by Dave G.
Standard Disclaimer - These characters, most of them, belong to Universal, and Renaissance Pictures, and whoever else has a stake in Xena: Warrior Princess. This is written just for fun, and no copyright infringement was intended. Also some (at least one), of these characters, and some of the settings and characterizations belong to Missy Good, and are used with her gracious permission. If anything original actually happens it belongs to me.
Specific Story Disclaimers:
Violence - Not an exceptional amount of violence, for the former Destroyer of Nations, but some small furry woodland creatures do lose their lives.
Subtext - Yep. Although nothing more than PG-13. O.K. maybe "R". Well, just in case, if you're under 18 turn back now.
I don't bake, so if you're offended, I'm not sending you anything.
Well, I thought I'd finally give this fan-fiction stuff a try. That decided, the first question I needed to answer was should I write something with X+G or something uber. It seems that X+G would be the right choice for a first time story. Since everyone already knows who these characters are, I only have to worry about not screwing them up. I don't need to tell everyone who they are from scratch.
This decided, my next dilemma was that when I think of X+G, I tend to think of Missy's version of them. So how could I write them the way I wanted, without looking like I was copying from Missy? I finally decided to just ask her permission to use some of her stuff.
This presents its own set of problems. The story needs to fit neatly in her timeline somewhere, and nothing truly major can happen, or the effects would have shown up somewhere else in her stories. Hence, the title. Also, I think the readers will be much less willing to grant liberties. For example, if I borrow Xena from Universal, and kill her off, nothing bad will happen, other than poor reviews. However, I'm not sure my mailbox would survive, if I borrowed Ares the wolf, and failed to return him in sound condition.
Also, Missy's incarnation of the characters seem to like their privacy, so no X-rated stuff here, although it may go far enough to earn it an "R" rating. I'm not going to try to imitate Missy's style. It takes some talent to make something interesting on your own. But, it takes even more to be able to do it in someone else's style, so I won't even attempt that. If the characters don't act exactly like Missy's, well, that's 'cause I wrote them, and they're filtered through my perception. This is written, primarily for other Merpups, so some of you may recognize a tidbit thrown your way. It is set somewhere in the winter from "Reflections from the past."
If I continue to write stuff after this story, I will probably venture into an area that allows for more creative freedom, maybe using this story as a jumping off point for something uber, but for now this is what I wanted to write. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then this is my tribute to Missy.
Comments can be sent to: GentDave@worldnet.att.net
Little Things by Dave G.
Xena awoke before the dawn, and without opening her eyes, extended her senses around the room. The first, and most obvious thing was the bard sleeping on her shoulder, with one arm flung across her, and holding her firmly, still sound asleep. A little farther away, Ares was sleeping on the foot of the bed with his head resting on her legs. "Xena, warrior pillow." she thought to herself.
She scanned the rest of the room. "Nothing out of the ordinary." The cabin was quite cold. It had been colder than average this winter and the fire had died down overnight. Outside, there was nothing except nature's morning noises. She opened her eyes a bit. The gray light of the predawn sky provided just enough light for her to see the inside of their home. "Their home. " She still was not used to that idea. However, as she looked around she could see that it truly was just that, their home. Her armor hung in the corner, but most of the room showed Gabrielle's attempts at decorating.
Did she really want to get up? "No", was her quick answer. "But, I have to do something to work off all the stuff Mom is feeding me", she thought. She slowly disentangled herself from the other sleepers, getting a yawn from the wolf, and a high pitched groan from Gabrielle, as she rolled over.
She grabbed an extra blanket, and wrapped it around herself as she got up and headed over to the fire, which was nothing more than a few glowing red coals buried in the ash. She put some more wood in and made sure it was rekindling.
Ares, jumped off the bed, and padded over to her. "Roo", he commented.
"Shhhh", Xena replied. "We don't want to wake up your other mommy."
"We'll go for a run in a minute."
Xena walked over to her armor, and slowly got all the pieces in place, checking each as she did so. As she picked up her weapons, and checked them too, Gabrielle opened one eye and looked at her. "Where you going?", she mumbled. "Just for a morning run," Xena replied. "I'm going to take Ares." "Mmmh…well, have fun," the bard answered, snuggling deeper into the covers.
Xena stepped outside, and the cold hit her immediately, as her breath formed bright white clouds in front of her face. "Whoa, a little more than nippy out here", she said, looking at Ares. "Roo", Ares responded, as he playfully romped in the snow.
"Well, I'll warm up after I get going", she though to herself. She started with a slow jog, and as Ares fell in next to her, she gradually picked up speed. She entered the forest and whistled to the sentries as she passed, receiving an answering whistle in return. "Good, they're out here in spite of the cold. Boy that must have been a rotten job last night"
She ran faster, and Ares broke from a trot, to a loping run, to keep pace with her. "This feels good.", she thought. "All that home cooking is great, but if I'm not careful it's going to start slowing me down."
She suddenly stopped and did a backflip, drawing her sword, and landing behind the confused Ares. She tapped him playfully on the rear, with the flat of her sword. The wolf tucked his tail between his legs, and yelped, then turned and faced the warrior. He looked at her inquisitively, with his tongue hanging out to one side. "Sorry, boy. Just playing.", Xena said with a smile.
