saw Xena looking at me with such love and tenderness that I started shaking. She came over to me and put her arm around my shoulders. As she pulled me closer to her, I began to cry. I had started feeling safe with her and it scared me. My tears turned to quaking sobs as I put my head on her shoulder. She began stroking my hair and whispering words to me to calm me (a wonderful trait that I didn't know that she'd had in her before that day): 'It's okay.' 'I'm here and I won't let anything happen to you.' 'I'll take care of you.' 'I will never hurt you.' 'You're safe now.' The more she whispered those words, the harder the sobs wracked through my body. Safe? Ill never feel safe again. All this time, she was rocking me back and forth gently. After a while, I fell asleep in her arms, thinking that I liked the way I felt, having her arms around me. Feeling protected by her strong arms and loving words.
When I awoke again later, the sun was high over our heads and Xena was cooking lunch. She had already cleaned up our supplies, but had left her bedroll next to me on the ground.
"How are you feeling, Gabrielle?"
"I...I guess a little better now."
"I started to remember " My words faded as thoughts invaded my mind from all directions.
"Remember what, Gabrielle?" There was no mistaking the concern and love in her voice.
"Oh, Xena. It happened a long time ago, before I met you. I thought I had gotten over it."
"Evidently not. Just because it happened a long time ago doesn't mean it can't affect you now. I'm a good example of that."
"I...I suppose you're right. "
"You know that I am. So, are you going to tell me what's going on? Or are we going to sit here all day and ponder how things are going to affect us?"
"Gee, Xena, you don't let go of things real easily, do you?"
"No, I don't. Not when these dreams that you've been having affect you so completely. I care about...Well, I think it would help if you talk about it. So, out with it."
"I don't know if I can. I want to, but..." My words trailed off as I got lost in the thought that Xena would hate me if she knew what I had allowed to happen to me on that day so long ago. The day that had been buried since her light showed me the path that I was to take. I didn't know if I could even find the words to describe the betrayal I had felt, the loss I still felt and the fear that I would become unable to do anything or go anywhere again. Mostly I was afraid that she would blame me.
"...talk about it sooner or later, Gab." Xena was looking at me, the worry evident in her eyes, waiting for me to speak.
"I don't know if I have the stren..."
She cut me off before I could
even finish. "You DO have the strength, Gab. I don't know where
you got the idea that you don't, but you do. Just look at yourself now. Look
at how you've survived so far. I don't even have a clue as to what's happened
to you, but I do know that it's bad enough to make you scream out every night
as you sleep. And it's enough to make me angry because I know that there's nothing
I can do to take it away, whatever it is that's haunting your every thought
right now." She turned her head away as if she couldn't look at me. But, before
she had turned away, I saw the anger in her eyes. And I saw her cheeks flush,
as if she had a fever. I didn't know what to think. My mind was as blank as
a brand new scroll. I knew that she was right. And I trusted her with every
part of my being. Without her having said it before, I knew that she would never
hurt me. "Okay, Xena, but I don't even know where to begin."
"Try starting with how you feel about it. If it hurts you too much to say what happened, you don't have to. In your own time, Gabrielle, not mine. When you're ready to tell me, I'll listen. Im only asking you today because it hurts to see you in such pain. But I can't force you to talk."
So I told her how I felt after it happened: the nausea, the paralyzing fear, the loss, the self-loathing, the blame, the betrayal. As I talked about how I had felt, the whole story just came flooding out. When I finished, I was so out of breath that I didn't think I would ever breathe normally again.
When I was finally able to regain control of myself, I stole a glance at Xena. I was surprised to see that she was crying. I could also see that the anger was still there. But, when she spoke, her voice was so soft and full of love that I just stared at her. "Oh, Gab. I'm so sorry. Its not your fault. You didnt do anything to make that monster touch you like that. You didnt do anything wrong. But, look at what you did do, Gab. He didnt rape you because of one of your greatest strengths. Talking. I only wish there were something that I could do to take the pain away. Anything to make it so that what hurt you that day had never happened."
"Well, I doubt very much that it would take the pain away, but it was at least bearable when your arms were around me before. I felt protected and loved. I finally felt so safe..."
