~ Beginnings ~
by Oowatie

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement was intended in the composition of this fan fiction. All characters, etc. are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures, etc. All disclaimers included in "Retirement Undone" still hold.


Part 1

Chapter 1: Beginnings

The senior archaeology lecturer took the stage and slowly looked around the lecture hall at the mass of nameless faces before him. Clearing his throat to both quiet the din and steady his voice enough to speak, he braced his hands against the podium. "We have a guest speaker with us today. She is well known for the work she has conducted in Macedonia, Persia and the Agean beginning earlier this century," the professor paused briefly. A slight movement drew his attention to his star pupil.

She sat near the front of the room, her pen poised in mid air. At the mention of Macedonia, Persia and the Agean, she had tilted her head slightly, questioningly, and as he had completed the sentence a single eyebrow arched. It was the most emotion he had seen her express in three very long years.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts he continued, "Dr. Janice Covington."

Silence descended on the room like a curtain as the elderly lady tottered to the stage, a wooden cane in one hand and a battered old felt hat in the other.

Deep resonant laughter drifted from the seats and the professor scanned the audience, appalled by the breach of courtesy. Most of his students were also looking for the source and were likewise surprised to see a genuine smile light the face of their dark and quiet classmate.

"That's enough of that!" For such a tiny, frail-looking woman, the aging doctor had a voice that could still chill hearts.

"When are you going to get rid of that hat? It's hideous!"

Dr. Covington had to hide her chuckle when the senior lecturer visibly blanched at the comment. "Don't know what you're talking about," she crammed the shapeless lump of felt onto her head, "it's as good as new."

"Uh huh. That's why Gran-Mel tries to throw it out every time she sees you."

Dr. Covington wagged a gnarled finger toward the voice. "She tried to burn it with the leaves last month!"

Another tumble of laughter followed the remark, quieting with as much ease as it had begun.



More than an hour later, Dr. Covington's talk was finished and only a small contingent of curious students lingered.

Janice caught up her cane and gingerly descended the stage, advancing on her heckler. She wagged her finger at the woman again. "Imagine! Complaining about my hat before you even give me a hug hello!"

With a broad, warm smile that crinkled the corners of her eyes, the younger woman rose from her seat to wrap strong, tanned arms around her honorary grandmother.

"It's good to see you, Granma Janice, even with the hat. Where's Gran-Mel?"

"Gone to see that boy of yours. Did I see you taking notes, girl?"

The young woman laughed again, "I'm not really into autobiographies." Tucking blank paper into her knapsack, she hefted its weight onto her shoulder, "I practically grew up at your sites."

"You did grow up at our sites."

Curious eyes watched the greeting and followed as the two women entered the hallway, amazed by the exchange they had witnessed. More than one joke had made the rounds about the anthropology departments star pupil and her lack of emotion. She never expressed joy or sorrow or even boredom, just all-encompassing stoicism.



"Help me over to the table, Xe Xe. I'm an old lady after all." Janice glanced around the anthropology study lounge, deciding on the best place to rest her weary bones. Standing in front of a class for such a long time was wearing on a person's body. She ought to have sat down and let Xe give the speech in her stead, she thought. The girl knew it all by heart anyway.

Xe flicked a long, dark lock behind her shoulder, "Old my foot! I've finally stopped waiting for you to get old." She reached out a steadying hand and took the elder woman's arm, "I think both you and Gran-Mel will still be getting into mischief when Enki has grandchildren."



"Of course I remember Brie. We just saw her a few months ago." Xe brushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. "I also remember that you and Gran-Mel used to tease us about our names rhyming."

"Xe and Brie found a tree, skinned a knee and had some tea."

"You never were much at creative rhyming, Granma Jan."

The elderly woman chuckled and tapped the floor tiles with her cane. "She's not Brie any more."

"She was Brie this summer."

"Apparently she's tired of all the cheese jokes."

Xe raised an eyebrow, grinning broadly. "It really wasn't my fault, besides that was a long time ago, back when we were both still kids." --You were never a kid, Xe Xe. Mel's warm drawl registered in Xe's memory-- "I merely mentioned that her complexion reminded me of the cheese therefore making it easier for me to remember her name."

A comfortable silence fell as Xe looked up and saw a small group of eager-looking students staring at their table. Grinning again, she nodded toward them. "Looks like you've got a regular fan club brewing over there."

Janice looked at the young people and grimaced. Xe knew how much she hated all the attention she got from the young hopefuls. Janice looked back at the young woman sitting across from her.

The girl was a mystery to all but a very few; even her own parents weren't allowed too close to her heart. To look so like her grandmother but not have inherited and of the elder's tenderness was very perplexing. Then again, as much as Xe resembled Mel she was also completely different. The girl had taken the best aspects of both her parents and had melded them together into a form that could nearly be heart stopping. Hair and eyes such a deep, dark brown that they seemed nearly black and skin tanned golden from afternoons spent in the sun. Tall and willow slender with just enough curve to turn heads everywhere she went and fine features which created a countenance to rival Helen's.

"I think I'll leave you to your adoring fans."

But a personality, Janice thought, to rival Ares.

Xe moved to stand and caught the faint glint of wariness in the elder's eyes. "Just long enough to collect Enki and Gran-Mel from the early learning center." Xe walked a few paces before turning to face her oldest friend. "You never said what name Brie's using now"




"You're joking!" Xe gaped at her grandmother. All were seated at her kitchen table, enjoying a less than thrifty meal of take-away chinese food. Xe had made a mad dash through her tiny rent house when they had arrived home at last, piling Enki's toys and treasures against the walls and into baskets to clear a path for her duo of elderly guests.

