by Richard B.Kloosterboer

Disclaimer: The characters in this story are loosely based on Xena and Gabrielle who belong to Renaissance pictures and SUSA. And their possible subtext relationship as more than just friends.

Skimming the surface of domestic violence.

Having a go at Uber Alt

* * *

Ironic as it may sound Jo Smith was very proud of her maiden name. Everyone would ask her twice if that really was her name. It got a trifle irritating when she was younger, but Jo got past such trifles with a big smile and great attitude. She took life as it was dealt to her and adjusted accordingly.

Her career in the metal industry made her a tough and hardened person to be around. She socialized every Friday with the mates at work, but could never quite get into a relationship with men. It always seemed that they'd shy away from her. She suspected it was not quite respect, for they were all a tough bunch. They must know something that she has kept locked away for several years. Something that Jo Smith did not want to admit.

Too deep to think about and Jo Smith does not want to think too deep. There's fun to be had tonight. It's Friday night and it’s her shout for the boys.

* * *

Madelyn Hayes. That sounds so corny. Her husbands name was Hayes and Maddie hates her husband. No, she loves her husband. She doesn't know anymore. He used to be kind and gentle and now he just is bitter and angry. Maddie tries to talk to him but he loses his temper then. She hates him when he loses his temper.

Maddie was taking self-defense classes. She shied away from sparring outright. But her Sensei was gentle and kind and patient. She felt so proud when she made the grade of yellow belt. Maddie was the best in her class of her grade. Her husband was an insensitive clout. Said it was a waste of time and all that mumbo-jumbo was rubbish.

How she wanted to prove him wrong, maybe tonight she'll have enough courage to prove it to him. To teach him a bit of respect for her feelings.

Maybe tonight things will be different.

* * *

Jo waddled inside her apartment tipsily. She still couldn't hold her liquor like the boys. Something to do with the female metabolism. At least she knew how to throw a punch. Only the empty apartment greeted her. God, how she hated coming home to this dreary, lonely place. Still it was home sweet home. She stood in front of the mirror and studied her features and body. She tried to understand why men weren't attracted to her like they were with other females. Her face was pretty with a steel blue gaze. Dark hair matted her brow and was cropped short for work related reasons. Arms and upper body were muscular because of the hard labor involved in the job. 'If I wasn't a girl I would be attracted to that image.' Jo chuckled.

A noise next door woke her up from her day dreaming. The Hayes’ were fighting again. Jo was getting a tad annoyed with this guy beating his wife for no reason. Although she would rather not get involved she found it was about time to teach this guy a lesson.

Still grimy from a hard day’s work the reluctant hero went up to the neighbors door and knocked.

* * *

Maddie was right to shy away. Her husband was in one of his bitter moods again. Her mind was still too numb with fear as she tried to remember her self defense lessons. One came up and she blocked. It was a short triumph as he hit her with the other hand against her rib cage. A muffled snap was heard, and sudden pain seared through her body. Her mind struggled to cope with too much pain and fear combined. Why couldn't she remember what to do?

There was a loud banging on the door.

Maddie was roughly picked up and shoved to the door. Hubby's intentions were clear that she had to open the door.

Maddie opened the door and she saw the most handsome…

'Y…Yes?' She stammered.

'Scuse me, ma'am. Are you all right?'

'I'm fine,' Maddie tried to hide the bruise with her hand. 'I just fell…that's all.'

Jo's steely gaze turned to compassion as she recognized…

'What do you want? You have no business prowling around here, buddy.' Hayes made his presence known by jabbing a finger against her chest.

Quick as a flash Jo grabbed Hayes' hand and finger and twisted it awkwardly. Guiding him in this trapped position he felt himself slammed against the opposite wall, his arm twisted behind his back. 'That wasn't very nice. Someone should teach you some lessons.'

'I can have you for assault.' Hayes spluttered in the wallpaper.

'And I can have you for domestic.' Promised Jo.

'Pl…please don't hurt him.' Maddie asked fearfully.

Jo relaxed her grasp for a moment and looked at the sad form of a half-beaten woman before her. How long has this subjugation been going on. Why is it that Jo noticed this woman for the first time?

