Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of RenPic and MCA, I just made them cry a bit, no permanent physical damage.
Sex or Violence: not this time, but I can not write about them as anything other than Soulmates and everything that implies.
Hurt Comfort: If Ive done this right, its a tearjerker. It takes place sometime between Family Affair and Animal Attraction
Thank you for the insights, Mary Morgan; for the effort and corrections, Ice. Fellow Quebecois, the McGarrigles, unwillingly provided some music and the title, and the Bards Tabloid Ballad is from the Childe collection. Its exact age cannot be determined.
Mail is gratefully received and answered Kamouraskan@yahoo.com
For Corey Lippert. We still miss you.
And Its Only Love
I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you...
I passed the scroll back to Gabrielle. She waited for some comment.
I grunted. "Really makes you want to read Day Two."
She sighed and looked over to the boy in the corner who sullenly ignored her. "This isnt working out exactly as I hoped."
Oh really. I just raised my eyebrows. Maybe I didnt think Id given her enough grief about this whole mission already. The kid had done nothing but curse and spit at us since we had snatched him from his home three days ago. Not that I blamed him.
She looked almost defeated. "Xena...?"
I got up and walked away from her, saying "Gabrielle? Your idea. Your problem."
She managed to hide the hurt, but I knew it still stung. Why did I say that? I was already committed to this dumb idea, why couldnt I be more supportive? It wasnt like I was wondering why Id agreed to it in the first place.
Because I knew why. Because she wanted me too. Because whatever Gabrielle wants, Gabrielle gets. But there were some things I couldnt give her. But simple resentment didnt explain why I would be trying to hurt her.
In spite of the turn down, she followed me over to Argo. A few seasons ago, my refusal would have been enough to shut her up. But not anymore.
Sometimes I missed those days.
I took out the curry comb and began to brush.
She said softly "I know you feel I forced you into this..."
I stopped her dead. "Gabrielle, you have never forced me into anything. But grabbing that kid was just one step short of kidnapping, and as far as hes concerned thats exactly what we did. Now you may have the law of your side, but I didnt see a bad home back there, or an unhappy kid. I do now."
Maybe I should have just punched her. It would have hurt both of us less.
When I showed Xena what Corin wrote, I dont know what I was expecting from her. Seemed like a great idea to give him the journal and a chance to express himself. Anything was better than the spitting and cursing. And maybe it will still help in the long run. There is still a long distance to go before we get to Olynthus. I hope I can figure out what is really going on here. Neither of us has been the same since I came up with this Gods damning mission. Maybe neither of us is really prepared to deal with the idea of returning a child to his mother. But why? Its possible that I should be the one writing things out...
You know what will happen to you when my FATHER catches up with you? Hes going to whip your asses so hard the only way youll be able to shit is when you cough.
I handed the scroll back to Gabrielle, just oozing sarcasm. "Oh, yeah, this is everything I was hoping for. I can see hes just going with the flow, now..."
Another damned sigh. "Xena..."
"Gabrielle. Youre asking me to what? To talk to the kid? Ive had my face covered with spit enough already in my life."
She still took my hand. "Im afraid to ask...but maybe if we could promise him that well take him back if..."
Now I WAS angry. "If it doesnt work out! 8 days travel through dangerous countryside, all to put everything right back the way it was! Gabri-elle!"
Well, I was certainly a pillar of support. Damn damn damn. Gods, when I am going to be able to talk, if only to the one person who means everything to me. She has so much love, and so much of it is wasted on one insensitive warrior.
I strode off, over to Argo, hoping at least my horse hadnt heard how stupid I had been. Spent the time trying to figure out what to say, how to apologize. Sure, I didnt believe in what we were doing, but how many times had I dragged her along against her beliefs?
I looked at the kid who was the root of my latest stupidity. Almost a man. Old enough to decide what he wanted. And if he wanted to stay with the Father who had raised him for 8 years, even if the guy was a bastard who had stolen him from his mother, who were we to decide for him? But Gabrielle and those incredible green eyes asked, "Lias doesnt even know if hes alive, Xena. Shes spent the past 8 years torturing herself, bankrupting herself, trying a dozen schemes to get him back, going to sleep each night wondering if shes done enough. We can do this for her, Xena. We can ease her heart."
