Shark Island Salvation
By Blind Faith
Disclaimer: All the characters in the following story belong to Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright violations were intended. This story was written purely for entertainment purposes and not for profit of any kind.
Subtext notice: The following story is about two women who are deeply in love with each other. If you do not like to read this type of story, you should stop here and find a different one to read. The events depicted here are not graphic, but they might be rated PG-13.
Spoiler Alert: These events immediately follow the events at the end of the episode "Locked Up and Tied Down" in the fourth season.
It was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen. The sky was an artists canvas painted in brilliant oranges and reds, providing a magical light show for mortals on earth. The cirrus clouds blanketed the sky from the horizon to a point just beyond the island, and the setting suns rays were caught and reflected back to the earth off the underneath side of the billowing puffs.
As Gabrielle stood in the tower window and gazed in awe at the sight, the sun dipped a little lower, and the colors changed from bright orange to muted shades of pink, laced with swirls of lavender. Deeply moved by natures beauty, she felt her throat tighten, and tears threatened to fall, her emotions rising quickly to the surface.
It had been a tough day, rougher than normal, but somehow they both had survived it. Somehow. The word echoed hauntingly in Gabrielles mind. Xena had nearly been tortured to death, and she had nearly been hanged for trying to help her partner escape her cell. What a day!
She glanced lovingly over her right shoulder to gaze at the tall, dark-haired form of her partner, and her gaze softened, filled with tender concern. Xena was reclining in a tub of soapy, scented bath water with her head tipped back and resting on the edge of the tub. The warriors eyes were closed, her long, dark lashes resting on her pale cheeks. The bruises from her ordeal were starkly visible on the smooth flesh, and cuts and abrasions from a variety of tortures liberally covered the skin exposed above the water. She was obviously exhausted, and Gabrielle was afraid to know when Xena had last eaten or slept.
Xena knew that Gabrielle had turned from the window and was watching her. She didnt have the energy to open her eyes all the way, but she did manage to crack them open a little to covertly watch the bard. She wondered what thoughts were running through her partners head. They had hardly spoken since Thelassa had left them in her office. Of course, there hadnt been much time to talk either. She wondered if Gabrielle were mad at her for not fighting the original verdict harder. Damn it to Hades and back. If only I could explain my feelings to her and why I had to do this. She closed her eyes the rest of the way and sighed wearily.
Meanwhile, Gabrielle was watching the warrior and was remembering the events from earlier today. When she had first seen Xena in the courtyard, she had been shocked by her ragged appearance, but at the time they had been in the middle of a fight and she had been still in shock from nearly being hanged. They had acknowledged their relief at seeing the other alive in a brief touch and an exchanged look, and then they had been fighting for their lives.
After the fighting had finally ended, Gabrielle had rushed into the courtyard to grab Xena and walk with her back to the commandants office. The warrior had been shaky and weak, and Gabrielle had draped the warriors arm over her shoulders, helping to support her weight as they climbed the stairs.
After Thelassa had spoken to them and left the room, Gabrielle had moved to stand in front of Xena and had looked her over carefully. The pain and exhaustion had dulled the natural gleam and had tamed that spark of fire that usually lit up the warriors eyes, and Xena had sat slumped on the table, a blanket wrapped around her to keep off the chill. Gabrielle shuddered to think about the toll this ordeal had taken on her partner. Xena looked shaken and vulnerable, and Gabrielle was truly afraid for the woman she loved. Gabrielle knew her partner well enough to know when she was miserable. And this was one of those times.
They had been shown to this chamber in the commandants tower a candlemark ago. When they had finally arrived at the room, she had helped Xena over to the closest chair and had helped her pull the chair up to the table. Xena had simply collapsed forward to lay her head on her forearms, resting while servants brought in a tub and began to fill it with hot bath water. Thelassa had ordered this service as a small measure of thanks for saving her life. It certainly wasnt much, but at the moment, Gabrielle was thankful for anything that would make Xena more comfortable.
Then later while Xena had still rested quietly, her head on the table, Gabrielle had spent some time out in the hallway talking to one of Thelassas guards to find out exactly what had happened to Xena during her stay at the prison. Unfortunately, the guard couldnt tell her about the things that had happened inside the prison because he was a periphery guard stationed near the gate, but he could tell her about the amazing things he had witnessed in the courtyard.
