In the Eye of the Beholder
A Xena and Gabrielle Short Story

By Enginerd

February 2000

The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are borrowed from the television program Xena: Warrior Princess.  The story is subtext friendly and contains no violence.

The story is based on musings about how the characters would perceive the different TV series seasons.

                                                                                                            - Enginerd


Index


"In the days of ancient gods, warlords, and kings . . . a land in turmoil cried out . . . “ Gabrielle dramatically read the scroll in her hands.

Gabrielle,” Xena called out with annoyance, interrupting the bard.

“Gods, Xena, who wrote this . . . stuff ?" Gabrielle blurted wearily and rolled her eyes with a sigh.

"You know Gabrielle, it just might help us get out of here quicker if you put down that scroll and helped me move these rocks," Xena said with a painfully thin smile and tossed a rock onto the floor with a thunk.

"I’m sorry, but I was surprised to find scrolls in here.  I just wanted to . . . ." Gabrielle started to explain but Xena’s eyebrow impatiently shot up.  The bard sighed, put the scroll down, and joined her friend at the blocked entrance.

After a few moments removing rocks from the doorway, Gabrielle looked to her friend. "You know, I’ve never known a temple to keep that many scrolls," Gabrielle mentioned as she pulled two more small rocks from the seemingly endless pile.

"Do you know who the Tau Pi Tau Beta are?" The bard asked, glancing back at the bold letters chiseled in stone above shelves of scrolls.

"Nope.  But I know one thing. I don’t trust them," Xena responded bluntly, glaring at the blocked exit with her hands on her hips.

"What a surprise. You don’t trust anyone, Xena," Gabrielle countered with amusement.

"You’re wrong," Xena said, glancing around the temple again, hoping she missed an alternative to digging. No such luck, she considered with a sigh.

"Really?" Gabrielle said skeptically. "Who do you trust?" She asked.  When the warrior’s blue eyes focused on her, she felt an incredible wave of warmth pass over her.

"Uh . . . you don’t think ‘They’ trapped us in here, do you?" Gabrielle asked, looking around the odd temple with concern, her eyes returning to the intriguing shelves of scrolls.

"Well, it does seem a rather amazing coincidence that we were driven here by heavy rains then, all of a sudden, an earthquake caves in the entrance to this temple. . . or maybe it’s just me," Xena smirked.

“I’m hoping it’s just you . . . “ Gabrielle responded uneasily to her friend, who chuckled.

Time passed as the women continued to move dirt and rocks, with amazingly little progress.

"Xena . . . lets take a break, ok?" Gabrielle exhaled heavily, wiping her forearm over her sweaty forehead.  The warrior paused, staring at the rubble.  A sigh and a weary nod of agreement brought a smile to the bard.

"It’s getting chilly in here, don’t you think?" Xena mentioned to the bard, who headed for the scrolls. "I thought you didn’t like the writing," Xena noted with amusement.

"I only read the first few sentences, perhaps I was being too judgmental," Gabrielle said with a shrug and sat down on the altar steps.

"You?" Xena responded innocently.  Despite the sharp look Gabrielle gave her, the amused warrior continued as she sat next to the bard. "You know, when we were reviewing those scrolls for Xenos, I seem to recall that you preferred stories with you in them, maybe that’s the problem," Xena mentioned helpfully with a grin.

"I suspect we won’t find fan fiction here, Xena," Gabrielle said, shaking her head and reading.

"Don’t you think it’s getting chilly in here?" Xena mentioned to the bard as she sat closer to her and started to put her arm around her.

"Gods . . . " Gabrielle said, looking at the warrior.

"What?" Xena said uneasily, awkwardly pulling her arm back.

"These scrolls. . . they are about us," Gabrielle responded with surprise.

"What do you know, more fan fiction," Xena said with an amused smile. "I really can’t believe how many stories there are out there. Well over a thousand now. . . it’s pretty amazing," she shook her head and chuckled.

"But it’s not fan fiction, Xena," Gabrielle said with amazement, handing over the first scroll to Xena, who took it hesitantly.

Gabrielle stood and was drawn to the six shelves.

Xena skimmed over the scroll, which told the story of their adventure with the Titans.  After finishing, she looked up at Gabrielle with a weak smile. "Well, seems like it we have here a historian who talked with those villagers, read your scrolls . . . or something," she said with a shrug.

Gabrielle stared at the shelves, shook her head, and sighed.

"Gabrielle?"

"If someone else is going to attempt to document our lives, Xena, I want to at least make sure they do it right," Gabrielle said with annoyance, pulling a random scroll from the second shelf.

"Gabrielle, what are you so upset about?" Xena smiled easily at her proud friend. "Sure, it’s not as good as yours," Xena said, earning a smile from the bard. "But it’s not like the story was inaccurate . . . you did release the Titans," Xena offered, receiving a hurt look from the bard. "ACCIDENTIALLY. . . uh," Xena quickly added with an uncomfortable shrug.

