by Leslie Ann Miller
Disclaimers- The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Violence - Yes, some. Nothing worse than what you'd see in the show.
Subtext / sex - Yes, this story depicts sexual acts between women. If that is illegal where you are, or it gives you the willies, you should try reading something else.
Hurt / Comfort - Yes
Other - This story is loosely based on the Hercules episode "Armageddon Now"
Thanks - I'm especially grateful to Fizz for all the help. Also thanks to Ellen and the ex-guards for their feedback and assistance.
Let me know what you think, good or bad! My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next morning I argued again with Thelassa until she agreed to let me see Xena alone. I went after she'd been fed her morning meal. I hobbled down the stairs to her cell and sat upon the small stone bench that had been placed there for me by the guards, well out of her reach. She watched me nonchalantly, leaning casually against the nearest bars. She smirked as I sat down. "I didn't expect you back so soon," she smiled. "The little cripple has some courage, after all."
I sighed. The truth hurt, but it made me who I was. I wanted Xena to know I'd come to accept my fate. If she wanted my suffering, she could have it. "I wanted to die on the cross, because of the pain," I said slowly, honestly. "But the healer brought me back. After he took my leg because of gangrene, I wanted to die again, because I couldn't bear the thought of living… like this. But I lived, and here I am. What you said yesterday was true, largely, and I admit it hurts. But you already knew that, didn't you? The great Lord Conqueror is reduced to taunting a poor crippled poet. I hope it gives you satisfaction."
"Why?" I asked.
She seemed surprised by the question, but carefully schooled her expression into annoyance and scorn. "Why don't you leave me alone."
"Are you so eager to be rid of me?" I smiled. "The warden tells me she thinks you will go mad with boredom. And the guards tell me you talk to your friends the rats."
"The warden is a fool, and the guards are all idiots."
"You're a poor judge of character, Xena."
She gripped the bars with white knuckles. "And you are a bitch!"
Despite myself, it made me happy to see her angry. "First a cripple, now a bitch. Make up your mind, Xena."
"Leave me alone!"
I smiled. "Make me."
She lost it, then, and began a long rant of cursing and swearing. She described in great detail what she'd like to do to my body, which largely involved cutting off other parts of my anatomy to match my missing leg.
I ignored her and allowed myself to enjoy her helpless rage. She finally ended her tirade by spitting at me. It fell several feet short of its mark.
"Are you done?" I asked pleasantly.
She growled, literally, and pushed herself away from the bars. She sat down on the cold marble floor, her back to me.
I would not give her the satisfaction of having dismissed me with her action, and so I stayed. I told her about Alexander and his new laws and reforms. I told her how grateful the people were to have a new ruler.
She pretended not to listen, but I know she did. She'd had no news from the outside world in nearly a year. How hard it must have been to go from being the center of the world, to being so isolated from it. Again, I felt that stab of pity, but I quickly suppressed it. Xena was a monster. My job was just to find out why.
When I got no response from her, I left her to her darkness.
For twelve more days, it was the same. I went to her cell, she cursed me, then fell silent. I would then proceed to talk to her back. I told her about the uprising in Persia and how quickly it had been put down. I told her who had replaced her provincial governors. I told her all the news I could think of, but it wasn't until I told her of the rebuilding of Athens and the many other cities she'd destroyed in the war, that she finally spoke.
"What of Amphipolis?" she asked quietly.
"Hmmm?" She'd interrupted me mid sentence.
"Is he rebuilding Amphipolis?" she repeated angrily.
"Yes. All of the cities that burned in the war."
She was silent.
"Why do you ask?" I wondered.
At first I thought she wouldn't answer. "I heard they put up a good fight."
"Cyrene was a good leader."
Xena snorted. "She was a fool to lead them against me."
"Everyone is a fool to you, Xena. I call her a hero in my scrolls."
"What happened to her?" Xena asked. "I locked her in prison. Is she still there? Or did your precious Alexander ever think to release her?"
I was very curious why Xena seemed so interested. She hadn't participated in the sacking of Amphipolis. She'd been at the siege of Athens at the time. I could hardly imagine that one small city rebelling in Paeonia would have been a matter of concern to her at the time. "Alexander freed all your political prisoners, Xena, what few of them you left alive. Cyrene is free."
Perhaps I just imagined it, but it almost seemed as if her shoulders relaxed slightly when I told her that. I made a mental note to track down Cyrene when I was finished here. Perhaps she could tell me why Xena cared about Amphipolis.
That evening I had dinner with Thelassa in her private quarters. I'd been entertaining the guards with my stories in the evenings, so the change was quite welcome.
The food was good; apparently Thelassa asked the cook to prepare us a special meal complete with duck and fresh fruit.
