Convert this page to Pilot DOC Format
By Bat Morda
(c) Bat Morda 1997
Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the charactes Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle- well make that Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story. Auctually it isn't that big of a deal. Quick little owie- a few stitches and we move right along- still I don't want to be accused of not giving enough warning...
This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
JUST IN CASE I MISSED ANYTHING DISCLAIMER:
Do NOT open back panel; no user serviceable parts inside. Use in a well ventilated area. Pencils, scrap paper, and batteries not included. Can not be read by magnetic strip readers. If surface dulls, dust with a damp cloth and allow to dry; do NOT use abrasive cleaners. If nausea persists blame it on Pestilence and consult your doctor or contact your local poison control center. Some assembly required. No dolphins were injured in the creation of this document and the contents are 100% biodegradable. Reader of this document assumes all property/personal damage inflicted upon themselves and/or other individuals/objects in the past/present/future. Please move completely across each row, filling in each and every available seat to make room for everyone. Do not look directly at the sun, as this may cause permanent retinal damage. FCC compliance is required before operating this unit, please consult the User's Manual for further instructions. Complies with TM-071074, and 18D-PMTRE-DR. The moving platform is traveling at the same speed as your vehicle. No smoking please...please stand clear of the doors...Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas... The Audience Is Listening...THX. Life shouldn't be taken too seriously- you're not getting out alive.
This story takes place three weeks after THE XENA SCROLLS.
Aires shook his head in disbelief, Tobias simply shrugged. "So she made it back to the ship and now they're" He left his words hanging as Tobias supplied a crass hand gesture leaving little to the imagination. "So she's fine then?" Aires asked, to which the big man nodded his head emphatically. "Funny," Aires wondered aloud, "I thought for sure she'd be a goner on that ship."
His silent musings were abruptly shattered by the loud gasp and whimper that came from the cabin next door. He looked at Toby who had the good grace to blush, "I can see you weren't mistaken." He said to his silent companion. Another cry followed with some loud sobbing when Aires shook his ruefully. "Christ," he muttered, "she's louder than last time."
Mel studied her handiwork critically. The stitches were neat and the wound cleaned to the best of her ability. Carefully she wrapped the archaeologist's arm in clean bandages, occasionally glancing to the bowl that housed the bloody slug. Janice smiled at her weakly, looking up through heavily lidded eyes. "See, I knew you could sew," she muttered, completely inebriated.
"Nice to know you haven't lost your sense of humor." Mel observed.
"Nope. Just blood."
Mel cringed at that. There was a pile of bloodied compresses on the floor. Janice had lost a fair amount of blood. After gently prying the whisky bottle from Janice's good arm, she set it on the table and began to clean up the mess. After washing the last traces of blood from her fingers she turned to see Janice studying her, a small smile on her relaxed face. Argo had hopped onto the bed and lay curled at the archeologist's side, injured hand resting lightly on the big dog's head.
"See something interesting?" Mel asked when Janice failed to redirect her gaze.
"Just a beautiful woman." Janice replied honestly.
"Janice Covington you're drunk!" Mel laughed as she moved to check on the bandage.
Janice nodded, "Yes, completely. But fortunately for me that does not change the fact that you are incredibly beautiful." She gently covered Mel's hand with her own and gazed into impossibly blue eyes.
"Are you always this flirtatious when you're drunk?" Mel asked, unable to pull herself away from the green eyes that looked so intently into her own.
Janice shrugged, "I don't know. If I'm going to be really drunk, I try to do it in private. I'm much better company when I'm sober." The last was said with a suggestive leer than broke the spell and made Mel laugh.
"Oh, I don't know about that." Mel said, putting the archeologist's hand back on the big dog's head. "Sober you've been positively infuriating, drunk I find you oddly charming." Casually she began to glance around the small room. It was late, she was exhausted and there didn't seem to be any other place to stretch out other than the bed.
Now even Janice laughed. "Too bad I don't drink very often." With a shrug she changed the subject as she noticed Mel's eyes wandering.
"You might as well get into bed with Argo and me. I'm in no condition to indulge in anything more aggressive than idle fantasy."
Mel smiled as she began to undress. "Nice to know I'm having some impact." She muttered as she slipped into bed on the side of Janice's good arm. Oddly, she felt more comfortable with the inebriated flirtatious Janice than the hothead of earlier. She looked over to see if her comment met with any response to see Janice's eyes closed, sound asleep. With a smile she relaxed into the bed, smiling to herself as she too drifted off to sleep.
I learned an important lesson after Thessaly. Never underestimate the determination of a bard. Well, at least one bard, that's for certain. I suppose I was overprotective, but how could I not be? As momentary as it was, the loss of Gabrielle hit me so deeply I don't think the pain of it ever affected me less regardless of how many years later the memory surfaced.
When she was ready to travel we left the Temple of Asclepius and continued on our way toward Athens. I insisted she ride, surprised that she didn't argue the point. She wasn't strong enough to talk, well not at her usual capacity, so a significant part of our journey was in silence. In hindsight I guess it was not ideal for either of us. I was left to brooding on the dark thoughts of what might have been. Gabrielle, who knew me better than any one alive could tell. With each step Argo took I got closer to learning something important about Gabrielle as well as myself, and that lesson would not be easy to take.
