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Disclaimer: This story has some violence, but nothing major...just PG stuff...no subtext.
Characters belong to Universal...no infringement meant....Mel and family belong to me.
By: Stephanie “XenaG” Gugle
It has been a year since Xena and Gabrielle left Foxburrow. Once again, they were traveling in the general direction of the village. Gabrielle could tell Xena wanted to go visit, and so did she, “You know Xena, we aren’t needed anywhere. Why not stop by and have a visit with Mel and Lyla?”
Gabrielle looked over at Xena. She saw a smile creep onto her friends face, “I was just thinking how much I missed her. Okay, destination Foxburrow. I hope everything is okay there.”
With a place to go, Xena climbed into Argo’s saddle and pulled Gabrielle up behind her. Once Gabrielle was settled, Xena kicked Argo into a run and they headed for Foxburrow. Xena enjoyed the ride and even laughed, partly because of Gabrielle’s death grip around her waist and partly because she was going to see her little girl again. Xena had not been back to see Solon since they had parted company, not because she didn’t want to, but because she didn’t know if she could keep her secret if she saw him again. Getting to see Mel again would ease her pain about Solon.
Gabrielle held onto Xena tight. She still wasn’t totally comfortable with riding Argo. If she had to, she could ride, she knew that, but she still preferred to walk. She heard Xena laugh and assumed Xena was laughing at her, “What is so funny?”
“Don’t worry Gabrielle, I’m not laughing at you, well I am laughing at you a little, but mainly I’m just happy,” said Xena.
“Well, if you are happy I guess I don’t care if you laugh at me a little. I mean, you aren’t this happy very often,” replied Gabrielle, who hoped this trip would give Xena a vacation from fighting and allow her to spend quality time with Mel.
The rest of the ride to Foxburrow was quiet and uneventful. Xena was lost in though, excited about seeing Mel. Gabrielle’s mind was split between hanging onto Xena so she wouldn’t fall off Argo, and trying to decide which stories to tell Mel. They had had several adventures, although a couple that Mel shouldn’t hear about, and wouldn’t, at least not from her.
Xena pulled Argo to a stop on a hill overlooking the village. She helped Gabrielle down and then dismounted herself. For several moments, the two friends just stood there looking down at the village. Xena spotted Mel first and pointed her out to Gabrielle. The to Gabrielle’s surprise, Xena yelled her warcry, “Ayiyiyiy”.
Mel heard the familiar warcry and turned to see where it was coming from. Could it really be her? Then, she saw them standing o the hill. She took off toward them, Lyla yelling for her to come back. Then Lyla saw them too and told Mel to wait for them to dome to her, but she was too far gone.
Xena leaped onto Argo’s back, and with a glance at Gabrielle, she took off toward Mel. Reaching her quickly on Argo, she reached down and scooped her up into the saddle with her, Argo still in full stride. Xena pulled Argo up and hugged Mel, who returned the hug. Gabrielle was running to reach them.
“Mother, oh how I have missed you and Aunt Gabrielle!” stated Mel, who would only let go of Xena long enough to get off Argo and give Gabrielle a hug.
“I have missed you. I kept my promise and brought Gabrielle back to tell you about our adventures,” replied a happy Xena.
“And I kept my promise and returned your mother to you safely,” said Gabrielle. “And I have missed you too.”
The three friends, and Argo, strolled into town. They headed straight for Lyla’s, to catch up and to find a comfortable place to rest.
When Lyla saw Xena and Gabrielle, she ran to hug them, “I am so happy that you made it back safely. Come, let’s go inside and find you two something to eat, you must be hungry, right Gabrielle?”
Xena grinned as Gabrielle replied, “Well, uh, yeah I guess I am hungry. Aren’t you hungry Xena?”
Gabrielle started laughing, which became contagious with Xena laughing too. Mel and Lyla looked at them and then began to laugh themselves, “I don’t know why we are all laughing, but it sure feels good. I haven’t laughed like this for a while,” stated Lyla, as the laughter finally stopped.
