Live To Tell
The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA Pictures and used here without permission.
This story contains the expression of love between tw women. It also includes a nongraphic account of rape and/or attempted rape. If any of these concepts offends you, don't read any further.
Affectionate thanks go out to the two sweethearts who kindly edited this tale.
Feedback regarding this story is welcome at Danae121@aol.com.
NOTE: No beloved bard was harmed during the writing of this story. However, an entire keg of very strong Grecian port was consumed by the author and various characters by the time the final draft was written.
"What are you saying?!!"
Speaking in a deep, throaty whisper, Xena sat up arrow-straight on the blanket and gaped. She held her breath and waited for the bard to respond.
At the same time, Gabrielle's eyes widened with the realization of what she'd just said. Without looking up from her scrolls, she sank back against the tree behind her and lowered her face. Her first impulse was to tiptoe very quickly away from there, but her legs felt impossibly heavy. She stared at her feet, where she was certain all her blood had instantaneously drained. A warm, gusty breeze slapped a lock of hair across her face. Probably Artemis's way of scolding her, she thought. Or, maybe a forewarning of the storm which would rage if she didn't figure how to quell it. Maybe Artemis would have mercy and strike her mute. She listened to the admonishing leaves rustling above her and wished the wind would carry her far, far away. Through shaggy bangs, her eyes darted over the campsite, looking everywhere except at Xena. Where was the warrior's sword, dammit?! She'd pull out her own tongue and slice it clean off sooner than tell this story.
"Gabrielle." Blue eyes were turning an intense, icy gray as they bore into the top of the blonde head which hung down gloomily.
The bard knew that tone. It was Xena's 'I want an explanation, and I want it now' tone. By the gods, how could she talk her way out of this?!
"Gabrielle. L-Look at me."
The warrior's uncharacteristic stutter caused the bard's eyes to snap up. Her heart skipped a beat. The expression on Xena's face was unlike any Gabrielle had seen there before.
"Gabrielle. Did I hear you right?"
This time Gabrielle did not avert her gaze, and her answer came readily. She could never lie to her lover. Never. "Yes, Xena. You did."
The Warrior Princess slowly pushed herself to her feet. Her eyes focused on the fire and then glazed over. She took in several deep breaths as she replayed the last moments in her mind.
She had been reclining on a blanket, watching Gabrielle massage a story... watching her lips move silently as she read from a thick scroll. The warrior's gaze had lingered on those velvety lips, and she had smiled at the still vivid memory of the first time those marvelous lips joined passionately with her own. That singular moment had occurred several moons past when they'd camped near Philippi.
On that occasion, in the middle of the night, the bard had very quietly crawled next to her companion, whom she'd assumed was sleeping. Gabrielle had placed feather-soft kisses on Xena's forehead, then on her cheek, near her mouth, and finally fully on her lips. The warrior had opened her eyes, but before she could even turn her head to the bard, Gabrielle had breathed, 'Oh, Xena... I couldn't restrain myself any longer.' The urgency of her friend's need had overwhelmed Xena with a combination of joy, adrenaline, astonishment, and love. She would have cried euphoric tears if the bard had not so fervently moved over her and smothered her with searing kisses. Gabrielle's weight on top of her, pressing ardently into her, ignited the warrior's long-smoldering desire. Before dawn, they'd made love for the first time.
Another memory had flickered into Xena's consciousness as she lay there, observing Gabrielle. Not long after the night at Philippi, during a trip to the Amazons' village, Eponin had told them about a delightful ritual pertaining to an Amazon's first sexual experience with another woman. Xena had stifled a grin when Gabrielle flushed at Eponin's words, and she'd made a mental note to bring the subject up later, when she and the bard were alone.
Xena could hardly recall her own first intimate encounter with a woman. There had been too many firsts in her dark, wild past. But, she took extreme, heart-warming pleasure in knowing she had been Gabrielle's first.
After emerging from her reverie, Xena had propped herself up on an elbow and gazed at Gabrielle again. Then, she'd casually reminded the bard about the unique Amazon custom and, as if she needed to, about their first time. And, she'd asked Gabrielle if she would've enjoyed that same ritual that night at Philippi.
