The Best Gift 3
The Gift of Family
Susan A. Rice
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Eve, Lila, Sara, and Senticles are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. This is just a work of fan fiction and not intended to infringe on the copyright of "Xena: Warrior Princess".
The story is mine. December 25, 2001
Subtext: More like Main Text. If you are under 18 or this sort of thing is not legal in your area, I'm sorry, but I would suggest other reading material. Sorry Nicole, maybe when you're older!
Author's notes: This story takes place 1-2 years after the Best Gift 2 and almost one year after FIN. You don't have to read it to understand and enjoy this one. A special thank you to my friends and Beta Readers for this one. Thanks Hawke and Crystal!
I'd love to hearing from you. Please feel free to send me your comments good or bad. firstname.lastname@example.org
It's Solstice eve and I'm finally back where I started thirty-three years ago. I know it as seven years, but so much has changed in my life since then. Looking up at the moon, I can't help but remember that very first night I followed her. Gods, was I ever so young then. I feel myself smiling as I remember those first few weeks. I was so afraid she was going to send me home. Little did I know she wanted my company as much as I wanted hers.
I miss you, Xena, I said to the cold night. You gave me some much and I didn't give half as much as you did. You took this little naïve girl and taught her how to be a strong woman, but right now, I don't want to be strong. I just want to be in your arms again.
I stopped speaking my thoughts aloud because I could feel the hitch in my voice. The last year had been hard but I've managed to survive on my own, but I would have rather have spent it with my love.
I felt the wind picking up and a chill ran down my spine. I looked back at the farmstead, now dark. When I arrived here this afternoon, I discovered one final sorrow; my sister Lila had finally passed. There was actually a note from Sara on the table telling me that she went peacefully in her sleep after asking for me the night before. That was all there was, I don't even know where Sara is now.
The best gift for me has always been the gift of family, and on this day I find it's something I'm sorely lacking. I turned away from my childhood home and looked again at the stars and moon.
Softly I started telling a story. I grinned thinking about how proud my warrior would be since it started as, I sing the song of a village girl who went seeking adventure
I told that story to no one, as I was alone and quite content to just tell it as I pleased. I told of the youth who ran away with the Warrior Princess, asking her to teach me all that she knew. I never dreamed that she would teach me about love. I wanted to be a great warrior and help people too.
I spoke of the discoveries and triumphs. I talked about the tragedies. I remembered the times that I lost her early on in our travels and how I felt. I told the whole story for all the world to hear, never leaving out the bad, but always showing the good, too. I knew the tears started but I continued to talk aloud in a strong voice. This was my story, no, this was our story and it needed to be voiced.
Through my tears I smiled as I talked about that first Solstice we spent together. That lamb meant more to mean then you'll ever know, love. I can still see all the feathers floating down and around as we did battle with all the toys. I grinned as I thought about how we were little solders on that day using what ever came to hand. We were the toy solders, and one day I will write another story about how they saved Solstice. For now, I continue with my tale.
Oh how totally trusting I was when I unknowingly became an Amazon Princess. I thought you were going to choke when they told you. Your eyes showed their shock, but you jumped right in and helped me out. Have I ever thanked you for that? I'm so happy you were there for me.
As time went on, you continued to train me yet you never realized you were doing it. You taught me so much. Tracking, climbing, riding... I'm still not a fan of that one, you know. I'm much better at it, but I still don't like the height thing.
I talked about our love, our fights, and our moments. I kept on going until I finally heard the rasping in my voice. I stopped for a moment to ponder my experiences and travels with Xena, the Warrior Princess. Just thinking about all the different lands I've had the chance to see. The people I've met. Oh, and the food that I've eaten.
I quietly sat and pondered all the wonders I've experienced and still can't believe I've made it this far. I've had a gifted life and you gave me that gift.
Suddenly, I sensed movement behind me. I closed my eyes, annoyed at being interrupted when all I want to do was remember you. I heard them; they're off to the left and behind me. I didn't perceive any danger. I steadied my breathing and waited for them to make the first move.
