by Maderlin Bidmead
Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer, Autolycus, Eve and the horsies belong to MCA/Universal Pictures. Just the little story is mine
Love/Sex: Two women in love, but nothing graphic. The following chapters will also contain an m/f relationship. This is not the main part of the fic, but it is essential to the plot. F/F loving will prevail.
Angst: Yep....Good God Yes!
Timeline: This is an alternative to the events following 'Looking Death in the Eye'
Comments: All feedback gratefully received: firstname.lastname@example.org
Several heartbeats later Xena was still staring at the bedroom doorway in consternation; what was he up to? She didn't want to distrust her husband yet past experience kept her on edge. He may have changed but she wasn't fool enough to think that he couldn't turn back to his old ways with the right incentive. She'd seen him come close to reverting back more than once in the last six years.
The sound of movement and soft voices in the outer room brought her attention back to the moment. There was a moment of near perfect stillness before the whooshing sound of the door being pushed closed and the soft snick of the latch. Xena waited patiently for her visitor, hoping beyond hope that it would be the little blonde.
In the foyer Mesella moved around like a caged tiger, eyes and hands lighting on many objects but settling on nothing. It had sounded so easy when Postumus had suggested it, just go in and ask the woman what was going on, now she was struggling just to stay in the room. You are the Captain of the Royal Guard! Take a deep breath and march in there. You can do it! She's just one woman, a sick one at that. If she won't answer then you leave, got it? She nodded her head, feeling her resolve harden as she turned and strode purposefully to the bedroom.
The brunette had be carefully watching the door, just waiting, planning to look away as soon as she saw who it was; if it was the soldier she didn't want to scare her away again. On wings all it's own that idea flew out of her mind as Mesella filled the doorway. Green met blue and both women froze, barely breathing as their souls seemed to touch. To Xena it was a familiar and long missed sensation, for Mesella it was just another piece of a frightening and jumbled puzzle.
"You came back!" The smile that broke across the prone woman's face as she spoke disarmed the soldier completely. All thoughts of plans and interrogation fled her mind, leaving behind a shy and nervous woman.
"I thought I'd come and see how you were doing now." With a will of their own, her feet moved her to the edge of the bed. "You look a lot better, not so pale. I saw your husband leaving and thought it'd be all right to come and say hi." The words came out in a rush, not quite as exuberant as the other woman remembered but certainly a good indicator that her bard was in there and getting closer to the surface.
"I am very pleased for the company, Captain. Please sit down. You seemed uncomfortable earlier, sitting up here, why don't you pull that chair over?" Dumbly the other woman moved to heave the heavy chair to the bedside and flopped gracelessly into it in a tangle of arms and legs, yet another gesture that called up images of the young bard. "Thank you, I know I said it before but I thought you should hear it again. The healer said it was something that happens to many women. A few days rest and I will be as good as new."
"That's really… you know… good." Once again the green eyes were focused on anything but her.
"Why do I make you so uncomfortable, Captain?" Captain, it was such an impersonal title, Xena used it now hoping that it would produce a reaction.
"I don't know. I thought it was because you and the goddess had been watching me. Then you started to talk to me and you're not so bad. There's just something about you, like a finger running down my spine. It's weird and it makes me not want to be around you." There it was between them, the strange truth of it all. "You might as well call me Mesella; I think we're a bit passed Captain, don't you?"
"I guess you're right." This was a real break through.
"In the garden, when you were telling me about that girl you knew… it reminded me a little of, well, me. I'm not like the others, that's why I take care of Claudius and Vinicus." A dark brow rose. "I know you know about Vinicus, I feel you watching me when I train him. I see something in that boy."
"You're right to; he really is coming along nicely." The blonde looked visibly stunned as a smile began to blossom over her face.
"Thank you, I think so. Nobody else will give him a second look. He'll show them, one day. Something else about that girl you described struck a chord. I like to make up stories, I could never do it in public, I tell them to Claudius. He loves a story before bed, he's a great audience." Xena had stopped listening after stories, thanking whatever gods remained that she was already lying down as that revelation would have brought her to her knees.
"Would you, tell me a story?" Pushing harder than she had intended she prayed that the smaller woman would not run again.
"Only because you're sick, this is a one time deal, no repeat performances." Her voice was full of laughter as she settled further into the chair and relaxed. For Xena it was like watching the woman metamorphose before her very eyes.
"So, there was a young village girl who embarked on an adventure…"
Xena was enthralled by the story that she had live through. Hearing the familiar tale of Gabrielle's release of the Titan's, though the names were new, was the proof that she had been waiting for that Gabrielle was buried but not dead. Soon the story was over and the pair were plunged into silence, but this time it was comfortable. Xena knew that she had to delve further, no matter the consequences.
