A Limb Too Slight

By joan the english chick
Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

This is the sequel to Learning the Ropes, which I strongly suggest you read before reading this. I cannot be held responsible for any confusion that may result from reading this story without first reading its precursor.
As in "Ropes," almost every character herein is based upon a character from the Xenaverse. There is actually only one new character here, and you should be able to figure it out pretty darn fast. :) The other characters, specifically Cassandra and Liz, are not based on Xenaverse characters. Liz is based on a friend of mine, and Cassandra is stolen, ahem borrowed, from another story that I never finished.
BTW, I wrote "Ropes" before the ep "King Con" aired, but if you want to imagine that Luther looks like Rafe, go right ahead. It's not too far from accurate.

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, and any other characters you recognize are property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance, and are used without permission. This story is property of the author, namely me, and may not be reproduced, retransmitted, or posted anywhere without my expressed permission.
Warnings: This story is rated NC-17. Do not read it if you are under 17 years of age, or if the idea of two women (or two men) in love turns you off. This story contains explicit sexual content, as well as a whole lot of four-letter words. Additionally, opinions are expressed that you may find offensive. Be warned. The author makes no apologies and takes no responsibility for your blood pressure.
Spoilers: Since this is an Uber, no spoilers are explicit. However, names from the third season of Xena: Warrior Princess will be mentioned, and some references or situations may seem familiar.
Xenite Disclaimer for Part One: No politically incorrect dogma was unduly exploited during the production of this fanfic.

   Be like a bird, who halting in her flight
   On a limb too slight, feels it give way beneath her
   Yet sings, sings, knowing she has wings,
   Yet sings, sings, knowing she has wings.


Xena knelt confidently on the bed, moving her hips so that the dildo teased at the humid entrance to her lover's depths. The heels of her hands bit deeply into the mattress on either side of Gabrielle's face, and her own harsh breathing mingled in her ears with her lover's breathy pants. Gabrielle looked up at her, eyes sluggish with passion, and her hips thrust upward to meet the invading tool; but it wasn't right. Xena sat back, heels digging into her buttocks. Gabrielle blinked up at her, a groan of dismay tearing from her lips. Xena's hands were at her own hips, pulling fluidly at straps, and then her fingers were digging underneath Gabrielle, pulling the straps tight around the redhead's waist as her lover stared up at her in bewilderment.

"Do it. Now!" Xena husked, excitement thrilling through her as she lay back and pulled Gabrielle over her. Her legs parted and the dildo came sliding inside her hotly, slickly, sending electric stabs of pleasure up her spine. She moaned with delight and sudden pain as Gabrielle increased the pace, and when Xena looked up at her lover, the lovely face framed by red-gold hair was twisted in an expression of ecstatic cruelty, the full awareness that she was moving too fast for Xena's comfort.

Xena opened her eyes; her breathing was harsh in her ears, the sheets tangled around her ankles, her hand moist between her legs. She pulled it free as if her own tender flesh would burn it; she sat up and looked around. The room was as silent and empty as it had ever been. Xena scowled. She had been awake all of thirty seconds, and already she was having a bad day.

Tossing aside the oversized T-shirt she used as a nightgown, she stood, fully naked, and stretched, taking no pleasure from it. Her eye fell on the vibrator, gleaming dully on the low table by the window, seeming to both beckon and mock her with its innocent carnal presence.

She turned her back on it, and reached for her jeans.

Luther was in the coffeehouse, waiting to meet his sister, when he spotted Gabrielle across the room. She was sitting at a table in the far corner, abstractedly tapping a pen against her closed lips as she looked over the sheaves of paper strewn across the table; but upon closer inspection, Luther could see that her eyes were unfocused. He was debating whether to go to her when she looked up, blinking slowly, rejoining the here-and-now, and noticed him.

Her eyes widened slightly as she made a conscious and visible decision to be sociable, and she beckoned him over. Leaving his jacket and briefcase at his table, he got up and went to take the chair across from her.

"Gabrielle, hi, how are you?"

"Fine, thanks, how are you?" she replied with (it seemed to him) sincere warmth. "It's been a while."

"Yes," he agreed. "I'm doing fine. Trying to prepare for finals, you know." He looked around. "Where's Xena?"

"Who knows?" she said flippantly, but her bravado was transparent. "We don't ... see much of each other lately," she explained solemnly.

"Oh," said Luther, unsure how to respond. Taking the decision off his hands, Gabrielle gestured to the paper covering the table.

"I've been working on this play I'm writing. We're deep in rehearsals. It's going to be performed next month at the Playhouse."

