by Tonya Muir
General Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and various other characters are all property of MCA Universal and Renaissance Pictures, and their writers. All rights are reserved to the legal owners, and no infringement is intended.
This story may be best classified as Hurt/Comfort involving the characters Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story.
This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
This is a post One Against An Army vignette - no plot, just relationship.
Wounded by Tonya Muir
I have no clue how long I've slept fitfully beside her. I let my eyes focus slowly on the fading sunlight coming through the hole in the thatched roof above us, let my hearing pick out her short labored breaths, and know that we need to move on.
I test my muscles hesitantly, knowing they would be sore. I'm not disappointed. Then I turn my gaze towards my young companion and watch the slight rise and fall of her chest, noticing the stringy hair darkened by hours of sweating. Her face is still pale and tinged green, the shadows under her eyes are dark reminders of her suffering. But she breathes.
Grunting, I roll to my knees and then stand upright, my leathers stiff from dried sweat, the cut on my arm throbbing. I know she wouldn't want to heal here with the dead and dying Persians surrounding us so I gather our belongings as best I can and clamber down the ladder to find the travois I made the day before. There it is.
I lie the furs across my wooden piece of handiwork and strap our saddle bags to the foot of it. Then I climb back up the ladder into the loft and wrap Gabrielle more tightly in her blankets and furs before lifting her. She moans in protest, struggles weakly against my hold so I loosen my arms around her as she sits slumped against my body. I'd learned years ago that sometimes restraining someone who was already struggling only made them fight more. I'm right; she relaxes. She pushes her too warm face into my neck and I know she must find my scent familiar because it comforts her now and her hands clench and unclench rhythmically against my chest until she heaves a sigh and relaxes completely.
Picking her up then, I sling her casually over my shoulder as I had to carry her up the ladder. Then settle her on the travois, securing her blanket wrapped body with strong tethers, placing her staff alongside her length.
Silently I drag her from the building and across the short bridge. The once fading sunlight is all but gone now and casts long shadows across the road before me. We head for Thessaly though I plan not to make it there until she is feeling better. Along the way I'll find a place for us both to heal. And, with any luck, I'll find Argo.
The moon is full when I drag my cargo off the main road through some brush to a clearing by a small lake. I remember this place from a time long ago though mercifully I don't remember any of the details that may have brought me here. There are just vague passing thoughts of cool water and aching bones ... though those memories trickle and tumble then suddenly become these memories I am making now because I feel that same bone deep weariness I haven't known in so long.
A quick fire before I unpack the travois, removing first our belongings and then my closest friend. I cradle her in my arms before laying her on the grass to free her of blankets and clothing. She lies naked before me, moon shimmering off of sweat-sheened skin and I flash back involuntarily to a time long ago when green eyes had watched me lovingly as moonlight glinted in gold flecked depths. How my hands had trailed the shadows of her body and inflamed passion that had been burning in embers just moments before.
But that was a long time ago, before Hope was born, when there was no anger between us and no secrets to hold. We'd lain in the moonlight nearly every night wrapped in each other's arms, blissfully unaware of the trials to come. It's been a long road back and still it seems endless.
She doesn't move as I strip myself and grab a bar of soap from a saddlebag. I carry her body with me as I walk deeper into the water until it comes just above my breasts and she floats easily within my embrace. Still she is silent and her pale eyelids remain closed to the shimmering moonlight and my self-comforting whispers.
"Just going to clean us up a bit, Gabrielle," I tell her, only to hear my own voice which does nothing to assuage the rising fear that she's been sleeping this long. My voice is dark and husky and even I can detect the panic in it, knowing her potential danger is the only thing that inspires that kind of fear in me. As if understanding my concern, her eyes slowly flutter open and she fights me for a brief moment unsure of her surroundings. Then green eyes focus and the stark paleness of her skin gives away to a climbing blush.
"Hey, sleepy," I say softly, hoping my voice relays to her the feelings I can't voice.
She blinks slowly then her face contorts slightly in pain as she reaches for the bottom of the lake but is unable to find it with her shorter legs and the motion jerks her body.