When we camped for the night I saw to it that she moved as little as possible. The stitches were not yet ready to come out, and there was no sense in aggravating the wounds. Gabrielle was strangely moody and by the time I'd cleaned up after dinner she appeared despondent, gazing absently into the fire.
"Are you okay?" I asked, worried that a full day's travel had been too much for her.
"You're joking, right?" She replied sullenly, her eyes clouded over with something unreadable.
"Can you tell me what's bothering you?" I asked taking a seat next to her on her bedroll.
She shrugged her shoulders. "I could, but I doubt it would do any good."
I blinked in surprise at the frankness of her answer. "I'd like you to try," I said, "I might surprise you."
She took a few moments to compose her thoughts then turned a steady gaze to me. "Xena, I'm sorry about what happened at the temple," she began, "but the way you're dealing with it isn't healthy for either of us."
"I mean you're scared. I don't know if you've admitted it to yourself yet or not, but you are. I can see you doubting my abilities, going overboard trying to take care of me and smothering me in the process." The tone of her voice gave little away. She didn't sound angry, or hurt, just numb.
"That's a little harsh, don't you think?" I replied, "I mean you don't even have your stitches out."
She smiled a thin smile that did not reach her eyes, "I don't think it would matter if I had gray hair Xena. You need to come to grips with this and until you do, you're not going to let me out of your sight." She sighed. "You feel too much responsibility for my life Xena and it isn't doing you or me any good."
I was starting to get angry but tried not to show it. Sometimes I hate it when she's right. "You could tell all of this by one day's travel?" I asked, my own voice icy.
She nodded. "You're a complex person Xena." she said, "but sometimes you're not very hard to read."
"Well thanks for the complex part." I muttered.
"Am I wrong?" She asked.
I shook my head, "I guess not. But Gabrielle, you've got to understand that I am responsible for what happens to you"
"No you're not!" She said forcefully, grabbing my hand for emphasis. "Until you realize that I am responsible for my own life this will continue to be a problem." She shook her head, frustrated. "Xena, I travel with you because I choose to. I know who you are and who you were. I am well aware that every war lord from here to Sparta would love to have your head on a pike outside their front gate. But Xena, I am an adult. Knowing what the risks are, I have made my choice, and it is to be with you. You're my home and I'm your family. I can't explain how we got this way but I just know that we are. You're going to have to let go"
"Gabrielle," I butted in, "you died. This is not a matter of a sprained ankle or the ungracious behavior of a warlord."
She nodded. "That's true. But every day I have to live with the reality that you might die. That some assassin might get lucky, that down some dark corridor there may be the numbers to overwhelm you. Yes, Xena you have to live with the same risks that I do." She shook her head sadly, "I have faith in you to come to my rescue when things get too much for me. I wish you had faith in me to know it won't happen very often."
I didn't know what to say to that. Looking back to the few other painful conversations we'd had I tried to do what she had told me then. Put myself in her place. But there was a big difference between Gabrielle and myself. She wasn't as strong or proficient in any weapons save for the staff. But, I countered myself, she had talked herself into and out of some amazing predicaments in the past. With a sigh I realized that she was much more versatile than I and ultimately could avoid more confrontations. Fortunately for me I had learned as a warlord that there was little to be gained by not taking good advice when it was presented on a silver platter.
"What would you have me do?" I asked quietly.
"What?" She asked, stunned.
I shrugged, "I think you're right Gabrielle. I'd like to try to fix this if I can."
"You think I'm right?" She asked in wonderment.
"Is something wrong with your hearing?" I inquired dryly.
"Oh no," she hurried on. "I'm just surprised that's all. I thought it would take at least another hour to talk some sense into you."
"Well I'm glad I can surprise you from time to time." I replied. "Unlike some people, I try not to have a problem admitting it when I'm wrong."
"Ah, yeah." She nodded getting my point. "So what to do"
I think we talked most of the night that night. At times it was painful and exhausting but at other times it was warm and comforting. She shared a lot about growing up in Potedia. Little things she hadn't yet told me about how she was treated by her family and how I had been such a contrast to that. Knowing why she was so sensitive to being babied gave me the insight I needed to keep from doing it- that is unless it was necessary. I managed to avoid talking about my past but I did tell her, through graphic examples, of the painful demise of warriors who had let pride get in the way of their commons sense.
As we turned to our bedrolls she spoke one more time. "Thanks Xena," she said, "for talking this out. You were really much better at this than I expected."
I couldn't suppress a grin at that statement. I'd changed so much in the past year. "Just don't expect this level of conversation every time you have a complaint." I muttered as I laid down to sleep. She laughed and that lyrical sound and the radiant smile that went with it I carried with me as I traveled past the land of dreams
Mel awoke with a start. She was warm, comfortably so, and something soft was pressing against her side. She looked down to see the mass of strawberry blond hair resting in the crook of her shoulder, and a bandaged arm draped across her chest.
She could feel one of Janice's legs draped across her own and then she saw the reason. Argo had stretched out on the bed, effectively shoving Janice on top of Mel. Both dog and owner were breathing the slow relaxed breaths of peaceful slumber.
