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loosens my limbs and I tremble.
~Sappho, "To Atthis"
Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle, and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
NOTE: All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
This story depicts violence and/or its aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
Sexual Violence Warning/Disclaimer:
This story includes scenes of sexual violence and/or their aftermath. Some readers may be disturbed by this type of depiction and anyone who is sensitive to this particular issue may wish to read something other than this story.
This story contains several "bad words." I apologize, but I thought the situations required them. Although in truth, there's really nothing that you wouldn't hear on a daring Saturday morning cartoon.
Personally, I don't believe that I even need this disclaimer. Love between two consenting adults should be illegal absolutely nowhere. However, a little warning to those who would like to avoid alt. stories. It is my belief that Xena and Gabrielle share a bond of love that goes soul deep. As such, this story depicts a love relationship between two consenting adult women. However, there is nothing of a graphic nature. If this bothers you, read elsewhere please. As it has been said before, there are some incredible stories out there for just about anyone.
Authors Note: There are some incredible people out there who deserve a whole lot of thanks. To those of you who have read this before it was really ready to be read, thanks guys. You're the best. A whole chunk of any praise there might be belongs to them. However, criticisms should be sent my way (firstname.lastname@example.org) and are welcome. That said...enjoy :)
Bright shards of sunlight filled the clearing, softening as they caressed the hair of the woman sitting by a small fire. Despite the bright day, it was cold, and tiny clouds left the woman's mouth through lips parted slightly in concentration. It was to this scene that I awoke. The woman was staring intently at the scroll before her. As I watched through blurred vision, she put the tip of her quill between her teeth and creased her brows slightly. A murky film seemed to cover my eyes. I tried to move, and pain shot through every muscle of my body, concentrating at the base of my skull. Even before I opened eyes shut tightly against the pain, the woman was at my side. I was immediately caught by her eyes, a bright green, deepened with concern. A hesitant, but friendly smile graced soft lips.
"Hey now, don't try to move. You've been hurt very badly." Even as she spoke with a smooth, soothing voice, restless hands roamed my body, searching for hidden wounds. An eyebrow crept up of its own accord, sometimes even I can't control them, at the familiar way in which she was touching my body. To my consternation, despite the healing intention of the exploration, my body was responding quite nicely. I tried to clear my throat, but for the first time, I noticed the bandage around my neck and the prickly pull of tiny precise stitches. It shocked me to think of how close I had been to following that bastard to Tartarus.
She must have seen the shock and fear in my eyes because she rested a hand on my shoulder and smiled again. Surprisingly, the rising fear in my throat calmed. Cautiously, I tried to speak and found that it caused to much pain. The woman brought a cup to my lips and the scent of mint drifted through the steam. Warmth and the surprisingly sweet taste of honey slid down my much abused throat and further calmed me. I felt myself drifting off, a warm presence easing my fear, as soft hands brushed my hair from its faintly ticklish spot upon my nose.
When I awoke again it was late. The fire had been banked to burn until morning and stars littered the night sky. I turned my head slightly and felt a smile tug at my lips. The woman had put her bed roll next to mine. She was curled on her side, cradling a carved wooden lamb, her hair covering most of her face. The smile fell away, however, when she shifted in her sleep to reveal tear stained cheeks. It was obvious she had cried herself to sleep. For some reason, this touched me deeply. I wanted desperately to take away her pain. I tried to move and was relieved when I could. It hurt, but I was no longer hit with searing, mind numbing pain. Even though my vision was still blurred, it was better than it was that morning. I'd seen this happen before, and while it annoyed me, I wasn't alarmed yet. I moved to her side, careful not to jar my injured neck. Imitating her movements from the morning, I brushed the hair out of her face. She woke, and stared intently into my eyes. She searched them for something, and apparently not finding it, sighed and sat up.
"How much do you remember?"
