Disclaimer -- No violence, no subtext, not even a broken fingernail, but if you haven't seen "FORGIVEN" you might not want to read this yet. Can be a spoiler. Of course all the characters belong to the folks at Universal/MCA expect for Triniti and she is modeled after someone I know very well.
"XENA! XENA, YOU'VE GOTTA HELP ME!"
Xena and Gabrielle turned in unison toward the familiar voice and both immediately thought, 'Not Again". It had been such a quiet afternoon. They were on their way to the naming ceremony for the newborn son of Princess Diana and stopped at this tavern to quench their thirsts. It was a beautiful summer day full of bright blue cloudless sky and warm fragrant breezes. They had traveled for almost three full weeks without a hint of trouble. Until now.
"XENA. GABRIELLE, I'm so glad I found you. You gotta help me." The dark haired warrior wanna-be repeated between breaths. It was clear the girl had been running from someone or something. "Please. PLEASE, hide me, take me with you, protect me, KILL ME. Just do something, PLEASE!" She leaned forward and grabbed the shoulder plates of Xena's armor and shook them in desperation. The kid was frantic.
"What's the matter, Tara, get caught with your hand in the honey pot? Or have you been picking fights with someone who won't be so easy on you?" Gabrielle sneered as she rose and walked to the bar to refill their drinks.
"Gabrielle." Xena warned prying Tara's hands from her armor. "Why don't you sit down and just tell me, er us, what you need."
"Hmph, I could tell you that." Gabrielle huffed as she sat back down and offered the girl a drink. "Same thing she always needed a good b "
A stern look from the warrior was enough to silence the bard. She sat back content to listen before she dared make any more comments. Hopefully, someone was out to give this pest the beating she deserved.
"Okay, now what's the problem?" Xena asked calmly returning her attention to the girl. "What kind of trouble are you in?"
Tara took a long drink and a deep breath. "I I haven't done anything bad since I left you."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes and laughed silently, resting her chin on her hand. Xena swatted her shoulder knocking her arm forward and sending her chin toward the table. Caught before impact she glared at her assailant before flashing a quick smile and sitting back to listen. Tara went on. "Really well, I mighta stole some food once when I got real hungry, but nothin else I swear! I even helped some people who needed a message delivered to some old guy about some contest thing or something."
Warrior and bard exchanged confused doubtful glances.
"Really!" The girl insisted. "I really have been trying!"
"Then what's the problem?" Xena asked again, tiring of the situation and growing very impatient with both this fretting girl and the other snickering behind her.
"She's the problem!" Tara groaned.
"ME?" Gabrielle pointed to herself as Xena simultaneously exclaimed, "GABRIELLE?"
Tara looked at both of them for a second, hardly believing their reaction. "No!" She put her hands to her temples and shook her head. "No, not Gabrielle Triniti!"
"Triniti?" Warrior and Bard asked each other. Gabrielle shrugged as Xena turned back to the girl.
"What is Triniti?" She asked trying to remain calm.
"Not what, who." Tara moaned, she folded her arms in front of her on the table and now rested her head on them. Her voice came muffled from beneath. "I can't get rid of her. She won't leave me alone. She's driving me NUTS!" Her head came up on the last word and both of her listeners jumped back at the force.
"Pick a fight with her in the last tavern you visited?" Gabrielle giggled.
Xena slammed a fist on the table causing both girls to jump, "Gabrielle! ENOUGH of the wise cracks! Tara! ENOUGH of the side tracks. If I don't get some cooperation and some explanation real soon, I'm gonna get to the bottom of this MY WAY!" She glared ferociously at both girls in turn. "UNDERSTAND!?"
Gabrielle swallowed hard and nodded quickly, having had some experience with Xena's wrath.
Tara nodded wide-eyed, understanding the meaning of Xena's threat.
"Good." Xena smiled and let out a deep cleansing breath. "Now, let's hear it from the beginning." She directed Tara. Then warned Gabrielle, "without, interruption."
The story, however, was not to be told. Everyone in the tavern spun to look toward the door as it burst open and a small whirlwind blew across the room.
"Tara!" The young voice squealed. "You didn't come right back!" The small form bounced toward the wild haired girl trying to slip under the table.
"Hi!" She quipped to the strangers she met at the table with her friend. She smiled a crooked smile that lit up her entire being and revealed a broken front tooth. Her blonde shoulder length hair was badly in need of being combed and her clothes, what she had of them, were dirty and tattered. She couldn't have seen more than nine or ten summers, but her enthusiasm was boundless and her smile was infectious.
Tara slumped in her chair, closed her eyes and willed the apparition away. Triniti grabbed her hand and squeezed. "I was worried, Tara. I thought you mighta got hurt."
Tara pulled her hand away. "I'm fine. Xena, Gabrielle, meet Triniti." She groaned.
An hour later Gabrielle had successfully bartered a room with two beds and a large tub. Now it was up to her to scrub gods knew how many seasons of dirt off the protesting Triniti. She was determined to stay at Tara's side. After Xena's promising to return the young 'warrior' and Gabrielle's promise of a story about the same the youngster acquiesced.
