*My emotional secrecy was severely violated during the production of this fan fiction* *Subtext friendly but no sex, some moderate lovin' as well as rape description*
From the moment we were unceremoniously plopped into the hay wagon, I couldn't take my eyes off her. Mind you I believed I had every right and reason to stare. She, a total stranger, had just risked her life to free me, to save me. Even after I had shoved her off, threw barbed comments at her. But you see I had to. Because no one in my whole life has ever cared even in the least about me, or how I feel, or let alone what I think. And certainly no one has cared enough to do something as crazy and, well, I suppose, as brave as to risk their life to save me.
But I try not to get too excited, I have been deceived before. I know not to let my guard down, not to trust her, not to trust anyone. Not to trust anyone? By the Gods look at me, sitting here like a fool, following her where ever she leads. I am trying to stop myself I really am, but there is something about her, a familiarity maybe. . . whatever it is its something that tells me that I'm safe with her, that maybe. . .
When I first saw her at the market. . .this is going to sound so odd. . .but I thought about a tale my mother used to tell me, so long ago. It had been the first time I'd thought about my mother, well let's just say that it was the first time in a long long while. She used to tell me that in the beginning the gods created one being, the perfect combinations of all the opposites, a balance that is needed to survive. Then the wicked gods came and split the beings in half and scattered them about the earth, blinding them to who their other half was. But the gods had helped the best they could, they gave each person an inner sense, their mind's eye, that would allow their spirit to recognize their other half.
I remembered this story, told in my mother's beautiful way, like a bard almost, when I saw this stranger in the market. Because something in me, something deep within my soul, so long blinded and hidden, opened up and said that she was the one. It was the oddest thing I have ever experienced, but I suddenly remembered times from before I existed in this life, and all those times, I am with her, and she with me. Other forms, other lifestyles, yet always together. I would have dismissed it, if it wasn't for the way her eyes took me in. She was looking at me with such love, I suppose, I mean if I could even recognize it anymore. I felt my cheeks start to burn under her intense gaze, and became angry at myself for being so affected. When she stopped the guard from beating me, I thought she was insane, and maybe, just maybe, she was for real, the golden saviour I'd been praying to the gods for.
When I had realized that she only meant to purchase me, I fell from that hope so fast that I cursed my foolish heart for being so stupid. I mean, by the gods, what was with me being so ridiculous in thinking that anyone would give a damn about me, let alone the thought of actually having someone out there who was the other half of my being. It was nonsense, a childish tale fed to me in childish times. And it had hurt me, something that I did everything in my power to avoid. I had resolved then and there that that would be the last time I would get my hopes up. I accepted, or at least tried to, that there was no hope for salvation for me. That all, from the lowest mortal to the highest god, had forgotten about Gabrielle from Poteidaia.
So imagine my surprise when I am grabbed, my mouth covered, and dragged into the corner by this very same woman. I was angry, at her for getting my hopes up, and again at myself, for being so foolish as to believe that she was actually there to help me. So I threw my barbed words at her, distanced myself from her emotionally as I did with all others. How else do you think I get through Mycentius pawing my body like a hungry dog? I run away, mentally now, instead of physically.
When she said my name though, it frightened me. It was like a forced intimacy in a way, like I was suddenly vulnerable to her. But it caught me with my guard down, and before I knew it, she was in behind the walls of my being, and I was helping her. Now I sit here, next to her, an almost natural silence between us, and I can't pull my eyes from her.
She's beautiful, the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes upon. She's so stunning that I feel intimidated. I know I myself am ugly, Mycentius and his guards have called me "their stubby little troll" since I can remember, and it's the truth. As I sit there I feel so unworthy of her, to be near such beauty, such strength. I feel reduced to a tiny piece of nothing, a troll, just from being in her very presence.