Xena came over to me and gently pulled me into her. I laid my head down on her shoulder and closed my eyes as the tears started to fall again. This time, the tears weren't so much about what had happened as they were about what I had lost: my youth, my innocence, time. I felt so warm, so safe, so loved. I had missed out on those feelings, too because I had been so afraid to tell anyone what had happened. I was glad that it was Xena's arms around me, though. I was asleep on her shoulder within moments and I had a dream that was so loving and tender that when I woke a few hours later, I felt that it had really happened. As I opened my eyes, I realized that Xena was still there, holding me and comforting me.
"Welcome to the world, Gabrielle. Are you hungry yet?" Her tone was teasing, but yet so gentle.
"Actually, I feel as if I haven't eaten in months."
"Well then, we'll just have to see about getting you some food." She looked over at the smoldering remains of the fire. "I guess it wouldn't be a good idea to eat the rabbit I was cooking a few hours ago."
"Why not? Rabbit sounds pretty good right now."
"While you were sleeping I happened to look over just in time to see the rabbit catch fire. You looked so peaceful that I didn't want to take a chance on waking you up to go over there. I take it you had a good dream this time?"
"I don't really remember what I was dreaming about, but I do remember that it felt good." I could feel a blush rising to my face as I remembered how I had been feeling in my dream.
She looked at me oddly, and then her eyes took on a knowing look. "I guess it was worth losing the rabbit over, then. Listen, Gabrielle. We're not that far from Amphipolis and my mother is a great cook. Want to stop in and see her? We could get a room and sleep on a soft bed tonight instead of on the ground."
"That would be a nice change. Don't get me wrong, Xena. I love traveling with you and sleeping under the stars, but I think it would be better if I slept on a bed tonight. If you don't mind, that is."
"I would have to agree with you on that, considering the day you've had so far. Why don't I pack up our bedrolls while you eat some bread and cheese?" She tossed the food over to me from the saddlebags. "You look a little pale and you'll need
some strength to hold on during the ride."
"No arguments from me this time." I ate the bread and cheese while Xena packed up our bedrolls and made sure that the remains of the fire were completely out. Within half an hour, Argo's hooves were eating up the lush green landscape on the way to Amphipolis.
When we arrived in Amphipolis a short time later, Xena dropped me off at her mother's tavern and went to stable Argo. She was at my side in fifteen minutes.
"That was quick. I take it there wasn't a problem finding room for Argo?"
"Not at all. There's a place a few doors down where the owner has always taken Argo in for me. Where's Mother?"
"Oh. She went to get a start on the HUGE meal that she's going to make for us. She gave me the key to the room and said that when you came in, we should head up to the room to get cleaned up and she'd bring the food up when it's ready."
"Mother has always been good to favored guests here. I'm glad to be one of them again. Why don't you go ahead to the room? I'd like to see Mother before I get too tired. The ride getting here took a lot out of me."
"Okay. See you in a few minutes."
As I headed up the stairs, Xena veered around the corner in the direction of the kitchen.
When I opened the door, I dropped the key to the room and my heart nearly stopped beating. The huge bed had four posts at each corner and white, gauze-like curtains around it, creating a very private atmosphere to sleep in. There were fresh flowers everywhere, and incense and oils neatly lined up near the bath. The bathtub was so enormous that there was enough room for Xena, Argo and me to fit all at once. Without any hesitation or any thought of anyone coming in, I peeled off my blouse, skirt, boots and underclothes and stepped into the bath. The water was just the right temperature, and it smelled like fresh-cut lilacs. I leaned against the side of the bath and within moments, I was dozing. I didn't hear Xena when she came into the room. Suddenly, I felt two strong arms lift me out of the water, and then I was screaming. She sat down on the floor in front of the bath, holding me and rocking me gently. "Shhh," she whispered. "It's okay, Gabrielle. It's me."
"Oh, Xena! I...I'm so sorry! I was dreaming and then I felt arms around me and then..."
"Gabrielle, it's okay. I understand. You're safe and no one will ever hurt you like that again. I promise." Her tone was so gentle and loving, the words soothing the ache in my heart. I looked up into her blue eyes that suddenly seemed as mesmerizing as the pull of the ocean, and I began crying as I saw the love and promise that they held. "We should get a robe or blanket on you before you catch a chill." I had been so lost in her eyes that I hadn't even realized that I had no clothes on. She carried me over to the bed where she sat down with me on her lap and reached behind her for one of the robes that had been laid out for us. The robe was the color of the sky on the first warm day of the year, and made of the softest material that I had ever had on my skin. It felt wonderful and I finally began to relax.
As I was starting to enjoy the warmth of Xena's skin on my arms, I heard Cyrene call out from the other side of the door, "Xena? Gabrielle? Is everything all right in there?"