She took off down the path again, and the wolf followed, eyeing her warily.
"I need this." she though. She'd been happy but restless lately. The winter was keeping her indoors more than she liked. "What is your problem", she thought. "This is better than anything you've ever had before in your life, but, no, you can't just relax and enjoy it, you've got to be doing something."
She broke into an all out sprint, forcing the wolf to work hard to keep up.
The wind whistled as it passed her, and her long strides carried her forward faster than human should be able. She kept going, pushing the limits of her ability. Her breaths came fast and hard, as she strained her extraordinary muscles, forcing her legs to move faster and faster, in a blur of motion. After a short while the wolf started to fall behind, lacking her stamina. "Come on boy, keep up!" She shouted over her shoulder, then reduced her speed, to allow the wolf to join her at her side.
She spotted a large tree, with a good horizontal branch. With a quick leap, and a single flip, she was standing on it, then she quickly scrambled higher.
She first looked down at the wolf, who was now standing with his front paws on the tree, looking up at her, then she scanned the woods. From here she could see a long way through the winter trees, but nothing seemed out of place. As she stood on the branch, catching her breath, she almost wished something would happen, so she could get in a little action. But, there was nothing but the quiet of winter.
She saw a well-worn rabbit path in the snow, and then spotted a rabbit hopping along it. "Rabbit stew would be good tonight.", she thought, as she reached for her chakram. But then her playful mood took over. With a triple summersault, she flipped out of the tree, landed just behind the rabbit, and started running.
The surprised rabbit took off, as soon as Xena hit the ground. The rabbit darted this way and that, trying to lose its pursuer with lightning fast turns. But Xena kept her attention focused on the rabbit's head noting subtle clues that let her predict the its next move.
The rabbit turned sharply right, but Xena was already cutting in that direction, she leaned hard into the turn, and gained ground on it. She laughed in amusement as Ares shot by both of them, taking a wide turn, to follow them. As she reveled in the glory of the hunt, she felt the adrenaline kick in, and let the killer within her rise to the surface. This was the Xena that had seen countless innocent lives perish at her command. She never let that part of her see the light of day anymore. But this was just a rabbit. "A dead rabbit." She thought, focusing harder on the prey in front of her.
As she hurdled through the forest, small branches from the winter trees and bushes whipped by her, but she ignored them, seeing only the rabbit.
She kept matching it turn for turn, until she was almost within striking distance. Then, then it made a sharp left. As she tried to follow, a rare thing happened, the snowy ground failed to give her enough traction, and she lost her balance. She went down hard, but caught herself with her arms, and was up in a heartbeat.
She looked at the quickly disappearing rabbit, and the wolf who now broke off pursuit, and looked back at her. She thought for a moment again about her chakram, but rejected the thought. This was now a challenge. She knew she could catch a rabbit on open ground. She'd done it before, much to the amazement of her troops. But, here, in the woods, with the snow, this would indeed be a challenge, and she did not like to lose.
Gabrielle awoke with a start. She had just felt a strong surge of emotion, but now it was gone. After a moment, she recognized it as coming from her connection with Xena. "But, what was that?", she thought. It most certainly was not fear. It seemed to resemble anger, but that wasn't quite it either. Well, whatever it was, was gone now, and she'd know if there were any serious trouble. Still, it made her uncomfortable, so she got up to get dressed, grateful that Xena had gotten the fire going before she left.
She quickly put on some warm clothes, and trudged through the snow to the near-by inn. The moment she walked in she was greeted by the pleasant smell of breakfast being prepared. As she got herself settled at a table, Cyrene hurried out of the kitchen. "Hey, good morning, cutie." Cyrene called as she ran by. "Where's my daughter?"
"Good morning mom. Actually, I was hoping she might be here", Gabrielle replied. "She went for a run this morning and she's not back yet. I'm kind of worried."
At this Cyrene stopped and looked at her. "She can sort of take care of herself you know." she said with a smile. "What would make you worry about her."
"I don't know", Gabrielle answered, "I just had a strange feeling this morning."
"Well I'm sure she's fine, she's probably practicing some new sword moves or something. She'll be back soon." Cyrene reassured her. "Help yourself to breakfast. Eustace is sick today so I'm pretty busy, or I'd sit and talk for awhile."
"Is she O.K.?" Gabrielle inquired.
"Nothing serious, just this winter weather got to her I think. She's staying in bed today." Cyrene explained.
"Do you need some help in the kitchen?" Gabrielle inquired.
"Actually…that would be really great. Thanks", Cyrene answered, then hurried off to the kitchen.
"Well, at least I'll have something to do, instead of just waiting for Xena to get back." the bard thought to herself. As it turned out, it was well into the afternoon before Xena finally returned home.
Xena walked down the path deep in thought. Once she eliminated the options of using traps, or weapons, she couldn't see how she could catch the rabbit. She obviously couldn't count on always being able to match the animal turn for turn, in the snow.
Ares playfully romped ahead of her, occasionally looking back. The wolf seemed to be finding something interesting to investigate in every bush, as he ran from one side of the path to the other, sniffing everything.
