The Hardest to Learn

Installment One of The Indigo Scrolls

"Lyrical Revelations," Part One

by Rhiannon Silverflame

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Janice Covington, and Melinda Pappas are the property of Universal, MCA, and Renaissance Pictures; Erin Chapman and Valerie Jackson are the creation and property, as it were, of the author. The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, are real people and as such are the legal property of no one; the author sincerely hopes that they do not mind their inclusion here, and intends no disrespect.

SUBTEXT: In the present-day timeline, there is absolutely no subtext whatsoever. Amy and Emily are not, nor have they ever been, romantically involved. In the ancient timeline, likewise, there is absolutely no subtext whatsoever. But that’s because it’s maintext. The author refuses to be shaken in her belief that Xena and Gabrielle are anything but romantically involved. So deal with it. If this concept offends or disturbs you, go have a good stiff drink and then read something else (but probably none of the author’s other works).

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Do I consider this uber-Xena fan fiction? Not really. Though it does involve my depictions of Xena and Gabrielle’s modern-day reincarnations, when it all comes down to the basics, this is about Xena and Gabrielle. Please note: The Indigo Scrolls series adheres to the show’s canon through the episode "The Ides of March," but not "Déjà Vu All Over Again." This is part of the four-part story arc entitled "Lyrical Revelations," which is the first story arc of The Indigo Scrolls.

CHRONOLOGY: This story, or the introduction to it at least, takes place right after "And Then You Had to Bring Up Reincarnation," though it’s not necessary to read that in order to understand this one. The ancient-timeline section of this story takes place shortly after the events of the episode "Blind Faith."

I sit two stories above the street; it’s awful quiet here since love fell asleep.

There’s life down below me, though—the kids are walking home from school.
Some long ago when we were taught that for whatever kind of puzzle you got,

You just stick the right formula in—a solution for every fool.

I remember the time when I came so close to you,

Sent me skippin’ my class and runnin’ from school,

And I bought you that ring ‘cause I never was cool.

What makes me think I could start clean-slated?

The hardest to learn was the least complicated.

So I just sit up in the house and resist, and not be seen until I cease to exist;

A kind of conscientious objection, a kind of dodging the draft.

The boy and girl are holding hands on the street, and I don’t want to, but I think you just wait.

It’s more than just eye to eye—learn the things we could never apply.

And I remember the time when I came so close with you,

I let everything go—it seemed the only truth.

And I bought you that ring—it seemed the thing to do.

What makes me think I could start clean-slated?

The hardest to learn was the least complicated.

Oh, I’m just a mirror of a mirror of myself,

All the things that I do.

And the next time I fall, I’m going to have to recall,

It isn’t love—it’s only something new . . .

—"Least Complicated," written by Emily Saliers

* * *

Emily Saliers was awake and out in the living room early in the morning, despite the fact that she’d gone to bed past 2 A.M. the previous night, or . . . well, the same morning. She couldn’t help it, though. What she and her singing partner and best friend, Amy Ray, had discovered about themselves at their concert at the Roxy the night before was without a doubt the biggest revelation of their lives. And it was a lot to think about.

She reached for the worn volume lying on the coffee table and ran her thumb down its spine, sitting down on the couch as she did so. The Xena Scrolls, Volume One, read the faded text. The book had been a gift to her and Amy from a young woman by the name of Erin Covington Chapman, a descendant of the archaeologist who’d unearthed these Scrolls—and of the ancient Greek bard, Gabrielle, who’d written them. Emily thought of the shy but punkish blonde girl and her dark-haired friend, Valerie Pappas Jackson, herself a descendant of the Scrolls’ translator, and of Xena herself.

Thanks to Val and Erin, Emily and Amy had discovered that their own connection to this Amazon bard and Warrior Princess was no less profound. How could it be, when, as they’d learned last night, they were the bard and the warrior in this lifetime? That they were the reincarnations of two souls who were such larger-than-life, heroic figures—if those scrolls were to be believed, and Emily was sure that they were—was certainly an overwhelming fact.

Just waking up this morning sure took on a whole new dimension, Emily reflected. That night at the bar, back when a conversation with friends about past lives had inspired the song "Galileo," she’d never realized just how true it would be for her. It had all been speculation then, more or less . . . but now, she believed it wholeheartedly, aware of that lifetime she’d lived in ancient Greece.

