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Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "Watching Gabrielle Sleep" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
Watching Gabrielle Sleep
by Alan Plessinger
Xena ran into the clearing, her sword drawn, just as Gabrielle finished off the last of the thieves, whacking him soundly about the head with her staff and knocking him down. The thief scrambled away from her as quickly as he could, got to his feet and ran to join his friends.
"Yeah! Run, you geeky little mutants!" she shouted at them. Completely unnecessary, because they WERE running.
"Gabrielle! Are you OK?"
"Oh, sure. Do you believe those idiots? Why in the world are ten thieves traveling around together? How many men does it take to rob one person? Every time one of their little robberies doesnít go as planned they say to themselves, ĎWe really need a few more dim-witted morons in this group.í And then they hold auditions to pick the most uncoordinated idiot they can find, and they make him the leader."
"Gabrielle, I saw those men. They were big. They looked plenty mean to me."
"Oh, mean! What does mean mean? Mean means nothing, thatís what mean means."
"Gabrielle, stop kidding around. Those men surrounded you. They were armed."
"Three of them had swords, and maybe one knew how to use his."
"Youíve never taken down ten men before."
"Oh, I didnít take down anyone. I just bopped some sense into Ďem."
"I was worried, Gabrielle."
"Xena, itís OK! I wasnít in any danger. These guys, on a good day if they had a few more men, they could maybe rob Joxer. Maybe. I wasnít in any danger. I was fine."
Gabrielle smiled that adorable smile and gave her staff a spin, twirling it in one hand like a baton.
"Yeah," said Xena, "you WERE fine, werenít you?"
Gabrielle realized that there was still worry showing in Xenaís eyes, or maybe it was disappointment.
"Oh, I get it. You were looking forward to rescuing me. Well, you can rescue me from starvation. What did you bring me?"
"Nothing. I was called away from the hunt when I heard those men."
"Oh, well. Vegetable stew tonight."
"No. Iíll find us something," she said, and turned to head back into the woods. Gabrielle stopped her by putting one soft hand on her neck, and moving it up to Xenaís cheek to cup her face and prevent Xena from turning away.
"Xena, itís OK. Iím fine. This wasnít even close."
"Then whatís wrong?"
"Why do you always have to know everything thatís wrong with me? Canít I keep anything private?"
"No. I love you, and I canít be happy if youíre in pain. And I want to be happy."
"Itís nothing, Gabrielle."
"You know Iím not going to let this go. Iíll bug you all night if I have to. But because Iím hungry and I donít want to spend all night trying to figure out the truth, Iím going to show you once again that thereís no one anywhere who knows you like I do. I know that youíre the farthest thing from perfect, and sometimes you can be so petty. And I am going to read your petty little mind."
Gabrielle moved some black hair away from Xenaís beautiful face. The bardís eyes were full of understanding and acceptance as she said, "You donít like that Iím getting better, do you?"
Xenaís eyes closed and she tried to turn away, but Gabrielle wouldnít let her. Gabrielle picked some very inconvenient and frustrating times to be intelligent.
Xena was about to tell Gabrielle that she was being ridiculous, but instead Xena thought, "She promised sheíd stay with you forever, and she meant it. She wouldnít have said so otherwise. You can be honest with her, sheís seen worse from you than this. Much worse."
Xena looked the love of her life directly in the eyes, screwed up her courage, and charged into battle.
"Gabrielle, I need you so much I can hardly stand it. You make me smile, you make me laugh, you soothe me, you show me what love and forgiveness can do. You brought me back to life! Literally and every other way. I canít look at you with out these feelings of love overwhelming me and making me feel small and helpless. Youíve saved my soul a dozen times over, sometimes Iíll bet you didnít even know you were doing it. And what do I give you in return? I protect you. And thatís NOTHING! A trained ape could do it."
"Nothing! How can you call it nothing?"
"It is! Compared to everything youíve given me, itís nothing! If you donít think so, you canít know everything youíve done for me. You canít know everything you MEAN to me. And now it looks like one day you wonít even need me for that."