"If only I could limit the rabbit's options somehow." she thought. Suddenly an idea came to her. She looked at the wolf. "Come here boy." she called. The wolf bounded over to her, and looked at her expectantly. "You are going to help me catch a rabbit." she informed the wolf. "Roo?" the wolf answered. "Yeah me." Xena said with a grin. "I'm going to catch that rabbit, and you are going to help." The wolf gave her a doubtful look.
"You'll see", Xena promised.
"The first thing we need to do is start teaching you some new commands." she informed the wolf. "Hmmm what words to use?" she thought. She didn't want everyone to be able to guess the commands. She considered using whistles like she did with Argo, but decided against it. She didn't want any confusion if both animals were around. Finally she decided to use commands from the language of the northern barbarians, east of Gaul.
She started jogging down the path with the wolf beside her. Suddenly she broke sharp to the right, and at the same time called out, "Recht!" using the harsh guttural sound unique to those people. The wolf followed belatedly, and Xena praised him, and repeated the process.
Next, she broke to the left, yelling "Links!" and the wolf followed her. Soon she started breaking one way, and telling the wolf to go the other way. Xena was a good teacher, and Ares a fast learner, so by the time they got home to Amphipolis, they had made considerable progress.
Xena first went to their cabin. She discovered Gabrielle was not there, so she left Ares in their home, and headed over to the inn. She walked in to find the bard clearing off one table, and her mother serving drinks to another. Gabrielle looked up, and gave Xena her best, "I'm angry with you look", and marched over to her. "Where have you been?" she demanded.
Xena was taken aback a little, "I told you this morning I was going for a run with Ares." she explained.
"An all day run?" the bard inquired.
"Well, no. I was teaching Ares some new commands. What's this about anyway? I can sort of take care of myself you know." Xena responded, with an exasperated look.
"That's what I told her." Cyrene interjected, as the headed for the kitchen. The guests who knew the pair watched with some amusement, as the smaller woman, scolded the warrior.
"I was just worried, that's all." Gabrielle admitted. "What were you doing this morning?"
"I told you exercising, and teaching Ares some new commands. What do you think I was doing?" Xena asked, deciding not to say anything about the rabbit that had embarrassed her.
"I don't know", the bard replied, dejectedly, still convinced there was something more going on that Xena wasn't telling her. "I was just worried."
"O.K. I'm sorry I didn't tell you how long I would be gone. I'll try not to do that in the future. O.K.?" Xena asked hopefully. Gabrielle just stood there, and still looked unsatisfied.
"All right, I guess." Gabrielle finally responded, deciding not to push the issue any farther.
"Good. I'll tell you what, I'll make it up to you tonight." Xena suggested, as she put a hand on the bard's shoulder, smiled, and raised an eyebrow at her.
Gabrielle suppressed a smile, still trying to look mad. "I'm going to hold you to that." she promised. "Don't think I'll forget." The bard turned away, smiled, and headed for the kitchen.
Xena followed and found Cyrene. "Hey, mom. Do we have any rabbit pelts around?" Xena asked.
Cyrene looked at her daughter. "Yes, I've got a few in the barn. Why?"
"I just need one for something I'm working on", Xena responded vaguely, as she headed for the barn.
"Now, I wonder what that's all about." Cyrene thought to herself.
The inn was busy that evening. A good-sized group of traveling merchants had stopped in town, and was staying for a few days, to wait for better weather. Most people had finished dinner, and were sitting around drinking, and generally having a good time. Some people had persuaded Gabrielle to tell a story, so she was up in front of everyone, doing just that. She had picked a classic love story, since Xena had made her promise not to tell any about her that night.
Xena had gotten herself cleaned up from her earlier adventure, and changed out of her armor. She now relaxed by herself at a table, with her chair against the wall, where she could see both the door to the inn, and Gabrielle.
She'd let herself indulge in a few drinks, and was definitely feeling the effect. As she watched the bard do her work, she admired how the light reflected off her hair, and how shapely their hard travels had made her body. "Gods, she's beautiful", Xena thought to herself. She had heard the story many times before, and it was a credit to Gabrielle, that it was still interesting. But tonight, she wasn't listening to the words, as much as she was just enjoying hearing Gabrielle's voice, which was almost like music, and watching her animated gestures. "What did I ever do to deserve something like this?" she mused.
At one point during the night, a drunk started making some rude remarks about the young bard. Xena was just about to get up, when she noticed his companions whispering to him and gesturing in her direction. She watched for a little longer, until she was sure the guy wasn't going to be any more trouble. "Hmm…sometimes it's good to have a reputation", she thought.
"Good thing too. I would NOT have been happy if I had to get up, right now. Nope. Not one bit." She happily returned her attention to the bard.
At the end of the evening, they walked back to their home together. Gabrielle yawned, and Xena looked over at her. "Tired?" she asked.
"Mm…a little", the bard agreed. "It's been kind of a long day, with helping out in the kitchen, and then telling all those stories."
"Since when does telling stories make you tired?" Xena joked.
"O.K. maybe it was just the kitchen work then", the bard relented.