Her attention divided, Gabrielle had barely glanced up from her scrolls and, without thinking, blurted out, "That wasn't my first time." Oblivious to the reply she'd given, the bard had continued her writing. It wasn't until Xena's shocked 'What are you saying?!!' exclamation that Gabrielle comprehended the secret she'd just revealed.
Returning to the present, Xena swallowed hard and concentrated on the flames once more. She felt like she'd been punched in the gut by Hercules. Her lips parted to speak but came together again, trapping her thoughts.
Gabrielle threw down her scroll, jumped up, and laid a hand on the warrior's arm. "Xena, I'm sorry... I didn't mean for you to know."
The distressing idea that Gabrielle would intentionally keep a secret like this stunned Xena almost as much as the fact the bard had been with another woman. Her eyes glistened with bewilderment when she looked down at Gabrielle.
"Wait... Xena, that's not what I meant." Gabrielle grimaced. "I meant, you weren't ever supposed to find out. No, no... that's not what I mean either..." She bit her lower lip. "This isn't coming out right at all."
"It's okay, Gabrielle." The warrior clenched her jaw. "I had no right to assume I was your first."
"Oh, no... no, I mean... yes, you did, Xena."
After a few moments, the Warrior Princess narrowed her eyes and swallowed hard again. "Just tell me one thing."
"Did it happen before or after I met you at Potidaea?"
Gabrielle blinked and said in a hushed voice, "Before."
Xena let a small sigh escape her lips and withdrew from Gabrielle. She strode toward the edge of the clearing.
Gabrielle was relieved when the warrior didn't continue off into the night, as the bard feared she might. Instead, Xena picked up two logs from the pile she'd stacked earlier and brought them to the fire. Gabrielle stood back and watched her grab a stick and poke rudely at the red-hot embers for what seemed like the duration of the Trojan War.
The bard's mind raced. The cat was out of the bag now and rapidly lapping up spilt milk. There was no going back or pretending nothing was said. Her burning secret had escaped, and the truth was not going to douse its blaze. Gabrielle slapped her palm on her forehead. "Dumb, dumb, dumb," she muttered. She perceived the warrior was hurting terribly. Mortified, she began to tremble. If she wasn't careful, the entire braid of their now entwined lives would unravel before her eyes. If she didn't handle this delicately, she would invalidate her own definition of love.
Almost from the beginning, the bard had longed to share with Xena what she understood about true love. Within candlemarks after they'd met, she'd sensed an enormous emotional capacity within Xena. Gabrielle had only recently been able to tap that reservoir, and she couldn't bear that her secret might cause Xena so much pain the warrior would dam up the flow of affection which now coursed between them. If that happened, she couldn't live to tell another tale.
She wondered... Which would cause Xena more pain? ...Knowing the truth or presuming the bard didn't trust her. Gabrielle didn't know the answer to that, but she couldn't keep this from Xena now.
Xena stepped to her blanket and sat down. She drew her knees up and rested her forearms on them. Her hands played with a twig.
Dropping down next to her lover, the bard touched her shoulder. "Xena..."
The Warrior Princess glanced at Gabrielle. The glance became a long study of those greenish blue eyes in which she usually drowned. She could clearly see Gabrielle's anxiety and reacted instinctively. "Gabrielle... You had your reasons for not telling me." Given her disturbed state, it was the best she could do to ease the bard's worry.
"Yes, Xena. I had my reasons, but they're not what you think." She gripped Xena's shoulder more tightly. "Do you want to hear about it?"
The warrior hesitated. She did want to hear. Hopefully, the bard would say something... anything... to contain the spontaneous numbness that was spreading over her. "Only if you want to tell me, Gabrielle."
Now, there was no possibility of retreat. Gabrielle stood and walked to the other side of the camp. She looked at Xena through the faint smoke which drifted up from the crackling wood. Perhaps she could tell just part of the story. Oh, but that might lead to more trouble than she was already in.
"Xena, before I start, I want you to know... I've never told this to anyone."
The warrior nodded and kept her eyes glued to her young love.
Gabrielle took a deep breath and began to roam the clearing. "It happened the summer before you saved Potidaea. I was spending several moons in Thessilonica, visiting family there. During the evenings, I worked with my aunt and uncle in the inn they owned near the edge of town."
