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Ding Dong Door Ditch
By My Warrior..
The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to Universal and no infringement on that copyright is intended. This is a work of fan fiction and may not be used for profit in any form. The story itself is mine. No part of it may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the author. I respectfully borrow the phrase, "big, dumb warrior" from the bard that came up with it although last I heard the jury was still out on the real originator. Thanks for lettin' me use it, hope you don't mind.
My Warrior acknowledges that there were no doorbells in Ancient Greece, but hey, this is the Xenaverse. Anything is possible. Hope you enjoy!
Feedback is always welcome at email@example.com
The tall warrior leaned wearily on the wooden table, setting her empty mug down and nodding almost imperceptibly at the tavernkeeper. As she turned to leave, the woman addressed her quietly but with a hint of the respect that Xena usually commanded wherever she went.
"Warrior." The woman was still standing behind the bar, but she set down a tray of empty glasses and smiled as Xena turned to face her.
"Yes?" Xena was tired, and in no mood for idle chatter. Her ever-alert mind, however, quickly replayed the events of the last two hours, trying to recall anything she might have done to attract the tavernkeeper's attention. She couldn't think of a single thing. She had positioned herself at a corner table and had been as inconspicuous as a tall, leather-clad, fully armed woman of her stature could possibly be.
"You are Xena?"
Xena raised an eyebrow, and studied the woman intently. Sensing no hostility, she replied in the affirmative.
"I am. Do I know you?"
"No. We've never met, but I've heard stories..."
Xena groaned. "You and every other resident of the known world." She sighed. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"Well.." The woman began, somewhat nervously. " You've been sitting at that back table half the night. And I guess I just thought you looked...I don't know. Kind of..." The woman paused, searching for the right word. At length she said, "Empty."
Xena remained expressionless., but there was something in her eyes that surfaced for a split second before she slammed the door on it. "I'm fine." She answered. "It's probably the ale." She smiled briefly, and reached for the door handle. Most of the patrons had gone home long ago, and the ones that remained were oblivious even to themselves.
She was halfway out the door when the proprietor called out to her.
" Well, If you need a place to sleep, I have plenty of rooms available. After all, it is late, and I do run an inn."
Xena considered this for a moment.
"I usually camp." She said. Her tired muscles chose that moment to begin a silent protest and the warrior sighed.
"Although a soft bed might be a nice indulgence just this once." She agreed grudgingly.
Xena looked somewhat grateful as the matron smiled warmly and led her back inside.
"Very well then." The woman pointed to the stairwell leading up to the inn. "If you'll follow me, I'll see what I can do."
Xena followed the woman up the stairs and into a long corridor. She opened a door on the far end and went inside, busying herself with fluffing the pillows on the small bed and turning down the covers. She bustled about for a few more moments, then gestured around the room.
"I hope this will do. It's small, but comfortable. It comes with breakfast, so whenever you get up just head back down to the tavern." She smiled. "I make a killer omelet."
Xena chuckled. "Even the food is after me."
The woman laughed heartily, not expecting such a comment from the legendary warrior. "The mighty Xena has a sense of humor, is that right?"
"Don't let that get out, " Xena said with a grin. "Or I'll plummet to the bottom of the Ten Most Feared list."
The woman held out her hand. "My name is Adia. She said warmly. "My husband and I run the inn."
"Nice to meet you," Xena said. "I thank you much for your hospitality. It's been a long day." Actually, it's been a long year, but you don't want to hear about that.
"Don't mention it," Adia replied. "Oh and by the way, the room is on me. It's not everyday I get to meet a legend."
Xena rolled her eyes. "Please, my head won't fit through the door if you keep this up. And I insist on paying for the room."
"That won't be necessary, Xena. The bard that was here this week had my tavern packed to the rafters every night. We're way ahead. Now, try to get some rest. You look exhausted. "
"You have your own bard?" Xena asked suddenly.
