Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all other associated with the television series of the same name are owned by MCA/ Universal Pictures. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: I guess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes they are in love with each other.
Violence: None. Only Xena doing sword drills.
Other: Part twenty in the series "Raising Melosa". Most of the Melosa stories have a gap of about six months between them, but this one takes up about a week after "If You Love Something". Also, youll be getting these next several parts from Xenas POV.
The Depth of Love
I sat next to our bed and watched her. It had been a week since she had been hurt and she hadnt opened her eyes yet, but she was alive and I thanked the Gods everyday for that. Her head was bandaged, as were the other wounds she had received when the tower collapsed. I made sure they were treated and changed everyday I didnt want to take a chance on infection setting in.
I took her hand and kissed it. "Its a beautiful day. You really should open your eyes and take a look for yourself. You know me, I just cant do it justice with words." I kept a light tone to my voice. It was important now. "Time to work those beautiful legs of yours." I laid her hand to rest and pulled the blankets back.
I sat on the edge of the bed and massaged her legs and then carefully began manipulating them to work the muscles. "Kessa and Rosa seemed to have gone on a strike over eating potatoes at the moment. Neither one of them will touch them. We just cant figure it out. No matter how Cook prepares them they refuse to eat them."
I paused and took the other leg in hand and worked in the same fashion. "Mel is doing very well with her studies. Shes talking to me again, sort of. Its very stilted, but its something. We miss you sweetheart. Its kind of hard for us to work through this with out you. Were so damn much alike. I know, I know watch my language."
The door opened and Mel brought in a tray with three bowls of soup. "I thought we could eat with her today." She said as she sat the tray down on the desk.
"Im sure shed like that." I pulled a chair up for Mel and sat her down next to her mother and we settled into having our meal. I gave Mel her bowl and I took one and prepared to try and get some soup down Ri. It wasnt easy, but it was something. "How were studies today? I was just telling your mom how well youre doing."
"They were okay." She said between bites. "I still dont get philosophy."
I chuckled. "Youre not supposed to thats the point."
"Its silly to waste time on something like that."
"Well one of these days it may come in handy."
"Yeah just like math." She giggled. I hadnt heard her giggle in over a week. I smiled at her and for just a brief second she smiled back at me before she found her soup more interesting. "Hows she doing?"
"Shes holding her own. Thats good. Its about the best we can hope for right now." I paused and stirred the soup. "You know its okay to laugh in here. I think its good for her to hear us." I said without looking up as I got a little more of the soup down Ris throat.
"Do you think she can?"
"I like to think she can."
"You really love her huh? I mean, really, really love her."
"There was a time in my life when I would have followed her to the other side immediately, even if it meant falling on my own sword to do it, but that changed the day you were born. Now my promise to her is to stay behind with you and your brothers and sisters until its my time to join her. Thats how much I love her." I heard my voice shake. "Thats how much I love all of you." I took a cloth and carefully wiped Ris face as I sat the bowl aside. "You know what your mom needs?"
"She needs some sunshine. Why dont you go get my chair ready?"
She perked up. "Okay." She sat her bowl to the side and ran from the room. I uncovered Ri and very gently picked her up in my arms cradling her head against my chest.
"Lets take you out into the fresh air sweetheart." I carried her out to the porch. Mel had moved my chair into the sun and I sat down and cradled Ri in my arms. Mel brought out a blanket and we covered her up to keep her warm. I held her and kissed her on the forehead. "See I told you it was a beautiful day." Mel sat on the steps and watched me. I smiled down at her as I rested my cheek against Ris forehead, humming to her softly.
I smiled. It was the first time in a week she had called me that. She had simply avoided calling me anything. "Yes Mel."
"What if shes like this for a long time?"
"Well then well take it one day at a time and well get through it together. All of us."
We sat in the sun for a while taking in some fresh air. Just as we were about to go in Kai and Auto (yes he named the puppy after Autolycus, but we called him Auto), came charging around the house at full speed making more noise than a boy and a dog should be allowed.
"Hey quiet down you two!" Mel ordered.
"Says who?" Kai challenged. I just smiled and waited to see if I was going to have to get in on this.
