DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle and any other characters featured in the actual TV series are copyrighted to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures; just borrowing for this story. The rest of the story and other characters are mine. Please contact me before using any of my stuff. Thanks.
SERIES DISCLAIMER: This is part of the Beginning Again Series, and takes place around the same time as "Fitting In."
SPOILERS: None that I can think of.
SUBTEXT: Xena and Gabrielle are in love in my world, but nothing explicit takes place here.
VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: No violence except off screen.
HURT/COMFORT WARNING/DISCLAIMER: Not this time. In fact, this is a drastic departure for me. Some laughs, but overall, a very light story. No darkness, no near death experiences, no violence. A piece of fluff. However, I hope you still enjoy.
Xena sat on a log and watched as her petite, blond fiancee paced back and forth in front of her, absentmindedly throwing her sais in the air and catching it without missing a step. Not one sound could be heard in the woods except the crackling of twigs underneath the Bard's feet. After years of being together, Xena knew that Gabrielle's actions meant one thing: The Bard was upset. And Xena wasn't the only one who knew. Both of their steeds made sure that they gave Gabrielle a wide berth.
After the fiftieth time of tossing her sais, the Warrior Princess had enough. Xena got up, walked over to Gabrielle, caught the airborne sai, and slowly handed it over to the Bard. "Nervous?"
A tiny smile appeared on Gabrielle's face. "A bit." The Amazon Queen took the sai. "It's not everyday I learn about my powers." Even though she had accepted the fact that Apollo was her father, Gabrielle wasn't sure how she felt about her lament powers. Today was the first day she would purposely use those powers.
"Hey, youll do fine."
The nervous feeling that plagued her all day began to come back, and since she couldn't pace or toss her sais, she did what came naturally: she talked. A lot. And her hands moved almost as fast as her mouth. The more she talked, the more animated her gestures became. "I don't know. I mean what if I can talk to animals? What if I said something wrong, and a pack of wolves attack? And you know what this means. I can't eat something I've just talk to. And what if I can shoot fireballs? I might accidentally blow up a village? Or.."
Xena's ears listened while her eyes watched as Gabrielle flung her hands about with the sais still in them. Fearing that Gabrielle may hurt herself, Xena reached out and grabbed her by the wrists. "Gabrielle, calm down. Before you can learn to control your powers, you need to steady your nerves." The Warrior Princess guided her love to the log and as she sat down, Xena stepped behind the log and began rubbing her soulmate's shoulders. "Relax. Everything will be fine."
Within moments, loving hands worked out the knots as Gabrielle closed her eyes and began to relax. "That feels nice."
"Well just remember, you owe me."
Suddenly, Gabrielle straightened up. "He's here." The two of them watched as a bright white globe of light appeared and slowly dissipated as Apollo came into view.
*Give her space, give her space. Don't be too pushy...* Apollo reminded himself as he nervously gripped the package in his hand. "Hello Gabrielle."
The Amazon Queen stood still. "Hi."
The god eyed the young woman. It was almost like looking in a mirror. Both Apollo and Gabrielle shared the same sun-bleached blond hair, piercing green-blue eyes and the slim but strong body type. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah." Gabrielle pointed to the package. "What's that?"
"Oh this." Apollo held the package out to Gabrielle. "This is for you. You are going to need it later."
"What is it?"
Apollo smiled. "To find out, you're going to have to take it."
Next to shopping, talking and writing stories, opening gifts was Gabrielle's favorite activity. "Thanks." Even though part of her wanted to rip open the package, she slowly untied the string and peeled back the wrapping. Her eyes opened wide as she lifted the delicate knee length sea-green robe. The sleeves were long and fin styled. The material felt softer than silk and had an illuminous quality to it. Along with the robe came a two piece outfit, both made out of the same material with diamond-shaped silver adornments running around the waist of the very short skirt and diamond-shaped pattern on the trim of the short top.
Xena let out a low whistle. "Wow."