Gabrielle had a small tub brought to the room and filled with warm water. After much debate and a great deal of wrestling she managed to get the grubby child undressed and into the soapy water. Gabrielle couldn't understand how a child could be this neglected. How could anyone allow a small human to be this unkempt? Then look who she was talking about. Tara. She couldn't take care of herself, let alone someone else.
"HEY!" A young forceful voice protested. "Ya don't hafta scrub so hard! Some of that's my skin ya know!" Triniti pulled her arm from the bard splashing as it broke the water's surface. The small girl set her jaw and glared at Gabrielle.
"I'm sorry." The bard apologized wiping the suds from her chin. "I guess I was thinking about something else." She picked up the sponge and began to rub the grime from the child with a gentler touch. "So tell me, Triniti, how did you end up with Tara? Is she family?"
"It was kinda a accident. A guy was gonna try ta hit me and then Tara was there and she made him stop." Gabrielle scrubbed the girl's ears clean, one at a time. Triniti tilted her head and wrinkled her face with displeasure but continued. "She let me go with her cuz she thought she was takin me to my real family, but they're all dead."
"I'm sorry." Gabrielle said swallowing the lump in her throat. This child was alone and the only person she had to depend on was that wacky wonder wannabe. She took the sponge and blotted the dirt from the girl's face revealing a sprinkle of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Triniti pinched her face closed in the tradition all children do when their faces must be cleaned.
When the bard was finished with this chore the child wiped the water from her eyes with her palms and ran her hands down her cheeks. "You don't hafta be sorry. I don't member them anyway."
"Well, you know there are families that would be happy to have a little girl like you come to live with them." Gabrielle smiled turning her attention to the girl's grimy legs and feet.
"I don't need a family. I got Tara and she got me!" She informed the bard matter of factly pointing a skinny finger at her own chest. "And I'm not a little girl." She stated turning her head and nodding slowly.
Gabrielle smiled. "Oh, I see. But why would you want to be around a girl like Tara. She's not a very good at "
Triniti didn't allow Gabrielle to complete the thought. "Yes, she IS. Tara IS good. She takes care a me and she gets food and keeps the bad guys from hurting us. She even showed me how ta fish and clean it and start a fire without gettin burnt and " The child ferociously defended her friend as hot tears came to her eyes. She grabbed the side of the wooden tub and started to rise.
Gabrielle put a hand on her shoulder. "Whoa! Okay, okay it's okay I I'm sorry."
"Don't say that again! YOU don't know her! She's MY friend! She IS good!"
"I won't. You're right I don't. Yes, she is. I know you believe that." Gabrielle pacified the child as she settled her back into the warm water. There was something hauntingly familiar in those words. It wasn't so long ago that, well, that a little girl from a small town felt the same way about a vicious warrior woman. "You're right Triniti. You keep believing that no matter how hard it gets." The child looked at the bard questioningly. "Let's get this hair cleaned, then I've got a story for you." Gabrielle smiled.
Meanwhile, Xena and Tara set out to find new clothing for the soon to be clean child. During their trip, Tara finally told her story. Xena listened to a somewhat familiar tale.
"After I left you guys a couple months ago I kinda wandered around for a while. I didn't really have anyplace to go and it was kinda hard stayin away from the types I used hang with. Ya know?" She looked at the warrior walking next to her. Was that a nod? "Anyway, I thought maybe a change of scenery might work so I went north, only everywhere I went I kept endin up with the same lot. Gangs, thieves, the like. I started to think maybe I couldn't do it, good I mean. I even started to think that maybe maybe " She stopped and cast her glance toward the ground ashamed to continue.
"Maybe what?" Xena encouraged.
"That maybe it would have been better if I'd never been born better if I just " She looked at the warrior who was looking back with a strange gleam in her eye. "Better if I just died." She finished. "I know that's wrong but it's how I felt."
"I know the feeling." Xena almost whispered.
Tara paused for a second before continuing, "anyway that's when I found Triniti or rather she found me. Some big jerk was chasin the little pest makin all kinds of nasty threats. I just watched for a minute, then I remembered what you said about your gut tellin ya when something was right and my gut started to tell me that the right thing to do was to help the little squirt. So I did. I didn't even think, I just did it. I mean the guy had a hold of her and was gonna smack the little thing silly. I couldnt just stand there!"
"No, you couldn't." Xena agreed, because Tara needed her to.
"Anyway I taught him a thing or two about pickin on little girls. I guess all that time with those guys taught me somethin good, huh?"
"After that I wanted to take her home only she didn't have one. The guy was chasin her because her found her sleeping in his wagon and thought she stole somethin. She didn't, but I had to. I mean the kid was hungry and I didn't have and money and she had to eat!" Tara rationalized her misdeed. "I tried to leave her with this family in Thermopile, but she followed me. She follows me everywhere. I can't get rid of her. She thinks I'm some kinda savior or somethin. Jeez, I can't take it much longer. That's why you gotta help me."