I thought for a second, worried at the gray fog that should have been memory. "I remember fighting those men. I remember needing something desperately and I remember Sarpedon. I remember the flash of a sword and the bite of a blade. I remember Lyceus, my mother, Hercules, Marcus, M'Lila, Ares..." I wanted to tell her this, to tell her of the faces floating beside those blank gray spaces where nothing could be pried from my stubborn consciousness, but I could not. Instead, I shook my head.
"Right. Well, we can always play twenty questions." She smiled and then completely surprised me by throwing her arms around me, kissing me, and then bursting into tears. I sat dumbfounded for a moment, but when the woman showed no sign of stopping, I awkwardly tried to comfort her. She slid gratefully into my arms, head buried securely in my chest. Briefly, I remember being pleasantly perplexed at just how well the small body fit with mine, before the inadequacy I felt in dealing with the situation rose to the surface. With my mind focused on more than just my pain, I was able to make out in the dim light of the fire the disheveled and exhausted condition of the woman before me. Something flitted at the edges of memory, but was gone before I could register it. Sighing, I put the woman, who had fallen asleep by then, gently on her bedroll and slid down next to her. In minutes, I was dead to the world, completely vulnerable to anyone and anything wishing me harm. Luckily, the only visitors that night were the tiny creatures of the forest, oblivious to the pain of two sleeping travelers.
On closer inspection in the cold light of day, my wound was not nearly as bad as I had feared. Then again, as I was no longer focusing on my neck, the rest of my body decided to loudly protest its obvious abuse. My ribs were aching, there was a nasty discolored bruise on my thigh, there was a gash in my arm, and my wrists were covered in barely healed wounds where the skin had been split and torn. On a high note, my vision had cleared remarkably well. I turned questioning eyes on the woman and stopped dead. What in the firelight was disheveled, turned disturbing in the daylight. I had already witnessed the emotional distress of the woman last night. She also showed signs of physical abuse. Her arms were covered in small cuts from wrist to shoulder. There was a large purpling bruise around her neck, and across her back were angry red welts where the tender skin had met the bite of a whip. It amazed me that she had been able to move last night, much less be held in my arms. I wanted, needed, to ask her what had happened, to take away the ugly marks covering her body. Oblivious to my thoughts, the need I had to understand her pain, the woman turned and smiled at me. "Good morning. Breakfast's almost ready. I caught some fish to make stew. It took me forever to get them. I definitely could have used your many skills today." A grin accompanied the familiar way in which she was addressing me. Obviously, she expected me to know her, her words those of a friend. I searched my memory for this woman. I could find nothing but gray. Writing in the dirt, I managed to completely shock her.
"Who are you?"
She stared at the words, and then at me. Lowering herself slowly to the ground, she said, with infinite sadness and a hint of panic, "Oh, Xena."
The afternoon arrived slowly. I was able to down the stew made by the distressed woman and listened as she told me the story of her life. When she was done telling of her life as a villager, she looked at me and hesitantly asked of my own memories, specifically those dealing with a certain tall demigod. There was something in her voice that I couldn't quite read until I realized the reason for her questions. Again, I was hit with the importance that Hercules had played in my life. Without him, I would have returned to the life of a warlord. Perhaps not as happy in my bloodthirsty role, but a warlord nonetheless. It was his love that changed my life and kept me on the road to redemption. Somehow, though, that thought seemed incomplete, much like my gray tinted memory.
Attempting to reassure the woman, Gabrielle, I wrote in the dirt again. "He changed my life. Because of him, I'm no longer a warlord. I owe him everything." At these words, relief flooded her face. Relief and another emotion not as easily identifiable. Loss, perhaps, or pain. Maybe both. Again I was hit with the feeling that something was missing from those words.
"What do you remember after Hercules?"
"Argo. Sarpedon." Two names were all that came to mind. I felt empty and sick. Attempting to ignore the aching emptiness I felt, I wrote, "How do I know you?"
The woman, Gabrielle, began once again to relate her tale when the rumbling of her stomach signaled lunch time. "Tell you what. I've written down much of our time together. Why don't you read my scrolls while I make lunch." With that, the woman went to her bag and brought it over. "Feel free to look at anything you want. Maybe it will bring your memory back."