Mel stayed that way for awhile, absently stroking Janice's back with her arm, feeling protective, needed. It was when she realized that she needed to use the bathroom that she decided to wake Janice.
"Doctor Covington?" Mel asked softly, gently shaking the archeologist's shoulders.
"Murphhh na lau." Janice mumbled into Mel's breast.
"Janice, wake up. Please." Mel tried again.
"Not now, I'm busy." Janice mumbled, only slightly more coherent.
"Busy doing what?" Mel asked, blue eyes blazing into green as Janice slowly lifted her head.
"Wha?" Janice asked trying to focus. It took only a moment before she glanced down at her own nude form, then to Mel who was dressed in only a slip. "What happened?" Janice demanded wincing in pain when she tried to move her arm. Then again once she realized the pounding she heard was coming from inside her own head.
"What happened when?" Mel asked calmly.
"Did I?" Janice's mind raced trying to put the pieces together. She didn't know what would be worse, having taken advantage of Melinda Pappas or not being able to remember doing it.
Mel laughed, the sensation of moving breasts not lost on Janice who still leaned against them. "No Janice, you didn't do anything. You implied that you wanted to however, but you fell asleep." With a nod she indicated Argo. "I think your dog shoved you onto me in your sleep." Janice nodded, cheeks flaming red, almost as red as her blood shot eyes. "So how is the arm?" Mel asked deciding to be merciful and change the subject.
"Arm?" Another wince. "Oh that arm." She considered a moment then nodded, "it's okay. Just stiff." Janice paused for a moment. "And hungover. Ah, excuse me." She added as she shifted more of her weight onto Mel in order to turn and shove the dog. "Argo down!" After a couple of shoves the dog woke and complied. As gracefully as she could, Janice extracted herself from Mel's embrace and headed for her clothes.
Mel had finished dressing when she turned around to see Janice unwrapping her arm. "What are you doing?" She asked.
"Relax sweetheart, I'm just checking on your handiwork, okay?" Taking out a new set of dressings Mel waited patiently for Janice to finish her inspection. She got a shrug and a smile of approval. "Nice work Mel."
"Why thank you doctor. Ah, do you think we should switch shirts?" Mel asked. "I washed the blood out of your's but there is a hole in it, and your bandage will show through."
Janice nodded, wondering why the thought hadn't occurred to her. "That's a good idea, thanks. Does anyone know I'm hurt?" She asked trading shirts with the southerner.
"Just Toby, there was no around it."
"I'll keep out of sight until we get to Leesto's. It shouldn't be much longer."
Mel and Argo proceeded on deck. Janice had assured Mel that she would be fine and was ravenously hungry. In the quest for food that did not come in a can, Mel endured the appreciative glances of the crew as she looked for Aires. Grateful Janice's shirt had a chance to fully dry, she was comforted by the scent of the archeologist that clung to the khaki fabric.
"Could you keep her a little more quiet next time?" Aires said in way of greeting when he met up with Mel on deck. She stared at him blankly for a moment until she got his meaning.
"I'll try," she murmured demurely. "But I don't think she can really help it."
"Yes, well I'm not the only one envious of her helplessness." Aires replied with a grin. "Have you had anything to eat? Er, I mean food that is."
Mel rolled her eyes at the joke, not completely certain what the eating thing was about. It was the second time it was mentioned and she honestly didn't have a clue. She did have enough of an idea that she did not want to ask Janice. A quick trip to the ships mess rewarded her and Argo with better food than she'd expected on a smuggling ship.
She returned to the cabin, arms laden with bread, cheese, roast beef and fruit. Once she had the door closed behind her she unloaded her spoils on the bed. She handed Janice a steaming mug, that meeting with the most approval.
"I'm surprised you can eat with a hangover." Mel observed as she watched the food between them vanish.
"I can always eat." Janice replied. "Sick, hungover doesn't matter. Dad said it ran in the family."
"You can say that again." Mel quipped before she could stop herself.
Janice looked at her strangely. "How would you know?" Mel looked down, embarrassed. "A memory thing?" Janice asked, her voice surprisingly soft.
Mel nodded. "I'm sorry Janice. Things just pop into my head. It's like things I've known or just remembered. I can't explain it."
"So you're saying I'm a lot like Gabrielle?" Mel laughed, and was instantly sorry she did. Janice looked positively furious.
"Well actually no, you and Gabrielle are very different." Mel shrugged helplessly. "Gabrielle had a much nicer disposition."
"How nice for Xena." Janice replied, and had no idea as to
why she said it. She shook her head trying to clear the cobwebs forged
in the stupor of inebriation.
Toby's knock sounded at the door. After pointing to Janice then up towards the deck, the two women followed the big man. Aires stood leaning over the rail of the ship, intent on the sight through his binoculars: A small island looming on the horizon. He winked at Janice when she approached.
"Sorry to disturb you, but I thought you might want to see this." He said, handing over the glasses.
Janice peered into lenses, adjusting the focus slightly. A large ship was anchored just off the island with minimal activity on deck.
"Have they seen us?" Janice asked.
