Xena and Gabrielle work through some post-obsession issues following Aphrodite’s mischief in the third season episode FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS. I dedicate this fish … um … story to "Momma ROC." -- IQ
"Gabrielle…. Think there’s something about yourself you’re not satisfied with."
"Humph. Other than the fact that no one gives me credit for anything, and everyone thinks I’m a silly sidekick?"
Gabrielle swept the man’s legs from under him and whirled to defend against two more attackers. Except, they suddenly went flying across the room. She looked up to see a pair of brown boots attached to a leather-clad body swinging from a rope wrapped around a ceiling beam. The boots hit a wall, ran around it, pushed off, and disappeared into a handful of gang members, who crashed to the floor like pottery. Only one dared – or could – get up.
Xena somersaulted the short distance to her last opponent, did a handstand, locked her legs around his upper body, and tossed him out the door. Some of the inn patrons began tying up the bodies littering the place. Others surrounded their hero.
"Did you see that?!" A boy imitated Xena’s moves. "Whop! Bam! Plunk!"
"Thank the gods you came! We are forever in your debt."
Xena held up her hand. "I’m glad we could –."
"Xeena! Xeena! Xeena!"
Xena beckoned for Gabrielle to join her. "Listen, if it wasn’t for – ."
"Xeena! Xeena! Xeena!"
The warrior grabbed Gabrielle and pushed their way through to the stairs. She stood on the second step. "Quiet! Everybody settle down!"
The crowd’s yells dimmed to murmurs.
"In case you didn’t notice, there’s another name ya oughtta be shouting." Xena beamed at her partner. "Gabrielle!"
"Yeah, she’s a cutie."
"A ‘cutie’?!" Xena’s eyes narrowed at the man unfortunate enough to notice the wrong physical asset. "She could take you out with one swing. Like she did those thugs."
"Um, Xena?" Gabrielle tugged on her partner’s arm.
"No." The warrior pulled loose. She stepped down and glared at the speaker before sweeping her eyes around the others gathered. "I don’t need thanks. Since you’re givin’ it, give it to both of us."
"Yes," a woman agreed, "the child did help. It’s only right –."
"Xena, really. Please don’t make a –."
"What? A scene? We already did that, dontcha think? They seemed to like my act well enough." Xena pointed at the bound ruffians. "This ‘cute child’ was in it the whole way. Sweatin,’ puttin’ everything on the line while the rest of ya gawked. Maybe fear’s made you forget your manners?" She cupped her hand to her ear. "Now, what was it you wanted to say?"
"Thank you, Gabrielle," a few mumbled.
"Sorry. Didn’t quite hear that."
The whole roomed seemed to take a deep breath before erupting in, "Thank you, Gabrielle!"
Xena nodded. "All right then. C’mon, Gabrielle. We’re done here." She strode through the path that opened to the exit.
"Xena?" The warrior was already untethering Argo when Gabrielle caught up to her. "What’s gotten into you? I mean, I appreciate –."
"Idiots." Xena muttered to herself as she led the trio to the road out.
"That really wasn’t necessary. I don’t need –."
"You do." Xena kept striding as if toward some battlefield. "They do. I do."
Gabrielle struggled to keep up. "Is this about that spell Aphrodite put on us? Because of my babblings about being overlooked? Your promise to give me more credit?"
Mouth puckered, Xena kept her gaze forward. "It’s about time. Shoulda seen it before."
Gabrielle put her hand on the warrior’s arm. "Xena, I know you appreciate me. You’re the only one I care about."
The warrior stopped. "You care about this hero stuff, right? Ya want it to be about entertainment? Who can do the best flips?" She snorted in disgust. "I didn’t mind so much, when it was mainly me. It’s not anymore. There’s a ‘cute’ village girl, who didn’t have to be a seasoned killer to protect people from one. From bunches of `em at a time. If folks can’t see that, what’s the point?" She turned and continued down the road.
Gabrielle stared open mouthed at the warrior’s back. For once at a loss for words.
