THE BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES
(or what happened between the episodes)
For Disclaimers, see"Looking for Trouble"
1.7 -- The Virgin Goddess
(post "The Titans")
X: “Why did you risk your life by going into that cavern alone?
G: “I wanted to make up for what I did, so that you wouldn’t hate me.”
X: “For your information, I could never hate you. Your heart’s always in the right place.”
I feel so stupid. Maybe I really am that kid Xena seems to think I am. And I'm so ashamed. I don't know what came over me. When I released the Titans and they were following my orders, I'll admit I felt very powerful. I know I wanted to do good with them, but at the same time, I really got an ego boost from being their master. I kind of liked bossing them around, and I'm embarrassed at how I behaved. I snort in disdain at myself. Virgin Goddess. Please.
I treated Xena badly too. She seems to have forgiven everything, but in this, I was really really wrong. I was so ready to show off to those people that I knew how to correctly say that chant. I forgot a really important lesson -- not to go charging in somewhere without checking out the situation first. I didn't even stop to ask why they were saying the chant. I just wanted to prove to them how smart I was.
All I proved is just what an idiot I can be. I haven't been able to look Xena in the eyes much the past few days, and I think I'm hurting her feelings even more by not talking to her like I usually do. I want to measure up in her eyes, and right now I don't think I do.
Maybe I never did.
She's come to mean so much more to me than I ever thought she would. Sure, she was my ticket out of Potadeia, but I honestly wanted to be her friend. A while back, I realized that is exactly what we have become -- friends. Or at least I think we are, and she has characterized me as her friend too. At first I wanted her approval so she would want to keep me around. Now I want her approval because of our friendship -- it's something I hope I never lose.
Sometimes I wonder, though, if the part of her that thinks of me as a kid is stronger than the part of her that considers me to be her friend. It seems like most of the time she's saving me from some scrape I've gotten myself into, or fixing some mistake I've made. Releasing the Titans was a huge mistake.
It's not the same as getting kidnapped by Morpheus, or accidentally falling for a warlord. This time I went barreling in without thinking. What I did was totally preventable, had I simply stopped to ask questions first. Xena has been kind enough not to point that out to me. For once, I think she at least understands that I know I made a serious mistake.
She actually told me she thought it was brave of me to go to the cave alone, but honestly, I simply feel like a fool.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and look up from the pond I'm dangling my feet in.
"Hey." She kneels down next to me and then sits down and removes her boots. "Water looks inviting."
"It's okay." I watch her toss her boots to the side, and along with it, she starts to remove her armor. Without thinking, I reach over and help her with the clasps, something I've taken to doing. So far she hasn't taken my hands off over it, so I assume I'm not stepping too far into her personal space when I do this.
"Thanks." She lifts the armor over her head and leans back on her hands with her eyes closed, as she drops her feet into the water next to mine. "Gods, that feels good."
"You walked more than usual today." I watch her kick her legs a little bit as I say this. She actually spent a great deal of time walking beside me today, although we didn't have a lot to say to each other.
"Argo needs a break every now and then." She opens her eyes and looks at me, and I can see the questions there. That's my Xena - she keeps so much inside her. I keep expecting someday for her to just burst open and start spilling all of whatever is stewing there, just beneath the surface.
"I figured you might need a break after --" I trail off. I can't bring myself to talk about my latest foible again. "Maybe you need a break from me." I look down and toss a few pebbles into the pond, remembering our little chat after that whole business with Morpheus. Boy, was she ever right about things that forever change you. I never dreamed when I left Potadeia that I would do some of the things I've done. Even if I went home right now, I’m not nearly the same girl I was when I left.
I realize she's not responded, and I look over at her, and catch her watching me. It's happened a lot lately, and I can't quite read her expression. "Xena? You okay?" I pat her leg and her jaw twitches just a little bit, at my touch.
"Yeah. Fine." She looks across the water and away from me. "That what you want?"
"Want what?" I follow her gaze and see nothing but trees, and a few birds flying overhead.
"A break?" She looks back at me and I name the expression I see - misery. "If you wanted to go home, or find a place to stay for a while, I could -- "
"No. Oh, no." I pat her leg again. "I just thought after what I did. Xena, this time I did more than put my life in danger, I put your life in danger, and the lives of those villagers. All because of my ego."
"Gabrielle, it's alright. I thought we already hashed this out." She smiles at me and the misery recedes from her eyes. "Believe me, I understand exactly how you feel."
I return the smile and release a long sigh. "I guess you would wouldn't you?" She ruffles my head and her good humor has returned.
"Xena, it felt good to have all that power. Why is that? It goes against who I thought I was." I pick up more pebbles and toss them in the water while I speak. "It started with feeling powerful that I knew how to say that chant, and it seems like it just kept growing."
"That's how it usually goes." She picks up some pebbles of her own and joins me, watching the concentric circles as they drift across the water's surface. "Egos are fragile. Feed them too much, they get out of hand. Feed them too little and it can be just as bad, if not worse. Maybe you just got a taste of what it was like to be in control, and you liked it."
"Maybe." I glance over at her and smile. "Not like I've had much control over my life up to this point."