With an almost childish awe, I study her features very intently. I can't seem to get enough of her beauty into my memory, I want it emblazoned in there, so when I die I can think of her, of this, my first moment of freedom that I get to spend with a mortal goddess. My eyes follow the curve of her cheeks, the sloping of her neck down into her shoulders, her hair falling over them, the slender curves of her arms. I become so wrapped up in my hungry gaping that I don't notice when she has caught me.
When I realize, I am terrified. I unconsciously flinch and tense up my body, waiting for the beating to come. I duck my face down and hide my eyes, readying my body as I have learned to do so well. But this time, in the oddest contrast, I feel a slender, cool hand reaching out and touching me lightly under my chin, and she gently lifts my face up to hers. My heart's pounding in my ears is almost deafening, from fear of the lashing I am about to receive. I tremble from the intensity of it, my lips forming a thin straight line as I avoid looking up.
She says my name like I have never heard it before, wrapping her voice around it and saying with such. . .such love? I finally venture to look up, into those incredible blue orbs, and see that look I saw the first time in the market, that deep love. She's smiling at me, and looking at me, well looking at me like one would look at an intimate lover. I feel my cheeks burning hot at this, this sudden rush of emotions that have long since laid dormant in me. My throat closes on me and I can't squeak out any words, but this doesn't seem to matter to her. The hand that was under my chin goes up to the side of my face and lightly her thumb begins to stroke my cheek.
I don't know how to handle this considering no one has ever touched me in this kind loving way before. So when her hand moves up my face I jerk away like she'd burned me, and move away from her slightly, my head down turned. I can't let myself be vulnerable again, I can't let her hurt me, trust no one trust no one. . . .
When I finally venture another look up her eyes are still upon me, pained and guilt ridden. I look at her, confused at the source of these feelings from her. She smiles briefly then looks away, a sigh of discontentment on her lips. The rest of the ride is silent, uneventful, but my eyes don't turn away from their claiming of the sight of her.
We arrive in Amphipolous and she promptly takes me to see Lyceus. I tell him and this other man everything I have overheard Mycentius and his cronies talk about. There's a big commotion over this, but I feel very detached from it all. I stand to the side, forgotten in the shuffle and dissolve into the background, as I have always done. But this time she's here and she doesn't let me. She walks over to me, so quietly that I don't notice her presence until I feel her hand slip into mine, warm and reassuring. This unanticipated touch catches me off my guard, and I attempt to wrench my hand out of her grasp, but she clutches it even tighter, not letting me go. When I look up into her eyes I see that look again, that look of such deep adoration. I blush and my eyes divert themselves in embarrassment. Never have I had this, never have I had anyone so focused on me, just me. My heart is thumping so loud at being the center of someone's attention, my cheeks burning hot, redden in blush. I can't look up though, I can't look anywhere near those eyes, as all I can think of is that they are on me.
"Gabrielle, come with me." she whispers it in a low voice into my ear, so close to me that I'm afraid she'll hear my heart thats roaring in my head. Her breath tickles my neck, my nerves so aware of her very presence that my entire body, all my senses wait to feel anything from her. Still clutching my hand she leads me up the stairs of this inn we are in, and to a room with only a large tub in it. I sigh to myself and begin rolling up my sleeves, thinking she wants me to bath her, that she plans to have me as a slave after all.
"Take your time in here, Gabrielle. . ." she seems to be having difficulty saying what she really means, like she's holding back something, struggling with it. I look at her confused for a moment.
"Take my time? Doing what? Do you-do you want me to clean in here? Or to bathe you? Am I to fill up the tub?" I'm trying to make sure I get the tasks right, for I've learned misunderstandings often led to beatings. She looks at me almost blankly for a moment, like she can't believe what she's hearing. I instantly feel like some imbecile for asking such a moronic question and curl up my arms in front of me, trying to hide into the background again.
She can sense me withdrawing, as if she knows my actions and nature so well, and goes over to me, again trying to physically drag me out of my shell. An arm goes around my waist, a hand lightly caressing my back. These touches break something inside of me, and for the first time around another person, tears sting my eyes.
