Old Habits
by hobbes

The story belongs to me, the character belong to MCA/Universal

Xena watched in amusement as Gabrielle poked the ground with her staff. Her
compulsion to kill the 'little critters' was just too funny. Gabrielle had a murderous gleam in her eyes while she pounded every possible bug in existence. Finally satisfied, she sat under the tree and sighed. It had been a hard trek up the mountainside, and she was bone tired.

Gabrielle caught the look in her friend's eyes and gave her a dainty look of annoyance.
"What?!", she asked.

"Nothing...nothing at all.", she said while attempting to keep a straight face. She turned away and her features broke out in a silly smirk. She walked over to Argo with the pretense of checking her gear. She could feel Gabrielle's glare on her back. She refused to turn around until the feeling stopped. She grabbed the saddlebag with the foodstuff and went over to Gabrielle. She handed over some bread and fruit to appease her.

"Nice try. But it's not going to work you know.", Gabrielle said.

"What are you talking about?", Xena said with pretended innocence.

"You're laughing at me again. It's so annoying! I feel like I'm a court jester or something.", she said with a pout.

Xena pursed her lips, trying not to laugh at the look, but failed miserably. She snickered then laughed out loud. Gabrielle slapped her none too gently on the arm.

"Will you stop that! I swear I'm gonna...", she said while waving a fist.

Xena held up her hands in surrender. "OK, I give, I give.", she smiled brightly at her friend, "and it's not that I'm exactly laughing *at* you, it's that you're so...cute when you do certain things."

"Cute! Xena, your not helping my mood any. What is so *cute* about killing bugs? Sometimes I wonder about you're grasp of reality!"

"Come on! Can't I have my opinions? You give me yours often enough. Turnabout is fair play. Besides, with a baby face like yours, you should be used to 'cute' remarks."

"I'm used to them, but it doesn't mean I like them.I'm a grown woman. When will I be taken seriously?", she said with a look of sadness. Xena immediately lost her smile.

"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I *do* take you seriously. Really. But you bring a youthful joy
into my day, and sometimes I forget. I don't intend to hurt your feeling. Ok? "

"Ok. But next time ...", she warned with a grin.

Part Two

"Who's bright idea was this to head for the mountains anyway?", asked Gabrielle.

"It was yours actually."

"Oh! It was, wasn't it? I think I was an idiot. Next time, let's go to a nice pleasant lowland area.", she griped., "My legs feel like they're going to fall off from the pain."

"I offered to let you ride Argo for awhile. You don't have to walk the whole time.", Xena reminded.

"Xena, she nipped me the last time I patted her. She hates me."

"No she doesn't. She was just telling you to leave her last apple alone.", she said with a crooked grin.

"Hmmph. I'm still not going to ride on her."

"OK, but don't blame me when you wake up feeling crippled in the morning.


Gabrielle raised her body with agonizing slowness. Every muscle in her body was stiff and sore. Xena was right, and now it was too late. She tried to stifle a groan as she rose, but it slipped out between clenched teeth.

"Told you so", Xena said from behind her. Gabrielle wanted to kick her, but knew it would hurt her more than Xena at this moment. She limped up to the fire and gingerly sat down to help herself to some tea and meat-stuffed bread. She gave Xena a stern 'Don't push it' look and bit into her food. She was enjoying her food when she noticed Xena's lips in a tight line., her eyes sparkling with mirth.

"On for the love of Zeus! What now?", she snapped.

Xena lost it. She broke out into uncontrollable laughter and just lost it. Gabrielle stared at her soon to be dead friend and put down her food. She carefully got up and walked over to her. Xena had tears running down her face. She saw Gabrielle walking towards her and
tried to back away while trying to control herself.

"Now, Gabrielle! I'm sorry! Really, it's just that...", she stopped, realizing an explanation would only make it worse.

"That I'm being *cute* again!", she said with contempt.

"Yes...NO!..Gabrielle, ", she grabbed her friend's arm before she could move away in anger, "Gabrielle. I mean it. I'm really sorry!', her voice sincere.

Xena's regret turned even worse when she saw tears brimming in her eyes. Until now, she hadn't known how this affected her.She stood and pulled Gabrielle into a hug.