All the horrors were described in vivid detail to Gabrielle, and she worked to maintain a stoic appearance in front of the guard even though the details of Xenas struggles broke her heart.
She had returned to their room once the tub was filled and had barred the door to insure their safety and their privacy. Then she had carefully helped Xena to remove the rag that had been substituting for a shift and had lowered her injured partner carefully into the tub. After helping Xena to scrub with soap twice, she had moved to look out the window, struggling to maintain her composure as the warrior soaked in the warm, comforting water.
Now, as she regarded Xenas reclining body in the tub, the details of Xenas tortures flashed vividly in the bards mind. The waning light in the room seemed to fuel her depression. Why had Xena let all of this happen to her?
Gabrielle knew that the answer would not be a simple one. Xenas personality and thinking processes were as complex as anyones she had ever met. Just when she thought she had a certain aspect of her partner figured out, something would happen that would reveal an amazing new dimension.
Gabrielle sighed and smiled gently at Xenas relaxed features. The bard was sure that for as long as she lived, she would never tire of trying to understand all the elements that were a part of her soulmate.
She moved softly across the cold stone floor and knelt down beside the tub. She reached out and rested her hand lightly on the warriors forearm that was lying along the top edge of the tub. "Hey," she whispered tenderly. "Are you still awake?" She watched carefully as Xena blinked her eyes quickly and struggled to orient herself to her surroundings.
Gabrielle could see her partners muscles tense with the initial confusion of coming awake, the gut-level instincts and the heightened reflexes reacting to the unknown. And then as she murmured soothing words and caressed the smooth skin under her fingertips, she watched Xena relax again when the warrior realized that she was safely tucked away in their room and that the hand on her arm belonged to her partner.
"Sorry that I startled you," Gabrielle spoke softly, the regret obvious in her voice. "Im just worried about you. You need to get out of this water before your skin shrivels and before you get chilled. Then I can get you into a clean shift and into bed."
Gabrielle leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on the warriors forehead and then wrapped her arms around the strong shoulders and hugged her partner. Gods, this closeness is better than all the healing medicines in Greece, Gabrielle sighed. "I needed this," she whispered quietly into Xenas ear, resting the side of her face against the warriors temple.
Xena released a ragged sigh and rested the weight of her own head against Gabrielles. "Me too, my bard," she whispered weakly. "Me too." For a long moment each of them simply held on to the other one, enjoying shared love and comfort.
Gabrielle felt Xenas body begin to tremble, and she rocked back on her heels and looked worriedly into Xenas face. "Xena, are you all right?"
"Im c..c cold," she managed to utter despite the chattering of her teeth.
"By the gods! Lets get you out of there." Gabrielle mentally whipped herself for not being more aware of Xenas discomfort. She quickly helped the warrior to her feet and wrapped a large, warm towel around her torso. "Here, let me help you get dried off, and lets get you into bed."
Gabrielle rubbed a towel gently over the warriors tender flesh, her brow furrowing as she wondered what had caused the small cuts along her arms and back. She decided to wait awhile before asking about them; the warriors exhaustion was too evident to bother with explanations now.
Once the skin was dry, she helped Xena pull a soft cotton shift over her head, avoiding the scrapes as much as possible.
"Gabrielle, lets just s..sit over by the fire for a little while, O.K.? Im tired, but I cant sleep yet. I n..need to sit and hold you for awhile." Xenas shaking voice trailed off wistfully, and she leaned forward and rested her forehead against the top of Gabrielles, breathing in the gentle scent of lilac that the bard had used earlier in her own bath.
Gabrielle basked for a moment in the warriors warm embrace and then wrapped Xenas arm over her shoulder as she had before and moved her to the fire. "Come on. Lets get over here where its warm," she coaxed.
There was a pile of furs on the floor near the hearth, and Gabrielle collapsed down onto the softness. "Gods, Im tired." She looked up at Xena and then patted the lumpy surface beside her. "Interested in snuggling with a warm bard for awhile?" She smiled lovingly up at her partner and reached up to grasp Xenas closest hand, giving it a little tug.
Xena looked down into Gabrielles smiling eyes and was reminded all over again of what she had come so close to losing. Briefly, she felt the panic she had felt earlier when she had heard the guards capture the bard, and the panic must have shown briefly in her eyes because Gabrielle squeezed her hand in reassurance. She sank down onto her knees on the soft furs and rolled onto her right side, stretching her legs out behind the bard. Then she pulled Gabrielle down to lay in front of her and spooned her body around her partners, absorbing her warmth. She draped her left arm over Gabrielles ribcage and pulled their bodies snugly together. "I love you, you know."
