Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, etc. belong to Renaissance Pictures, etc., etc. I am merely borrowing the characters for a short time. All other characters are mine! <she says greedily.> You may recognize them from my other stories, if not, go back and read them.
Story © JS Stephens, 2003. All rights reserved. Comments, brickbats, winning lottery numbers may be sent to me at libriscat.
I'm not much for introspection, or for sitting on my rear doing nothing, but this is a very strange experience for me. I'm pregnant by a soldier from an opposing army, whose name I do not even know. I just know that he is pretty highly placed and he wanted a child, but his wife could not have one. Gods, I'm so glad I escaped from that situation, so glad that I came here to Amphipolis, so glad...
...I admit it, so glad that I met Rebecka. She is nothing like me, she's, well, she's kind to me. No, more than that, she cares about me, took a chance on letting an Amazon live in her house, help her sell produce in her store. I've never met anyone like her, even when I lived with the Amazons. I'm drawn to her, enjoy listening to her talk, enjoy watching her interacting with the customers in this village. Sometimes I want to touch her cheek, to be drawn into her arms, to let her voice wash over me as she tells me stories of her childhood. She mentions a girlhood friend often, and her voice changes, soft and tinged with sadness. It's like how some of my Amazon sisters talk about each other, when they speak of their lovers. Did Rebecka love this girl? Why am I wondering about it?
And yet, some nights after supper, I catch myself staring at her, watching the candlelight bring out the golden tone of her skin, the deep black of her hair, wondering what it would be like to touch her. It's very confusing, so I tell myself that all pregnant women are moody and emotional, it must be why I long for her to touch me, to hold me, to tell me that everything will work out. Sometimes, she will lay a hand on my shoulder before I go to my room, search my eyes for something, then smile at me, wishing me good night. It's disconcerting, to say the least, to want to throw myself into her arms, to be held in warmth and safety, but I'm a warrior! I don't need anyone to make me safe!
But I do wish she would hold me.
I've been comfortably alone for years, building my business, making friends in this village. Cyrene, a widow, owns the local inn, has a lovely family of three, two boys and a girl. The girl, Xena, is serious beyond her years, but likes a bit of fun now and again. We have become fast friends, and I enjoy her children, sometimes thinking of them as the children I will never have myself. But there will be a baby in my house soon, a baby from a confused Amazon warrior by the name of Diedra.
Cyrene brought Diedra over several months ago, asking if I needed a new clerk in my store. It puzzled me at the time since she knew that I had been looking for a replacement for my last clerk, who had recently married and decided not to work. I let her bring Diedra over and nearly lost my heart at once. The poor child was obviously scared, yet ready to fight anyone, her Amazon training showing in her wary stance, her quick glances to take in the room. I asked if she could read and write, which she replied she could, then I asked if she was willing to learn the grocer's trade, to which replied a defiant "yes". After Cyrene left, I asked if she were with child, to which she flatly told me yes, that the child had been forced upon her by an officer in an enemy army. I accepted her at once.
Since she came into my life, I have found myself wanting to keep her here. After Sarah, I swore I would never fall in love again, yet something about this hardened warrior has made my heart hopeful again. Just last night, I offered to be her midwife, assuring her that I would not kick her and the baby out, that she could share my house and keep her job as long as she wished. I ached to see the gratitude in her eyes, wanted to pull her into my arms, hold her tight, keep her safe from her demons. She has nightmares, but never confides in me. I can hear her whimper at times and I go and watch from her doorway until she settles back down.
The best times are between supper and bed time, when we sit at the table near the kitchen fire, with a single candle lighting our faces. The candle light brings out the gold in her brown hair, softening her features. She has really blossomed recently, her pregnancy lending vitality to her face and eyes. She is quiet, or rather, still, during these times, not moving around, content to listen to me tell her about my childhood. I ask her about the Amazons, but she makes short replies, not offering much. I supply most of the conversation, but I've noticed lately that she hangs onto every word, allowing her guard to drop. I don't know why I'm so attracted to her, but I wish I had the courage to just take her to my bed after we blow out the candle, even if we just hold each other in the night. I content myself with grasping her shoulder sometimes, feeling the warmth through her robe and nightgown, searching her eyes for some hint that I can even just hug her, but I see a mixture of longing and fear, so I'll refrain again.
At least the baby will be here before we know it. Will she let me help raise the child?
Xena's got it bad, she just doesn't know it yet.
I was on my way back to Amphipolis when I heard something and scampered up a tree. I was shocked to see that it was Xena, on a beautiful palomino horse, riding along, looking dejected. I had heard from my mother, Diedra, that Xena had turned her back on her brutal past, that she was trying to redeem herself. I had answered that I always had kept the hope in my heart that my best friend would come to her senses, that she would turn back into the same person who had been so gentle with a girl six years her junior. I can remember sitting in her lap while my mothers visited with Cyrene, how she would whisper the funniest stories about various guests of the inn, or take me out to play, sneaking up on her brothers and scaring the filling out of them.