The awareness was a fleeting one, really. It was one thing to know in her mind that she, Emily Saliers, had once been the peasant-girl-turned-Amazon whose life was chronicled in the book she held in her hands. It was another thing entirely to make the connection between that fact and her own life experiences. But she found that although she wasn’t constantly conscious of her lifetime as Gabrielle, that legacy was secreted somewhere in the core of her soul, slowly stirring itself to wakefulness. And it had to have insinuated its knowledge, however subtly, into her consciousness . . . because everything seemed to make so much more sense now.

So. She was Gabrielle, and her rough-edged singing partner was Xena. Emily thumbed through The Xena Scrolls and looked at the photograph near the end of the book. A genteel Southerner, her tall frame clad in the most tasteful of feminine styles, stood behind a shorter woman who wore a battered leather jacket over a man’s dress shirt. Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington, the caption beneath the photo read. Some of our friends think we probably have a strong physical resemblance to our respective ancestors, Xena and Gabrielle, based on the descriptions of them in the Scrolls. Who knows?

Emily chuckled aloud. "Well . . . seems like this lifetime around, we got a decent matchup on the looks." The blonde guitarist closed the book, laid it back on the table, and cupped her chin in her hand. She and Amy had always been strongly driven to social and political activism. Now, she could only shake her head at the realization that the two of them were just doing what they did best, in a way that suited this day and age . . . fighting for a just cause, like always.

This probably explains a lot of things, she mused, like our songs. Oh, all the songs that Emily and Amy wrote were personal, all right; there was always a story behind them. But as she—and though she wasn’t yet aware of it, Amy as well—was beginning to realize, there was probably also a story from Xena and Gabrielle’s lifetime there . . .

A memory tugged gently at the back of Emily’s mind. She picked up her guitar, her fingers easily finding the second fret of the fingerboard and pressing down on the strings to form the A-major chord. She began plucking out the lighthearted melody that led into "Least Complicated," the fingers of her right hand working almost involuntarily over the strings.

One of the stories behind this song was the sixth-grade boyfriend with whom she’d always felt somewhat off-balance. "That was just the beginning . . . of the rest of my life," she often remarked about the experience. Looking back on it now, she wondered if it had been an early sign that she just wasn’t attracted to boys. But of course, at the time, she hadn’t figured that out yet. It should have been so obvious, though.

"What makes me think I could start clean-slated? The hardest to learn was the least complicated . . ."

Emily closed her eyes and let herself sink into the music. Drawn out by the innocent, childlike tune of the song, the memory was awakening now. It sent her mind back, past Danny and her sixth-grade year, far, far back to her days as a young bard, and the feelings that she just couldn’t sort out . . .

* * *

The two figures left the tavern in a bit of an embarrassed hurry. "You know, Gabrielle, you really ought to be more careful about this sort of thing," the warrior chastised lightly, jerking her head back in the direction from which they had just come. Luckily, the owner was used to fights in his establishment—it was a tavern, after all—and they had gotten off the hook fairly easily. Unfortunately, however, they’d had to hand over most of the dinars that the bard had managed to earn from her storytelling that night. Someone had to cover the cost of the two barstools and the broken dishes, of course, but it meant another night camping out, instead of in a warm, comfortable room. It wasn’t that they weren’t used to it, or that the company was unpleasant . . . a night at an inn was a luxury they could rarely afford, though, and would have been more than welcome.

"Oh, Xena, it’s not my fault that he decided to get . . . a little too forward. Weren’t you overreacting just a bit? You didn’t have to beat him and his friends up." But Gabrielle kept her head down, trying to hide the embarrassed flush that, she was sure, was visible even in the falling twilight.

"Gabrielle, I know when a guy has devious motives in mind. Besides, he hit me first, and all his drunken buddies joined in! What was I supposed to do, huh? You know," Xena offered teasingly, "you really need some pointers on how to pick someone up in a bar." She let her eyes twinkle merrily at Gabrielle, aware that her friend was struggling to hide her embarrassment.

The silent glance of encouragement helped. Gabrielle conceded, "Well, okay, so I didn’t like how eager he was being." The truth was, she was pleased, and . . . well, maybe just a little bit flattered by how quickly Xena had leaped to her defense against that inebriated boy’s lewd and clumsy overtures. And . . . oh, never mind. She pushed the thought down, shaking her head.