"I *am* sorry. I never thought my teasing would bother you. You've always taken it so well--that I got in the habit...I don't know what to say, except I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?" Gabrielle's anger stiffened body relaxed, and she leaned into the hug. She sniffled pitifully.

"Yes. But don't do it again anytime soon. I don't think I can take it".

Part Three

Gabrielle took Xena's advice and walked for the first several hours. Riding now would only make her stiffness worse. She had to walk out her sore muscles first. Every step had been agony, her legs feeling like they were engulfed in flames, but now seemed to be loosening up. Maybe she could ride soon. She glanced up at her friend and tapped a leather-clad leg.

"Xena? Can I ride now, please?"

Xena stopped Argo and held out her arm for support. Gabrielle took it thankfully and
pulled herself up behind her. She sighed in relief as she put her arms around her tall friend's waist..

"My poor body thanks you, Xena.", she said in self-mocking tone, "And don't you dare say 'I told you so' again!" She felt muscles tighten under her hands. Xena was trying not to laugh again.

"I wouldn't think of it, Gabrielle. ", she said with a dry tone, with a smile tugging at her lips.

"Uh huh. Don't think I can't feel that silly grin on your face--I know it's there.", the smile disappeared quickly, " I know I said I liked this new playfulness in you, but it's getting out of hand. You went from one extreme to the other. You need to find a happy medium, Xena.", Gabrielle admonished.

Xena made no comment, unsure of what to say. She was right of course. She herself was surprised by her own behavior. She felt as though she had been released into the freedom of the outdoors after being locked up in a small room for a long time. She wanted to rejoice in her new freedom, but it has hurt her friend's feelings too often. All she could do was try and control it.


"Xena, can I ask a question?"

That awful question was a thing of doom. Xena braced herself and said yes with fear.

"You said alot of habits I had were cute. Like what?"

*Why does she do this to us?*, Xena wondered.

"Gabrielle...you'll only get angry again. Drop the subject.", she ordered.

"Coward.", she said with daring. Xena tensed and was tempted to push her small friend off her horse. Instead, she lifted a hand to swat her on the leg.

"Ouch! I already feel like I was run over by a herd of centaurs without you abusing me. Now--tell me or else.", she warned.

"Or else what? You're hardly in the condition to take make any threats.", she said with humor in her voice.

"Very funny. You know, you have alot of habits too, Xena. Very_annoying_habits."

Xena stopped Argo and look back over her shoulder at the blond woman behind her.

"Like what?"

*Oho! I got her now!*, Gabrielle thought.

"Oh....like this compulsion to sharpen you sword, or play with the knots on your bags. You can't seem to keep your hands still. You have alot of excess energy it seems.*Then*
you have this quirky little way of rolling your eyes when you try not to laugh--don't deny it. I've seen that look more than once! And then..."

"That's quite enough. I get your point. Alright, you wanted examples. How's this? You
eat everything like it's the last meal you're ever going to get. You coo over children and animals. You fall in love with every boy that looks your way.You..."

"Do not.", she denied.

"Do to."

"Xena! I do not fall in love with every boy. I just enjoy being with them. At least they
appreciate me for what I am."

"I appreciate you, Gabrielle."

"Yeah, sure."

"I do! You're a great cook.", she said tongue in cheek.

"Thanks a heap.Your kind words warm me.", she said sarcasm.

Xena heard the hurt in her voice. She regretted her sassy remark, but didn't think Gabrielle was in the mood for another apology. She kept silent.

Meanwhile, the bard put her imagination to work. She would teach her warrior friend a lesson in respect.


Part Four

They neared a large village around mid-day, and Gabrielle jumped off the horse. Time
to begin her plan.

"What's wrong? There doesn't seem to be anything dangerous going on.There was no need to jump off like that."

"Nothing is wrong. I just wanted off before we got there is all", Gabrielle said in a monotone. Xena gave her an odd look, but gave no further comment. They continued down the road.

Gabrielle began hanging back, following in a meek fashion. Xena noticed she was no longer beside her and turned to look at her. She raised an eyebrow and gave her a strange look. She stopped near the market area and dismounted. She led Argo to a post and tied her off. She turned to Gabrielle who stood with her head down, not meeting her eyes.


"Yes?", she said in a quiet voice.

Xena cocked her head and tried to figure out what was going on. She was at a loss. Her friend was acting strange--even for her.

"We need to pick up some supplies before we go any further."