"I asked Athena to make it. It can withstand any temperature so that your powers won't be additionally taxed. I also asked Aphrodite to help with it." Apollo looked again at the robe and two-piece outfit as he narrowed his eyes. "Which means it probably adjust to fit to your form." *Note to self: remind me to have a talk to Aphrodite about appropriate dress.*
Gabrielle smiled. "Thanks. It's lovely." She held the two piece outfit up to her body and twirled around. Gabrielle turned back to her father. "Be right back." She darted into the woods.
A giant grin plastered the god's face as he watched his daughter take off. "Do you really think she liked it?"
Xena glanced over at the god and saw the uncertainness in his face. "Apollo, one thing you will learn about Gabrielle is she doesn't hide her feelings. You would know if she didn't like it. Trust me, when she get back, she is going to tell me that we have to go shopping so she can find boots that match the outfit."
"So what do you think?" Gabrielle asked as she made her way back. She turned and modeled the two piece outfit. The wrap around skirt hung low and snugly on her waist and the top showed off some cleavage.
Apollo fatherly instincts surfaced. "I think you should put on the robe." The God of Light looked over at his future daughter-in-law, who stood there intently staring at his daughter. *Must talk to Aphrodite about her clothing design.* "Don't you think Xena?"
A Chester cat grin stretched on her face. "Not much armor, is it?"
"That's your department. You wear enough armor for the both of us."
"No need for it actually. Athena told me that no man-made weapon could break through the material." Apollo strolled over to Gabrielle, holding the robe. "That is why you need to wear the robe." He opened the robe and placed it on her shoulders, "It covers more."
Gabrielle shook her head at his over protectiveness. She took the robe off her shoulders and folded it. "Apollo, I always wear stuff like this." Gabrielle turned the Warrior. "Well, you knows what this means? It means shopping." The Bard's eyes lit up as she thought about haggling.
Xena gave Apollo an 'I told you so' look which caused the god to snicker. "Maybe later, but right now, you have your lesson. So I'll leave you two alone."
Apollo held his hand up. "That won't be necessary Xena. Besides I'm going to need your help later on."
The god nodded. "Yes, but only if Gabrielle feels up to it." He turned his attention to his daughter. "But first I want to start with something easy. Are you ready to talk to some animals Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle snickered, "Oh yeah. That sounds real easy."
"It's a lot easier than you think."
"So what kind of animals can I talk to?"
"Just about any kind. But some will come easier than others." Apollo pointed over to Horse, who was busy grazing on some tender shoots he had found. "For example, you can talk to horses easily, along with certain birds and woodland animals. But not fish and other aquatic animals." Apollo nodded towards Horse. "Give it a try."
"Just concentrate on Horse. Talk to him with your mind. But let me warn you. I'm going to be listening in. So don't say anything you don't want me to hear."
Gabrielle focused her eyes and thoughts on Horse. *Horse, can you hear me?*
The chocolate brown stallion lifted his head and headed over to his master. It was then the steed gave Gabrielle a shock. *Do you need something Gabrielle?*
The Amazon Queen eyes went wide with surprise. "He...He...He talked to me," she stammered.
"Yes, he did." Apollo smiled brightly. "Maybe you should answer him."
Gabrielle returned her attention to Horse. *No, don't need anything. Just go back to eating.* She stared as Horse went back to his meal. "Can I do that with any horse?"
"Try it with Argo."
"Wait a minute." Xena eyed her two companions. "That is MY horse. What are you planning on doing?"
Apollo cocked an eyebrow at the Warrior. "Really Xena, did anyone tell you that you have an unhealthy attachment to that horse? She's just going to talk to her, that's all."
Xena crossed her arms. "All right. But if anything happens..."
Gabrielle sighed. During the years, she and Argo had come to an understanding, they would only cross paths when absolutely necessary. "Okay here goes nothing." Gabrielle concentrated. *Argo, can you please come here?*
Argo looked up. *You're not calling me over only to send me back here, are you?*
Gabrielle looked over at Xena. "Did anyone tell you that Argo has an attitude?"