"What’s up with this latest trend of yours, huh?" Xena asked. "You’ve been acting so weird lately. It’s the fifth night in a row that you’ve tried to flirt with some guy in a tavern, something you’ve been doing an awful lot over the past few weeks. And it always winds up getting messy." And my usual dirty looks haven’t been enough to scare them off, these last couple of times, the warrior added mentally.

"Well, maybe my luck’s improving," the bard commented glumly. "At least none of these guys have wound up dead."

"Yet," Xena muttered sardonically.


"I said, ‘Yeah.’"


"Besides," Xena went on, trying to steer the conversation away from the offhanded comment she now regretted making, "couldn’t you at least pick someone with a bit more fashion sense? That guy was wearing the most hideous shirt I’ve ever seen."

Gabrielle giggled. "Yeah, looked like a stuck Hydra bled all over him! I’ve never seen a color that hurt my eyes more."

Xena grew more serious. "Why are you throwing yourself at every good-looking young man around lately, anyway?" she asked, her voice dropping into the soft, husky range that indicated concern for her friend. "It’s like you’re trying too hard to find something."

The bard recognized the tone of Xena’s voice and blushed furiously. "I don’t know. Just lonely, I guess. I’ve been feeling, well, kind of frustrated, like I need to lavish some kind of . . . romantic attention on someone," she finished bashfully. Much to her chagrin, her voice squeaked a few times as she forced the words out.

"Lonely, huh?" There was, Gabrielle thought, the faintest trace of hurt in the warrior’s voice. "I’m here . . . how can you be lonely?"

"Oh, well . . ." But the bard found no answer to that question. None that she was too sure about, anyway. All she was aware of was that her admission must have hurt Xena’s feelings. She kicked herself mentally. Way to go, Gabrielle, make her feel like she . . . isn’t more than enough to keep you from being lonely! Her own thoughts, private as they were, still sounded a touch on the humiliating side, and so she said nothing.

They traveled in awkward silence after that, until they reached the outskirts of the town and set up camp. Gabrielle was all too aware of Xena’s presence beside her as they walked, and while the sensation was pleasant and comforting, it was also unnerving her in a way she just couldn’t put a finger on. Why am I getting so nervous around her all the time? she fretted. She’s my best friend! You’d think, after everything we’ve been through together, I should be totally comfortable with her by now . . .

She couldn’t remember when she’d started feeling this way, she realized, as she laid out their blankets beside the campfire. All she knew was that lately, she’d been awfully self-conscious around Xena, afraid that her next move, her next gesture, would make her look ridiculous in her friend’s eyes. The prospect was unbearable. And though she knew perfectly well that Xena cared about her no matter what silly mistakes she made, she was obsessed with a strange desire to . . . what? Impress the warrior? But why, for Zeus’s sake?

Xena had the fire going nicely by now. She stood up and dusted her hands off, eyeing the small blaze with satisfaction. "Time for bed," she announced, unbuckling her armor and laying it beside her bedroll.

"Already?" Gabrielle felt vaguely let down; she’d been looking forward to a companionable chat in the firelight. Those chats were her favorite time of the day, just she and Xena alone together under the peaceful watch of the night sky. Truth be told, she was never happier than she was during those talks. In fact, they didn’t even have to talk; just spending time with the warrior was enough to put her in a good mood. Sitting there, with the ruddy glow of the fire bathing their faces in its warm light, those blue eyes glinting at her with the unguarded gentleness that no one but she ever saw, a smile on those lips not unlike the one she’d seen there in that dreamscape . . . just before Xena had leaned forward to kiss her gently . . .

A soft sigh escaped Gabrielle’s own lips before she could catch herself. No matter how hard she tried, she could never stop playing the memory out all the way in her head. And remembering that Xena had been in Autolycus’s body at the time put a bit of a damper on it.

"Disappointed about something?"

"What? Oh . . . nothing." The bard ducked her head, embarrassed by the thoughts that had just run rampant through her head, and by the fact that she’d thought them at all.

"Gabrielle! You’re blushing," Xena told her.

Uh-oh. "No, I’m not," Gabrielle blurted out, flustered and playing with the hem of her skirt. "It’s . . . it’s just the fire, you know? It’s making my face kinda warm."

The warrior quirked an eyebrow in amusement and reached a hand out, laying it against Gabrielle’s cheek. "Nope, you’re blushing," she announced. "That’s not the kind of heat you get from the fire." There was a grin on Xena’s face, strains of "I told you so" echoing in the twinkling of her eyes.