The group went into the house where Lyla provided food and drink. Mel and Xena sat by each other with Gabrielle across the table. While Xena and Gabrielle ate, Mel chattered away telling them what she had been doing while they had been gone. She had learned to fish, without a pole, she had begun to learn to hunt by tagging along with the men when they went off hunting, and she protected the younger children from the town bullies.
“Like Mother like daughter,” commented Gabrielle.
After Xena and Gabrielle had finished eating, Lyla said, “Come on Mel, let’s leave your mother and aunt alone so they can rest. We’ll be back later with Jada, Karen and Leah. Mel, we still have work to do.”
“Okay Lyla. Mother, you and Aunt Gabrielle can use my room. My bed is the biggest in the house, after all I am the biggest person here. I am so happy you are back, both of you,” and with that Mel captured Xena and Gabrielle in a hug that lasted longer than usual.
“Come on Mel,” prodded Lyla.
“We’ll be right here when you get back. I am kinda tired, how about you Gabrielle?” asked Xena, who could tell Gabrielle was having trouble staying awake.
“Yeah, I’m a little tired,” stated Gabrielle, trying not to yawn.
Mel showed them to her room and then reluctantly went back to work with Lyla. Xena, who really was tired, and Gabrielle fell asleep soon after they laid down. Xena’s last conscious thought was, ‘Mel’s right, her bed is big, I even fit in it’ and then she drifted off to a peaceful sleep.
After what seemed like an eternity to Mel, she finally saw her mother and aunt emerge from the house. She watched as Xena stretched and then looked around. Mel saw an opportunity to play and took it. She took off towards the woods.
Xena looked around for Mel. She caught sight of a fleeing figure and figured Mel was up for a game of hide and seek.
“Xena, what are you smiling about? Was that Mel I just saw running for the woods?” asked Gabrielle.
“Yes, that was Mel and I think we are about to find out exactly what kind of hiding and stalking skills Mel has. Come on, up for some hunting?” asked Xena, who had a very playful look on her face.
“Uh, yeah sure,” replied Gabrielle.
Xena and Gabrielle headed off on the direction that Mel had headed. When they reached the edge of the woods, Xena concentrated her hearing, but heard nothing unusual. She motioned to Gabrielle to follow and keep her eyes and ears open. Gabrielle nodded and followed.
Mel watched from the tree she was sitting in. She grinned, her mother didn’t know where she was, not yet anyway. She waited until they passed by her, then she dropped to the ground without a sound. she had an advantage, she knew these woods. she followed, then circled around and prepared to attack.
Xena was surprised. She couldn’t find Mel. She looked at Gabrielle who shrugged. Then, she found her, or rather Mel found her.
Mel jumped on Xena and knocked her down. She had a stick that she was using as a sword, “Don’t move or she dies.”
“Ok, I’m just gonna lay my staff down. Please don’t hurt us, we’ll come with you peacefully,” stated Gabrielle.
At that moment, Xena flipped over Mel and grabbed her from behind. Xena picked her up and threw her over her shoulder.
“Come on Gabrielle, we caught what we were hunting, time to go home,” said Xena. Then with a smile she added, “I know just what to do with our captive.”
“Oh, I do hope torture is involved. I love to torture our captives. What do you have in mind?” asked Gabrielle, who was having trouble not laughing.
“Oh, yes torture is involved. I have horrible tortures planned for this one,” stated Xena.
They were leaving the woods and entering the meadow just outside town. Xena headed for a very grassy hill and lowered Mel.
“Now, time for your torture,” said Xena who proceeded to tickle Mel.
As Xena tickled Mel, Gabrielle tried to tickle Xena. Whether she really was tickling her or Xena was just caught up in the moment, Gabrielle didn’t know, but before long all three collapsed in the grass. They were all gasping for breath and still laughing when Lyla found them several minutes later.
“Do I even want to know what is so funny? Probably not, anyway Jada, Karen, and Leah are at the house and dinner is almost ready. So when you guys can walk, come on back home,” said Lyla who turned and headed back toward the village. ‘I can’t believe that is the same woman who once terrorized all of Greece’ though Lyla.