"Yes, I think I've seen the posters," Luther said encouragingly. "It's called Payback, right?"

"Right." She smiled delightedly at him. "I'm so excited, but it seems like forever till opening night. But at the same time, it seems like we'll never be ready that soon. You know?"

"Yeah, I know," he said, returning her smile. Her excitement was contagious. "If you-"

"Luther?" another voice interrupted. He turned to see his sister approaching.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I'll be right over," he said, pointing to the table where he had left his things. "Gabrielle, this is my sister Cassandra. Cass, this is Gabrielle O'Connor."


"Hi." The women exchanged nods, and Cassandra put her hand on his shoulder. "I'll just grab a decaf, do you want?"

"No thanks. I'll join you in a minute."

When she had gone, he turned back to Gabrielle. "Listen..." She looked at him, and he saw the tinge of unhappiness behind her eyes. "I'm no big expert on things, you know? But if you need to talk, I excel at listening."

"Thanks," Gabrielle said, and meant it. "Go talk with your sister."

As he returned to his table, she was already engrossed once again in her words. Luther sat, and found himself suddenly under heated scrutiny.

"Oh, don't give me that," he said, crossing his legs too casually. "A perfectly innocent conversation."

"Uh huh," his sister agreed blandly, stirring her coffee. "Don't slouch."

Luther straightened his back, resisting the urge to glance over his shoulder at the redheaded playwright.

Xena slid the key into the lock. The metal was warm between her fingers, its shape imprinted on her palm. She twisted it and leaned over to grab the door handle, taking a momentary pleasure in the clean jerk, the power in her shoulder as the garage door swung up. It clattered into place along the ceiling and she strode toward her motorcycle.

In the shadows of the garage, a muscular form leaned against the wall. Xena gave it a narrow-eyed look of displeasure, but said nothing as she whisked the cover off her bike and checked it over.

Not till she had thrown her leg over the cycle and settled her ass in its seat did Hank move forward and speak. And then, his words brought a frown to her face.

"Just talk to her, Xena," he said. "Quit being so goddamn macho and talk to her before you lose her for good."

Xena twisted the bike's key and kicked the starter. The motor roared to life, deafening momentarily before the ears adjusted. She turned and looked the man in the eye.

"Fuck off," she said, enunciating clearly over the motor's growl. She slammed the bike into gear and took off, leaving rubber on Hank's father's driveway. He stared after her, grimacing unhappily.

As Luther was saying goodbye to his sister on the sidewalk outside the coffeehouse, Gabrielle emerged with her backpack slung over one shoulder, and approached him.


"Hey," he replied, raising his eyebrows inquiringly. She gave him a small grin, half timid, half friendly.

"About that offer. Are you busy?"

"Oh," he said in surprise, "no, not really. You want to go back in?" He jerked his head at the coffeehouse. She shook her head.

"No, I have a rehearsal. You could tag along..." she suggested with a hopeful note in her voice. The vulnerability in her attitude made Luther profoundly uncomfortable. He felt an urge, completely counter to his feminist nature, to protect her.

"Sure," he said agreeably.

"I need to stop off at my room first." She moved off toward the river, and he followed.

"Your sister seems nice," Gabrielle said politely as they cut down a side street. "You don't look much alike."

"No, I guess I'm a changeling," he replied caustically, and was rewarded by a small snort of laughter. "Do you have siblings?"

"Oh, I have a sister," Gabrielle said distantly, staring down at her feet as they moved below her. "We talk now and then."

"Uh huh." Not knowing what else to say, Luther shut up. They walked in oddly comfortable silence between brick buildings shrouded in ivy and history. Luther spoke again as Gabrielle was pulling open the door to her dormitory building.

"So, they're rehearsing your play?" he prompted, and mentally kicked himself for being inane. Gabrielle smiled over her shoulder at him.

"Yes, it's very exciting. Seeing the characters come to life, and all. Like magic!" She glowed briefly, unlocking the door to her first-floor room.

"I'll bet. All I write is nonfiction. Mostly about politics." He followed her into the room. It was pleasantly enough furnished, but had a tentative air about it, as of a room that had been used only infrequently, but recently pressed into daily service.

"Politics can be interesting." Gabrielle was kicking off her shoes, dumping her bag on the floor, checking the answering machine. "But there's nothing like watching it all unfold on the stage, you know, your words ... someone else's breath and life...."

"I'll bet," he said again. She turned and grinned at him, enthusiasm lighting her face again.

