~ The Best Gift ~
by Susan A. Rice

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and Cyrene are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. This is just a work of fan fiction and not intended to infringe on the copyright of "Xena: Warrior Princess".

The story is mine. November/December 1999

Violence: None

Subtext: More like Main Text. If you are under 18 or this sort of thing is not legal in your area, I'm sorry, but I would suggest other reading material. Sorry Nicole, maybe when you're older!

Author's Notes: I just wanted to say thank you to my mother and Lúcia for reading or listening to the story and allowing my Muse to take flight. Mom, one adult story as promised! Love you.

This story was originally posted under MomBard because I had given this to her as a gift for the holidays in 1999. Here are the original Author's notes:

I did not write this piece of fan fic. It was written for me as a gift by my daughter. I thought it was very well written so I asked her if I could post it, and she said yes. I enjoyed this story and wanted to share it with all of you. Thanks for indulging a proud Mom. Enjoy. I can be reached at MomBard@xenafan.com. Constructive criticism is appreciated. Just don't be hurtful.

Oh! When I emailed her and told her how much I liked the story; and of course that I loved her very much...and that the story should have a title. This was her response...

You're welcome Mom! Fine, a name, how about "The Best Gift" because that is what my family is. The best gift I could ever ask for! Love Ya - Sue

I'd love to hearing from you. Please feel free to send me your comments good or bad. ricesue@mediaone.netm

I can't help but to look up at the night sky. It is clear and unusually warm for this season. I look back and try to think of what I did right to have deserved her friendship, her love. We are an unlikely pair, one tall, dark and stoic the other compact, light and expressive. It surprises many of our friends that we are so very different yet very much the same.

Imagine that, the same... Yah, I keep asking myself how are we the same. We talk about many things. Some of our experiences are so opposite, yet we have shared so much in recent years that even now, just being away from her for a candle mark or so, I feel the need to seek her out.

And I want to do just that but I can't, not tonight. Tonight she should be with her family, rebuilding that relationship which has been strained over the last few years but mending. After all, isn't love the strongest force of all, next to my love.

I can hear them inside, she's laughing. Gods, what a sweet sound. I would really like to know what has them all in stitches but decide I can wait a while longer before going back inside. Must have been really good since they are still carrying on in there. I wish the shutters were not closed; I would so like to see the expression on her face.

I walk over to the well, to continue with my thoughts and to give them some privacy, not that they even realize I'm gone. The moon is out and full on this Solstice Eve. It shines so brightly and makes the dark seem less scary this night. I'm sure Demeter is thinking of her daughter even now and is awaiting the day of her return. Family, it really is important. She's my family.

I continue to gaze at the moon and I realize I'm not alone anymore. I hold out my hand and she gently takes it in her own. She gently rubs my hand and encircles me from behind.

"Love, what are you doing out here by yourself? You're going to get sick without a cloak." She squeezes me just a little tighter.

"I'm fine, I just thought you might like some time with your family. I know your Mom really misses you and we have not seen Toris in ages. I also like your Uncle and his family but his son I could do without for a while. Some of his comments and looks were getting to me."

"Yah, he can be that way, but you really do belong in there with everyone else Gabrielle."

"Nah, I figure that if I'm in there I will ask all kinds of questions about you when you were a kid and I'm sure they would answer me but I did not want to do that to you. I figured you would share these things with me when you were ready. Besides, I also know how embarrassing childhood stories can be, remember being in Potadea a couple of weeks back, and you didn't even ask for the information, it was just served up on a platter! It's amazing what your family will say about you sometimes." I chuckle at the expression I see on her face and she knows exactly what I mean.

Xena smiles and says, "OK, but that happens whenever families get together and you taught me that these are some of the most important times of out lives." She shifts her hands and turns me to face her. "That we should spend time with our families and cherish the moments but I can't do that without the most important part of my family missing."

