Convert This Page to Pilot DOC FormatConvert this page to Pilot DOC Format

Fortunate Mis-Fortune

by Quest

The crystal clear water shocked along the length of her body, and she struggled to hold her breath as she dove towards the bottom of the pool.

Rapidly numbing in the icy chill, she scrabbled around in the rocks. There, sitting under that slight ledge... can't quite reach it...finally, feeling the smoothness of metal against her fingers, she clutched her prize and rocketed for the surface. From the silent underworld, back into light and air and sound, Gabrielle exploded; flailing wildly and gasping for breath. Teeth chattering she kicked for the edge of the pool, but it was slow going. Holding on to the chakram with one hand, she stroked with the other, the weight of her short dress pulling her down.

Xena strolled down the path from above the small waterfall, leading Argo carefully around the larger rocks. As her shivering companion dragged herself from the frigid water, she hauled out a blanket and wrapped it deftly around the girl. "Gabrielle, I told you I'd get it."

The redhead raised her chin defiantly. "It was my fault. I lost the stupid thing, and it's only right that I should be the one to get it back out of the water." She grinned, rather sheepishly. "I never thought it would be so hard to control, though."

"Well next time, just don't throw it so hard. It takes time to learn a skill, and you have to go easy to start out with." Xena began to set up camp next to the clear pool. "You know, you could have at least waited till I had a fire burning before throwing yourself into a lake filled with glacial run off."

Gabrielle shook her head. "If I'd waited, you would've ended up in there, instead of me. I didn't want that. You always try to take my risks for me, but if I never take any risks how am I going to learn anything?"

"Well, not by 'borrowing' my weapons when I'm not looking, that's for sure. One of these days you're going to hurt yourself. Or someone else."

Gabrielle bowed her head. "I know. And I'm sorry. I just thought that, if I could get a little better idea of how it worked... Then, you know, if I ever needed to impersonate you again or anything, I might have a better chance of making it believable."

Xena's face clouded over, and she looked away, busying herself with building up the fire. "It's not an easy weapon to master. It takes a lot of practice."

"I can practice!"

"We'll see. First let's get you dried out."

As they spoke, the sun drifted back behind the glowering clouds, and a light drizzle began to fall. Xena cursed as the first drops hit the top of her head. "Stay here, and keep the fire going if you can. I'm going to look for some shelter."

Half an hour later Xena strode back from the underbrush, soaked through and sullen under the dreary sky.

Gabrielle sat next to the ashes of a dead fire, shivering in her blanket. "I'm sor-rrrr-ry Xen-n-na. I couldn't keep the f-fire going. It rained to hard."

"That's all right. I found a huge hollowed out tree stump a ways back. It's under some dense trees, and I draped some branches over the entrance. It's no palace, but it should keep us dry."

They trekked to the tree in silence, and quickly set up camp inside the hollow. Argo stood outside the entrance, protected from the worst of the rain by the tree branches. And inside there was just enough room for the two of them to lay out their blankets side by side.

It wasn't until they sat down next to each other that Xena noticed the blue tint to Gabrielle's lips, or the fact that she had stopped shivering. Suddenly concerned, she reached out and laid a hand on her friend's cheek. "Gabrielle, you're like ice! Why didn't you tell me you were that cold?"

"I didn't want to be a bother..."

Xena rolled her eyes. "A bother?Come on, we've got to get you out of those wet things right now."

Gabrielle looked confused. "What for, I'm just starting to warm up a bit."

"No, you're not, you just think you are. Trust me, I've seen this before. Someone gets cold, then they think they're warming up, but it's just their body shutting down. If they don't get warm, and quickly, they die."

Eyes wide, Gabrielle shucked out of her wet things, piling them on the wet blanket by the door. Xena bundled their blankets together, making a warm nest. Then, telling Gabrielle to snuggle in next to the wall, she quickly began removing her armor. "The best way I know of to treat someone in this state is to pile them in with a bunch of their friends, and let the cumulative body heat warm them up. It even works for minor frostbite, sometimes. I've never tried it with just one, but hopefully I can generate enough heat to keep you from freezing in the night. Then, in the morning, we can build a fire and really get you warm."

Now down to skin as well, the warrior slid in beside Gabrielle and pulled the blankets up around them both. "Here, wrap your arms around me. There, like that. Now, just try to rest..."

