*The acid trip-esque, tarot card based, Gabrielle-as-a-Super-Dave-Dummy/Hudson-
looking-hot-in-white-blond-pageboy-wig ep. "Bitter Suite" was not harmed during
the production of this fanfic, due to it being started before I viewed the musical.*
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Gabrielle was a walking corpse, her mind, laden with a guilt too great to bear, had left her and her legs moved as if on their own volition now, just doing what they had been doing for years. She knew not where she was, where she was going or how long she had been walking for. All she knew was that she was walking, somewhere, anywhere, it didn't matter, and she was alone.
She remembered nothing, for she thought of nothing. Her mind, once teaming with ideas, stories, thoughts, opinions, was as blank and void as the grey, overcast sky above her head. Nothing existed in there, just the site of the grass on the path ahead of her. Walking dead, moving on instinct, but nothing more than the lifeless marching.
She had died back there, back in that horrible place. Fire, two great fires burning in front of her. Her love, her best friend, her soul mate, her all, beside her, she too lost in grief. Gabrielle had held out a hand of peace to her, thinking now they could come together to comfort one another, heal each other in their combined grief of a lost child. But the face that looked back at her stunned her out of her soul. The blue eyes that had always looked upon her with love and caring affection burned with not hatred, but anger, and even worse, hurt. She had hurt Xena. She had hurt her best friend. She had killed Xena's son, aswell as killing her own child. She was a murderer, not in self defense, not for a good reason, just taking lives, young lives, lives that could have flourish. That woman at the temple so long ago, her best friend's only son, her own, only daughter. And now, even the woman whom she adored, who she lived for, had closed her doors to her. Xena, whom she always thought would never be disgraced by her, who had done so much herself that she could never stand in judgement of her.
But what I have done is worse than anything Xena ever did in her warlord days, she thought as she stood by the flames. I am worse than she ever was. I'm a monster. It was there that Gabrielle's mind closed down. It became too much, too horrid to comprehend. She had rejected suicide earlier, and knew now that it was her fate to wander the land in this state of Living Death as a testament to others of what a deplorable, appalling soul she was. She had turned and left, all in instinct, the staff that had been her pride, her third arm, her defense falling from her grip and onto the ground without even a second thought, like a meaningless tree branch. She turned and walked away, the flames scorching her back even as she walked farther and farther from the fire.
She had been walking now for an immeasurable amount of time, her mind so detached from reality that she didn't even take notice of basic things like the change of night and day, weather, food, shelter, sleep. She just walked, continuously, one foot in front of the other, eyes trained ahead, blank and expressionless.
Some had passed her on the road, many didn't even give her a second look. A few stopped and stared at her glazed expression, but no one tried to speak to her. Even if they had she would not have stopped. She would have kept walking, one foot in front of the other.
She was doing this when suddenly her legs simply gave out from beneath her, from exhaustion and lack of food. Her head smashed into a rock as she fell like a sack of bricks, causing her to be knocked unconscious. She laid there undisturbed for a long while, at least a day before her eyes fluttered opened.
Xena's crying, Hope is screaming at her, Solan looking at her like a betrayer. "MURDERER!" They are all screaming, pointing at her. Xena smacks her face brutally. Gabrielle lets out a high shrill scream, blood curdling in its pitch and full of undescribable emotion, and then it's gone. Her mind leaves her and she sits up, oblivious to the pain in her temple and starts walking again.
This time her body realizes it needs food, and a moment's rest. She walks and walks until she is on the out side edges of a farm. She walks through the livestock, unafraid, not avoiding any of the animals, and they, in their earthy wisdom knowing to part out of her way.
She goes into the stables. In the corner of one of the stalls are old rotten food scraps, spoiled pieces of fruit. She takes a handful and puts it in her mouth, not even really chewing, just swallowing it's soft rancidness. She eats the entire contents of the dirty wooden box, then sits on a stool in the damp musky corner, the shadows hiding her. The manure pile is to her immediate left but she doesn't see or smell it. She leans back on the wooden wall, it's rough grain filling her bared lower back with many slivers. She slips back into an uneasy slumber, her eyes still open, like a living death.
"Gabrielle." The voice is soft, whispering in her ear. She jerks awake like someone has threatened her, the first emotional reaction she's had in seemingly eons. There is a figure in front of her. This is no ordinary person.
The goddess Athena steps into the shadows and kneels before her. Gabrielle simply stares at her, eyes wide and blank, mouth a straight line. Athena studies her for a moment and sees that the mind isn't there.
"Oh sweetest one, what has happened? Where are you in there dear? Have you beaten yourself down so much that only a little seed of Gabrielle exists now, if at all?" Gabrielle still stared at her, face unchanging.
"Sweetest one, I understand the need to be silent, I understand the need to withhold, but if you don't start eating and sleeping, you're just going to plain wear yourself out. And you can not do that. You know this isn't your time to go, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle knew this. It was one of her few conscious thoughts, that she would walk the land for a long, long time, to remind everyone what happens when evil takes residence in you. Even though Athena didn't mean this, Gabrielle accepted that her body needed regular nourishment and sleep.
"The woman at this farm, she will take care of you for awhile, alright? Just let her help you get your body back to health, please." With that she disappeared and Gabrielle stood up, walking out of the stables.
She went to the house on the other side of the property and knocked on the front door. After a few moments a short, plump woman opened it. She drew in an aghast breath at the site of Gabrielle in front of her. The younger woman was as white as a sheet, her eyes sunken and hollow, with blackened circles under them, her cheeks hollow from starvation, with the wound from earlier on her temple encrusting dark red blood on the side of her face and into her knotted, sweat damped hair.
"Sweet Athena!" she said, stunned. "My dear girl, what has happened to you? Come in, come in, and clean yourself up."
She pulled Gabrielle into the cozy little home and pushed her down in front of the fire. The older lady fetched a blanket from another room and returned to wrap it around Gabrielle's shoulders when she saw her bleeding, sliver-filled lower back. She came around to look Gabrielle in the face when she saw the blank expression.
"Oh, child, you have lost your soul haven't you? Walking around like a demon, no mind to tell you to feel pain, to sleep, to eat. Never you mind, lass, Andrea will take good care of your body if you're not able to."
She put on a pot of broth for Gabrielle, but when she turned around Gabrielle was no longer on her stool by the fire. Instead she was curled up in a ball in the corner, turned away from the flames. Andrea went over to her and pulled her around, taking the cracked, virtually destroyed boots off her feet. Gabrielle's feet were raw with blisters and oozing cuts, her toes bruised and her ankles swollen up as fat as her calves.