"I do." Mel said as she stood up and walked out into the yard to meet her brother and the puppy that ran circles around them both yapping and carrying on. "Mom has Momma out here for some air and the last thing she needs is you making a bunch of noise."
Kai looked up to the porch and noticed us for the first time. "Im sorry Mom." He said as he climbed the steps and drew close to us. "Can I give her a kiss?"
"Of course you can. Shed love that." I ran my fingers through his hair. He leaned over and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek.
"I love you Momma. Wait til you see how big Auto has gotten. Hes really smart too." He talked to her just as I told them they should, just as if she could hear every word. The puppy slowly climbed the steps and crept forward to us. He raised his nose and sniffed before getting any closer. Soon he was at Kais side sitting down with his tail thumping on the porch. Kai took Ris hand and placed it on the pups head. Auto lifted his head and managed to give her hand a little lick. "He misses you too Momma. We all do."
I gave Kai a scratch on the head. "Im gonna take Momma inside now okay?"
"Kay. Can I get the door?"
"Thatd be a great help. Mel will you take the blanket?"
"Sure." She came and collected the blanket, holding the chair still as I rose to my feet with our precious bundle.
Ironic, the woman who had given birth to my children, who had loved them and cradled them now herself was not more than a babe in my arms, while the children had become assistant caretakers for her. Back in our room I found the bed linens had been changed and was freshly turned down. Karra no doubt. She and Cook had become a great source of comfort and strength in these past few days. I placed her in bed and covered her up, giving her a kiss as I did. "Ill be back soon sweetheart."
I stood up and stretched. It was a good stretch, but it reminded me that I needed to get some exercise too. I gathered the dishes and the tray and my sword from the cabinet and left the room closing the door behind me. I took the dishes to the kitchen, where I found cook and Karra sitting at the table peeling potatoes. I smiled. "Youre not going to give up are you Cook?"
"No maam Im gonna find a way to get those babies to eat these things if it kills me."
"Yeah well theyve got Ris stubborn streak in them so it may take while." I said with a chuckle as I snatched a piece of potato and popped it in my mouth. "Im going out to do a few drills. Check on her in a bit will you?"
"Of course we will child." Karra said as she took to clearing the dishes I brought in. "You didnt eat your food."
"I wasnt very hungry."
"Youve got to keep your strength up too you know." She said as she put the scraps in a bowl for Auto.
"I promise to have a big serving of the evening meal. I like potatoes." I gave her a kiss on the forehead and went out the side door.
I walked down a well-worn path toward the river. How many times had Ri and I walked this path arm in arm, taking evening walks, picnics with the children, just taking the time to get away and be together for a few moments.
I stopped at the spot we had decided was our favorite and began a series of sword drills. It felt good to allow my mind and body the release of the guilt, frustration and the anger I felt. I could almost feel the energy tearing through my body into my hands as it seemed to discharge through my blade. After what seemed like forever I gave a final yell and plunged the sword straight into the ground and sank to me knees, crying.
I allowed myself this burst of emotion. I knew holding it back would only serve to hurt the ones I loved later. I was alone now and this could only help. I got it under control and fell back. Sitting there in the meadow, leaning back on my hands I realized that I must have spent the last two candle marks drilling. I needed to get home. I pulled my sword out, (which was no easy task I had buried it to the hilt, talk about frustrated) wiped it off and headed back to the house.
As I approached the house I heard the familiar creaking of Solans wagon and took to a sprint. I arrived in the front of the house just as he pulled up. He waved and smiled as he got out and took little Gabrielle from Alana. "Hello Mother." He said as he merely switched the sword for the baby without any further comment. Alana climbed out of the wagon and just stood there smiling at me as I gave my granddaughter a kiss.
"Whaaat?" I inquired of them with a grin.
"Nothing." My daughter grinned back as she just simply went into the house.
I turned to Solan. "Tell me."
"Well Alana and I have been discussing a few things and Im going to go to Amphipolis and get Grandma. She wrote me right before Mom got hurt and said that shes thinking of closing the tavern. We decided to see if she wants to come here and stay with us."