The feather-light touch of Xena’s hand on her face and the small smile that the warrior was giving her made poor Gabrielle blush an even brighter red. Her stomach felt like a small flock of birds had taken up residence in it, and she sincerely hoped she didn’t look as dopey as she felt. Every protracted moment of feeling Xena’s skin against her own was an agony of undefinable pleasure. She thought she was going to scream, or cry, or do anything just to vent what she was feeling, afraid that she would go crazy if this kept up any longer.

The feeling subsided as Xena broke the contact, only to be replaced with a lingering sensation of disappointment and emptiness.

"Gonna tell me what’s wrong?" prodded the warrior gently.

"I . . . was just thinking about a scroll I want to work on," Gabrielle mumbled.

This reticence was not like her. Xena studied her friend’s face for a moment; Gabrielle fought the urge to close her eyes against the scrutiny, feeling far too keenly the intense ice-blue of the warrior’s eyes on her, not daring to read in those eyes emotions that could have been reflected there.

Oh, there’s something she’s not saying, all right, Xena decided. Not like her not to talk about it, though. Well . . . whenever she’s ready. "Okay, then," she said slowly. "I’m going to go on to bed. Night, Gabrielle." She gave the bard a gentle pat on the shoulder and kicked off her boots before wrapping herself in her blankets and drifting off.

Gabrielle gazed thoughtfully at her friend’s sleeping form, finally daring, now that she had a bit of privacy, to face up to the tempest of thoughts and emotions railing inside her. "Just write it all out, Gabrielle," she whispered to herself. "Get a scroll and a quill, and write it all down, and maybe you can make some sense of things."

In the firelight, she fumbled through the small bag that held her scrolls and few personal belongings, digging for a quill. Her questing fingers brushed against the unexpected surface of cool, smooth metal. A hand closed around the discovered object and pulled it from the bag.

"I’d completely forgotten I had this!" The bard found herself staring at a plain gold band set with three tiny sapphires.

She’d bought the ring in Athens quite a while ago. Exuberant over her victory at the Academy of the Performing Bards, and bursting with excitement at the prospect of reuniting with Xena, she’d spent some of her winnings on the ring as a gift for her best friend.

It wasn’t until she was well on her way back to the warrior that she’d realized what a silly thing that purchase had been—a lark, a crazy whim, and utterly impractical to boot. She’d never known Xena to wear rings anyway. And she’d had no good explanation for buying it, either, except that the glitter of the tiny gems reminded her of the merry sparkle she so loved seeing in Xena’s eyes . . .

For someone who’d pretty much bested just about every trained young bard in the city of Athens and then some, she knew she’d be at a total loss for words if she tried to make Xena a gift of the ring.

So she’d lost her nerve then, and stashed the ring in her bag, and in fact had almost completely forgotten about it until now.

What would I have told her, anyway? she wondered. I didn’t even know why I bought it! "Yeah, here, Xena . . . I got you this . . . I know you wouldn’t wear it anyway and I can’t even say what possessed me to buy it for you, but I just missed you and I think you’re swell, so . . . here, have a ring." A soft snort punctuated the self-mockery in the thought. Yeah, right. How not-suave could that possibly be? That’s probably not even the "proper" sort of thing to do!

And to this day she still didn’t quite know what had prompted her to make that purchase . . . or . . . wait.

One thing she’d seen on her way to the Academy had made a lasting impression on her: the sight of a young man presenting a ring to his sweetheart. She’d been touched by the gentle devotion of the gesture, and the couple’s obvious elation, and couldn’t help but wonder if one day she would be in the same situation.

. . . She still wondered.

Gabrielle thought of Perdicas, and their marriage of a single day. The handsome soldier of the Trojan War was a far cry from the stodgy villager she’d known back in Poteidaia—he’d changed so much, and mostly for the better. And he’d done it all for her, too.

By all logic, she should have been deliriously happy with Perdicas. All she’d felt for him, though, was a sense of familial fondness—the same sort of sentimental attachment she associated with most of her childhood memories—and of, well, yes, obligation. On her wedding day, she still hadn’t understood how that couple back in Athens had felt—nowhere even near it. Funny fluttery feelings in her stomach, an uncontrollable urge to break out into a huge, silly grin, an overwhelming explosion of emotion that defied all verbal forms of expression—she’d felt none of those things with him.

But if not Perdicas, then . . . who? That question had been nagging at her more and more frequently these days. And the more it nagged, the more she felt pressured into finding the answer—that was the reason behind all these disastrous flirtations as of late. She felt like she was running after something without really knowing just what it was she was pursuing, and turning up every imposter she possibly could along the way.