They got back to the cabin, and Ares bounded gleefully out the door, briefly greeted both of them, and then rushed off to do important wolf things. Xena immediately got the fire going again, while Gabrielle changed into her nightclothes, which actually consisted of one of Xena's shirts. It was much too big for the smaller woman, and hung almost to her knees. She sat down by the fire, next to Xena. "I love the way your shirt smells", she said pleasantly.
"Yeah, sweaty warrior, that's one of my favorite smells too." Xena replied, raising an eyebrow.
"Tch…it doesn't smell like that", the bard chastised her, "It just smells like…you", she said finally.
"Whatever you say, Gabrielle."
The bard made a face at her, then reclined, propping her head up with one arm, and stretching her legs in Xena's direction. The fire was starting to crackle, and dance merrily. "This is nice, just sitting in front of the fire. It kind of reminds me of being out on the road, with a campfire." The warrior was silent, so Gabrielle went on. "Do you ever miss that?"
"Oh yeah, sleeping on the hard cold ground, getting harassed every other day by some group of thugs, or bandits. I really miss that.", the warrior replied. She was silent for a moment, then continued. "Funny thing is, in some ways I do miss it."
"Xena, if you want to travel, just tell me, we don't have to stay here. I mean I can see how this could get boring. I just thought you were happy here, and…"
"Wait, Gabrielle, I am happy here. I want you to understand that."
Xena thought for a minute, and stared at the fire.
"I've had years, to journey the world, but it seems like I've only had moments to spend with you. Before I met you I was to a point where I wasn't sure I wanted to go on at all. Now it seems there just isn't enough time in the day." Xena turned to look right at the bard. "I don't need anything else to make me happy. There is nothing in the world I want more, that to just be with you."
The bard smiled. "Xena…." She paused, as her eyes moistened, unsure how to respond. "That was really sweet." She said finally. "But if you do want to hit the road again, promise me, you'll let me know."
"I promise, Gabrielle. Maybe after it warms up we can pay a visit to the amazons, or something. But for now the weather is a little too nasty for travelling, and I'd rather just be here with you by the fire. I just need to find things to keep me busy, while the weather is bad, that's all."
"Like whatever it was you were doing in the woods today?", Gabrielle inquired.
"I told you, I was teaching Ares new commands, and, yeah, I suppose that's something I'm doing to keep myself busy."
"Well, if it keeps you from going stir-crazy I guess it's a good thing", Gabrielle mused. "So what was this about making it up to me tonight?"
Gabrielle playfully, lifted one leg, and hooked her ankle behind Xena's neck. "Hmmm?"
Xena smiled seductively, and kissed the inside of Gabrielle's calf. "Gabrielle", she whispered, and kissed her a little higher up her leg. The bard felt a shiver travel up her spine, as her eyes met Xena's. "You are really going to enjoy this…backrub!" At this, the warrior grabbed both of Gabrielle's legs, and flipped her on to her stomach.
"Eyyee…Xena, that's not…uh…I…uh…you…mmmmmmm. This could work", the bard agreed.
She relaxed, as powerful hands found exactly the right spots to work out the kinks in her muscles. "That is really nice", she murmured. "Very nice."
As the tension left her body, she yawned, suddenly realizing exactly how tired she really was. As Xena continued a little more gently, Gabrielle gradually felt herself drifting off.
Xena continued for a long time then realized she hadn't heard anything from Gabrielle for a little while. She stopped, and listened to the bard's breathing. "Yep, she's asleep", Xena thought to herself.
She thought about her options, but decided against waking her. Instead she took the covers from the bed, and laid them on top of Gabrielle. Then she got ready for bed herself, stopped to let Ares inside for the night, and curled up next to Gabrielle on the floor.
The wolf looked at the two of them on the floor, then at the soft, unused bed. He jumped up on the bed, and turned around twice, before settling down. He never did quite understand humans.
For the next few days, Xena went out to the woods regularly, practicing with Ares, while making sure to inform Gabrielle as to how long she would be gone. She had put a rabbit skin on the end of a long pole. They would run down the path together, and she'd make the rabbit run off in different directions, making sure that the wolf followed her commands instead of the rabbit. Finally she decided they were ready to give it a try for real.
She found the exact place of the last hunt, then moved a little ways away downwind, and waited, making sure the wolf stayed right beside her. She looked around at the cold barren forest. The wind gently moved the trees, but for the most part everything was silent. "It feels so…empty." She thought. She recalled her life before meeting the bard. "This is exactly how I felt." She thought. "Empty, alone, almost dead." "I probably would have died, if I hadn't met her." "Now" she thought, "I want to live like this forever."
She sighed, then settled in for a long wait. Suddenly the rabbit appeared. She slowly moved with the wolf to what she judged to be a good position, then took off running, simultaneously yelling to the wolf. "Schnell!"
The rabbit froze for a moment, the darted off in a flash. They were gaining quickly, and the rabbit started making sharp turns, as they followed. Xena ordered the wolf off to the left of the rabbit. She wanted the wolf close to the rabbit on the left, while she was a little farther behind on the right. She was hoping the rabbit's greater fear of the wolf would steer it right in to her reach.