I turned toward the rough voice that has just called to me and couldn't believe what I was seeing. There before me was Senticles.
I rubbed my eyes a few times thinking that I have finally lost it. How could this sweet old man still be alive after all this time? It's just not possible. Then I paused in my thoughts and realized folks have said the same about me too.
I smiled at the best maker of toys in all of Greece, and gave him a hug, "Senticles, what are you doing all the way out here in Poteidaia?"
He smiled at me and I could see the twinkle in his eyes. I visit all the known world these days trying to spread joy to all that I can.
I couldn't help but return the smile and gestured to my old home. Come, let's go inside. I'll make a fire and something warm to eat and drink.
We were each quiet as I prepared our meal. I had so many different thoughts running through my head and from the looks of him, I could see that he wanted to tell me something. It was a simple faire but hearty and tasty.
Senticles seemed to enjoy the meal, asking for seconds. I smiled as I handed him his second bowl.
Finally sated, we both enjoyed a cup of tea as we gazed at the fire.
Gabrielle, I remember a much more talkative young woman when last we met. And let me say, that with the exception of the hair, I'd say you haven't aged much in all this time. How ever did you manage that?
I smiled at Senticles and shrugged, Would you believe I fell asleep for 25 years?
The laugh that escaped my friend shook his belly. I could hear the true joy that lived within the toy maker.
How about you? How is it you have not aged a day since we slid down the chimney together? I asked.
The twinkle in his eyes never left as he said, I'm too young in here, he pointed at his chest, for at heart, I will never be an old man, but a youth in my prime. I can sense the wonders all around me. I received a very special gift from a young girl from Poteidaia. I never really understood what a wonderful gift I was presented to me at first, but through the years, I've come to know such a great joy and love of life. Thank you.
I could feel the blush rising, You're welcome.
Another silence descended and we stared into the fire. My thoughts were once again drifting back to happier times with my family. I miss you, Xena.
As if sensing my thoughts, Senticles asked, Gabrielle, if you could change something in your life, what would that be?
I honestly thought about that a few times in the past and always came up with the same answer. I whispered, Nothing.
Nothing, child? There are few who would say that. Why? he asked.
If I changed any one thing, it would affect lots of other things that have happened in my life. Each would have a ripple effect like a drop in the bucket. This could later change other things, sometimes for the better or worst. Not only would I be questioning my decision but what of the lessons I had learn from the mistake?
Gabrielle, you have always been wise beyond your years.
What is the best gift you ever received for the holidays?
I sighed sadly, Family.
Is that what you want, a family? he asked.
I looked down at my hands and spoke, I've always thought of my family as the best gift there was. My mother taught me how to cook and tried to teach me how to sew. Father taught me how to listen to the birds and to dream. He was not always happy with some of my dreams, but he let me have them. Lila was always there for me. We did so much together and if one or the other got hurt we would comfort one another. I may have been smaller in size, but Lila always followed her big sister around.
I paused then looked up at Senticles. That was the family I was born to, but then there was the family that I made. Among that family were Cyrene, the Amazons, Joxer, and others. I came away with something from each of them, but Xena was the most important part of that family. She gave to me more than I can begin to express and I couldn't imagine a more precious gift then her love.
Tears started running down my cheeks, I miss them all.
The next thing I knew, Senticles was rocking me back and forth as I cried. After a while, I calmed down and was able to look up at this wonderful old man. Thank you.
His eyebrow rose and it brought back a memory of Xena. Without thinking, I gave him a kiss on the cheek and just held on to him for a bit. I knew it was silly, but I felt like a little girl in her grandfather's arms at that moment. I was safe and I could feel the love that was within my very special friend.
Gabrielle, I can't give them all back to you, but if you had to choose, who would it be?
I looked up into his face and thought about it. As much as I might like to see mother or father again, I couldn't separate them from each other. That would be wrong of me. For that same reason, I could not ask for Lila since she has finally rejoined her husband.
Well, then, that leaves Xena.