I look at the ground, but I feel her hand shift off of my shoulder and gently cup my cheek. She slides her hand down my face until her fingertips reach my chin. She lifts my head. I can't help it, I have a bashful smile on my face and I can feel my cheeks flush. If she notices, maybe she'll think it's just the cool night air.

"Gabrielle, you mean the world to me, you are my family, and I don't know what I did to deserve your loyalty, friendship and love but whatever it was, I thank the stars for it." I watch as she bends down and lightly brushes her lips to mine. It is a kiss so tender and sweet that I can't help but to be amazed all over again by her. She pulls back and says, "Now, come on inside before you catch a cold."

I wrap my right arm around her waist pulling her closer to me and I bring my left hand up to her head. I gently but firmly bring her head back down to me and kiss her again. I watch her eyes and see them close as our lips meet again. It is a long, lingering kiss and I feel her arms go behind my back pulling me closer to her. We part with a low sigh. I'm not cold at all now and I know my cheeks are still flushed but shy has nothing to do with this feeling.

"Still want to go back inside?" I asked.

"Most definitely, as much as I would like to snuggle close to you out here, I would much rather snuggle close to you in a nice soft bed," she whispers as she brushes back my bangs which seems to be forever falling in my eyes lately.

She laughs as I crinkle my noise. The hair keeps falling back and tickling my face. "You, my Bard, need a trim. Come on, let's go inside and I'll take care of it for you."

I smile as we turn and head back to the inn. She puts an arm over my shoulder and pulls me closer as we walk. We enter the kitchen to see Cyrene sitting at the table looking at us.

"Hi Cutie! We were getting a little worried about you."

I looked at her in surprise, "I'm sorry, I didn't think anyone would miss me."

Cyrene got up from her chair at the table and crossed over to the Bard. "You do realize that the family was worried about you when you did not come back after a bit, didn't you?"

"Ah, no, I... I didn't mean to upset your family. I..."

"What do you mean 'your family'? Honey, you are as much a part of this family as Xena and Toris."

"Mother, I just got finished mentioning something like that to her, but I think she wanted to just give us some time alone."

Xena's back is to me and she is rummaging in a drawer but I can tell from the sound in her voice that she is smiling.

Cyrene looks at me and I can't help but swallow. She reaches for me and gives me a hug. She says, "You are so much a part of this family. You gave me one of the most precious things of all; you gave me my daughter back. You helped to bring my Toris back to me. You helped to make my family hole again and I got a bonus besides." She holds me out at arms length, "I got another daughter in the deal. One who loves to cook with me when she is home or go to the market with even if it is to just browse. A daughter who will talk herself hoarse to keep my tavern full at night when she comes home to get some rest. Solstice would just not be complete anymore without Toris and my two best girls." She pulls me in for another hug.

I'm trying my best not to cry but I can't see and when I close my eyes I can feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. I try to speak but I'm to choked up to do so. I feel Cyrene rubbing my back as she is murmuring soothing words to me. I feel another put their arms around both of use and know that Xena is there to support and hold me.

Cyrene finally lets me go and uses the corner of her apron to dry her own tears. I start to wipe my face with my hands only to have Cyrene bat them away. "What is it with you children all the time, you are not supposed to use you sleeves to wipe you face." She gently dries my face with her apron. I can't help but smile as I feel more tears running down my face.

"Why so many tears Cutie?"

I know I now have this evil glint in my eye, because I see Cyrene smirk, and in a child like voice I say, "Because I'm happy and I don't want a hair cut." I even stamped my foot like a little girl.

Xena is standing there with the knife and laughs. Her mother looks at her and says, "Tell me she's not as bad as you are about getting her hair cut."

"She's worse Mother, she fidgets and squirms. She wants to let her hair grow back but every now and then she needs to have her bangs trimmed and she puts up such a fight about it." Xena turns to me and I can see that wicked grin that tells me 'You're in for it now Bard.'

