The Families We Make
The characters herein belong to Rob Tapert and/or Studios USA and/or Renaissance Pictures. It was not written for profit and no copyright infringement is intended.
Violence/Sex: None. This is set before X&G became lovers, sometime after the events of the first season finale, "Is There a Doctor in the House."
Subtext: It's there.
For Followers of my X&G Series: This could be my version of Xena and Gabrielle, prior to the beginning of the series. For non-followers of the series, this could just as easily be the X&G from the show. My series picked up at the end of the 4th season Xena ep, "The Ides of March." Basically, they were brought back to life after the crucifixion and chose to settle down in the Amazon village with Gabrielle ruling as queen, and Xena as her consort. The entire series can be found at The Royal Academy of Bards -- http://www.academyofbards.org/authors/linda_crist.html -- and at MaryD's Bard's Corner -- http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/texbard/
The familiar voice broke through the darkness, and she clung to it, crawling hand over fist through a heavy mental fog. Vague frightening images bombinated through her head, of men yelling, of swords and fighting, and blood, and a great rasping noise resonated over it all, which morphed into the terrifying sound of her friend's dying breath. She could see it clearly now, an ashen face and cold skin, and injuries beyond her own power to heal.
No. She cant be dead. I just found her. Have to stay. Have to bring her back. I did it before. The voice persisted but she turned her back, grabbing her friend and pounding her chest over and over again, but this time, it didn't work. She tried to scream, but her breath and voice were paralyzed. Then she felt it, as her friend's spirit left her body, and suddenly she was all alone. Just like before. Before Gabrielle had come into her life. She fought with the voice, trying to push it away, until suddenly it was her friend speaking to her.
"What?" A gentle hand nudged her shoulder and she sat straight up, shoving her blanket aside and reaching out in instinct for her sword. Instead, a warm hand grabbed hers, chaffing it and holding on, anchoring her until she could catch her breath. Still disoriented, uncertain what was real and what wasn't, she grabbed back, twining her fingers with those of the other hand, and clutching it to her chest. The night air chilled her sweat-covered skin, and calming words were whispered in her ear, bringing some semblance of clarity. Finally, she looked around, her heart threatening to pound right out of her chest. Her sight fell on the red-hot coals of a campfire, and then on the face of her friend. "Oh. Damn." She bent over, resting her head in her hands, trying to recover her equilibrium.
"Xena, its okay." A knowing touch moved from her shoulder to her head, stroking her damp hair and re-ordering it. "You were having a nightmare." Again, the bard added silently.
"Seemed so real." She raked her fingers back through her hair and looked up, to find a water skin pressed into her hand. She took it and drank deeply, not realizing how thirsty she was until the first cold sweet swallow slid down her throat. "Thank you." She looked up again, this time with something akin to a sheepish smile.
Green eyes shone back at her, and a kind face reflected loving concern. "This one was bad, wasn't it?" The dark head nodded slightly, then dropped, long thick locks obscuring Xena's features. "We need to cut your bangs again." She gave the bowed head a friendly ruffle. She knew her friend was frustrated, and embarrassed, and probably a half dozen other emotions that were very un-warrior like. "Xena, it's okay, you know. Everyone has bad dreams sometimes."
The warrior shivered. "I suppose." She shook her head and tugged at the front of her brown undergarment, the one worn under her leathers. "Sweating like a pig." She sniffed, and stood up, finding her saddlebag tucked behind the log where she had stowed it before turning in. A quick search found her other undergarment, the putty-colored one, and she shucked the damp one, draping it over the log to dry out. She sighed with relief as the clean dry material hugged her body, and she began to feel warm again.
Thoughtful eyes watched her from behind, taking in the muscles and planes of her back, and the shining length of her hair, which cast blue and auburn highlights back at the glowing remains of the fire. Xena had a beautiful back -- strong and well-defined, yet covered with soft feminine skin. It had been a surprise, the first time she'd helped clean up all the little scrapes and cuts Xena always had after a fight, and discovered all that smooth softness. She shook her head, clearing it. Where did all that come from?
The warrior turned back toward her, and cocked her head to one side, raising an eyebrow at the sudden blush that flooded her friend's face. "Everything alright?"
"Yeah. Fine." Gabrielle's hands fluttered about as she spoke. "Just fine. I I'm just worried about you, is all." A gentle genuine smile graced her lips. "Is there anything I can do to help? With the nightmares, I mean?"