Well, what about the kid? He was fine until wed showed up with all of our good intentions. Wed moved in on the family compound and met with no resistance but his. Kicking and screaming, and I hauled him off. Nothing that Gabrielle could say changed HIS mind. The moment his mother was mentioned, he would start this wawawawa noise and cover his ears like he was a child of five, and not a near man of almost 14. I looked at his sulky face on the other side of the camp. I wanted to tie him up after the last attempt at escape. Maybe my problem was just not getting enough sleep from having to catch him. Yeah.
No, so far, this had not been one of my better ideas. Xena and I were not talking. We were dragging a kid across territory where we could get him killed. And my warrior had known all along it would be like this. But I had asked, and she had gone along. Damn, I was lucky she hadnt left us both behind by now. But she wouldnt. Couldnt. And the same reason that kept her from doing that, was the thing I had used to force her on this trip. I hate this. And everytime I see the anger and pain in her face, I hate myself.
But Lias had been a good friend in Potadeia. She had been older and the first of my group to be married; to have a child, then two. I had liked her husband until I discovered how unhappy they were. He was Macedonian and had finally left her and the children to return home. Once in a while he would visit and ignore his older daughter and wife to take the boy off for trips. One day, he scandalized the village by returning accompanied by another woman. But he had opened a shop and agreed to sign Lias petition for separation. So to secure his cooperation, and to allow Corin the chance to have two parents, we tried to accept his presence. Then one bright day he had disappeared with the boy. The shop was found to have unpaid debts and an angry landlord. Petitions to the lords of the land had resulted in him being declared a kidnapper, but that didnt return her son. Days, months, then years passed. Each one filled with more schemes and plans by Lias to find him. Most of them using what little money she had or could raise. She had saved enough to go to Macedonia, only to be turned away by his family. She had hired people, sent letters, but there had never been any word. But Lias had never given up. Would never give up.
So. I had thought that here I was, righting wrongs with this great warrior. Maybe I could finally solve this great tragedy of my home and my past. Maybe I could help to bring a child and mother together for a change. But eight years is all a child can remember, and the boy-man we were dragging with us, was determined to bring no joy to anyones heart.
I really feel like a hero now.
Bitch and Femme arent talking. Dad told me that homos dont stick around together long, just long enough for sex. But I dont like the idea that maybe the big ones going to blow.
This one made me laugh. "Interesting mix. Ignorance AND insight." Gabrielle looked up at the unexpected sound. I squelched her hopefilled look quickly enough "Hurry up Gabrielle." I knew I was almost deliberately provoking another outburst from the harried bard as she struggled with our reluctant charge. But the ship I had found was ready to leave, and the horses were already boarded. We had been lucky to find anything headed for Potadaea that would take them and a boy being held against his will. From there it would only be a days ride to Olynthus, where with any luck we could rid ourselves of this 90 pound burden. Maybe things would get back to normal then. Maybe.
The original plan was to make the journey entirely by land, but here we were, getting ready to board a ship to cross the gulf. Gabrielle had suddenly proposed that we go by water, despite how much she hates the sea. I knew it was because of the guilt Ive made her feel, but I didnt turn her down. It saved too much time, and it made too much sense. Doesnt make me feel any better. The arrangements for passage and for four unhappy passengers took most of my attention, but now there was nothing to do but watch the love of my life avoid my eyes.
Even when I do make an attempt, "Gabrielle?"
"Yes?" If there was any anger or resentment in her tone, I could have handled that, but instead it looked as if she was bracing herself for another blow. Im was so angry at myself for making her feel this, that even though I knew shed feel worse, I just shook my head and moved to the edge of the dock.. Again she followed me. She shouldnt have. I turned on her, and I know she was surprised by the look in my eyes.
"Xena, we have to talk about..."
