Author: Bexteron PM
AU - When her newest play proves a flop, a disheartened Gabrielle turns to travelling for inspiration. During her soul searching trip she comes across a wild woman whose wild ways will liberate her mind, body and soul, and turn her life into the adventure she'd always craved. **Temporary Hiatus**Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Gabrielle & Xena - Chapters: 30 - Words: 107,608 - Reviews: 215 - Favs: 47 - Follows: 77 - Updated: 04-08-13 - Published: 04-26-12 - id: 8060576
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
When they arrived back at the cave, Autolycus was sitting like a guard outside the crack in the wall. Sat upright, head straight and his eyes keen and searching, Autolycus was on the lookout for possible intruders. Every so often, the silver-black wolf's ears would flick at the tiniest sound. She was sure that he'd heard them approaching before she even saw him. Still, until they moved to him, he did not shift from the entrance of the cave where the human was hidden away.
She knew how uncomfortable it made him feel – being so close to another human that he wasn't familiar with, but she couldn't help but feel her chest swell with pride for her wolf brother. His dedication to her request made her love him all the more.
She and Joxer broke through the trees, and upon their arrival, Autolycus stood, his head tilted, his eyes full of understanding. 'So Joxer knows now?' he guessed.
Xena nodded and rested her hand atop Joxer's head to keep his excited bouncing to a minimum. 'Yes, and he promised not to tell anyone.' She looked down at her brother and raised an eyebrow. 'Didn't you, Joxer?'
Joxer smiled, his tongue lolling out. 'Yeah, I promised. I know the last time we met the human wasn't the best experience, but I'm kinda excited to see another human. From outside the forest, I mean.'
'Well, she's out at the moment, but if she wakes don't get too close too quick. We don't want to frighten her.' Xena's smile slipped from her face. 'After what she's been through...I want to make sure she's going to be okay.'
Hearing the serious tone of her voice, Joxer quit panting and pulled his tongue back into his mouth. He looked up at her, concerned. 'What exactly happened? From where I was standing I thought for sure the light human had died. It was a bad fall.'
The image of Gabrielle falling from atop the cliff made her stomach plummet. She winced as an unfamiliar image of Xena, a smaller version of herself, plummeted from what looked to have been a cliff. Her head throbbed and she lifted her hand to rub her head. She blinked away the image until she was facing her two wolf brothers, both wearing equal expressions of worry. She shook her head; sure that she'd imagined it.
She swallowed. 'I…don't know for sure, but I know the other human was responsible. I just don't know why or what happened on that cliff.'
Aiming to break the tense atmosphere that seemed to have fallen over them, Xena gestured to the wall silently. They looked at her for a moment, looking as though they wanted to ask her more questions, but when Xena threw them a look, they voted against it and followed her direction.
They filed in through the gap, one at a time, and padded across the flat stone of the steaming pool cave. Deciding that going in altogether would just crowd her, Autolycus agreed to sit in the open stone archway of the human's cave, watching from a safe distance.
Joxer seemed really enthusiastic. She could practically feel the air crackling with his excitement as he slowly approached the stone bed – his body and ears instinctively low. She bent at the waist a tiny bit to tousle his fur encouragingly. He looked at her, saw her smile – her nod of admittance, and slowly crept over to the human's unconscious form, his nose twitching curiously.
To a stranger Gabrielle could have been in a pleasant sleep, her mind drifting away in countless dreams, but Xena knew better. In sleep everyone moved, even if little bit. Gabrielle looked as though she hadn't moved an inch since she left the cave. The thought that the human's wasn't moving because she may have injuries worse than those she could see made her stomach clench with fear and apprehension.
Joxer smelled the human, being careful not to touch her with his probing nose and sat back, his tail swishing side to side. He tilted his head and continued to look at Gabrielle. 'She looks so…human,' he said after a noticeable pause.
Autolycus snorted and Xena rolled her eyes. She stroked Joxer's ruff. 'You don't say?'