"Oh, I don't know." She draws one leg up and wraps those impossibly long arms around it. "Seems to me like you took quite a bit of control when you walked out of your parents' house and came after me."
"Yeah, I guess I did." I frown. "But other than that, I feel like I always did what other people told me to. Still do, I guess."
Xena snorts, and then laughs outright. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you don't even listen to me half the time." She tempers her laughter with a touch to my shoulder. "Not that I'd expect an intelligent young woman to just do what I say without question."
"You mean you don't mind when I disregard what you say?" I chuckle, and shake my head.
"Didn't say that." She takes my hand and squeezes it for a moment, before she releases it. My palm feels all tingly, and I glance at her, to catch her looking at her own hand with the strangest expression on her face. Then she shakes her head and leans forward, her forearms braced on her thighs. "I try not to tell you what to do, unless I honestly believe it's for your own good."
"I know." I mimic her posture. "Guess I can be kind of stubborn sometimes."
"Ya think?" She laughs a little bit. "I just don't want to see you get hurt, especially in a way that can't be fixed. Like -- " She trails off and I look over at her.
"Like what?" She shakes her head but doesn't answer. "Xena. Like what?"
"It's none of my business." She looks at me quickly and looks back down again, but not before I see a profound sadness in her eyes. "Never mind."
I wrack my brain. "None of your business? What's? -- Oh." I know exactly what she's talking about. Phyleus. "I thought about it, Xena. I really did. And I almost -- I don't know -- it didn't seem like such a big deal at first. One more great mystery to get out of the way. And he was cute, and he was saying all the things I wanted to hear -- how smart I was, and how pretty. He said I had the aura of a goddess. I just didn't want it to be like that, in that room, with all those people right on the other side of the curtain. It wasn't what I wanted."
"Good." Her voice is sharp and I jump a little, the tone surprising me. "Sorry." She touches my shoulder again. "Didn't mean to be so harsh. I just -- it's none of my business."
"I don't mind if you make it your business." Her head snaps around at me and her eyes grow wide for a moment. "I mean, it's not like my mother ever talked about these things with me, or my younger sister. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own."
"Oh." For some reason she seems relieved. "Gabrielle, when you're young, you're always in a hurry to grow up. But that -- it's something you can't ever get back, once you give it away. Men will say all kinds of things, to get -- that -- from you. Make sure the person you choose to share it with deserves it for more than his ability to sweet talk."
"I know." I blush. "I know, it's just that it seems like this line in the sand. As long as I'm on this side of that line, I'm one of the kids. Once I cross it, maybe people will finally think of me as an adult."
"You're not a kid." She sounds a bit exasperated and I realize she's said this to me more than once recently. "It just means you're a beautiful young woman, who has made some intelligent decisions about her life."
Beautiful? Did she say beautiful? Xena doesn't usually say things she doesn't mean. I smile and take her hand, and twine our fingers for a minute, giving her a gentle squeeze before I release it. "Thank you. It means a lot, coming from you."
"You're welcome." Her voice is very soft, and she is staring across the pond again. "When it's the right person, and the right time, you'll know."
"How?" She's seen my track record, and she was right a while back. I don't have good judgment when it comes to men.
"You just will." She says this a bit too wistfully, and I can't help but reach up and brush back a lock of her hair.
"Was it right for you? Your first time?" I can't believe I've asked her this, and I watch that dark blush of hers dust her cheek.
"No." She sounds so sad, and a part of me wants to give her a hug. "No," she shakes her head. "I knew it wasn't, and I did it anyway. I try not to regret it. Not like I can do anything about it now."
Now I give into my urge, and pull her closer, giving her a little side hug as her head hits my shoulder. "Xena, I'm sorry. You're right, it should be something special. I’m sorry yours wasn't."
"It was what it was." She shrugs, and sits up, but she doesn't move away, seeming to draw comfort from our closeness. "I've had a few better times since then."
"Just a few?" I nudge her in the ribs with my elbow.
She laughs out loud - that deep belly laugh that always does my heart good to hear. "Okay, maybe more than a few." She looks at me and winks, then ruffles my head again. "I -- I just wish -- " Her voice grows soft again.
"Wish what?" Gods she's been just a bit maddening today with the half-finished sentences.
"I wish for you that all your times will be good ones." She looks back down and studies the water, kicking her feet again.
"Xena." I pat her leg and wait until she looks at me. "They already are. Not that I've had those kind of times just yet, but these times -- being your friend -- learning so many new things. These have been the best times of my life."
Without a word she pulls me close, and gives me a hug this time. It feels so good it brings a tear to my eye, and I stifle a sniffle. Hey! Did she just kiss the top of my head?
NEXT in the BTL Series – “Of Gods and Thunderbolts” (post “Prometheus”)
And a note: Between "The Titans" and "Prometheus" it seems to me great growth occurred in their relationship. I base this on Gabrielle's reaction when she learns Xena may die freeing Prometheus, and Xena's reaction to Gab's reaction - small actions with powerful meaning. Because of what happens in the next episode, I felt like some walls had to have come down in between those two episodes.