"Yes, Xena."

Xena decided she wouldn't ask again. She'd wait until later.She headed for the stalls and
looked over what was available. Gabrielle followed quietly with her eyes down. The warrior picked up a container of vegetables and showed them to her.

"These look Okay to you?"

"I'm sure whatever you choose will be acceptable my warrior.", Gabrielle said in a servile tone.

Xena opened her mouth to ask what was wrong again, and reached for Gabrielle's shoulder.Gabrielle winced and pulled away.Xena withdrew her hand in confusion.

"Do you need any help?", a man asked.

The man behind the stall stared blandly at the two women, then asked if they wanted to buy his wares. Xena asked for the amount and didn't quiver over the price. She paid him
and started to reach for the package when Gabrielle leaped at them and picked them up.

"I'll carry them, warrior. Don't bother.", Gabrielle gushed.

Xena grabbed Gabrielle with a painful jerk, causing her to gasp. Xena pulled her away from the stall and bent down close to her.

"What is the matter with you!", she hissed in her ear.

"What could possibly be the matter?", Gabrielle said with a vacant look on her face.

"Having problems with your slave, my lady?", a passing man asked, "If so, I'd suggest taking her behind one of the building to punish her. We don't care for the sight of beatings around here."

Xena was about to correct him when Gabrielle interrupted.

"Please! I won't do it again, warrior. Have mercy!" The man walked away, shaking his head. Xena took the man's suggestion and pulled her small friend behind a building.

"What has gotten into you?!! Why are you acting like some slave girl? I'm tempted to beat you like that man said."

"What do you care? I'm just a good cook, remember? Sometimes you show me all he respect that you would that of a slave--so why not act the part?", Gabrielle saw the hurt and regret on her friend's face.All of a sudden, her anger was gone.

"I'm sorry, Xena. I was angry and wanted to take it out on you. I know you try, but sometimes I get so frustrated! You know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do.I guess all my teasing has pushed you too far. I get carried away sometimes and forget you are an adult. I haven't been treating you like one, and I'm sorry. Truce?", Xena asked.

"Truce. Now--let's get something to eat before I wither away into nothing.", she teased her tall friend. Xena displayed a huge smile and put her arm around Gabrielle's shoulders
and headed for the tavern.


Part Five

They sat down at a table near the back of the room out of habit. Xena liked to watch what was going on around her. Gabrielle smiled to herself.

"What's so funny?", she asked gently.

"Old habits are hard to break. Look at us. We always sit towards the back. Every time. No exceptions.", she commented.

Xena look around with an amused look on her face. She grinned at Gabrielle, but
didn't answer. They ordered a meal and wine from the tavern owner and sat back in
silence, not sure what to say. they kept having these silly squabbles, and didn't
want to start another too soon. Finally, Gabrielle couldn't take the silence any longer.

"Let's talk about it."

"At least you didn't ask if you could ask a question this time.", Xena replied.

"What does that mean?", Gabrielle said while leaning forward.

"Every time you ask, I want to run and hide. I know I said not to worry about asking, but lately I've come to regret those words. We have a fight on our hands every time."

"Yes, we usually do, but--- you have to admit we get something accomplished when we do. We usually walk away from our arguments with a better understanding of each other.

Xena's grin started at one corner and spread across her face into a girlish smile that always warmed Gabrielle's heart. She knew she was forgiven now. They talked for awhile about small subjects, mutually avoiding any soul-searching conversation.


They walked out of the tavern and once again came across the man who made the slave comment. He stared at Gabrielle, looking for signs of abuse.Seeing none, he looked at the warrior woman.

"Desided not to beat her, huh? Well, she looks docile enough. Care to sell her? I
could always use another pretty sla...", his lewd comment was abruptly stopped by a hand around the throat.

"She's_not_my_slave. She's my friend, and just happens to have a wicked sense of
humor. She was pulling our legs. So keep you filthy mouth closed before I do it for you permanently.", she warned. She released him and he took off running.

"I guess our welcome in this town is over. Maybe we should move on.", Gabrielle suggested.

"Yep. And by the way, If you ever do that to me again...", implying a threat.

"I know. I promise I won't get even with you the same way again.", she pledged with her own hint of a threat. Xena looked down at her with a new respect. She had no doubts she would do as she promised.