"Easy, easy. I've got you," I whisper, pulling her close so she can drape her good arm over my bare shoulders. I can tell she feels awkward by our intimate touches because we no longer share this closeness. But secretly I relish it; guiltily I feed on it. I smile at her. "Just a bath, I promise," I reassure her gently as I walk backwards with both of us until her searching toes find the silt at the bottom of the lake.
She grins impishly back and I have to chuckle at the twinkle in her eyes despite the pain she must feel through the simple act of breathing. I love this woman so much I feel the weight of it heavy on my heart. And I miss, every day, the intimacy of heart and body we once shared.
She steadies herself slowly, resting trembling hands on my forearms. When she tries to release me she begins to float away, too weak for those tired muscles to hold her in place. I settle her again and this time her warm hand remains on my arm, contrasting starkly against my dark skin.
She nods, winces again.
"Hurt a lot?"
She tilts her head in that way that makes my heart flutter and blinks green eyes at me. "I can't tell, really. Isn't that funny?" Pale golden eyebrows knit together as she concentrates on this thought. "I just feel so all around awful I can't pinpoint it."
I nod, completely understanding this statement having lived it many times before. I lather her hair first, turning her away from me to allow me complete access to fair tresses that float lightly in the water around her shoulders. I keep one arm around her waist to steady her and work the other hand through soapy hair until I am satisfied at its cleanliness.
I finish the rest of her quickly, not letting my hands linger anywhere that might make her uncomfortable. Then she holds onto me tentatively, letting her feet leave the lake bottom and float behind her, while I clean myself and scrub my hair ruthlessly.
"C'mere," I say softly after tossing the bar of soap back on the shore. I swim slowly towards a rocky area to our right, pulling her behind me, until I find the perfect resting place. I settle us both on the submerged boulders, leaning my back against one and her back against my chest.
"What are we doing?" she whispers but she doesn't struggle at all and, in fact, I can feel the strength leaving her body again. Her fair eyelashes blink sleepily against pale cheeks.
"We're sitting in cool water for awhile to get your fever under control."
"Mmmm," she agrees.
"Is that okay by you?"
"Anything you say," my young friend murmurs as she relaxes solidly against my breasts and tilts her face into my neck.
"I'll remember that," I whisper back, squeezing her to me, wrapping her fair legs in my dark ones and watching with fascination as dark and light mingle under the surface of moonlit water. If she'd been awake or feeling better, I would have gotten a dirty look for my comment.
Later we lie by the fire, still nude but wrapped separately in blankets so skin doesn't touch skin. I get her to drink some broth and chew lazily on some deer jerky before she dozes again.
I watch her, silently waging a battle with myself. Why did things go so wrong? When were we lost to each other?
I remember now, as I stroke a fair cheek with my fingertips, that we did have sex once after Hope. But we didn't make love. It was more of a fevered coupling wrought of longing and need. It was a releasing of fear and tension, sought with each other after a particularly tense encounter with road scavengers. I'd thought she might die that day as a man with a large broad sword cornered her while I was busy with others.
But she'd defended herself well and when I reached her, and finished him off, I'd pulled her into a rough embrace and kissed her fervently. She'd responded in kind and, within moments, we were off the side of the road, her back pressed hard into a tree as I ground against her. My hands had searched to caress and touch every part of her I could, pulling up skirt and pushing down undergarments. Her hands had returned my fevered searching in kind until we each met a long awaited release, gasping into each other's shoulder.
I was angry at myself later and did hours of sword drills that night while she watched from the camp fire. We never spoke of it and we never shared it again.
Now, as I watch her, I trail gentle fingers over her features. I regret all of the hateful things I've said and done. I thank the gods that she still lays with me and know I will accept her celibate friendship gratefully because I can't survive without her near.
Her breath catches and eyes flutter open to watch me by the flickering light of fire. She smiles until I go to withdraw my fingers from her cheek and then her brow wrinkles slightly.
So I replace my hand and am rewarded instantly with her relaxation.
"How do you feel," I whisper. Then, unable to stop myself, I follow up with, "I love you."
She smiles, reaches a weary hand out to rest on my blanketed hip. "Tired, sore. But better. Is it going to be okay?"
I nod, "I think so. You need to eat and drink to try to get some strength back. You think you can do that?"
She blinks again at me wearily, curls her lip very slightly. "I can try."
