Disclaimers: I don't own 'em, Xena and Gabrielle are
owned by Pacific Renaissance, Studios USA and a bunch of other people who employ
lots of lawyers. I'm just borrowing them, and hopfully have done 'em no harm.
I certainly ain't making any money off of this, (Heck, I ain't making much money
off of anything.) so please don't sue me. If anyone wants to use this as a building
block for some other story, go for it. All I ask is that you let me know so
I can tell my Mama. She'd be proud. I don't need to disclaim any sexual content,
'cause there ain't any. Heck, you *could* assume that this version of Xena and
Gabrielle are just really good friends. I don't, but you can, if you want.
"Technically..." She shrugs and takes a breath.
"Oh no, Xena, there's no 'technically' about it." The bard interrupts, then leans over from where she sits next to the leather clad warrior.
"She does this you know, puts qualifiers on statements. Usually she's trying to make it sound like something she did wasn't as spectacular as it really was."
Short blond hair shifts gently as she finishes the sentence with a small nod and presses her lips together in a thin smile. Still nodding, Gabrielle scratches behind one ear and looks at her partner.
"It's very frustrating sometimes." Her nose crinkles slightly as she smiles.
The young student from the Athens Academy of Performing Bards frowned, then nodded. "So, you're saying that Xena is frustrating to be around?"
"No no," Gabrielle quickly corrects him, then clears her throat. "No. I didn't say that."
"Technically, you did." Xena admonishes, smiling the same thin smile her partner wore a few seconds earlier, and nodding the same short nod.
Aricus noticed, not for the first time, that they tended to do that. Although the two legends who were the subject of his graduate thesis appeared to be vastly different, physically, and especially, on papyrus, in reality they weren't.
Maybe that's what surprised him most. He'd made an extensive study of the two women through the scrolls Gabrielle had submitted to the Academy. The early scrolls were, predictably, filled with incredible tales of Xena's impossible deeds, all told from the awed perspective of the young Gabrielle. Later scrolls were more introspective and mature, but still emphasized the differences between the two companions. He knew the women would be familiar and comfortable with each other, but he certainly hadn't expected them to be so... alike.
Looking back across the table at his subjects he noticed the look in Xena's eyes. Is that annoyance or humor? Hmmm. He smiled, trying to give himself a little confidence. I will NOT be nervous in front of them.
Gabrielle shook her head. "I did not."
Xena pursed her lips and looked down. "Technically," she looked sideways at her partner and nodded, "you did."
Gabrielle paused for a second, then made a face. "I did, didn't I?"
Matching faces again.
Maybe I should do my thesis on how traveling companions pick up eachother's mannerisms.
The bard turned her head so that she faced Xena directly. "That's really not what I meant."
Of course, if I'd been through with someone what these two have...
One corner of Xena's mouth rose in a half smile. "I know what you meant."
Small wrinkles appeared at the corners of green eyes as a knowing smile appeared on the younger woman's face. She nodded wordlessly and looked down.
Aricus still couldn't believe his luck in finding them when he did. Not only was he lucky enough to locate them when they weren't frozen solid, but they actually had time to talk. Of course, telling them that he was also there to reevaluate Gabrielle's standing at the Academy didn't hurt. After 25 years without any submissions, he'd lied, the Academy wanted proof that Gabrielle was still qualified as a bard.
Boy, is she qualified, he thought dreamily. He shook his head mentally. No, no, that's not allowed.
Gabrielle was still smiling.
"I think you should answer the question, Xena."
One dark eyebrow rose as Xena squinted sideways at her tormentor.
"Uh-huh. I do."
A serving girl approached as Gabrielle finished speaking. "We're fine here," the bard said, smiling and sending the girl on her way.
"One of us is, anyway." Xena's eyes rolled towards the ceiling and stayed there.
"So," Aricus cleared his throat. "We were talking about the Olympian gods."
The taller woman focused her gaze back on him. "Yep."
She makes the most interesting faces, Aricus thought to himself.
"You killed them?"
"Technically..." The warrior began, as her partner sighed audibly and looked away.
"TECH-nically, no. Not all of them." Xena scratched behind her right ear and smiled at him again.
There's that smile again.
"Ah." Aricus nodded, "I don't see." I hope I don't look as confused as I am.
"I left a couple there." The warrior scanned the room now, casually surveying its occupants.
"Ares and Aphrodite, actually." Gabrielle tried to elaborate.
Gee, ask one, and the other answers.
"See, Xena really only wanted to defend her daughter, so the only gods she killed were the ones who were trying to hurt Eve."
Xena looked pointedly at the bard. "You were there, too."
Gabrielle tilted her head sideways and looked down.
"Technically," she muttered.
"Yeah. Technically." Xena nodded, glanced around her for the server, then smacked the table with her hand. "Hey, can I get some more port here?"
The confused server came back over. "Sure, uh," she looked at Gabrielle.