"Where…?" I began, when the oranges were served. They must have come all the way from Chin!
Thelassa grinned. "The Emperor sent them on the supply ship yesterday."
I blushed. How thoughtful of Alexander! He knew how much I loved oranges, and I knew how hard they were to get, even for an Emperor.
"He cares about you a great deal, doesn't he?" Thelassa asked.
I nodded. "We've been through a lot together."
"So why doesn't he make you his Empress?" she asked, then blushed. "Or is that too forward a question?"
I laughed. "No, it's fine. Alexander loves me, but his heart belongs to another."
There must have been some sadness in my voice, because Thelassa smiled sympathetically. "I'm sorry," she said.
I shook my head. There was no need to get melancholy now. "It's all right. I've always known… even before…" I stopped, unable to say it.
"Before you lost your leg?"
I nodded and poked at the food on my plate.
Thelassa picked up an orange and held it out to me. "Would you mind peeling this for me?" she asked, almost shyly.
I looked up in surprise. Of course she couldn't do it herself with only one arm. "I'd be glad to." I took it from her and began to peel.
Thelassa laughed quietly after a moment. "Two cripples, indeed."
Her words mirrored my own thoughts closely. I split the peeled orange and handed her a slice. "It's funny. During the war, I did everything the army did. I marched up mountains, fought in battles, camped in the snow, fought fires. Oh, there were things I couldn't do… didn't do… like run messages," I grinned, "but, I was there for it all. I don't feel especially crippled. In fact, in some ways, I feel stronger than ever before; but I know that's not how other people see me."
"Don't you hate the look of pity they get in their eyes?"
"Or worse, the fear and revulsion, like if they touch you, their own limbs will start falling off."
Thelassa laughed. "And then there are the ones who get embarrassed."
I grinned. "I don't usually mind them so much. You know, they get embarrassed because they've forgotten I'm different for a moment, and then they say something or do something that reminds them, and they're afraid they've offended me. But at least they forgot for a while."
Thelassa considered that for moment. "I hadn't thought of it like that, before." She sighed, and ate another slice of orange. "At least… at least you're regarded as a hero, so they are afraid to offend you."
I wondered if Thelassa had experienced many people going out of their way to offend her. She seemed very confident of herself in her role as warden, and the guards all appeared to respect her well enough. "I don't know that I'm much of a hero…." I shrugged.
"Oh, but you are. Look at this dinner! The Emperor of the World sends you fruit from the outer provinces."
"That makes me the Emperor's friend, not a hero," I smiled.
"Oh, but Gabrielle, everyone knows what you did for the war. I…. I admire you so much!"
I know I blushed. She said it with such sincerity, and her face glowed in the candlelight. It occurred to me that if she didn't have her hair pulled back in such a severe fashion, she would be quite beautiful. No, I corrected myself, even with her hair pulled back, she was quite beautiful.
"I'm sorry," she apologized, lowering her eyes. "Now I've embarrassed you."
I smiled. "It's all right. I guess… I guess I'm just not used to such direct compliments."
"That's a terrible pity," she said, looking up at me again. "You deserve many, many compliments."
Now I really was embarrassed, and I busied myself peeling another orange. "Thank you."
Thelassa laughed. "Have you gotten any information out of Xena?" she asked, changing the subject.
"Tell me what you need, and I will get it from her."
I shook my head. "It's not really something you can whip out of a person. I want to know why she became the person she became. She's not going to tell you that under torture."
"It's just… no. No thank you. Really, I think I'll just have to do this my way."
Thelassa shrugged and leaned back in her chair. "You'll be here for a long time, then."
I grinned. "Does that bother you?"
She leaned forward again, and put her hand on mine. "No."
"Well then. This will work out nicely."
She smiled. "Would you like some more wine? I usually drink two glasses before bed. It seems to help dull the pain so I can sleep at night."
"Yes, thank you. I do the same. Although, I also have some medications that help on bad days. Alexander has a healer from Chin who gets herbs from the Orient. Perhaps you'd like to try them?"
"Please. On days before a storm arrives, I can barely tolerate it."
"Have you tried massage?"
"Not really, it's still somewhat painful."
"Here, are you finished eating? Let me show you." I gestured to her bed, so I could sit beside her, and proceeded to demonstrate the massage techniques that the healer had taught me.
"Mmmmmmm," she sighed. "That does feel good."
"Even with one hand, if you do this several times a day, it will help keep the tenderness down."
"Thank you, Gabrielle," Thelassa said, taking my hand and squeezing it.
"You're welcome." I smiled.
She invited me to stay longer, but I was tired and decided to take my leave. When I retired to my bed after writing my notes for the day, I could still feel the pressure of Thelassa's hand on my own. It was nice, I thought, before drifting off to sleep.
Continued in part 4