I push away from her and go to the other side of the fire where our bags are laid out. There I shrug out of my blanket in favor of well-worn and slightly cleaner leathers before I retrieve some bread and a bowl. I return moments later, the bowl filled with broth from the pot at the fire and settle next to her again.
She tries to pull herself upright, green eyes flashing with pain and a little shame brought on by her helplessness. I try to offer her a reassuring smile but, in truth, I never know what my muted expressions look like to her but I figure she interprets them regardless since we know each other so well. I pull her up gently, unable to resist a hug and kiss to her temple before sliding behind her and letting her use me as a back rest.
She holds the bowl for no more than a minute or two before the fatigue in her hands forces them to shake at the exertion and I take it from her. As I lean forward, I see her cheeks wet with tears.
"What is it?" I ask her softly. "Are you in pain ... did I-"
"No," she interrupts me in the middle of my panic, allowing it to sizzle and then disperse before catching her breath and continuing. "Just so much inside me ... that's all. You could have died."
I smile and hug her as tightly as I dare, pressing my face into the fragrant blonde hair that cascades over her shoulder. It is several moments before I can trust myself to speak. "You almost did, love," I whisper, realizing I haven't used that endearment in many long months. She tenses slightly at the word. "Sorry, I know ... I know things aren't like that between us anymore. It's just that I was so afraid, Gabrielle. So afraid to lose you."
She nods her understanding but I feel that this conversation is painfully one sided. She doesn't return my gentle hugs or my soft words of devotion. I never dreamed we'd be like this, that I would be the one craving her reassurances and her tender hands. She was always the one to hold and touch for no reason except she felt like it. She would snuggle against me at times that I thought then were inappropriate or, at the very least, surprising. She would practically beg me with fingers and eyes to physically manifest my feelings of love. She'd always needed my reassurances. Now the tables were turned and I hope, I pray, that she feels the same way as I did then. I'd always loved her, I just didn't know how best to express that to her.
She reaches now for the bowl as I've forgotten my original task. "Sorry," I whisper and I bring it up to her lips, holding it for her to sip from. At first she is tentative and then more eager until I pull it away and present a bite-sized piece of bread for her instead. She takes that eagerly as well and chews it with more energy than I've seen from her in several long days.
When she's done, I retrieve a shirt for her and help her pull it on before settling her back into the blankets.
"Can I lay here?" I ask hesitantly. And imagine the raucous laughter and teasing I would have received from my army, a ruthless warrior begging to just share the same air with a slip of a woman.
She knows; I can see it in her eyes. She knows the woman that I am today and how starkly it contrasts with the woman I was years before. She also knows that she is the only person in this world that sees beyond my proud and fierce exterior.
"Of course," she murmurs sleepily. "You don't have to ask, Xena."
But I do. Because the liberties we once took with each other evaporated in the harsher realities of betrayal and lies, murder and loss.
I don't point this out to her as I figure it would be a pretty sure mood breaker. Instead I gather my blankets around me and lay as close to her right side as I can without touching her. Here I can smell her and hear her and that's enough for me. I am positioned between her and the fire since she has never reconciled with her fear of sleeping near the burning logs despite their added warmth. I can feel the flames at my back and the heat from her body at my front and I feel better than I have in quite awhile. I can barely even feel the aches in my muscles and the sting of a hastily stitched wound on my upper arm.
Slowly, deliberately, she rolls over so that she is snuggled against me, her injured shoulder resting lightly on my breast, her head near my collarbone. My heart soars and I try to repress the silly grin I know must be spreading across my features.
She mumbles a few incoherent words before taking a deep breath and speaking louder. "I love you, too, Xena. With all my heart. There is nothing I want more in this world than to be with you." The relatively long speech leaves her breathing heavily and I feel her eyelashes fluttering on the sensitive skin of my upper chest, fighting tiredly to stay open. With simple words she has pulled me back together again. She has reaffirmed the connection I felt with her in the abandoned loft when I thought I was hugging her for the last time. And I know that the deep love I feel for her is shared.
"Sleep, love," I whisper, wrapping her in protective arms, ignoring the tears that run along my cheeks and tickle my ears where they fall. There is no flinch this time, just a contented sigh that leads immediately into deep sleep.
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