"Sort of. There's a travelling bard that came through here about eight months ago. She's quite a storyteller. We pulled down so many extra dinars that week I asked her if she'd come back on a regular basis. So once a month, for a week, she comes. "
For a long moment Xena said nothing. She appeared to be waging her own quiet war with herself, and Adia put her hand on the warrior's arm. "Xena, are you alright? "
Xena stared at the woman as if seeing her for the first time. "Oh, yeah, sorry...just thinking." She cleared her throat. "Thanks again for the room. I mean it. Very nice of you."
"No problem. " Adia looked at the tall form with motherly concern. " I don't mean to pry, but...Are you sure there's nothing wrong?"
Everything. Everything's wrong. But I won't burden you with that.
"You look disappointed. Is it about the bard? Look, if you're interested in hearing her, she'll be here one more night this week. That is, if you're planning on being in town that long. "
"I..." Xena began. "I don't really know." She took a deep breath. Ask her who the bard is, you coward.
Adia gave the warrior 's arm an affectionate squeeze. "If you need anything, our room is at the end of the hall. Goodnight, dear." The door closed behind her and Xena stared at it for a long time before moving over to the bed and flopping down on it. She folded her long arms behind her head and laced her fingers together.
Do I need anything? Yeah. Got an extra bard hanging around? Preferably about this tall, reddish blonde, sparkling green eyes? I'm sure the description still fits, but sometimes five years changes people....gods! Has it really been that long?
Xena's thoughts came to a screeching halt. There was a soft knocking at the door. For no apparent reason, Xena jumped off the bed and called out gingerly, "Gabrielle?"
"Xena?" It was Adia.
"I brought you an extra blanket. Just in case. I still have the summer linens on the beds. " She pushed open the door to find the warrior standing there.
"Thank you," Xena said, somewhat embarrassed. She accepted the blanket and sat down on the bed. The innkeeper sat down next to her and peered up into her face.
"I didnít mean to startle you. It sounded like you were expecting someone else."
Xena looked down at her hands.
"I'm sorry, no...I guess I was just caught up in my thoughts."
"Are you sure you don't want to talk about anything? "
Talk? What would I say? Say, Adia, did you know the famed Warrior Princess is a complete idiot?. Pride, stubborn pride. Maybe if I'd learned how to talk in the first place I wouldn't be in this mess right now.
"Thanks, Adia, but really...I'm fine."
And I'm a terrible liar, too, did I mention that?
"Well, okay, but it's just....when I knocked on the door, you said...."Gabrielle." I just thought you might ....I mean, maybe it's nothing, but...the bard.....the bard's name is Gabrielle." The woman looked over at the warrior who appeared to discontinue breathing.
Gabrielle? The bard is Gabrielle? MY Gabrielle? No, it couldn't be. Or could it? Well, she always did want to take her stories on the road. But I thought.....get a hold of yourself, Xena, it's a big world. More than one set of parents named their child Gabrielle.
"Have you known the bard long? " Xena squeaked out.
"Oh yes, almost a year now. " Adia put her hand on the warrior's shoulder. "Do you know her?"
"I...I don't know. It might not be the same person." Xena offered lamely. Why don't you just ask her?
"Well, dear, she's here at the inn if you want to look her up. She's in the second room at the other end of the hall. And if she's not in her room, you might catch her performance in the tavern tomorrow evening. She's quite good. I'm sure you'd enjoy it, even if it's not the person you know."
Adia got up and headed for the door. "Goodnight again, Xena. Sleep well." And she was gone.
Sleep? Who can sleep?
Xena lay awake for a full candlemark, warring with herself over going to sleep or bolting for the door, running at breakneck speed down the hall, and knocking on that second door at the other end of the corridor.
Go to sleep, you big, dumb, warrior. It's probably not her anyway. You'll just wake up half the inn with your knocking and when it turns out to be a total stranger you'll look like a bigger idiot than you already are. As if thatís possible.
Another hour of thinking did nothing to improve Xena's mood so she got up and stepped out into the hallway.
I'll just walk down the hall. Need to stretch my legs anyway. No harm in a little evening stroll down the corridor now, is there?
Xena reached the end of the passage and stood like a statue in front of the second door. There didn't appear to be any light coming from under the door which, she reasoned, probably meant that the bard was asleep.
Brilliant deduction, Sherlock. Your talents are wasted as a warrior.