*Yes, and I hear very well also.*
Gabrielle gulped. *Sorry.* She walked over to Argo and petted her. *You don't like me much do you?*
Argo nudged her nose into the Bard. *I wouldn't say that. At least you give me lots of apples and sweet oats. Not as many as you give him, but enough. I thought you didn't like me at first.*
*It wasn't you but horses in general.* She reached up and rubbed Argo behind the ears as she whispered in her ear, "But I think you are a great horse."
*You're not bad. For a human. But let me give you some advice.* Argo moved her head towards Horse. *Give him a decent name. Horse is a type of animal, not a name.*
Gabrielle giggled. *Okay anything else?*
*Yeah, tell my tightfisted owner to give me more apples.*
Gabrielle laughed out loud as she walked back to Xena and Apollo.
Xena looked at her laughing fiancee and then heard a giggle escaping from Apollo. "Okay, what's so funny?"
Gabrielle gave Xena a peck on the cheek. "I have a message from Argo. 'Tell my tightfisted owner to give me more apples.'"
Argo lifted up her head and looked at the Bard. *Hey, I thought you were good with words. Couldn't you have been more diplomatic than that?*
Apollo then lost it as he and Gabrielle laughed. Xena looked at the two and shook her head. "Let me guess, Argo had something funny to say." She looked over at her steed. "Let's see how many apples you get from your tightfisted owner."
*Don't worry Argo. I'll make sure you get your fair share. With honey.*
*Thank you Gabrielle.* Argo nudged Horse. *Hey, want to trade owners?*
Apollo finally got his laughter under control. "You did well Gabrielle."
"You were right. That was easy."
Apollo's voice had a note of warning. "Now don't get carried away with yourself Gabrielle. You already had a connection with Horse and Argo. It is going to be harder with wild animals."
It was then that Gabrielle spotted a squirrel in the tree behind Xena. "No time like the present." She concentrated on the squirrel. With disappointment, she watched as the squirrel darted from limb to limb, continuing with its own affairs.
Apollo shook his head. "Want to try again?"
Gabrielle nodded and began to search for other woodland creatures. For the next candlemark Xena watched and laughed as Gabrielle tried to communicate with squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits, having little success in the process. "Well, I guess rabbit is still on the menu."
"Ha-ha Xena. Very funny." Gabrielle crossed her arms over her chest. "Apollo, are you sure I can talk to these animals?"
"It's going to take time for you to develop this skill. And you won't be able to talk to all animals, just certain types. But you have to discover which types."
"And how can I do that?"
"Well, you can keep doing what you are doing, trying to talk to each one separately. Or..."
"Or you can close your eyes and call out to the animals with your mind. Those that can communicate with you will come."
Gabrielle watched as a smile crept along Xena's face. "Don't say a word Xena." She turned her eyes to the god. "How come you didn't tell me this sooner? I've been running around trying to talk to these animals."
"Well, you looked so cute and determined, that I didn't have the heart to stop you. Besides, you didn't ask."
Gabrielle could heard a small laugh escaping from the Warrior Princess, but by the time she turned around, Xena had a stoic look upon her face.
Xena looked at the Bard and shrugged her shoulders. "You didn't ask Gabrielle."
Gabrielle glared at Xena before returning her attention to Apollo. "So tell me how I do that?"
"Just close your eyes, relax your mind, and picture the forest." Apollo nodded as Gabrielle did as she was instructed. "That's right. Now open your mind, call out the the animals. Ask them to come."
Xena watched with interest as Gabrielle did what Apollo told her. Her keen sense of hearing picked up sounds coming from the woods. The Warrior Princess gently eased her sword from her sheath, just in case one of the creatures wasn't too friendly.
Please put the sword away Xena, you're scaring the animals. Besides, there is no need for that. I'm here.*
*Thanks for the information Apollo. Now please get out of my head. I don't like it when gods are in my head.*
Xena placed her sword back. She watched in amazement as animals started to come to Gabrielle, surrounding her. One deer, two badgers, and a fox came up to the Bard.
Apollo smiled as he looked on. "Gabrielle, open your eyes."
Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes and a slight gasped passed her lips. She slowly lowered her hand down to the fawn's nose. The fawn reached up and sniff the Bard's hand and licked it.
"Amazing, simply amazing." Xena shook her head in wonder. "Well, I guess deer is off our menu, huh?"
Gabrielle smiled. "I guess so." She returned her attention to the animals, petting each one of them. Never in her life had she imagined herself being able to talk with so many animals. She looked up and smiled at Apollo, her eyes speaking a silent thanks to him.
Apollo nodded. He had never been more prouder of Gabrielle. The god had feared that Gabrielle's powers may have been to deeply buried due to Herodotus. But his child had proven those fears unfounded and that caused the god to let out a sigh of relief. "Gabrielle, I think its time to send the animals back."
Gabrielle nodded and the animals sprinted back into the woods and disappeared from view. "Wow."
Apollo walked up to his daughter and placed his arm around her. "You did well today. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Where are you going?"
He pointed to the sky. The Sun hanged low over the horizon. "I have to get back and help Helios take care of the steeds." He turned to the Warrior Princess and beckoned his farewell. "Xena." With that the Sun God disappeared in a ball of light.
Xena walked over to Gabrielle. "How are you feeling? You've done a lot today."
"I feel..." Her stomach decided to make its presence known, letting out a loud growl. "...hungry. What do we have to eat?"
Xena went over to their saddlebags. "We have cheese, bread, some dried fruit and venison."
"Hold the meat."
Xena snickered as she had Gabrielle some dates. "I figured as much. Well, that just leaves more for me." Xena grabbed a piece of dried meat and lifted it to her mouth.
"Oh Xena," she grabbed Xena's hand and lowered it, "any lips that touch deer won't be touching mine."
Xena looked down at the meat and then back up at Gabrielle. *Oh well, really wasn't that hungry anyway.* "I've made my choice," she stated before she gave the Bard a gentle kiss.
"So can I really read human minds?" Gabrielle smiled at the thought. *No more falling for Xena's practical jokes, no more trying to guess just what everyone is up to...* Her mind raced with the possibilities.
"Not really Gabrielle. You don't actually read them. It is more like empathy. You can sense if they are lying, fearful, happy, things like that. And you can communicate with others without talking, like you do with animals. For example if you want to tell Xena something without everyone else hearing it, you can use your mind."
Gabrielle frowned. "But no fireball power?" The young woman, with all her notions about love and peace, still hoped that at least one of her powers would be fireballs. Even though she didn't admit it, she had daydreamed of throwing a few at Ares. *Besides, it is a cool power.*
The god smiled at his daughter. "No fireballs. But if you keep practicing with your powers, you will discover that they have significant advantages to them?"
"If you keep developing your power until they reach their full potential, you will be able to sense other people, which can be helpful to avoid ambushes or traps. And no telling how useful it will be when you are negotiating treaties on behalf of the Amazons. In time, you will be able to plant suggestions and even in extreme cases destroy someone's mind."
"I don't think I'll be developing those particular skills."
"Gabrielle you may need to reconsider. As Queen of the Amazons, those skills may be useful. You learn how to fight, hoping that you will never have to kill. This is the same way, you develop these skills hoping you will never have to use them."
Gabrielle shook her head. "Xena and I've seen people who had powers like mine. I've never met one who could use those powers wisely. And to be totally honest, I'm not sure I'll be any different."
Xena looked at her love. "Just by questioning yourself, you have proved that you are different from them."
"It doesn't matter anyway Xena. To develop that skill I have to practice with someones mind. I won't take the chance of hurting another person with that power."
Apollo shook his head. "You don't have to worry about that. You powers can destroy human minds, but not gods. So you can practice with me anytime. Of course, you might be able to suggest to Ares that he needs to take a long vacation far, far away from you and Xena."
Xena smiled. "I think you should develop this power Gabrielle."
Apollo looked over at the Warrior Princess. "Glad to hear that Xena. Then you won't mind being our guinea pig will you."
Xena narrowed her eyes. "For what?"
