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DISCLAIMER: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and some of the characters are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal. No copyright infringement through the writing of this work of fiction is intended. It's just for fun.
This story may not be sold and may be archived only with direct permission of the author. Any archive must carry this entire copyright statement.
Author's note: No violence, no subtext, just a short, sweet moment in the lives of our favorite warrior, our favorite bard, and mom. This is one of my first attempts at writing fiction, and I would greatly appreciate critiques or comments on why you did or didn't like it. Suggestions are also welcome, as long as they don't leave bruises. My e-mail address is PruferBlue@aol.com
"Good morning, Cyrene," the bard greeted Xena's mother as she entered Cyrene's kitchen. "Xena said she would meet me here for breakfast after she gets Argo shoed. Isn't she back yet?"
"No, she isn't, Gabrielle," Cyrene answered, "but she did say she would be awhile. Sit down and have some tea with me and we can have a chat while we wait." Cyrene was happy to see the bard. She was so friendly, and always ready to tell Cyrene about Xena's latest adventure. Her daughter never told her much of anything about her life.
"Wonderful," the golden-haired woman enthused as she sat down. Is this the woman Xena thinks is so indifferent that they can hardly talk to one another? the bard wondered. "Maybe you can tell me some stories about Xena as a youngster, what she was like, for instance."
Cyrene grabbed a mug, dropped in some dried leaves, walked over to the pot near the fire and ladled some steaming water into the earthen vessel. She set the tea and a pot of honey in front of the bard, then resettled herself across from her, with her own cup.
"You know, Gabrielle, I don't have many stories of Xena when she was growing up, just isolated incidents. I've always regretted that Xena and I never seemed able to get close to one another." Cyrene's frustration showed in her voice.
"I had to work such long hours here in the inn, we never had much time to spend with one another. Then again, I never really understood my daughter when she was growing up. She never confided in me. She went through the motions of learning to run a household--cooking, cleaning, weaving, sewing--but she never seemed to enjoy any of it. The only times she seemed truly happy were when she and her brother Lyceus were playing soldier."
"Well, Cyrene," Gabrielle divulged, "at least some of your teaching has rubbed off on her. Xena sets up the neatest campsite you could imagine and keeps herself and Argo and everything she uses as clean as possible. Of course, *I* get to help with some of that!" Gabrielle snorted playfully. "And she is a remarkable healer: she knows the right herbs to use for almost every pain or illness and you would be proud of the fine stitches she uses when mending people who have been injured. I've learned a lot from her."
Gabrielle's eyes glinted. "The one thing she isn't notably outstanding at is cooking! We both tease that she only kept me around to cook for her so she wouldn't starve." Both women chortled at this tiny flaw in their beloved warrior.
"And, on those few occasions when Xena talks about her childhood with Lyceus," the bard agreed, "she seems as happy as I've ever seen her. But even then... she isn't what I would call very talkative." Or very happy, Gabrielle conceded to herself.
Cyrene treasured these insights into her daughter's ways. She chuckled at the *talkative* remark. "Gabrielle, she never *was* very talkative--at least not to me. So, I had no idea what was going through her mind, ever."
Cyrene's face clowded. "Then, when she went off to become a warlord, I not only didn't understand her, I actually became ashamed of her, and even began to hate her. The stories that came back to us about her deeds were horribly ugly. I agonized over how a child of mine could turn into such a ruthless, hateful killer." Regret flitted across Cyrene's face, but then it lightened.
"Now, praise the gods, she has changed her evil ways! But she still doesn't talk to me about any of it." Cyrene shrugged. "If I try to introduce the topic, I just get a dark, frozen-faced glance and she either refuses to continue the conversation or leaves the room. Truthfully, sometimes I'm a little afraid of her. I get the feeling that her violent tendencies are just barely restrained."
Gabrielle touched Cyrene's hand and nodded her head in sympathy. "When I first met Xena, I realized right away that she has a good heart, but I was a bit afraid of her for a long while, too. As a matter of fact, I still feel a little tentative sometimes. Xena has a few looks that send a shudder right through me. I can pester and pester her for answers to my questions, but when her jaw sets a certain way and her eyes get cold, I know it's time to back off."
As she continued, Gabrielle's eyes lit up, enthusiastically. "You know, Cyrene, I hero-worshipped Xena from the moment I first saw her, and that has never wavered. But, beyond hero worship, I've learned to love the goodness in her. She is my best friend. And she has come to love me, too."