"Xena?" Gabrielle scowled at her companion. "You been using my scrolls again? In the bushes?"
"Could’ve sworn this piece was longer."
"Huh." Xena glanced innocently at the object in question. "Nope, learned my lesson about that mistake." She resumed saddling Argo. "Sure you didn’t mix it up with another one? Maybe write more’n you thought?"
"Well …. I did kinda go … overboard … with my musings." Gabrielle winced. "Most of it not fit for intelligent consumption."
"Um, it was during my obsession with myself. My perfection." Gabrielle shuddered. "You know – `I’m the ultimate fantasy?’"
"Ah. Your ‘little minx’ phase. You mention nearly drowning in your reflection? Spitting in my face?"
"Funny. But no. At least not the part about you." Gabrielle smirked. "You weren’t exactly the center of my attention then."
"Only fair. After all, you worked the hardest acquiring the Mystic Diamond. What with the teensy distraction I had fishing."
"`Teensy?!’ You take even understatement to the limit."
"What’s that s`posed ta mean?"
"Fishing? Like you need more enchantment to go off the deep end there." Gabrielle slid her eyes Xena’s way. "I’d say you had a ‘teensy’ issue with obsessions long before Aphrodite’s spell."
"Pffft. Name one."
"Let’s see …. Keeping weapons outta my hands. Protecting me from unsavory types."
"Lotta good that did."
"Heh. Didn’t say it had to." Gabrielle sighed. "We won’t count Hope. That one did work. Eventually. Thankfully." She exchanged sad smiles with Xena. "And what about this giving me credit thing? Don’tcha think you’re getting a tad carried away?"
Xena adjusted her bracers. "If you only knew," she said under her breath.
"What was that? You agreeing with me?"
"I’m used to going full out. Not pulling punches. It’s possible my … focus … gets a little extreme sometimes."
"Uh huh. Nothing half-hearted about the Warrior Princess. One of the things I love, by the way." Gabrielle studied the scroll in her hand. "Wouldn’t set a good example, I guess, obsessing over this." Shrugging, she stuck it in her bag. "Could be I’m getting addled in my advancing years."
"Hope not. Not this soon anyway. By your 20’s, I’ll have to leave you somewhere for safe keeping." Xena smirked. "Aphrodite. She’ll keep ya young."
"Brrrr. More like truly drive me to early crone-age."
"Eh, I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ve been a busy girl. Lots on your mind." Xena finished securing the bedrolls to Argo’s back. "Ready?"
"Uh huh." Gabrielle slung her bag over her shoulder. "I have," she said as they walked to the road. "Been pretty busy, I mean. Is it my imagination? Does it seem we’ve run into more trouble lately?"
"Well …." Xena quickly conjectured plausible explanations. "We’re headed toward a port town. Roads’re usually more traveled. Rougher elements – sailors, pirates, sea-faring merchants."
"Wish they’d take a break." Gabrielle inspected her palms. "My hands’re starting to look like I’ve been chopping trees for a season."
Xena chewed her lip, mainly to conceal a guilty grin. "Um, I’ll work on your staff for ya. Smooth it up some. Not sure it’ll help the calluses much."
Gabrielle chuckled. "Maybe a wooden chakram? Could use that sometimes instead of my staff."
"Heh. Might not be as accurate." Xena squinted into the distance. "Uh oh. Thick smoke to the left. Beyond that hill. Could be nothing. Had enough excitement, or wanna check it out?"
Gabrielle studied the geyser of soot. "It’s not a field burning. Too concentrated. Something big though. Yeah, better see what’s up."
Xena vaulted aboard Argo, pulling Gabrielle up behind her. A breakneck ride brought them close enough to see a barn on fire. A handful of warriors stood between some farmers and the blaze. Xena reined in Argo a few feet away.
"Need a hand?"
One of the warriors sauntered over. He noted Xena’s weapons and warhorse. "You lookin’ fer work?"
"Maybe. Whatcha got in mind?"