Part Six

"Let's forget the mountain route. How about heading downhill?", Gabrielle said with weariness.


"OK? That's it? No arguments?", said a shocked Bard.

"Nope. I've had enough fighting to last me a lifetime. Pick a direction."

Gabrielle stood there opened mouthed, unable to believe her ears.Xena raised an eyebrow and prompted her friend. She turned with a new direction and headed down.


Xena woke up in a cold sweat, her nightmare still lingering in her mind. Her heart was pounding so hard, it threatened to burst from her chest.She pushed off her covers and sat up and buried her face into her hands.

"Xena? Are you alright?", Gabrielle's sleepy and concerned voice came from across the fire.

"Yeah. Just another bad dream. Go back to sleep.", she told her.

"Do you want to talk about it?", her friend asked.

"Not right now. Maybe later."

"Alright.", she said, her voice already drifting off into sleep.

*Slave* she thought. Gabrielle chose the wrong kind of revenge. It brought back the memories of not long ago. When Gabrielle was a slave, and Lyceus was still alive.


"You've been quiet today, Xena. Is anything wrong? Is it the nightmare from last night?", She asked.

"Gabrielle, I'm not sure I can talk about it. The nightmare was about something I never told you about. I'm not sure whether or not I can make you understand without hurting you."

"Is this about your warlord days?", she enquired.

"No. About something that happened recently.", she admitted.

"Was it during one of your trips you took alone? I know sometimes you leave out the parts that may upset me. It's that protective side of you.", she lightly teased.

"No. You were with me at the time--sorta.", Xena told her.

"Sorta? That doesn't make much sense. How about expanding this little explaination a little?"

" I don't know if I want to explain it to you!", she grabbed her friend as she turned away hurt, "Gabrielle. Listen to me. It's nothing to do with sharing with you. It's about
my ability to tell you without hurting you."

"It can't hurt anymore than your silence. Just tell me.", she pleaded.

Xena stared into her eyes for long moments, guaging the depth of her friend's green eyes. They truly were the portal to the soul.She nodded wearily and led Argo to a stand of trees.


Part Seven

They sat down on a grassy area, the sunshine dappled by the trees. Xena pulled grass out by the roots and fiddled with them, twisting the blades in her fingers.
Gabrielle placed her hand on top of hers, stopping the restless fingers. She took Xena's hands in hers and looked at her with pleading eyes.

Xena took a deep breath and started.

"Do you remember when we went to the temple of the Fates to mourn the anniversary of my brother's death?", at Gabrielle's nod, she continued, " Do you remember that boy I sent away who left his token behind?", another nod, " That's not the way it really happened the first time."

Gabrielle peered at her with confusion. "The first time. That doesn't make any sense, Xena!"

"I know it. I'm not a bard for Zeus' sake.Give me time to put my thoughts together!", she snapped.

"I'm sorry.", she said quietly.

"No! I'm sorry. It's just..."

"I know. Take your time.", Gabrielle said while giving her hands a gentle squeeze.

"The Fates changed things in reward for saving their temple. I originally killed that boy instead of knocking him off his feet. His mask fell away, and you came to my side and said he was just a boy. I felt such self-loathing, I ran into the temple. I came face to face with the three Fates. They wanted ro reward me, but that was the last thing I wanted. I told them I wanted that boy's life back and that I wished I never took up the sword in the first place. Suddenly, I was in a peasants dress in a field and Lyceus was
calling out my name."

"Your brother. Oh Xena! That had to be a huge shock for you. He's been dead for so many years, then come face to face to him. "Did they send you back into the past, or
what?", she asked needing details.

"No. I was present day. They changed my past so that I never rallied to fight off Cortese. We hid in the hills and watched our village be burned to the ground. I
never got the chance to loose my blood innocence. My brother and I were running an inn."

"An Inn? I'm having trouble seeing that. It's so tame.", Gabrielle commented.

Xena smiled at the memory, agreeing secretly with her. She continued.

"The hard part was that Mother had died from the loss of our village. I had lost both
her and you with the change.We had never met in the past." A look of extreme pain came to her face, the pain of what had happened and the pain that was to come from this tale. Gabrielle brushed the hair from her face and tried to give her the strenghth
to carry on.

"It's alright. I'm here with you now." Xena placed a hand on the one touching her face and held it there. She gave her dearest friend a weak smile.