"Been doing some walking there, have we lass?" Andrea remarked with a grimace. She washed and wrapped up Gabrielle's feet, after soaking them in a pan of hot water for some time. Although this would lessen the pain quite a bit, Gabrielle showed no sign of it. She still sat, expressionless, staring at her old boots beside the door, waiting to be taken out to be burned. Something about them. . .it takes her at least a half hour to remember, and all she gets is a flash, Xena putting them on her feet and tying them for her, every morning. . .the sweetness of the memory stabs her like a sword thrust into her heart and she visibly flinches. This doesn't go unnoticed by Andrea.
"You remembering something there, child?" But Gabrielle's face is blank again, the mind running away once reminded of the acute power of this pain.
Andrea washes her, cleaning all the wounds, picking each and every sliver out of Gabrielle's back, and wrapping her up in a blanket, to keep her warm as she removes the broth from the fire. She sits across from Gabrielle with a bowl of it's steaming brown liquid.
"Now you see this stuff here? You're gonna eat it okay?" she fully expects to have to feed this to her, and is shocked when Gabrielle reaches out and takes the bowl. She puts it up to her lips and begins to tip it into her mouth.
"Careful, lass, that stuff is boiling hot. . ." but Gabrielle downs the whole bowl in a few swallows, totally mindless of the fact that it just burnt the inside of her mouth. She hands the bowl back to the older woman then goes back to her corner, curling up and falling into her resting state, the upper crust of sleep.
"You're okay though, aren't you lass? Not an mindless idiot, just a mute, not wanting to be talking. Alittle sleep and some more food and you won't be so close to death's door." Andrea spoke softly from across the room. And she knew just how close to death's door Gabrielle had been when she had come into her home.
Gabrielle stayed with Andrea for a few more days, eating and resting and gathering her physical strength back up. But by the third day she knew she had to leave soon. It wasn't right of her to ask Andrea to feed and heal her. Monsters don't deserve this sort of kindness.
When Andrea awoke on the third morning she found Gabrielle standing at the end of her bed, staring at her with those huge, vacant eyes. She startled and took a moment to calm herself.
"Good gods, child you scared me! What you be doing sneaking around. . ." she was cut off by Gabrielle thrusting her hand out, presenting her with a piece of torn parchment.
"Now what's this?" She took it and saw a scrawled hand writing on it. In a wobbly syntax she recognized the word 'job.' "Job? You want a job?"
Gabrielle nodded, taking the paper back and tucking it into the waist band of the long black skirt she wore. Andrea rubbed her head as she sat up.
"Well, I know that the innkeeper in town is looking for a girl to help out, clean and cook and what have you. It isn't the nicest, safest place to work though, but something tells me that doesn't really matter to you. I can take you down there today if you'd like." Gabrielle nodded and left the room.
True to her word Andrea packed up the wagon and drove Gabrielle into town that afternoon. As they drove Gabrielle looked out at the passing coast line, something in her recognizing how far she really had walked, but taking no real thought of the greatness in this feat.
Andrea had to tell the innkeeper Gabrielle's story. As she spoke for her, Gabrielle stood behind her, looking around the dank tavern, wrapped in a long black cloak over her floor length black skirt and tighter fitting, long sleeved black top, all made for her by Andrea. Gabrielle had pointed to the black material when she had told her she was going to have to make her some new clothes, but had refused the pair of shoes that were offered to her. She felt now that she didn't deserve shoes, or to have to go through the process of putting them on her feet, reminding her of this little act Xena used to do for her every morning before they began traveling. And even though now the soles of her feet were cut and bloody, she barely noticed.
She also had a small sense of dry amusement at the sight of Andrea talking for her. She, Gabrielle the Bard, having someone speaking for her. Her conscious mind was returning to the smallest degree, enough to be able to take care of the basics. But as it did, it came back with a hardened, bitter edge, the antithesis of what she used to be. Now, the green eyes that gazed steadily about the room were like darkened emeralds, hard, emotionless.
"Well, Andrea, if you can promise me that she'll be a hard worker, then I'd be willing to hire her. Might be nice to have a woman who was dumb, for a change, instead of one who'll talk my ear off." The innkeeper, a fat, soured man, tall and unkempt turned to Gabrielle and looked her up and down. "You ain't much to look at are ya? Skin and bones, you dumbed child. You promise to work hard? Huh? You understand me?" He began to speak in an elevated voice, slowly like he was taking to an idiot. Gabrielle merely nodded in response, her eyes boring into him.
"She's a mute, Keithan, not deaf idiot. You don't haveta yell at her or talk down. She knows what she's doing, she just doesn't feel like talking right now." Andrea put an arm around Gabrielle briefly. "Don't ya dear?"
Gabrielle pulled out of the semi-embrace like Andrea had burned her, her eyes darting around as if she was threatened. Keithan grunted something under his breath.
"Well, girl, what's your name?" he said.
"She's never-" Andrea stopped, worrying about what name Keithan would give her, what insult he would use as a tag for her. "It's Poena, her name is Poena."
"Poena, is it? The mute here told you that? That she's named after the god of punishment's assistant? Why not just call her Nemesis and get it over with?" He mocked Andrea in her obvious lie, then turned to Gabrielle. "Girl go on back into the kitchen, Mavis is back there and she'll put ya to work." He turned and went back to his customers. Andrea pulled Gabrielle aside, a loose hand on her arm.
"Are ya sure you want to do this child? He's a harsh man, and there's no telling what kind of danger will come your way if you stay here." Gabrielle loosely grasped the irony of this statement, of being in danger. Hadn't she spent the last three years in danger, with someone always there to bail out her ass? It would do her some good to be here, to face danger on her own, not to depend on. . .anyone, on another person to help her out of it.
She nodded her assent to Andrea, then, without any other sign, turned and walked away from her, into the back room as she had been directed. Andrea stood there for a moment dumbfounded, then walked out to her wagon, shaking her head.
"That wee girl is gone, just plain gone. Someone out there must know what happened to put her in such a state. All I can hope is that that person'll show up sooner or later and help the wee mite out before it's too late. Cause once she walks into that pit, it's a helluva long way out."