Why couldn’t real-life romance be just like in the scrolls, or at least as easy to find? All those stories where the hero came along and rescued the beautiful girl from a fate worse than death, and then swept her off her feet—they were so different from the humdrum reality of Poteidaia and the life she’d fled.

"Beautiful . . . not quite. Fate worse than death?" she muttered. "Done it, done it, and done it again." The most recent time, where she’d almost been cremated alive, came to mind. But Xena, as usual, had come to her rescue just as the flames were about to consume her.

As usual. Gabrielle stretched out on her bedroll, still clutching the ring in her hand, letting her mind roam free with that phrase. She didn’t think she could count the number of times Xena had saved her life—mostly at the last possible second, it seemed. It was something of a routine for them now, really. The bard had absolute faith in Xena and in the warrior’s ability to bail her out when she was out of her depth.

As usual. And Xena always came through, no matter the odds, no matter the circumstances. If her life was going to be in someone’s hands, then the Warrior Princess was the only one she wanted holding it.

As usual. There was no dashing hero here, like in those stories—just Xena, her best friend. Xena, who knew her better than anyone . . . Xena, who had risked losing her sight forever just to rescue Gabrielle from a certain, fiery death . . . Xena, who had come back from the dead for her. Just Xena, whom she knew she could count on no matter what.

The bard thought of how glad she always was when Xena appeared on the scene—now that was just the sort of heart-bursting, overwhelming elation she’d been missing with Perdicas.

And suddenly, she knew she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gabrielle, you goof! she scolded herself. Here you are, living out all these adventures most bards tell, and can only dream of living, and wanting something out of a story on a piece of parchment?

She looked at Xena, slumbering peacefully, her sturdily elegant features highlighted by the fire, and for the first time, she let herself fully realize just how beautiful the warrior was to her, and just what those features did to her heart. If she weren’t already lying down, the mere sight of the woman before her eyes would have made her fall to the ground right then and there. Oh, no . . . a henbane-induced state had absolutely nothing on this.

And all this time, you’ve been wanting a hero to fall in love with . . . but she’s been right here next to you all along! Gabrielle giggled softly, at once chastised and highly amused at her own expense. Who were you kidding? You know you had her in mind when you bought that ring! Fine grasp you have on the obvious, Gabrielle!

She looked at the ring in her hand, then slowly slipped it onto her own finger. Maybe one day, if Xena shared her feelings, she’d find the right time and the right words with which to present the ring to her. Whether or not it was the "proper thing to do" no longer mattered; if the gesture came from her heart, it would be good enough.

But she was getting ahead of herself. This whole love thing, complete with fluttery stomach and goofy grin, was such a new experience. Slow and easy would be the best way to approach this. Maybe some time to sort out her feelings first—not too much, because as she’d learned, time was too fleeting a thing. There was a sneaking suspicion in the back of her mind telling her that Xena already knew. After all, she reasoned, if the dead can hear our thoughts, maybe when I told Iolaus that I loved her, she understood what I said, even better than I did at the time.

That was something she could figure out later, though. But for now . . .

She crept around the fire and knelt by Xena’s bedroll. Oh boy, is this gonna sound weird . . . I hope I have the nerve to go through with it! "Xena . . . hey, Xena?"

The warrior stirred without so much as cracking an eye open. "Yeah, Gabrielle?" came the sleep-muffled murmur.

Gabrielle made no effort to hide the goofy grin on her face this time. "Can you, uh . . . well . . . would you mind if I shared your bedroll tonight and kind of, um . . . sort of snuggled up with you?"

"Sure," mumbled Xena without missing a beat. "Plenty of room here."

Wow, marveled Gabrielle. Not so much as a double-take! Even in a deep slumber, Xena was more alert than most people were while awake, so writing her off as being oblivious was definitely not an option.

Surprised and relieved by her friend’s reaction, the bard somehow managed to undo the laces on her boots and remove them before crawling under the blankets next to the warrior.

It felt . . . just right. Feeling the warmth of Xena’s body next to hers, that very solid, comforting presence, she was right at home. Warm, loving, and protected, just like she’d said once. She snuggled up closer to her friend, no hesitation at all in the action, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

Yeah, she thought drowsily as Xena reached out to wrap an arm around her and hold her close, this is definitely just where I want to be.

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