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 email@example.com
To the query, "What is a friend?" his reply was "A single soul dwelling in two bodies."- Aristotle, Greek philosopher
"Hey Jack, baby, how ya doin'?" Alex scratched behind his ears while he affectionately lipped at her fingers resting on the wooden rail. After a moment of silent communing with her horse she opened the gate to the small corral attached to the side of the barn.
With practiced ease she swung up on the stallion's back, without so much as a stirrup or fence rail. The horse had no bridle, not even a halter to string a lead from, yet he stood perfectly still.
"Where to this afternoon, boy?" The horse flicked his ears around, and turned an intelligent eye to his mistress, then flicked his ears towards the woods and the hills beyond.
"Are you sure?"
The horse snorted and pawed at the ground. Coiled muscles gathered under her thighs, and with one command they would race across the fields.
The creaking of cold metal startled both rider and horse. Alex swiveled her head to see Dusty unloading bags from the jeep.
Across the driveway, snow and ice, two sets of eyes met and held. In that second something changed, subtle as it was, and both realized their futures would never be the same.
The realization passed too quickly to process, but with a whoop of joy Alex urged Jack into a full out gallop across the field, over the low stone fence and beyond to the woods and the mountain.
Dusty stopped staring long enough to grab her bags and head up onto the porch. With one last glance at Alex she entered the house and set about moving furniture and unpacking her bags.
"Howard called while you were out."
They were bundled in blankets, bathed in candlelight, on the floor of the living room, enjoying a crackling fire.
"What did he want?" Alex asked, not really caring.
"Dunno. He refused to talk to me. " Something's wrong. What do I say to her? What do you even care, a little voice piped up. Fuck off, another voice chimed in.
"He's an ass, Dusty. I'm sorry you had to talk to him." Alex stared into the fire with little emotion, her words dull and lifeless.
"I've dealt with worse." Dusty replied.
"Dusty?" Alex began, a forlorn note creeping into her voice.
"Do you believe- believe that um..." Alex turned startled green eyes on Dusty, shocked at what she'd started. She wanted to continue but was suddenly unable.
"Believe what?" Dusty prompted gently, resisting the sudden urge to wrap the young woman in a fierce bear hug.
Alex tried a different approach. "My great, great... well, too many greats, um, grandmother believed that long, long ago people were born with four arms and legs, two heads and one heart and soul. The gods grew jealous and split the people so that they then had two legs, two arms, and one head. And ever since the split each half yearns to be reunited with the other half of it's soul. Some souls searching for generations..." Alex's voice trailed off painfully, and Dusty found she had to strain to hear the next whispered words. "I'd thought I'd found my other half."
"What happened?" Dusty asked with gentle hesitation. Don't push her, a voice warned.
"He... he was a police officer." Alex shuddered, choking on the next words. "He answered a domestic violence call, and never came home." Silent tears traveled down her pale cheeks.
"I'm sorry." Dusty enclosed a chilly hand in her own.
"I-I- I was pregnant at the time, but I miscarried." Alex's shoulders shook with memories she'd tried to block out for two years. "My husband and our son died the same night." She was unable to stop the tears and the pain and her whole body shook with sobs.
Terrified of the emotions brought to the surface Dusty gently wiped the tears away and held out her arms if Alex needed them. She did, and fell into strong arms. Dusty wrapped them both in one blanket and murmured in her friend's ear. "Shhh, it's the past. We all have a past, but we go on."
"I still hurt inside."
"I know... I know." Dusty rocked her gently, surprised how well the smaller woman fit against her body.
This is familiar, safe, Alex's subconscious recognized. I could stay like this forever. No... With a ragged breath Alex pulled away from Dusty's strength. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to unload on you like that."
A painful silence descended. They both wished the embrace didn't have to end.
"Best to get some sleep now." Alex sighed as she folded the blanket and placed it on the sofa. "I need to get back to town in the morning and see about fixing the truck. Howard will be more then willing to rub it in my face when I call him back." She sniffed and rubbed her eyes.
"Don't give him the satisfaction. I'll drive you into town tomorrow." Dusty gave her a crooked grin.
"Thanks. Sleep well then."
Alex left Dusty staring into the fire's flames.
A dark haired woman rode through the fields, cries of battle escaping her smiling lips as she took out the enemies with precise swings of an ancient sword.
Though the enemy was brave no more dared approach and she leapt from the horse with a terrifying wry cry, landing in the midst of five men. In the space of a heartbeat they lay about her, dead. Battle lust coursed through her veins and she ran into the next fray without hesitation or fear.
"Kill them all." The mantra echoed. And she did.
In the aftermath of blood she scoured the battlefield with little emotion for the fallen. Any enemy left breathing she dispatched to the other side. Her own men picked up their fallen and wounded.