Hey your glass is empty
it's a helluva long way home
why don't let me take you
it's no good to go alone
-Sarah McLachlan "Good Enough"
She remembered the flames, the two separate fires, burning. One in front of her, burning the body of her son, her beloved Solan. And the other. . .Gabrielle's body burning, the flames popping and sizzling her deceitful, lying skin. Burning with her cursed, evil spawn. The two of them descending into Tartarus together, as Solan ascends to the Elysian Fields. Gabrielle, screaming out in agony as the flames take hold of her soul, and she standing there, no tears, no anger, nothing, just watching.
Xena jerked awake, her body covered in a sheen of sweat. Her heart was thumping loudly in her chest, her breathing rapid. She took a moment to calm herself, to collect her mind. A memory floated back.
Awakening from the nightmares of her past, always an angelic face over her, that beautiful, soothing, bardic voice like honey in her ears, a soft, little hand stroking her brow, drying the unchecked tears from flushed cheeks. She always would be instantly soothed, the demons immediately silenced, all at the hands of this young woman.
The sting of the sweetness of this memory burrowed deep into Xena's soul. It felt like all those memories that she held dear to her now took on such a cheapened feel. All those feelings she had for Gabrielle, all the love, seemed now so trite, so foolish in the face of her betrayal. Even now, five moons since Solan had left, since her life as it was had ended, the one scar that wouldn't heal, the one thing she refused to let die was Gabrielle.
She figured it would take time, to rework her life, to get used to being alone. She didn't need Gabrielle, she told herself, she didn't need anyone. She wouldn't open her heart up again to anyone, the emotional doors were closed and no one would crawl in there again.
Despite this firm declaration, thoughts of Gabrielle still crept into her mind. When she wasn't thinking of Solan, when she wasn't talking to him in her mind, knowing he could hear her thoughts, when her mind was at ease, the young bard would creep in. Sometimes it was these bittersweet memories. Sometimes it was visions of Gabrielle suffering for what she had done. Sometimes it was an image of Gabrielle, like a ghost, thin, frail, dumb, suffering. Mostly it was the site of her standing beside Xena at the funeral pyres, as she had last seen her.
Xena hadn't looked at her, but her warrior-honed senses had picked up all her movements. She had been so hurt then, so betrayed, and she had said it to Gabrielle, full force, telling her what she believed the truth to be. She could literally feel the life's blood drain from Gabrielle after she spoke, as the young woman dropped her staff carelessly, walking away without a word. Something about Gabrielle's surrender, her defeat, had empowered Xena. She had taken it within and grown on it, know now that she had punished her as much as she herself had been.
She had gone home to Amphilos after that, back to her mother's home, and given little thought to Gabrielle as she mourned her son. As the moons passed, the pain lessened, but not the love her felt for her son. Solan would remain forever young and innocent in her heart, and she would never forget him.
Xena begun to help her mother out, leaving her warrior armour behind as she took over much of the repair work on the inn. Her mother welcomed this, her and Xena growing closer than they had for quite some time. She was also pleased to see how Xena as handling the death of her son, how she was able to live through it with her humanity still intact. But even Cyrene knew not to mention Gabrielle, for when she had once, the fire of anger and pain that flashed in Xena's eyes had frightened her beyond words. Despite this, she still worried about the little bard who her daughter had seemed so close to, wondering where the Fates had lead her now.
On the eve of her sixth moon at home, Xena had a visitor. It was a warrior friend from her traveling days with Gabrielle, and she warmly welcomed him. He had offered his condolences about Solan, then told her why he was there. A warlord by the name of Menear was threatening the coast line, saying now that Xena was out of the way all of Greece would be his.
Xena knew what she had to do, that her time to return was upon her. She had agreed to go back with her friend, bidding her mother farewell and leaving on Argo before nightfall.
The threat ended up being about as substantial as the breath the warlord had wasted in saying it. Her warrior friend and her had easily defeated the army, and Xena felt good to be back into form. Her friend and her parted ways on the southwest coast as he crossed the ocean to go over to Egypt and Xena started her way east, over the mountains to see if her help was needed there.
The cold in the mountains had ended up taking it's toll of her, and she was relieved to find an inn in the valley to rest in. She entered cautiously, taking in everyone in the room one by one, challenging each of them to bother her if they dared. She sat in the back corner, her back against the wall as she slowly drank the port she ordered. She watched the innkeeper as he brought dirty plates to the back.
"Poena!! Dammit girl where in Hades are you?" he bellowed. A large, greasy woman emerged from the back, and Xena chuckled inwardly at this man calling the huge woman "girl."
"For Ares' Sake, Keithan, she's out back again. Damn 'friends' of yours doing there fun with her. I wish you'd stop this, the girl's no use to the inn when she's being fucked in the back corner all the time." the woman spat after she finished speaking. Xena felt alittle discontented at observing this moment of the hard life these people lived, selling their bodies to survive.
"I tell them it's part of our services, free of charge." the innkeeper smiled. "Besides she just lays there and takes it, never fights."
"That's caused she's a dumb mute, you fool. You know her mind ain't her own."
Was this woman, this Poena, being raped? The image of a dumbed woman, someone who needed to be protected because her senses weren't all her own, being raped for nothing more than the fucking pleasures of some drunken sloths made Xena's blood boil. She stood up and walked out the door, going around to the back to find this girl, to stop these men and make sure she would get to safety.
She found them in the back shed, four of them all taking their turns on the nude, rake thin form on the ground. The woman laid there as still as the dead, her face hidden in shadow.
"Hey, boys, now that's no way to treat a lady." she said from the door, in a low growl. The group spun around and saw her standing there. After only a moment's hesitation, they charged her, swinging punches.
She was able to disable most of them in the first attack, but the ones in the back started in on her the moment she was done knocking their buddies unconscious. After a few moments, Xena had all of them down and she jumped over them to grab the girl and get the hell out of there.
The girl's face was bruised and battered and her naked body had endured it's own share of physical trauma for obviously sometime now. Xena grabbed her clothes from beside her and wrapped her in the black cloak, and pulled her unconscious form up over her shoulder. She ran out to the barn and got onto Argo, knowing better than to stick around for when the boys woke up and discovered the girl gone. She rode full force out of town until she reached the beaches below the high cliffs, finding a dry cave to rest for the night.
Sighing at the thought of losing her nice warm bed tonight, Xena laid down the girl's form on a bed roll she had spread out, then went about getting a fire happening. Once this was accomplished, the small cave was flooded with orange light, and began to provide some much needed heat.