"No. Gabrielle! Nothings going to be solved right now with talk. Do you want me to believe in what were doing? Because I dont. I really would like to believe youre right, but YOURE not the person to argue that a child is SAFE with his mother, OKAY!"
The words were out of my mouth before I could call them back. Oh Gods, what had I said? Had I really said that? I think I would have felt better if she had slapped me. Done something. But she just flinched, and I saw her face shift, and then she was gone.
Where had that come from? When what I wanted to say was the exact opposite?
People want to know why I dont talk very much? They should just listen to me at times like these.
The ship hasnt set sail, and already Im trying every trick Xena taught me to hold my stomach in place. Since we had to bring both horses, we had only a few transports to choose from, and this one is also ferrying sheep. Why, by the Gods, would anyone be sending sheep to Potadaea? I cant imagine, but their smell reaches me with every creak of the spars. Thankfully the weather is clear, so that I can stay close to the side, breathing in as much fresh air as is possible on this scow.
I think about what just happened. I knew that she wanted me to leave her alone. But I just had to keep pressing. And even if I forgive her for what she said, the question as always is, can she forgive herself?
Gods, I wish she was here. Holding me. I know that with our luck Im more than likely to puke all over her. Im concentrating desperately on holding my queasiness at bay. In my mind I can see her face. I imagine I can feel her muscles relax as she secures her hold around me.
Ive got to figure out what is happening, I know theres only one thing that can hurt this badly, but I cant find the connection. I have to think, I need to write, but I dont think I can do two things at the same time.
Oh boy. I was wrong...
I saw a poster today with a drawing of my face. It weirded me out. Gotta be a set up.
Couldnt blame the kid for being freaked out. Gabrielle found the poster in a group of letters being sent back from Phila. It was one thing to be told that this woman was still sending them everywhere, still trying to contact anyone who could help her, but it was different actually seeing the physical proof of it.
Im not doing too much better. On the back, Gabrielle had written a poem. I was so delighted to see that she was writing, that it took me a moment to realize what it was about.
Some say a heart, is just like a wheel,
if you bend it,
you just cant mend it
But my love for you is like a sinking ship,
and my heart is on that ship out in mid ocean.
And its only Love, and its only Love
that can take a human being and tear them inside out
And its only Love. And its only Love.
I was staggered by this. What have I done? I treated her like dirt for days, I hit the woman in one of her most vulnerable spots, and now Im surprised that she has begun to doubt her love for me? What have I done?
Its almost nightfall. Well be in Potadaea tomorrow at this time. Xena and I even missed out on our usual argument about whether wed see my parents together, separately or at all. Shes been spending all of her time with the captain ever since she saw the poster, afraid to even look my way. Is this really about Corin, or is it about our children? Writing my poem did clarify things. I know that the link is love. But I need to know what she is thinking. The Gods know talking isnt going to work. Not yet. I have to believe it will come to me. Considering the way I feel right now, I could be completely crazed, but I have to trust my gut. Oh Gods, why did I put it that way! Got to go...
Weve docked off Potadaea. I dont know what going to happen, but Gabrielle has something up. She keeps staring at me.
Were on land again. Argo is almost as restless as I am to get into some open space. Gabrielle was so quiet as we disembarked, that I risked being stupid and checked her for fever. She gave me a wan smile, and grabbed her bags. There was an old Bard singing some song by the docks, but I took no notice until I saw Gabrielle stumble, and I was barely in time to catch her. There was a look of such pain and, I dont know, guilt in her eyes, that I was frightened for her. I was about to speak, when she held a finger to my lips and shushed me. I waited in that ridiculous position for a moment, until I saw that familiar comprehension fill her eyes.
She sat up, still in my arms and said. "You remember when we were under that spell by Aphrodite? And neither of us could see what the other was obsessing about because of our own enchantment? Well, I think Ive just broken mine. Were going to be fine, love. Just trust me. You do trust me?"
I was about to say something, but she held her finger in its place on my mouth, and said, "just nod" and I smiled and did just that. Then she broke away from me, and ran over to give the old Bard some dinars.
Ever since then, she has had that look she has when shes figuring out one of those puzzle boxes. I dont know whats going to happen, but already I feel a thousand times better.
