Summary: The Conqueror leaves Greece to visit Cleopatra and meets a slave/gladiator named Gabrielle but all is not what it seems.
Disclaimer: See Part 1
Authors Note: Howdy! I'm just writing this to let you know that after this chapter, I probably won't be updating again until after Christmas due to working crazy hours and well... Christmas. I hope you guys really enjoy this chapter and if you want to email me, my address jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
My feet took me on a familiar path as I followed my consort through the winding corridors of my castle. I could smell her scent as I wandered through the halls, though I didn't need it to know where she was heading. She would be in the place she always went when she was upset and I would find her like I always do. I was still a little bit stunned over how she had reacted to Gabrielle at dinner. It was so unlike Alexandria and I found myself feeling guilty for not realizing how much pain she was in. I'm supposed to be her best friend.
I'm supposed to be marrying in her in less than a moon, for Hades sake.
I sighed softly as I made my way up the last flight of stairs to stand before an intricately carved wooden door. I slowly pushed it open and slipped inside, spotting Alexandria gazing out of the window in the far corner of the room. It was a small, bare chamber that was situated in the tallest tower of my castle, with cool stone walls and marble floors like the rest of the palace. I leant against the wall in silence, taking a moment to just look at her as the moon light painted her skin silver. She was so beautiful; and yet I still found my mind returning to the Amazon Queen I had left in the dining hall. Damn.
"Did you know that in the past three and a half years, Xena, we've been the only ones to enter this room," Alexandria soft voice broke the silence, her eyes never leaving the twinkling stars high above us. "I remember the first time I came up here. It was three nights after we took Corinth and I was just wandering the halls, looking for anything interesting and I found this room. And the most amazing thing was, not ten seconds after I had entered, you walked in behind me. The next day, you made sure that this part of the castle was completely off limits to anyone but us and everyone thought it was because we had weapons or something hidden here. But you just did it so it would be our own secret place."
"I remember," I whispered, knowing that her sensitive ears would hear me. "Alexandria..."
"Don't," The red head said hoarsely, her fingers gripping the window sill tightly. "Don't say it. It doesn't matter and I don't care anymore."
"Well obviously you do care," I drawled, walking silently over towards her and leaning my elbows on the window sill. "Otherwise you wouldn't have left like you did."
"It's been a long day," she replied quietly and I nodded in agreement as we spent several moments in silence, just looking at the stars twinkling high above our heads. It was a beautiful night and the stars seemed to be shining especially bright against the pitch black sky. A memory flitted through my mind of star gazing in Egypt with a certain fair haired slave and I scowled. Get your head in the game, Xena.
"I know this is hard on you," I attempted to red headed woman, only to be cut off.
"That's the thing, Xena, it shouldn't be hard on me." Alexandria said, anger tingeing her tone. "It should be hard on you, but it isn't. Not that I should be surprised, right?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" I replied indignantly, raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. Alexandria sighed, tilting her head slightly so that she could meet my gaze and I sucked in a breath when I saw the pain darkening her blue eyes.
"It means that I need to know something from you before I leave this room," the red head whispered. I took in her tense shoulders and the emotions in her eyes and I immediately felt uneasy.
"Okay, what?" I felt alarm bells ringing in my head.
"Do you still love her?"
"Do you love me?" I shot back, in an attempt to avoid the question. Gods, I'm a fucking coward.
"That has nothing to do with this," Alexandria hissed and for the first time since I'd entered the room, her anger was directed at me.
"It has everything to do with this and I have the right to know, considering I'm going to be marrying you in less than a moon," I said reasonably, raising an eyebrow as I dared her to object. Her midnight blue eyes flashed with rage and I flinched mentally at the argument I had unintentionally started just to avoid answering her question.
"You were the one that pushed me into this!"
"Pushed you? I didn't push you! I offered and you accepted."
"I accepted because I had no other choice."
"Excuse me? Of course you had a choice," I scowled at the red headed woman, crossing my arms over my chest. "If there was some other reason to say no, you could have."
"Do you remember that afternoon after you announced that you were going to marry me? When I followed you back to your rooms?" Alexandria said hesitantly and I frowned as I nodded. "Of course."
"Do you know what I was going to ask you, before we had that talk?" Alexandria's voice had softened, finally. I watched with interest and a slight bit of fear as she averted her midnight blue eyes from mine. "I was going to ask you to choose someone else, because I had already found someone."
"What? Why didn't you say something?" I hissed, feeling an overwhelming amount of anger and jealousy rising up in my chest. Was Alexandria seeing someone else, even though she had agreed to marry me? "I'll fucking kill them."
