"What Is It About Her?"
by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "What Is It About Her?" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
Meg had her arms folded on the table and her face buried in her arms when the bard of Poteidaia entered her establishment. Meg's raven-colored hair spilled loosely all over her shoulders. One hand was carelessly holding a glass of wine. It was late, and the place was empty except for the bard and the Xena look-alike.
Meg raised her head with some effort, and one blue eye beheld Gabrielle.
"Yeah, tha's right," she answered. "It's jus' Meg."
"Hi. I was wondering I know this isn't an inn, exactly, but I was wondering if you could put me up for a few days? I can pay."
Meg sat up slowly, and rested one cheek on her hand.
"Yeah, sure, why not? Everyone else walks all over good ol' Meg and takes advantage of good ol' Meg. Why should you be any different? Your warrior dump you off, again?"
"Yeah, I'm afraid so."
"Joxssssser isn't here, you know. He lef' yesterday."
"I know. Believe me, I know."
"Whazzat s'pose to mean?"
"Nothing. I'd just rather not spend a few days with Joxer, is all."
"Why not? Wha's wrong with Joxssssser, all over sudden?"
"Nothing. Nothing's wrong with Joxer. If you like that sort of guy."
"Oh, an' wha' sorta guy's that? Sweet and wonderful? Strong, tall, handsome? Hmmm? Adorable?"
"Well, don't you find him to be a little deluded, sometimes? He thinks he's a great warrior."
"Oh, puh-lease. He could wipe the floor with you, if you didn't have the big bad-ass warrior chick hangin' round."
That much wasn't true, but Gabrielle didn't mention it. She put her staff down and sat across the table from Meg. Meg downed the rest of her wine.
"Are you drunk?"
"Well, ain't you just the little master detective? An' did you know that Joxssssser is helplessly, hopelessly in love with you? Huh? Did you know that little thing, little thing?"
"Yeah, I guess I did know that. I've been trying my best not to know it for awhile now."
"I'm not gonna hear one word against Joxsssser in my essstab blisssh men nent thassa long word."
"All I ever hear from 'im is Gabby-elle this, Gabby-elle that. What is it abou' you? Wha's so great abou' you, anyway?"
"Nothing. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea. I'll find somewhere else to stay."
"Oh, don' do me no favors, bard of Pota-hoositz. Yer stayin'."
"OK. Thank you."
"Yes, you are thank you you're very welcome, to thank you."
"Yeah. Staying with you makes me miss Xena a lot less. It's almost like being with Xena, although, of course, I would never have any problem telling the two of you apart at a distance.""
"Oh, shut up, Gabby-elle. You think it's easy havin' a famous face? You think it's easy lookin' like a famous person? How many times do I have to hear 'Oh, you look like Xena! Of course yer not Xena an' ya never will be Xena, 'cause Xena's a great warrior an' you are a drunken tramp wi' Xena's face stuck on yer face.'"
"You're being too hard on yourself, Meg."
"You're a good person."
"Then why can't I have Joxsssser? Huh? Why can't I have my little Joxsee-Joxsee? Wha' more does he wan' from me? I give him freebies, I let him stay here, I len' him food an' money. Wha' does he want out o' me? Whassa deal with him?"
"I don't know."
"Well, it's yer loss, sweetie. I may not have his heart, but the part I have is better than you could ever imagine. So there."
"Oh, honey, you jus' got no idea. Oh, baby."
Meg yawned and looked at Gabrielle. Gravity was slowly pulling her face down from the spot it occupied in the palm of her hand, and sliding it towards the table. She was a small avalanche of flesh.
"Oh, baby," she said as her head hit the table.
"OK, Meg, I guess I'll be finding my own room."
A soft snoring made it clear that the conversation was over. Gabrielle debated trying to bring Meg back to her own room to sleep, but decided that Meg probably wouldn't thank her for it, and might prefer to just doze where she was. She settled for grabbing a pillow, carefully lifting Meg's head and slipping the pillow underneath.
"I wish there was more I could do for you, Meg," she said. "Joxer really needs a good talking to. Or maybe a few more good whacks to the head."
Gabrielle left to find a room.
The next day Gabrielle was up at ten o'clock, but Meg was still snoring past noon. It was unusual for Gabrielle to be up before Xena, or anyone who looked like Xena.
Finally, Meg roused herself from the table which had served as her bed, straightened out the kink in her neck, grabbed a broom and went to work getting the place ready for customers. Gabrielle helped her, wiping down the counters and tables. A few of the girls were up, but they didn't pitch in. Not in their job description.
Meg smacked her lips and stuck her tongue out, trying to examine it. She felt like small, furry animals had been sleeping in her mouth overnight. She moved uncertainly, and squinted into the afternoon sunlight.
"Gabrielle, about last night "
"Don't worry about it."
"No, no, I shouldn't take it out on you. It's not your fault I'm in love with a great big lovable insensitive lout."
"Well, I've been guilty of taking a few things out on Joxer, sometimes. I haven't always treated him so good. Maybe I'm trying to get him to think about falling in love with someone else, I don't know."
"Not working. The worse you treat him the better he likes it."
"Maybe you should start treating him bad."
"I've tried, Gabrielle. I've really tried. But he just looks at me with that big goofy grin of his, and I'm helpless. I just wish I knew what it is about you that makes everyone love you."