"What do you want me to do?" Xena smiled as they picked through a pile of small articles of clothing at a colorful stand.
"I thought you and Gabrielle could, well take her with you."
"Oh, and then what?"
"I don't know. Just take her someplace safe, where she can't leave, where she can't find me."
Xena laughed, "I don't think so."
"You mean you won't help?" Tara asked almost in tears.
"No, I mean I don't think there's anyplace we can take her that she won't leave to look for you."
"Xena, she's a pest. She talks all the time. She's always getting into some sort of trouble that I have to get her out of, she asks too many questions, and she's always hungry!"
"You'll get used to it." Xena laughed and patted Tara's back knowingly. She handed the merchant a few coins in exchange for a skirt and blouse that looked about the right size and turned to bargain with another for a small pair of sandals.
"What if she gets sick or hurt? I don't know how to take care of a kid, I don't know what I'd do if if "
"If something happens to her?" Xena finished for her.
"How ." Tara thought for a moment then suddenly realized what she hadn't seen before, "oh, yeah, right."
"It won't be easy." Xena warned. "But you'll have each other. You won't be alone anymore and neither will she. You'll make mistakes and so will she, you'll hurt and you'll heal and you'll forgive each other and grow together. Everyday you'll learn from each other. And if you're lucky you'll become part of each other's lives."
"I don't know, Xena. It seems like an awful lotta work." Tara shook her head.
"Anything worth having usually is." Xena tucked a new pair boots under her arm, they seemed more practical if the girl would be doing any amount of traveling. "Come on, if I know Gabrielle she'll be looking for me by now."
Tara smiled. "Yeah, Triniti's probably got her crazy by now."
Tara and Xena walked into the small warm room to find Gabrielle sitting behind a scrubbed clean little girl in an oversized shift. The child sat calmly in front of the bard while she brushed the last of the snarls from her shoulder length golden hair. The bard was just finishing a story of how Hercules had rescued three baby harpies and helped a giant to win the heart of a beautiful princess. Both turned as the warrior and her companion entered.
Triniti was up and across the room in a blink, wrapping her arms around Tara's waist. "I missed you!" She squeaked. "Look, Gabrielle got me all clean!" She spun around causing the large shirt to flare out around her.
Xena tossed her packages on the bed and smiled at the young bard in front of the fireplace. The girl smiled back. The four new friends shared supper together in their room and then retired for the evening. Triniti fell into a deep sleep innocent of all adult terrors cuddled close to Tara who seemed to rest a bit more peacefully than usual.
Gabrielle lay awake next to Xena in the other bed. "Are you going to tell me?"
"Tell you what?" Xena mumbled sleepily.
Gabrielle elbow jabbed the half-asleep warrior in the ribs.
"Hey!" Xena grumbled and turned away from the bard.
"Come on!" Gabrielle protested.
"Tomorrow." Xena barely enunciated, then smiled imagining the pout on the girl's face. "G'night Gabrielle."
Gabrielle huffed and bounced herself onto her side away from the warrior. She tucked her hands under her pillow and let out a loud aggravated sigh. She closed her eyes and breathed heavily. After a few seconds she surrendered. "Goodnight, Xena."
A slight smile crossed the face of the almost asleep warrior.
Morning brought another beautiful summer day. Triniti pranced about the room showing off her new clothes and boots. The small group had breakfast together and shared a morning of storytelling, advice giving, shopping and just plain good times. By noon they were ready to go their separate ways. Triniti had taken quite a liking to the Warrior woman and her Amazon companion.
"Are you sure you want to go with me?" Tara asked the small girl. "It won't be easy, ya know. There'll probably be trouble."
"I know." The girl smiled. "But you're my friend and friends are sposed to stick together, right Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle winked at the girl and smiled back.
"Okay, friend." Tara smiled. "Let's go."
As they watched the girls walk away into the busy village Gabrielle remarked. "Now that's what I call Poetic Justice."
"Um?" Xena asked turning to walk in the other direction.
"Oh, just a term we bards use to mean someone got exactly what they deserved." Gabrielle explained a few steps behind the warrior.
"Yeah." Xena agreed. "Nothing like a pesky little chatterbox to keep the warrior type on the straight and narrow."
"Right." Gabrielle agreed with a curt nod. "Hey, wait a minute!" She protested realizing what was said. "Are you calling me a pest?" She reeled around in front of the warrior and stood with her hands on her hips. "Are you saying I talk too much? Are YOU comparing ME to ?
"Well, if the boot fits ." Xena deadpanned as she shrugged her shoulders and walked around the fuming bard.
"XE-NA" Gabrielle protested with frustration.
"Come on friend," Xena laughed. "I love ya, just the way you are."
Gabrielle laughed knowing she'd been had. "Hey!" She remembered running to catch up to the warrior. "You were going to tell me Tara's story today and by the way just what kind of threat was that you made in the tavern yesterday, I'm not a child you know and how come I got the dirty work while you did the shopping and "
Xena smiled as Gabrielle chattered on. "Yep, if you're lucky you become part of each other's lives."
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