Aires nodded, "I wouldn't worry about it though. Leesto is used to cargo traffic, we can pass by without arousing suspicion then double back. What do you make of that big ship there?" he asked.
"Looks like a pleasure cruiser to me." Janice shrugged. "Cal has visitors, wealthy from the looks of them. Wonder what she's up to?"
Mel grabbed Janice's good arm with a start. "The scrolls," she whispered fiercely, "something to do with the scrolls."
Janice nodded, her hangover returning in full force. "Knowing Cal, it's an auction."
"Are you sure about this?" Mel asked hours later as she rowed the small boat toward the giant cruise ship.
"I'm not really sure of anything." Janice replied, "I just wing it and hope for the best. Maybe the ship's crew will be too busy taking care of their wealthy guests to pay much attention to us."
The reception that met them however was a bit more than the archeologist had hoped. Seven crisply uniformed men with guns waited at the base of a ladder when the tiny boat pulled up. Before Janice could speak Mel stood and regarded the most decorated of the uniformed men coldly, "I will speak with the captain immediately."
"Who are you?" The man asked, surprised by the regal tone.
"I am Kathryn Von Melosa, this ship was supposed to wait for my arrival before departing. As it was, I had to take inadequate transport to get here. Don't think for a second I will let this sort of affront pass."
"Von Melosa?" The man sputtered. "We did not have any Von Melosa on our manifest."
"Then I will have a word with your captain over that as well."
As fast as the men could move Melinda, Janice and Argo were brought on board. The men were beside themselves with fear. The Von Melosas were as infamous as the Vanderbilts and Rockefellars. After several apologies by the men, Janice suggested since they were on board, and that was all that really mattered, why bother the captain when the helpful men would certainly be held responsible for the oversight. They were in favor of forgetting the whole thing and escorted the trio to a vacant suite.
"Von Melosa?" Janice asked with a raised eyebrow when the door closed securely behind her.
"Mother's maiden name." She explained. "Comes in useful from time to time."
"Your mother is Kathryn Von Melosa?!" Janice was stunned.
"Well, pappy called her Katie."
"You're an heiress?" Janice was still stunned.
Mel shrugged unhappily. "Well, sort of." Getting annoyed, Mel firmly put her hands on her hips. "Shut your mouth Janice, or you're going to catch flies. Yes, momma is rich, but I haven't seen her in years. Your daddy wasn't the only one with trouble keeping a wife, momma left us too." She shook her head, trying to scatter unpleasant memories, "So, Doctor Covington, I got us on this ship but it won't take much checking to discover that momma isn't supposed to be a passenger. What now?"
Janice shrugged. "Let's have a look around."
After breaking into the room across the hall, Janice found an embossed invitation on the dressing table. "It's an auction all right," she noted, reading the elegant parchment. "Xena scrolls and other related artifacts to be auctioned off tonight, starting at 8pm sharp. Bids will be taken until midnight. Only after the final bid is taken will the artifacts be distributed. I guess she figures only unlocking the vault once will be safer for her and her clients," Janice guessed. "Which means we have until midnight to figure out a way to get to them first."
"Or I could just buy them." Mel muttered. She shrugged at Janice's shocked expression. "It isn't like I don't have the money, wouldn't that be easier?"
Janice looked at her, a wicked gleam in her vibrant green eyes. "But not nearly as fun. Think about it Mel, what would Xena do?"
It only took a moment to think about what had been done. The theft of her things, of Gabrielle's things. It wasn't the items that mattered so much as the fact that they were being sold to the highest bidder and taken away from her family. "We take what's ours," she replied. Janice had to do a double take. Mel had spoken without her accent.
Janice checked the time on her pocket watch, thankful that it was in the pocket of her jacket and not ruined by her fall overboard. "We don't have much time Mel." She urged as the heiress put the last few items into the large suitcase.
Mel nodded. "I've got everything, lets go."
"Are those clothes going to fit?" Janice asked as they retrieved Argo from their room.
"Sure," Mel replied, "I've always been the same size as the Vanderbilts."
They carefully lowered the suitcase onto their dingy, keeping an eye out for crew. With Mel and the luggage in the boat, Janice carefully removed the dog's pack and tossed it down to Mel.
"Okay girl," Janice said to the dog. "You're going to hate this, but I need a diversion. That end of the ship. Then come back here and jump overboard. Mommie will get ya." The dog looked nervous, apparently understanding the word overboard, and was not happy. Janice tried again, enthustically whispering the words "big mess" and pointing. With a pant, the big dog trotted off.
"Mommie?" Mel asked with a grin as Janice seated herself in the boat.
Janice frowned. "Forget it Mel, and start rowing." Moments later screams could be heard on board as havoc broke out. They were halfway to shore when Janice pointed at the water. "Stop rowing. There she is, let her catch up." Mel lifted the oars out of the water as Janice struggled to lift the dog into the boat. She winced with pain at the exertion of her wounded arm, but all was forgotten when the soaked canine showered her with sloppy kisses.
Mel didn't try to hide the amusement from her face at Janice as she hugged her dog and praised her with kisses for a job well done. Shouting could still be heard from the cruise ship as their tiny boat found a secluded cove on the island. On firm footing, Argo took the opportunity to shake the water from her coat, managing to drench Mel with most of it.