"Folks `round here a little stubborn about payin’ their taxes. Wouldn’t hurt ta have another … collector."
"Hmmm." Xena stroked her chin. She dismounted and helped Gabrielle down. She watched the other warriors approach. "Depends. Can you use two?"
"Two?" The man snorted. "You mean her? She more than decoration?"
"Oh, absolutely. Wanna see?"
The man’s face darkened. "Maybe you best get goin’. We got more important things ta take care of."
"What’d you say?"
"`Fraid to test my friend here?"
"C’mon, Snake. Don’t pay her no mind."
"Yeah, place’s almost burned down. Time we see if these folks’re ready ta pay up."
Snake continued scowling at the strangers. Something in the dark-haired one’s eyes warned him not to turn his back. He didn’t like the blonde’s confidence either.
"Turk, c’mere. She’s `bout your age and size. When ya finish with `er, maybe she’ll be your girl."
The others laughed. A young man swaggered up beside Snake.
"Sure. No sweat. Kinda cute. I’ll try not ta mess up her face."
Gabrielle raised a brow at Xena. "You sure about this?"
"Piece o’ cake. I got your back."
Gabrielle started toward Turk, twirling her staff a bit to loosen up. Turk unsheathed his sword. Gabrielle struck it from his hands in one move and sent him sprawling with her second move. The others rushed her. Xena focused on Snake and a couple others. When she’d dispatched them, she joined the farmers in cheering on Gabrielle as she polished off the rest.
"Who is she?" one of the farmers asked Xena. "She’s amazing."
"Name’s Gabrielle. Does this all the time. Kinda modest. Won’t ask for thanks. Be sure ta give it anyway."
Xena pried out the chicken leg clutched in the still fist. Pulled furs up around the motionless body. Gabrielle had been eating one minute, fallen into exhausted sleep the next. Xena doubted she’d get caught rifling through the bard’s bag. The warrior took out a blank scroll. Carefully sliced off a section near the bottom. Retrieved a quill and pot of ink. Carried the items over to the fire and dropped down cross-legged. After gazing out a moment, she touched the quill tip to her tongue and began to write.
"Mmmmm." Gabrielle sat up and stretched. She noted the sun’s position. "Xena! Why didn’t you wake me?"
Xena glanced over from heating leftovers. "Got an appointment somewhere?"
"Seemed to need the rest."
"Mm." Gabrielle yawned. "Can’t remember the last time I was so tired."
"How’re ya feelin’ now?"
Gabrielle rotated her head. "Good, actually. Wow, did I have some vivid dreams."
"Uh huh." Gabrielle languidly got up and joined the warrior. "So we’re not in any hurry?"
"Excellent. Got some ideas brewing." Gabrielle sniffed the contents of their skillet. She grinned. "After breakfast of course."
"This is weird."
Xena sat gutting the fish she’d caught while Gabrielle worked on her scroll. "What’s that."
"These last few entries. I was so caught up in them, I didn’t realize. They’re mostly about … me. Not that obsession nonsense. Since then."
"Yeah?" Xena smiled, pleasantly surprised. "Nothin’ wrong with that."
"No …. I guess not. Except …." Gabrielle reviewed what she’d written. "Am I losing my objectivity? I mean, it’s okay to have some personal stuff. It’s just, I set out to chronicle your …." She cocked her head. "Hmmm. Perhaps there’s another reason."
"Uh huh. It’s possible there’s less of you because … there’s less of you." She narrowed her eyes. "In the action department. Seems I’m doing most of the work again."
"Like I said, nothing wrong with that." Xena glanced up. "I’d like to hear it."
"What you’ve written."
"You want me to read it to you? Now?"
"Fish won’t be ready for awhile. Probably wrap it for the road anyway. I’ve had my run. Sharpened my sword. Don’t think I have any appointments either."
Gabrielle hesitated, torn between bashfulness and anticipation. "It’s still pretty raw. Kind of rambling. You sure – ."