"XENA! Look at me! You really thing that one day Iíll be able to do everything you can do? Youíve been dippiní into the henbane, havenít you?"
Xena knew that she was supposed to smile, but she didnít feel like smiling.
"Címon, Xena, the Furies have been through here again whackiní you with the nutty stick, havenít they?"
Xena smiled a little in spite of herself.
"I love you, Xena. I promised I would never leave you, and I meant it. And if you mention Perdicas youíll make me very upset. I can never make it up to him or you, all the mistakes I made with Perdicas, but that was a lifetime ago. What do I have to do to convince you Iím not going anywhere?"
"Tell me why you love me."
Gabrielle looked surprised. "What?"
"Tell me why you love me. Something that doesnít sound like hero worship, or teacher and student. Convince me."
Gabrielle closed her eyes, and thought.
"It WAS just hero worship, starting out. But I think I began to really love you when I realized youíre not perfect, and your past is not something someone just made up. Itís something that could come back to claim your soul any time. And I can help you with that. I can make a difference in your life. You have a genuine desire, a genuine need to do good. Thatís what I love about you. The fact that Iím willing to risk my life to travel with you and help you, doesnít that tell you how much I love you?"
"I donít know," she said. "It just doesnít seem like itís enough."
After the hunt and Gabrielleís cooking produced a tasty batch of rabbit stew, Xena and Gabrielle went to sleep, and Xena had that dream again.
She was in Gabrielleís home, just after saving Gabrielle and her friends and family from Dracoís army. She was making ready to leave, telling Gabrielle that she was going to Amphipolis, and Gabrielle asked, "So what route do you usually take?"
"Donít even think about it," said Xena.
"Following me. You wouldnít want to make me mad, now, would you?"
Oh, youíre so tough, Xena, intimidating this young girl.
But in this dream, Gabrielle sat in a chair and looked resigned to her life.
"Yeah, OK," she said. "I guess life with Perdicas wonít be so bad."
Xena blinked. "What?"
"You go on your way. Iíll be fine. At least Perdicas can give me a roof over my head. Protection from the cold winds at night. A few babies to bounce on my knee. Who needs adventures when youíve got that? Children are the best adventure anyone can have."
However many times she had this dream, she still couldnít believe what she was hearing.
"No, Gabrielle, thatís not how it works. What happens is that you follow me to Amphipolis, and you save me from getting stoned to death."
Gabrielle looked surprised. "I save YOU?"
"YES! You talk the villagers of my own hometown out of stoning me. But itís more than that, Gabrielle, you believe in me when no one else will. You see potential that even my own mother didnít see. You keep me from giving up! You show me that someone actually cares if I live or die!"
"Then why did you just tell me not to follow you?"
"Because Iím AN IDIOT, Gabrielle! I was so full of myself, I thought I didnít need anything or anybody! I thought strength on the battlefield was the same as strength of character, and it isnít. Ares keeps trying to tempt me back to being a warlord, and without you I donít have a chance against him."
"How do you know all this?"
"Because this is a stupid dream I keep having, Gabrielle, and Iím SICK of it. Please, please just say that youíre going to travel with me, and I can dream something else for a change. Just a minute ago you said you wanted to be with me."
Gabrielle shook her head.
"I donít know what I was thinking. What kind of life is that, traveling around the countryside, living outdoors like a homeless person? What kind of a warrior could I ever be? Especially in my long skirt."
"You can get a shorter skirt, Gabrielle! No one anywhere is going to complain if you get a shorter skirt! Please just say that you want to be with me."
"Who would want to be with you, Xena? Youíre moody, youíre sullen, youíre short-tempered, you treat everyone horribly, you hardly ever talk, and when you do itís just to bark out orders. We couldnít be more opposite."
"Gabrielle, please! Do you want me to beg? Iím begging! Please, I canít have this dream again. Please, please, just say that you and I will be together. Say that you want to stay with me."
"Can you give me one good reason why I should?"
"I love you, Gabrielle."
"No, not why you want to be with me. Give me one good reason why I should want to be with you."