Huge pyres were erected and the fires and wind sent their ashes on the journey to the sky. The dark warrior stood on the hilltop, a gentle breeze carrying blood and death to her sensitive nose. Something tugged at her.
Something forgotten, something unfinished. The forgotten ached in her heart, and tore at her dead soul. What was it? Who was it?
Her pale blue eyes searched the battlefield. The enemy was dead, her home land protected, nothing left unfinished there.
Dark, ominous clouds began to sweep in from the northern mountains, bringing brilliant flashes of light and thunder that rumbled the ground beneath her feet. Great gales of water began to shower down, obliterating the sky, battlefield and pyres. The world around her was lost in torrents of dark rain.
Furiously she blinked against the rain, holding up her arms to protect herself from the biting wind that carried it.
And just as suddenly as the storm started it was over. The warrior lowered her arms to look once again into the valley, but the valley was gone. In it's place was a dry, barren desert, earth scorched and cracked from heat and lack of rain. The sun's brilliance upon the sand was blinding and she shielded her eyes with one arm as she stepped forward.
Heat rolled off the earth in great dry clouds, choking her. The woman walked because she had no choice, she knew what she was looking for was here. She would die searching if it came to that.
The sun was high in the sky when she sank to her knees.
"Help..." Tongue swollen, lips bloodied and parched, words were useless. Water, oh God, I can't stop now, so close... I know I will find you. If not this lifetime, then the next... my love...
Dusty's eyes flew open as the first rays of the winter sun warmed her pillow. With a shuddering breath she stretched against the twisted blankets and searched the unfamiliar surroundings.
Somehow I thought, her feet touched the icy floor, that I'd wake up much warmer then this. A rueful smile touched her lips when she realized how thirsty she was, turning to a grimace when she realized her bottom lip was split and bloody. What the hell?
After slipping into her robe and a thick pair of socks she made her way to the bathroom, noticing on her way that Alex's bed was empty and there was no trace of the young woman in the house.
Hope she didn't decide to walk to town. The thought spurred Dusty into a flurry of activity. She showered and dressed in record time.
With a small breakfast of a bagel and coffee filling her stomach she put on boots and coat and wandered onto the front porch, slightly worried. Her worries were put to rest however when she finally spotted Alex trotting Jack across the field to the barn.
Where does she go? The question played idly in Dusty's mind as she crunched over the snow to meet the horse and his rider at the barn door. "Good morning, Alex."
"Morning." Alex smiled over Jack's shoulder after dismounting, meeting deep blue eyes. "Sleep well?" A nod from Dusty. "What? No ghosts waking you?"
Something flickered in Dusty's eyes and Alex wasn't sure why, but it sent her heart racing. With an embarrassed cough she led Jack into his stall.
"Just dreams." Dusty answered after a brief silence.
Good one's I hope, but Alex didn't speak out loud.
"Ready to get your truck?" Dusty interrupted Alex's thoughts as they stepped outside and back into the snow's blinding glare.
"Sure, let's go."
The ride into town was silent, filled only with left over remnants of dreams and emotional high's and lows. It was a companionable silence, each seeming to sense the other's need for solitude.
They pulled up to Dixie's Diner, Dusty parking the Jeep hood to hood with the truck, should the truck simply need a jump start.
As Alex suspected the truck had finally died. Scrounging around under the hood, white breath billowing, fingertips freezing, proved only frustration. The sidewalks were now busy with lunch patrons and Alex waved off each good intentioned, curious offer of help.
Dusty leaned one booted foot on the fender of her Jeep, surveying the crowd and waiting patiently as Alex tinkered uselessly and bouted several streams of curses.
"Guess I'll have ta tow it." The young woman popped her head up from the monstrous beast with a snarl of disgust. There was a line of grease from her ear to her jawbone. "Piece of junk anyway. Kinda hoped it'd last me through the winter though."
Just as Alex stood on the rusted fender to reach the high hood Dusty's arm shot up and snatched it down for her. A brief snarl twisted Alex's face, but one look at those sincere blue eyes and Dusty's concern and she shook it off. "How 'bout lunch?"
"Mmm, sounds good." Dusty reached without thought to wipe the grease off Alex's cheek.
"Ok, we've got three choices." A playful little grin spread across her face as she gently pulled away from Dusty's touch. "Dixie's, Dixie's or... Dixie's." She ticked off on her numb fingers.
"Well if those are my only choices," Dusty swatted Alex's shoulder playfully, "I guess I'll choose.... um..." she knitted her eyebrows in mock concentration. "Dixie's?"
"I knew you'd see it my way." Alex chuckled as she made a gallant bow and ushered Dusty into the warm interior of the diner.
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