"It doesn't matter now," Alexandria replied, her shoulders slumping in defeat as she stared up at the stars. "She's friends with some of the peasants that were in court when you announced our wedding. I got a letter from her the next day, telling me she was sailing to Britannia to start a new life."
My anger vanished almost immediately and I felt a ball of guilt curl up in my stomach at Alexandria's dejected expression. I still couldn't help but wondering who the person had been and why Alexandria hadn't told me in the first place. Probably because she was scared that I would go after them, I thought to myself bitterly, just like I threatened to. I gently rested my hand on top of hers, feeling the cool skin underneath my fingers as her digits twitched.
"Don't. Just... if you still love her, Xena, tell me. I'll still marry you, if that's what you want. But don't make me fall in love with you if I'm never going to have what she does. I just need to know if I have a chance or if I'm always going to be living in her shadow. So, do you still love her?"
Silence. I tried to speak, my mouth opening and closing like a fish, but I couldn't. All I could do was stare helplessly at the woman standing so vulnerably before me. We stared at each other in the quiet for several minutes until finally; Alexandria dropped her head to stare down at her boots, her shoulders stiffening against the emotions she was feeling.
"That's what I thought."
It was hours later when I was finally making my way down the corridor that led to my quarters. Alexandria had left moments after our conversation had ended to return to her own room and I had just stood by the window, looking at the stars while wondering what the fuck I was doing. I thought about my discussion with my consort and wondered why I couldn't just answer her question. Why couldn't I give her the answer we both wanted? Up until this morning, I could have, but now...
Now I didn't know the answer.
Gods, I hated Gabrielle. I hated her so much for everything she put me through and what she was doing to me now. Things had been changing between Alexandria and I until the former slave came back into my life. I could feel things beginning to shift from friendship and meaningless sex to something more. And now it was being ruined, by a blonde Amazon Queen. Gods, I hated her!
What I hated even more was that I still loved her.
"Gods, you're pathetic," I mumbled to myself as I stalked past the guard, ignoring his confused expression as he closed the door behind me. I wandered over to the couch and sat down in front of the merrily crackling fire, slightly amused that my servants had left a goblet and a wineskin of port out for me. They must have noticed my mood when I left the dining hall, I thought to myself, though I don't know if getting drunk right now is the best idea.
I ignored the logical side of my brain and poured myself a glass of the deep red liquid, while also attempting to ignore the silent figure sitting in the arm chair to my left. Gabrielle shifted in her seat as I took a sip of port and I let my eyes wander over to her, letting a bit of my anger show in my pale orbs. "I don't want you here."
A small smirk played the blonde's lips as she shrugged uncaringly. "I don't want to be here either."
"Then leave," I growled, letting my voice drop to its most menacing level. I was not in the mood for the blonde woman tonight, especially after the conversation I had so recently with Alexandria. I was also still unsure how I felt about her being here in the first place.
"I take it your talk with your general didn't go so well?" Gabrielle replied as she chose to ignore the danger she was in.
"Shut up," I snarled, my fingers gripping the goblet tightly as I narrowed my eyes at the former slave. "Just go away, Gabrielle. I'll sign whatever the fuck you want on your little treaty and you can leave by sun down tomorrow."
"I can't leave," the blonde blurted, surprising both of us with her words. I raised an eyebrow at her, meeting her gaze over the rim of my goblet.
"Of course you can," I said frustrated. "It's what you're good at, Gabrielle."
"I came here for a reason," Gabrielle argued determinedly and I growled. All I wanted was a drink and my bed, not a fucking argument with my ex-lover. Especially one that had betrayed me so recently and then had left me die in a war that she was sure I would lose.
"I know, for your stupid treaty, right? I already told you I-"
"No, I didn't come here for the treaty," Gabrielle replied quietly, her voice so soft I had to strain to hear it. My brows furrowed in confusion as I stared at the slave expectantly, waiting for an explanation.
"I came here for my freedom."
It took every bit of will power I had not to spit of the mouthful of port I had been about to swallow. I turned angry eyes on the former slave, putting my cup down on the small table before me. "Gabrielle, you've been free ever since you fucking escaped. You're the one who is putting that freedom in jeopardy since you entered the city. If you want me to sign a form stating it, I fucking will. I just want you to leave."
"I- I can't," Gabrielle half spoke, half sobbed. I frowned as I finally noticed how distressed the Amazon truly was and I leant forward in my chair, pondering what could possibly be wrong with her. Was she in trouble? Did she have someone after her? Brutus, maybe?
"I'm not free," she finally whispered, tears welling up in her ocean green eyes as she finally looked up and met my gaze. "I'm still a slave, Xena, but now I just belong to someone else.
I haven't been free since the moment I saw you."Oh Gods.
To Be Continued
Return to the Academy