She could hear the smile in the bards voice, though she was facing away from her. "Yeah, I know that. I love you too, and dont you ever forget that!" Gabrielle reached down and pulled one of the furs over them to use as a blanket.
Xena leaned forward and gently kissed Gabrielles hair. "I wont. And .um, thanks."
"For what?" Gabrielle rolled back slightly so she could look into Xenas eyes.
"For coming after me to this place." Xenas blue eyes were somber. "Im sorry. Im so very sorry." Xenas voice caught as she struggled to maintain some sort of emotional control.
This time Gabrielle turned all the way around in Xenas arms so she could look her fully in the face, her unblinking eyes studying the warrior carefully. "You dont have to be sorry about anything, Xena. You did what you needed to do. It worked out fine in the end."
"But, Gabrielle, I know that I hurt you. Please, I need to explain why I did this." She saw Gabrielles frown and knew she was about to protest. "I NEED to, Gabrielle. Please?"
The bard stopped the protest before it left her throat and nodded silently. She reached out and wrapped her right hand behind Xenas neck and slowly pulled her forward so that their lips met in a gentle kiss.
Gabrielle pulled back slowly. "Its because you felt guilty about Thelassas death wasnt it?" Her eyes shifted slightly, searching Xenas eyes for the truth.
Xena took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yeah, thats part of it. No matter how much good I do, I can never escape those feelings of guilt from the horrible things Ive done."
"But, Xena, this time there was no death. Thelassa survived, and what she became was her own choice. It wasnt your fault!" Gabrielle found Xenas hand resting between them, and she grasped it, squeezing it in reassurance.
Xena lowered her eyes to look at their clasped hands. Her thumb traced over a slight scar on the back of Gabrielles hand. "Gabrielle, thats only partly true, and we both know it. But, its not just that." Here she hesitated, and raised her eyes to look directly into the sad green eyes only inches from her own. "Im hurting inside, in ways Im not sure I can describe."
Gabrielle felt a trickle of alarm run along her spine. "Im not sure I know what you mean," she whispered.
Xena took another breath and tried again. "I .I wish "
When Xena didnt finish, Gabrielle slid forward on the furs so that she could pull Xenas head down to rest on her chest. She curled her arms around the warriors body and pulled the larger womans weight down on her own. She felt Xena slowly relax in the cradle of her arms. "Its O.K. You dont have to tell me if you dont want to." She lifted her hand and stroked the back of the dark head that was tucked under her chin.
Xena didnt respond for a moment. She just simply wanted to enjoy the feel of Gabrielles body close to her own. There was a time down in the pit with the rats that she was sure she would never see the bard again. She had allowed her soul to retreat into the darkness. It was a survival mechanism, and it would have been the only way she could have survived under Thelassas rule. But then she had rediscovered "the light," her personal savior. Gabrielle had found her and saved her soul yet again. She still could hear the words spoken earlier by the bard. "Not as long as Im around." Those words of love and assurance had wrapped around her heart, beginning the healing process.
This love gave her the strength to continue. "Ursina said something to me when I first got here," she began. "She said she had always hated me because I had never paid for my crimes." A painful breath. "Shes right you know. Ive never served time in prison for my crimes, though Ive sent many others to jail for theirs. Where is the justice in that?"
Gabrielle could hear the plaintive note in the warriors voice. "Xena, you taught me a long, long time ago about the Greater Good. These others that you are referring to, they were hurting people and you stopped them. You shouldnt feel bad about that. If you hadnt been there, so many people who were helped would now be dead."
For a long moment the only noise in the room was the crackling of the fire. Xena shifted up onto an elbow so she could look into Gabrielles face. "Theres more. When I thought you were dead, I went to a very dark place inside myself." Unable to face the love and compassion of the bards eyes, she looked into the red flames of the hearth. The heat and volatile nature of the fire was a mirror of her own soul, she reflected sadly.
Gabrielle reached up and pulled Xenas head around to face her. "You mean when you visited the Amazons and fought with Alti?" She quickly reviewed the events that Xena had related to her after they had been reunited. Was there something more that Xena hadnt told her?