The distraction was enough for Hayes to display a hidden talent. He twisted free and punched Jo in the face. Momentarily stunned she only just managed to block a second and third punch from Hayes before giving him a side-thrust kick to the abdomen doubling him over. Rubbing her own jaw she mumbled to no one in particular, 'That's no way to treat a lady.'

She grabbed Hayes' shoulders and kneed him hard against the chest and head with enough force to stun him. Jo walked past his groaning form towards a shocked Maddie.

'Are you all right?' Jo whispered and took the bruised face within gentle hands. Tears were streaming in rivulets over Maddie's cheeks as Jo methodically studied the bruising.

'He must be punished for this. A pretty woman like you deserves better.' Jo tried.

Confusion ran rampant on Maddie's face, 'No, I love him. He can be rough at times, but he does care.'

Jo thought the words, but could not say them out loud. Her steely gaze locked with a long-lost soul from eons ago. A fleeting moment of recognition as the young woman Jo wanted to protect recognized her as well.

'Let's get you to a hospital first. I think you have a broken rib.' Jo said.

Maddie winced at the sudden painful jolt and she suddenly realized that her husband's rage could kill her someday.

'I will have no place to stay when he comes to. I don't want to stay with him.' Maddie said, her situation gripping her in panic.

'You can stay with me.' Jo promised and helped her quarry into her truck. As they drove off Maddie asked curiously, 'What's your name?'

'My name is Xe…Jo Smith.' Where did that come from? Jo thought. Flashes of Amazons fighting Romans appear in her sober imagination. A tooting horn breaks her day-dream as she narrowly misses a collision.

She ups her middle finger at the aggressor and realizes too late that she did the fingers to a copper. 'Dam it!' She cursed and pulled her truck over.

'Would you get out of the vehicle please.'

'I can explain.' Jo began. 'This woman needs medical attention urgently.'

'Step away from the vehicle, Sir.'

'Its ma'am. I'm a woman.' Jo said annoyed and peculiarly amused as she dented the concentration of the cop.

'Jo? What's happening?' A panicked voice.

'Dammit man. My friend is hurt and needs to go to the hospital. NOW!'

Looking directly at Maddie the policeman asked, 'Are you all right ma'am?'

Finding courage Maddie replied, 'My husband beat me. My friend Jo was driving me to the hospital.'

'She has a broken rib and possible internal bleeding. Her wife-beating husband is at this address.' Jo hands the cop a jotted down address.

'I'll call in an ambulance and will send a unit to the address.' The copper instructed.

'Jo, don't leave me.'

Jo slided up beside Maddie. The badly beaten young woman rested her head against Jo's shoulder. 'I'm right here for you,' Whispered Jo, 'I'll never leave you, Gabrielle.'

She kissed her brow gently, 'It's okay, sweetheart. I'm right here.'

* * *

At the hospital Jo was waiting impatiently. She needed a shower desperately, but at least she was sober now to think through what just happened in the past few hours. She didn't think it was possible but she'd fallen in love and the feeling was growing. A lot of other emotions were attached to this single feeling as well. She never felt so passionately about anyone before. The mates at work were just mates. She was one of the blokes. Worked just as hard or harder and she was good at it. Never in a million years had she thought that she might be…

'Are you a relative?'

'She's my…ehm…sister.' Jo lied.

'Oh. In that case, there are some forms you need to sign. How did she get hurt?' The Doctor asked.

'Her husband beat her.' Jo said matter-of-fact.

'Ah, a domestic. Should it come to court I recommend taking some photos.'

'Right, thanks.'

The Policeman from earlier approached them. 'Her husband claims that a bloke punched him up pretty good.'

'Do you have a description of this guy? Maybe I have seen him.' Jo chuckled.

'He wasn't that badly beaten up, but the bruises and calluses on his knuckles makes me suspect we have the wife-beater in custody. The thing is - can we convince the missus to charge him. We can't hold him otherwise.'

'I'll try to talk to her. She'll be staying with me for a while.' Jo said.

'Good luck, ma'am.'

