I am posting this with great trepidation.
In the final analysis, just like a lot of bards, I have used Xena and Gabrielle to distance myself to be able to write about this. Having Heroes we love play out our pain makes it possible to write, and sometimes makes for resolutions we didn't have in real life.
Warning: This story contains a second hand description of child molestation. I hope that it upsets readers, but if that subject is too disturbing, read something else.
This is really a story of friendship. My thanks to those who are still there for me and those that helped with this story. T.S. Chandler, Cath, Temora, The Tavern Walls Dojo Hawk, Shsway and Nanc.
This little piece is dedicated to my late friend, A.T. Who was there for me, and for whom, I wasnt. To my everlasting regret.
I always respond to mail from readers. email@example.comChilds Play
by Kamouraskan"Ya wanna split a beer?"
Trying not to let her exhaustion show, Gabrielle gave a short nod while concentrating on keeping her breathing even. Xena smirked and said, "Youre going to do some damage to that big brain of yours if you dont get some air up to it, you know."
Angry at being caught so easily, Gabrielle retorted "Freak."
Almost carelessly, the taller girl blindly tossed the basketball, and without even waiting to watch it glide through the hoop, she opened the kitchen door and slipped inside.
"Freak." Gabrielle called back as she caught the ball before it hit the asphalt, and clutched it to her chest, finally allowing herself to pant. She freed one hand to tuck the damp strands of reddish blonde hair behind her ears, knowing that Xena had only taken the break for her sake. Damn, but her friends effortless stamina could be annoying. But just to say that word, friend, made it bearable. Splitting a beer was now a weekly ritual. Just one though. The one underaged beer after a bit of one on one, was becoming a pivot for each of their weeks.
How had it happened? Skipping a grade this year had made it easier, but they were still 13 and 15, an age difference that should have made their relationship impossible. But somehow Gabrielle had moved from being the nerdy neighbours kid who hung around to becoming a friend. Maybe even a best friend. Gabrielle still had a crush, big time on the tall, lanky girl, but at least now she had it under control. It wasnt like she still wanted to build statues to Xena just to prove her loyalty anymore, right?
By the time Xena came back out, Gabrielle was sheltered from the street, sitting on the steps that led to the driveway. The older girl leaned down, and hammered the cap off the bottle on the stoop with a practiced ease, and offered the first hit to her friend. Gabrielle waved it off, and Xena shrugged and poured the liquid down her throat, before flopping down gracelessly beside her.
"That was a nice deak, you made there, made me think."
As always, any praise from the jock warmed Gabrielle, but as usual she tried to pass it off. "You still blocked the shot."
"Well, thats me," the older girl grinned. "Anybody else would have been left with their socks still in their sneakers."
"Fuck, yes. I told you, Gabrielle. You may have to work harder and smarter because youre smaller, but youre already ready to beat most of the kids in your class. Youve got a great shot close up, and on defense youre like a little piranha. Youre going to bug the shit out of the whoever youre matched up with."
"Bug the shit? This is good, right?"
"You mean that, right?"
"Wouldnt say it if I didnt mean it." She proffered the bottle to Gabrielle, who again refused it. This drew a question in the form of an arched dark eyebrow, and Gabrielle made her decision. "I just, I had too much to drink last week, and I still get a little ...queasy..."
"You? Too much to drink?"
"Yeah. Ms Spence...?"
"She better watch that stuff. There are stories going on about her."
"Really?" There was a strange note in Gabrielles voice, but Xena was oblivious.
"Yeah, some kids have started saying she hits on some of her students."
"I hadnt heard that." Gabrielle was quiet for a minute, and Xena seemed about to let the subject drop. Renee Spence was the real deal to Xena. A teacher. One of the ones that they always told you might meet. The person that could change the direction of your life. Tall, fiftyish but charismatic. She was the seniors science teacher, but she taught one grade seven class, and afterwards it seemed like every kid in that class would decide to change their high school program to Pure Science. She was always taking them on camping trips and field trips, and could not only identify every flora, fauna or fossil that was brought to her by her devoted students, but explain how it fit into the ecological web. She worked her kids hard in the classroom, always going further than the curriculum required, and they loved her for it.
Gabrielle was one of her acolytes. She wasnt taking any courses from her this year, but she was a lab assistant, and went on all the excursions.
Gabrielle took a breath, and focused on an object in the distance. Finally she said, "the stories. Theyre true."
It took Xena a moment to realize what Gabrielle meant, but then all the strange silences from her friend these past weeks made sense. It felt as though her heart stopped. In a strangled voice, she demanded "What? She, WHEN?"