"No sweetie, take your time bathing, you yourself. I didn't free you just to make you into my slave." Her voice is so sweet, so caring. . .it almost hurts me to hear it. No one has ever called me sweetie, not since my mother, in such a loving way. My heart is falling apart inside me, I feel like I'm drowning in these emotions I haven't allowed myself to feel for so long. I try to hide my face, cause I can't let her see this, I can't let her know I am weak, I have to be strong, I have to keep up these walls, even if she calls me sweetie, and even if her warm hand rest in the small of my back like this. . .
She's looking at my shoulder now, at the scars there. The look of a lover fills her eyes again, but now it's accompanied by guilt and anger. She reaches her free hand up and lightly begins to stroke the raised scars there, tracing their lines with a gentle finger.
"Your shoulder." she says quietly, like she's sharing an intimate secret with me. Being so conscious of the hideousness of my scars, I pull out of her half embrace and hide my shoulder again. I feel like a beast now, so ugly in her presence and so ashamed that she has to see my grotesque form. I stand in the corner, my back to her, looking at the wall, trying so hard to become part of the background, to fade away. But she refuses to let me, she always refuses to let me. She brings me forward to her, wraps her arms around me. Its too much, I feel suffocated by her love, it's too much for me to accept, too much for me, Gabrielle, the stubbly little troll to ever even hope for, let alone have. With my dream, my hope, my golden saviour staring me in the face, I am terrified and I pull away, playing cat and mouse with her.
She seeks me out again, but this time knows better. This time it's only an arm that wraps about my waist, calling my glance up to hers with her hand under my chin. She makes sure I am okay, that I am not angry or threatened. These glances are too intimate though, I feel so vulnerable under the close scrutiny of her blue eyes. I look away, and put my hands up onto my scarred shoulder, so aware of my repulsive flesh now.
Except she pushes my hands away, and somehow, against everything I think I am, I allow her. I allow her to look at my scars closely, to examine them. I may allow her, but I stand there waiting for her to withdraw in disgust.
"They are-" I try to find my voice, and can't believe I am even speaking. I want to tell her I know they are ugly, that I know she's horrified by them, that I am too. I try and try but the words are stuck in my throat.
"They are scars Gabrielle." she states, as if she knows what I am going to say before I say it. She isn't appalled by them, she sees them as what they are, and doesn't even think much of it. "Bathe now, dear. I think I have a cream I can put on there that will make them less raised, less noticeable. I can get it if you'd like."
There, she did it there aswell. Called me dear. She puts in these little terms so casually, yet says them with all sincerity. They make me blush in their honest nature, and I turn away, nodding slightly. She pauses for just a moment and then she's out the door, leaving me alone.
I stand there for a brief while, in this small little room, the steam from the water in the tub now filling the space with its humidity. I realize how rare it is for me to be alone, during the day. Usually during the day and well into the night I would be working, and not be alone until the wee hours of the morning, when I'd finally be able to go to my corner of the kitchen. I suppose that even then I wasn't really alone, considering the big kitchen staff women would be there, just a few of them, making tomorrow's bread. It was here when I was at my best in hiding in the background. They never knew I was even there, I was so good at it. I'd sneak in there, by the big fire, and sit in the dark shadow of the huge mantel and hearth, curled up into the tiniest ball. I could hide from anyone there, Mycentius included.
In my little corner there was when I'd be free, in my mind at least. I would take off my clammy socks and rub my tired blistered feet, warming my numb toes and fingers by the fire. While I did this, I would come up with little stories, more like fantasies I suppose. I'd dream of beautiful women in gorgeous gowns, of a freedom to wander amongst them, knowing I was as beautiful as any of them. This is where I first created my golden saviour. The person who would sweep into the night, gather me up in their warm safe arms, and carry me away. Make me beautiful, and maybe, maybe even love me. It was then that I would permit tears, silent ones, always silent when your hiding, when no one wants to see you cry.