"No, I'm fine." The blond nodded and smiled again.
Ok, I think I'm getting this. The bard is the people person.
"What were you doing during all of this, Gabrielle?"
"Uh," the bard exhaled, then ran her hand through her hair. "Bleeding, I think." She blinked for a moment. "Or so I'm told."
"Sorry 'bout that." Xena muttered.
Gabrielle smiled and put her hand on Xena's shoulder.
"Wait! Are you saying that YOU hurt Gabrielle, Xena?" an incredulous Aricus asked. "But I thought the two of you..."
He was interrupted by the bard's gently waving hand. "Uhhh, can we talk about something else?" she asked softly.
"Oh, uh, sure... yeah." The serving girl arrived with Xena's port as the young man thumbed through his notes. By the time he was ready, the two companions were smiling knowingly at each other.
I'm gonna start counting the number of times they do that.
"So, you left Ares and Aphrodite alive?"
Xena nods. "Yeah."
"Do you have some kind of special relationship then?"
Gabrielle found something interesting to look at in the far corner of the bar. Her ear sure must itch, Aricus thought to himself.
Xena jerked her head back slightly and frowned. "You mean with Ares and Aphrodite?"
Aricus gave an affirmative nod, urging her to continue.
"Noooo," she sighed. "Aphrodite helped me reach Olympus, and Ares helped save Eve and Gabrielle."
Xena eyed some newcomers to the bar, decided they were no threat, then returned her attention to him.
"So all of the other gods on Olympus tried to kill you, and Eve, and Gabrielle? And that's why you killed them?"
"Yeah. That's why." Another nod.
That's weird, he thought. "They must not fight well."
Xena stopped cold, and Gabrielle jerked her head around and joined the conversation again. "What?"
"They must not fight well. Or, uh, have fought well." He looked confused. "They were gods, right? And, I mean, there was only one of you. At least, only one who could kill gods." It was his turn to make a face. "So, I'm thinking they should have y'know, fought well enough to beat one mortal. Y'know. Especially if... they were... uh.. working... together." This last bit trailed off a tad as he smiled wanly at them.
Oooh. She's staring at me.
"I was inspired." Xena replied, in a kind of growling whisper.
She's starting to sound irritated. And see now, there's Gabrielle with the raised eyebrows. They must practice this.
"Love inspires lots of people to do incredible things, Aricus." Gabrielle tilted her head to the left. "If you're gonna be a bard, you better learn that now."
Oh, that's a nice smile.
Aricus smiled. Gabrielle continued smiling. Xena drank her port.
Aricus stared at the bard, still smiling. Xena stared at Aricus. This went on for a few seconds, until Xena broke the now awkward silence, pointing a thumb at the bard.
"So you wanna see her scrolls?"
"I'd love to see her scrolls." Aricus replied, still staring at the bard.
Xena's eyes narrowed. "I said scrolls." She repeated, elongating the last word.
"Hmm?" Aricus shook his head. "Uh, scrolls. Sure. Her scrolls." He paused, then shook his head again. "I'd uh, love... to... see her scrolls."
The trio got up from the table and headed for the stable, where Argo II and Horse II were stabled. On the way Xena and Gabrielle exchanged a couple of knowing looks, after which Xena rolled her eyes and looked away.
Maybe being frozen together gives you some kind of psychic link.
"How's Athens doing these days?" Gabrielle asked, trying to start some small talk as they walked. "It's uh, been a while since we've been there."
"Oh, it's doing fine. It's big, y'know. Real big." Aricus replied as he continued watching the two, noting that Xena, while taking in all of their surroundings, still seemed to be listening to the conversation.
"Uh, yeah, we'd heard that." The blond smiled indulgently. "It was big last time we were there."
Xena nodded slowly while she continued to look around. Gabrielle patted her partner's back.
"Well, but, it's even bigger now." There. Their faces match again. There's gotta be something here I'm not getting.
"That kinda makes sense." The bard replied as they reached the stable.
Inside they found Gabrielle's pack and dug out her scrolls. Aricus took them from her reverently. "It won't take me long to copy these over. I'll have them sent back to you here at the inn in a couple of days."
Xena smiled and scratched her ear while nodding at him. "That's good. We should be in town at least that long." She continued nodding as she lowered her hand to her hip and rested it there.
Matching nods and smiles again. It's really amazing how they do that.
On the walk back to his inn, Aricus had time to reflect on his encounter. Somehow the stories he'd read had failed to capture the reality of the pair. Sure, Gabrielle's scrolls conveyed the pain they'd been through, how much their accomplishments had cost them, and how difficult it was to live this kind of life, but that just made them seem more heroic.
Meeting them today, in person, he found them to be more... human?
Funny, I thought I really knew them, just from reading about them.
He arrived at his destination shaking his head. He'd left this morning with high hopes, having heard that the legendary duo was in town. He'd been preparing for this interview for months now, ever since learning of the miraculous reemergence of his heroes from their ice-bound slumber. He thought he could provide the Academy with a complete perspective of the pair, since no one had studied them more than he had. It would have been impossible for him to be more ready for this encounter with greatness.