Xena now turned to the girl, to assess her wounds. She wet down a cloth and leaned over her, cleaning her face of the dried blood. As the light played off the face features showed up under the bruises and cuts. It was then that it hit Xena.
She drew back in total and complete shock, dropping the cloth, her eyes growing wide with astonishment. Her gaze went up and down the young woman's body, looking at her thin skeletal figure, ribs protruding, bones sticking out from under pale, dead-hued skin. Bruised, battered, repeatedly raped. . .
"Oh, Gabrielle. . ." for this moment, the betrayal, Hope, Solan, everything, was forgotten. All she saw was her love, her sweet, little Gabrielle broken before her.
The innkeeper, he had called her a dumb mute hadn't he? When had that happened? When had Gabrielle lost her sanity, become dumb? And her bard, mute? All this time Xena had condemned her, carried not a wink for her well being. And now look at her. Violated, shattered. . .
Surely she wouldn't live much longer like this. It looked like Gabrielle hadn't eaten in days, if at all. Her body was sickeningly thin, gaunt, covered in newer purplish and older yellowing bruises. Her lips had bite marks on them, her one ear lobe completely missing, bitten away. Xena could feel improperly healed broken bones when she ran her hands over the bard's body. Xena sat, staring in disbelief. She could see the soles of her bard's feet, cut, bleeding, beyond repair. She wondered if Gabrielle could even walk at all now.
The warrior tended to every wound, every cut and bruise, bathing the girl with the utmost gentleness. Tears from some unknown place fell down her face and onto Gabrielle's white skin as she worked silently. She knew in her heart what had happened.
Gabrielle had been punishing herself for what she had done. She had shut down, gone mute and subjected herself to all this in the name of bereavement. This was the result: sickness, starvation, rape, dumbness.
Xena clothed her in the garments she had found beside Gabrielle, seeing these long black cloaks as the symbol of mourning they were meant to be. She then gave Gabrielle both blankets, wrapping her up tightly. She laid her body down next to the bard's and curled around her, grasping the now calloused, work-worn hand in hers as she tried to rest her emotion-wrought spirit.
"Gabrielle, what have you done? I may be able to heal your body but I don't know if I can heal your soul. Or even my own towards you."
After all, after she had seen the atonement Gabrielle had paid, she still felt the sting of her betrayal. Even though it was obvious the bard had paid in full for it, Xena still felt like she couldn't trust her. She would take Gabrielle home to Podetia, to her sister, and then leave her. Despite all this, Xena still felt that she couldn't let herself love Gabrielle again.
Sunday is gloomy, my house is slumberless
dear as the shadows I live with unknown
little white flowers will never awaken you
not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you
--Sarah McLachlan "Gloomy Sunday"
The dawn broke over the beach, sending long, golden streaks of light into the cave. Gabrielle's eyes fluttered open, and the first thing she registered was the cave's jagged rock ceiling above her. She knew the last thing she had done was lay in the shed as those men fucked her, laid there and took it as usual. But now, where was she? Had one of them taken her somewhere? She could feel a weight, warm, soft, on her side. It didn't feel like a man. She turned her head slightly and looked directly into Xena's sleeping face.
She jerked away from her, dislodging her side from under Xena, pulling herself up into a little ball on the opposite side of the cave. An emotion flooded her for the first time in moons, an emotion so strong her whole body quivered with it: fear.
Xena was awakened now by Gabrielle wrenching herself away from her. The warrior sat up and gazed at her cautiously. She saw how the young woman was quivering from fright, and moved very slowly.
"Gabrielle, it's me, Xena, Gabrielle." she said in a low, quiet voice.
Gabrielle kept her eyes locked with Xena as her trembling increased. Her teeth chattered now and she pulled her knees closer and closer to the point of pain. Xena moved slightly towards her and Gabrielle flinched visibly.
"Gabrielle, it's me, don't be scared."
But the bard wasn't buying it. Tears now formed in her eyes, unrestrained as they fell down her swollen cheeks. Her eyes, usually dead and emotionless, were wild with fear. Xena couldn't figure out where all this fright was coming from as they sat in their opposite corners.
Gabrielle's mind was filled with one thought only, and that was absolute terror of Xena's wrath. She knew that she had come to kill her, found her at last with plans to rip her limb from limb. This is what I deserve, this is what is coming to me. I shouldn't fear it. Emotions are useless. Stop it.
In an instant, Gabrielle's face went blank, the tears and trembling stopped and she unfolded her body out of it's defensive position. Xena was baffled by this sudden change, watching as Gabrielle stood to her feet, totally impervious to her injuries. She too stood up, approaching her now. Gabrielle kept eye contact, but there was nothing in hers anymore. Xena felt her insides knot at the sight of her bard so cold, so vacant.
"Are you-are you alright Gabrielle? You look like you have endured a lot lately." she said it in a kind voice, cautiously. Gabrielle said nothing back, just stared blankly.
"Kay." Xena cleared her throat, her eyes dancing around the cave as she thought. "Are you hungry?"
Nothing. Blank, hard, green eyes staring at her. No words.
"You look like you need to eat, Gabrielle. Have you eaten at all lately?"
Still nothing. Xena sighed and rubbed her forehead, covering her eyes for a moment. When she looked again, Gabrielle was moving towards the saddle bags in the corner. She watched as she fished through, then stood when she had found what she wanted. The bard handed Xena the small dagger.
"What's this for?" she asked, confused. Gabrielle began to remove her cloak, throwing her arms behind her and thrusting her face skyward, waiting. Xena realized she wanted her to plunge the dagger into her, that she was waiting for it.
"Gabrielle, I'm not going to kill you." The bard looked at her, almost confused by this. She took the dagger and wrapped Xena's hands around the hilt, then stood in front of the warrior, waiting.
"No, Gabrielle!" Xena said, upset by her insistence. Frustrated, Gabrielle took the dagger. She then went blank again, looking Xena in the face as she raised the point towards her chest.
"By the Gods! Gabrielle! Stop this!" Xena took the dagger and threw it aside. She gripped Gabrielle's shoulders tightly and looked her straight in the eye. "You're not going to die."
I can't die, I have to live, remind everyone of the monster I am. Yes, go home, Poteidaia, go there and show my family what a loathsome and vile soul I have become. Yes go home.
Gabrielle broke out of Xena's hold and started to walk, out of the cave and down the beach. One foot after the other, like before. She was half way down the beach by the time that Xena caught up to her after packing up their things.
