By Lariel

General Disclaimer: Xena and Gabrielle are characters owned by MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit gained by this piece of fanfic.

Violence/Love: No violence, but some subtext. Nothing too graphic, but if you can't legally read or just can't deal, please move on..

Comments welcome: I'd love to know what you think. Lariel_a@Hotmail.com


I remember my friend in Podadeia. When it was her twelfth birthday, her father came home from market one day with a present for her. It was a beautiful, baby bird - all fluffy brown feathers and big black eyes, in a wooden cage that he'd made especially for it. I remember, when she proudly showed it to me, looking through the thin wooden bars and seeing the bird shivering on it's perch, all huddled up at the far end of the tiny cage. She loved that bird; used to feed it everyday and talk to it, and show it off - until she grew bored. Her friend down the road had another bird that used to talk, and she wanted her bird to talk, but he couldn't. So, she stopped talking to him and stopped playing with him.

That bird grew up in that cage. Matured from a fledgeling to an adult in a few short years, and never really knew companionship or love, not even from its young owner. But whenever I used to visit, I would stare at it and marvel at the empty, haunted look in it's white rimmed eyes, and I swear I could see reflected on the opaque surface the soaring image of wind and wings, feathers and flight. It lasted three years, and then gave up one day.

I told Xena the story of the bird, but she just gave that strange half smile of hers and said that the bird must've wanted to stay where it was. She said thin wooden bars weren't enough to hold a wild creature.

I don't think she really understood.

She told me yesterday that she loves me, and that she needs me. I love her too, and I didn't know what to do.

So I just hugged her and rocked her as she cried onto my chest. She said she wasn't sure whether she could carry on fighting her dark side without me to help her, and she was afraid of what she might become if I ever left her. She said she wasn't strong enough to do it on her own.

I cried too. I'm not used to seeing my friend cry. I don't think I've ever seen her cry before; not since we visited her brother's grave anyway. And she made me promise never to leave her; I think she remembered Athens and Podedeia, when I'd left her before and I felt really guilty when she told me how much that had hurt her. My chest hurt a lot and I cried some more.

She is my best friend and I love her.

So I just held her and rocked her, and crooned soothing words at her. I think I told her I loved her - but those words always did come easily to me. Much too easily - not like her. She never said them before last night, and the way she said them, her face - it was like they were twisted round her guts and just getting them out was agony. And then, she started kissing me on my chest, in between sobbing and saying she needed me. And on my lips.

I didn't know what to do. I thought she was my friend.

I let her take me last night.

My chest feels so tight, and it's hard to breathe with her arms wrapped round me. They feel cold against my flushed, sweaty skin - like cold forged loops of metal binding us together, and her fingers dig into my breasts where they are locked. With every forced breath, I can feel them tighten, then loosen and I close my eyes tightly against the unfamiliar sensation of being chained by flesh and blood. Last night, as she lay gasping on top of me, she whispered words of love and her sighs caressed my inner ears like a kiss, and each word bound itself around my thudding heart, and I could feel it jump and tighten with each thrust into my body until I thought I would pass out from the pain. But I didn't.

What can I do? She is my friend, and she needs me.

I can't sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I see the image of a tiny brown bird, and in my opaque eyes I am sure are reflected the visions of flights never taken, of dreams never chased. So I wish away this night, and wait for the morning and stare at the trees, which criss-cross my vision like wooden bars in a love-gilded cage.


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