"She wrote you and not me? Wonder why?"
"Well actually she did, but I kept it because of everything that was going on. Ive got here if you want it."
"Thatd be nice thank you very much." I said as I snatched the parchment from his hand. "Your Daddy is a brat you know that?" I said to my granddaughter who giggled madly at me as she reached for the parchment in my hand.
I handed her to Solan and unfolded the letter from my mother.
My Dear Daughters,
Well it seems that the time has finally come for me to make a decision and taking just a little of your strength, I have done it. Ive decided to close the inn. I need to relax and enjoy my life a bit now. With all these beautiful grandchildren and my first great grandchild I want to spend some time with all of you.
Please send word when you get this and we will see where we should go with this.
"Hmm well it would seem that youve decided this without my help." I said to him as we walked into the house.
"Well we thought now might be a good time to see if Grandma wanted to come stay with Alana and I. We have plenty of room and shed be close to you. Im leaving in the morning and I wanted to come see Mom before I left."
I nodded my understanding and took him to our room. "Hey Grandma." I said softly as I knelt next to the bed. "Look whos here to see you." I took the baby from Solan and held her close to Ri.
"Nanna." She said as she leaned over and kissed her grandmother. "Nanna." I smiled as I ran my fingers through her blonde hair. Gods how could a child that was not directly related to my wife in any way look so much like her. I picked the baby up and took my place in my chair with her as Solan took a seat next to Ri on the bed and took her hand.
"Hi Mom. Im gonna go get Grandma. Youd better get up or shell kick your butt when she gets back here." He kissed her hand. "Your granddaughter misses your stories. Every time Lan or I try to tell her a story she just keeps saying Like Nanna, like Nanna. You gotta come back and tell this child a story."
Little Gabrielle rocked forward and reached for her father. He took her and gave Ri a kiss before standing up. Alana came in quietly and sat on the other side of the bed. "Hows she doing?"
"Well I guess shes doing okay." I said as I got up and latched the window closed to keep the afternoon breeze from blowing directly onto the bed. "Im hoping shell come around in a day or two."
"Is there anything I can do? I could take Kessa and Rosa for a few days if youd like. With Solan being gone "
"No thats okay. Weve got everything under control here. I like having all the children here with her. Im hoping that one of them may be able to reach her. Thanks for the offer though. Speaking of my son the traveler, if you need anything while hes gone "
"Ill manage." She said with a wave of her and a smile. "Its not as if you dont have enough to worry about."
"Lan honey can you take the baby and give us a moment?" Solan handed the baby to his wife and she left the room, closing the door behind her.
Solan turned to me and put his hands on my shoulders. "I want you to know that if I could " There were tears in his eyes.
"I know, I know." I hugged my son and whispered again. "I know."
"I hate it that I cant interfere. That Im so damn powerless with all of this."
"Its okay. Your Moms a fighter shell be back soon."
"Im just so sorry "
"Dont be sorry over something you cant do anything about son. She wouldnt want that and neither do I. Just let her know you love her. Thats the most important thing."
He broke our embrace and wiped his eyes, nodding as he did. "Well shell have no choice about getting up once Grandma gets here." He said trying to lighten the mood once again.
"Probably not. Listen, why dont you and Lan spend the day and stay for the evening meal. Im not sure what the main course is, but I know for a fact were having potatoes of some kind."
"Sounds good." He smiled and gave me a pat on the shoulder before leaving the room.
I took a deep breath and realized I was a little more than ripe, from drilling in the afternoon sun. "Hey beautiful how bout a bath. Thatll make us both feel better."
I asked Solan to fill the tub with water as I prepared Ri for a bath. It meant being very careful of her wounds and taking extra precautions, but she had always so enjoyed a bath that I wasnt about to start denying them to her now.
I leaned her back against me in the tub and bathed her very gently. Careful not to open and of her stitches and taking the time to really examine her and make sure everything was healing properly. I had un-wrapped her head so I could wash her hair and was pleased to see that the spot where the wood had been removed from seemed to be healing very nicely. "Ah its barely going to scar sweetheart." I told her as I washed her hair. "I envy you my little bard. After all the things weve been through youve barely a mark to show for it, I on the other hand am a walking example of what happens when to get too close the business end of a sword." After we were both bathed I just held her there awhile, relaxing and allowing us a few moments of peace and quiet together.