When she had raised her fist to knock and withdrawn it again for the ninth time, Xena gave up.
You can defeat the entire Persian army by yourself but you can't knock on this door. Have you always been this brave or is this a newly acquired skill?
Xena sighed,and leaned wearily against the doorframe. She hadn't intended to bump the bottom edge of the door with her boot, and was appropriately astounded when she heard the ensuing bang.
Oh my gods! This is not good. Thanks for having me, but I'm outta here. Bye bye then.
Xena made a hasty exit, walking briskly back down the hall towards her own room, trying desperately not to run even though every muscle in her body tried to talk her into it. Halfway there, she heard a door creak open ever so slowly.
Don't look back, Xena. Just keep walking. Just another patron going to their room for the night. Nothing unusual about that, right? Don't look, don't look....
She reached her room with a solid first in the speed walking category, stepped through the door and shut it quickly behind her.
You idiot. This is ridiculous! What do you think this is, "Ding Dong Door Ditch?" For crying out loud!
Meanwhile, the second door at the end of the hall had creaked open and its occupant was staring in the general direction that Xena had gone.
"What?..." the bard thought, sleepily. "Gods, I must have been dreaming. Still, I was sure I heard something..."
She looked intently into the corridor for a moment, and, satisfied that she wasn't being summoned for anything important, softly closed her door.
At the opposite end of the passage, a very tall, very legendary warrior stuck her head out the door and peeked timidly around the corner. She had distinctly heard the bard's door open, but the hallway was positively empty at the moment.
Xena, you have completely lost it. You are...how old now? Why, if your mother were here...yeah, if mother were here, she'd tell me to quit being such a coward and just go down there, knock on the door, and ..and what? I don't even know what I'd say. Gabrielle, could that possibly be you? Gods....I really miss you....
Xena flopped onto the bed with a heavy sigh. The mattress was old and the springs groaned underneath her. She took a few deep breaths in a futile attempt to relax, but could not tear her mind from the second door at the other end of the hall.
Okay, plan B. Walk down the hall, knock on the door, and,...and what? Gods..........Hi Gabrielle, remember me?. I know it's been a while, but.... Stupid fight, remember? Stalked off like idiots and never looked back. Always meant to, but all of a sudden five years had gone by..........
Xena bounced off the bed, strode purposefully into the hallway and made her way to the bard's door. Reaching it, she knocked just slightly louder than she meant to.
Oh gods, I can't do this!
She stood there long enough to hear the bard get up from her bed before she turned and ran back down the hall. The second door at the other end of the hall swung open just as she reached her own door and she closed it behind her.
Really, now, Xena, this is getting a bit ridiculous, don't you think?
Less than five minutes later there was another soft knock at Xena's door. The warrior sighed and jumped up from the bed.
"Adia, I'm sorry. I hope I didn't wake you. Look, I couldnít sleep, so I just....." Xena threw open the door and peered down, fully expecting to be chastised by the innkeeper. She did not expect to see what actually stood in her doorway, and her eyes widened in shock as she stood there, frozen to the spot.
The bard's face registered an equal expression, but only for about one half-second. The next thing she knew, the Leaning Tower of Xena was thrown completely off balance as the bard's weight collided with her and sent her backwards about ten feet.
"Xena!!!!!" the bard yelled, completely unmindful of the lateness of the hour and the otherwise sheer quietness of the inn. Caught in a bardly deathgrip, the warrior could do little to reply, so she threw her arms around the small form and hugged her tightly against her chest. Xena choked back tears.
Gabrielle.......gods...it's really you........
The bard was crying as well, and her normally extensive vocabulary was reduced to one word which she repeated over and over.
They stayed like that for a long moment, both unsure of what to say and neither one willing to break the embrace.
A soft voice from the open doorway announced Adia's presence. "I thought I heard a bit of a commotion."
Warrior and Bard turned to face the innkeeper, slipping out of the embrace but remaining so that barely a breath separated them. Adia grinned, and turned to face Xena.
"It would be my best guess to say that this is the bard that you know," she said playfully. "Either that, or you are the friendliest warrior I have ever met."