So, with a little trepidation, I opened the bag and brought out a scroll. Soon, I was lost in the amazingly colorful and adventurous world the obviously talented bard had drawn with her words. Giants, and gods, and kings were commonplace occurrences in the lives of these two adventurers; heroes, really. Somehow, though, it didn't quite seem real. There was no spark of recognition when I read these tales. No sudden urge to shout, "Hey, I did that, too." As I read of the hero Xena, I was reading about a stranger. Then, I picked up a leather bound collection of parchment. Opening it, I was met with the slightly childish scrawl of a fairly young girl.
I was punished again today. I hate having to stay in the house. I wasn't even doing anything wrong. I just wanted to see the horse everyone was talking about. It sounded so wonderful. Imagine the tales I could tell about the majestic stallion, breathing fire through flaring nostrils as his captors looked on in wonder. I just wanted to see him. I didn't know that he was going to run away. I only left the gate a little open. Oh journal, I can't stand it here. There's never anything fun to do. I have to stay at home to do chores, and then "act like a lady" when I am allowed to play. I can't do the neat stuff like the boys. They get to run through the fields and play capture the warlord. They can swim in the river with no clothes on and go on trips with their fathers. I'm only allowed to go to the river to do the laundry. I think that's why I like to do the wash so much....
"So how's it going?" The question startled me from my reading. I looked up guiltily. Somehow, I knew that I had never read this before. Gabrielle looked at what I was reading and blushed. "You found my old journal. Uh, it's..." I made a motion to put it down. She must have sensed some of my guilt because she said, "No, no it's OK. I would have let you read it anyway. It's just a little embarrassing is all. Anyway, lunch is ready. I made us some stew again. You seemed to be able to swallow that."
Needless to say, lunch was a quiet affair. After we were finished, I started to help with the dishes, but the woman waved me away, saying that I should finish my reading. For the next day and a half, I read about the life of a little village girl. I read about her struggle to fit in with a world that didn't understand her. I read of her joys, and, at times, cried at her sorrows. Then she met a tall dark stranger.
So much has happened today, I can't even write straight. First off, I met the most amazing person today! In my eighteen years, I have never met anyone so incredible. I was going to do the laundry with Lila when these horrible slavers came out of the forest. They were going to take the whole village. I was so scared, and then out of the woods flew a hero. She was wearing nothing but a shift, hair down and weaponless. And yet she put all of the "warriors" to shame. As they came at her with swords swinging, she fought them off with eyes blazing. Then she looked up, and it was like being hit by one of Zeus' bolts. I can still close my eyes and remember falling into those crystalline pools of blue. For all my bardic ways, I never truly believed in love at first sight, but in that one glance, I found the rest of my life. Then she was hit from behind. I thought for sure she was going to be killed, but out of nowhere, she pulled out a sword and scared away all of the slavers. She's leaving now. Father won't let her stay. None of them will. I know now that I can't stay here. Not when I've been given the opportunity for so much more....
Suddenly, a vision of fair hair and vibrant eyes assaulted me. It was as if I were standing in that field, staring at the lovely girl across from me, for one instant in time oblivious to the shouting men and flashing weapons. It was almost physical, the impact of that first glimpse of my missing life. I made a strangling noise, a choking sob that caught in the back of my throat. Gabrielle, hearing the noise, left the scroll she was working on to come by my side. As she neared, the woman she had become melted into the girl she was when we met. And I was lost in the memory of our first meeting.