* * *

Maddie was dreaming a nightmare with her body buried in the sand and her head exposed to the heat and sun. She felt an overwhelming sense of innocence lost and guilt gained as she remembered stabbing a young boy by accident. It was a decision of life and death and Gabrielle had to live with that decision. The horses came closer and closer. Soon it would be all over. The nightmare switched to another memory. Blood innocence lost. She held a bloodied dagger in her hands and saw the sacrificed priestess slump in front of her. It was an accident. She didn't kill her. She only held the knife. The young priestess walked into it.

She sat up abruptly sweating. Someone comforted her. Held her close. 'Xena, don't let Hope get Solan. Keep him away from her. Keep him safe.'

'Hush now, sweetheart. You'll be all right. You're safe now. Everybody's safe.'

Reassured, Maddie fell reluctantly into a delirious sleep and Jo slipped out to phone work that she might not be able to come in today.

* * *

The hospital allowed Jo to use the facilities and she gladly took advantage of a quick shower. It was a pity that after the scrubbing she had to put her work clothes back on.

Entering Maddie's room she was pleased to be greeted by a peculiar greeting.

'Good morning Xena.'

Maddie blushed in embarrassment. 'I'm sorry, Jo, I really thought you were…'

'Maybe I was…' Jo pondered, '…a long time ago.' She sat on the bed and a steely gaze locked with the young woman sitting up right in the hospital bed.

'I do not believe in souls - but I look into your eyes and I see my soul-mate.'

'I see only you… as you were. How can this be? I am happy to have found you. But so full of despair that I might lose you.' Maddie held up her hand with the wedding band. 'Because of this.' And she started to cry.

'Gabrielle, it’s not over. But we can still be together.'

'This situation is different, Xena. I'm married and he'll never divorce me.' Maddie cried.

'That doesn't matter. I have found you now. And I am here for you now.' Jo wiped Maddie's tears away.

They still looked deep into each other's souls in a moment of indecision.

* * *

After a few days of observation Maddie Hayes was discharged from hospital. Jo had told her that she had moved to another apartment and Maddie could stay with her. On the way Jo noticed a green sedan following them. The factory where she worked was nearby and she drove onto the terrain. The car followed them on as well.

'That's his car.' Maddie whispered huskily.

'We'll lose him soon. Hold on.' Jo instructed and she quickly went through various detours in quick succession. She drove around one piece of machinery as big as a house and chuckled with satisfaction when she saw the tail end of the sedan slip past.

'Time to turn the tables.' Accelerating quickly the truck slipped easily behind the green sedan. The driver tried desperately to shake the truck and turned into a dead end street.

'End of the line, bro.'

Jo stepped out of the truck and approached the sedan cautiously. The guy jumped out and aimed a gun at Jo. 'Hey take it easy, mate. No need sticking that thing in between a decent conversation.'

'You took my wife, buddy, and I want her back.' Hayes demanded.

Voices were heard in the distance and coming closer.

'Look mate, just put the piece away and we can sit down and just have a little chat.'

'No,' and Hayes started to shuffle towards the truck. With quick-witted action Maddie let the truck roar to life and reversed out of the alley just as some of Jo's colleagues rounded the corner. Distracted Hayes turned to look at the truck disappear. That was all that Jo needed to grab an aluminum trash can lid and lid and let it ricochet off the walls. The lid hit the gun and a shot resounded in the alleyway.

* * *

At their new apartment Maddie felt very comfortable in her new home. She felt happy and in love for the first time ever since her husband passed away. Her broken rib did not give her too much trouble as she nuzzled closer to her newfound soul mate.



'Nothing. Just wanted to make sure.' Giggled Maddie. 'I think I'll take up writing again. This will make a fascinating story.'

'Now I know I have my Bard back.' Mumbled Jo half-asleep. 'I'll never leave you Gabrielle.'

'Liar.' Maddie accused.

Opening an eye in surprise, 'What?'

'You keep on promising you'll never leave me and then our bodies die and we are separated again. Do me a favor, love. Don't promise me you'll never leave me. Promise to stay with me now.'

'I think I can do that. I'll stay with you now.'

Jo guided Maddie's chin up close to her own and sealed the pact with a kiss.



by Richard B.Kloosterboer


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