Gabrielle got comfortable and recited her recollections of the past few days – some from what she’d written, some fleshed out in her recounting. More than the usual feelings about doing good deeds and lessons learned, she noted her "action" moments – her ever-improving physical prowess, descriptions of her fight techniques, reactions of opponents, the satisfaction of a well-placed strike. About a half hour later, she grinned sheepishly.
"Whew. More than I thought."
"I like it." Xena snorted wryly "A lot better’n mine." She winced, realizing what she’d said.
"Better than my stories about you?" Gabrielle frowned. "When did you hear them?"
"Um …. Well, I imagine …. You know, from what others say, like Minya."
Gabrielle regarded Xena suspiciously. "Sure you haven’t been reading `em on the sly?" She pawed through the scrolls in her bag. "Why didn’t you just ask …. Wait a minute." She unfurled a clean sheet of parchment and laid it on the ground, measuring it with her hands. "Xena!" She shook the parchment at her companion. "This is definitely shorter. You gonna tell me some squirrels did it? With their little teeth and paws? Carried a piece off for their memoirs?"
Xena ducked her head. "Gabrielle …."
"Learned your lesson, my foot! You’re supposed to be so tough. Your ‘delicate parts’ too delicate for the average leaf? They jealous because I use the parchment to – ."
"I used it for … writing."
"What?" Gabrielle could barely hear Xena. "For what?"
Xena gritted her teeth. "Writing."
"Didn’t know you were doing it too."
"Doing it ‘too’? Doing what?" Gabrielle stared at Xena. "These notes? About me?"
"I wouldn’t’ve messed with your scrolls otherwise."
"You were recording me?" Gabrielle continued staring at the silent warrior, who actually looked embarrassed. She envisioned Xena hunched over a piece of parchment in the firelight, her precise, bold letters slowly capturing her sidekick’s exploits. She crawled over and rested her hand on the warrior’s arm. "That is so …. I’m …. Can I see them?"
"Gabrielle, I told you. It’s nothing compared to yours. Better you than me."
"It’s …. It’s not worthy of you, Gabrielle. I’d hate you to think that’s what …." Xena’s head dropped. "You’ll be disappointed."
"Xena, simply knowing you thought about it. That you cared enough to try. How could I be disappointed?"
Doubtful blue eyes searched encouraging green ones. Xena stuck her hand into the bodice of her battledress and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. "I lost the first one. I guess during a fight. Had to start over from memory. This doesn’t …."
"Read it anyway?"
Xena resignedly opened the parchment. She blew out a breath. "`Gabrielle really kicked butt the other day.’" She peered up. "When we ran into Meccenus and his boys again. After Joxer left us." She resumed reading. "`There were about a dozen opponents at the inn. Gabrielle took down four by herself, with her staff. Then we caught two robbers on the road. I ….’" She swallowed. "`I let Gabrielle take them on alone. She used her staff and some good kicks. The family was really grateful.
"`Today was the best so far. Gabrielle challenged a warlord’s goon. She only needed a couple moves for him. She got about three other warriors. The farmers cheered her on. Called her amazing. Wanted to know her name. Didn’t ask mine. Finally. She gathered the children around for a story. Thankfully not about me. Later we met a few ruffians intimidating some merchants. Gabrielle could’ve handled them but looked ready to drop, so I took care of it.’" Head bowed, Xena rested her hands in her lap. "That’s it."
Gabrielle sat quietly a moment. "Not quite what I expected," she murmured. "What were you thinking?"
"It was silly, I know. Not sure what I would’ve done with it." Xena looked up. "Please, you mustn’t believe that’s all …." She pressed her lips together, afraid to make bad things worse.
"It’s not silly. I meant, why?"
"You write things down that’re important to you. I use a sword." Xena snorted. "Figured I’d try the quill for a change." She smiled apologetically. "Sorry about the extra calluses. Needed to give my subject matter a little boost."
