Disclaimers: This is yet another uber tale of my making. Technically the characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA/Universal, but since it's not REALLY X&G here... well anyway, these uber characters belong to me, me memememe....so, copyright 1999 Tragedy88 and all that.
Violence/language: Um, some violence, some bad language... maybe a pg-13 so far?
Subtext: You betcha! Oh, if it's illegal where you live or love between members of the same sex offends you please read elsewhere.
And last but not least: How, you ask, can so many of my characters exist within the same timeline? Easy, I write what I know. In this case I know farms, horses, and the hardships of being alone. In anycase it's a divergence from my usual cops, gangs, lusty/evil uber Callistos' etc., etc. etc... :)
Feedback is very welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Trouble never leaves us where it finds us; sorrow will change our tomorrow." - Robert Schuller
She held her in the darkness, one arm tight against the supple skin of her lover's back, the other hand tangled in light hair.
Absently she threaded her fingers in and out, tangling in feather smoothness.
Lightning flashed, illuminating a gentle brow, a sleepy smile, a thigh tangled with her own.
Then the dream is gone, replaced with emptiness.
Another time, long ago, filled with laughter and love. An aching need filled her soul. I miss you, my love. These days are long, empty, meaningless without you here to share it with.
The sunset brings more then the darkness of night... darkness of the soul... she is helpless against it.
There it was, mocking her. The soft, bluish glow of the computer screen gazing back at her as she sat.
Damn these writer's blocks! This one, so far, was the worst. For three days Alex had been trying to finish her latest book.
Fuck it, the young woman thought, this is getting me no where. I might as well go settle Jack and Jo for the night.
Alex slipped out of her study, leaving the computer on. At the door she grabbed her parka, pulled it on, and stepped into the chilly night air. The first frost of winter made the grass crunch under her boot soles. A few brisk jogging steps brought her to the stable door. It's gentle creaking had become a familiar friend to her over the past two years.
Had it really been two years now? She sighed and gazed fondly at her horses. Jo was a pure bred Arabian averaging fifteen hands in height, rust red and copper in color. She was sassy and proud. Jack was a powerful Thoroughbred, eighteen hands high, with sleek muscles, and a mane and tail a mix between Chestnut and gold. He snorted in agitation as she approached.
"I know, I know," she patted his soft white muzzle, "I shoulda come out earlier to check on you," she tapped her head ruefully, "too many things on my mind."
Jack nodded his head, as if understanding, and gently nudged her shoulder, glancing at his Arabian companion. Jo knickered softly, waddling over to the gate. She lifted her fiery head, sniffing gently.
Alex lifted the latch, her fingers already trembling from the cold. As Alex entered the stall Jo enthusiastically butted her in the chest. She stifled a groan, chuckling as she scratched behind Jo's ears.
"Better?" Alex grinned.
Jo snorted, nipping at Jack as he too sought attention.
"Now, now children," Alex chided, "play nice." She ran her hand down the Arabian's thick winter coat, to the large bulge at her belly.
Jack snorted and tossed his head in warning.
"Jack, sweetheart, you know I'm just as worried as you are." Alex reprimanded gently. "Almost time, isn't it, Jojo? Worried?"
Jo turned a questioning stare on her mistress as human hands felt the kicking and stirring of her unborn foal.
There wasn't a vet within an hours drive from the ranch and as the birthing time drew near Alex's anxiety increased. Not knowing the health, origin, or breed of the father didn't set well with her. But she'd come across Jo a year after her move here. She'd seen the spirited horse under the cruel whip of her owner and had immediately jumped to her defense. Giving up a month's worth of necessities had been worth it though.
An hour after brushing the horses down, shoveling and laying clean sawdust she was ready for a steaming cup of cocoa and a few dozen blankets.
The temperature had dropped dramatically within the hour.
She left out a bucket of oats as she exited the barn. It was too cold to water the horses now. She'd have to wait till the pipes and troughs unthawed with the morning sun.
Snow flurries drifted to the ground and cluttered on every available surface, including her eyelashes.
With a glance at the power lines overhead she quickened her pace to the safety and warmth of the old farmhouse.
Twenty minutes later a fire was crackling in the fire place and there was no need for extra blankets, but still she snuggled under their warmth, wishing sadly it was warm arms against her.
The computer had been shut don, candles, flashlights and storm supplies gathered for the coming storm. The weather channel predicted at least a foot of snow and if the snow gathering on the window sills, railing and power lines was any indication the power would be out in a few hours. Maybe sooner.
Doors to unused rooms had been shut weeks ago as the chill of winter had begun to set in, cloth stuck around the cracks to keep the cold from slipping out and precious heat from sneaking in.
Alex's first year here had taught her a dozen survival tips, that had she not learned, would have sent her packing to an early country grave. Not to mention the electric bill when she'd tried to keep the entire ancient farmhouse heated that first winter.
She chuckled ruefully over her stupidity, or naivetÈ back then and snuggled further into the blankets, enjoying the dry heat of the fire against her cheeks.
