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JUST ANOTHER TALE
ÓCopyright October 1998 by JLPeterson (Ruth2Naomi@aol.com)
Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle 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. 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 and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
THANKS very much to my beta-readers!
JUST ANOTHER TALE
Just another town... Well I made good time to this one with still plenty of daylight left. After a while all these small country towns look alike to me. Most have one, maybe two roads. Towns with intersections - hey, you might even get a choice of where to eat and stay. "Humph." This was a one-road town. I was bored and angry and angry and bored and my thoughts were filling up my head to near bursting-
I swung around to address the voice behind me.
"Joxer!" I cried out in surprise and dismay. Why does he always seem to pop out of nowhere? I had an inkling that things were going from bad to worse.
He flashed his big dumb smile at me and teased,
"Hey little girl, whereís big bad Xena?"
I stepped up to him and took his nose between my thumb and forefinger. As I tweaked it I whispered in his ear "donít you EVER call me *little girl* - got it?"
"Ow! Oh yeah... sorry Gabby". I released his nose. My slight push against his chest managed to throw him completely off balance and he fell backwards onto the dirt. He dusted off his hands and re-seated his helmet (leaving his butt covered with dirt) as he stood saying, "I donít know why I let you hang around with me!"
I rolled my eyes, turned about and walked away.
In an instant he appeared at my right shoulder, "So Gabrielle, where is Xena?"
Eyes forward I answered him, "Sheís off on another one of her *you-donít-need-to-be-there-Gabrielle* missions." I narrowed my eyes into venomous slits. "Seems thereís some dispute between two rulers that only one of *her* many skills can resolve."
Sensing my mood, he softened his voice, "Oh, you sound kind of mad at her."
I stopped walking, faced him and said, "Well, I AM!"
He jumped back a step as if I'd hit him.
I resumed my course with increased determination. I knew I was angry with Xena for, once again, traipsing off on another adventure without me. She just dumped me like excess baggage. I wanted revenge. The problem was I had no idea how to even the score. This dilemma was uppermost in my mind since sleeping alone in the woods last night. I considered telling her that I was leaving for Athens again - as soon as she showed up. Inexplicably that only served to depress me. How can she leave me so easily? How come- Joxer interrupted my thoughts.
"Cheer up Gabby. You can be my sidekick while sheís-"
"SIDEKICK!" I yelled through gritted teeth and almost struck him with my staff.
"Sidekick!" I poked my finger on his chest. "If anybodyís a sidekick here itís YOU!"
"Hey, take it easy Gabrielle. You donít have to be my sidekick. How longís Xena gonna be gone for anyway?"
I could see the inn that she and Iíd agreed to meet at down at the end of the road.
"She said sheíd be a couple days or so. We split up yesterday before I got into town."
"HEY! What are *you* supposed to be?" A short stocky man had stepped away from a small group along the roadside and called out to Joxer as we passed. He pulled Joxerís arm so they faced each other.
"Who's kitchen did you rob to wear?" He struck the heel of his palm to the center of Joxer's breastplate, which, I admit, did look like a cooking tool of sorts.
Joxer straightened himself up and replied with an attitude seven feet high.
"You," he said as he moved the man's hand away from his armor, "had better be more careful. I happen to be Joxer, the Mighty -"
"The *Mighty* what?" The challenger laughed, checking over his shoulder to see that his friends were witnessing his bravado.
Feet apart, hands on his hips, Joxer answered with certainty, "The Mighty *Warrior*" .
"Mighty? Ha! I've seen girls who look mightier than you! Let's just find out how much of a warrior you are!" He threw a strong right hook to Joxer's jaw.
I was surprised Joxer still stood. He slowly brought his face back to address the ruffian with a stern voice and a wagging index finger, "You shouldnít have done that little man."
The fight was on. I really tried to stay uninvolved but when a second man decided to join the first - well, that was it. Instinctively I swung my staff around and up knocking the newcomer up under the chin and off his feet. I pulled the momentum back in an arc and down onto the bully who was pummeling Joxer. He landed on the self-proclaimed *mighty warrior* with a loud "Oof!" and a quiet thud. Joxer rolled the man from him. Standing up he reassured the small crowd, "I had it under control... I was only, ah, toying with him."
"Címon Joxer," I reached out to take his arm, "hereís the inn."
As soon as we entered the tavern I stopped and told Joxer I needed to talk with the owner. Joxer continued on and found us an empty table near the back and sat down facing the door as heíd seen Xena do on so many occasions.
I looked around the room and assessed the likelihood of earning enough dinars to cover my dinner and a room for the night. It would be rough.
I cleared my throat, approached the man behind the counter and produced my best business-like smile, "Excuse me sir, you wouldnít happen to be the owner of this fine establishment would you?"