I dont know when I really became aware of the story that the old man was singing. I was still concentrating on our problems, when it finally penetrated this thick skull.
She went back to her fathers home, al-ali-a-loney
There she had two fine babes born, down by the green wood side-e-o
She took out her wee pen knife, o-ally-a-loney
There she took those two babes lives, down by the greenwood side-e-o
Suddenly that cracked old voice was all I could hear, and it filled my mind until I thought it would explode.
She rubbed the blade against her shoe, all-a-li-a-loney
More she rubbed, the redder it grew, down by the greenwood side-e-o...
I dont remember falling, all I knew was the pain and the guilt and anguish until the moment I saw my own emotions reflected back to me in those perfect blue eyes of the woman holding onto me, the woman who also held my soul. The woman who was suffering as I was, because of the shared belief, almost resentment, that Lias had never given up on her child, never let go of, dare I say it, never let go of hope.
And then I knew what I had to do.
It was dark when I took Corin down to the market. It wasnt too difficult to find one of the posters of him. He could see it had been there for a while, and I know that had an effect. He didnt seem to remember anything about home, but at least he was talking to me, even if it was mainly irritated little grunts. Im used to that, anyways.
I was glad that it was night. I was still trying to avoid anyone we knew; I just had to hope that if word got to my parents and Lila that Id been through, wed be back in time to apologize. Things have to be settled before I get involved in those old complications.
I found an ad for one of Lias concerts to raise money for the search for Corin. I tore it off the post and put it into his hands. I think he was ready to tear it up but he couldnt. He didnt say anything for the longest time, until finally he looked up and said "It wasnt a trick, was it?" I shook my head. That was a start. Now would come the hard part.
I dont know what to think. The poster was supposed to be a part of a series of shows. For me? If everything I thought I knew was a lie, then how can I trust this?
We slept out of doors last night so that Gabrielle wouldnt be spotted in town. I dont feel very good about that. What she needs after the last few days is someone, her family, who can show that they love her. And I am still too tied up in knots. The thought of taking this punk back in a few days isnt helping. I wish I knew what she had planned; her expression hasnt given me much comfort.
This morning I awoke to a grey sky and a cold bedroll. I dont think Xena ever came to bed. So I was determined that we would face some demons this morning, before we rode another league.
I called Xena over. She came like I was asking for a tooth, but she hunched her back and came. I whispered that I was about to force the issue with Corin, and I needed her nearby. She knew I was lying, at least partly, but she stayed by his side.
He wasnt a stupid boy. He was about as tensed up as Xena, and twice as worried. So I smiled as artlessly as I could and sat in front of him.
"Could I have the poster?" I asked.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the concert ad wed found the night before.
I took it from him and as I unfolded it, I explained. "Shes been doing dozens of these, in towns across the peninsula, you know. Some very good musicians and bards have performed at them. I even did a couple."
He stared at the ground for a while until I heard him mumble. "My Dad...he lied about her, didnt he?"
"He told you that your Mom didnt care, that she just let you go? That she just did stuff to cause trouble?"
There was slight nod.
I said with a vehemence that surprised both of us. "Then he lied. Big time."
He absorbed that for a moment. I waited.
"I wasnt much older than you are now, when you...were taken from her. I had never seen a woman I knew, in so much pain before. It was a gradual thing. She kept thinking that it was a mistake, or a cruel trick. That shed answer the door and there you would be... When it became clear that hed planned this to be forever...."
"She really hurt?" Under my breath I cursed his father that Corin even had to ask.
"Of course! She was a mother." I heard the grunt from my warrior at this, and I felt the same pain in my own heart. I chickened out, because I changed the subject. "Then there were the problems with your sister..."
"Yeah, your big sister. Luthra had different problems about you being taken. She loved you, but she had to deal with a broken mother, and a father who left her behind because he only wanted the boy child. Try to picture living through all the attempts by your Mom, year after year, to get you back, to find out how you were. Using what little money they had, spending her time trying to raise more. Going to all these meetings, and crying in her room at night. Luthra was pretty messed up by it, can you see that?"