“Dinner, that sounds good! Come on you two, we don’t want to keep our host waiting,” stated Gabrielle.
Xena and Mel, who had momentarily stopped laughing, looked at Gabrielle, then at each other and began laughing again Gabrielle resisted looking at them and headed off in the direction Lyla headed.
“Come on Mother, Aunt Gabrielle is leaving us and I am a little hungry,” said Mel who finally managed to stop laughing.
Xena got up and started walking after Gabrielle, “Are you coming?”
Mel jumped up and ran to catch up with Xena, but when she caught up with her she kept going, “Catch me if you can,” she called over her shoulder.
Gabrielle heard them coming. She turned just in time to see two blurs in the shapes of Xena and Mel. ‘This is just what Xena needed. She seems so happy,’ Gabrielle thought to herself. “Hey you two, wait up,” she said aloud.
When Gabrielle finally caught up to Xena and Mel, they were out of breath outside Lyla’s house. “So who won?” she asked.
“It was a tie,” stated Xena who was constantly being amazed at her daughter’s abilities.
“Slowing down, huh. Better not let that get out or we’ll have every evil warlord out to challenge the slowing-down-getting-older Xena,” Gabrielle said, wishing she hadn’t as soon as she had because Xena lunged for her.
“Think I’m getting slow? Well, I’ll show you just how slow I am getting,” Xena stated as she picked Gabrielle up and began to run with her.
Gabrielle knew what was about to happen and yelled, “No, Xena. I was kidding. Noooo..”
As Gabrielle screamed Xena made a flying leap, doing a complete flip in mid-air. She landed, Gabrielle still in her arms.
“Ok, you’re not slowing down yet. My mistake. Why don’t you give Mel a ride like that? She’d probably enjoy it a lot more than me,” said Gabrielle as Xena placed her on the ground.
“Oh yes, would you Mother?” asked Mel who glanced at Gabrielle and then said, “or maybe you can’t do it twice in one day.”
That set Xena off, and she took off after Mel. She caught her quickly and repeated Gabrielle’s flight except she added a twist to the flip. When they landed, Mel and Xena both had big grins on their faces.
“Wow, that was fun. Will you teach me how to do that?” asked Mel.
“Yes, I will teach you how to do that and many other things,” Xena replied.
After that, Lyla called them to dinner. After dinner Mel, Jada, and Leah asked for a story from Gabrielle. Everyone settled in to listen, except Xena who settled in to relive an adventure. Mel sat by Xena and leaned against her. Xena put her arm around her and Gabrielle began.
“This day began as any other day. Xena was riding Argo and I was walking beside her practicing one of my stories. As usual, Xena heard them first and pulled me up into the saddle behind her. As we approached, I counted five men attacking another man. I slide down as did Xena.
‘Why don’t you guys pick on someone your own size? Someone like me,’ stated Xena.
Instead of attacking us, they ran, which was very unusual. We ran to where the man they were beating lay. Xena checked to see if he was still alive, but unfortunately we were too late, so we gave him a proper burial and looked for a place to camp.
Later, after we had eaten, I asked Xena, ‘Why didn’t they attack us? Usually they attack even though they know who you are. I mean everyone want to make their name by killing you. Sorry, but it’s true.’
‘I know, but I don’t know why they didn’t attack us. I’m a little worried about it though,’ Xena replied.
“Uh Karen, I think Leah needs to go to bed. I’m sorry to stop the story, but she was about to fall off the chair. Okay, now where was I?” asked Gabrielle.
“Xena was worried because you weren’t attacked,” replied Jada.
“Oh yes...well anyway the night was uneventful and I didn’t think anymore about it. Xena, however, was very alert. We ate breakfast and packed our things into Argo’s saddle bags.
‘Be alert Gabrielle, I have a bad feeling,’ stated Xena.
‘’Okay,’ I replied.
We had been traveling for about an hour when we met them. There were twenty or so men. Their leader was a big man, almost as big as Hercules, and he didn’t look happy.