But Xena knew what he meant. As she leaned forward from her spot in the entrance, she looked over Gabrielle. She was still laid out on the stone bed, the gentle rise and fall of her chest the only tell-tale sign of her life. She still looked too pale, though with the restricted moonlight trickling in through the crack in the roof of the pool room, Xena decided that could be the cause of her deathly pallor. Every time she looked at her, she was struck by how alike they looked in form, yet how different they were in appearance.
Except for the arm bare made where she'd ripped away the material, Gabrielle's attire covered almost all of her body. There were also the things on her feet that Xena had never seen before. The material covering the human's feet were thick and tight, and along the outside of each one were tiny, dry criss-crossed vines. After closer inspection Xena realized that they were what probably kept them attached to her feet. They looked strange but protected Gabrielle's feet.
Of all the things Xena could choose to look at, she found herself constantly drawn to Gabrielle's face. Even before she had suffered the attack and fall from the cliff, she had thought Gabrielle had looked pained. She always looked as though she carried a burden that weighed her down, making her shoulders droop and her expression tensed. The one time she had seen her smile, show genuine joy in the very short time she had known her had been when Xena had spoken her name. It had been the smile, the happiness glistening in the human's green eyes that had caught her off guard. As long as she lived, she would never forget the sight or the warm feeling it had elicited in her chest.
She walked over, being careful to be quiet, and pulled back the material to inspect the wound. The paste embedded within it had changed to a light green colour and dried, and the skin around the edges were still red, but less so than it had been earlier in the day. The paste crumbled slightly under the gentle pressure of her probing fingers as she ran them gently along the outside.
Xena gasped as the human's hand flew up and grasped her wrist. She glanced up at Gabrielle's face and felt her stomach drop. The human's face was twisted in pain. Whimpers of pain coming from Gabrielle's mouth – her pathetic cries echoed in the small space. Her eyes were still closed, but it was obvious she was awake. She clenched them shut tight, as if by doing so she could stave off the pain.
As soon as the soothing darkness she had been floating in drifted away, Gabrielle she felt as though fire had erupted in her chest; its flames engulfed her blood and licked under the surface of her skin. The searing pain made her stomach heave and her head throb. She tried to open her eyes and lift her head, but the energy it took to do so stole her breath away. Instead, the pain washed through her again, rolling over her chest and constricting her heart.
Xena swallowed, looking uncertainly from Joxer to Autolycus. She didn't know what to do. She herself had endured this pain, but she had always been alone. Then a thought struck her. Gabrielle didn't have to be alone. Xena thought that, maybe, if the human knew she had support it would help her. Xena had imagined her mother beside her when she'd ventured off into the woods to heal and it had helped her endure the pain. Her human medicines made her wolf family nervous, but she could be there for Gabrielle.
She took the human's hand and squeezed. "Gabrielle?" she said in the human's language. She was aware of her wolf brother's curiosity at her words, but ignored their unsure whimpers. She squeezed again. "Gabrielle…saved! Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle was aware, somewhere through the painful haze, that her fingers were wrapped around something. It felt fleshy but strong at the same time, like a hand. It squeezed back, offering support. But the voice that spoke her name and the growls and whimpers were what caught her attention. She tried to focus on where she'd heard them before, but her mind drew a blank. It was then as she searched her through her memories she saw the knife hurtling towards her and the pain in her shoulder exploded anew.
Her scream shattered the silence, ricocheting off the closed walls and flew back at her, bursting in her ears and deafening her. Her cries drowned out everything else. As another wave of pain assaulted her, she attempted to breathe, but the air was sucked away as though she were underwater.
'Xena! The human! What's happening to the human?' Autolycus barked as he shot into the room. He stood beside the human's form where she writhed on the stone, looking her up and down with unsure eyes.
Instead of answering her brother's desperate query, Xena squeezed Gabrielle's hand harder when she felt the human tighten her hold. The crushing pressure belied Gabrielle's weak state. She could already feel a tingling in her hand where the human's bone crushing grip cut off the flow of blood to her fingers.
Gabrielle's cries broke her heart. She empathized greatly as she watched her twisted in pain, her eyes shut tight and her teeth clamped together. Xena knew the pain she was experiencing.