He nodded quietly.
"She had a lot of uncertainty... dealing with resenting you and still missing you."
He looked like he could imagine it too well. He looked down again, and mumbled "they should have just forgotten about me."
This was it. I took a deep breath, knowing that every word I was about to say would tear at my warrior and myself.
"She couldnt do that, Corin. She was a mother. She couldnt help but wonder about what you were doing, what you thought of her, whether she was doing enough. Can you imagine, losing your child? Not knowing if they were alive or dead, safe and fed? Every night trying to sleep, not knowing anything? Thats what a mother does. They cant help it...." I didnt know how I was saying this. It felt like every word was dripping with hypocrisy coming from me, but I had to get through it for this boy, for Xena.
"Theyll hate me...."
I took the fists he had formed, and held them tightly. "No. The moment she sees you will be the moment shes dreamed of every night for 8 years. I know that, without any doubt. It will be the same for your sister too. This is their dream for eight years."
"I thought they...he said that..." and it all burst out of him, and even as I felt Xena leave, her own tears close to the surface, I could only pull him to me and try to murmur some comfort. I watched my warrior stumble away, and still I rocked this child saying, "your momma loves you, your momma has always loved you..."
I waited until he quieted, and faced his tear streaked face with my own. I carefully gave him back the poster. "I want you to look at this, and think about what it means. Youre old enough to make your own choice, but this woman has worked so hard, for so many long years. She deserves to hold her son, look into his eyes, and know that at least hes alive. Can you do that much?" There was another nod, and I left him to find the other one in distress.
She was sitting alone on a outcropping. She knew I was there, but she didnt move.
I perched beside her and gave her some time. Finally she broke the silence. "Thats what mothers do. Youre right. Thats what they should do." She turned her painfilled face to me. "What can you think of me?" then she turned away again. I began speaking in a casual tone.
"All week Ive been wondering what was going on with us, you know. I couldnt figure out what our problem was, but I began to realize that you didnt either. I was so caught up in the same blind spot, that I had to remove it before I could understand. At first I thought it was because Corin was the same age as Solon, but it wasnt that simple. Here we were, finding someones elses child, someone who has spent every moment in an obsession to retrieve a lost child, when youve never stopped beating yourself up for leaving Solon with the Centaurs."
She muttered "Abandoned him..."
Now was not the time to be gentle. I grabbed that face and held her gaze, our faces almost touching. "Xena! How many times have you wanted to leave me behind, because you thought it was best for me? Even after you knew it would tear you apart? And the only thing that stopped you was ME. Telling you I was an ADULT who made her own choices. And thats traveling with the person you are NOW! Not the warlord who you thought would poison a childs spirit and mind.
"You know, the only time I ever feel a moments pity for you, is when I think of that poor young woman. Giving birth alone. Not knowing what the next day would bring. Giving her child to the only people she knew would raise her son with respect, and safety and love."
I dont know who was crying more now. But I had just one thing I had to make her understand.
"Both you and Lias had your children taken from you. You hear me? You had no more choice in it than she did. No more choice,... than I had." I heard a muffled sob, I dont know whose it was, but I gripped her shoulders with all the strength I had left. "No choices Xena, they were TAKEN, taken from us. Please, can we be happy for her? And can we try to heal our wounds? Please, can we be happy for her..."
Xena took my hands and wrapped them in her own. "Only of you can try to remember that you did fight for your child. You fought ME, you did everything a mother should do...you loved your child, Gabrielle..."
Everything seemed so simple for that one moment. "Did I?"
And she was holding me saying "We loved our children, Gabrielle, We both loved them so much..."
Got up this morning feeling I needed to pee, but couldnt. Gabrielle told me its going to be okay, but I dont know these people. I dont know what to say, or what they want from me I really dont want to be here. I wish I could pee.
"More information than I needed." I laughed, feeling just light enough to look forward to the day for the first time in I dont know how long. Waking beside Gabrielle was almost a cure for the aches I felt. Sometimes a cry like that is worse than a battle with a dozen fighters.