It was strange to hear this flat tone in her friends voice; all of its usual colour was drained from it. "Last....Wednesday. She let me do the supply ordering for the labs. I used the catalogue, it was...a rush. It was after school was closed, and while I filled out the order forms, we started talking about stuff. We got into Classical music, and opera. She told me that I had never really heard Othello if I hadnt heard John Vickers perform it and she had a bootleg tape of a live performance. She asked if I wanted to hear it...at her place. It wouldnt take long..."
FUCKFUCKFUCK Xena was thinking, No. Please. With a suddenly dry throat she asked, "You went? Why?"
Gabrielle seemed somehow to answer the question and still not hear it "...It was such an adult thing, and to be asked to go to her place, I felt like, it was special..."
There was sun above them, but it suddenly seemed very cold on the stairs.
"... we got to her place, its really nice, but like, sort of dark, and she put on the first tape, and gave me the translation of the words, and she explained stuff. I mean I knew the story, but she had me listen to certain parts, and I was learning all sorts of things Id never noticed before, and she gave me some wine..."
"You get all hazy after a single beer..."
Again Gabrielle seemed not to notice the interruption. She was focused solely on telling the story. Maybe if she could get it out in one breath, she wouldnt have to look at Xenas face.
"... I guess I felt pretty good and she kept filling my glass, and then she was opening another bottle, and it seemed like it was so cool that I was there with Ms Spence, like we were friends, you know?"
Yeah, I know. I know how much the word friend means to you, Gabrielle. And Xena could feel a burn of rage, overtaking her anxiety as the quiet voice continued to run on.
"She told me shed had a few students over before, and I felt glad that it wasnt weird for her to do it, but sort of jealous too. But she starting talking about how we all seemed so grown up, but we didnt know anything about sex..."
FUCK.FUCK... Xenas hands were clenched now, her breathing as tight as Gabrielles had been earlier.
Gabrielles voice continued, calmly, but lifelessly. "...Tammy had been there too, and she said that Tammy had said that she never ever...never had... an orgasm... and Ms. Spence thought that was sad considering her age, and she asked..."
Gabrielle took a breath. Xena held hers.
"....I told her I wasnt really sure...and Im not sure what happened, cause the wine must have been really hitting me.... but I must have said it was okay, because all of a sudden...I was in her lap.... and she was, you know, touching me, and stroking it, down there... and saying stuff..." The young girl was having trouble swallowing,
Xena was afraid to allow contact with the girl, afraid that Gabrielle would shrink away from her touch. Nonetheless at this, she reached over and gently pulled her friend to rest on her shoulder. She was so gratified when her friend seemed to unbend against her stiffened body, which relaxed her slightly. But when Gabrielle spoke, her voice still contained that distant tone.
"Why would she do that, Xena?"
What do I say? Damn you Renee. I liked you. I really liked you. I thought you were one of the good ones.
Xenas voice was shaky. "I dont know. And right now? I dont care."
Still not looking at her friend, not noticing her tension, afraid to feel anything, Gabrielle seemed to speak with a wistful curiosity. "I thought...I thought that it was just guys, old men, people like that...."
"Gabrielle." Slowly fearfully, the younger girl raised her eyes, and saw the brimming eyes contrasting with the set jaw and mouth. Anger. Compassion. That was what she saw in her friends face. Something about that seemed to give herself permission to cry, and she buried her face in her hands. Xena struggled to speak over the bent head. "Gabrielle. Listen to me. It didnt matter what sex. What she did had nothing to do with what sex she or you were. It was only about her. Shes a bad...a perv. It didnt have anything to do with you. She was... taking. It could have been a guy or a woman, whatever. It was wrong."
Gabrielle didnt look up. She was nearly drowning in shame, and only Xenas words were keeping her afloat. "Because of my age."
"Not just that. You only went because you trusted her. She used her job, her position, and that trust to get something her sick little mind wanted. She used all that to get you there, and even then she had to get you drunk."
"Maybe I wanted to, I didnt fight her..."
"Then she didnt need to get you drunk. This isnt about you or what you wanted. It was all her. You understand?" Now Xena swallowed. God knows, Xena didnt want to hear more, but the question had to be asked.
"Did she ask you to touch her...?"
Gabrielle cleared her throat. "She was telling me, congratulating me... about coming." The voice was barely audible now, as she struggled to continue. "I think I did, but it wasnt... the good feeling, it went away so fast, I think she started to... its all kinda hazy now, but I remember she started to undress, and when I saw that, it was suddenly so ugly, everything... I was, my panties down... and, and it was just ugly. I was in her apartment , and she was undressing and I, I just felt so sick and... I threw up all over her."
Maybe it wasnt funny but Xena yelled out "Yes!" and burst out in laughter. "Good. Good for you. What did she do?" Surprised, Gabrielle stared at her friend, almost wondering if she should be insulted, but Xena frowned and took her hand. "Sorry, sorry. I shouldnt have laughed, but I was so glad to hear that the bitch got puke all over her. So what happened?"