Xena studied my face carefully before answering her, "Yes, Mother. We're fine."
"Okay. The food will be ready in a few minutes. Are you two all cleaned up yet?"
"Just about, Mother. I just need to wash up."
"Okay then. I'll bring it up when it's ready."
I listened as Cyrene's footsteps faded down the hall and then turned to face Xena. "I don't feel too hungry right now, Xena. Maybe I will in a little while. I think I'll just lay here and rest for a bit."
"Okay. Do you need me to stay here with you for a few more minutes?"
"If...If you wouldn't mind, I'd like that. Just knowing that you're here helps." I curled up on the bed and Xena covered me with the blankets that she had managed to pull back before we sat down. Xena curved her body around me and, feeling Xena's warmth behind me, and her arm curling around my waist, I fell asleep like I hadn't slept in a week.
About half an hour later, I heard a beautiful voice calling to me from far away, "Gabrielle..."
It sounded like the voice was calling to me in my dream. "Mmmm..."
"Gabrielle, time to get up and eat. If you're hungry, that is."
Not a dream this time. I felt and heard my stomach respond to the word 'hungry' and my eyes flew open when I smelled the stew. I was out of bed and in a chair with a plate of food before Xena could say another word.
"I guess 'hungry' is the wrong word?"
"It's more like ravenous," I said around mouthfuls of food. "I don't think I've ever been this hungry in my life!"
"Well, there's plenty here. If we finish all this," she spread out her arms, "and it still isn't enough, Mother said she could bring more."
I was too busy eating to be able to answer. Xena would have thought I was speaking another language if I tried, so I just nodded.
After we finished eating, we set the remains off to the side of the room by the door. I sat down in the corner of the window, hugging my knees, lost in thought. I didnt see Xena come over and sit down in the other corner, watching me as the torrents of my emotions displayed themselves in my eyes and the tears streamed down my face. I knew that how I felt showed clear as day in my eyes. I had learned that I wasn't very good at hiding my feelings from Xena, and she knew it. She didn't have to push me to talk this time.
After watching the moon cross half of the late-evening sky, I finally spoke. "Will the pain ever go away, Xena?
Or will it haunt me like this for the rest of my life? I couldn't bear it, not for the rest of my life. It feels as if it happened yesterday."
Xena reached her arms out to me, knowing that I needed her comfort. I crawled into their strength and warmth. "Gabrielle, you know that I could never lie to you, no matter how much it might hurt you. You deserve to know the truth about the things in this life that cause great pain as well as the things that cause supreme joy. As much as it hurts me to tell you this, the pain never goes away, it just eases with time. After a while, it won't cut as deep into you as it does now. I think that by that time, you'll feel pretty angry and you might not realize how deeply you were hurt until then. But, if I can tell you anything about life that might help you, it's this: don't let the anger eat away at your heart. You've got such a big heart; I've seen how you handle people who are afraid and angry and hurt. The worst crime I could think of would be to let that less-than-animal win by letting that anger take root in you." She had begun rocking me again, and my eyes started to close. "I think you've had enough for one day, Gab. Let's get you to bed." She picked me up and carried me to the bed, where she slid in behind me and pulled the blankets up. I could feel the warmth of her breath on my neck and the comfort of her arm around my waist. The last thing I remember before falling asleep was that I wanted to go to sleep every night for the rest of my life with her protective arms around me.
The next thing I knew, Xena was gently shaking my arm. "Gabrielle? Gabrielle?"
I couldn't speak; my throat hurt so much that felt like I was swallowing the fires of Hades. My eyes were open, though, and I realized that it was still dark outside.
"Gabrielle? You were screaming again. Is there anything I can do? " I crossed my hands in front of my throat in an effort to let her know that I didn't have a voice. "Let me get you some water. Stay here."
I watched as Xena got out of the bed and crossed to the table by the door to get the water and a mug. She had on a robe that was the color of the streaks left by the sun moments after it disappears. The robe appeared to be made of the same material as mine, but it wasn't as long on Xena as mine was on me. I could see the skin of her beautifully sculpted calves and lower thighs. I watched the muscles carry her across the floor in the last strands of moonlight.
When she came back to the bed, she handed me the mug with steaming tea and honey in it. "Try this. It should help. With all the crying and screaming, it's a wonder you didn't lose your voice sooner."