Gabrielle lifted the parchment from Xena’s hand. She ran her fingers across the dark strokes. "I’d never met anyone like you before. Someone bigger than life. It was so exciting." She chuckled. "Sort of like being a fly on the wall, witnessing great and wonderful things. Sure, it got to me sometimes being in your shadow, but not really so much about being noticed. I wondered how I could ever compare. Be worthy of what you’d set out to do."
"Worthy?! Gabrielle, you inspired –."
"I know that now. I don’t worry anymore about being you. I know you love me for all the things that make us different. Appreciate me for who I am." Gabrielle pressed the parchment to her breast. "But realizing how much you respect me for what you do? As a warrior? Truly equal in every way?" Her eyes misted. "Who cares if I can ever run up walls or take out a whole army? Whether people chant my name? That’s how you see me, Xena. That’s what’s important to me. Just as you say you can be a hero because you see it in my eyes."
Xena bit her lip, her heart too full for words that would ever do. She pulled Gabrielle to her and rested her chin on the gold head. "You always know what to say." She snorted softly. "Good thing one of us does."
"Hmmm. Not so sure about that. Two warriors in the family is challenging enough. Two bards? Scary."
Xena chuckled. "Think we’re safe on that count." She gave Gabrielle a squeeze.
"Can I keep this?"
The warrior shrugged. "If ya want. Kinda glad to know people’ll have a better version. Hope yours finds its way out there some day. Besides," she said, her eyes soft, "guess I don’t really need it for myself." She placed her hand over her chest. "It’s already written. Here."
Gabrielle smiled her thanks. She folded the parchment and pushed it into her top. "I kind of like it there too."
"Fish is ready to travel," Xena said scooting back over to the fire. "You up to moving out? Doing more of your hero stuff?"
Gabrielle cringed. "Um, I’m thinkin’ it’s time my sidekick got more action again. Couple more days as the main deal, I’ll be sleeping on my feet."
"You got it." Xena’s mouth puckered. "Doesn’t change I’m still not lettin’ those idiots ignore you."
"Yes, O Obsessive One. Try not to hurt any of `em, okay?" Gabrielle got up and hobbled around the camp. "See this black eye?" she croaked out. "Got it from the Warrior Princess. Uh huh. Whacked me `cause I didn’t say ‘thank you’ fast enough to that adorable tagalong of hers. Um, you know …. What’s `er name. Mavis?"
Cheeks sucked in, Xena uncurled to her feet. "Seems you’re not the only one around here being underappreciated."
Gabrielle blinked. "Oh? How so?"
"I have many skills. Why do they always involve whacking somebody?"
"Um, well, I didn’t mean –."
"What about my creativity? So I stink at barding." Xena crouched, picked up a twig and scratched in the dirt a stick figure in a sports bra and skirt, holding a staff. "I could make posters of you. Tack `em up around town. Maybe write, ‘Hail Gabrielle! She deserves your thanks.’" She tossed her hair Gabrielle’s way. "Or my persuasiveness." She sauntered over to a rock, sat on it and pretended to distribute items on an invisible table.
"Hi," she greeted an imaginary guest. "Step right up. I’ve started a club for Gabrielle. Dedicated to how she’s the woman behind Xena’s much more acclaimed and rather inflated reputation. Aren’t ya just dyin’ ta have a memento of this unsung hero?" She gestured toward her "table." "A sketch perhaps? Signed scroll? Some threads from that gorgeous swatch of material she wears up top? Guaranteed to have her scent, by the way. Or maybe you’d prefer –."
"Yes, O Underappreciated One?"
"My mistake. How `bout I agree you’re multi-dimensionally talented."
"That’s a good start."
"And whacking people is an excellent technique. Far superior to many others you might consider on my behalf."
"Good conclusion." Xena grinned. "See, I can negotiate when I’m moved."
Gabrielle rolled her tongue in her cheek. "Yeah, well, I think it’s time we both moved on. If, of course, you’re finished with your … customers?"
"My custom …. Oh." Grinning, Xena got up, bowed to the air, and walked over to gather her things. "Yeah. They gotta go anyway. Don’t wanna miss the exhibit I planned for `em."