Exhausted, Gabrielle fell into a deep sleep as soon as she stopped shivering. But Xena, restless and awake, stared at the roof of their small haven. Gabrielle's head rested in the hollow of her shoulder, one arm draped across her waist, the length of her body pressed up against her friend, instinctively seeking warmth even in sleep. Xena curled one arm protectively around the small bard, resisting the urge to stroke her hair, to touch her cheek. She told herself it was because she didn't want to wake her.

Eventually she fell into a restless doze, drifting in dreams of dark caverns and twisting mazes.

"What are you waiting for?" Xena whirled around in slow motion, looking for the source of the voice. A shape moved in the shadows. "I mean, what better opportunity? You couldn't have arranged it more perfectly if you'd tried! She's naked, in your arms, and you know she won't even try to stop you. She worships the ground you walk on." The shadowed figure suddenly stepped out into the open, and Xena looked into black eyes and a mirror image of her own face. "You know you want to; you need to. Take her."

Xena shook her head, scowling at her armored doppleganger. "I won't set you loose to slaughter the innocent, and I won't do this either."

The shadow-Xena laughed. "But it isn't me, it's you. YOU want to. To hold her, to touch her, wrap yourself around her. You'd even enjoy it if she struggled, wouldn't you? After all, what could be sweeter than the conquest?"

Agony written on her features, Xena spun away from her shadow. "I would never hurt her. NEVER!"

She started to run, hoping to outdistance her pursuer, but was brought up short by another ghost. Strong, imposing, the way she had always imagined her father, he barred her way with an outstretched hand. "Get yourself together girl! I never taught you to be weak this way. Just grit your teeth and get one with it. Life goes on, never stops for womanish heart troubles. If something's bothering you, kill it or leave it be. Don't worry at it like a dog with a bone... It's only a waste of your time."

Dodging around him, she fled up a flight of dark stairs, fighting back choking cobwebs and feeling the unseen danger. Shadow figures jumped from the darkness, trying to snare her, but she flipped. leaped, and rolled... avoiding them all. All, that is, until she ducked through a door and ran straight into another copy of herself, sitting at a softly whirring, spinning wheel.

This one wore a blue dress, her features somehow softer, kinder. She looked at Xena, compassion on her face. "You know what you have to do. If you keep her with you, she'll never be happy. Never have a home, a family, children... You need to let her go, to be her own person. To be a bard, not a warrior. She was never meant for that kind of life... Don't you want the best for her?"

Xena slumped to the floor, putting her head in her hands. "Of course I do. I only want her to be safe, and happy..." A grim look of determination eventually dominated her features, and she stood up, ready to face the world again. "I know what I have to do..."

As she walked through the door again, the dream began to fragment, pieces falling away like shards of broken glass. The last thing she saw was a transparent Helen of Troy, silhouetted against a window. "Going so soon? Well, good luck my friend. But, have you ever considered asking her what she wants?"

Then the last fragment spun away to darkness, and Xena was looking up into Gabrielle's concerned face.

"Are you all right? You were thrashing around like the Harpies were after your soul!"

"I'm sorry I woke you Gabrielle, it was just a dream. Nothing important."

Gabrielle looked at her skeptically, but let the denial slide. "That's funny, I was just having a nightmare myself. It was pretty horrible."

Gabrielle settled back down into the blankets, nestling her head back into Xena's shoulder. "I dreamed that you got tired of me. We had just stopped in this little village like we always do, and out of the blue you started saying all these horrible things. That I was a burden, and I put you in danger, and why didn't I just stay behind and find some tavern to sing in. There was a cute guy there, and you practically threw me into his arms, then stalked off. I was hurt of course, and turned to him for solace... boy was that a mistake. I got pregnant, and then I couldn't follow you. I ended up marrying him, and had hordes of screaming brats. I had to take in washing to support the family, and I never had time to tell any stories. It was so real... I was miserable. Do you know he was a pig farmer? A pig farmer!" Gabrielle shuddered. "Isn't that a strange dream? Promise me you won't ever do anything like that, okay? I mean, I know it's silly, but promise me anyway..."

Xena was silent for a moment, and when she spoke her voice cracked as she held back tears. "I promise, Gabrielle. I won't ever do that, okay? I promise..."

Wonderingly, Gabrielle brushed her fingertips along Xena's cheek, sucking in a surprised breath when they came away wet. "Hey, it's all right. I mean, it was just a dream, right? No big deal..." She let the thought trail off, comprehension dawning on her face. She propped her self up on one arm, forcing Xena to meet her eyes in the dim light. "You were thinking about trying to leave me behind, weren't you? Well, were you?"