They were interrupted by the sound of weeping outside the door. A middle-aged woman had stopped to rest on a bench beside the door, and she was crying for some reason.
"Aw, nuts," said Meg. "I can't have her out there. She's gonna drive away customers. Who's gonna want to walk past that? What am I gonna do?"
Gabrielle didn't answer, but walked past Meg in the direction of the weeping.
She sat down next to the woman.
"Hi," she said.
The woman paid her no attention, and continued weeping.
"I'm Gabrielle. Is there anything I can do?"
The woman wiped away her tears, and looked at Gabrielle.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be a bother. I'll move on."
"No, no, you're no bother. I just thought that maybe you could use someone to talk to."
The woman looked Gabrielle up and down.
"Thank you, dear, but I don't think someone your age could understand."
"I know I haven't been around as long as you have, but I've seen a lot of things in my life, and I've known pain."
"What pain could you know?"
"I lost my daughter. She died."
The woman looked at Gabrielle in surprise. Gabrielle's eyes were full of sadness and regret as she said the words.
Gabrielle saw out of the corner of her eye that Meg was eavesdropping, just inside the door.
"You really don't look old enough."
"I am, though," said Gabrielle. "What's your name?"
"Helena, who did you lose?"
"I lost my son. They hung him, yesterday."
Helena put one hand to her mouth as she said the words. She gasped.
"I'm sorry," said Gabrielle. "I guess you've never said those words out loud, before."
Helena shook her head. She looked down into her lap, and shut her eyes tightly.
"They tell me I'll get used to the loss," said Helena.
"Anyone who says that has never lost a child," said Gabrielle. "You don't get used to it. The very best you can do is to learn to live with it."
"He was evil," said Helena. "He raped and killed a little girl. More than one."
Helena looked at Gabrielle, expecting to see some shock or horror.
"We don't always know what makes people do evil things. Sometimes people are just born with evil in their heart," said Gabrielle.
"I keep thinking what I could've done to make him that way."
"No, I can't believe it was anything you did. All we can do is to do our best and to love them as much as we can."
She shook her head, denying this message. She began to cry again. Gabrielle put her arms around Helena, and Helena cried into her shoulder for awhile.
"Everyone in this town hates me," said Helena.
"Why do you say that?"
Helena pulled away from Gabrielle, to look her in the eyes.
"I knew he was guilty. I should've turned him in. But her promised me he was innocent. And I made myself believe him. I could've saved lives if I turned him in."
"No mother in the world would've done any different."
"I wish I could believe that. I would give just about anything to believe that."
"I haven't told you the worst part."
"Part of you is glad that he's gone."
Helena looked at her with a shock of recognition.
She looked in Gabrielle's eyes for a look of judgement, but there was only kind acceptance in her eyes. Something in those beautiful green eyes seemed to be saying, "It's OK. It's OK."
"What kind of a monster could think that about her own son?" asked Helena.
"You're no monster. My daughter was no good, either. It took a long time for me to admit it to myself, but the world is better off without her."
Helena closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"I didn't think anyone else could ever feel that way."
"We've all got things in our soul that we think no one could ever accept or understand. Only the truly evil people think that everything they've ever thought or done is OK."
"Gabrielle, why did you come over to speak to me? Everyone else has been afraid to say a word to me."
"Like I said, you just looked like you needed someone to talk to. Listen, have you had lunch yet? Come inside, I'll buy you a hot meal."
"No," said Helena. "I have dinars. I don't need charity."
"It's not charity. Just a little kindness from one mother to another. It won't hurt anything for you to accept a hot meal from me."
"I have a better idea. Come to my home. I'll make us both lunch."
"OK. You can tell me all about your son. All the good things."
They left together.
Inside her establishment, Meg sat down in breathless amazement.
"Wow," she thought. "How does she do that? Could I learn to do that?"
Two days and two nights after Gabrielle left with Xena, Joxer the ersatz Mighty Warrior clanked into Meg's place of business, calling out for Gabrielle.
"Missed her," said Meg. "She and Xena left two days ago."
"Nuts," said Joxer. "I keep missing her."
"Yeah," said Meg. She was drinking again, and not yet quite as drunk as when Gabrielle had walked in on her, but getting there.
"They didn't happen to say which way they were going, did they?"
"No. Sit down and have a drink with me, Joxer."
She smiled lasciviously at Joxer. Her blue eyes glinted mischievously.
"I really should get going," said Joxer.
"Oh, come on! Where are you gonna go? Look at the time. It's past midnight! Come on, sit down, you're not goin' anywhere."
He clanked over to the table and sat down.
"Have some wine, Joxer."
"No thanks," he said. "I have to stay sharp and battle-ready, all senses keenly alert, instincts honed to perfection, ready to spring into action at a second's notice."
"Yeah, that's good, Joxer," she said. "You work on that."
Meg drained her glass and poured herself some more wine.
"Joxer, tell me some things about Gabrielle."
He was surprised.
"YOU want to talk about Gabrielle?"
"Yeah. Do you know any good Gabrielle stories?"
"Do I know any good Gabrielle stories! Did you ever hear what Gabrielle did when Ares impersonated Xena's father?"
"No. Tell me that one."
And the two Gabrielle-lovers, one new recruit and one founding member, began talking late into the night.
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