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Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters 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. All other characters, 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 only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
Warning: Violence and Sub-text a plenty.
One Last Thought
by Ryan Dever
Why did it always end like this? Violence.
Eighteen hours ago they'd ridden into an apparently sleepy little town on Argo, in tandem, and immediately drawn a "Which one's the man?" from some dung sack toting oaf on the corner. Xena had shown the oaf the ice in her eyes but, being an oaf, he hadn't taken the hint. The clincher should have been when the entire crowd of school kids gave them the finger but for some reason they'd just checked into the inn anyway and stayed the night. Gabrielle had awoken to the sounds of combat, nothing unusual there, just in time to dodge a lethal plowshare blow and the rest of the day had been shot.
Here they were, middle of the day, the Mediterranean sun cooking the cobbles at their feet and she really wished she'd had time to get her boots on before.....oh hell, she should have slept with them on. It would even the odds, against Xena as well as the enemy. You'd think she would've figured that out by now. This town was ridiculous. Verbal taunts had led to obscene gesture had led to minor misunderstanding, had led to this.
Her staff danced in front of her in a detached haze. Arms, long past sore or numb, moved of their own accord picking the next target or threat. Always, her mind on getting out of this place. They really should have been fighting back to back but they'd learned that her staff tended to make nasty bruises on Xena's head so they'd established a new pattern. Carve out a pocket in the crowd and continually check each other's backs. Progress had been slow but their goal was getting closer. She dropped low and swept a wide circle about herself catching a glimpse of Xena doing what Xena did so well (but not what Xena did best). "The stable's close!"
"I know!" punctuated by a sharp whistle. By some miracle the town had not felt a sudden need for dog food and wood glue overnight so Argo was safe. They heard her whinny from inside. "She must be tied."
"Son of a bacchae!"
Hades ladies! Where did that girl learn phrases like that? "We're going to have to-"
"I've got it."
The staff accelerated like some ecstatic dervish and she bellowed at the top of her lungs then rushed the crowd of stinky intolerant towns folk. Even Xena slowed for an instant as the crowd fell back in front of the girl's suicide charge. At the last instant she decided not to die and vaulted clear of her foes. One of whom gasped, "Holy, sun dried Harpy nuts! Did you see that?"
The vault had been good. Nice height and distance but her trajectory was off. She'd definitely have to work on that but right now her damn scroll case (Salmonius' Wolf Pack special) caught the edge of the stable window as she flew through it and spun her wildly. She spilled across the low wall of a stall, taking a load of splinters in the backs of her thighs, then glanced down just in time to see her naked toes land less than a hand's breadth from a pitchfork in the hay. Stupid! Lucky. Very stupid and very lucky.
She spared a few moments to pull on her boots then untied Argo. The stable was filling with badly dressed subtext hating bit parts. With her arms full of tack and what-not she slapped the horse on the backside hoping to slip through in her wake but the crowd closed too fast. All she could do was parry their assaults... with the beautiful saddle. Xena would be furious.
Xena decided it was time to leave. She had definitely had enough. She sighted up on the biggest guy she could find, split his rake with a viscous front snap-kick and then shattered his face with a pommel reinforced punch. There was nothing quite like the crunch of a virgin nose. After whirling her sword about in useless figure eight training patterns (to scare them a little more) she gave them all her best "who's next" look and tried to surreptitiously clean the bloody snot off her hand. She had no problems with blood. She'd cut people apart, sewn them back together, given birth herself and a few times she'd even reached inside people to fix their innards when they weren't working quite right but snot was something else entirely. Yuck.
Her look drew no takers.
Whistling, she mounted her golden maned mare bareback, gripping her with mighty and experienced thews. Hmmm something familiar about that... Something metaphorical. Well never mind, no time for that now. She made for the stables.
Gabrielle was fending them off in silence..... With her saddle! Damn that girl! It was times like this that Xena wondered why she spent her life helping Gabrielle spend her life helping people. The girl was a strange mix of innocence and understanding and something else that she longed for. She said, "Lalalalalalalaalala! " to let her know she was coming for her.
His sword came down on the saddle for the third time and Gabrielle stumbled, totally open to his next blow. Where the heck did farmers get the money for swords anyway? The man raised his steel high in the blistering sun and she tensed in expectation of the pain. She'd been stabbed before but it was never fun. His eyes went dull. A stuttering cough announced his decent to the stones and she saw the chakram lodged high in his shoulders.
The mob parted like dry grass before Argo. Xena, leaning at an apparently impossible right angle to her mount, shouted something and held out her hand. The pose only looked impossible. If you had legs that could crush a wine ton and knew your way around a horse's ribcage well enough it was only really impressive.
This was the first trick Xena had ever taught her. How to lock arms and mount up. Right arm over loaded with her staff, satchel, Xena's saddle bags and Argo's tack she pulled her warrior's yonical trademark from the erstwhile slayer and locked elbows with her savior. Swinging up behind she held on for dear life. The leather smelt so good.
"I didn't want to kill him, Gabrielle, but-"
"I know. It's all right." And then to make sure she knew, "Thank you."
Infinite forgiveness. Rain for her dusty sins, Xena smiled.
A single, "We don't want your kind 'round here!" escaped the town.
The herbs had done their job and she was pleasantly numb as Xena picked the slivers from her one by one. "You're a real mess back here, you know? You've got to learn to anticipate more."
Lying there on her front, skirt up, feeling Xena's hands deftly move over her thighs her skills of anticipation were just fine, thank-you-very-much. "Thanks for saving my life. Again."
"You're welcome, again. Thank you for saving my horse. You keep this up and she'll start to like you, you know."
"You think? Ah!"
"Sorry. Alcohol. Don't want an infection."
"So much for the herbs."
"I'll just put the salve on and you'll - we'll be done."
Gabrielle lay there and listened to the salve make creamy squishing sounds as Xena smothered her hands with it. She started at the top and worked the hand warmed cream down the outsides of her thighs to her knees.... then started back up the insides.
Gabrielle felt as though she were turning into one of those hot springs they bathed in so frequently. She fell victim to a stupid smile so big that it had a voice. "ugh..."
"What was that?", Xena asked.
"Why are we always saving people, Gabrielle? I mean, if they're just going to treat us like that what am I - what are we doing it for?"
"They have to learn somehow. And once they're indebted to us they never do things like that, do they?"
"They're just so..... stupid! When I'm at the head of an army they'll cower at my feet like I'm a god. They'll do anything I ask, "just, please spare our village." Grovel grovel. But I pay money to use a room for a night, they decide they don't like who I'm sharing it with and I have to put up with that?" She brooded for a minute. It was amazing how much brooding could be fit into one minute when you were really proficient at it like she was. "It's enough to make a girl go warlord again I tell ya.. Medusa's hairdresser, Gabrielle, you're going to get salve all over the blanket!"
"You're beautiful when you're angry."
"You'd think a bard could come up with something more original than that."
"Of raven locks and olive skin,
Refusing to be celebrated Xena smothered her mouth in cranberry kisses. She'd never liked cranberries before she met Xena but with a little positive association they became her lip stain of choice. They were definitely getting salve on the blanket now... and other places. Wind stirred the sheltering oak above them and a dappling of sunlight gave her one last thought.
Why didn't it always end like this?
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