"But I met you shortly after I arrived in that altered past. Gabrielle...you were a slave that belong to Mezentius. "

"Because you hadn't become a warlord, and later a fighter for justice, you weren't there to save out village from the slavers.", she said with a steady voice.

Tears came to Xena's eyes once more. She stifled a sob, and tried to get hold of her runaway emotions. Gabrielle sat silently, giving her the breathing space she needed.

"Why don't you lay down and rest a while? You can finish this later. I think were going to stay here for the night. It's a nice spot. I'll set up camp.", Gabrielle told her
with concern. She stood and stroked Xena's hair before she headed for the horse.


Part Eight

Gabrielle watched Xena as she slept. She didn't often get the chance to do so, except when she was ill or injured. The strain of controlling her emotions was absent in her sleep, leaving her with a child-like look on her face. The nurturing side of Gabrielle was touched by the sight. She squashed the impulse to cover her with a blanket, knowing Xena didn't feel the cold like she did. She returned to the fire to finish their evening meal.

She stirred the vegetable soup she had prepared, regreting they didn't have any meat to add to it. She wasn't very good at catching game, and was too reluctant to leave Xena alone. She cut cheese and bread and got up to wake Xena.

She spoke her name quietly at first, not wanting to startle her. She repeated her name a little louder and waited. No response. She slowly placed a hand on her arm and gave it a gentle shake. Xena jumped and looked up at her.

"I thought maybe you'd like to join me for dinner. You've slept for most of the afternoon.", she said softly. Xena got up without a word and went to the fire.She sat
down and took the bowl her friend handed her.She ate silently, her eyes haunted.

"Dreaming again?", Gabrielle asked.

"That's scarry.", Xena finally spoke.

"What's scarry?", she asked puzzled by the cryptic remark.

"The way you can read my thoughts sometimes.", she said with rueful grin.

"I don't read your mind. If I did, we wouldn't fight as often."


"So, are you ready to continue?", Gabrielle asked, not entirely with patience. She hated to be left hanging.

"Where was I?", Xena asked.

"You couldn't save me from slavery.Xena, I want to apologize. Until you started
this story, I didn't realize how my little revenge would hurt you. My acting the part of a slavegirl must have brought all this back for you. I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it. You didn't know.", she said with a soft smile, "Well, I tried to buy you of course, but they didn't want to let you go. Mezentius had a *fondness* for
you.", she said with uneasiness.

"You mean I was a bedwarmer for him.", said Gabrielle.

"Where did you pick up that word? I'm surprised you know such a word."

"From scrolls of course. Xena!", she said with a laugh, " I may be a virgin, but I'm not totally ignorant. Now, continue with the story.", she said, attempting to hide a blush from the warrior's eyes. Xena hid her smile.

"Well, I snuck into his castle and rescued you. I convinced myself that if I saved you
from slavery, everything would be all right. Gabrielle, in that world, you were a bitter and mistrustful person. The sight of you without your bright spirit almost destroyed me. You were filled with such hatred. The fates told me if I wanted to go back, all I had to do was spill blood in anger, and it would all go back to the way it was. But I couldn't do it. My brother was alive, and I believed I could save your soul from it's darkness with time. I refused to see my brother die all over again. I'm sorry."

"For what? For loving your brother? Don't be silly. I understand why you did it. I'm
not angry with you.", she said with sincerity.

"You're not? I thought that if I told you, you'd be hurt. So I kept it to myself.", she

"Xena! You have to break that habit of trying to protect me. I'm a big girl. Now finish this tale. You had to killed someboby--you came back.", she deducted.

"Ok, friend. Well, you, lyceus, and i were taken prisoners, and we escaped. But Lyceus was determined to stop him and Krykus from joining forces and becoming
the most powerful army around. We joined him in the fight. I still refused to kill,
but then *you* killed Mezentius when he tried to attack you. the sight of you killing him froze my soul. You had lost your blood innocence. Just then, Lyceus told me not to fight destiny--and I killed one of Mezentius' men. I returned to your voice telling me to look out, and just stopped myself from killing that boy."

" That's why you acted so strangely, and told me you've never been more yourself.", Gabrielle said with wonder.

"Yes. I realized I belonged to the here and now. In spite of my painful past, and all the evil I have done, I belong here with you.'

The End

homepage - fan fic index