Funny, he had more questions now than he'd left with that morning.
Two days later Aricus found himself back at the same table they'd sat at before, staring across at the women he'd studied for years, without ever knowing at all.
"So you restored Ares' powers in order to bring love back into the world?"
She doesn't talk much. No wonder she needs a bard around.
"What would our existence be worth without love?" Gabrielle glanced at her partner and smiled, then looked back at Aricus.
"It's all there in the scrolls," she said. "I hope I've explained it well enough there that I don't have to go into it now."
The young man waved his hands above the plate that had held his evening meal. "Oh, you did. Really. It's just so incredible."
"Looking back, a lot of what we've done is incredible." Gabrielle lowered her eyes and directed her attention to her fingers, which were laced together on the table in front of her.
Xena looked at her partner for a moment, then put her hand on Gabrielle's forearm and said simply, "Yeah." Then she glanced away for a second, after which one corner of her mouth raised, and she focused her gaze on him.
"We do what we have to." Xena's hand had remained on Gabrielle's arm, and the bard reached over with her left hand to cover Xena's.
"That's it, really. We do what we have to." Gabrielle continued, "Besides, most of the time it's just about the only thing we could have done to survive."
Xena smiled at this, then took a deep breath.
"So, you have the answers you came for?"
Gabrielle moved her elbow into Xena, causing the warrior to smile slightly and shove back with her hand.
There's gotta be some joke here I'm not getting. It's like they're able to communicate without saying anything to each other.
"Um, not really." He paused, then took a deep breath. "I mean, yes, technically." He looked up at them and smiled at this, "But there's obviously so much more here, things that I can't find words to capture. It's like I could read, or even write, all the stories that could ever be told about you, and there would still be more there to learn."
The two women exchanged glances, then smiled fully at him for the first time.
"I know what you mean." The bard replied. "She's kinda tough to accurately describe."
Aricus shook his head. "No, that's not quite it." He took a deep breath before going on. "It's both of you, together, that are hard to sum up. I could describe you as heroes, or as women, or as individuals pretty well, and people would get the idea. But trying to describe what you are together, well, that's not something I think I could ever do adequately."
He took a second to finish his drink while he gathered his thoughts. When he was ready to speak, he noticed that the pair still had their hands linked, and they had that matching smile on their faces again.
"I'll take these scrolls back to the Academy," he went on, "and I'm sure the masters will be happy to accept them." He nodded slightly, and continued. "But I sure hope that these won't be the last ones you write, Gabrielle, because I feel like I could read about your adventures forever, and never tire of it, and still have something to learn."
The young student laughed to himself. "I guess I've still got a lot to learn, actually." He looked across the table at the two women. "I thought I knew everything there was to know about you when I came here." Aricus smiled at them.
"I think you're ready to graduate now, Aricus." Gabrielle smiled back at him. "That's the secret, you know, to being a good bard. Being aware of how little you know, and wanting to learn more. Maybe you can find your own hero to travel with now." Her eyebrows twitched up humorously at this last statement.
She and Xena rose to leave simultaneously, of course. Xena scanned the room quickly and looked back at him.
"We'll see you on the road sometime, then." She nodded at him and smiled a now familiar smile.
"I hope so, I really do." Aricus replied, wishing they weren't leaving, but knowing their next adventure wouldn't begin here in this bar.
"Take care, Aricus." Gabrielle waved once at him as they turned to leave.
He waved back, then tried to take a sip from his mug, belatedly realizing that he'd finished his ale earlier. He motioned to the serving girl for more as he watched his heroes move to exit the room.
Xena had stopped at a table with several large and rowdy men. She had just straightened up after talking to them when one of them went for a large knife hanging on his belt.
Oh, that's smart.
Moving faster than he thought anyone ever could, Xena quickly grabbed the man's wrist with her left hand while delivering a powerful blow to the thug's face with her right. The man's eye's widened, then relaxed as he sank beneath the table unconscious.
Xena smiled at the other occupants of the table as if to say, "Up to you, but I'll do at least as much damage to you if you try anything."
They appeared to have a slightly higher IQ than their now oblivious companion.
Gabrielle stepped forward from her position behind Xena and sheathed her sais.
I didn't even notice she'd done that. She stepped back and guarded Xena's back. I bet she does that all the time, and without even thinking. That's not in any of the scrolls. He smiled as the server set his ale down in front of him.
Lots to learn before I really understand. He eyed the pair as they looked around the room one last time. But I bet it's great, knowing you that well.
Heck, it's great just knowing you.
He shook his head and took a sip of his ale, as the two people he'd thought he'd known better than anyone walked out into the night. Thinking about how much there was to learn, he decided that he'd spend another day in town before heading out.
Maybe I can read those scrolls again...
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