"See, it's about this young woman who gets raped," she explained, "but when the cops catch the guy who did it, she decides not to press charges. Instead, she wants to take the guy out to dinner, talk to him, try to understand him. You know?" Luther nodded encouragingly. "So they go to dinner, they talk, and then they go their separate ways." She shrugged and grimaced slightly, sitting down on the bed. "Then she finds out she's pregnant, but she decides not to let him know."

"Oh," said Luther, frowning slightly. He moved closer, sensing her change in mood. Gabrielle made a face and twisted the edge of the pillowcase between her fingers.

"Yeah ... Anyway, Xena said it was unrealistic. She said if it were real life, the guy would pretend to be contrite and then rape her again after the dinner -- and that it would be the woman's fault, for being gullible and naive."

"I can see her thinking that," Luther agreed. In his mind he could almost hear Xena speaking the angry words, though it had been months since he'd heard her actual voice. Slowly, watching for objection, he sat down on the bed beside Gabrielle.

"But she just doesn't understand that it's an allegory," Gabrielle said earnestly, leaning forward to look him in the eye. "I mean, the woman wants to understand. She doesn't just want to dismiss the guy as beyond help, beyond hope. But in the end she doesn't get the answers she wants. She spends a whole evening with him, talking, and she never gets any closure. And neither does the audience. We don't know what's going to happen. Maybe he will come back and rape her again. Maybe in nine months she'll change her mind about having him prosecuted. Maybe the child will grow up to resent her and become a rapist himself. The point is that life is uncertain. You know? That you never really get the answers you want, wrapped up in a tidy little package." Suddenly deflating, she sat back. "Anyway, we had a pretty big fight about it. Xena just couldn't understand my artistic vision."

"I'm sorry," Luther said. She gave him a small smile.

"It's sweet of you to be so sympathetic," she sighed. "I'm sorry to dump all of this on you. Christ!" The epithet sounded strange on her lips. "It must all sound so sordid."

"No, not at all," Luther assured her. "Really, I find it very interesting. And anyway, you seemed to need to talk."

"I did," she agreed, sighing. "I...." But she changed her mind, and whatever she had started to say became instead "Thanks."

"You're welcome," he said uncomfortably. His hands were sweaty, resting nervously on his thighs. Gabrielle looked up suddenly, meeting his eyes, and he recoiled, blinking at the intensity in her expression.

"What time did you say the rehearsal was?" he asked to deflect the tension. She took in a quick breath.

"Oh - we should get going." She jumped up, pushing her feet into a different pair of shoes, reaching for a sweater, pulling books out of her bag and grabbing other books from the desk. She stuffed everything into her bag as they exited the room. "I hope you won't be too bored," she said, digging out her keys and pausing to lock the door. "We go over everything a zillion times, you know, to make sure it's all exactly right."

"Well, if you hear me snoring, just wake me when it's over," he joked. Gabrielle laughed.

"Hey, your confidence in my writing is appalling."

He just grinned, pleased to see that she seemed to have cheered up.

Xena rode north, trying not to think about the dream as she sliced her bike through the city streets, but it was futile. The image of Gabrielle's face twisted in sadistic enjoyment was etched on her mental eye, and her body still thrilled at the imagined sensations. She found herself wishing she hadn't taken that psychology class in high school. "Freud can go fuck himself," she muttered to herself under the growl of her bike's motor. The idea appealed to her, and she allowed herself to be distracted.

But as she took the curve toward Route 93, another gruff voice echoed in her ears, words of ancient wisdom that made her scowl. 'Quit being so goddamn macho.' Yeah. That was her problem. Too goddamn macho. Her frown deepened as she realized how perilously close she had come to allowing herself to wallow.

"Fuckin' bastard!" she shouted at a yuppie in an Audi who cut her off at the on-ramp. She twisted the handlebar and her bike surged forward like the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Luther had spent a certain amount of his youth in theatres, so the scene was relatively familiar to him: the controlled chaos of a rehearsal about to begin, with opening night fast approaching. The smells of sawdust, sweat, makeup and damp leather permeated the poorly-lit area between the main entrance and the stage. The rows of seats lay mostly empty and quiescent, inviting the eye to picture them filled with appreciative audience. Techies scurried to and fro, calling to each other in their arcane dialect.

"Gabrielle! We need to discuss the -- No, not there, over there!" A short round woman hurried up to Gabrielle, shouting orders over her shoulder. She put a hand on Gabrielle's arm. "We reeeeeally need to discuss the lighting for the telephone scene, in one second after I hang these last gels, can you hang on?"

"Sure, no problem, Liz," Gabrielle agreed. The other woman rushed off, and Gabrielle dumped her stuff on a seat.