The wolf ran along happily. This game he understood. He'd been doing his best to learn what Xena had been trying to teach him the last few days, but he was only doing it because that was what his pack leader wanted, and he wanted to please her. But this…he didn't need this game explained to him. The understanding came from somewhere deep inside. He was born to do this. He looked over at his mistress, now concentrating deeply on the hunt, but grinning broadly, and he knew she understood this game in the same way he did.
Xena saw that the rabbit was going to break to the left. "Links!" she yelled to the wolf. But Ares was too intense on the real prey in front of him. He kept on straight-ahead. He rabbit broke hard to the left, and Xena followed, and was forced to hurdle the wolf to try to avoid tumbling over him. She paused. The wolf had swung wide to try to pursue the rabbit, and she had lost ground, so she decided to end the chase. "*&^$%*@" She shouted. The wolf realized she had quit the hunt, and trotted back to her. "Double *&^$%*@", she yelled again, as she kicked a tree. "Bad wolf." Ares hung his head, and looked quite dejected. "Well, we'll just have to keep working on it, and try again another day, I guess."
She looked down at the wolf. "Come on boy, let's go home."
At that moment a strange feeling came over her, like the hairs on the back of her neck standing up. "Ares…", she said cautiously. The wolf who was right beside her cocked his head to one side. "I know you're here, show yourself."
The god of war materialized, leaning against a near-by tree. "You really shouldn't be able to do that." He complained.
"What do you want Ares? I'm in a bad mood."
"Oh…nothing. I just came to watch my favorite gal in action." He walked slowly towards her. Ares, the wolf, growled. "It seems a shame you know. You out here squandering my gifts like this."
"What do you mean?", Xena asked, with a tone that said she really wasn't interested in the answer.
"I mean, with what I've given you could rule the world. I've seen it Xena. If things were only a little different, if you didn't hang around with that annoying little blond, you could be ruling the world right now. Think of everyone from Chin to Britannia, from the Nile valley to the frozen lands of the Norse people, all of them bowing in submission to Greece, to you Xena." He stood right in front of her, looking her in the eye. "Even Rome would pay tribute to you."
He walked away, throwing his hands in the air. "But what are you doing with these gifts? You're out here in the forest chasing rabbits."
"I don't want to hear this today Ares. Tell me what you want, or leave."
"I want the same thing I always want.", the God said smiling. "I want you to come back to me. It's in your heart Xena, you can't deny it. You're a killer. Even my namesake over there can see that." he gestured at the wolf, who snarled in response. "It's what makes you who you are. It's what defines you."
"You want me to tell you what defines you?", Xena asked.
"Very funny.", the God retorted with a smirk. "It's not like this redemption kick you're on has any chance of success anyway. I was there, Xena. I saw every one of the innocent lives you took. Do you really think you can make up for something like that?" He face took on a serious look. "Xena, if you tried for a hundred lifetimes, you couldn't erase what you've done."
"Maybe not.", Xena replied grimly. "But, that's not going to stop me from trying."
"O.K. It's your life." He shrugged. One of these days you'll be back, if not in this lifetime, then in another. I'll try not to tell you I told you so." With this he disappeared, causing the wolf to growl again.
Xena looked down at the wolf. "I wonder what he meant by that. Hmm…Come on boy, let's go home."
They arrived back at the cabin, late in the evening, to find Gabrielle at her writing table, with scrolls scattered everywhere. "So what have you been up to?" Xena inquired.
The bard lifted both eyebrows, and gestured to the parchment scattered around her. "It's not obvious?"
"Well, I can see you've been writing, but what?"
"Oh…poems, stories, just fun stuff." Gabrielle answered with a smile.
"You really enjoy that don't you?" Xena asked.
"Yeah, I really do." She paused then went on. "You know what's one of the things I like best about it?"
"What's that?" Xena responded while hoping on one foot to remove her boot.
"Writing gives me a sort of immortality."
"How's that?" Xena asked, puzzled.
Gabrielle leaned back in her chair. "I like the idea that long after I'm dead, say a hundred, or even a thousand years, someone may read what I wrote, and know a little bit about who I was."
"Hmm…well those scrolls might last one hundred years, but I don't think I'd count on them making it a thousand."
Gabrielle considered. "Well, really old stories are re-copied, and passed on by word of mouth for generations."
"I guess they could be. Your stories are pretty good." Xena agreed. "But, I bet those old stories have changed quite a bit from the way they were originally written."
"I suppose." Gabrielle got up, and walked towards the warrior who was working on getting herself out of various armor pieces. "Still, I like the idea. It's like a one way message in to the future." She paused, then continued. "What would you say, if you knew you could send a message to someone who won't be born for another thousand years?"
"I don't know." Xena shrugged. "Hi. Having a nice time. Wish you were here?"
"No.", the bard gave her a slightly annoyed look. "I know what I'd want to tell them." The bard looked straight into Xena's eyes. "I'd tell them about a great hero. I'd tell them about how many people she helped. And I'd tell them what she meant to me."
"Oh…" Xena considered. "Yeah, I guess you could tell them that too. At least if they're reading it a thousand years from now, I won't be around to hear it." She joked.
The bard rolled her eyes. "There must be something you'd want to say to them."
"I guess I never really though about it." The warrior answered seriously.