‘Xena, we finally meet. Too bad I’m going to have to kill you, at one time we could have been partners, but now you are on the wrong side,’ stated the warlord.
‘Do I know you? If you surrender now, I’ll let you live, otherwise, you can take your chances,’ Xena growled.
‘I am Anon. No, we have never met, but I have heard of you, although why you fight for good when you could be fighting for Ares eludes me. Come, join me and I will allow you to live. If you choose to fight, you will die!’ the warlord known as Anon growled back.
Of course Xena declined his offer and chose to fight. Xena slashed two men with her sword before it was knocked away. I was busy with two men myself, so I didn’t see exactly what happened next. I heard her warcry and then, as I knocked down both of my guys, I noticed how quiet it had gotten. I turned and saw all down but Anon. He was standing over Xena’s limp body, his sword drawn ready to carry out his threat to kill her.
‘No,’ I shouted.
As I shouted, Anon fell back and I noticed someone behind him. He had on a black cape with the hood drawn down over his face.
‘Thank you. Who are you so I may include you in my story?’ I asked.
‘Oh, I think you know me, my little irritating blond,’ said a voice that made my blood run cold.
‘Ares, what do you want? Why did you kill Anon who was obviously carrying out your wishes?’ I asked, ready to defend Xena’s still unconscious form.
‘I did not send Anon. I want Xena back alive, she can’t lead my army if she is dead. Anon was acting on his own. He had lost my favor and he thought if he brought me Xena, dead or alive, he would regain my favor. If he could have brought her back alive it would have worked. Now, bard, as a favor for helping me reclaim my sword, I will leave. Until next time...’and Ares was gone.
After I was sure we were alone, I checked Xena for injuries. Other than a few cuts, I could see no major wounds. I assumed the hilt of Anon’s sword was what had knocked Xena out. By this time, she was beginning to come around.
‘Gabrielle, are you all right? Who killed Anon?’ Xena questioned.
‘Yes, I am fine. You aren’t going to believe me when I tell you who killed Anon. It was Ares. He said he didn’t want you dead and it was a favor for helping him reclaim his sword,’ I said, relating what had just happened.
Xena stood up and tested for any unseen injuries, ‘Well, I seem to be okay except for this headache. He must have hit me pretty hard. You sure you’re okay?’ asked Xena, always thinking of others.
‘Yes, they didn’t even touch me. Some of your ‘skills’ are rubbing of on me. Do you think Ares was telling the truth?’ I questioned.
‘Yes, for some reason I think he was sincere this time. However, it will probably be the last time that ever happens,’ replied Xena, ‘Come on, let’s get going, I don’t want to hang around anywhere Ares has been too long.’
“Wow, you really know Ares? Oh yeah, I forgot you used to serve him. Let’s not talk about him anymore,” stated Mel.
“Okay, no more about Ares. You look tired Mel, Jada is already asleep over there. I admit I am. Come on you two sleepyheads, time for bed. Lyla, I’ll let you take Jada, and thank you for dinner, now excuse me while I get these two and myself to bed,” said Xena.
“It is my pleasure Xena. To have Mel so happy is worth it,” replied Lyla, “Goodnight.”
Mel was starting to slump, so Xena picked her up and carried her to her bed.
“Mother, please sleep with me. You too Aunt Gabrielle. Please,” pleaded Mel.
“Of course we will. You get in the middle,” replied Xena. To Gabrielle, Xena whispered, “I’m glad you left out the details. I didn’t want Mel to know everything, especially how close to death I was.”
“No prob....I knew you didn’t, so I made up a little nice-clean-no-injuries-to-mother ending,” whispered Gabrielle in response with a grin which mirrored Xena’s.
So Xena, Mel, and Gabrielle crawled into the bed, which was amazingly large enough for all of them. Mel curled up next to Xena and put her arms around her. The last thing Xena saw before she closed her eyes was the happy, sleeping form of her daughter beside her.
Xena woke early as usual the next morning but made no move to get up. Any ideas Xena had about rising with the sun were put aside by the form at her side. Still wrapped tightly around her were Mel’s arms. Xena just closed her eyes and slipped back into a peaceful sleep once again.