As I sat there drinking my tea, I looked around the room, my wandering eyes finally coming to rest on the warrior sitting bare inches from me, her eyes steadily watching my face, looking for signs that I was okay. I just nodded and then drained the cup and placed it on the table next to the bed. "Do you want some more tea, Gab?" She began to rise and I held her arm to keep her there, next to me. She sat back down and looked at me.
We were both startled at the soft tapping on the door. Xena got up and, as she went to the door, she glanced back at me to be sure that I was all right. I heard whispering and then Cyrene was at my side with a candle looking closely at my cheeks.
"You seem to have a fever," she said as she felt my head. "You look flushed and your skin feels clammy and warm. I'll have Thessalia bring up some hot water for a bath. That should help some. If you need anything, I'm right down the hall."
When Cyrene left, I turned to Xena. My throat felt raw and my voice was so low I wasn't sure if she could hear me. "Did you tell her what happened to me?"
"No Gab. It's not my place. If you want her to know, you'll tell her. I told her that I thought that you might be coming down with something. You know, Gabrielle, I would never betray you by telling anyone what happened."
"I'm sorry, Xena. I didn't mean to imply..."
"I know, Gabrielle. After what you've been through, I'm surprised that you trust me. Much less leaving Poteidaia to travel with me."
"I couldn't stay there anymore, Xena. Every time I left the farm, all I could see was him. I was afraid that I would see him waiting for me around every corner when I went into town. I wish...that...oh, Hades! I don't know what I wish!"
She came to me and put her arms around me. I drank in the feel of the smoothness of her skin and the warmth of her embrace. After what seemed like hours, I pulled back slightly and gazed into her eyes. I was surprised to see tears in the ocean of her eyes. There was something else there, but I couldn't quite place it.
"You know, I'm not going to take it personally when you have doubts. It's to be expected. What that son of a Bacchae did to you makes me so angry that I want to...Well, I'm sure you can fill in the blanks."
"Without a problem."
She looked at me quizzically, and then her eyes softened. In a gentle, teasing tone, she asked, "Am I getting that predictable?"
"No, Xena. But I see it in your eyes. The frustration. The rage. It's there if you know how to read people's reactions. I know that you try to hide them, but theyre still there. And they dont scare me as much anymore."
Several months later, I was sitting by the fire, going over the battles we'd been in that day and tossing story ideas around in my mind. Ever since we began traveling again, the desire to write again burned within me, and Argo's saddlebags carried the fruits of that need. They were some of the best writings I'd done in a long time. We had left Amphipolis after several days of rest and recovery time, which we had both desperately needed. So much had changed in me since that first night in Cyrene's inn. The nightmares that I had been having were all but gone. The few that I did have ended when I took control of the dream and kept the man from touching me. Lately, the focus of my thoughts and dreams had been on Xena and the look in her eyes that I had seen while we were in Amphipolis and several times since then. I realized that I had seen that same look in her eyes several times before we went to see her mother. What I couldn't figure out was why Xena would change the subject when I asked her about it. We had been able to talk about anything up until then. Now, suddenly, she wouldn't talk to me about it. I also thought a lot about how I had been feeling, about the changes in my life in the year since I had met Xena, about how I felt and the way I thought about Xena.
I had felt like this before, when I lived at home. Before that man had tried to ruin my life, there had been another girl. Glypha. She had hair the color of the darkest part of night, with red highlights that looked like fire in the sunlight. And eyes so green that you were lost in them if you looked too long. Skin as smooth as honey and softer than the down of a goose. But that was so long ago. And she was gone. She had gotten married and moved to Athens before I met Xena. I remember the day she left as if it was yesterday. Shed held me close, her body quaking as wave after wave of tears coursed down her face. She told me that she had no choice, her parents were forcing her to marry. She didn't want to. She wanted to stay and be with me. And then, she was gone. The loneliness and pain I'd felt were almost unbearable. And then that man came along and nearly ruined my life. But now there was Xena. What I felt for Xena was the same as how I'd felt for Glypha, but stronger. More intense.
I felt her eyes searching my face and I looked up. As our eyes met, I felt intense and unbridled passion rise up within me, chaotically tormenting my heart. Before it could reach my eyes, I turned away, but not before I saw that same desire, and the tenuous hold she had on it, in her eyes. Xena could not possibly feel this way about me. I was just a kid in her eyes and I would never be anything more to her. But, by the gods, I loved her! My face flushed as I let that love for her wash over me. I loved the intensity she fought with during a battle, the way she gazed at me when she thought I wasn't looking, the way my skin burned where she touched me-my arms, my shoulders, my neck as she massaged the knots out of them. I loved the way her armor and leathers hugged every curve of her body, wishing that, for just a moment, I could feel the same things that the metal and leather felt against her skin. I turned back to her, watching the muscles of her arms working as she honed the blade of her sword. "Xena...?"