"Gabrielle needs someone to practice communicating with others and since you are the only human here, I need for you to be it."
Xena knew she would do anything to help Gabrielle, but there was one thing she wanted to make perfectly clear. "Fine. I'll let Gabrielle practice on me. But I want you to stay out of my head Apollo."
"Fine. I won't listen." He focused his attention of his daughter.
"Now Gabrielle all you have to do is focus on Xena. Open you mind and focus solely on Xena. When you are ready, you can tell her anything you want."
Gabrielle smiled wickedly as she thought of what she was to say. *You know Xena, we have been on the road for a while now. I think we deserve a break. How about Tripoli, you know the inn with the hot springs? And while we're there..." Gabrielle began to torture Xena with thoughts of what she had planned.
Xena remained stone faced as Gabrielle continued her mind games, even though her insides were mush. "Um Apollo," she cleared her throat before continuing, "Can I send messages back to Gabrielle?"
"Why yes. You just think them, and she will hear them."
Xena gave an equally wicked smiled back to Gabrielle. "Good." *That's sounds nice Gabrielle. Real nice. And those hot springs gave me a few ideas of my own..."
Apollo watched as his daughter's eyes grew wide. *What are they saying to each other?* The god watched as crimson covered the Bard's face. *I don't want to know.*
Abruptly, a scream wretched itself from Gabrielle and she grabbed the sides of her head. Both Apollo and Xena ran to her side. Apollo held the Bard in his arms and began to gently rock her. "Calm down Gabrielle." The Sun God placed one of his hands on her forehead and began to dampen her power.
"What happened to her Apollo?"
"I'm about to find out." He turned his attentionn back to his daughter. "Okay Gabrielle. Tell me exactly what happened."
"I was talking to Xena and then I felt fear. Lots of it. And then the pain."
Apollo slowly nodded. "Gabrielle, you lost focus. When you did that, your power came into contact with someone's pain and fear. And from the amount of pain you experienced, the person or persons aren't that far away."
Xena grasped the Bard's hand. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine Xena. Maybe you should go and look for that person. He or she could be hurt."
"Are you sure you're fine?" Xena watched as Gabrielle nodded. "Take care of her Apollo. I'll be back as soon as I can." She squeezed her hand and then took off on Argo.
Apollo helped Gabrielle up and they both took a seat on a log. The god looked over at his daughter with concern in his eyes. "Are you sure you don't need anything?"
"Just some herbs for this headache."
"Don't have any herbs, but I can take care of the headache." Apollo gently placed his right hand upon the Bard's head, stopping the pain with a warm healing touch. "Once you get better control of your power, you won't have to worry so much about focus. Just remember, if you are not focusing on a particular person or animal, your power will blanket an area."
"I'll remember that. So what now?"
Without Xena, Apollo knew that the practice session was over. "Let's have some lunch. And then we can talk."
Gabrielle took a sip of water. "So I'm fireproof?"
Apollo nodded. "Basically your body can withstand any amount of heat. Flames and lava can't hurt you. It is defensive in nature and you can't control it. It just happens."
Gabrielle had a far away look in her eyes. "Is that how I survived the fall in the temple?"
"You still can't remember?"
She shook her head. "All I remember is getting hit by a huge half-melted boulder and then waking up in a hospice."
Apollo nodded. "You probably went into shock. It was the first time your body had to use its power fully."
"But I was fully clothed when I woke up."
"Your powers not only protect you, but whatever touches your skin. But the extra protection does tax you. That's why I got you the new outfit. Now you won't have to worry about taxing your powers too much."
Both of them looked up as Xena came riding back into camp. The Warrior Princess jumped down from Argo and walked over to the Bard. "Apollo was right. A gang of bandits decided to pick on some travelers. One of the bandits managed to wound a young man. The bandits were searching through their wagon when I came upon them.
Everyone is fine, and the man should heal as long as he keeps changing the poultice. That's some power you have my Bard."
"It may be, but I don't think I want to try that for a while."