When Gabrielle woke up, the sun was well on it’s way and she looked over at the sleeping forms beside her. After a minute of looking at them, Xena opened her eyes.
“Good morning sleepyhead,” stated Gabrielle playfully.
“Morning. What could I do? I’m trapped,” replied Xena.
Mel was beginning to wake up at this point and joined in, “Good morning Mother, Aunt Gabrielle. What are we gonna do today? Lyla told me I didn’t have to do my chores today so we can spend the day together.”
“First breakfast. Then Gabrielle and I have to practice. You can come along and maybe we’ll see what you can do with a staff,” said Xena.
“Okay, that sounds great! I want to be like you Mother. I want to help those in need like you and Gabrielle. Oh, don’t worry, I know I have to wait a while, but I want to learn all I can as I wait,” stated Mel, who was very happy at the prospect of learning to fight from her mother.
“Well, I guess we’ll have to see what we can do about that. It’s a lot of hard work and the most important thing is practice. You have to practice everyday, even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes you want to quit, but you can’t give in. If you do the drills we show you, no matter how silly you may think they are, you can do the things we do. But you have to practice, practice, practice, even when we aren’t here. Sometimes it is even fun, or it can help you get out frustrations or anger that you are feeling,” Xena said, in one of her longest speeches.
Mel replied, “Oh, I will practice. next time you come to visit, I’ll be almost as good as you, Mother.”
“We’ll see,” replied a smiling Xena.
Gabrielle’s stomach growled and they all laughed. “I think it is time for breakfast,” stated Gabrielle.
Lyla greeted them with a large breakfast. Gabrielle eyed it all and her mouth watered.
“Dig in. Better hurry from the look on Gabrielle’s face there isn’t going to be much left,” Lyla stated, a smile on her face.
Gabrielle lived up to her reputation, and there wasn’t any food left on the table when they got up. Xena still wondered where Gabrielle put all that food.
“Okay, now to practice. Got to work off that food. I think we should go away from town. Don’t want to scare them,” Gabrielle said grabbing her staff and heading for the door.
“Go ahead, I’ll clean up in here,” stated Lyla, starting to clear the table.
Xena grabbed her weapons, attached them to Argo’s saddle and headed off. Gabrielle looked at Xena with a funny expression, “Why are you bringing Argo?”
“She needs a work out too and I want to teach Mel some tricks with her,” answered Xena. “Come on Mel, get on Argo and take her for a run.”
Mel’s eyes lit up as she climbed into Argo’s saddle. Although she was only nine, she fits in the saddle very well. The stirrups are just a little too long, but that is okay. using her knees to keep her in place, she gathers up the reins and kicks Argo into a gallop. Argo is happy to have a chance to stretch her legs and Mel is happy to be allowed to ride her mother’s treasured horse. Argo gives Mel a good ride, running full out until she hears the familiar whistle of her mistress.
Xena and Gabrielle are in a clearing in the woods so as not to bother the villagers with their practice. They have begun to warm up when Argo trots up with Mel.
“Did you two have a nice ride?” asks Xena.
“Oh yes, Argo rides like a dream. I love riding her,” stated Mel, hugging Argo and thanking her for the ride. Argo shook her head and nickered after Mel.
“Hey, should I be jealous?” Xena asks Argo. Argo nudges her and Xena rubs her muzzle, “I love you too.”
Mel takes a seat on a fallen tree as Xena and Gabrielle begin their duel. They go all out with their staffs and are pretty well matched. After a while, Gabrielle joins Mel on the tree as Xena begins her “dance” with her sword and chakram.
“Amazing isn’t she,” states Gabrielle.
Mel suddenly sits bolt upright. At the same time, Xena stops her practice. Gabrielle looks around to see what Mother and daughter have obviously heard.
All are battle ready when the figure appears. Xena and Gabrielle are shocked at who stands before them. Mel doesn’t understand why her mother and aunt are speechless and just standing there.