"That's mommie's good girl." Janice snickered with satisfaction.
After some scouting, Argo discovered an empty boathouse near the main complex of Calissandra Leesto's island retreat. An elaborate walkway was decorated, clearly the entry way for the evening's event.
"We have four hours until show time." Janice said looking at her watch. "Get some sleep, I'll keep an eye out for anyone. Once the guests start to arrive, we get dressed. If your disguises work we should be able to slip in with the rest of 'em. When we find the stuff, we get back to the boat as soon as possible. Aires said he'd wait 24 hours on the other side of the island. After that we're going to have to hijack a cruise ship if we want to get home."
Mel watched Janice carefully. It was clear that the younger woman was in pain. She was using her injured arm as little as possible, but trying to favor it casually. She needed to be still, to rest if they were going to be successful in their attempt at recovering the scrolls. Janice sat on the floor of the boat house, back propped up against the wall as she glanced out the window across from her and listened to the sounds of the island. Mel lay down using Janice's jacket as a blanket, and her thigh as a pillow. Janice started in surprise at first, but Mel smiled as she felt the archeologist relax under the contact.
"Comfortable?" Janice asked, as she draped her good arm over Mel's shoulders and played with her hair absently.
"Very." Mel replied warmly. "Don't forget to wake me with plenty of time to get dressed. It's going to take awhile for your hair and make up."
"I can hardly wait." Was the last thing Mel heard her say before drifting off to sleep.
I don't know who was more surprised by the announcement of Iolaus' wedding, me or Gabrielle. We'd kept in touch with him and Hercules over the years, keeping each other updated on our adventures, and occasionally coming to each others aid. The announcement of Iolaus' betrothal, however, came as a complete surprise. What was even more surprising than simply being invited to the wedding, was the request that I sing at the ceremony. Iolaus was like family, and there was simply no way I could refuse. Gabrielle and I arrived into town a full two days before the nuptials were scheduled to take place. Hercules arrived shortly after us. Gabrielle had been unusually quiet since we'd gotten into town and I'd hoped that catching up on old times with Herc might remedy whatever it was that was bothering her.
We sat at an outside table watching the village prepare for the wedding of a celebrity. Herc had made certain that Gabrielle and I stay in the castle of his brother. He seemed very pleased that for once the attention was not focused entirely on him. To a lesser degree I knew how he felt. Gabrielle continued to keep to herself, contributing only rarely to the conversation. The arrival of Jason, Hercules' step-father only made things worse.
"Beautiful time of year for a wedding." Jason commented, to which Hercules, Gabrielle and I mumbled our agreement.
"Selene is crazy about Iolaus. Of course, being crazy helps if you're going to marry him." Hercules commented.
"Can't say she was the one everyone expected to marry Iolaus." Jason countered.
"Really?" I asked. "Who was he expected to marry?"
Jason smiled across the table. "Why Gabrielle, of course."
The fact that Gabrielle choked on her wine let me know that she was indeed following the conversation. Her comment of "How silly," was apparently not what Jason expected.
"Why do you say that, Gabrielle?" He asked.
"Well," she replied, "we've never been more than friends, and it isn't as if I'm available anyway."
I could see Herc try to suppress a snicker as he looked intently into his goblet. I kept my expression neutral as I waited for Gabrielle to explain this one.
"Well you've done a very good job of hiding him Gabrielle." Jason replied with a chuckle. "In fact, the only company I ever hear of you keeping is Xe"
A judiciously raised eyebrow at Jason brought his musings to an abrupt end. "I guess people can forget the double wedding between you and Hercules and Gabrielle and Iolaus." Jason muttered as he excused himself from our table, supposedly to find his wife.
"Apparently so." I agreed after his departure.
Hercules laughed heartily. "That was priceless." He grinned when he could finally speak.
"I don't find it funny at all." Gabrielle shot back and abruptly left the table. I assured Hercules that it was not his sense of humor that had driven off my bard. She'd been acting odd for awhile now and it was high time I found out why.
"What's the matter?" I asked when I finally tracked her down to the stall where Argo was stabled.
"It's nothing," she replied sullenly, "I guess I just don't like weddings."
I walked up behind her, easing my arms around her shoulders and resting my chin on the top of her head. "I think there is more to it than that." I murmured. "Is it Perdicus?" I asked wondering if the preparations for Iolaus' wedding brought back memories of so long ago.
She shook her head. "Not exactly."
She turned in my embrace and looked up at me with those enchanting green eyes. "I really don't like weddings. I can't dance. I'll be expected to, and I'm not looking forward to"
"To what?" I asked when it became clear she had no intention of finishing her sentence.
"It's nothing. Really, let's just forget it." She said, casting her eyes downward. A stable hand came in to attend another horse. Instinctively Gabrielle took a step away from me, her cheeks flushing red.
"If it's bothering you, it is something, and I want to know about it." I assured her, ignoring the boy and taking a step towards her to wrap her in my arms again.
"Xena." She put her arms up to block mine and looked pointedly at the stable boy whose back was turned. For me the gesture was like a torch lighting up in a dark cave.