"Then perhaps sir you could direct me to him?"
"Heís not here," he snorted, "Iím managing the place while heís gone." He turned his back to me and resumed wiping down the counter. Uh, okay. Iíve certainly dealt with more unsociable people... one particular warrior princess to be specific.
"Well, then you're just the man I need to speak with... Iím an excellent -if I do say so myself- bard and Iíd be happy to entertain your guests this evening in exchange for a room, dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow."
"Youíre a story-teller! Little miss, we donít have any children come in here - especially at night"
"Iím a BARD. And MOST of my audiences are adult." Gods know Iíve had to sing my songs in lots of grunge-inns since I took up with Xena.
"Lady, a sweet thing like you-"
"Iím NOT a sweet thing! I can tell you stories that will make your blood run cold and your shorts too hot!" Iíd never said "shorts too hot" before. What a dumb thing to say - I must be mad.
"Now, calm down, calm down. Itís clear to see youíve got theatrical talents. If you can deliver like you say, Iíll give you dinner, drink and a room."
"Thatís going a bit far-"
"AND BREAKFAST." I gave him my best version of Xena's *look*.
He glanced around to see if anyone was watching.
"And breakfast," he muttered.
With my dignity restored I walked to where Joxer sat with two mugs before him.
"I took the liberty of ordering for you," he said as I joined him.
"Thanks, Joxer." I was beginning to feel better. I usually do feel good after a conquest, be it a bargain at the market or striking a good deal at an inn. I thought about that long enough to ponder how good Xena feels after a victorious battle. Uh huh...probably orgasmic. I took a long swallow of ale. "That tastes so... Good," I burped.
"So you going to tell us stories tonight?"
"Joxer, Joxer. Youíre amazing - I just canít believe how incredibly perceptive you are!"
The true meaning of my words passed over his head like Xenaís chakram.
"Why thanks Gabby. So are you doing the bard-thing?"
I took another long swallow of ale and attempted to wait patiently for the sun to set.
Joxer placed both hands around his mug. "Let me show you this neat trick I learned. It's an example of the," he lowered his voice, leaned towards me and drawled the words, "power of suggestion". I looked at him blankly.
He sat up straight again. "You don't believe me, do you? This really works! It worked on me." Why, oh why was I not surprised?
His enthusiasm would not be dampened. "On the count of three I will ask you to do something simple. You will be unable to resist." He cleared his throat and continued, "On the count of three you will... yawn. It will happen naturally and without thought. Are you ready?" Guess he thought I'd nodded *yes*.
"One, two" I hadn't known how wide Joxer's mouth could open. It was almost grotesque.
"You yawned didnít you!?" I blinked.
"Joxer, *you* yawned. I didn't."
"But it worked on me..." He became introspective. I shook my head slightly in sorrow. It was going to be way too long before nightfall.
I took another sip and returned to my thoughts of revenge. I sighed wistfully on several occasions. None of my schemes would accomplish what I desired. I couldn't figure out how to hurt her feelings without actually hurting her feelings.
It finally grew dark.
I confess itís hard for me to perform well if Iíve just eaten. I'll usually wait until the dinner crowd is just finishing up their meals before I start my storytelling. Then Iíll eat afterwards. Well, to be honest, sometimes Iíve got to earn the dinars before I can pay for the meal. As the tavern filled for dinner I was disappointed. Not only was it a small group, they were nearly all men, and the women with them - well, they werenít their wives or girlfriends, Iíll say that much.
*Dinner, bed, breakfast...dinner, bed, breakfast...* I was trying to pump myself up for tonight's performance. The dishes were cleared and the barmaid was refilling the mugs. I made my way to a well-lit focal point in the room. There was no stage.
The manager of the tavern came over to me and spread out his arms.
"Gentlemen..and, uh, *ladies*, we have for your pleasure tonight, the most famous-" He turned and whispered to me "Your name?"....
"...Gabrielle of Poteidia," and then he added, "who says she can spin a story to stand your hairs -and other parts- on end!" There was a collective "ooh" in response to *and other parts*. He set me up and now I had to deliver the goods.
I began with a good blood and guts story about the Horde. Then I went on to the tale about how Marcus sacrificed himself to save the life of a kidnapped princess. The crowd did not like that. Not enough gore, too goody-goody and too romantic.
So rather than stop with Marcusí funeral I continued directly into the story about the virgin bride serial killer stealing Hadesí helmet. The crowd perked right back up.
"... Marcus and Xena, for the very last time, embraced and kissed, and took advantage of an opportunity missed while Marcus was alive-"
Someone called out "You were there. Surely they mustíve done more than just kiss?"