"Gran-Mel! I've got to agree with the site manager on that one. You have no business traipsing up the steps of that ziggurat, you're eighty-five-years-old!" Xe continued to stare at her grandmother. "But you went anyway, didn't you?"

"You sound just like your mother." Janice hid her smile in her tea cup when Xe shot a glare at her from across the table.

 "Now Xe Xe," Mel stated in her delicate southern drawl, "I didn't go alone."

 "Oh, well that's not so. . ."

 "Janet was with me."

Xe shook her head. "I give up!" She looked over at her son and tousled the youngster's fair hair. "I'm tellin' ya Enki, you've got to watch these two like a hawk. They're bad enough alone, but when you put them together? It's nothing but trouble." She paused as happy childhood escapades mingled with memories of her grandmother's forced retirement. "Lots of fun but trouble all the same."

Enki giggled and cast enamored eyes around the table. Already five-years-old, he'd been involved in a number of adventures with his great-grandmothers and always relished the expressions that crossed his mother's face as he retold each tale, in all its brutal glory; her tiny bard, his mother called him.

 "Anyway . . ." Janet cleared her throat, trying to bring the conversation back around to her own grandchild.

"Oh yes." Mel smoothed the napkin in her lap. "There is one more thing, Darlin'"

Wary of her grandmother's tone, Xe resigned herself to an unpleasant surprise somehow involving Brie, the most annoying part of her childhood, worse even than her brothers.

 "You see," Gran-Mel's voice dripped honeyed tones, "we only just heard about Gabrielle."

"Uh huh."

"And well, " Mel paused to cast pleading ice-blue eyes at her favorite grandchild, "well, it seems that she could use some. . . assistance."

"Yeah." Xe rose and began to clear the table. "I hope she finds the help she needs, I've got Ea to think about."

"He can stay with me."

"No, he can't. He's almost too much for me to handle, and I'm just twenty-seven, not eighty-five."

"Janice will be staying out at the house for a while and Enki is more than welcome to come too. Janice has a new exhibit opening up in town and has to be near the museum to over-see the work. You know how much little Ea loves the museum." Mel's gaze followed Xe as the younger woman continued to stack dishes in the sink.


"But Mama!"

"Enki, no."

"I'll be real good Mama."

"Again, no."

"Xena Alexandria! I hope you're not trying to say that we're too decrepit to care for a sweet young boy such as your Ea." Janice managed to keep a straight face until Xe turned back to the sink.

"No Ma'am, of course I'm not saying that. It's just that . . . " Xe looked over her shoulder at the trio of silently pleading eyes. "Oh fine! Where is she and why does she need help?"


"She's in Anatolia? Where precisely? Anatolia isn't exactly included on maps anymore."

"Well, the last we heard . . ." Mel drawled, drawing a linen handkerchief from her pocket and dabbing the corners of her mouth, "she was working at the site at Catalhoyuk."

 "That's where she's supposed to be, I know that already. She told me when we met with her in Macedonia." Xe waited for the catch.

"She seems to be missing."

"Missing? So she's gone missing in Turkey, Catalhoyuk is in Turkey somewhere isn=t it?"

"Yes Dear, it is."

"You'll speak with my professors?"

"Yes Dear, we will."

"It's a good thing my passport's still valid."

"Yes Dear, it is."



Gabrielle stared intently at the locked door, willing it to open. Her onslaught of mental power had yet to work but she refused to let her faith dampen. She had been kept in the room for what had seemed like centuries although she knew it could have been no more than a few weeks since she had last seen daylight.

Her stomach grumbled angrily, she was ravenously hungry. The regular meals with which she had been supplied hadn't remotely appeased her appetite and now she was beginning to wonder just how much weight she would have to lose before her captors would notice.

Singing, she had discovered, seemed to draw attention to her cell. "Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten," her voice warbled loudly even as she heard footsteps hurriedly approaching her door. "Look away, look away, look away" The door slowly swung open. "Hi!" she called cheerfully as the man entered the room.

Huge as a mountain, he shoved a tray of food toward his captive. He was willing to do nearly anything to cease her singing, if you could call it that. The child couldn't carry a tune to save her soul.



"Be good for Gran-Mel and Granma Janice. All right Enki?" Still unsure how wise it was to leave her son with the two elderly women, Xe knelt down to envelop the child in a fierce hug. "Ea, are you listening to me?"

Enki was too enthralled in the bustling airport to pay his mother very much attention. "Uh huh, I will." A departing jet snatched his eyes away and soon he was plastered to one of the terminal's observation windows.

"You'll call Lyall if Enki proves too much for you, right?" Xe searched her grandmother's eyes.

"Of course, Dear."

"Of course, Dear," she mimicked. "Gran-Mel, you know how much I hate flying."

"Yes, Dear."

"I'll be back with Brie in no time, she's probably just taking a break or something."

"Of course she is, Dear. And remember, she's not Brie any longer, she's Gabrielle now."

"I remember, but Xe and Brie was bad enough, what's it going to be next, Xena and Gabrielle? It's just a little too, I don't know, too strange I guess." Xe cocked her head. "Did you hear about all of that Xena Vigilante stuff that was going on in California?"

Mel smiled benignly at her granddaughter.

"I'll call you as soon as I find her."

"Janice would appreciate that, I'm sure."

Turning to her son she waved goodbye, he never turned away from the window. Handing her boarding pass to the attendant, she boarded the plane.

Continued in Part 2.





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