Over the years, after numerous lacerations due to carelessness or fights with prey, Xena had at least grown a resistance towards the stinging paste after every time she used it. Her first experiences had left her weak and crying. Even now, the paste still would catch her off guard and steal her breath for a few moments as it worked, but it no longer left her curled in a ball as it first had.
Joxer sidled up beside her and looked down at the human. Gabrielle was starting to calm; her writhing had settled to an exhausted squirm, her heels scraped against the stone and her breathing turned into laborious huffs. Her eyes opened for a moment – searching, their bright green colour subdued by the shadows that fell across her face. Xena watched as her eyes looked around without focusing and eventually rolled back, her eyelids dropping to hide them away once again
Xena knew when the human was unconscious again. Her grip loosened and Gabrielle's hand slipped in her own. She caught it before it fell and laid it carefully on the human's stomach. The wolves shift around her timidly as she moved to sit on the stone lip jutting out near the bed. Leaning closer, Xena bit her lip and dared to reach out.
She hesitated at first, expecting the human to grab her again the nearer her hand got to her face. But when Gabrielle showed no signs of moving, she touched her forehead, brushing aside the hair that was matted to her skin. Sweat, both from the heat radiating in from the other room and from the physical strain in her bodies fight against the pain, trickled down Gabrielle's face and neck.
'Xena?' Joxer poked his nose against her free hand, nudging himself closer. When she looked, his brown eyes were wide with apprehension. 'Xena, is she going to be alright?'
Xena looked to the human, a bittersweet smile on the lips. 'Yes, she will, but that won't be the last time she lashes out. Her body is trying to reject the paste and accept its healing at the same time.'
Autolycus moved back to his spot in the arched entrance. Xena could tell he was troubled. His expression told her that much. His eyes held a faraway look, as though he wasn't seeing any of them in the room except Gabrielle. Xena noticed his eyes never left the human as he thought. She wished just for one day what her brother was thinking. He could change so quickly it surprised her more often than she liked.
'Autolycus?' Xena said quietly.
His head snapped up, as though remembering she was there. 'Yes?'
'Are you okay?
'Yes, of course.' He stared at Gabrielle again and sighed. 'I hope for her sake, as well as our, that the human will get better. The screaming could attract unwanted attention.'
Looking down at Gabrielle again, Xena brushed the hair from her eyes with her hand, letting her hand linger on the side of the human's pale face. She sniffed sadly. 'I know.'
They fell into a carefully planned routine out so that each one of them held watch over the human at some point, alternating while the others left to relieve themselves or hunt. Because Xena had told her family that she had gone hunting, she wandered out and hunted. She kept a portion of what she killed in the cave and took some back to the pack so they wouldn't suspect anything. Kaia had been happy to see her daughter return unscathed and they ate in comfortable silence. While they did, Xena kept a look out in the pack to see which wolves were present.
Luckily, all of her brothers and sisters were present, except for one. Akan was nowhere to be seen, and with her conscious pressing heavily on her over Gabrielle, guilt and fear flooded her. As usual, being so close to Xena, Kaia was able to sense something was bothering her and would ask. Xena shook it off, stating that it was nothing to worry about. She hated lying to her mother, but it was the only thing she could think of that would secure the safety of the human. As protocol, if Kaia found out, being his mate, she would be honour bound to tell the alpha.
Xena got no sleep as the laid with the pack. Her thoughts continuously returned to the cave. She looked up at the moon from where she laid on her back, staring at its silver orb. If she thought carefully, she could imagine seeing the moon through the crack in the cave roof, could see the way its light bounced off the tiny ripples made in the pool, or the way it glittered as it hit the rock wall along the inside of the cave. Being inside the cave, Xena felt she was elsewhere – like a pocket of space where only she existed with the human in the safe little haven.
When sunrise came, Autolycus returned to the pack. Xena stood and walked to him, riffling his fur in the manner in which she normally did, but now something about it felt forced. She could feel her mother's gaze on her at their exchange. She smiled at Autolycus and he did the same, but she could see the strain in his eyes, the fake effort of his trademark grin. It was taking its toll on him and she knew it. Before she left to join Joxer, she crouched and pressed a kiss to the top of his head. He looked surprised but seemed to understand. He licked her cheek back – a show of his empathy and they parted ways, each moving towards different goals.