"Let's go to our room," I said quietly. "It's not what you think." I added when she shot me a knowing glance. "Well, not just what you think."
Safely behind a closed door I was hoping Gabrielle might be a little more forthcoming with what was really bothering her.
"Is it this wedding in particular that's bothering you?" I asked, taking off my sword and chakram.
"I suppose," she agreed. " But not because it's Iolaus. The people in this village know you, or know of you at least. I'm not thrilled that every noble within riding distance is going to descend tomorrow and be all over you like flies on" I looked at her expecting a dig but she only smiled as she said, "honey."
"What makes you think they will?"
She turned, exasperated from the window where she had been standing. "Because people don't know that you aren't available." She finally blurted.
"I can't say I've ever really acted available" I observed.
"No, I don't suppose you do. But there isn't anything or anyone to suggest you aren't. Or, they'll just think you're with Hercules." She finished.
I couldn't help but smile as I approached her. "Then we shall endeavor to inform them otherwise," I replied stealing a gentle kiss.
"We can't do that." Gabrielle replied when our kiss finally broke.
I shrugged, "I thought as Warrior Princess I got to do pretty much whatever I want. You're telling me there are limits to my power?" As I'd hoped, my reply was rewarded with a small chuckle.
"You're the one worried about me being a target." She said. "Besides we both know how some people would feel about us."
I had to think about that for a moment. It was true I had been concerned about people trying to get to me through Gabrielle, but in reality that had been happening the whole time we'd known each other. As for the others, people were saying any number of things about me behind my back, and occasionally to my face, but rarely more than once. "Gabrielle," I began as I gently clasped her shoulders, "anyone who knows us knows how we feel about each other. I mean, Callisto knew, and that was before either of us did. I'm not about to endure an entire wedding reception without my beloved at my side. If it disappoints the fantasies of people like Jason, well I'm afraid that can't be helped."
She smiled at me, the first time I'd seen that glorious sight in days. The smile however shifted to terror when I added, "So I think it's time for your first dancing lesson."
"no Gabrielle, your left foot goes behind the right, then you kick with the left. I kick with my right." I explained patiently, showing her again.
"I just don't get it." She complained, eyeing me intently as I began to take off my breastplate. I caught her eye and got an idea.
I shook my head. "Nope, the breastplate stays on until you get this. Try it again."
In a few minutes she had the dance and my breastplate. After that, Gabrielle picked up the steps quickly. With each dance she mastered she got a piece of my clothing. In no time she'd mastered seven different dances and I found myself busy congratulating her on her progress.
When she slept, the exhausted, contented sleep of blissfully sated, I bathed, dressed and headed back into the village square.
"Nice dress." Hercules commented when I ran into him outside. "Where have you been?"
"Oh, just teaching Gabrielle to dance." I replied. I'd left my armor in the room. I was going to be wearing a dress for the wedding and decided getting used to walking around in one wouldn't kill me.
"I'm sorry about Jason." Hercules said in a rush.
"Don't be." I assured him. "Really, he prompted a conversation Gabrielle and I had been needing to have."
"About marriage?" He asked.
"No, about dancing." I replied with a smile. "But as long as we're on the subject of marriage, know any good jewelers?"
I practiced the song Iolaus had asked me to sing as Gabrielle and I dressed for the wedding. Her mood was greatly improved and that pleased me to no end. "Well what do you think?" She asked and I turned around to see what she meant.
I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful vision. The dress she wore, a low cut masterpiece in green and gold was positively striking. I think I even needed to grab the back of a nearby chair for support, so struck was I with her brilliance.
"You are the most beautiful creature I've ever seen." I whispered. "But something's missing," I added when I could force myself to think.
"What?" She asked, crestfallen.
I turned to hide my smile and then reached in to the saddle bag that hung on a peg by the door. I eased the necklace from the velvet that housed it and reached for Gabrielle.
"What's this?" She asked, catching the pendant that hung from the delicate chain in her fingers.
"For you," I replied, "from me."
She studied the detail in the gold medallion with interest. "It's exquisite. But there is only half of it here- is it broken?" She asked.
"Sort of." I replied, taking another necklace from the pouch and handing it to her. "It's called a celtic knot, it's from beyond the sea, where M'lia was from. I cut this into two, this is the other half." She touched the two halves of the medallion, smiling at the completed picture. "As you are my other half." I added quietly.
She looked at me, eyes brimming with joy. "I love you, Xena."
"I know." I replied, smiling at the playful punch I received at that. She put the other necklace around my neck and we headed to the wedding arm in arm ready for anything.
As weddings go I suppose it was lovely. To be honest I don't remember much about that day except for Gabrielle. I managed to get through the song without my voice breaking. It was hard though, seeing Gabrielle's eyes on me from where she was sitting, had me on the verge of joyous laughter. Selene and Iolaus were very happy, and we wished them well. At the reception Gabrielle did manage to put her new found mastery of dancing to good use. She danced with Iolaus, Hercules and even Jason but every other dance was for me, much to the supreme disappointment of a variety of local nobles. I was not the only one who appreciated the vision in green and gold.