Apollo nodded. "I understand." The god stood and brushed the crumbs off his white outfit. "Why don't we practice some more with your animal skill?" He held out his hand to Gabrielle, and pulled her to her feet. "Did you feel like talking to the birds?"
"Yes, and even though you can give simple commands to all kinds, you will only be able to fully communicate with one specific type."
"Which type is that?"
Apollo shrugged. "That will be up to your spirit."
"Yes." The Sun God walked over to his daughter. "Close your eyes." When Gabrielle had done so, he continued. "Now bent your right arm and stick it out so that the bird has a place to land. That's it. Good. Now relax, and just as with the woods, just picture the sky. Calm yourself and just be." He stepped back along side Xena and motioned her to stand still.
A quarter of a candlemark passed, and still no birds. Gabrielle could feel the intense burning in her arm. She had almost given up, when she heard the cries coming down from the sky.
Xena and Apollo looked up in the sky, and watched as four hawks flew overhead. The biggest one then broke away from the pattern and headed straight toward Gabrielle. Xena pulled out her chakram, but Apollo placed a hand over her arm.
The hawk pulled up and landed gently upon Gabrielle's arm. Gabrielle opened her eyes and smiled. "A hawk?"
"A hawk?" Xena questioningly looked at the god. "Hawks?" If all truth was told, the Warrior Princess expected songbirds or other peaceful bird that represented Gabrielle's gentle spirit. She could even accept an owl that would represent Gabrielle's wisdom. "A hawk?" Xena stated once again, not sure about what to say.
Apollo watched his daughter as she handled the bird. "Yes Xena, a hawk." He walked over to his daughter and petted the huge bird. "It's perfect match for you."
Gabrielle eyed the god suspiciously. "Really?"
"It must be. Your spirit picked it." He looked over at his future daughter-in-law and saw the confusion in her eyes. "Gabrielle has a fiery spirit and yet she is very gentle. In other words, a paradox. A hawk is the same way." The Sun God took the bird and then released it, watching it as it join the others. "A hawk is beautiful, graceful and elegant in the air. But when you see it up close, you can see the fire in its eyes. And it can be very deadly, but only when necessary. That is why your spirit picked the hawk. Besides..." he glanced over at the Warrior Princess, "I've heard that you are very good at taming wild things without breaking their spirit."
Xena scowled at the god's comments. *Keep it up Apollo, and you'll see how tame I am.*
Apollo returned his attention to his daughter. "Gabrielle, you have done a lot today. Are you up to the next step?"
Gabrielle watched until the hawks disappeared from view. Her spirit soared as high as the birds. "Let's do it." But as soon as she took a step, something went wrong. The world began spinning as the ground rushed up and blackness overtook her.
Xena watched as the color drained out of Gabrielle's face and rushed to her side, catching her before she hit the ground. "Gabrielle?" She looked at Apollo with alarm in her face. "What's wrong with her?"
"Calm down Xena." Apollo brushed the hair from Gabrielle's face. "Everything's fine. She just did too much today. Her body and mind isn't use to this type of work. She exhausted."
Xena gently picked the Bard up. "This won't happen all the time, will it?"
"No. Once her mind gets use to it, she will have no problems at all. Right now, she needs rest." He watched as Xena carried Gabrielle to the pelts, gently placed her on them and watched over her. He walked over, bent down and caressed the sleeping Bard's cheek. "This is the first time I've ever seen her sleeping."
Xena looked at Apollo and could see the guilt in his eyes. "You know, she understands why you left. You shouldn't let guilt eat away at you."
The Sun God walked away. "Has she really forgiven me? I've haven't forgiven myself."
"Is that the reason you've haven't come around a lot?"
"It was what Gabrielle wanted."
"And when have the gods ever listened to what we wanted?" She smiled at the god. "Besides, she wanted the relationship to go slow, not come to a stand still. You've haven't seen her since Solstice."
He turned to face Xena. "Don't you think I know that? Xena, I don't know where I fit in. I want to make up for all the time I wasn't there, but I can't. She is a grown woman. She has lived all this time without me. She doesn't need me."