Xena shifted uncomfortably, wanting to look away but trapped by her friends' insistent gaze. "I didn't want to hurt you. I only want you to be happy. To have a family, a place to come home to. I just don't want you to throw your youth away chasing around the countryside with me, and end up regretting it later..." Finally she tore her gaze away, half rolling over to stare out into the night. But Gabrielle was having none of it. Sitting up and reaching over, she grabbed Xena's shoulder and rolled her back, taking a deep breath before staring her imposing friend down once more.

"Xena, I don't regret a single moment I have spent with you. And I never will. Don't you know that I'd follow you anywhere?" Gabrielle's voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. "Death itself wouldn't stop me." She shook her head. "After all, if anyone could talk her way around Hades, it'd be me... Don't you get it? There is no place I'd rather be. No one else I'd rather be with. Why is that so hard for you to understand?"

Xena shrugged, a self depreciating smile not quite covering the pain in her eyes as she sat up to face Gabrielle. "I just keep thinking that someday you'll come to your senses. Or I'll do something that you can't forgive me for..."

"Xena, whatever it might be, I'll forgive it right now. There's nothing you could do that would make me stop caring about you. I think the person who has the hardest time forgiving you is you. And there's nothing I can do about that, except to say that I know you, and I believe in you..."

Xena cringed away, "Don't you see, that's what I mean. I don't deserve that kind of support. That kind of trust. And, I'm afraid... I'm afraid that I might betray it, someday."

Gabrielle threw her hands up in the air, frustrated. "So what? So what if you do? I know that's a possibility. It's a risk. It's always a risk, no matter *who* you choose to trust. They might be weak. They might have failings. They might be human." Leaning in, she lightly touched her forehead to Xena's, for all the world looking like two giggling children sharing secrets. "We all make mistakes, and most of us betray someone's trust at some point. It's the human condition. And it's your humanity that makes your accomplishments so remarkable." She pulled back slightly, looking down at her hands, seeming shy for the first time. "It's your humanity that I ... that..." She stumbled over her words, the last ones coming out in a rush, "that I love you for." Gabrielle looked up, searching Xena's face, trying to gauge her reaction. Frustratingly, she was stock still, her face carefully controlled and expressionless. Gabrielle watched as every defense snapped into place, shutting her out of Xena's private little world. Heartsore, she dropped her eyes, rolling back under the covers and away from Xena, sighing. So close, this time, and then to be shut out again...

A feather light touch and a low voice called her back from her brooding. "Gabrielle..." She rolled over, eyes bright with unshed tears. Xena brushed a stray strand of hair away from her face. "Gabrielle, I... It seems like I always lose the people I love. My father, my brother, Marcus... It makes it hard to admit... I... I guess I'm afraid that as soon as I name it, it's going to disappear."

Gabrielle let out a long breath. "I'm not going anywhere. Not now, not as long as I can help it. I told you, death itself could only side-track me for a while..."

Xena laughed, cupping Gabrielle's cheek in her hand tenderly. "Hades wouldn't stand a chance. Not against someone as stubborn as you. I think it's that stubbornness that I..." Xena glanced down, fighting a lump in her throat, "that I like most about you. It's what really drew me to you in the first place, and... it's one of the reasons that I... I love you..."

Smiling, Gabrielle reached out, touching Xena's face, her hair. She just wanted to memorize this look, this Xena that she almost never saw... "There, now was that so hard? I didn't vanish in a puff of smoke. Didn't run screaming, either, did I?"

"No, I guess you didn't. But..."

Gabrielle cut her off before she could finish the sentence. "No buts. I said it, and I meant it. And I think you did too..."

The awkward silence stretched out, and each became hyper aware of the other's movements. Gabrielle could feel the heat radiating from Xena's body, inches away. It seemed to draw her in, she could feel herself leaning slowly, helplessly forward. Paused, waiting...

Xena slipped into that place, that battle readiness, where every sound, every breath, every flutter of the other's pulse engraves itself on your consciousness. She could hear Gabrielle's heart beat, the slight catch in her breath - reacting when Xena shifted her weight..... She could feel her hard won control beginning to slip. She cleared her throat, trying think of something to say to break this maddening siren-song's hold, trying to think at all... Her hand trembled as she reached up, a helpless little gesture, aborted before it really began. "Gabrielle, I... uh..."

Gabrielle leaned in even closer, and whispered, "You know Xena, I never thought I'd get to say this to you, but sometimes you talk too much..."


Fan Fiction
Return to the Fan Fiction area