Looking back, I suppose I'm a little surprised at just how at ease we were. We held hands, kissed and danced like any other married couple. I could feel a few stares, but in all honesty it wasn't any different from the stares I'd get from my armor. I suppose Gabrielle and I had become used to being looked at, speculated about. Only now the stares were for Xena and Gabrielle; two women in love, not just Warrior and Bard: Potential trouble for our village. For the chance to spend a day as just Gabrielle and Xena, we didn't mind a bit.
After a well spent night of little sleep in a comfortable room we returned to the road after breakfast the next morning. I stole frequent glances of Gabrielle. She fingered her necklace absently as we walked. She was surprised and pleased that I had not taken mine off. After all, there was no reason to.
"So Xena," Gabrielle asked as we rounded the bend that would have taken the village from our sight, "when do you think we'll get married?"
"I thought you didn't like weddings." I teased.
"Oh, I think I've developed an appreciation. The dancing definitely helps." She smiled at me as she continued. "but by the time we get married, I might need a refresher course."
"I think that can be arranged." I replied, glancing down at my own necklace, silently agreeing with Gabrielle that it did look rather fitting
"Wake up Mel, it's show time." Janice nudged Mel gently, wishing she didn't have to disturb the woman sleeping peacefully on her lap. Mel blinked in confusion, at first puzzled by the contrast of her dream and her present surroundings. "Leesto's party, we've got to get dressed." Janice supplied as she helped shift Mel to a sitting position. "I noticed some activity on the dock, we'd best get dressed and get out of here."
Mel nodded, clearing the cobwebs from her mind and opening the suitcase containing the items they'd stolen from the ship. She took out a white shirt and put it aside as she began to unbutton her own blouse.
"I thought I was wearing that." Janice blurted when she noticed what Mel intended to wear.
"You?" Mel laughed. "Don't be silly. Ya'll will never be able to pass yourself off as a man, ya'll will wear the dress."
"Like hell I will." Janice shot back, "what about all that, I'm the same size at the Vanderbilts?" Still smiling, Mel removed the luggage tag from the suitcase and handed it to her friend. "Marmax Vanderbilt," Janice read the tag out loud. "Great. Look Mel, I don't know how to put this, but there is no way you'll be able to cover er disguise your um what about your hair anyway?" She finally finished, forcing her eyes above Mel's ample bustline.
Mel took a styled wig from the suitcase. "A little trim on this should do the trick, and don't worry I swiped some sewing scissors too. You get out of those clothes and put the dress on."
Argo lifted her head as she watched her mistress disrobe. "Not one word out of you." Janice warned the dog, who put her head back down.
Janice shrugged into the black satin dress, futzed with her stockings and shoes and slipped on the long gloves. She kept her back turned to Mel, not wanting the older woman to see how unaccustomed she was to dressing in such finery. From behind she could hear Mel dress, her mind painting pictures of how the statuesque woman would look in a tuxedo. When she finally stood up, her face to the boat house wall she felt a warm body move behind her and adjust the fasteners at the back of the dress. "You look very nice Janice." Mel commented as she adjusted the lace at the archeologist's shoulder. Janice could feel her skin tingle from the whisper of Mel's breath as it caressed the side of her neck. Lifting her head she caught a reflection of the two of them in the window. Janice's eyes widened with wonder at the vision standing behind her. Mel was dressed; the tuxedo complete except for the untied bowtie that was draped loosely around her neck. Her hair was still down; black tresses blending into the black jacket over a white shirt and vest, her blue eyes shining like lapis. Something caught her eye and she shifted her gaze to her own reflection. She cocked her head curiously at the stranger looking back at her. The dress was low cut and elegant, a masterpiece in lace and satin. She followed the black lace line at her shoulder to where it met the black cuffed wrist of Mel's hand.
Mesmerized she watched Mel's hands lift from her shoulder and move to the back of her head where they gently pulled her hair free of it's bindings. Mel brushed her hair with long luxurious strokes and pulled two combs from the pocket of her jacket to pin it gracefully behind her ears. Janice didn't recognize herself.
Gently those delicate hands turned her around and she was face to face with her friend. "You look incredible." Janice whispered.
"If you say so," Mel replied, breaking the spell. "I can't tie a tie though."
Janice nodded, not trusting herself to say any more. With shaking hands she reached for the tie, and as she had for her father many times, tied the complicated knot, forcing herself to concentrate. Feeling her pulse race, she willed herself to stay calm. Still, the thoughts persisted, her eyes persisting in showing her things and she couldn't help but respond. When she finished straightening the tie she moved her hands to Mel's shoulders, examining her work. She could feel the suspenders under the material of the jacket and vest, the material cool and smooth against her burning hands. Unable to stop herself, she leaned up and softly covered Mel's mouth with her own. Her hand slid across soft fabric to the even softer skin at the back of Mel's neck. After a few seconds of exquisite contact she realized that the other woman was neither helping nor hindering her efforts. Like a deer in headlights, Mel was frozen.
"Shit Mel, I'm sorry." Janice blurted embarrassed beyond words after abruptly breaking the kiss, "I don't know what came over me, I don't know why I look, I I'm sorry."