The panicked tone that was accompanying the tense grasp on my forearm brought me back from my memory. "Xena, what is it? Xena, answer me please. Xena..." Damning the wound that prevented me from talking to the woman, from easing the fear I saw in her eyes, I gently grasped her hands in mine. As uncharacteristic a gesture as it was, the soft skin underneath my palms felt right, very right. Bringing her attention to the page in her journal, I wrote in the dirt, "I remember." The best way to describe what happened next is to say that Gabrielle squealed. She jumped at me and wrapped her arms around my back. Even while managing to be careful of the bandages around my neck, she covered my face with kisses. At this point, I was pretty certain that she had misinterpreted my writing. Absently, I found myself wondering how she was able to move so well when she was still healing. When she started using her tongue to, well, when she became more intimate with her kisses, I broke from my stunned stupor and pulled back quickly. The fire that had coursed through my blood at the first touch of her soft lips and smooth, wet tongue shocked me with its burning intensity. Then I damned myself as lower than pond scum. For when I pulled back, I saw the joy drain out of those lovely eyes. And I saw the tears that threatened to spill. And I saw the fear and hurt that surfaced. And I could do nothing. All the words in the world could not take back that one instinctual jerk that severed some bond between us I didn't even know existed until it was gone.
The evening was chill, even with the fire burning. Dinner was a subdued affair with leftover stew and travel bread. The ache in my throat had been steadily lessening and the wounds that littered my body had almost healed. I could make a sort of humming noise, not yet words, but something. But the dull ache in my chest grew worse with each silent second that went by. After explaining what it was exactly that I remembered, I watched as Gabrielle smiled halfheartedly and told me that it was "great". Obviously embarrassed and heartsick, she then retired for the night, saying that she hadn't been sleeping well and needed her rest. Although it was a convenient excuse, it must have been at least partially true, because as soon as she hit the pillow, Gabrielle fell instantly asleep. It was then I realized just how much this woman was doing for me. And I realized just how much she had been ignoring her own needs to see to mine. The cuts and bruises on her arms were healing, but they must still hurt. And I was appalled at how little concern I had shown for her back. In the midst of my own pain, I had ignored hers. And her pain, at this moment, meant everything to me.
Staring at the woman in front of me, I realized that in three short days, she had come to mean more to me than anyone I had ever known. The spirited girl that I discovered through her journal was captivating. Her dreams, her desires, were both more and less than my own as a child, but they reflected the depth of her heart and the strength of her will. And the woman that she had become was indescribable. Her strength was obvious by the way she had endured so well. Not only had she provided for us in the time I was awake, she had cared for my wounds while I was unconscious, even when she was hurt. Her talent was enormous. What she did with words, most artisans couldn't dream of replicating with all of their fancy paints and skilled strokes. The beauty she possessed seemed to radiate. The pureness of her heart, clearly evident in all of her writing, seemed to shine from within, gracing the features of her face which, on their own, were beautiful. The feelings she inspired in me were a confusing blend of affection, desire, admiration, respect, and a need that I could neither describe nor explain. I needed to be near her, to know how she was, who she was. On those occasions when she had to leave the camp, she left it feeling empty and cold. And this evening, without her warm voice to fill the air, it was cold indeed.
My attempts to make sense of the swirling mass of emotions this woman inspired in me were interrupted by the rustling sound of many men trying hard to be silent. The staccato bursts of movement followed by utter silence spoke of amateurs trying hard to stalk their prey and reminded me of my own childhood games of catch the warlord. Except I was better at it.
Making a quick decision, I walked over to our bedrolls. Pretending not to notice the menacing presence of the "hidden" men, I casually bent to check on my sleeping companion. Then I grabbed the sword lying by my bedroll and unceremoniously kicked Gabrielle awake. At that moment, Tartarus came to the land of the living. Men swarmed from the trees surrounding us, many more than I had first assumed. While this contingent of less than top notch warriors wouldn't normally be that much of a threat, in my weakened state I knew that the battle ahead would not be easy. Gabrielle, by this time, had awoken and was quickly absorbing the situation around her. She lept up and grabbed her staff, stiffening only slightly at the pull on her healing back. Confident that she was as well prepared as she could be, I turned my attention to the men coming after me. I promptly felt a sword handle hit my head in a glancing blow, unable to dodge in time. Light exploded in the back of my head, but I remained conscious. Viciously, I kicked the man just below the sternum. As he wheezed and fell to the ground, more men swept past him. Soon I was lost in the battle. My whole world consisted of parries and counter slashes. The blood roared in my ears, and the solid feel of my sword hitting flesh was all that I knew. Then the flow of men ebbed, and I could breathe again, think again. There were bodies lying everywhere. The stench of blood made the air thick and cloying.