That smile. It cut right through her every time, breaking down her defenses, and chasing away the shadows inside. She smiled back, giving the clean shift a twitch before she sat back down on her furs, looking across the fire at her friend. Gabrielle unconsciously mimicked her posture, legs loosely crossed and drawn up, with her arms wrapped around her knees. Yeah, you can help. Don't ever die on me again. She couldn't say it aloud. It wasn't Gabrielle's fault Xena had chosen a shortcut that almost got her killed.
Instead, she patted the space next to her own furs. "Yeah, move over here, will ya? Keep me company for a while? I'm not quite ready to surrender to Morpheus again, just yet. Maybe you could tell me a story or two."
"Sure. I can do that." Gabrielle's face lit up, and she grabbed up her furs, dragging them over and spreading them out next to Xena's. Once she was settled, she rolled onto her side, propping her head up on one hand, watching as this time, Xena copied her pose. "Any requests?"
"All your stories are good, Gabrielle. You pick one." She was rewarded with another blush, and realized she thought it was beautiful. Whoa. Where did that come from?
"Alright." The bard swallowed and looked down, scrunching up her forehead as she thought for a few minutes. She looked back up, with a strange expression on her face, a mixture of openness and perhaps just the slightest touch of fear, and maybe, just maybe, a twinge of hope. "Remember when you and Hercules freed Prometheus?"
"Yeah." Xena drew in a deep breath. "I never did really apologize to you for that, did I?" The golden head shook slightly. "Never thought about how scary it must have been for you, thinking you might be left there. I don't think I understood how that might feel." But I understand now, Xena chastised herself. Boy, do I ever.
"It's okay." A warm hand reached across, lightly touching Xena's arm before drawing back again. "Someone had to strike the blow. I'm just glad you and Hercules figured out a way to do it so you both got to come back. I remember sitting there in the dark, and I thought Iolaus was going to die. And I thought you were going to die." Too stubborn and noble for your own good, aren't you Xena? Yeah, she wouldn't have let Hercules strike the blow, of that Gabrielle was certain. "And I figured Hercules would probably come back from the top of that mountain, and take me back to Potadeia. I "
"No." Xena pursed her lips for a moment, her eyes searching Gabrielle's face as she spoke, noting the surprise there as she continued. "I told him to make sure you got to the bard's academy in Athens. He would have honored that request." She laughed lightly. "Funny, you ended up there anyway. I never could figure out why you came back. I know you said " she stopped, her voice trailing off, and she looked down, playing with some loose thread at the edge of her blanket, then glanced back up for a moment. "Anyway, I'm glad you did. Come back."
Both women looked down, the final words of a shared story echoing in their minds. The only family he had ever known -- ever needed -- was standing right beside him.
Their eyes met, and Gabrielle couldn't decide if she felt like laughing or crying. She blinked a few times and cleared her throat. "I'm glad I did too," she whispered. "I I told Iolaus a story, while we were waiting for you and Hercules. I don't think I ever shared it with you."
Blue eyes paled to silver in the low light, and the warrior smiled warmly. "Tell me."
The bard smiled back at her, feeling her insides tremble just a little. How long had those baby blues and that brilliant smile had that effect on her? Since the first day we met, she acknowledged silently. "Alright." She scooted just a little closer, an unconscious movement, until their heads were close together, and she wouldn't have to speak very loudly.
"Once, a long, long time ago, all people had four legs and two heads. And then the gods threw down thunderbolts, and split everyone into two. Each half then had two legs and one head. But the separation left both sides with a desperate yearning to be reunited. Because they each shared the same soul. And ever since then, all people spend their lives searching for the other half of their soul."
Blue eyes met green again, for the briefest of moments. "I like that one, very much," the warrior replied softly. She could feel Gabrielle's breathing, the warm air brushing across her neck as she told the story. Unable to hold her gaze, she looked away, over at the fire, her chest heavy with emotion. "Did .. you think Iolaus? Did you think he was the other half of your ?"