I waited for her to look up before I continued. Why I waited, I'll never know. When she did, I lost the nerve to tell her how I felt. Her eyes, the color of the deepest ocean blue, swallowed me in.
"What is it, Gabrielle? Are you still having nightmares?"
"N No, Xena. No nightmares."
"Then what is it, Gab?"
Here it was. The chance to end my silent torment. "It's nothing. Really." What was wrong with me? Here she was, ready to listen, and I was acting like a frightened little farm girl who had never seen the things that I had seen.
As if shed read my mind, she said, "Don't be afraid. You can tell me anything, Gabrielle."
"Well...I'm not really sure where to start."
"Try the beginning. It's as good a place as any." She smiled then, flashing her teeth, almost flirting with me. Wait a minute. Flirting?
"Maybe later, Xena. I think I'm going to turn in."
"Are you sure? I can see by the look on your face that something is bothering you."
Was I that easy to read? "Another time, Xena." I couldnt tell her that the mere thought of revealing my love for her terrified me.
"Okay, Gab. Ive got some repairs to make to my armor so Ill be up for a while if you change your mind."
It took a long time, but when I finally fell asleep that night, I kept thinking about how it would feel to have Xena's arms around me again, like when we were in Amphipolis.
When I woke later that night, I could feel Xena right behind me on the bedroll. I rolled onto my other side so that I was facing her. I put my hand to her face, brushing lightly against her cheek. My fingers grazed her lips before I realized what I was doing and pulled my hand away quickly, as if burned by flame.
"Gabrielle...?" Her eyes began to open lazily.
"Y Yes?" My voice didnt sound as sleepy as Id hoped it would. I held my breath, not trusting anything else that I might do or say.
"How were your dreams?"
"Beautiful," I whispered. As I gazed into her sleepy eyes, I reached over again to touch the smooth silk of her face. And, as before, I pulled my hand away. I was going to have to develop some semblance of control around Xena if this was how I was going to feel with her around.
"Glad to hear it. No nightmares this time?"
"None that I can remember."
"I hope your dreams stay that way, Gabrielle. It was very hard for me before to hear your cry out at night, knowing that there was nothing I could do to stop them."
"I hope they stay that way, too." Sweet Aphrodite, shes beautiful when she first wakes up! Then she spoke the words that I thought Id never hear from her. "Gab? You dont have to stop touching my face. I I like the way your skin feels, so soft and warm."
"Is it really okay?"
As she nodded, I traced the outline of her lips, so full and soft. By Zeus, her skin was beautiful! I leaned over to her and
gently kissed her cheek, and when I heard her sharp intake of breath, I moved my lips down to hers and kissed her, feeling that I could not love her any more than I did right then. After a moment, I could feel her returning the kiss. Could she really be feeling this way? I pulled away gently and looked into her eyes. "Xena? I think we need to talk."
"No, Gabrielle, I dont think we do." Xena paused so long that I thought she had fallen asleep again. "What would you say if I told you that I think Im uh falling in love with you?"
No moment in my life has even come close to eclipsing the joy that I felt surging through me at the sound of her speaking those words. I leaned into her and we kissed again, as I wrapped my arms around her. I touched my tongue to her lips and tasted the sweet-salty texture of her mouth. As she parted her lips and let her tongue explore, our tongues entwined themselves like two snakes dancing. I began running my fingers up and down her side, barely touching her. I felt her body quiver and my desire rose. I knew that if we continued the way we were, I wouldn't be able to stop myself. I pulled my body away from hers and felt all my nerve endings protest the rush of cold emptiness that replaced her body. We had to talk. I didn't want to put our friendship in jeopardy with my desires unless she felt the same way. "Xena. We do need to talk. I don't want anything to happen between us that could ruin our friendship. I need to know what you're thinking, what youre feeling. If you feel the same way I do, then so be it. If not, then we have to stop."