Gabrielle paused to wet her lips.
"One evening, a peculiar-looking woman came in. I'd never seen a woman dressed like she was. I suspected right away she was an Amazon. She wanted to rent a room, but my uncle said he didn't have any vacancies. He was lying. My assumption was he didn't much care for Amazons. He did, at least, tell her she could stay in the barn. How generous of him, huh?"
The corner of Xena's mouth turned up slightly.
"Anyway, the woman didn't notice me. She sat down at a table near the bar and proceeded to get very drunk. I watched her while she lounged there. For many reasons, I was fascinated by her. She downed two entire flasks of my uncle's most potent port before she eventually staggered outside. I told my uncle I was going to bed, but, instead of heading to my room, I slipped out to the barn."
Xena shifted her position on the blanket and leaned forward.
"I cracked the barn door and peaked in. She noticed me right off. I think, because the moonlight streamed in from behind. When she wobbled over to me, it was evident she was very soused. Her eyes were extremely bleary and bloodshot. She was practically swaying back and forth... so much so, it almost made me dizzy. I asked if she was okay... if there was anything I could do for her. She seemed surprised, and, after she looked me over a good many times, she said, 'Yeah, there just might be something you can do for me.' Then, she tugged me into the barn and pulled the door closed."
Not sure she wanted to hear what the bard would say next, Xena thought up an excuse to interrupt. "Gabrielle... stop pacing. You're making ME dizzy."
"Oh... sorry." Gabrielle stopped and sat down on a stump not far from Xena. "Better?"
The warrior nodded and braced herself. "Go on."
"It was very dim inside, but there was enough light to make out her features. I was a little nervous about the way she was looking at me, so I suppose I talked quite a bit. I asked her a lot of questions... some about the Amazons. She answered a few, but mostly she kept commenting about what a young, innocent thing I was. After a while, she stumbled across to stand right in front of me and wanted to know why I'd come to the barn. I didn't see any reason to lie, so I told her I found her very intriguing. She laughed at this and gave me a strange smile. Then, she reached out and took my hand. I could tell by the starved glare in her eyes, she hadn't grabbed my hand to keep her balance. I tried to excuse myself, but she held me so tightly I couldn't get away."
Now, Xena felt like none other than Callisto was twisting a dagger in her stomach. "Gabrielle... Oh, no."
Xena's voice was so low, the bard barely heard her. "It's okay, Xena." Gabrielle looked into the distance and continued. "She traced my cheek with her index finger. Her hand paused at my chin and raised my face. My mind blurred as I tried to think of how I could talk her out of what I knew she intended to do. I'm sure my eyes bulged nearly out of my head when her hand clutched the back of my neck. Her fingers laced through the hair at the base of my skull. Then, suddenly, my head was pulled forward, and, for an instant, her strong alcohol-breath filled my nostrils before her demanding lips and tongue seized my mouth."
The Warrior Princess winced and closed her eyes. She felt nauseous. "Please, Gabrielle, spare me the details. Just tell me how it ended."
"Well... I screamed, but apparently no one could hear me. The more I struggled, the rougher and more aroused she became. She thrust me back into the hay, ripped my blouse and skirt open, shoved her thigh between my legs, and put her hands... everywhere... places I'd never been touched before. I admit, I was terrified. I prayed to the gods I'd live through her attack."
Xena prayed she would live through this assault on her soul. "Gabrielle!... PLEASE!... I don't want to hear this part."
The bard bounded up and moved to kneel next to her lover. She'd never heard Xena's voice so tortured. Laying a hand on Xena's arm, she said, "I'm sorry, Xena, I'm sorry. You see? This is why I didn't want to tell."
"No, Gabrielle... I'M sorry." Xena touched her lover's cheek. Tears overflowed from the warrior's eyes, and she took shallow breaths.