"Do I dare ask of what?"
"Your clothing, silly. How your different garb reflects your development. From a simple peasant girl to …." Xena gave Gabrielle’s current ensemble the once over. "To … um … who you are now," she finished smugly.
The word "insufferable" tempted Gabrielle’s tongue. She reminded herself which one of them was supposed to prefer the high road. "Why, thank you, Xena," she responded sweetly. "How typical of you. Your powers of observation know no bounds." Flashing a superior smile, she began packing her bag.
The two broke camp without conversation, occasionally shaking their heads in long-suffering amusement at the goofiness they had to put up with in each other. Soon they and Argo headed out.
"All in all, seems Aphrodite accidentally did some good," Gabrielle observed as she walked beside Xena. "You resolved your guilt about Lyceus. I got out my ‘teensy’ resentments about being sidekick."
"Uh huh. Joxer got to be a true primate." Xena’s shoulders began shaking. "Not to mention up under your intimate apparel."
"Xeenaa!" Laughing, Gabrielle swatted the warrior’s arm. "I was saving that gown for a special occasion. Certainly not covering Joxer’s intimates while he swung through trees eating worms." She shuddered. "Gotta remind myself there’re more troublesome things we could’ve been obsessed with." Her mind drifted back to a mural in Aphrodite’s temple. "Like those … love … positions I still can’t believe humanly possible," she said to herself.
"Uh, nothing." Gabrielle shook her head clear of the rather intriguing images that kept popping up in her dreams. "You know, since we’re on this ‘celebrate Gabrielle’ kick, maybe something else good came out of Aphrodite’s spell."
"Hey, if it’s about patting you on the back, I’m in."
"Great. I’ve been wanting to work on different forms of barding. Might’ve fit in well with your idea about a club." Eyes twinkling, Gabrielle cleared her throat. She launched into a hearty rendition of her recently composed song. "Well, listen to my story about Gabrielle/Cute little gal that’s lookin’ really swell/Perfect hair, such a lovely lass/Nice round breasts and a firm young –."
"Too inappropriate for the non-adult audience?"
"And you accuse me of pushing the limits? Humph. I’d say that’s one way an Amazon Queen definitely beats a Warrior Princess."
"Wow." Gabrielle tilted her head thoughtfully. "You mean, perhaps it wasn’t just the enchantment? Could it be true? I really am flawless?"
Xena raised an incredulous brow. "You are an amazement, that’s for sure. Maybe just as well the world doesn’t know how amazing."
The man dusted off a piece of parchment he’d found by the road. "Not sure. Got some scribbles on it." He shoved it at his wife. "You know, I don’t … see … so good."
"Right." The woman snorted softly. She scanned the parchment. "Hmm. May be part of a story. About a warrior named Gabrielle. Mentions Xena too."
"The Warrior Princess?"
"Guy at the inn said she came through a few days ago. Said she got some cute peasant girl taggin’ along."
"Not according to this. Writer’s tired of hearing ‘Xena, Xena, Xena.’ Goes on about how well this Gabrielle fights. Why she’s behind Xena’s good reputation, her success on her new path. Claims Gabrielle’s the real hero but people don’t always see it."
"Might be one of those fanciful bards, don’t know what he’s talkin’ `bout."
The woman shrugged. "Details sound like the writer’s pretty acquainted with them. Listen to this: ‘The only reason Xena does any good at all in this world is because she does it with Gabrielle. Gabrielle makes an important contribution every day. Xena promised Gabrielle she would make sure people know that from now on.’"
"Like I said, mush ta me. Wished I’d seen Xena in action. S’posed ta be amazing."
The woman cut her eyes at her husband. "Writer seems to think Gabrielle’s amazing." She fingered the parchment thoughtfully. "Believe I’ll hold on to this. Could be important. Maybe this bard meant to set the record straight. Spread the word the ‘sidekick’s’ due her share of credit too." She smiled to herself. "Who knows? Maybe it’ll start with me."
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