"Ok, Gabrielle, well talk. Ill tell you what Im thinking and feeling." She took a deep breath and began. "I don't know how or when it happened. But, I started wondering what it might be like to kiss your lips, to feel your skin against mine. When we were staying at my mothers tavern, I wanted so much to kiss you as I held you in my arms, but I knew it would be wrong. So I waited. And the longer I waited, the more I thought that you could never want me or want to be with me. And then tonight, as I was watched you while you slept, I came over here and lay down behind you, just to feel you next to me. I think I've been in love with you for a long time now. I haven't felt this way in a long time, didn't think I ever would, either."
"Xena, I never thought I could love again, too. But I have, and I do. I just want us to be sure of where we stand." With that last word, I put my arms around her again. She pulled me to her and kissed me with such tenderness that I thought I would explode with joy and passion right then. I pushed my body against her and felt the warmth of her skin burning me, branding me, making me hers. I slowly brushed my fingertips along her spine and felt her shiver under my touch. "Are you cold?" I murmured between kisses, almost giggling, knowing what I was doing to her.
"No," she gasped against my lips. "By the gods, Gabrielle! Where did you learn to do that?!"
"Youre not the only one who has many skills, you know!" My tongue danced around her lips, tracing the first letter of her name, then the first letter of mine. I traced the skin of her neck gently with my lips and tongue, tasting the salty texture. I moved down to her breasts, so slowly that I knew I would taste her forever in my dreams. I flicked the tip of my tongue against her nipple and heard her moan with unbidden passion. I could feel the effect of her moans deep within my own body, which now felt like it was on fire where our bodies touched. My fingertips traced a path down her sides and came to rest on her hips. She continued moaning softly and, as my hands came to a stop, I could hear sounds of protest coming from her. I laughed gently, knowing exactly what she was feeling. My fingers were tingling with the anticipation of touching her, aching to feel the joy of exploring depths that I had only imagined and dreamt of. I suddenly felt nervous and shy, like it was my first time. (Well, to be completely honest, this was my first time. With Xena.) I moved my fingers over the crest of her hips and felt her tremble. I caressed her skin and it seemed as if her nerves were trying to explode through. I felt the softness of her hair and then my fingers grazed her in the one place where I knew I would be able to give her the pleasure that I had been yearning to. And then, slowly, as if we had all the time in the world, I gently worked my fingers down between the layers, finding that cove that I was so achingly desperate to find. As I reached in with one finger and touched the silk inside her, her body seemed to come to life with a mind of its own. Her hands went to my back and I heard her moaning my name so softly that I shivered at the sound of her voice. I began to rub her gently and my name became louder with each stroke. With the sound of her voice plaintively urging me, I quickened the tempo, my fingers finding perfect synchronization with her hips. Her hands came around to my breasts and she gently squeezed them, leaving what seemed like flames when her mouth replaced her hands. Her hips began to move rhythmically against mine and I began to moan, knowing that it wouldnt be long for either one of us. The rhythm started going faster and I bent my head to taste her breasts again. I bit gently and suddenly, my name was sung by her voice to the gods on Mt. Olympus. And then, with the sound of her voice, I screamed her name, my vision darkening and bright spots shooting in front of my eyes with the force of my orgasm. I collapsed on top of her, out of breath, waiting for my eyes to return to my head, which swam with all the emotion of our first orgasm together. When my breathing returned to normal, I looked into the eyes of the woman that I loved with everything in my soul and saw a love reflected back that took my breath away. "I love you, Xena." I began to cry at the profound depths of love that I was feeling. When Xena looked at me with questions forming in her eyes, I just shook my head. How could I explain to her the love that I felt in the deepest corners of my being? All the words that I knew would trivialize the love I felt for her that encompassed the universe. The simple answer is that there arent any words to describe it. When I looked into her eyes again, I tried to put all the love that I felt for her in my eyes to see. She reached up and caressed my face where the tears had fallen unrelentingly. Her touch was so gentle that I cried all the more. She sat us up and hugged me to her, rocking me, soothing me. "Its okay, Gabrielle." She put her fingers under my chin and pulled my face up so that I was looking in her beautiful, blue eyes. "Gabrielle. I love you. Im not going anywhere. The gods on Mt. Olympus couldnt drag me away."
How could I explain to her that I wasnt afraid of her leaving? That I was feeling a relief so profuse that it took over every thought and feeling within? "Xena. Im not afraid that you would leave. Not that I would ever let you leave now. Its just that Ive never felt so wonderful, so fulfilled in my life. Ive never felt so safe "
To be continued
Thursday, July 4, 2002