"Where do you think you're going?" Xena said once she was beside the bard. Gabrielle turned to her and looked her straight in the eye. She can't figure out why Xena is still with her.
She wants to make sure I go home, that I don't sneak off.
She took a stick and wrote in the sand, in syntax, 'home.' She then continued walking, one foot in front of the other. Xena realized where she meant to go, if that all she recognized, and walked behind the bard.
The silence that reigns over Gabrielle is so completely foreign to Xena. Usually as they would walk, she and her bard would discuss something, anything, usually with Gabrielle pulling Xena out of her quiet shell to speak her mind. But now, the young woman who walks an incredibly fast pace a few feet in front of her is death like, not a word, a gesture, even a single sign of life coming from her. Xena finds it disconcerting to be walking with her and have no noise, nothing, just silence and the sound of the ground under their feet. Even that, she can barely hear from Gabrielle. She looks down and sees Gabrielle's feet are still bare, now muddy and swollen.
"Gabrielle, wait." She calls to her. The younger woman stops and turns around, looking blankly at her. "You have no shoes on Gabrielle. Your feet are in horrible shape. Surely you feel it while you walk."
An odd light entered the bard's eyes as she looked at Xena longer than usual, then she turned back to the path and kept on walking. Xena shook her head and followed, too scared of the reaction she'd get from Gabrielle if she tried to stop her and physically put some shoes on her. It's like she doesn't even feel the pain, she thought, is her mind so far from her body that she can't acknowledge the agony her body is in right now?
Gabrielle's body answered this question after seven or eight candlemarks of walking without rest when she simply collapsed in front of Xena. The warrior herself was feeling strained at this long amount of walking even with the few breaks she had taken alone, catching up to Gabrielle afterwards. She was amazed all day that the girl was so detached that she was able to go so long, but wasn't in the least shocked to see the form in front of her slump over to the ground.
She ran up to her, crouching down beside Gabrielle and bringing her up into her arms. The warrior carried her over to the creek side off the road a ways and laid her down very carefully. She looked over the young bard, taking in the white skin and shallow breathing.
"I don't know how much longer you were planning to keep this up Gabrielle, but it can't go on without taking it's toll." She spoke in a low voice, as if at a wake, feeling that the body before her was a corpse for all intents and purposes.
She got water from the creek and begun bathing Gabrielle's torn, shredded feet, chipping away dirt, branches, thorns, all lodged into bloody tears in her soles. The warrior herself even had to flinch when she thought about the torment these virtually destroyed feet must be.
"My poor Gabrielle" she said it without thought, it just came out of her as pure empathy for the agony Gabrielle must be in. She wrapped the bard's feet up with more tenderness than she had shown in years, then pulling a blanket around her as she rested in an unnatural slumber.
She lit the fire up after that and ate a small amount, worried now that Gabrielle hadn't eaten or drank any water in the last day that she had been with her. And she had a sense that she hadn't eaten for a while before then aswell. This, combined with the bard's weaken physical state told Xena that this had to stop and soon. Lilla would think her barbaric if she brought Gabrielle home in this state, and it was the truth. This wasn't right, to allow the young woman to continually beat up on herself, no matter what she had done.
Xena's eyes flickered over the sleeping form on the other side of the campfire. Gabrielle's breathing was so rapid and shallow, and her body was so thin under the blankets. This is no way to live, she thought. Is anything bad enough that someone need suffer so? A flash of Solan's dead face answered Xena's question. Yes, there were things awful enough, and the death of her only son was one of them.
She turned her back to Gabrielle, and laid down, eyes staring straight out into darkness. All she could hear were the young woman's quick, vacuous breaths. She closed her eyes so tightly, trying to ignore everything in her that told her that Gabrielle's days were numbered. It should matter! No it shouldn't. Solan is dead because of her! Solan is dead because she loved her daughter as much as you loved your son. Gabrielle betrayed me! You betrayed her, what of Ming Chen?!
She was jerked out of her battle by a long single cry from the other side of the campfire. She sat bolt upright and looked over to see Gabrielle thrashing and clawing at the night. Tears coursed down the bard's sunken cheeks as she tried to curl her body up into a defensive ball. Xena went over to her and carefully coaxed the bard back to a peaceful sleep through a light stroking on her forehead and murmuring words soothingly. The bard eventually calmed enough to be eased out of her tight ball, as Xena dried the tears from her face.
The feel of the soft skin under her fingers brought back so many memories for Xena. She knelt down beside her Gabrielle and put her face into the young woman's shoulder as she felt her own tears forming at the thoughts of times past. Why did this have to happen, why to Gabrielle? Maybe it wasn't her fault after all, maybe it was fate, maybe it was the gods, maybe Xena. . . her thoughts deafened as sleep over came her in Gabrielle's near by warmth.
Do you remember when we fell in love
we were so young and innocent then
do you remember how it all began
it just seemed like heaven so why did it end?
--Michael Jackson "Remember the Time"
When Xena awoke the next morning the first thing her eyes registered was Gabrielle sitting a few feet away from her, staring directly at her. She looked into the young woman's eyes, so blank and vacant and kept the eye contact, daring Gabrielle to react. Her response was to thrust out her hand and present Xena with something.
Xena sat up and took the item, seeing it was the jade necklace she had given Gabrielle on her last birthday. She looked up into the blank green eyes again, confused, when she was presented with the amethyst pendent that she knew to be given to the bard by her grandmother. The leopard skin pillow she had received from Cleopatra was next. Xena realized that all of Gabrielle's precious possessions were being given to her by the bard.
"Gabrielle, what are you doing? These are your things!" Xena said stunned, trying to give her the items back.
But she refused, shaking her head, and pushing Xena's hands back towards her chest. The bard emptied out her little pouch of everything, giving it all to Xena, then stood up, with the intention of beginning to walk away so she would encounter no argument. What she found instead was her legs giving away from under her, her body unable to stand this kind of treatment anymore.
Xena was there to catch her before her body slammed to the ground, gathering her battered frame into her arms. Gabrielle looked at her with big, wide green eyes at this close contact, half scared, half grateful for the chance to touch her again. She gently, guardedly brought her head in against Xena's shoulder, tucking it very carefully under her chin as she would before. Xena felt the awkwardness of this need for caring by Gabrielle and found her own arms tightening around her.