"Hmm…" The bard decided not to pursue the line of questioning any further. She walked over to her nightshirt, and picked it up. "Well, I'm kind of tired. I think I'll turn-in early.
"Fine with me. I'm going to be up for a little while."
Xena proceeded to get out the things she needed to make herself some tea, then sat down by the fire. "What some?" She asked.
"No thanks." Came the response from Gabrielle, as she straightened up her scrolls, and got ready for bed.
The bard crawled into bed, and looked over at Xena. "Everything O.K.?" She asked.
"Yeah. Fine." Xena answered, looking over her shoulder at the bard.
Xena sat by the fire thinking for a long time. She had planned to use this time to think about hunting, but Gabrielle's question hung in her mind. "What would you want to tell someone a thousand years from now?"
"Hmm…I guess it would have to be something I didn't want the world to forget." She thought. She heard the bard's breathing change, indicating sleep. Finally, she got up, and walked over to Gabrielle's writing table. She sat down, found a blank scroll and some ink, and began to write.
"I want to tell you about a woman named Gabrielle. "
The next morning Xena was gone before Gabrielle awoke. She wanted to pay an early morning visit to the merchants that were in town. She had a couple of things she wanted. First, she needed some supplies for making a non-lethal rabbit trap. Secondly, she had something special in mind that she wanted for Gabrielle.
She managed to find exactly what she was looking for, and by mid-morning she was busy constructing the traps. After breakfast Gabrielle found her in the stables, sitting on the ground working. "Now what are you working on?"
"We've got plenty of rabbit traps Xena, why do we need more."
The bard looked at what Xena was constructing. It was basically a large box, with some thin wires attached. "And I've never seen one like that before."
"This one will capture them alive, and uninjured."
"Why do you want live rabbits?"
"To help me train Ares."
"Train him to do what?"
"To help me catch rabbits."
Gabrielle paused for a moment. "So, let make sure I've got this right. You're building rabbit traps, to catch rabbits alive, so you can use them to help you train Ares, so he can help you catch rabbits? "
"You got it."
"I may have got it, but I don't get it." The bard answered. "What is this all about?"
"It's kind of hard to explain." Xena answered, as she looked up at the bard. "Remember how I was saying I need things to keep me busy?"
"Well, this is one of them. I'm trying to catch a rabbit, without any weapons, or traps, just me, and a little help from Ares.
"You mean just chase down a rabbit, and catch it with your bare hands?"
"Xena, you can't…" She was about to say "You can't do that." But, she remembered this was Xena she was talking to.
Xena stood up "Yeah, I used to do it occasionally to impress my troops. But, the snow is making it a little tricky so I'm teaching Ares to help me."
Gabrielle scratched her head. "Well…I suppose if it gives you something to do…"
Xena walked over to a small bag sitting by the wall of the stable. "I've got something for you." She walked back to Gabrielle, and pulled out some sticks with funny shaped ends. "Here."
"What are these?" The bard asked.
"They're tools for writing in clay. I was thinking about what you said last night, about wanting to have you're stuff read after your gone, and I thought you needed something a little more permanent to work with." She pointed to the tools. "You use these to carve in the clay, then you bake it in a pottery oven. When it's done it's hard as a rock; it should last for centuries. At least you can make sure a few of your best things last a long time. "
"Xena, that was very sweet. Thank you."
Xena hesitated for a moment, then decided to get it over with. She reached into the bag again and pulled out a scroll. "This is for you too. I figured out what I would want to tell someone a thousand years from now. I want to write this with the new tools too."
Gabrielle took the scroll, and opened it curiously. Then she read it.
I want to tell you about a woman named Gabrielle. I'm writing this in stone, because I don't want the world to forget the person that she was. She was the kindest soul I have ever known. She seems to shine with an inner light. I met her at a time in my life when I didn't think I could continue, when I thought the darkness would overwhelm me. She not only gave me the will to continue, but she gave my life a purpose. She showed me how I could change the world for the better. One of her great skills was with words, and she had a way of putting people at ease, that made her a natural negotiator. She loved to write stories, and poems, and hopefully, if you've reading this, you also have some of them as well. She loved to share them with others too, because they made people happy. She became queen of the Amazon warriors, and helped them to understand the ways of peace. She was as beautiful on the outside as inside. She had long blonde hair, bright green eyes, and a wonderful smile, that would make her nose crinkle. There are many things about her that I would like to tell you about her, but the most important thing is that she meant everything in the world to me and I loved her, as deeply as any soul has ever loved another, and with the very essence of my being.
"Xena…I…" The bard started, then just embraced the warrior instead. She looked up and gently kissed her. "That was beautiful." She held her for a few moments, then she kissed the warrior again, this time long and deep. Then, looking directly into Xena's eyes, "Do you think you could take a little time away from your project and come back to the cabin with me?" she inquired suggestively. She gently kissed, and slightly licked Xena's neck. "I've got something for you to do there to keep you busy." She whispered.
"Mmm…I think I could be persuaded." Xena replied.
They left Xena's contraption sitting in the middle of the stable floor. As they walked out, Gabrielle asked, "Where are we going to keep these once we make them."