"I need to ask you something and I need to know that you won't bolt."
"That I can promise you. I'll make you a deal, you can ask me your questions and I get to ask you some of my own." It seemed only fair to the Warrior Princess who nodded gamely in response. "Ok, go ahead."
"What do remember about the first time you fought the rebels?" It was as good a place as any to start.
"We were just tying up the loose ends when were ambushed. I don't really remember all that much. The rebels were fighting like wounded animals, full of rage and hatred. Postumus and I were barely holding our own but I remember looking over and seeing that the General… Gabrielle… was fighting up a storm. She really seemed to be in total control. The next thing I know I feel a blow to he head, I was sure I was a goner. Then everything went black and the next thing I knew I was waking up in the clearing and most everybody else was dead. I remember being really surprised that my wound was so slight, I was barely even bleeding." Voice and eyes were suddenly very far away, fixed on a point in time that only she could remember. "I don't even have a scar." No, she didn't, but the body that had been brought back to Xena had died from such a blow.
"That is unusual." How to ask and give nothing away? "Let's talk about something less painful; where do you get the ideas for your stories?"
"Oh, those are just from dreams. Sometimes they are so vivid it's like a memory. Do you ever get that?" The darker woman shook her head. "My turn now I think. Why are you so fascinated by me?"
What to say? Tell the truth or tell a lie? Watching the pregnant woman's face Mesella could make out none of what she was feeling. The sculpted face could have been carved from marble just then, so still had it become. Suddenly the eyes flicked back to her face and a decision was made.
"The friend I told you about was Gabrielle and the reason that you think that you're like her, is because you are her." Seeing nothing but confusion on the cherubic face she ploughed on. "I think that the reason that you don't remember the fight very well is because that blow to the head killed Mesella…"
"Enough! I am Mesella! What is wrong with you? I'm sorry that your friend died but I'm not her!" Standing with such force that the chair ricocheted off the wall she stood vibrating with anger.
"I know this is hard to hear, you have to believe me! You have her face, her body, her personality for the gods' sake. All you're missing is her memories." All she was talking to was air as the other woman once again fled from her.
"That could have gone better." The voice came from beside the window, followed by Aphrodite. No hearts and sparkles today, a rather subdued entrance by the usually flamboyant goddess. Even her clothes were muted, still pink, but less provocative than usual. Slowly she walked to the bed and sat curled beside her friend.
"I sure know how to pick my moments, don't I?" It had seemed like such a good idea, she had been so laid back.
"Yeah, I think you need to work on that."
"She knows the truth now, which might trigger some recall. I think you were right, Mesella got killed and Gabrielle took her personae. It can't just be amnesia, this is much more. It smacks of my families power, I am more certain of that now than ever. I'm heading to Olympus to see what I can find out; there must be something there, some clue." She stroked a manicured hand over Xena's dark hair. "If you need me for anything, call and I will be here."
"Thank you, for everything Dite."
"My pleasure, Babe," with that she was gone.
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! The word pounded in her head as she threw her saddle bags onto the bunk. The anger was pouring from her in waves, crashing against the rocks of her confusion. She had to get away, as far away from that woman as possible. Forcing her equipment into her bags she was ready to go in minutes. Uncaring that her room was destroyed, that possessions lay scattered on the ground, hefting them over her shoulder she snatched up her sword and headed out.
The soldiers and nobles that she passed in the hallways looked at her strangely as she blew by them. At this point she didn't care. Reaching the stables she took the first saddled horse, strapped on her gear and was gone in a cloud of dust and hoof beats. Unsure what to do the young stable-hand grasped the sheaf of paper in his hand firmly and hastened to find Postumus.
"It would seem, Your Highness, that Captain Mesella had received reports of barbarian incursions on the northern border. She thought it prudent to head out as soon as possible in order to quash this new resistance. In her missive she apologises to your Highness and hopes that you will forgive her break in protocol." Postumus really hoped his Emperor was buying this crock.
"As always, our Captain puts the safety of the Empire above all else. I will over look her over zealousness in this matter. Be sure to keep me informed of any developments. I am sure they will be put down, post haste and she will return to us with tales of triumph." With a wave of the Emperor's hand he was dismissed and heading towards the last place his friend had visited.
Without preamble he stormed into the guest suit, door banging open loudly. On sure feet he headed straight to the bedroom, not caring who or what he might find there. Even seeing the pregnant woman lying on the bed, eyes red from crying, could not abort his mission.
"What did you do?" It was little more than a hiss.
"What's wrong? What happened?" Why was he this upset?
"You tell me!"
And she did.
TBC in Chapter 16
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