"I've never seen this person before in my entire life," Xena deadpanned. "Gabrielle, is it? So very nice to meet-"
Xena yelped as the bard launched herself skyward and landed squarely on the warrior's chest . They both toppled over backwards onto the floor. Gabrielle had the element of surprise on her side, but not for long. In seconds, the warrior had flipped the bard onto her back and was sitting on Gabrielle's stomach. Her long fingers hovered in the air, threatening to swoop down on what she knew to be a very ticklish bard.
"Oh.." Gabrielle said, looking up at the warrior. "You wouldn't dare."
By the time Xena had risen to the very obvious challenge, the bard had broken out in a severe fit of giggles and was attempting in vain to wriggle out from under her tormentor. "By the gods, you two.." Adia said, but an amused smile played across her face.
Xena jumped up and offered a hand to the bard, who accepted it and rose to her feet. As she straightened her rumpled sleeping shift, she turned to the proprietor.
"You know Xena?" she asked softly.
"Actually, " Adia said, "We only met just tonight. She stopped in my tavern to down an ale or two. I thought she could use a good rest, so I offered her a room." She looked at Xena. "It seems to me that you look one hundred percent better already." The woman smiled. "Think I'll turn in now."
The door closed behind the innkeeper and left warrior and bard staring at each other.
"Hi," Xena finally managed, her voice barely a whisper.
"Hey," Gabrielle answered softly.
"You look really good." Gods, Xena, can't you come up with something a little more intelligent than that?
"So do you, Xe."
"Thanks." Thanks, Gab. By the way, do you know how much I've always loved it when you call me that?
"It's been a long day. And the ale, I suppose the ale, too..." Xena trailed off, not wanting to end the conversation but finding herself very tired indeed. And when you go back to your room I'll probably just lie here awake and think about this for the rest of the night, anyway...gods...It's you, it's really you.....
"Guess you're probably kind of tired, too." Xena said. But please, please don't leave just yet.....
"I am. " The bard admitted. "Spent the day out in the town square telling stories. One of the regulars from here recognized me and asked me if I'd spin a yarn or two..."
"Let me guess. Two became three, then four,.."
"Then ten, eleven, twelve.." The bard sighed. "Well, you know how I am when I get going...."besides, most of the stories were about you...
Xena smiled affectionately. "Yeah..... I know." I know all your stories, Gabrielle. Even when you didnít think I was listening, I was, and I know them all by heart. And I would have given up everything I have just to have heard you tell me some of them again, but day after day went by, and I never did get used to the silence...
"Anyway, " Gabrielle continued, "I suppose we'd better get some sleep." Not that I'll actually sleep...not now, not after this....
"I guess so." Please don't go yet. Stay, please stay..."Please stay," Xena said, then inhaled sharply as she realized she had spoken out loud.
The bard had been looking at the floor, shuffling her feet and wondering what to say next when she heard the warrior. Her head snapped up and she found herself staring into an ocean of clear blue.
Did you say "stay?" You want me to stay? Really?
"Sure," Gabrielle answered quietly.
Did you say "sure?" You want to stay? Really?
It took Xena all of fifteen seconds to change into her sleeping shift, and she climbed into the small bed. The bard sat on the edge, unsure of what to do, then crawled in next to the larger form. They lay silent in the dark room until Xena felt the bard moving closer. She reached out and pulled Gabrielle into her arms and sighed contentedly when the smaller woman enveloped her in a fierce embrace.
"Hey..." she said quietly.
"Hey." The bard tilted her head up and looked at the warrior. "Sleep well."
I will now.
Xena leaned down and placed a small kiss on top of the bard's head. "Goodnight Gabrielle. " There was a long pause, then, "I love you."
The bard yawned sleepily. "I love you, Xena," she said as she drifted off. "Missed you...so much..."
The innkeeper stood outside their door, and, satisfied that all was restored, she went down the hallway and walked out into the night. As she entered the forest behind the inn, her plain clothes disappeared from her body and an ornamental leather tunic appeared in its place. In a breath, the apron changed into an archer's bow, one that shimmered in the moonlight like a thousand firefiles. The wind whispered that all was well, and, in a flash of light, Artemis was gone.