"We're just about to-"

"Gabrielle!" Light pattering footsteps, and another woman appeared from backstage. Standing on the stage, she shaded her eyes with one hand and peered into the audience. Spying Gabrielle, she made for the steps that led down.

"Gabri-ELLE, omigod," she twittered as she approached. "Like, you totally used the herbal shampoo I gave you! Look at your awesome shine!" She fluffed Gabrielle's hair delightedly. The playwright smiled and nodded tolerantly.

"Yes, thank you, Amanda. It's good stuff."

"The best, babe!" She made a show of noticing Luther for the first time. "Whoa, like, what have we here?" She nudged Gabrielle in the arm and winked. "I so didn't know you did boys!"

Gabrielle rolled her eyes slightly, but she was smiling. "Amanda, this is Luther. He's a friend of mine and Xena's. Amanda plays the lead role," she explained to him.

"Pleased to meet you." Luther was mesmerized. Amanda's golden ringlets cascaded to her shoulders, reflecting the dim house lighting in mini-rainbows. Her low-cut blouse, a frilly pink thing, exposed more cleavage than he had ever seen outside of an airbrushed magazine, and underneath that, her long shapely legs made his gut tighten. He thought he might pass out from physical contact with this vision of loveliness, but he took her proffered hand and recklessly brought it to his lips. She giggled enticingly.

"Hey, he's cute. Let me know when you're, like, done with him, okay?" She nudged Gabrielle again, and giggled again, to show she was joking ... maybe. Then she grabbed Gabrielle's wrist and stared at her watch.

"Whoa, gotta bail! See you in ten!" She turned and floated off, calling, "Way, like who's seen my makeup kit?"

Gabrielle turned to Luther, noticing his dry mouth and slightly glazed eyes. "Oh, don't worry," she said dismissively. "All men have that reaction to Amanda."

"She's...." He shook his head, at a loss for words.

"I know, I know. You should have seen it last year when she played Diana in Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Thespis,'" Gabrielle commented, rolling her eyes again. "There wasn't a man in the audience without a hard-on."

"Um, I can see that," he replied, wetting his lips. "Can I sit here?"

"Oh, sure, sit wherever," Gabrielle said amiably, waving a hand at the empty seats. "We'll be getting going any minute now."

The short woman in charge of lighting returned a moment later, and Gabrielle was spirited away. Luther sat quietly in the dim theatre, watching techies haul furniture onto the stage while two men in police uniforms went over their lines.

The rehearsal got underway soon enough, and the combination of Gabrielle's frequent interruptions and the dazzling sight of Amanda under all those lights was enough to keep Luther interested. It had been about half an hour when he sensed movement beside him in the darkness, and turned to see Ian sliding into the next seat.

"Long time," the short blond commented tersely by way of greeting, and jerked his head toward Gabrielle, who was in the midst of demonstrating how she wanted a line spoken. "How's she?"

"I don't know," Luther said, momentarily taken aback by the flood of sensory memory that heated his skin. He was glad for the camouflage of the lowered lighting. "She, um-" He cleared his throat and tried again. "She seems to be holding up. She puts up a good facade."

"Yeah, she's great at that," Ian agreed with a small scowl. "Did she tell you anything? About what happened?"

"A little." Luther looked over at the redhead again; she was quiet now, watching the action unfold onstage. He looked back at Ian. "You're really worried, huh?"

Ian shrugged heavily. "Well, they're both miserable, and it sucks," he replied. Luther mirrored his scowl, and both fell silent.

When the rehearsal was over, most of the participants headed over to the Border Cafe for a late dinner and drinks. Gabrielle invited Luther along, but he felt too much of an outsider amongst the thespians, so he begged off. Ian, who was joining the party, stopped him as he was heading back toward his dorm.

"Hey, don't go too far, okay?"

"What do you mean?" Luther asked, looking down at the shorter man and resisting another uncomfortable flash of memory.

"If Gabrielle confided in you once, she might want to do it again. Just don't disappear, in case she needs to talk." Ian's manner was almost brusque; there was a hint of intensity behind his words that made Luther wonder what else was going on.

"I'm not going anywhere. I have finals just like everyone else," he said. Ian seemed to accept this; he nodded and turned away.

"Good, see you around then," he tossed over his shoulder, and they parted ways.

Author's Note: "amanda" is the participial or gerundive form of the Latin verb "amo," and therefore its literal translation is "loving," or less literally "one who loves/is loved."

-->Go to next part
topTop of this page
<----Back to Xena writings page
homeBack to EnglishChick.com


joan the english chick
Last updated 8 June 1998