"You've pushed your body too far, Gabrielle, and I'm sorry to say but you'll have to ride the rest of the way. I'll walk beside Argo and make sure she keeps the pace brisk though, okay?" She spoke very softly, her mouth poised just above Gabrielle's ear. She felt the bard nod slightly under her chin.
She sat her down on the blankets again and moved the little pile of possessions Gabrielle had just given her. She had every intention of giving these back to Lilla when they arrived in Poteidaia. These things, she had no right to keep them, not to mention not wanting to think about Gabrielle after they parted forever. . .the bard looked up into her eyes again, these blank green eyes, sucking her in.
She gathered up the camp and saddled Argo again, getting her ready for the journey. Once everything was ready she sat in front of Gabrielle with a pair of old boots she had with her. Xena began to put them on the younger woman's wrapped feet and tie the laces when she heard a soft sobbing. She looked up and saw big tears falling down Gabrielle cheeks, the young bard visibly upset by this.
"Gabrielle what is it, what's wrong?"
This was too much for the bard, this act recreated. Her mind said one thing, that she needed to give Xena something back, but she had nothing now, nothing but her skin and bones and hair. . .
Gabrielle begun to pull at her hair, pulling large handfuls of the dulled blond kinks from her scalp. With tears still running down her face and sobs escaping softly from her lips, she leaned forward and handed Xena these clumps, presenting them to her as she had with all her other possessions. Xena was dumbfounded as her hands were filled with Gabrielle's hair, too shocked at first to even do anything about it. She was finally able to stop the bard, subdue her by gently pushing her hands back, moving in closer to her and wrapping her arms around her to keep Gabrielle's hands pressed to her side. She softly murmured into the bard's ear calming words soothing her, soothing herself.
The tears continued from the bard, still feeling unsure that she deserved all this from Xena, one whom she had betrayed. She laid her head defeated onto the warrior's shoulder, her mind and body too weak from the last two days to be able to fight much longer. Sleep overcame her in this warm embrace, and she surrendered to it finally, her body becoming limp in Xena's hold.
Xena felt the resistance drain from Gabrielle like water out of a drainpipe. When she looked down at the bard's face she saw that she had slipped back into unconsciousness, for this sleep was too deep to be natural. She sighed for a reason she herself couldn't even put a finger on and rested her cheek on top of Gabrielle's head, cradling her for awhile.
She had to make the decision now of whether or not to travel, to push on towards Poteidaia. She knew it would do Gabrielle good to rest here for a while, but she needed to get the bard home and fast. The more time she spent with the younger woman, the more her bitterness faded. And Xena thought that if that bitterness died, then Solan death would go unreciprocated. But it was hard to hold true to the bitterness while Gabrielle laid so broken and vacant in her arms, barely holding onto life.
Enough thinking, this is only confusing my original mission. Come on, my betraying love, we have to get going.
Xena picked the bard's unconscious form up in her arms and whistled for Argo to kneel down on her front legs so she could get on. Once they were on their way she shifted Gabrielle so she was sitting astride her, backwards, her legs on either side of Xena's waist. The bard's head rested in the crook of Xena's neck, her warm, shallow breath lightly fanning Xena's throat. The feel of this, reminding her so much of when Gabrielle used to curl up to her body at night, her face in her neck, caused tears to sting at the warrior's eyes. She leaned her head in against the younger woman's, trying so hard to hold on.
Hold on, hold on to yourself
for this is gonna hurt like hell
Hold on, hold on to yourself
you know that only time will tell
What is it in me the refuses to believe
This isn't easier than the real thing?
-"Hold on" Sarah McLachlan
Gabrielle never regained consciousness that day, and when Xena finally stopped for the night she was becoming worried. She laid down the bard's limp form onto the ground and kneeled over her, lightly touching her young face. The bruises and cuts from before seemed to be healing, but Gabrielle's colour was still gaunt and wan. Xena was also aware that another day had passed where the young woman hadn't eaten anything. She knew now would probably be her only opportunity to get some food into her.
Xena made up a broth, boiling down some of the dried meat and vegetables she had with her, and adding some herbs from her medicine pouch that would help Gabrielle's physical wounds heal. She sat beside the bard when it was ready and lifted her head up, slowly and patiently drizzling the broth into Gabrielle's mouth. She was relieved beyond words to see the bard swallow it down, even if most of it ended up spilling down the sides of her face.
She was able to drain the whole bowl into Gabrielle, then laid her back down to rest some more. All she could do now was hope the bard would regain consciousness soon. Xena laid down on the opposite side of the fire and rested, not trusting herself to lay beside the bard again that night.
The warrior was awaken in the middle of the night by the sound of retching and sat up to see Gabrielle's form bent over in the corner, vomiting. She went over to her and knelt behind her, placing a gentle hand on her back. Gabrielle nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt Xena's light touch. She turned around and looked at Xena with wide eyes, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. This gaze only lasted for a moment until she turned back and began vomiting up every drop of the broth from her stomach into her hand, mostly just saliva and stomach acid now.
When Gabrielle had awoken from her unconsciousness to feel the warm fullness in her she knew that Xena had given her food, food that she felt she didn't deserve, food that Xena shouldn't waste on her. As she began to throw it up again into her hands, she knew this too had to go back to Xena, everything she had everything she was, had to be given to her. She turned to the warrior, her hands full of the rank putridity and presented it to Xena.
The warrior looked at her, totally confused and horrified, seeing the bard present her with this regurgitated puddle. She could see what was happening here, that Gabrielle was trying to give her back the food she had put in her. She pushed Gabrielle's hands down, forcing her let the vomit fall to the ground and brought her form into her arms. She carried her back to the fire and sat her down on the blanket again, then reached for the water skin.
"Drink some Gabrielle. Please, for me." Xena pleaded with her, her blue eyes big and beseeching.
Gabrielle looked at her for a moment, not wanting to take anything from Xena, but also not wanting to go against a direct wish. She cautiously took the water skin and tipped it back, drinking a few swallows. Xena watched her with close eyes, making sure the bard swallowed and then took it back from her. She leaned forward and put a hand on the young woman's face, looking her straight in the eyes.
"Now I don't want to wake up later to find you throwing that up too, okay?"
Gabrielle nodded, and a long period of silence fell. Xena's hand stayed on Gabrielle's cheek, her thumb lightly stroking the bruise there. Both sets of eyes were filled with the pain and loss of the time just passed.
"What's happened to us Gabrielle?" Xena asked softly, seeing a tear run down Gabrielle's face.