"Well, yeah, of course-"
"So what did you see?" They were drooling for details.
"It was dark," I replied, knowing well good that I could see plainly that night, "At daybreak-"
"Didnít you hear anything?" Someone faked a long moan from another part of the room.
"They were very quiet," I continued. *Quiet* my ass! They were going at it like it was their last night on earth together - which it was. "Before the dawnís light-"
"What were you little girl, blind and deaf?" Okay, somebody just pushed me right over the brink of my self-control.
"Iím NOT a little girl! Iím NOT blind! They were buck-naked and going at it like no tomorrow!" Joxer's jaw dropped to his knees.
"And Iím NOT deaf! Xena and Marcus were both so loud even the fish in the lake couldnít sleep!" Joxer fell off the edge of his chair solidly bumping into the man beside him. "Why you-" the man growled at Joxer while hoisting him up by his armor.
Some person in a hooded cloak ran up, grabbed my arm with one hand, my staff with the other and dragged me through the room and upstairs so fast I thought it was Ares! The door of the room slammed so hard Iím surprised it didnít fall off its hinges.
"XENA!" She'd dropped her hood and was looking at me with the eyes of Aresí Chosen. Oh Zeus Iím gonna die!
She threw my staff into the corner of the room and held fast to my wrist.
"How DARE you!"
"Iím sorry Xena - please, let go of me." My apology and plea were useless. Her eyes were glowing red.
"I canít believe you told a -a tavern full of - of - that I was noisily screwing Marcus! How could you?" For a brief second disbelief washed over her face. All too quickly the anger returned.
"Heraís tits!" She released my wrist and began to pace. "How am I going to show my face in this town? I canít! You little-"
"DONíT call me little! I hate it when you do that! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!" Um, okay, I should have kept my mouth shut.
Xena stopped pacing. "YOU! You're not the one who's been humiliated here! Why I should... I should, " her face was suddenly red with rage, "bend you over my lap and SPANK your bare little butt!" Oh, ouch... hmmm... I was speechless and just a wee bit intrigued.
"I thought you were sound asleep that night." Her intonation inferred Iíd betrayed her by not being my usual dead-to-the-world sound asleep. That type of sleep I reserve for mornings.
"Yeah, I WAS sound asleep. But you and Marcus were carrying like nothing else in the world mattered - let alone my sleep!"
She was still fuming. I could see the wavy heat lines rising from her head.
"Why didnít you say something?" I couldn't speak but my thoughts were running rampant. Oh Xena, Xena, please - at the time you were beyond listening and itís not anything Iíd normally bring up in our day-to-day conversation.
"So what other little secrets have you been hiding from me?" She glared at me with her jaw clenched.
"Well? Answer me!" She reached out and twisted my arm.
"Ouch - Xena youíre hurting me!"
"Thatís not all Iíll hurt if you donít speak up!"
Then with all the timidity I could gather I softly blurted out "Well, thereís... Phaelus..."
Oh my gods! She threw down my arm, stepped back and sneered at me.
"Phaelus?! Why you little voyeur!"
She pinned me by my clothes to the wall with visual daggers. Hang on - I looked down at my small halter-top - I donít wear enough clothing to be pinned by it to anything. Hey and she just called me *little* again! I looked to the door and started taking itty-bitty sidesteps in its direction.
"I, um..." My boots got my attention. I was sure sheíd throw that cloak back over her head and be out of my life forever. Iíd always tried to be strong but at that moment I wanted to crumple into a heap on the floor, cry and beg her forgiveness. So I did. With tear-filled eyes I looked up into her rage and implored her.
"Please Xena I can explain! Please donít go!"
She snapped her head back with a look of disgust.
"Ha! And just where would I go?" She stepped in a small arc before me and with a grunt added, "Youíd probably follow me anyway... Wouldnít you." It was not a question. Iíd already well established my reputation as the relentless follower of Xena. I had to laugh inwardly to myself as I thought "Poor Xena. Unable to escape *The Bard of Poteidia*".
She walked over to the bed and plopped herself down with a heavy and exasperated sigh. I almost managed to reach the door when THWACK!
Xena's breast dagger vibrated just above the latch.
I looked back at her in shock and anger.
"Xena! You could have hurt me!"
"Gabrielle. If I wanted to hurt you-"
"I know, I know," I surrendered, "youíd have hurt me."
"So," With her eyes fixing me in place, "I donít even want to know *what* you know about Phaelus and me. I want to know WHY."
"Xena, I know this is going to sound really, I mean really, really-"
"Yeah, well. I felt like you were always leaving me - or at least wanting to leave me, well, behind. Like yesterday... I, uh, um.."