"Never." Gabrielle felt the un-nerving trembling inside again, and she reached up, pushing her hair behind her ears, a nervous gesture Xena was all too familiar with. "Never," she repeated quietly. "But I know you and Hercules "
"No." The voice was low and vibrant, and just the one word rumbled through the bard, sending pleasant chills up and down her spine. She felt gentle fingers at her jaw line, and the warrior tilted her chin up, until they were almost nose to nose. "I thought so once, yes." Xena swallowed hard, willing herself to maintain eye contact. "But now I know he wasn't who was best for me." She looked down, the intensity of the eyes across from her too much to bear for too long.
"Oh." Gabrielle's fingertips reached out, and with a mind of their own, trailed lightly up and down Xena's arm. "I just thought " She realized what she was doing and stilled her motions, resting her hand on the warrior's forearm. She'd been doing that more and more lately, touching her friend, and Xena allowed it, didn't even jump anymore. Weird.
"Thought what?" Xena prodded carefully.
Gabrielle-- I want you to understand something. We both have families we were born into. But sometimes families change, and we have to build our own. For me, our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could.
Remembered words from a difficult time resonated in the bards head, and she smiled sadly. Shed held on to those words, through good times and more bad ones, storing them carefully in her heart, hoping beyond hope that the warrior would never change her mind. "Xena?" Gabrielle peered back up, blonde lashes blinking shyly. "Remember when we had to rescue Salmoneus from Talmadeus?"
"I yeah." Pained blue eyes blinked once. Twice, and Xena suddenly found the edge of her blanket to be extremely interesting, as she began to work at the loose thread in earnest this time, tugging at it and pulling it free.
"That was a pretty scary time for me," Gabrielle could feel the muscles in Xena's arm working and she patted the tanned skin, waiting until it relaxed. She continued to look down, and felt Xena move closer still, and then the motions of her other hand, as she idly stroked the bard's hair in comfort. Gabrielle closed her eyes, and continued, "I remember having some pretty bad nightmares myself, right after that. Still do sometimes. It wasn't so long ago."
Xena sighed, feeling the weight of that settle squarely on her own shoulders, and she leaned over, brushing the barest of kisses across the bard's head. Salmoneus had told her of Gabrielle's anguish, and her beating the stuffing out of a hapless tree, and her brave stand to carry on. She'd never been more proud of her friend, than when she heard that story that is, right up until Gabrielle ran out into the middle of a battle to save a child, and almost paid for the deed with her life. That was her proudest moment, and her angriest at herself. You never had to prove you were a hero to me Gabrielle. Youve been mine since that day you showed up in Amphipolis. She hated that shed ever done anything to cause her friend such pain. "I'm so sorry. I wish "
"Wasn't your fault," the bard cut her off. "Not like you died on purpose, right?"
Xena chuckled wryly. "No. And neither did you. But I think we still managed to scare the living daylights out of each other."
Two pairs of eyes met in quiet understanding. Losing each other, even in the beginning would have been sad. When had the prospect become unbearably heart-breaking?
"Can I ?" Gabrielle reached out, timidly at first, seeking comfort from the person she realized she loved most in the world. Her whole body relaxed, as Xena met her halfway, pulling her into the warmest of hugs, and holding her until they were only aware of each other, and their breathing, and the beating of two hearts. She felt another kiss to the top of her head and glanced up, drowning in those blue eyes, as Xena ducked her head, placing a single chaste kiss on her lips.
She nuzzled Gabrielle's nose, and touched foreheads, closing her eyes as she felt an utter sense of peace wash over her. "No more nightmares tonight, okay?"
"Okay." Gabrielle smiled and reached up, cradling Xena's face, quickly pressing her lips against the warrior's cheek.
Without a word, they slowly settled back down onto the warrior's furs, the bard's head resting on Xena's shoulder. She closed her eyes in contentment, as the warrior resumed the calming strokes to her head, and continued to hold her close. They'd slept like that a few times before, but then it had been cold, and necessary in order to stay warm. Hadn't it? "Sweet dreams, Xena." She patted a solid belly, then wrapped her arm around the warrior's middle.
They will be. "You too, Gabrielle." Xena pulled the frayed blanket over both of them, sinking into a warm comfortable lethargy, as she listened, hearing the change in the bard's breathing as Gabrielle fell asleep. Placing one more kiss on her sleeping friend's head, she closed her eyes and joined her.
Something was changing between them, faster than she could keep a hold on it. There would be time enough with morning's light, to think about what it all meant. For the time being, it was enough to know that her family was right there with her, alive and well, and guarding her soul from the darkness.