"We'll find a safe place for them." Xena answered.
They headed back to the cabin, and it was many candlemarks before Xena returned to finish the traps.
She spent a few days catching rabbits, releasing them, and teaching Ares to follow her commands, instead of the rabbits. The wolf seemed to object to letting the prey get away, but gradually he learned to listen to Xena, instead of following his instinct. Finally, she decided they were ready for another try.
She got out before dawn, taking Ares with her, and leaving Gabrielle asleep in the cabin. They got to the correct spot in the forest, and Xena leaned against a tree to wait. The wolf was still having a good time running around sniffing things. "Ares, com're!" Xena yelled. The wolf trotted over to her. She bent down by the wolf, and held her finger to her lips. "Shhh…be vewy vewy quite. I'm hunting wabbit." The wolf cocked his head to one side, and gave her a puzzled look, but he sat down beside her to wait, anyway.
When the rabbit appeared, it was close by. Xena took off running, and quietly gave a gestured command to the wolf.
The rabbit didn't see them immediately, and they were getting close, before the poor creature could even start running. It darted one way, then the other in a fruitless attempt to evade the warrior, and the now very disciplined canine pursuer.
It tried going under logs, and around trees. But every maneuver seemed to bring them closer.
Xena was enjoying this. She knew she had it this time. She could see the dead rabbit. She could sense its fear, and something deep inside her wanted that.
With the wolf almost on top of it, the rabbit made a final desperate turn, which brought it within Xena's reach. She through herself at the animal, made a quick grab, and captured it with her powerful, but sure hands. It squealed in terror, but only for a moment. With a feral grin, Xena snapped its neck. Then, with the lust of the kill still enveloping her, she continued, and tore the animal's head from its body.
She stood up holding the bloody head by the ears. "Hmm…wouldn't make much of a trophy." She casually discarded it, and picked up the body. While Xena prepared to clean it, and transport the meat back to town, the wolf curiously examined the severed head. Then, after Xena chased him away, he ran off to see if he could find anything else of interest.
Meanwhile, Gabrielle was still asleep at home, and having a most interesting dream. She was a large mountain cat chasing down its prey. Then she was even larger. She became one of those huge stripped cats from the east that she had only seen images of. She was running, running faster that she would have imagined possible. She felt the muscles in her legs contract, and release, hurdling her forward, allowing her to make great leaps, and sending her enormous mass flying through the air.
She felt incredible power. She realized that with a single swipe of her paw, she could decapitate a human, just by force alone. She had deadly weapons at her disposal. Razor sharp claws and teeth, and the knowledge to use them to maximum effect were a part of her being. She was one of nature's most efficient, and deadliest killing machines.
The prey in front of her excited her. She lived for the chase, and for the kill. This was what she did, and did better than anything or anyone else. The prey was trying to evade her, but she followed with enormous skill. At last, she made a final leap, knocking the animal over with her weight. Then quickly, she sunk her teeth into its neck, and tasted blood.
Gabrielle awoke violently. She quickly sat up, and realized she was covered with sweat and breathing hard. She knew that she had been dreaming, but at the same time she realized she was receiving the same sensation she had experienced in her dream, from her connection with Xena.
She was truly worried this time. "What could Xena be doing?" She thought.
As she quickly jumped out of bed, and hurried to get dressed the sensation faded. She ran out of their home and towards the path in the forest that she knew Xena had taken, not stopping to say a word to anyone.
As she passed the sentries in the forest, a wave of sadness and guilt came over her, also from her bond with Xena.
Gabrielle quickened her pace.
Xena was finishing up the skinning of the rabbit when she noticed Ares a little ways off, digging furiously. Taking the rabbit with her, she walked over to see what he was after. "What'cha got there boy" She asked, moving the wolf aside.
She looked down to see a shallow rabbit scrape in the frozen ground. Inside the hole, which the wolf has widened, she could see a litter of small furry baby rabbits. "Aww…Hades." Xena exclaimed. "Come on Ares, leave them alone." As she pulled the wolf from the hole and started to walk away, the guilt started to hit her.
She shook her head. "Come on, Xena, it's a rabbit. Any predator could have come along and killed it too. " But she knew why it was bothering her. She had let the killer out, and again it had caused destruction. "Snap out of it. How many human families have you left parentless? Let's not get all gushy about a rabbit. " That thought did nothing to bring her comfort, in fact it did just the opposite. Unbidden, memories came flooding back to her. She saw villages in flames, and saw years of good laborer's hard work destroyed. She heard the screams of innocent people dying, dying by her command, and not all of them were easy deaths. She heard the moans of those that she had left to die slow agonizing deaths. And she saw the faces. Countless faces, all of them good people, all of them mourned by the survivors.
She stopped walking. Ares' words rang in her head. "It's not like this redemption kick you're on has any chance of success anyway. I was there, Xena. I saw every one of the innocent lives you took. Do you really think you can make up for something like that? " "Maybe he's right." She thought. "Maybe I never will be able to leave that part of myself behind."
She sank down against a tree. The wolf came to her, but she made it clear he wasn't welcome. He moved off a little ways and considered. "She doesn't seem wounded." He thought. Still, something was very wrong. He considered a moment longer, then started to run home.