Cyrene takes the knife from her daughter and says, "We'll see about that." She looks at me, points to the chair she had recently vacated and says, "SIT."

I know this is not a command I can avoid, especially with a six-foot tall warrior blocking my only avenue of escape. If I had known my teasing was going to back fire I might have thought of something else to say. Talk about feeling like a little kid! I meekly take my seat.

"So, are we doing a trim, or just the bangs," says Cyrene.

The Warrior says, "A trim."

The Bard says, "The bangs."

Cyrene looks back and forth between the two of them. "OK, which is it?"

I can hear her foot taping, I quickly flash a look at Xena and again say, "The bangs."

"The bangs it is then."

I did not move around as much as I do with Xena, then again, I know how mothers are and it is just not the same thing as when Xena cuts my hair. I'm forever trying to distract her in much more entertaining ways. Again I can feel my face flush.

I can see that look on Xena's face and she knows what I'm thinking of... Damn, I really have to figure out how to control my blushing.

Cyrene looks at Xena and says, "That was not so bad, what where you complaining about. She was a perfect little lady. I wish you were half as good about getting your hair cut. Speaking of which, your hair could use a trim too. Gabrielle, please get up and Xena take a seat."


"Don't Mother me. Just sit. I'll only do the bangs, I'm sure it will be nice to see those eyes again."

"I'll say," I piped up from across the room. I really have to figure out how Xena does that look because it would really come in handy when I go to the Market. Someday.

Talk about squirming in the chair. She could not sit still for less then a quarter candle mark.

I laugh as I say, "Now this is a present, watching the fiercest warrior in all of Greece being tortured by her mother while getting her bangs trimmed. You sure you don't want Mom to take some off of the back while she's at it?"

Whoa, I just got 'the look' from the Warrior Princess and Warrior Mom, now might be a good time to rejoin the rest of Xena's family. I start backing up to the door.

Xena says, "Are we done here?"

"Yes Daughter."

Ah oh, there's that gleam in her eye. I bolt for the door. I can hear Xena coming up behind me as I make a dash for the stairs. Cyrene can be heard laughing throughout the inn. I managed to make it all the way up the stairs and to the back staircase when I hear Xena growl, "Gabrielle..."

Oh, this will be fun. I can tell she is in a playful mood and that she is going to give chase. I fly down the back stairs and charge into Toris' arms. Next thing I know, I'm being held by one sibling as the other one tickles me. Our laughter can be heard by all.

My tormentors finally let me catch my breath as they bring me into the family area to spend the rest of the evening enjoying good food and company with all.

I was getting tired. I can feel my eyes drooping and could not help but yawn. Xena notices and says to the rest of the group, "Well, it's been a long day of traveling and as much as we are having fun this evening I think it is time for me to put sleepyhead to bed otherwise we will never be able to get her up tomorrow morning."

Toris laughs, "Just tell her Mom has food on the table, that will get her moving."

Cyrene and Xena smile at this shared joke. The rest of the family, having watched the petite woman eat all evening could well appreciate the joke.

Xena takes my arm and pulls me up. As we walk by Toris and I say, "Just make sure you're not late tomorrow Toris, I may not leave anything on the table for you."

"Toris", says Xena, "If I were you, I'd be down here tomorrow, that was no idle threat." She is chuckling all the way up the stairs.

Once in Xena's old room, I walk over to the bed and just flop down face first. "I can fall asleep right now, but I think I'd be more comfortable on my back. I just need the energy to roll over. Am I stuffed or what."

I hear her say, "...or what." and then, I feel her starting to roll me over on to my back and onto my side of the bed. "Hey, are you going to get changed or what."

I smirk and say, "Definitely or what." as I wrap my arms around her again and resume the kiss from earlier that evening.

Needless to say, we were both late getting down to breakfast Solstice morning, but that's fine with me. I have the best gift curled up in my arms and many more Solstice mornings to look forward too.

The Athenaeum's Scroll Archive