By Xenickz

Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle etc are property of MCA/Universal and no copyright infringement is intended by use of these characters. In other words, they're not mine and I'll put them back nicely when I'm done. I promise.

This one's more than a little angsty so if you're in the mood for sunshine, you might want to stay clear of this one. As always, all cash, chocolate and cars can be

sent to xenickz@hotmail.com

Her side of the bed is empty.

This is nothing new; we go through this every so often.

I wonder if she plans it in advance or if it is completely impulsive. Is there a trigger? Or does she just find herself thinking, 'It's been a while, why not tonight?'.

I wonder why she feels the need to give in, why she feels the need at all.

I can understand the temptation. She is so, so beautiful. People just gravitate toward her, enraptured by her paradox of confidence and vulnerability.

She told me once that we were meant to be, that every minute of our lives had all been part of some elaborate ruse to bring us together. She told me that because our feelings for each other held such great depths, she thought the word love was inadequate. She told me that she was working on a new word.

I imagine her in some else's arms. The very thought alone makes me physically ill.

She loves you, I remind myself to beat back the overwhelming jealousy.

This I know beyond a shadow of a doubt so I cannot understand how she can risk everything for a few hours of physical pleasure. I cannot understand how she can risk everything again and again. I cannot understand why she would want to.

I wonder if this is her perverse way of telling me it's over. Immediately, however, I discard that train of thought. When she returns to me -and she always does- she is so sorrowful, so full of regret that I cannot bring myself to believe that. Anyway she is too straightforward for such games.

So why?

I don't think even she can answer that question. Maybe she is driven by something she cannot identify, just like her nameless conquests.

I dreamt once that I lost her. It was like a weight had been pinned to my chest; it had hurt so much that I couldn't even cry. When I woke and I heard the sound of her breathing, I was so grateful, so unbelievably relieved that I remained awake the rest of the night, not daring to move even a quarter of an inch.

Now it seems to me that I am losing a little of her at a time. One day I will wake with my crushing grief and I will hear nothing.

I hear her footsteps. I relax.

This sequence of the dance we have honed to perfection. She will slip into bed, rest her head on my shoulder. I will pretend to be half asleep. She will kiss me, softly at first then urgently, almost frantic. I will kiss her back.

We will make love.

Some nights it is gentle. Some nights it holds a hint of the blinding rage that I fight so hard to control.

She will whisper my name, whisper that she's sorry. I'm not sure she even realises she says it aloud. Afterwards, she will cry silently and I will feign ignorance until I can bear it no longer, until I ask her what is wrong.

Nothing, she will say.

I live in the hope that one day she will tell me. Maybe that day, I will be enough for her again.

Sometimes I hate her for putting me in a situation where I am forced to forgive her over and over. Sometimes I don't want to forgive her. But I have no choice in the matter; I love her.

The door swings open slightly and pale yellow light steals into the room. She steps in, shuts the door, climbs into bed.

She smells of sweat and of someone else. Usually she takes the time to wash, to dispose of the evidence.She lays her head on my shoulder. On cue, I allow my arm to fall on her lower back.

Her heart is beating so fast.

She brushes my cheek with her finger. "Are you asleep?"

"Mmmm," I mumble.

She kisses me. I kiss her back hard. We make love with a bittersweet desperation. I lose myself in her, in the smell of her skin, in the feel of her lips against my ear. When she comes, she sucks in a breath, almost as though in agony. "I'm sorry," she cries, squeezing her eyes shut. Afterwards, she begins to cry inaudible, gut wrenching sobs that shake her entire body.

Her tears fall, warm, on my skin.

This time, I can bear it no longer. I ignore our customary scripts. "What's wrong?" I ask, my heart in my throat, reaching for her hand in the darkness.

"Nothing, Xena" she says, pulling away to wipe her eyes. "Nothing."

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