No, I can't ask for that either. How selfish would I be if I took Xena over thousands of other souls. I'm not saying I wouldn't want her back; I do, very much, but if there's one thing that I've always tried to live by, it was to work for the greater good.
Gabrielle, he said, you have always worked for the greater good. In your heart there is so much goodness and giving. You would and have given your own life for others. If it was a choice between you and another, you always chose the other. That is a very rare thing. You are a very rare gift.
I smiled my gratitude and hugged him again. Thank you.
The rest of our time was spent talking about the children from the orphanage. Well, I still thought of them as children when in fact they were all adults with children of their own. I was amazed that he kept in touch with all of them. He told me stories about many of the children he has met over the years and it brought back many warm childhood memories.
I couldn't help myself, as I started yawning. Senticles smiled at me and stood up to take his leave.
Gabrielle, do you have a simple Solstice wish that this old man might be able to grant you?
I smiled, You have any more of those little lambs?
He chuckled, Hmm, I'll have to send that special delivery. You plan on being here for a few days?
Yes, just a few. Then I hear they could use some help south and west of here.
I'm sure I can get the messenger to deliver it by then.
With one last hung, he walked out of the door and into the night.
I curled up in front of the fire and remembered the last Solstice spent here. Although happy memories, they're bittersweet because you aren't here. My eyes finally grew too heavy and sleep finally found me this Solstice eve.
After all this time, I'm still not a morning person and right now, I really don't want to wake up either. My dreams last night were a precious gift. Xena gave me my lamb. It was different than I remembered it, but it made me feel warm and secure.
I was sleeping by the fireplace and the embers had burned down low. I heard the little bleating of my lamb as she pulled the tail. I smiled and held out my hand to her and she extended the lamb to me. I bypassed the lamb and reached for her and in my dreams my soul was once again whole.
I'll admit it, it was one of the most erotic dreams I've had in a long time but through it all, I couldn't help but feel the love that we both shared. Even now, I can still feel her loving embrace and the faint scents of lavender and leather. Oh, I so don't want to open my eyes and wake up; this dream's wonderful.
Without realizing it, I drifted further into a deep sleep.
I felt the sun coming in through the windows and knew it was quite late. Still, I didn't want to open my eyes.
I am such a slacker! I exclaimed.
Well, everyone is entitled to a day off once in a while, Gabrielle.
I smiled, I'm still dreaming.
Suddenly, I have some very warm lips caressing the shell of my ear and my eyes fly open. I turn and see the two pools of blue looking back at me. Tentatively, I reached out to touch her face. My fingers were captured within her mouth and slowly she caressed them with her tongue. Tears immediately welled in my eyes.
Shh, I gotcha, she said as she pulled me closer and held me tight.
As much as I wanted the embrace, I wanted to look more. I pushed back and this time when I extended my hand, she let me explore. How?
I don't know, Gabrielle. All I know is that Senticles must have passed too. He handed me a lamb and told me that I needed to return that which wasn't mine. When I looked at it, I knew he meant I needed to return the lamb to you. I came last night and when I tried to wake you, you just grabbed me.
I can feel the blush all over my body and realize I am also very naked. Okay, so, that was no ordinary erotic dream.
I don't know how long she'd be here but I knew I needed to make every minute count. With a Whoop! and I love you!, I started smothering her in kisses.
Xena returned the sentiment and together we made love.
Marks passed and I was content laying in her arms. Gods, how I've missed this, just cuddling close with you. I don't want you to leave.
Gabrielle, I'm always here. After all, you own me body and soul.
I started laughing with all the joy I was feeling and then a thought struck me. I turned and hovered over her. Xena, this is the second time you gave me a lamb for Solstice but I don't have anything for you.
She smiled and said, Gabrielle, you are a gift to me. You're my family and you taught me a long time ago that family is the best gift. If you gave me nothing but your love, I would be happy to just live out the rest of my life here in your arms.
I couldn't help the tears that ran down my face. I leaned in and kissed my love, my family, and my greatest gift.
It's not the end, but a new beginning. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
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