Xena tried to think of everything Gabrielle had told her. But she couldnít remember anything.
ĎI I canít."
"I didnít think so."
Gabrielle headed out the door. She turned around when she was at the doorframe and looked Xena in the eyes.
"Gabrielle, please donít say what youíre going to say next. Please just give me that much."
But Gabrielle just stepped closer to her, never taking her gaze away.
"I donít love you, Xena. No one loves you."
Then Gabrielle turned and walked out the door.
Xena sat on the bed and balled her hands into fists.
No tears, Xena. Gotta be strong. Be tough. At least get through this without weeping. Make some progress against this nightmare or itís going to destroy you. Since when does Xena need the love of anyone?
And the answer to that question is the same as the answer to most questions about the Warrior Princess.
Xena woke with a start, but she managed to avoid crying out and waking Gabrielle. She looked toward Gabrielle. Gabrielle was asleep with a big smile on her face.
"Glad my insecurity makes you happy," she thought. "And if I had the nobility of a bullfrog I could say that sincerely. I should be happy just because youíre happy. I know you could do the same for me. But thereís so many things you can do that I canít. Forgive. Entertain. Inspire."
Ah, but Xena is good with a sword. And that chakram comes back every time, yes it does.
A little perspective, Xena. What you do isnít exactly valueless. Hundreds of villagers wouldnít call it that. Youíve done a lot of good in this world, and itís not over yet.
"Gabrielle," she thought, "you didnít convince me that you really love me, or that Iím worthy of it. Maybe someday Iíll believe it, but not today. But maybe itís enough just to be needed. Maybe what you want is not so much to love or be loved, but just to be needed. And no one will ever need you more than I do, my sweet Gabrielle."
But doesnít Gabrielle need you? Maybe whatís needed is just to rescue her a few more times. Maybe youíre just suffering from rescue interruptus.
Sure. Whatís needed is a really spectacular, breath-taking, death-defying rescue, something that will put that look of admiration into her eyes, and make you forget that she wouldnít need rescuing if she werenít fool enough to travel with you in the first place.
Xena touched her own eyes and her face. No tears this time. Good. Xena stayed tough. Stayed strong.
She rolled to one side, propped herself up on one elbow, and gazed at Gabrielle.
"Ah, well," she thought, "time for some therapy."
This therapy is very simple and effective. Itís called "Watching Gabrielle Sleep." But the first step is a little difficult. The first step is to find the most beautiful, wonderful, kind, loving, gentle, adorable woman in the world. If youíre very lucky she finds you, and if youíre very stupid you spend a lot of time trying to send her away and get rid of her, right up to the time when realize that you canít live without her.
Then you only have to watch Gabrielle sleep. Thatís it. And even though you canít see her beautiful green eyes or hear her lovely voice, itís better in a way, because you know youíll have nothing else to do for hours but watch Gabrielle sleep, and because Gabrielle is a sound sleeper you wonít have to worry about looking away when she catches you staring at her.
And there was a time when the therapy involved telling her all the things you could never say when she was awake. But eventually thatís gone, because when sheís awake she will find a way to make you say all those things you never thought you could say. Youíll tell her you love her, and that you canít live without her, and youíll beg her to never leave you. And you wonít believe that these words are coming from you even as you say them.
But sometimes itís comforting to say these things anyway, so youíll say aloud. "I love you so much, Gabrielle. Please, please donít ever leave me."
And then you watch Gabrielle sleep, and you watch the lovely light that glows within her, and you drink it in. And you keep watching, and soon you will hear a kind of music in your soul. Or maybe itís music that you feel rather than hear, but the music will be there. It might take five minutes or an hour and a half, but the music will find you. And then you will smile. Oh, yes you will. You will smile.
And then you will lose control, and the tears will come. But itís OK, because theyíre not tears of despair. Youíve really managed to convince yourself, just for a minute, that she will never leave you.
And then you play this little guessing game, and try to guess which benign god or goddess was responsible for giving you the gift of Gabrielle. And then you close your eyes and pray, and the prayer sounds like this:
"Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you."
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