Before re-wrapping her head wound I wanted to make sure her hair was brushed the way she like it. True I didnt have the patience to give it a hundred strokes of each side like she did, but I did a pretty good job. To me it looked just as good after fifty as it did after a hundred. How many nights had I lain stretched out on the bed watching her sit at her table preparing for bed? It was always the same routine; first she would rub a cream on her hands that she insisted I make for her. She said it kept them soft for me. Couldnt argue there, it seemed to work pretty well. Then the hair, hundred stokes of the brush on each side. I never heard her counting, but I couldnt help do it once in awhile while watching her. She never missed a stroke.
She was dressed in a fresh sleeping gown and safely back in bed. I had just finished tying up my own robe when Mel came in and sat down at Ris table and took the bush and began brushing her own hair. "Cook said that the evening meal will be ready soon and that you should be prepared to eat a lot." She said as she stared at her reflection in the polished metal.
"Well she wasnt real happy with me earlier." I said as I picked up a few items that had just been tossed around the room over the last couple of days. I looked up at Mel who seemed totally mesmerized by her reflection. "Honey is there something wrong?" She looked at me and then back to her reflection and then back to me. "Mel "
She took one long last look and then ran across the room and threw herself in my arm crying. "Im sorry!"
I wrapped her in my arms and cradled her. "Shhh sweetheart its okay. Sorry for what?"
"Look " She pointed at the metal plate. We were both reflected there, both of us with our dark hair and blue eyes. In a household of blonde hair and green eyes, my little girl had finally made the connection. "I really am a part of you arent I?"
"Oh little one you are more than a part of me. You are one of the things that makes me complete."
"Then Artemis really did take a part of you "
"Yes little one she really did."
"Im sorry Momma. Im so sorry."
"Dont be. I know it was hard to understand, but I sure am glad you do now. Ive missed you Princess." I said as I hugged her close to me.
"Ive missed you too." She said as she gave me a kiss for the first time in more than a week. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world, to have my little girl back.
In the evening after everyone else had eaten and all the children were tucked in. I returned to our room with more broth. I sat down and prepared to feed her. "You know they hate my stories. They always look so damn bored. No one can weave a tale like you do my love." I gave her the first spoonful of broth.
"Kessa and Rosa still arent eating potatoes. Cook tired something she called smashing them. They were good, but they sure as Tartarus didnt look like potatoes when she got done with them. Personally I think she was just taking out her frustrations on poor helpless vegetables." A little more of the broth went down her throat.
"Mel and I made up today, but you probably know that already dont you? You were probably eavesdropping on every word we said. I know how nosey you are." I wiped a drop of broth away before continuing.
"I suppose I should tell you now before you find out later, Auto chewed up your favorite pair of foot coverings today. What is that? Number seventy-two or some where around there? Weve kind of lost track since you arent here to keep count for us. Kai thought for sure that he and Auto were headed for the barn. I let Kai stay in the house, but Auto was relegated to the back porch."
I turned to reach for the cloth I had dropped, when I turned back to her I nearly dropped the bowl. She had opened her eyes. With shaky hands I sat the bowl down and took her hand. "Ri? Honey can you hear me?"
Her eyes focused on me, but she didnt say anything.
"Hi beautiful. Welcome back. Its good to see you." I felt the tears slip down my cheeks as my voice cracked. She continued to stare at me looking very confused. "Just rest darling. Thank the Gods youre back."
Her face contorted, as she seemed to be trying to form words. She closed her eyes and I could tell she was trying to reach for a lost word. There was some amnesia with this head wound. I guess that was to be expected. "Easy sweetheart. Dont strain yourself. Theres plenty of time."
"A dog " I had never heard two sweeter words in my life than those two as I nodded my head and bit down on my bottom lip and the smile that played there as the tears fell freely from my eyes.
"Yup a dog." I said as I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.
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