Reminiscence sweetened the bard's gentle smile. "At first, I think she only put up with me because she didn't have the heart to throw me out! She tells me now that since I apparently saw something good in her and kept following her around, I helped her believe that maybe, just maybe, there *was* something worthwhile left in her."
The bard reached over and covered Cyrene's hand. "And is there ever! She has absolutely unbelievable physical abilities, and is constantly using them to help and protect others, including me. But, beyond that, I am constantly impressed by the scope of her character."
Gabrielle shook her head in wonder. "What strength it must have taken for a power-hungry warlord, steeped in all anyone could want of material goods, to change to a defender of the weak, owning nothing but the few things she carries with her! And what unbelievable courage she manifests by returning to towns she has ravaged in the past, and offering to help even those who still hate her!" The young woman finished the thought in her mind, And sometimes try to kill her... But Cyrene doesn't need to hear that.
"Those are the times my heart really aches for her. She feels so much guilt, Cyrene. Sometimes the burden of it is so heavy she retreats into a forlorn darkness that even I can't penetrate. When that happens, I stay as close as I can to her, maybe holding her hand if she'll let me, just so she knows that someone who loves her is nearby. I don't know for sure if it helps her, but it seems to."
Cyrene could tell that the bard agonized over Xena's pain. "Thank the gods, Gabrielle, that Xena has you for a friend. You have been able to see past that warrior toughness of hers, and into Xena's soul." Cyrene realized that Gabrielle's unshakable belief in her daughter's goodness was a strong link that connected the two young women in a special way.
"I still wouldn't understand anything about her, or the painful effects of her previous life on her, if you hadn't explained all this to me. You've been able to get inside her heart in a way I never could."
Cyrene gazed thoughtfully at Gabrielle. "I understand now that I can't get Xena to discuss her past with me because it hurts her too much to talk about it. I won't push her about it any more. You've made me realize I can honestly love the admirable woman she is now, while trying to forgive the evil person she was before."
Cyrene continued gratefully, "Thank you for being wise enough to soothe a mother's heart, Gabrielle. Thank you for giving me back my daughter."
The two women rose as one and wrapped their arms around each other in a warm embrace.
At that precise instant, the imposing Warrior Princess strode into the kitchen from outside. She came to an abrupt halt, momentarily taken aback at this surprising display of affection between her best friend and her "indifferent" mother.
Gabrielle and Cyrene both smiled widely as the bard coaxed, "Xena, step outside that 'stoic warrior woman' for a second and come give us a hug!" Each of the smaller women, still joined, reached one arm out, invitingly, and beckoned with their hands for her to come closer.
Somewhat disconcerted, Xena just stood there. An eyebrow barely twitched and a fleeting expression--was it yearning?--softened her eyes for a millisecond.
Noting the small change, Cyrene's smile grew even broader and warmer. She glanced quickly at Gabrielle with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "Never mind, Xena," you don't have to give us a hug." As she was talking, Cyrene and the bard, still linked arm in arm, marched up to the warrior and, grinning, locked their free arms around her. "We'll give *you* one."
With an automatic reflex, Xena moved as if to back away, but the two smaller women just giggled and tightened their hold on her. We're on dangerous ground here, suddenly occurred to Gabrielle, is she going to hug us back or toss us across the room? Oh well, you never know til you try!
A long moment passed while one of the bard's admonitions ran through Xena's thoughts, Xena, maybe you should unbend once in awhile and show those you care about that you're not made of stone. Then, hesitantly, Xena raised her long, bronzed limbs and returned the embrace of the two women she cherished most in the whole world. Her heart swelled when she looked at their lifted faces full of love and tenderness...for her! Leaning down, Xena touched her forehead to theirs and they barely heard the "stoic warrior woman" chuckle in her low, silken voice, "I can't resist you both."
Three faces smiled; three sets of eyes misted. Delighted amazement tugged at Cyrene... When was the last time my daughter and I really hugged each other, not just going through the motions? Gabrielle blissfully rejoiced, This is perfect, my friend. While Xena just submerged herself in the incredibly beautiful message of love she was receiving.
The entwined women gratefully surrendered to the simple joy of the moment as it washed over all three of them and replenished their spirits.
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