Mel continued to look at Janice for minutes more, not moving. She finally shook her head and mumbled, "It's okay Janice, let's get ready. We've got work to do."
Janice nodded blushing to the roots of her hair. Mel reached for the makeup, her own hands shaking. Her lips still throbbed from where Janice had touched them. She closed her eyes, unsure if the racing of her pulse was from fear or arousal. Sorting through the contents of the makeup pouch, Mel extracted a powder compact and turned back to Janice, aching for the embarrassment that still haunted her vibrant green eyes. "This won't hurt a bit," she reassured with a smile as she began to apply the makeup. Janice closed her eyes, torn between wishing she could undo the last five minutes and wanting to relive them.
"I need you to look at me," Mel instructed gently when she'd finished most of the makeup. Taking out the caked mascara, she spit into the container as discreetly as she could. Then, after moistening the applicator, gently held Janice's head still as she applied the tiny brush to delicate eyelashes. Janice marveled at the gentleness of the hands that held her face, skillfully transforming her.
"Almost done." Mel reassured as she reached for the lipstick. As she worked Mel stared in wonder at the soft full lips that had so recently touched her own. She felt a slight twinge of pain then noticed she'd bitten her own lower lip in distraction. "There, what'd ya think?" She asked turning Janice back around to the window, the closest thing they had to a mirror.
"I look like a freak." Janice quipped, barely able to recognize herself.
"Now you know how I feel in your daddy's clothes." Mel chided her friend.
Janice smiled in spite of herself. "Get to work on that wig, I'll have a look around. Argo, lets go." She said as she quietly stepped out of the boathouse. Mel sighed in relief, it was instantly easier to concentrate with the gruff archeologist gone. "What's happening to me?" She wondered as she set to work on the expensive black wig.
Janice returned shortly. Mel instantly noticed that the younger woman's hands were filthy with oil. "What have you done?!" She quietly demanded.
"Relax sweetheart, I took the gloves off didn't I? There were several of Leesto's boats tied to the dock. I did a number on all of them. When we make a break for it try to get the boat on the end, it's the easiest to fix. The others are in pretty bad shape." Janice looked around for something to wipe herself off with and unable to find anything suitable, she settled on her discarded shirt. She busied herself with checking her gun and putting her satchel in Argo's pack. When Mel finished adjusting the wig she turned around.
Janice nodded in appreciation. "Well I'll be. I still think you're too pretty to be a man, but I've heard that the Vanderbilt boys run that way. You know, pretty. Just one thing is missing." Carefully Janice took her father's pocket watch from her jacket and tucked it into the watch pocket of Mel's vest. After carefully stringing the chain through the button hole she tucked the watch fob into it's place. "There, now you almost look like a real man. How did you manage to flatten ah your"
"Never mind." Mel cut her off. "But it isn't very comfortable, so the sooner I get back into my beige camisole the better."
Nodding Janice handed her the revolver. "Can you put this in your pants somewhere?"
"I'm not taking a gun. What if it goes off?"
"It only does that when you pull the trigger. C'mere, let me try putting it in back by your suspenders." Janice shook her head in appreciation as the black tails of Mel's jacket shifted as she moved. The heiress' attire was having a profound effect on the archeologist and she found it troublesome. Easing her hands inside of the jacket she could feel the firm muscles and warm flesh beneath as she positioned the gun. Successfully wedging it inbetween the woman's shirt and suspenders, she positioned it so the waistband of the black pants held it in place. It was secure, and while it might be less than comfortable, it was safe. "Well, I guess we're ready. This invitation says it's to Mr. And Mrs. M. Vanderbilt, if you're Marmax who am I?"
"My wife, Effie." Mel smiled at the other woman's grimace. "And sweetheart," she added taking the archeologist's gruff tone, "let me do the talking. Ephiny Vanderbilt is shy and demure. We should be okay as long as ya'll don't open your mouth."
"Yes dear," Janice replied, dripping with sarcasm as they left the boat building.
They hid their gear among the lush trees by the water's edge, then proceeded to where small groups of elegantly dressed people were arriving by the way of rowboat. "Argo, c'mere." Janice whispered gently to the dog when they were still out of earshot of the arriving guests. She rummaged in the dog's pack and pulled out a fresh cigar.
"You're not going to smoke that, are you?" Mel asked, horrified.
Janice smiled in reply, "I'm not, but you are." With practiced efficiency, she made a small bite at the end of the cigar, then spat the excess tobacco on the ground. In moments it was lit and glowing. After a few luxurious puffs she handed it to Mel.
"Now, when you hold it in your hand, do it like this," Janice instructed. "When it's in your mouth, hold it between your teeth, and for gods sake, don't inhale." She warned.
Mel did as she was told, coughing at
first and struggling to keep her eyes from watering. Finally she felt comfortable
enough to proceed to where guests were admitted to Leesto's mansion. When
they neared the ornate doors, Janice pointed to a rosemary hedge below
a large bay window. "Argo, hide in there," she instructed. The
dog complied and in moments was settled, out of sight in the shrubbery.
"Stay," Janice commanded then handed their ticket to Mel as they
approached the door.
Is There A Doctor At The Dig Part 4
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