I look over at the door, making sure it's closed in case someone dare enter unannounced. It's only then that I pull of my filthy clothes, my rags, and lay them aside. I walk, shivering in my skin from the cold, over to the corner beside the mantel of the fireplace in this room and hide. I curl up into the little ball, my knees drawn up to my bare chest, my eternally bruised arms wrapping around my legs, and I duck my face into the hollow of my body. I need to hide, I need to disappear, to deal with this, the fact that someone out there is thinking of me, caring about me. My mother floats into my memory, and the tears fall silently, silently.
A rush of cold air hits my skin and I can feel eyes on me. I look up to see Mycentius, leering at me. He reaches down and grips my forearm tightly, grinning maliciously at me. I struggle against him in the beginning, then I remember how much more it hurts when I fight. Where is my golden saviour now? Where is this Xena? I go limp, as always, while I am dragged upright, my head lolling to the side. I can feel the tears run down my face.
"Xena" I murmur in a wobbled voice, choking on my tears, "Golden saviour, where are you?"
She is above me, and I am awake. She has pulled my head up and is looking at me with concerned eyes, her hands lightly stroking my hair and face. I realize it was a dream now, that she really is there, that I called to her and she answered.
"I'm here tacquin, don't fear." she smiles sweetly at me, her eyes glistening with tears. "That must have been some dream."
I manage a weak smile and lay my head back against the wall, overcome at the moment, with relief at the very sight of her. It's then that I realize I am naked. I pull my body up into the ball, and hide myself the best I can. She sees my retreat within myself and moves in closer.
"Let me help you up into the bath." she smiles at me, gripping my forearms, ready to help me stand. I look at her completely shocked and pull back even farther, so much so that my muscles strain in the force of which I am holding in. I shake my head violently at her, the very idea not to fathomed. But her strong fingers dig deeper into my grip, loosening it.
"Come on dear, it'll be alright." she smiles at me again, and I feel my grasp loosening. Before I even realize what in Hades I am doing, I lean forward a bit trying to stand. My legs buckle under me and I fall back down, clutching my body in shame. Her eyes are looking me up and down, taking in my bruises, gashes, scars. My shoulders are knotted from pulled muscle upon pulled muscle. My breasts are covered with his bite marks, vicious and bloody. The muscles in my legs are spasming now, the strain of the day too much.
"It's alright, they-they do this all the time. I can walk on them, they don't hurt I promise" As I speak I grit my teeth from the pain, but I can't let her see it. I can't let it show that it throbs so badly.
She pulls out my legs, as straight as they can go, and begins to knead the contorting muscles. Her fingers work over them like magic, and I actually feel the pain lessening. After a few moments, the muscles are calm. I look up at her totally amazed.
"How did you do that?" She smiles at me with her secret, and looks relieved that I am speaking to her. I smile shyly for a moment, and before I know it, her hands are under my arms lifting me up. She walks me to the tub and I step in, trying so hard to cover myself.
Once I am in the tub I look over my shoulder, expecting that she'll leave me then. But she doesn't, instead she is kneeling down behind me. She turns me head back forward and begins to pour the water over my head, dunking me over and over. I realize that she is bathing me, as I have bathed so many. I turn towards her and grip her hands, stopping her.
"What are you doing?" I ask her, looking confused at her actions.
"I have learned nothing is more satisfying than bathing a slave on their first day of freedom." she smiles at me, her hand on my cheek again.
I sit there as she bathes me, too shocked to even think about moving. She washes my back and arms, then my hair, taking the greatest of care afterwards as she combs it out. She cleans every cut with a light touch, that I don't even feel any pain. When she is done, she begins to rub my shoulders for me, starting to work out the knots there from my years of heavy labour. By the time she is finished I feel like jelly in her hands, my eyelids now heavy from the relaxed state I am in. She picks me up out of the bath and wraps me up in a towel, as I stand there drowisly looking up at her.