“What are you doing here?” asks Xena who finally finds her voice.
“I’m looking for you and I heard a rumor you were in this area. I stopped in the village and they told me that you had headed in this direction. I remembered to make lots of noise so I didn’t lose any parts,” replied the boy.
Mel walked up and said, “Hi, my name is Mel. How do you know my mother and aunt?”
“ Hi Mel, my name is Solon. Well, I know Xena and Gabrielle because they helped save the village of centaurs I lived with along with my uncle. Which reminds me, Xena, uncle died about two months ago. He told me everything. At first I was very angry with you, but I now understand why you did it,” stated Solon.
Xena dropped her weapons and tried to hold back her tears. Solon walked over to her and hugged her. Gabrielle had tears flowing freely down her cheeks. Xena finally gave up and let the tears come as she held her son in her arms.
Mel looked from Xena to Gabrielle and finally said, “What’s wrong. What is Solon talking about?”
“Mel, Solon is your brother. He’s eleven and I had to give him to the centaurs as a baby to protect him. He was born when I was just beginning my evil warlord days,” replied Xena.
“So I now have a brother? Great! I’m nine Solon. Has Xena taught you to fight?” asked Mel.
“No I don’t want to be a warrior. Now I know how you knew my mother was proud of me. Can I call you Mother?” returned Solon.
“Yes,” was all Xena could get out.
“And I want to call you Aunt Gabrielle as well, if you don’t mind,” said Solon.
Gabrielle could only nod. She walked over and all four joined in a group hug.
“Well, the only people missing are Hercules and Iolaus,” exclaimed Xena.
“Do you really know Hercules?” asked Solon.
“Oh yes. They helped Mother and Aunt Gabrielle defeat Callisto when she kidnapped me and my cousin. He is very nice,” replied Mel, overjoyed to have yet another new member to her family.
“Well, Solon, have a seat with Gabrielle and Mel while I finish my workout. Then I am going to teach Mel some stuff. I’ll teach you too if you want,” stated Xena.
“Okay, I think I would like that,” answered Solon.
Xena began her “dance” again. Mel and Solon sat on the ground next to one another marveling over their mother’s skills. Gabrielle sat on the tree, always amazed at Xena’s abilities.
Xena finally finished and walked over to her audience. “Your turn,” she said pointing at her two children.
Two pairs of blue eyes lit up. They jumped up and walked over to Xena. She handed them both a staff (actually a very sturdy tree limb) and began their first lesson. Whether they were just fast learners or they had a lot of their mother in them, Gabrielle didn’t know, but they learned quickly what it had taken her days to learn.
“Okay, Gabrielle, come over her please. Mel, you first,” Xena said.
Although Mel was just beginning to learn, she was quite a match for Gabrielle. Gabrielle would use a move on Mel, who in turn would us it on Gabrielle.
“Good job Mel. Okay, now Solon, your turn,” stated Xena.
Solon fought as well as Mel did. ‘Gotta be the fact that they share the same mother’ thought Gabrielle, who was being pushed to use all of her skills.
When they finally finished Gabrielle said, “Xena, these two are definitely your kids. You two learn fast. That’s good in this business.”
“Yes, Gabrielle’s right. I don’t care if you become warriors or not. I would prefer not, but I will teach you to defend yourself,” stated Xena.
“I’m hungry. I think it’s lunch time,” said Gabrielle.
“Me too,” Solon and Mel said in unison.
“Well then, you two up on Argo. We’ll meet you in town. Save us some food,” Xena stated.
Mel climbed into the saddle with Solon climbing up behind her. Once they wee settled, Mel kicked Argo into a trot and once they cleared the trees they were off.
Xena and Gabrielle started off after them. They had attached their weapons to Argo’s saddle so they didn’t have anything to carry.
“I can’t believe it. I now have both of my children. Gabrielle, you don’t know how long I have dreamed of this day,” stated Xena.
“Xena, one question. Do you have any other kids?” asked Gabrielle with a giggle.
“No Gabrielle, you have met my children, all of them,” replied Xena, smiling as they walked back to town.
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