A strangled gasp made me spin around to see a sight that I would never forget. There was Gabrielle, a filthy, disgusting, soon to be dead man with his arm around her neck. In the twilight, I could see the blade press against the tender skin of her throat, a tiny rivulet of blood trickling downward. My movement to beat the man to a senseless mass of quivering flesh was aborted when I felt rough hands grab my arms. Two of the men that Gabrielle had hit were now restraining me.
"Ah, ah, ah, Xena. You wouldn't want me to slip and `accidentally' hurt this beautiful creature, now would you?" I could only groan, even as I was forced to stop my movement. Didn't they ever find anything more creative to say? "So Xena, isn't it nice that we're all back together again? This cosy scene is a little familiar don't you think? Ain't fate a bitch?" The fear and loathing I could see in Gabrielle's eyes were all that kept me from charging at that smirking face. Then, he pulled her by the hair and licked the blood from her neck. With that, the world around me spun. Images came crashing down, as intense as my previous memory, but much faster and more jumbled. Gabrielle tied to a post, stripped to the waist, being whipped by a faceless man. Me, chained to a wall, wrists bleeding from my frantic attempts to help. Gabrielle held by the throat as a dagger runs slowly down her arms. Screams filling the air. Pain in my head. Terror filled green eyes. They all came together at once, forcing me to my knees with the sheer weight of memory. Sagging against the two men who held me, I could only blink as the man continued his taunting.
"Once again you can't protect your woman, can you bitch? How about we continue where we left off before your unfortunate departure. Then you can see what it's like to be helpless while your woman is taken over and over again, listening to her screams while you're lying on the ground. You'll pay for what your men did to my Tess. You, and this whore over here." With that, he began unbuckling his trousers. Still, the visions continued of a terror filled week caught helpless while Gabrielle was tortured. I whimpered, wanting to crawl back to the relative bliss of forgetfulness, but the sound of Gabrielle's fear chained me to the present.
Not knowing what to do, I searched frantically around me for a distraction. And I found it staring me right in the face. I started laughing, hoping that Sarpedon ignored the hysterical edge to it. "Sarpedon, you call THAT a manhood! I probably wouldn't even feel that pathetic piece of flesh." The men beside me started to laugh. I held my breath, praying that he wouldn't take out his anger on Gabrielle. As I had hoped, he dropped her and stalked towards me.
"You couldn't handle me, you bitch." Waving his dagger with one hand, he held himself in the other. I cautiously tested how tightly the men at my arms were holding me, careful not to alert them. Then, with one powerful shove, I freed myself from their hold and kicked the dagger waving man in his now prominently displayed vulnerable spot. He dropped to the ground in agony, and I turned to the other men. While I had been facing Sarpedon, Gabrielle had, unbeknownst to anybody, snuck behind us. She hit one man behind the head with a rock and I kicked the other man into unconsciousness.
With the danger past, Gabrielle ran into my arms. Cradling the now shaking woman, I could remember everything: our travels together, Sarpedon's need for revenge, our week of torture, my battle to escape, the hit to my neck, and our eventual escape by my hands. And in all my time saving villages and battling gods, this was the only time that I can truly say I felt like a hero, holding in my arms the most precious person that I had ever met. And knowing that I could one day escape the painful memories of that week, knowing that I would never again have to experience that overwhelming helplessness of being chained to a wall, knowing that I could forget everything, I knew that I never wanted to lose this moment, or all the moments that I had shared with Gabrielle. When I lost my memories of her, I lost the best part of my life. And standing there, I no longer felt empty, no longer suffered from gray nothingness, because I had finally discovered my reason for being. And she was in my arms.