She leads me to another room, with a large soft bed in it and sits me on its edge. From under half-hooded eyes I watch her move about the room, collecting bottles and cloths. I feel so tired that I scarcely realize what she is even doing or where I am. She has laid me back and I am stretched out on the bed, the towel under me. It takes me a moment to realize that I am half clothed, but this fatigue is so strong that I don't even care.
She begins to attend to every cut and scar on my body, cleaning them and bandaging them, applying this cream that smells like mint and aloe. Her fingers are so gentle as they move over me, that it's hard not to imagine her as my loving golden saviour. In the haze of the afternoon sun her hair glows red around her face, and her eyes turn a pale blue under her dark lashes. My hand reaches out, shaking, to touch her cheek as I drift off to sleep.
The whip hits my back again and again, the sting getting worse with each pass. I'm half naked in front of all these leering men, licking their chops at me like hungry animals waiting for the kill. Oh I want my golden saviour, I want her to come and kill me, to free me from this hell. I call out to her, and flail about, looking for someone to put me out of my misery.
"Xena. . .saviour, save me, take me from this life. . .I don't belong here, kill me and release me. . ." I say it over and over, like my mantra, my arms waving in front of me searching for her. A hand is on my face.
I jerk awake, sitting bolt upright, and look her straight in the eyes. I'm nude, and become ashamed. I pull away from her, gathering the blanket from the bed up and over me, to hide my nudity from her. I curl up under the sheet, into my ball, ducking my face under there so I can let the tears fall. But silence is of no use to me now. Now I sob out loud, for all the world to hear. Maybe if I am loud enough they'll kill me and-
She's in here beside me. She's crawled under the sheet and is pulling my nude form to her. I try to push away, meekly, begging her to leave me be, but she isn't buying it. She keeps her voice low and continues to mutter in a loving tone that she's there to help me, that she cares about me.
"Little One, it's alright"
Oh gods. Little One. My mother. . .I can see her, holding me when she's dying the knife wound in her stomach bleeding all over me. And she's saying that to me. Little One, it's alright. Her blood is covering my face. My hands. Little One. She's saying it over and over.
"Little One, shhh"
I don't need her to pull me to her now. I go over to her, entangled in the sheets around us both. I wrap my arms around her and sob into her neck. I cling to her, my golden saviour, for all I'm worth.
"It's alright tacquin, I've got ya" she murmurs in my ear in her quiet voice. "Who is it, dear? Whose done all this to you? The bite marks, the bruises, the scars?"
I pull back a bit, and dry my cheeks with the backs of my hands. I am on her lap now, the towel from before wrapped around my waist, my scarred breasts bared. I turn so my shoulder is facing her.
"Count the scars." I say quietly. I feel her finger lightly touch them
"I was 12, and Mycentius had found me in the kitchen one day. He ordered me to his room, like a whore. I ran away, out into the night, I was so terrified. He found me himself, and pulled me back by my hair to his main room. He striped off my top in front of his soldiers and whipped me, 4 times, one for each year I had been *his*" I could feel the warm salty tears falling down my face and dripping off my chin as I continue. "He then left me, alone, with his men and they all took their turns. . .I haven't been left alone by Mycentius or his men since."
A bottle whizzes past me and smashes against the wall. I look back and see her seething with anger. Tears pour down her face, but I know in my heart, they're not for me.
She get up and holds out a hand to me. I go over to her and she smiles at me through her anger, to reassure me and to reassure herself.
"What I have to do is for you Gabrielle," she cups my chin in her palm and leans down to kiss my forehead. I let her then pull her face down to mine and kiss her lips.
It's my first kiss.
Her lips are soft, warm. My heart feels like it's going to burst. She smiles at me, and turns to leave. I feel the bottom fall out of my world.
"Where-where are you going?" I beg of her.
"I have to go *speak* to Mycentius."
I pause for a moment.
"Will I ever- will I ever see you again?"
"For now and forever, Gabrielle."