Back to the present, we made camp, swapped stories, ate heartily, then rolled up in our blankets to sleep. During the night, Xena had a nightmare, calling for Gabrielle, the girl who had been traveling with her recently. I managed to wake Xena up, got her to tell me about the nightmare, in which she was unable to save Gabrielle from the knife of a killer. I slung my arm around her, holding her tight, listening to the pain, anguish, and love in her voice as she described the nightmare. It was an interesting switch, me holding Xena, not the other way around, as she calmed down enough to get back to sleep. I tried to ask about Gabrielle, but she refused to say much, but what she didn't say spoke volumes.
Xena, my best friend, the evil warlord, the warrior princess, the warrior seeking redemption, has lost her heart to a young woman by the name of Gabrielle.
She just doesn't know it yet.
Okay, I was impulsive when I followed Xena out of town after she saved us all. Up until then, life had been so, well, boring.
I was raised in a little agricultural village, Potadeia, and was slated to marry Perdicus, my best friend from childhood. Now, don't get me wrong, Perdy would be a fine husband, he's steady, sober, works hard, can coax nearly any plant into lush growth, but he's boring. I've always wanted adventure, to see the things I've never seen, but I never dreamed that my future would be in the guise of a former warlord named Xena. She at least tolerates me now, listens politely as I spin my tales around the campfire, teasing me that she keeps me around for my cooking. The latter may well be true, her cooking leaves something to be desired.
I love to watch her in action, try to follow the swift blows she deals when assaulting villains. She is a terrible beauty, dark, lean, hungry for vengeance and redemption, blue eyes flashing with white heat, midnight hair streaming behind her like a dark wind. I secretly try to write descriptions of her, put down our adventures on paper, but mere words cannot capture Xena. She is fierce in battle yet can be so gentle when bandaging the wounds of the injured. It fills me with pride to be known as her partner, or, maybe, her sidekick. She is graceful in battle or in everyday life, rarely faltering. I want to tell the world of her good deeds, her good heart, her beauty.
She can be so sad at times, especially when she thinks I am asleep already. If I can hold off sleep long enough, I can see her staring morosely into the low fire, gods know what thoughts or memories going through her mind. I want to run to her, to offer my arms, to hold her while she cries, to kiss away her pain. She holds me at a distance, but I want so much to break through, to be friends on an equal footing, to assure her that someone cares, that someone loves her. I've seen the scars on her body when we bath in streams, or during the infrequent stops at inns. I want to touch the scars, to stroke them out of existence, to heal her spirit. Sometimes the desire to hold her, to soothe away her pain is overwhelming, I just want to offer her my love and devotion, to give back.
But sometimes the want to hold her is confusing. When Talus died, after Death had been freed, Xena held me while I cried for him. That night, she held me in her arms, just let me grieve, opening up a little about the death of Marcus. Xena can be so, what's the word I'm looking for, so intuitive, so sensitive at times. Sometimes I wish that she would let me sleep with her every night, that she would kiss me good night.
It's puzzling, to need her so much, to want to hold her, to be held by her, I've never had this longing to be touched by anyone else.
And sometimes, I just want to tell her that I love her.
What in the name of all the gods and goddesses is happening?
I swear, Gabrielle will be the death of me some day and I should really send her packing, but when she did go home, I missed her terribly. The nights were too lonely, too quiet, without her incessant chatter, the days were too boring without her finding someone for us to rescue. This girl is such a pain!
But she's becoming a woman, a beautiful woman. Her baby fat is melting off, visibly since she started wearing the shorter skirt and top. Her short stint with the Amazons taught her how to defend herself, and we work on these skills daily, parrying, thrusting, trying to knock each other over. I win most of the time, but sometimes her chatter almost distracts me too much, allowing her to get a good hit in now and again. Those green eyes light up in triumph, her lips curl in a wicked smile.
Life is weird. I spent ten years building a reputation as the most evil, wicked, wanton woman to storm out of Greece. I added to my riches with every raid, not caring how many my army killed, not caring how many lives were hurt beyond repair. I seduced men, women, whomever I wanted, just to feel the incredible rush of sexual pleasure and power. Power I had over them, power to make my bed partners beg for more, beg for me to seduce them. Yet, I'm happily celibate now, not wanting to seduce anyone, not wanting anyone to come between me and Gabrielle, foolishly hoping that she will not find anyone to steal her heart away. I've sworn not to take advantage of anyone again, not to bed them against their will.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I want to let down my guard, to let her know the terrible nightmares, to see if she will soothe my soul with her touch.
Question is, what kind of touch?