The longer she spent in the cave, the longer she felt as though part of her belonged there. She felt inexplicably drawn, and the feeling only strengthened when she moved to sit beside the human and watch over her. Every brush or comforting touch, an unseen spark from the connection to her species left her breathing hard and staring hard at Gabrielle, wondering if, though her eyes were closed and wasn't wake, she could feel it too.
A few times during the day, Gabrielle squirmed around in pain, her eyes still shut. She was completely unaware of Xena as she watched over her. She gave no sign of waking. Still, the bouts of pain seemed to calm and become few and far in between over time. Every time Gabrielle suffered pain, Xena would hold her hand and waited it out with her until she stilled again, sleeping
It was during the late afternoon when Joxer had left to go hunt again, and Xena was alone with her, that Gabrielle finally awoke, but her reaction wasn't what Xena had been expecting.
Gabrielle felt heavy, like there was a weight on her chest pressing her down. It made breathing hard for her, and she could only manage short, shallow bursts of air to keep the darkness away. Her legs ached all the way up to her hips; the muscles in her legs felt as though they had melted into nothing. Strikes of tingling pain shot up her leg when she attempted to move them. She didn't know whether the darkness that covered her eyes was because her eyes were still closed, or because it was dark.
She frowned, remembering the last time she had attempted to open her eyes. The image of someone standing before her floated to the front of her mind. There had been something familiar yet strange about them, but she couldn't figure out what it was. It was then, when she saw this form, that she had seen the image of the knife. It came, always, stabbing toward her from the shadows, the owner's cruel smile the only thing she saw glinting beyond the handle.
Feeling the knife swipe toward her shoulder again, Gabrielle shot up, ignoring the shock of pain that lanced through her body. She fell into arms, of who she wasn't sure, but they felt so strong and comforting, she didn't fight them. She couldn't.
Gabrielle breathed heavily, her chest heaving and her shoulder aching. "Lila…?" she whispered.
Xena had heard that word before. Gabrielle had used it when she had talked to her, attempting to communicate. Though she hadn't been able to know completely what she had said, the word had popped up enough times to know what it meant. The burning she felt at the sound of it took her by surprise, almost as much as Gabrielle calling out for the human that had put her in the state she was in.
"Lila?" Gabrielle said again. Her voice sounded a little stronger. She lifted herself slightly in Xena arms and opened her eyes.
When the human looked at her, Xena noticed the glazed over look in her eyes – like she wasn't sure whether or not she was sure she was seeing what was in front of her or not.
"Gabrielle?" Xena said gently. She reached a hand up to brush the human's hair from her eyes.
When Gabrielle wrenched herself from Xena's comforting arms, Xena could barely retain her shock. The human sat, pushing herself back on the stone bed, waving her arms in front of her desperately, as if she was fighting off an invisible enemy that Xena couldn't see. Xena tried to reach out, to offer comfort, but Gabrielle saw her approach and curled in on herself, holding a hand over her shoulder.
Xena halted as Gabrielle began to cry. She took a step back, the sight and sounds breaking her heart. She couldn't take it. She felt like there was something that she could do, or wanted to do, but she didn't know what. So, she backed away until her back touched the wall and watched the human cry.
She knew when the human's delirium state dissolved. Eventually, to Xena's relief, Gabrielle's cries waned; shouts for her sister to come to her disappeared, but then were replaced by a sound that made Xena's blood chill. The raw mixture of Gabrielle's cries of pain, sadness, betrayal and anger were enough to leave marks on Xena's own heart. She felt every stab, every scratch she had found her with, and made them her own as she cried so the human wouldn't have to carry them alone.
Thank you so much for reading this chapter. Tell me what you think in a comment/review, and if you notice any spelling/grammar errors that I might have missed, please don't hesitate to tell me so in a PM so I can make edits :) I also value Con-crit. If you have any put that in a PM too please :D Stay tuned for the next chapter!