I need to stop this, I'm losing what I know to be true. Solan's murder. Caused by this woman. She backed away, going back to the other side of the fire. Silence came from Gabrielle, and soon Xena was able to shut down her mind enough to go back to sleep. The next morning she awoke with a jolt, turning over to see if Gabrielle was okay. She saw the bard standing there, a dead rabbit in one hand, their three water skins filled to bursting in the other.
"Gabrielle, where did you get the rabbit and the water? There isn't a creek for hours. . ." she realized that Gabrielle must have walked to the creek way back there, walked on her broken feet, then killed this rabbit, for Xena. The bard presented these to her as she had with items before.
"You have to eat some of this rabbit with me Gabrielle." she insisted, but Gabrielle shook her head and pointed at Xena, telling her it was hers. "You have to eat something Gabrielle, you'll die if you keep starving myself."
Gabrielle nodded, pointing to where the pile of bones from last night's broth were, then to where her vomit was. Xena could see that most of both piles were gone, and felt her stomach go queasy, realizing Gabrielle had eaten her own vomit, and those old bones. She thought she was going mad when she saw Gabrielle chewing on the remaining bones, the sharp shards cutting her mouth and throat as she swallowed.
"Gabrielle, stop! That's inhumane! You need to eat real food, not, not your own vomit for Zeus' sake." Xena pulled the bones from her hands and sat her down next to the fire. "Now you're gonna sit here and eat some of this rabbit alright?"
Gabrielle nodded meekly, not wanting to fight Xena on anything. But she did insist on cooking the rabbit for Xena. This was more than accepted by the warrior who was lately finding her skill as a cook strained to the max.
The bard browned the animal to well done, just like she knew Xena liked it and gave her the meatest part. She took the grizzle off the bones and ate that, watching Xena silently with big, child like eyes as she ate. Xena took the rabbit and tucked it away, being acutely aware of Gabrielle's big green eyes on her while she ate.
Gabrielle looked sicker than usual today, probably drained from her long walk last night was what Xena concluded. The bard's clothes were torn and muddy now from their traveling, and her hair, which now hung down to past her waist was tangled and knotted, with branches and leaves lost in it's masses. Xena watched as Gabrielle's eye lids drooped from exhaustion, mesmerized by Xena's slow movements. Eventually the young woman's head fell down into her chest as she dozed off.
Xena went over to her and laid her down, seeing that it was another unconscious coma that overcame her. The warrior knew this would be a good opportunity to look over the bard's wounds, not to mention get her alittle cleaned up. She started to strip the woman's clothes off her sweat-soaked body, noticing how clammy her skin was, cold as in death. The red scars and wounds stood out all the more on this ashen skin.
The body bared before her was full of the most bittersweet memories. Every movement, every patch of skin was ingrained in her remembrance, the bard's strong little arms wrapping around, the flush of love over her naked skin. So warm, a darkened wet place asking, begging for her hand, her mouth. Her Gabrielle peaking under her touch, and the warrior peaking under the bard's. Then afterwards, laying spooned against one another's nude forms, Xena's hand lightly stroking the bard's muscled, warm stomach. They would talk then, about anything or everything, in low, lover's tones, Gabrielle's breath on her skin. So warm, loving, encompassing. Xena looked at this body in front of her, emaciated, violated. This wasn't what she remembered, this is what she had feared happening. Anger and pain had come between them, and they both had paid the price.
She bathed the bard silently, running her hands over the broken body with a gentle touch. When she was finished she wrapped a blanket around the bard and tucked her in for the day. There would be no traveling for them today. Xena began to tidy up around the camp, and was collecting more firewood a ways away when she heard a voice calling.
Xena ran back to the camp to find Gabrielle in the throws of another hellish nightmare. Tears were pouring down her cheeks, as she blindly thrashed about her. Words gushed from a once silent mouth.
"XENA! GODS XENA!! XENA!! I'M SORRY, XENA!" she screamed it out, her voice now rough and cracking from lack of use. "Xena, Xena. . .I'm sorry. . .please. . .forgive me. . .XENA! XENA!"
The warrior sat down beside the thrashing bard and brought her up into her arms, rocking her like a mother to a child, shhing her and murmuring words into the bard's ear. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena's neck in her sleep and held on like she was the only thing keeping her alive. Xena could feel her tears, warm and wet, flowing down her neck and shoulder. Her own eyes were filled now too, and her soothing words were there for her own sake as well.
"Shh, Gabrielle, it's alright, it's okay, shh, no one's gonna hurt you, it's alright, it's all fine, nothing will hurt you anymore, I promise, it's okay, I'm here, I'm here, shh, baby, shh. . ."
She felt the bard's sobbing subside and sighed, still rocking her back and forth in her arms. She realized how light Gabrielle was now, the feel of her bones now so predominate under her skin. When she pulled away to look down at the bard she saw that she was awake now, big vacant green eyes staring up at her. A moment passed, neither of them breaking the close contact. It was Gabrielle who sat up in Xena's arms and shook off the blanket from her body, then laying back, nude, eyes locked with Xena.
The warrior looked her body up and down, then up at the bard's face, seeing her eyes closed, bracing herself. She's waiting for me to take her, to force her to have sex with me, she thought. She wants me to rape her.
Xena gathered up the blankets and wrapped them around the bard's nude form. She lightly ran her fingers along the side of the sunken face of her love, gazing upon her with softened eyes. She laid a gentle kiss on her temple then stood, the bard still in her arms. She went over to where the bags were and brought a pouch out, bringing them back to the fire. The warrior sat Gabrielle in front of her, wrapping her arms around her from behind, giving her bard a quick embrace, pressing another kiss to her bare shoulder.
She then pulled out a brush from the pouch and began the slow process of brushing Gabrielle's tangled nest of hair. She worked very methodically, section by section, picking out all the leaves and debris, until it was somewhat controlled. Gabrielle's shoulders shook slightly as she did this, both of them remembering how they had done this every morning before pain had come between them. The warrior leaned forward and wrapped her arms around her bard, reaching up a hand to dry the tears off smooth, bruised cheeks, kissing away the saltiness. Xena then washed her hair out very gently, as slowly as she had brushed it, then combed out the wet hair again when she was done. She brought out her shears and trimmed the ends, making it even a few inches below her waist, then going around to face her love, to cut the fringe of bangs that had grown down to Gabrielle's chin without Xena's regular trimming.
