Disclaimer : Xena and Gabrielle are copyright MCA /Universal, everything else is mine. Except the lyrics which are published by Charisma Music Publishing / Rondor Music.
Thanks : Time to say thanks again to Richard for letting me hijack his PC, and for the sandwiches (not so much mustard next time (I don't know why I wrote that, he doesn't read this stuff)). A special hi to Stormybard. Comments welcome; after all the eight most depressing words in the English language are : "There is no new mail in your inbox."
RANDOM THOUGHTS - Part 3 : Runaway
by Claire Withercross
The streets were crowded, but not overly so, and the boy fled between the people with ease. Almost. If Alexander had turned left instead of right he wouldn't have hit the wall and would have made it to freedom. He bounced off the wall and landed hard on his bottom.
"Ow!" he cried, rubbing his sore posterior. "Why'n't you look where you're goin'?" he accused the wall.
Some people might think it strange or even downright silly talking to a wall, but this particular obstacle was made of flesh and leather, and distinctly human shaped. Female shaped to be precise. Attractive female shaped, his preadolescent brain registered.
A shorter, fair-haired woman appeared from behind the human wall. "Are you okay?" she asked, and bent to help him up.
His faced creased up in a sneer. "Don't need your help," he batted her hand away and climbed to his feet on his own.
The two women and the boy turned in the direction of the bellow. A man carrying a pitchfork stopped at the nearby junction and scanned the streets for the boy. When he spotted him, he ran towards him.
The boy turned to the leather clad woman and grabbed her arm.
"Ow! Lemme go!" he cried.
The perplexed woman looked from the struggling boy to the advancing man and back again. The boy was struggling just enough to keep his grip on her arm and he was now calling to the man, his father, for help.
"She's tryin' to kill me!"
The fair-haired woman took a step towards the man. "It's not what it looks like," she tried to explain.
"I know," growled the man. "Alexander, leave her alone."
The boy ceased his struggling, and his father grabbed him by the ear. The boy's father muttered some sort of apology and dragged his son away.
"Could've been tryin' to kill me. You wouldn't care," Alexander could be heard muttering as he was hauled out of earshot of the women.
"Hmmph, kids," commented Gabrielle turning to her friend.
Xena furrowed her brow in a frown. "Would someone like to explain to me what just happened?"
Gabrielle smiled and shook her head. "Let's go get something to eat," she said, taking Xena by the arm and leading her away.
"Eat? I think I need a drink."
Gabrielle patted her stomach and let out a satisfied groan as she stepped out of the tavern into the afternoon sunlight.
"I'm stuffed," she said.
"I'm not surprised. You ate half of mine as well as yours," said Xena following her.
"I paid," said Gabrielle by way of explanation.
"With our money."
"Which I earned."
"Which we agreed to share."
"Okay, but you need to watch what you eat if you're to keep in shape," the bard said, turning to face her friend. Xena had a strange look of concentration on her face. "What's wrong?"
"Hmm? Oh, I've got a piece of meat stuck between my teeth."
"Saw you having trouble with young Alexander earlier," said a voice behind them.
They turned to face a middle-aged woman.
"You mean the boy?" asked Gabrielle.
The woman rolled her eyes. "Boy! Demon more like. He's a bad one."
"That's a bit extreme," countered Gabrielle. "He's just a young lad."
"You don't know him," retorted the woman with a pointed stare. "Always causing trouble, and not just the usual boyish trouble either. I knows the difference."
"Young boys can be cheeky, think they know everything. They may try and steal an apple from a stall if you're ain't looking. But Alexander is evil," the woman stated firmly. "Young boys don't set fire to barns. Young boys don't drop their baby brothers down a well, just 'cause they're bored."
"He dropped his baby brother down a well?"
The woman sniffed. "Would've if he wasn't stopped beforehand." The older woman shook her head slowly. "A real bad one. Keeps trying to run away. I'm surprised his parents keep trying to stop him. They should let him get gone and we'd all be better off."
"Maybe they stop him because they love him," said Gabrielle.
"Maybe they do," conceded the woman. "They're good people. But they're wasting their love on him if they do."
"That's an awful thing to say."
"Yep. But I'm entitled. That spawn of Tartarus is my grandson."
With that the woman walked away.
"Did you hear that?" Gabrielle asked Xena. "Even his own grandmother hates him. The poor lad."
"I think we should try and help. Maybe we could talk to Alexander, see what's troubling him?"
"What do you think?" the bard furrowed her brow in concentration.
"I've got it!" exclaimed Xena.
"Great. What are we are going to do?"
"Do?" asked a confused warrior.
"Yeah. What's the idea?"
"Xena, are you okay?"
"I'm fine. What are you talking about?"
An annoyed snarl hovered silently behind the bard's lips. "Alexander," she said patiently. "We're going to help him, and you said you got an idea."
The warrior laughed. "No. I said, I've got it," she held up a tiny piece of meat. "The little fella was wedged in there good, but I got him."
The snarl became audible. "Did you listen to a word that woman said?"
"And I say we don't get involved."
"The boy needs help."
"The boy needs a damn good thrashing, but it's not our place to meddle."
"Then who's place is it?" demanded Gabrielle. "What if everybody turned a blind eye to someone in trouble, where would we be?"
Xena should have known Gabrielle would want to help, and cursed herself silently for dismissing her offer so lightly. "I'm sorry, Gabrielle," she said softly. "I know you want to help, but I'm a warrior, I don't do sensitive chats with children."
"There's more than one person in this partnership," retorted Gabrielle. "I can do it," she started walking away.