Gabrielle kissed Xena's palm and then took the warrior's hand in her own. She caressed it absently as she searched her lover's eyes. Her fingertips came to rest on Xena's wrist. The pulse was pounding fast. At last, she spoke again. "As if I were in a dream, my mother's words came to me. She had told me, many summers before, that if a man ever tried to rape me, I should try, by all means, to get away. But, if it became plain that I could not, I should yield to him. If I resisted, she said, I'd only end up suffering more injury... or worse. This woman was certainly no man. Her breasts, heaving against my chest, made that unmistakable. However, I was sure she could hurt me as much as any man if I continued to oppose her. So, I stopped fighting... I just surrendered to her."
Tears dripped off the warrior's chin, and she tuned her face away.
"Xena, wait... I'm not finished." With all her being, Gabrielle regretted that she was responsible for her lover's tears. She hurriedly resumed her story for fear that her own heart would break before she could conclude. "When I stopped struggling, she seemed puzzled. She pulled back and stared down at me. In her inebriated condition, I don't think she could make heads or tails out of what was happening. A blank look crossed her face, and she said, 'What?... you're just gonna let me?' I told her I was sure there were plenty of women out there who would've let her. 'Why didn't you go to one of them?' I asked her. The most sorrowful expression I've ever seen came to her face, and she said, 'I'm not interested in the whores who would stoop to sleep with the likes of me.' She brushed her fingers over my face, then said, 'I hunger for someone like you... sweet, good, innocent...' She slid off of me. The alcohol was getting the better of her... she could hardly keep her eyelids open. I think she said, 'I'm sorry,' and then she laid her head on my bosom and passed out cold.
Gabrielle enveloped Xena's hand tenderly between both of hers and went on. "I stayed there with her like that for a short while. I remember looking at her and wondering what compelled her... thinking about what she'd said about hunger." The bard shook her head thoughtfully. "She simply ached for love and goodness. I guess she saw that in me." Gabrielle blushed.
Xena choked back a sob. "Even a blind man could see that in you, Gabrielle."
"Thank you." She squeezed the warrior's hand. "Anyway, her words stuck in my mind. Alcohol had induced her to try to forcefully take the love she craved. While I could blame her for drinking too much, I couldn't blame her for reaching out... groping actually... for love.
"I also thought about what had compelled me to walk out to the barn in the first place. Some profound appetite for... something... for excitement and adventure?... Whatever. Something had driven me out there, even though my head told me it was dangerous." Gabrielle noticed the stern look on Xena's face. "Yes, I know, it was a VERY dangerous thing to do. But, Xena, that night, I came to realize how complex people really are... how powerful our longings can be. How important it is to follow and nurture our hearts' desires, so we don't end up doing something stupid out of frustration. Despite what had happened, I somehow felt like I understood the woman... I almost identified with her on some level. I don't know... " Gabrielle sighed heavily.
"Gabrielle! What that woman did cannot be likened to your naive lack of good judgment!"
"No... maybe not. But, I believe what that woman did to me was as much the Fates' doing as everything else in my life."
"Damn the Fates!" Xena spat.
"No, Xena! That experience changed the way I thought... the way I interpreted... so many things."
"No doubt!!" The warrior's lip curled into a snarl.
"Xena!" Gabrielle recognized the glint of hatred in her lover's eyes and waited for her to calm herself. "Xena... If I'd never gone to that barn, I never would have understood the things people can be driven to do... I never would've understood about you... I never would've conceived of following you when you left Potidaea... And, I wouldn't live this life with you."
Xena leaned her head back to keep new tears from falling. "What happened next? Did you ever see the woman again?"
The bard lapsed into the past once more. "A little later, I slid myself out from under her, and, after I'd composed myself, I ran back to the inn to fetch my uncle. I persuaded him and another man to carry the woman up to a room. The next morning, when I went to check on her, she was gone." Gabrielle cleared her throat. "I saw her again... but, just as I suspected, she didn't remember me... obviously, she'd been too drunk to recall anything from that night."
"Who was this woman, Gabrielle?" Xena's eyes slowly settled on the bard.
Gabrielle stared back at her lover. She attempted to read the tone in Xena's voice. She thought she heard vengeance. Then again, she thought she heard something else.
"Tell me, Gabrielle. You don't deserve to live with the guilt of hiding it from me."
The bard took the warrior's other hand and held both of them very firmly. A tear burned down her own cheek. "Her name was Xena."