"Yeah. Its just that there was so much of my past that I hadnt thought about in a long time, and now its all fresh in my memory again." She stopped here. How could she tell Gabrielle that the image that had been haunting her nightmares since that time was the image of Gabrielles death on a cross? How could she express the guilt she felt knowing that if the bard stayed with her, she would die a horrible death?
Alti had truly known how to torture her soul. The visions had driven her deeper and deeper into a depression that she was no longer able to hide from Gabrielle. But there was no way she could explain it to her either. She simply couldnt do that to the bard. She loved her too much.
"Hey." Gabrielles voice drew her back to the present.
"Sorry," she murmured sheepishly. "I was out of it for a moment there."
Gabrielle pulled the warriors head back to her chest. "Shhh. Just rest for now. You know that no matter what Ill be here for you. Nothing in your past will drive me away from you."
When Xena didnt comment, she continued. "All of us have things in the past that we wish we could change, but The Fates wont allow us to go back. So, we dont have a choice. We have to go forward. We have to use what time we have here on earth to help others, to make a difference."
She gave the warrior a hug, mindful not to squeeze too hard. "And, my warrior, thats just what we have been doing."
Xena closed her eyes and let the healing words slowly relax her. There was no easy solution to wipe out Altis vision, so she hugged Gabrielles words close to her heart and surrendered herself to the bards love and care.
The exhaustion that she had been holding at bay would no longer be denied. Her eyelids blinked closed, and she was having trouble opening them again. "Gabrielle, I think I need to sleep now. I cant keep my eyes open anymore," she murmured sleepily against the bards chest.
Gabrielle smiled slightly as she bent her head down and kissed the top of Xenas head. She gently massaged the back of the warriors neck, feeling the tension slowly drain out of her injured partner. "Its all right now. You go to sleep, and Ill watch over you. I love you."
Xena mumbled something unintelligible and then her breathing deepened and evened out. Gabrielle lay there thinking over the things that Xena had said. She was sure that there was something the warrior was not telling her, but what that was she couldnt even begin to guess. Whatever it was, it was enough to cause Xena to take some pretty drastic actions these past few days.
The headache that she had been ignoring for the past few hours was reminding her of its presence. The dull pain was distracting her from her thoughts. "Two blows to the head and Im still functioning. Not bad," she thought wryly.
She thought back to that moment in the courtyard when she was about to be hanged and remembered once again the coldness that had filled her gut. Her one regret had been that she had failed Xena. First, she had been unable to get the chakram into the pit, and then she had been captured.
She looked down at Xenas face, relaxed in slumber. "I should have known that you would find a way for things to work out, Love. Now, I just need to get you to tell me all about it tomorrow." She smiled gently and then closed her own eyes, surrendering herself to Morpheus realm.
Gabrielle stirred slightly, the stiffness in her back a brutal reminder that she had slept on the floor all night without changing positions. "Ugh. I knew that I would pay for that," she moaned to herself.
She opened her eyes and saw that the sun was already up above the horizon, its soft yellow light just beginning to glisten on the walls she could see outside the tower window. She glanced down and was surprised to see that Xena wasnt yet awake. She carefully slid her body out from underneath the warrior and then climbed slowly to her feet, stretching out the tightened back muscles as she straightened.
"Feeling a little stiff this morning?"
The question surprised her, and she looked quickly down at Xena, who was awake and watching her with amusement. "Hey, youre awake!" She stated the obvious and then grinned at her own response. "Of course you are."
Xena grinned in response. "Oh yeah. Im awake; Im just not UP yet!" She climbed slowly to her hands and knees and then pushed herself up into a standing position, grimacing slightly. "Ouch. I think Im going to be sore for a few days after all that."
Gabrielle walked forward and circled her arms around the warriors waist. "Well, I would certainly think so after all youve been through. Other than the stiffness, how do you feel?"
Xena took a quick inventory. "Pretty good. I need to put some salve on these rat bites, but ."
"What?" Gabrielles shocked question cut her off in mid-sentence. She paused and looked sheepishly into the bards outraged glare. Uh oh!
"Um Gabrielle, its nothing really. There were just a few rats down in the pit with me. They were hungry." She couldnt find an easy way to break the news to her partner.
"Thats what caused those cuts on your arms and back isnt it!" This was not a question.