He would find the other mistress. She would know what to do.
Xena sat motionless by the tree, absorbing the coldness and emptiness around her. As a sharp wind hit her face, a single tear ran down a cheek that could have been chiseled from stone. She looked down at her hands, now covered with the rabbit's blood, then she looked up at the sky, and closed her eyes.
Ares was only halfway home when he met Gabrielle hurrying in his direction. "Roo! Roo!" He barked.
She grabbed the wolf's head and looked him right in the face. "Where is she?! Ares, Find Xena!" The bard half shouted at the wolf.
"She said 'Find!'" The wolf thought. He turned around, and headed back down the path the way he had come.
Gabrielle and the wolf found Xena still sitting against the tree. "Xena?" The bard asked worriedly, receiving no response. She looked around. She saw the skinned rabbit carcass, and the severed head. She saw the near-by hole, and investigated. "Aww…they're so cute." she thought. Then it hit her. She put what she had felt through their connection, together with what she had just found, and realized what memories this could have brought back for the warrior.
She considered. "Well, you could tell her it's just a rabbit. But, she knows that. You could tell her the fact that she feels like this means she's not the person she was. You could remind her of all the good she's done, and can do. But, she knows all that too. Come on Gabrielle, you're the bard, you can think of something to say."
In the end, she walked over to Xena, sat down beside her, and just held her. As the warmth of their connection flowed through her, Xena remembered Ares' words again. "It's what makes you who you are. It's what defines you. " "You're wrong Ares." She thought. "That killer doesn't define who I am…this does. The words of Jessan's people came to mind. "Beyond understanding, beyond better judgement, beyond death itself. " Then the god of war continued in her head. "Xena, if you tried for a hundred lifetimes, you couldn't erase what you've done. One of these days you'll be back, if not in this lifetime, then in another. " "Maybe, maybe not." She thought. But, she knew one thing was certain. If she did live a hundred lifetimes, no power in the universe was going to keep her from spending them with the soul that embraced her right now.
They sat in the forest for a long time, ignoring the cold around them, and only feeling each other's warmth.
Later that day, they arrived back at the cabin. Gabrielle had decided not to share with the warrior just how vivid a look she had gotten of the killer, because she realized it would only hurt her more, but she considered it a valuable insight. Gabrielle had insisted that they bring the rabbits home, and try to take care of them. Xena had told her that they would have very little chance of survival without their mother, and in captivity, but the bard would not be swayed, in fact she was already planning a small fenced enclosure behind their cabin for them. Xena's mood had slowly improved, and by the time they had walked home, she had put the incident mostly behind her.
That night they sat by the fire, drinking one of the many varieties of teas Xena had on hand. They had gotten ready for bed, and as usual, Gabrielle was wearing one of Xena's shirts. The bard was reclining against the warrior, who had her arms wrapped around her. "You do know you can use that killer instinct for good, right Xena?" She asked.
"Gabrielle, I can use my skills for good, but that monster inside me can do nothing but evil." Her voice took on a happier tone. "But, I don't want to talk about it any more tonight. She kissed the back of the bard's head. "Remember the other night when I said I'd make it up to you, but you fell asleep instead?"
"Well, tonight's the night."
"Xena, you don't have to…" Xena kissed her lips, stopping her from finishing the sentence.
"I want to." She stood up, lifted the bard in her arms, and carried her to the bed. She placed Gabrielle on the bed and then climbed in herself.
Then the warrior began a slow and methodical exploration of the other woman's body. She removed the shirt that was Gabrielle's only article of clothing at that moment, and began covering the smaller woman everywhere with kisses, tiny and large, until almost no part of her body had been left untouched.
"Xena, this makes me feel…"
"Good?" Xena asked hopefully.
"Mmm…I was going to say beautiful" Gabrielle answered.
"You are beautiful Gabrielle", Xena whispered.
She continued, slowly paying more and more attention to Gabrielle's more sensitive regions, with small kisses and gentle caresses.
Ever so slowly, Xena let the tension build. And as the end got closer, she expertly withheld the final release. "How do you know just when…?" Gabrielle asked breathlessly.
"I have many skills" Xena answered, raising an eyebrow. The other woman just smiled.
Finally, Xena decided it had been long enough. She gave it her all, for the grand finale. Gabrielle felt Xena's long dark hair rub against her thighs, and she grabbed it with her hands. Then, waves of intense pleasure rolled over her, as the welcomed release finally came. The intensity left her feet numb, and left her incredibly relaxed, and utterly exhausted.
"Wow!", was her only comment.
Xena smiled, and crawled up next to her allowing the bard to curl up in her favorite spot, with her head resting on Xena's shoulder. "Time for sleep now." Xena said softly.
"But, Xena, we didn't…you…"
"Another time." Xena kissed the other woman's head gently.
Gabrielle, for once, was in no mood to argue about anything.
The next morning, Xena awoke before the dawn, and without opening her eyes, extended her senses around the room. The first, and most obvious thing was the bard sleeping on her shoulder, with one arm flung across her, and holding her firmly, still sound asleep. Did she really want to get up? "No", was her quick answer. She sighed contentedly, and went back to sleep.
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