It was an action that they had done twice a moon, Xena would cut Gabrielle's hair, like a mom would for her child, and she had become very good at it. The bard would sit very still and smile up at Xena, occasionally ribbing her about making the wrong career choice in life. Xena would threaten her with a new bald headed haircut if she didn't behave, then remarking "I have many skills Gabrielle."
Now, in a time that seemed worlds away, Gabrielle looked up at her with big eyes, watching her so closely and saying nothing. Xena worked just as silently, with careful concentration and unguarded affection, stopping on occasion to stroke Gabrielle's face, lay a kiss on her cheek.
When she was finished she stood back and looked her over. Gabrielle looked at her with the biggest, greenest eyes she had ever seen up under her fringe of curled bangs, Her hair now shined gold in the afternoon sun, falling down into soft curls past her waist, caressing over her naked shoulders.
"You look beautiful, my bard." Xena said in all honesty, then kneeled down in front of her. "Gabrielle, I want you to know. . .I want you to know that I forgive you, that I know now that you didn't kill Solan, that you were just being Gabrielle, and that's why you couldn't kill Hope originally. But I don't want to be the reason why you waste away. I forgive you Gabrielle, now you have to forgive yourself."
Gabrielle's eyes filled with tears and she literally broke down right in front of Xena. The warrior gathered her up into her arms and rocked her again. This time the bard's sobs didn't quiet so quickly. Her tears flowed for a long while, her heart breaking, unwilling to believe that Xena had really forgiven her.
As she rocked Gabrielle, she ran her fingers through her soft hair, like a caress, over and over, pulling the golden threads out to cloak the young woman's naked upper body. She played with it, fiddled with it, loving Gabrielle through her actions. The bard clung to her shoulder with desperation, holding on for dear life. She found her own fingers twined into the warrior's black hair, tangled in its web, not wanting to let her go.
"So pretty, so beautiful" Xena murmured, her mouth poised above Gabrielle's ear. Gabrielle shook her head, disagreeing with her. A voice came from the silent mouth, so quiet that Xena had to strain to hear it.
"No, ugly, it's ugly." Gabrielle said, strained with tears.
"No, my bard, it's beautiful, very beautiful. My Gabrielle, so pretty, so sweet." Xena chanted it in a low, lover's voice.
"No, no, hideous, ugly." Gabrielle refused to believe. She sat up and laid a trembling hand on Xena's face, avoiding eye contact. "You're beautiful, this is beautiful."
Xena put a hand under her chin and made her look her in the eye. She cleared away the tears from the bard's cheeks and smiled slightly at her.
"You calling me a liar, Little One?" she used her name for Gabrielle, the one she had called her since the beginning.
"No, not Little One. I don't deserve it." she put her head into Xena's neck. "Not good enough, never good enough." "My Gabrielle is good enough, my Gabrielle deserves it," Xena murmured into the blond head, which shook it's refusal.
"I'm not your Gabrielle, not anymore. I'm a monster." It was muffled in Xena's shoulder.
"That's the woman I love you're talking about."
"NO!" Gabrielle jumped out of Xena's lap, turned and ran like Death itself was chasing her. She was out of Xena's eyeline before the warrior was even to her feet. By the time Xena was up on Argo's back the girl seemed to have all but disappeared. She searched in vain for almost half a candlemark without a sign of the bard.
"Gabrielle! I know you can hear me!" she called out as she rode, her eyes desperately searching the brush. "Sweetheart, please, don't do this to me. Please, this is killing me."
Suddenly the bard appeared beside her, eyes wide and solemn again. Her hands were full of wild flowers, of every hue. She held them clutched to her side, another present for Xena, her face still expressionless. Xena got off Argo and took the bard by the shoulders.
"Gabrielle, I don't need all these 'gifts' of yours. I don't want this, I don't need all that you are as some kind of repayment. All I want is my Gabrielle back again. I want this destructive behavior of yours to stop now, before. . ." she took in a deep breath, her voice wavering with emotion. "Before I lose my Gabrielle forever. I've already lost so much, please don't take that from me too."
Gabrielle looked at her with those big, vacant green eyes that began to fill with tears. She held up her wrists finally, and Xena saw what she was hiding. Down the inside of each wrist where long, deep cuts, self inflicted.
"By the Gods. . .oh Gabrielle, no! Please, no!!" Xena took the wrists in her hands, gripping them tightly, elevating them. The tears poured down her face as she pulled Gabrielle to her, her hands now covered with her love's blood.
"I'm sorry, Xena, I'm sorry. I can't take love I don't deserve. Not after what I did." Gabrielle buried her face into Xena's neck, her tears anointing the skin there.
"Oh Gabrielle, you didn't do it. You didn't know it would happen. Please don't leave me Gabrielle, please, I don't want to lose you too." Xena sobbed into Gabrielle's hair.
"It's too late, Xena. I've been a fool, and I'll die as one."
A light shimmered behind them, a glow not of this physical realm. A figure stepped out and stood beside the two women. Xena looked up, squinting from the brightness, then recognizing the form.
Gabrielle looked up aswell, shock written over her tear flushed face. The blood poured from her wrists and onto her and Xena, dripping like a mortal waterfall.
"Gabrielle, you didn't kill me, you did no wrong in Fate's eyes. But you can not leave Mother, not now." Solan stepped forward and placed a hand on each of her wrists. With a smile at both of them, he disappeared.
Xena looked down at the bard's wrist to see nothing, no blood, no wounds. As she looked up at Gabrielle's face she saw all the scars and cuts from before were gone aswell. They stared at one another for a while, totally awe struck by this. Finally a smile broke out on Xena's face and she clutched Gabrielle to her. The bard returned the embrace, then pulled away to kiss her warrior.
"My Gabrielle, I presume?"
"Let's hope so." The bard smiled broadly at her, then laid her head against Xena. "I'm so tired, Xena. I need to sleep, to eat. No more words."
She fell silent again, now learning the value of quiet. Xena nodded back, kissing her again, running her hands through the golden hair.
"My bard, mute. It proves anything can happen."
"I had nothing to say." she whispered into Xena's neck, not wanting to speak anymore, feeling drained from her words already today.
"Let's get you back, put you to bed." Xena bent over and picked her up in her arms, cradling her close. "Then I have little story to tell you. . .you remember Ming Chen?"
ODD FACT: Entire Fanfic written in SIX days, all 25 pages, a first for me!