I reread her poem. The one that nearly destroyed me. I forgot that there are so many kinds of love. Its only love, that can take a human being and turn them inside out... and that was the puzzle solver for her. A mothers love. Even a fathers love. That was what had brought us all to this place.
Would this rescue blow up in all our faces? Could all these bent hearts ever be mended? It wasnt a relaxed group that rode into Olynthus.
We arrived right about lunchtime, and I was thinking that they would hear my stomach before the horses. Corin was so tense. I kept reassuring him, but he wasnt able to relax. We pulled up outside the house where Lias was staying , and I left Corin with Xena. All my anticipation died upon approaching that door. After all the years of wanting to help her, was it too late to repair the damages? I realized that I had made this a quest, never really realizing what its result would be. I hesitated, wondering whether all I had done was let my own ego damage this family even further, when the door opened. Lias is a large woman now, but the friend of my childhood is still there under the worry lines. She gave me a delighted grin and pulled me inside, babbling about how long it had been. I waited until she ran down, and then took a chair out for her, and sat her down in it.
Before she could ask anything, I said "Xena and I went to Macedonia, Lias."
Her breath stopped. "Did you see..."
I nodded. "We went to his fathers house. But...he didnt want to come with us."
Lias let out the breath she had been holding, and I saw the pain of flash through her eyes "How is he, is he..."
I cut her off. "He didnt want to come...so we tied him up, and brought him against his will."
"Hes outside, Lias."
Her heart must have stopped, she was so silent. I filled the hush. "Hes very scared, Lias."
I dont know if she heard me. "Outside...?"
"He doesnt know what to expect..."
I thought she would break down, but she found the strength inside of her; her need to see her son holding her together, and she shouted to her daughter, "Luthra, come! Come NOW! Luthra, please..."
I began to get so worried that she would think that this was the picture perfect reunion with that long ago lost little boy, so I still tried to caution her as she began to wipe her face. She ignored me and threw open the door and ran into the yard. "Where? Where?" was all she said and I pointed.
He seemed very small for a young man at that moment; standing there like a new colt on unsteady legs. And he didnt sound like a man when he saw his mother swooping down to him. She fell to her knees before him and he cried like a child "Momma. Momma."
I looked to my warrior, and I saw the tears in her eyes as well. Watching, I cried for them, for us, for Solon and for Hope. Wanting to believe that we had taken one more step to forgiving each other and ourselves, that maybe it would be easier tomorrow. wanting to really share Lias joy.
Sometimes Mom just stares at me like a sculpture and I dont really like it. Shes very protective of me, and likes to touch me a lot. But I know shes worried that Dad is going to take me, or that maybe I wont stay. But I know this is where I was supposed to be. This is my home. If Dad comes, Ill tell him that. He shouldnt have lied. No kid should be told that his mother didnt want him. Luthra and I were weird at first. Shes not what I remember, and Im not the baby she remembers. But its neat having a sister, and when Mom gets all strange, its good that there is someone who understands.
So the kid doesnt fit in perfectly, but both he and Gabrielle are writing away, and I take that as being a good sign. I made sure that a warning was sent back to Macedonia that we wouldnt be just passing through if Corins father decided to interfere in their lives ever again. Sometimes being the Warrior Princess can simplify things, sometimes it doesnt. Visiting Gabrielles parents next, comes to mind.
There are still problems here, and I see that Lias is afraid to yell at Corin when he does something wrong, but I think that will come. She took me aside at least a dozen times to thank me, usually just repeating herself, but I feel I should be thanking her. We all needed to find out that in our own way, we had sacrificed for our children. The cycle of guilt is harder to break than the cycle of violence. We all need some Love and forgiveness for knowing that in some way we all failed our children
We stayed for several days, until both Xena and I became restless. I havent told her yet that we wont stay with my parents on the way home, I think Ill let her suffer for a while yet. But we need time alone together. Both my warrior and I still have to put to rest our own lost children, and remember that there was love, that there is love.
I know I still need to find forgiveness. Please, let it be there.
Return to The Bard's Corner