Xena placed a light blanket over the snoozing bard. "I can't give you any advice Apollo, except that you need to talk to her. Tell her how you feel. Gabrielle is a great listener. In fact, you can stay here until she wakes up. I know that she'll appreciate you staying."
The Sun God looked over at his daughter and knew that Xena was right. He had avoided talking about the past for fear it would drive a wedge between him and Gabrielle. But if their relationship was going to go anywhere, he had to face his fears. "Fine. I'll be here when she wakes up. Then we'll talk."
Gabrielle stretched and yawned, and slowly woke up. She could feel Xena's arm lying cross her, and before she opened her eyes, the Bard interlocked her fingers with the Warrior's. Finally Gabrielle opened her eyes. Sitting on a log, tending to the fire, was Apollo.
The Sun God smiled as he poked at the embers. "Nice nap?"
Gabrielle rubbed her eyes. "How long have I been out?"
"Twelve candlemarks so far."
Gabrielle began to sit up. "So far?"
Seeing that Gabrielle couldn't take the hint, Apollo walked over and sat by her.
"Yes, so far. You need to rest. You pushed yourself too hard yesterday."
"I feel fine," she said as she tried to fight off another yawn. She smiled sheepishly as the god. "Have you really been here all this time?"
"You didn't have..."
"I wanted to be here. Now get some sleep."
"I'm telling you I'm fine."
"Not another word or else I'll be force to wake your friend." He pointed to the still sleeping Xena, "and then you will have to deal with her."
Gabrielle looked her soulmate and then at her father. "Fine. I'm going back to sleep." She laid back down and closed her eyes.
Apollo returned to the fire and began poking at it again. *Not bad. She actually listened to me without much of a fuss.* He glanced over to the pallets and saw Gabrielle staring into the fire. "I thought I told you to get some sleep, young lady?"
Gabrielle winced at the term. "And I told you I'm not sleepy. Listen, I appreciate what you are trying to do, but I can take care of myself. I don't need you telling me what to do. I'm not a child." She watched as the god looked off into the fire. At that moment, Gabrielle wished she could kick herself. "Apollo, I didn't mean it the way it sounded."
"Yes you did. And you're right." The god kept poking at the fire. "I've missed every birthday, every important moment of your life and then I think I can step right in and take over the reins. You been an adult for a number of years now, and no matter how much I want to, I can't turn back the hands of time and be there for you, to protect you." Apollo looked up at Gabrielle with tears in his eyes. "I see how wonderful you turned out, and realize I had nothing to do with it. And once you've learned your powers, there will be no reason for you to contact me. You don't need your father."
Gabrielle gently rose off the pallet and walked over to the log, sitting next to the god. "You're right. I don't need my father." She took Apollo's hands into her own. "But I need my dad. We can't change the past, we can only build toward the future. And I want you to be a part of mine."
Apollo beamed with happiness and relief. "I want that too. So what do we do now?"
"We don't do anything. You need to get back to Olympus and get the sun going. And I need to get back to sleep. We'll talk later. Maybe we could even discuss you visiting us more often, perhaps dropping in without notice." Gabrielle stood up and began walking to her pallet.
The Bard turned around. "Yes?"
"Do you really think of me as your dad?"
She nodded. "Yes, I do."
Apollo stood and went over to Gabrielle. "Thank you." He pulled her into a hug. "Thank you. I've been waiting for those words for a long time." He pulled back and looked down at his daughter. "Now get some sleep." In an orb of light, he disappeared.
Gabrielle snuggled under the covers and placed Xena's arm over her.
"I knew you weren't asleep. So how much did you hear?"
"Since 'Nice nap?' You know he loves you."
"I know. It's going to take some give and take, but I think we are going to be just fine."
"That's good. But..."
Gabrielle fought off another yawn. "But what Xena?"
"Dropping in unannounced? Isn't that going a little too far?" Xena didn't receive an answer. The Bard had fallen asleep.
Written & ©Copyrighted by: Paully Adams
September 21, 2001
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