"She took me home, and somehow I got into bed."
"Didnt your parents say anything?"
"They were having another party. I guess they were happy I wasnt under foot.
"Xena." Gabrielle closed her eyes. "Im telling you this because, I know it was wrong. What she did. I think... Ive been thinking about Tammy. How she used to be so good in school, and how she just stopped caring. How she looked lately, and she stopped coming to classes..."
She looked up and was shocked by the expression on her friends face. "Xena?"
"Gabrielle. I dont give a fuck about Tammy. How are you?"
"But thats it. It was so hard to come to school, hard to know she would be there. I think she spent a lot of time with Tammy, and I was supposed to be her...replacement. I think she screwed up Tammy, and...I know she has to be stopped."
There was an angry growl. "I could stop her. Right now."
Gabrielle held up her hands. "NO! I dont mean like that. Though... it makes me feel good that you feel... that way about what she did, but no."
"But you want to do something."
"I have to."
Xena looked at the small blonde, wounded, but still fighting. The words came before she could stop them. "I am so proud to be your friend, do know that?"
Gabrielle only lowered her head to hide a blush. Xena became businesslike. "Okay. Then what? You dont want to go to the cops or your parents?"
Gabrielle was shocked. "Oh no. Of course not."
Of course not
"I mean, shes such a good teacher, I just want to know, that there isnt going to be... someone else."
"I dont know much about this, but from what I understand, they dont stop, Gabrielle."
"She will if shes scared. If she thinks her job is on the line."
"Gabrielle. She probably got this job to do this."
"Do you have an idea?"
"No." She admitted. "I thought, well, youre so good at that stuff..."
Xena took a deep breath. "Okay. We could start right away telling a few people at school, that we can confirm the rumours. We tell them that we know its true. Let the rumour mill carry it. We say that we know, but promised we couldnt say."
"I dont know, I couldnt go right up to people and say I couldnt name..."
"If Tammy had told you, you wouldnt name her, right? Just pretend it happened that way."
"But everybody knows were friends, if I start telling anybody, they might think its you."
"That is so... thank you."
"Dont give me that look. Youd do the same for me, wouldnt you?"
Gabrielle didnt have to think. "Of course."
"Then dont get all gooshy on me, okay?"
"Okay. I can say thank you, cant I?"
There was an embarrassed grunt.
There was a cautious "yeah?"
"If I, what happened, it doesnt mean that Im, that Im..."
"Gabrielle. Youre a kid."
"I am not."
"Yes, you are. What happened had nothing to do with you. It was all about her. Okay? Whatever you are, or will be, has nothing to do with what she wanted to do to you. This is like you were hit by a car. It was something that happened. You gotta..."
"I dont know. Be whoever you are supposed to be, and not let that ... this thing screw with your head. Lets screw around with her head for a while, okay?"
"You know....I like it when were like this."
"I know. " Grudgingly. "I do too." She said nothing for a moment, but from her body language Gabrielle knew it for a pause. She waited. "Maybe you shouldnt hang around with me..."
Xena shrugged. "Might be better for you."
Gabrielle knew instinctively what was bothering her. "You mean, because I admire you, and youre older, and..."
Now, the Gabrielle that Xena knew was staring her in the eye. "Thats so wrong! I know its different. Ms Spence, she had a dark part of her soul, in her heart...."
Xena thought about the anger, about how shed pictured Renny lying bloody at her feet. "I do too."
"No. You wouldnt do THAT" Quiet assurdness.
"I dont know....Gabrielle. You believe in people. You want them to be... you think they want to be...friends. But sometimes... they want other stuff."
"Xena, you dont want anything I dont want. I know that. I know you. Xena. I didnt know Ms. Spence, she fooled me, and the only reason Im seeing that now, is because you showed me. Because youre my friend. Please, dont ask me not have my friend now. I..."
There was an embarrassed cough. "I told ya not to get all..."
"Shut. Up! What you just did. Just being here, and...listening. Feeling what I...Thats what a friend is....I need you."
They sat like that for a long moment. There were so many things that Gabrielle wanted to ask or say, but she knew she had pressed her friends tolerance level for talking to the max so she blurted out "and you need help in Math. And English. And your study habits..."
"Okay. So Im getting a lot out of this relationship. Dont rub it in. Anyways, " She slowly stood up and offered her hand. "This was just a break, remember?"
Gabrielle took it and pulled herself up. "Defense or offense?"
The tall girl smirked. "You start off and Ill see if I can tell which youre doing."
"Youre trying to piss me off."
Gabrielle ran to snatch the ball off the ground.
There would be other days to talk.
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