"Wait a minute, Gabrielle. Think before you go rushing off," said Xena, holding onto the younger woman's shoulder to restrain her. "You have to be careful. Plan your strategy. How will these people feel if you go there and start talking to their son, trying to find out what's wrong? They might not be best pleased with you interfering."
"I'm going to help, not interfere."
"Is that how they'll see it?"
Gabrielle relaxed in Xena's grip. "All right, I'll wait and think about it. But I'm not giving up."
Xena simply smiled and nodded.
Gabrielle didn't have to think too hard about how to tackle the problem of Alexander, the problem came to her.
Xena heard him first, she stood up and grabbed her sword.
"What is it?" asked Gabrielle, looking up from the scroll she was writing.
"Somebody's coming," whispered the warrior. She disappeared into the bushes.
Gabrielle waited, there came a burst of noise from the foliage, and Xena emerged holding Alexander at arms length. A stream of abuse spewed from the boy's mouth, the bits that Gabrielle understood made her blush. The warrior put the boy down next to the fire.
"Right, son," Xena started to say.
"I ain't your son," Alexander contested.
"And aren't I glad of it," she muttered under her breath.
"Stupid bitch," the boy snarled, and turned his attention to Gabrielle. "What ya writing?"
Gabrielle shot a warning glance to Xena, who looked as if she was about to put the pinch on the boy. "A story," she said, turning her attention back to Alexander.
"Let's see," he leaned over and snatched the scroll from her. He studied it for a couple of seconds, then tossed it aside without a care. "Can't read, anyhow."
Gabrielle took a calming breath and retrieved her scroll. "Hasn't anybody taught you?"
"I'd like to teach him something," whispered Xena.
"Just said I can't read, did'n I?" Alexander got up and started rummaging in one of Xena's packs.
"Get out of there," she cried, and pulled him forcibly back to a sitting position. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I'm running away. What does it look like?"
"Well run away somewhere else."
"Xena!" the bard cautioned the warrior.
Xena pulled a face, picked up anything within reach of the boy and retreated to the other side of the fire.
"Alexander, why do you want to run away?" asked Gabrielle.
"Summut to do," Alexander shrugged in reply, as he watched the warrior move away. "Can I join you?"
"No," replied Gabrielle gently. "You should be at home with your family."
"Xena and I are older, we don't have to live at home."
"But you run away, right?"
Gabrielle wrinkled her brow, she hadn't thought of her leaving home as running away, but considered the boy might be correct. "As I said, we're older," she repeated.
"How old do I have to be then? I want to run away now."
"Are you happy at home?" asked Gabrielle.
"Dunno. Some of the time."
"If you ran away from home, wouldn't you miss it?"
"What about your mother and father, would they miss you?"
A look of sudden realisation came over Alexander's face. "They're the reason I want to run away. They keep trying to kill me," he said earnestly. "Every day they try, but I'm too smart for them. I could be of use to you if I came along."
Gabrielle studied his face and came to the conclusion that he didn't realise he was lying.
"That's it, I've heard enough," said Xena, striding around the fire. "If you came along with us, I'd kill you."
"Xe-" Gabrielle started to protest.
"No, Gabrielle," Xena cut her off. "I'm taking him back right now."
Gabrielle stood up and intercepted the warrior before she reached Alexander.
"Leave him alone," the bard whispered harshly.
Xena was so stunned by the bard's reaction she didn't resist when Gabrielle steered her away from the boy.
"He's....," Gabrielle scratched her head in thought. "He doesn't know what he's saying. I don't know what's wrong with him, but he can't help it. And beating him is not going to help."
"I wasn't going to beat him," Xena protested. "I'd never beat a child. No matter how obnoxious. I was going to take him home."
"I'm sorry," Gabrielle apologised, realising she had misjudged the warrior's intent. "He's just a confused kid. He's not evil, despite what his grandmother thinks," she declared. "I don't know what to do to help him," she added hopelessly, and hung her head.
Xena put her arm around her friend and rubbed her back. "Come on, don't beat yourself up over it. You tried. That's the main- Hey! Leave that alone!"
The warrior rushed over to the boy, leaving Gabrielle rocking from the sudden loss of support. The bard managed to stay upright and turned to see Xena snatching her sword out of Alexander's hand.
"I was only looking," explained Alexander.
"You're going home. Now."
Alexander nodded in resignation. "They'll only try and kill me again."
Xena placed a hand on his shoulder. "You're forgetting, you're too smart for them."
"Yeah, thats right. I am," the boy leered.
His parents were extremely grateful to Xena and Gabrielle for bringing Alexander back. The boy himself was completely unmoved by it all and went straight to his room. When they left he was fast asleep.
They walked back to their campsite in silence.
"Xena?" Gabrielle spoke as she settled into her bedroll.
"What do you think makes Alexander do things he does? Do you think the gods have cursed him like his mother thinks?"
"I have no idea, Gabrielle. I have no idea."
The boy has made me think about how we are moulded in our lives. I always thought we were shaped by what was around us. To take control of our lives we must take control of what is around us. If we have no control over our surroundings, we have no control over our destiny. If we want to change, then we must run away.
Yet what makes us want to run away? Alexander has a loving family, what makes him so bad? If we're the product of the environment we're made in, shouldn't we be comfortable in it? What makes some of restless? Does this mean then that we are not the creation of what is around us, but react to some predetermined role that we must fulfil?
I tried to run away, but it didn't work. I buried my weapons and my armour and within minutes I was fighting. Fighting for good, but still fighting. Does this mean I can never run away from what I am? Are all of us destined to be what we are with no hope for change?
If that's true then no amount of running will do, for wherever I run to, I'll always be there.
the end of this bit. to be continued......
"And at last you've got your freedom but that's all you've got
You're trying to make your mind up if you're better off."
Runaway - Hogarth/Helmer
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