And you thought this would be simple? Who were you kidding? Boiling water, hardly what you'd call indoor plumbing, freezing rooms, even in summer, no one to talk to except Jack and Jo, no one to warm the bed with, no one to love... Shut up!
Alex scrambled from under the covers in an almost desperate attempt to scatter her thoughts, in the process spilling hot cocoa across her chest and arms.
"Owww, hot, hot ,hot!" Good one Alster, she quipped as she carried the empty mug back to the kitchen, extremely disappointed after loosing nearly a full cup of cocoa.
An eerie chill followed her to the study, one of three rooms she kept open in winter. It also held a fireplace, but lacked the antique furniture the rest of the house held. Here was her private domain. Comfortable, safe... hers.
Against the far wall, tucked into the corner was her computer and other writing tools. Waist-high recessed bookcases encircled the entire room, except for the wall with the grand bay window. Under the bay was a futon, now set up as a bed and stored under it were cardboard boxes stuffed with clothes.
Alex had used plastic when she first arrived but quickly learned how easy it was to shatter frozen plastic in anger. She'd give anything to find an old oak or cedar chest, but in her search of the house she'd only come across an old steamer in the attic, locked and rusted solidly shut. It was too big to carry downstairs anyway.
She hummed little as she changed into an old Penn State sweatshirt and added an extra pair of thick wool socks.
After two years it no longer bothered her to change in front of the large bay window. No one was out there, no one ever would be, and after a trip to town and Randy's Hardware Emporium the extra panels of glass and foam insulation cut out the harsh winds almost completely.
The small lamp beside the computer suddenly flickered and died. The house sputtered into silent darkness.
"And so it begins..." She groaned. If she wanted cocoa now the water would have to heat in the fireplace. With a gentle sigh she extracted the zippo from her pocket, shrugged over to the fireplace and rearranged the wood and kindling, proceeding to light a roaring fire. Start it now of freeze the temperature sensitive hardware in her computer.
There was no way to tell how long the storm would last. Two more hours or two weeks... always unpredictable.
The safest thing now was to prepare for the long haul before the pipes froze and she was snowed in. No matter how much those warm soft blankets began to call to her she clambered around filling buckets, pots and pans with water, checking windows and closing shutters that could be reached from inside, checking kerosene lamps and her supply of matches and candles.
Reluctantly she shrugged on snow boots, gloves and her thick winter jacket. Thought we'd have at least another week before the snow started, she grumbled as she trudged back into the half moon night. She closed the rest of the shutters and made half a dozen trips back and forth to the wood pile.
Beyond exhausted and extremely tired of slogging through snow already up to her ankles, she debated checking on the horses one last time.
Alex was halfway to the barn when the frantic neighing cut through the whistling wind. Immediately she broke into a run, dashing to the barn door as if the hounds of hell themselves were on her tail. She crashed into a pile of something or other that she'd meant to clean up yesterday and sailed face first into the cement floor.
"Goddamnmotherfuckingsonofa-" she cursed into the darkness, fishing the rarely used flashlight out of her coat pocket.
Jack snorted impatiently as she approached the gate. Alex bit back a flash of pain from her chin and knees, fumbling with the latch. The thoroughbred stomped and neighed fearfully.
Jo was down, covered in sweat and breathing harshly. Alex cooed and rambled nonsense to the panicked horse as she lit a lantern, hung it on a nail and knelt beside the Arabian.
Her hand traveled from the sweat soaked neck to the bulging side, and felt nothing... oh God... not good.
It was over in a few short hours that seemed to last an eternity. Two lives lost, one before even entering the world, the other in a mess of blood and pain.
Blood covered every inch of Alex's arms and chest. Tears ran freely down icy cheeks.
"I lost them, Jack," she sobbed. Jack nodded his head, as if understanding, gently nudging Alex's shoulder and glancing at his Arabian companion with intelligent, watery eyes.
On shaky limbs she stood, exiting the stall, not bothering to shut the gate behind her. What now? Alex's glassy eyes came to rest on the pile she'd tripped over earlier. For a full minute she stood and stared.
"Alright," she acknowledged the idea quietly, "let's get this over with."
Half an hour later a pile of discarded timber and various other things were gathered into a pyre. Jack was hitched and tethered to Jo, and both Alex and Jack worked carefully to pile her and the still born onto the pyre.
Alex used a small dose of precious kerosene to light the fire, stepping back as the wild winter wind chased in into the heavens.
"May you find peace where you are, and know that you will be missed." Alex bowed her head, and Jack snorted, pawing the snow covered ground.
The sun was rising as she staggered back into the house. In a daze she rekindled the fireplaces, hung two pots of water to warm, and shrugged out of the bloody clothes and into a flannel robe.
When one of the pots was at a comfortable warmth she placed it in the bathroom, and set to work scrubbing blood from her body.
That finished she dressed in long johns, gray sweats, thick wool socks and a ratty flannel shirt. Emotionally drained and physically exhausted she curled back under the blankets on the couch and slipped into a restless sleep.