Gabrielle knew that Xena was sugar-coating the reality, and she let her imagination fill in the blanks. Her glare softened as she took in the remorseful look on her partners face. "Oh, Xena, that must have been awful. I wish you had told me last night. We should have treated those right away." She grabbed the warriors arm and pulled her over to sit on a chair next to the medicine she had laid out the night before. "Lets get these treated, and then Ill see what I can round up for breakfast."
Xena sat quietly as Gabrielles gentle hands applied the salve to the bite marks. She let her chin drop to her chest and thought again about how lucky she was to have a friend who would follow her into hell and back. "You wanna know something?"
Gabrielle continued to work as she answered. "What?" Her brow furrowed as she applied the salve to a particularly red and swollen cut.
"When I was in the pit and heard your voice, I thought I was dreaming." Xena paused to collect her thoughts, and Gabrielle remained silent, though her hands moved to massage the tight muscles in Xenas shoulders. "I couldnt let myself hope .I couldnt be weak I.." Here her voice trailed off into silence.
"Shhh. Its O.K. I think I understand," Gabrielle soothed. "You couldnt let yourself hope for a rescue because if you did and then I didnt come, then you would have had to suffer even more mental anguish and would have been weakened in front of Thelassa." As she spoke, the bard wrapped her arms around Xena from behind and rested her head against the warriors. "I understand."
Xena let herself absorb Gabrielles comfort for a moment. "I couldnt just assume that you would be able to come for me or would even want to after the trial after I had just accepted the verdict without argument. Thank you, Gabrielle. Thank you for saving both my body and my soul."
The warm tears ran down Xenas face, and she turned to hug Gabrielles body close. She could feel the bards own tears as they soaked through her cotton shift.
"Xena," Gabrielle mumbled into her shoulder. "There is nothing here on earth or in the heavens that could ever keep me away from you. Dont you ever doubt that!" They embraced each other for several minutes and then pulled back to look into each others eyes.
"I love you," they said in unison, smiling at the shared sentiment.
Gabrielle patted her lightly on the shoulder. "You stay here. Im going to find us some breakfast, and then were going to pack and get out of here. The boat is scheduled to arrive in a couple of candlemarks, and I want to be waiting at the docks. The sooner we leave the better!" She smiled warmly into Xenas deep blue eyes. "Why dont you just sit here and rest until I get back."
Xena raised her left eyebrow until it disappeared under her bangs. "Ill stay here for now, but if you arent back soon, Im coming after you!" Her eyes twinkled with humor, but Gabrielle could also hear the serious tone of the warriors voice and knew that it was a promise.
"Thanks." She leaned forward and brushed her lips against Xenas and then turned towards the door. "And be good!" she added over her shoulder, missing the brief outraged glare of her partner before disappearing out the door.
Xena sat for a moment, appreciating the silence and the peace. Then she moved to the window and looked out over the shimmering blue of the sea, ignoring the stone walls of the prison around her. "What would I ever do without her?" she asked herself. "When I was lost, she found me. When I was shattered, she made me whole." She gripped the windowsill tightly for a moment as she wrestled with the painful memory of Altis prediction of their deaths.
Then she took a deep breath and exhaled heavily, shaking off the feeling of doom. Her breath left a trail of steam in the cool morning air. "Well, now that I know one version of the future, I can at least fight to keep it from happening. I defeated Alti once; I wont let her win this time either." This thought gave her some comfort, and she turned back to the room when she heard the door open softly behind her.
Gabrielle was smiling and carrying a tray loaded with an assortment of breakfast foods. She smiled sheepishly as she looked over and saw Xenas surprised look. "I guess the cook thought I looked famished. She gave me enough food for several people."
"Oh, I dont know, my bard," Xena teased. "Ill bet that between us weve missed several meals. Now is our chance to catch up." She grinned and caught the muffin that Gabrielle tossed her way. As she watched, the bard returned her smile and began stuffing a piece of nutbread into her mouth.
Xena paused to just watch her partner and enjoy the moment. She thought to herself, "Regardless of the future, Im going to make sure that I enjoy every moment of life along the way, and with Gabrielle beside me, that will be the easiest thing Ive ever done." Then she set aside all these thoughts and just concentrated on enjoying two of lifes pleasures: breakfast and, of course, Gabrielle.
Sometimes we get to view a good episode, but because of time constraints in production, we dont get to see a satisfying resolution. For me, the episode "Locked Up and Tied Down" seemed to need a little follow up, so I couldnt resist. J Please let me know what you think. Thanks, Blind Faith
Return to The Bard's Corner