Random Thoughts -
by Claire Withercross
Disclaimer : Xena and Gabrielle are copyright MCA /Universal, everything else is mine. Except the lyrics which are published by Charisma Music Publishing / Rondor Music.
Warning : This story raises the subject of a physical relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. If thats not your particular beverage, you have been warned.
The sun is rising into a cloudless, blue sky as I write this scroll. The sound of the dawn chorus, and the smell of wet soil after heavy overnight rain combine to make the start of a perfect day. It's a morning in which it's good to be alive. It's a morning that makes you feel alive.
I only wish Xena could see it.
Fear not, dear reader, my warrior still lives. I have spent the past three days at her side nursing her through a fever. In the early hours of this beautiful day the fever broke. She sleeps peacefully now. I should get some sleep too, but I've reached a stage where I'm too tired to sleep. I hope youll forgive me if this scroll seems rushed or disjointed, but I need to write this now, to tell the story, get it out of my system like a fever, then maybe I can rest.
It started soon after we broke camp near the gorge. Xena seemed distracted and when I asked her what was wrong she smiled and said it was only a mild headache that would soon pass.
We rode double for several hours. I must have noticed Argo slow her pace, but paid it little attention as I told a story to pass the time. Xena's silence was nothing of note either. Only when the golden mare stopped from lack of direction from her mistress did I take heed.
The warrior slumped in my arms. I slipped from the saddle and managed to get her to the ground. Her face was flushed red and sweat stood out on her forehead. I confess I panicked for a moment, but these past two years spent with the former warlord has taught me many things; number one is never panic.
I took a deep breath and checked her pulse, it was strong. I breathed easier knowing that. Argo stuck her nose between us and I roughly pushed her away. I guess, now, she was just as concerned for Xena as I was. I took a spare shift from a saddlebag and tore it up. I soaked some pieces in water, placed one on the warrior's burning brow, and another I squeezed over her lips. Her eyes fluttered open briefly and her tongue flicked at the water on her lips. She whispered something barely audible. I leant in closer to hear and asked her to repeat it.
My lover was whispering my name.
I hastily constructed a travois. Luckily Argo was compliant with my commands and I led the horse and her mistress back the way we came. Earlier I had noticed a lone farmhouse and while it would take the best part of an hour to reach it I had no idea if there was anything closer the way we were going.
A stocky, sandy-haired, teenage boy noticed us first. He ran towards the farmhouse calling for his mother. The woman that came to greet me was the spitting image of her son. I explained to her that my friend was sick and needed help. At first she was willing to help, but on seeing Xena the woman recognised her and refused. She said she wouldn't have her in the house, and as far as she was concerned Xena could go to Tartarus.
I pleaded, begged her, to help. I could see she was moved by my concern, but she knew the old Xena, The Destroyer. I told her Xena had changed. I said we would pay and leave as soon as Xena was able. The internal struggle was evident on the woman's face; being around Xena it was something I was familiar with. I sensed she was not an unkind person and I suppose she had reasonable cause to fear my lover.
Two men appeared at this point. I took one to be the husband of the woman, the other was clearly his brother. They both recognised Xena, too. The husband overrode his wife's objections, stating that the warrior was in no state to cause trouble. I offered my thanks as he and his brother helped me get Xena inside.
Ive just realised I cant remember their names. They must have told me, but I was so concerned for Xena that I paid little attention to them.
That afternoon her fever worsened. She was sweating so much we had to change the bedding often during her illness. I considered putting her in a bath of cold water, but at the same time as she was apparently burning up she was also shivering violently. Her teeth would chatter as if it was mid winter.
The farmer's wife brought me some food and a thin broth for Xena. Between us we managed to get the warrior to eat some. I thanked her for her help after her initial reluctance at having Xena here, and said I understood her reservations. She shrugged and said I couldn't be expected to cope by myself. She also told me her husband had gone to get a healer.
Xena slipped in and out of sleep, though it was difficult to tell sometimes which state she was in. She was not very lucid during her waking moments, and her dreams were disturbing her when she was asleep . She would struggle as though fighting someone, she would call out names, some I recognised - Lyceus, M'lila, Borias - others I didn't recognise - Anokin, Alti.
It was distressing to see this proud, strong warrior so helpless and delirious. At one point, not long after it got dark that first day, she sat up in bed and stared at me. At first I thought she was awake. She reached out to me and I took her hand. She apologised. When I asked what for, she burst into tears. I held her as she explained how Lyceus had died and how she would have given anything to take his place. I realised she thought I was her mother. It broke my heart as I wondered if she ever told Cyrene what she told me then in her feverish delirium.
I dozed at some point, and awoke to sunlight and birdsong. Xena was lying in bed, her face still flushed and sweaty, her body shaking slightly. I covered her with a blanket and left the room for a few minutes to attend to my own needs. On my return Xena had pushed the blanket off and was curled up on the bed, hugging her knees, and shaking worse than before.
I must have cried out because the farmer's wife came running into the room. She placed a hand on my shoulder and I turned to look at her. She was staring at Xena, a strange look on her face. I think it might have been disappointment at the warrior still being alive. She told me the healer would be here that morning, and left.
The healer was an elderly man with a brusque manner. He gave Xena a thorough examination, grunted, and took two pouches from his bag. He told me to add a pinch of the medicine into every cup of water I gave to Xena, and walked away. He paused at the door and said she would get worse before she would get better.
He was right. Over the next two days Xena sweat and shook, moaned in pain, and drifted in and out of conciousness. She sweat so much I didn't think I could get enough water into her to prevent dehydration.
Then, last night, early this morning I should say, during the heavy rain and thunder, I noticed she had stopped shivering. She seemed to be resting easier. I mopped her brow clean. No more moisture appeared. I shed silent tears of thanks.
I spent until dawn watching her sle__________
I don't recognise the room, but I recognise my love. She sits, slumped, in a chair by the bed I find myself in, snoring gently, a quill and scroll held limply in her hands.
I sit up. My vision greys out and my muscles protest. I take a deep breath and my vision clears. I notice a rank odour underneath the pleasant countryside smell coming through the open window, that I think comes from me.
I'm not sure how long I was ill, to me it seemed to last forever. I could not recall a time when I wasn't ill and I could not foresee a time when I would get better. The fever made it impossible to get comfortable. It made me feel as if my brain was spinning within my skull making it impossible to sleep.
I'm sure I did sleep on occasion. I noticed sudden changes in the light levels. I heard people enter the room, but not leave, or leave without hearing them enter. Who they were, I have no idea. The only presence I was aware of constantly was Gabrielle.
My bard, my light, my life, who unknowingly stopped me from jumping off the bridge.
I climb shakily to my feet and manoeuvre the sleeping bard onto the bed. I'm sure she won't mind the smell.
I brush some hair from her peaceful face. It cries out to be kissed and I succumb to the plea.
I move to the window, fresh air assaults me and my stomach growls. I drink in the sight of a glorious morning.
The morning is....clean. Yes, that's the word. Clean. Bright sunshine after rain makes the world seem clean. I feel clean. The pain, the fever, the muddiness of the semi (un)concious world I've been living in for the past few days has gone. I'm renewed, like the way the morning renews the world.
Gabrielle, with her love, has renewed me.
"And it's all because you made me see
What is false and what is true
Like the inside and the outside of me
Is being made again by you"
Made Again - Hogarth/Helmer
Thanks to Steve, Steve, Pete, Ian, Mark and John for the greatest album of all time; Brave by Marillion. If you only ever buy one album, it should be this one.
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