"Gab-ri-elle" Time to salvage the bit of her patience Iíd gained.
"Well, I'd just had ENOUGH of it so I decided to follow you!"
"And I saw the two of you... I saw... gods Xena, you know what I saw."
"Uh, no, Gabrielle, I donít *know* what you saw, but Iím sure you could tell me in at least as much detail as I heard you relate tonight."
I gulped audibly and visibly.
"Can I, um, get some water?"
The tension in her face, neck and shoulders seemed to disappear and she released me from the stronghold of her eyes.
"Have you had dinner?"
"Huh?" Wow. I didnít follow that one at all. Without thought I nodded "No".
"Go downstairs and bring up some food."
Once again I am saved by food! I stood and with as much remorse as I could show I walked out the door.
"Gabby!" Oh no! I ran into Joxer right at the foot of the stairs.
"Shut up Joxer!" I muttered angrily at him as I shouldered my way past him towards the counter. He was right on my heels. Oh, I wondered if this is how Xena feels with me.
I kept my back to the room as much as possible. It made me think of a child closing her eyes and thinking no one could see her. Silly I know. Like I was hardly unrecognizable from behind!
So I pretended. Taking a deep breath, I acted as if all was perfectly normal.
"Excuse me sir. Iím ready for that dinner now."
"Yeah, Iíll bet you are." He prepared a plate for me and poured a mug of ale.
"Say, who was that guy what hauled you away tonight?"
I pointed at the dish, "Could you double this for me?"
"Got quite an appetite, eh?" He piled the food higher on the plate.
"And another ale please."
The innkeeper sighed and complied. "Well, donít be expecting breakfast then."
I took the two mugs in one hand and the heavy plate in the other. I practically collided with Joxer's chest as I came around.
"Itís her, isnít it?"
"Oh please Joxer, just go away."
Recognizing the desperation in my voice Joxer moved aside, "Uh, okay. Iíll talk to you later."
I was up the stairs quick as I could without dropping anything.
I bumped on the door of my room with my elbow.
"Síopen," came the dry response.
"I canít-" I almost fell into the room as Xena pulled the door wide.
She easily plucked the two mugs of ale from my hand as I stumbled past her. I made a quick beeline to the table and set the plate down. As I turned back around she dropped one empty mug to the floor and lifted the second to her mouth.
I was afraid to speak so I pulled a chair out and started to eat. Nervously. I wish Iíd had my renowned appetite back. All I could do was nibble at and play with the food.
After what seemed like ages a long hand slipped past my right shoulder and plucked a piece of chicken off the plate. Moments later her left hand appeared from over my other shoulder and proceeded to make mush out of the cooked potato. She took her time squeezing the spud through her fingers over and over. Then she scooped the mash up and-
"Xena!" I stood up abruptly and scraped potato off my face. A good portion of it fell into my cleavage. I turned around to see my enemy on the bed howling with laughter. I gathered the mashed potato from my top and hurled it at Xena with all my strength. She dodged it with irritating ease. I pulled my shoulder muscle. That made me all the madder.
She got up, picked me up and dropped me down on the bed like a sack of flour. Then she pounced on me like a cat and started eating up the potato remnants left on my face and chest. In between licks and nibbles sheíd say things like "Hmmm, tastes good", followed suddenly by "Must have more!" She got up, took the dish off the table and dumped its contents on my belly.
This was too much. She started eating the food off me by mouth alone and, besides giving me the giggles, veggies and chicken and gravy were falling down my sides and making a mess on the bed. I couldnít be repentant or angry any longer. "Ticklish, huh? Heh-heh." I know that tone in her voice. I was doomed.
I couldnít breathe. Tears streamed down my cheeks and my chest was heaving. Xena sat on the floor and offered the trickle of ale that was left in the second mug. We exhaled a collective sigh. I got up off the bed and stared at its food smashed patterns a minute before pulling the sheets from it and dropping them onto the floor.
Xena stood up, went over to the chair and removed her boots. I brushed off my clothes, sat on the edge of the bed and peeled off my boots as well. Then I swung up my legs and got ready to sleep.
"Move over." I scooted over to give Xena room as she lay down behind my back.
"I never asked you to follow me, you know."
"Itís not my fault you feel abandoned sometimes."
"I look forward to coming back to you, you know."
I was silent. Sheís never said that before.
"Iím glad youíre with me."
I was twice stunned.
"I love you, Gabrielle."
I got choked up. "I love you too, Xena."
"Oh, and Gabrielle?"
"Yes?" My heart was filled with sweet anticipation.
"If you *ever* tell another tale like you did tonight - Iím gonna skin you alive!"
(if you laughed -even once- it was worth it)