Gabrielle shook her head and read the title of the scroll. "Oh, Look! A story about Ulysses!" she relayed with forced enthusiasm. "Perhaps I’ll just save that one for later," she said with a thin smile and returned the scroll to the second shelf.  Her fingers traced over the scrolls on the next higher shelf as she wondered if she’d also stumble onto a Marcus scroll.  Perhaps she’d save that for later too, she considered.

"Maybe we should just think about getting out of here?" Xena suggested uncomfortably, feeling a growing need for fresh air. The warrior never liked discussing the arts with the bard.   It was painfully apparent they had different tastes. And as Gabrielle pointed out, the warrior’s tastes were wrong.

Xena noticed Gabrielle’s face cringe as she read through a third-shelf scroll.  The bard briefly glanced up at the warrior with pain in her eyes before grabbing another scroll to read.

"What?" Xena asked with concern.

"Xena, that one was about our trip to. . . Britannia." Gabrielle answered weakly and started to read the next one.

"But . . . we’ve never traveled to Britannia," Xena said with surprise, recalling her last journey there . . . before Gabrielle.  An eternity ago, she considered as she watched the absorbed bard rapidly reading another scroll.

"Oh gods. . . " Gabrielle whispered, turning pale.

"What?" A concerned warrior asked softly, moving to glance at the scroll over the bard’s shoulder.

"Uh, maybe you should work on getting us out of here, Xena," Gabrielle said, nervously rolling up the parchment containing a disturbing tale of suspicions, dishonesty, and . . . hate.

"Gabrielle . . . what’s wrong?" Xena asked with concern as she gently placed her hand on the bard’s shoulder. The bard almost relinquished the scroll to her, but her grip nervously tightened around the scroll.

"It’s just like you said, Xena . . .it’s just fan fiction . . . the plot is preposterous, the characterizations are inconsistent, and overall, not very well written," Gabrielle said with a shrug and nervous laugh.

"Let me see then. It should be amusing," Xena said suspiciously.

Gabrielle turned and looked up, quickly shaking her head no at the warrior. "It’s not that good. . . trust me, you don’t want to waste time reading it," she blurted.

"What has gotten you so rattled, Gabrielle?" Xena probed softly, with a soft caress of the bard’s back. Gabrielle shuttered at the unexpected gesture.

"Boy it is getting cold in here . . . " Gabrielle forced a laugh again and placed the scroll on the shelf.  With a tug on the warrior’s arm, the bard tried to pull them away from the scrolls. "We really should get moving or we’ll be stuck here all night . . ." Gabrielle added, still trying to budge the unmoving tall woman.

"Gabrielle," Xena said with irritation and reached for a scroll.

"NO!" Gabrielle panicked, hurling her body between the warrior and the shelves.

"What has gotten into you!?!"

"Uh . . . have I mentioned I’m really really claustrophobic?" Gabrielle said with a weak smile, glancing at the blocked entrance.

Xena took a deep breath and silently stared at the bard.  Finally relenting under the cool gaze, Gabrielle weakly cleared her throat and moved away from the shelves in defeat.

Xena rolled her eyes and once again reached for a scroll.

"I wish you wouldn’t," Gabrielle said softly.

Xena turned to Gabrielle, studying her pleading eyes.  Eyes that could ask her for anything . . . and get it.  Xena sighed softly and pulled her hand away from the scroll.

"Ok then," Gabrielle said with great relief and returned to removing the rubble from the doorway. "As soon as we get out of here, I think we deserve a nice hot meal and a quiet night in an inn, how does that sound?" She asked with a smile.

Xena silently glanced at her before continuing to remove rubble.

"You can have the bath first . . ." Gabrielle offered uneasily and picked up a few rocks.  Getting no response, the bard glanced at the warrior, who moved a large rock and released a shaft of light that spilled into the room.

Finally, Xena considered with a sigh.

"Looks like it cleared up . . . outside," Gabrielle said with unsuccessful cheer, watching the warrior to silently continue to expand the hole.

Before she could make a path big enough to climb through, the warrior felt the bard’s hand on her arm.  Xena stopped and looked at the bard.

"Xena, I’m sorry. I was being . . . I . . . "

"What’s in those scrolls, Gabrielle?" Xena interjected softly. Gabrielle sighed, took the warrior’s larger hand in hers, and walked over to the shelves.

"I don’t understand any of this," Gabrielle said softly, motioning to the six shelves of scrolls. "But it scares me, Xena.”

With a pained look on her face, Gabrielle pulled out the story of hate from the third shelf and handed it to the warrior, who looked down at the scroll curiously.

Glancing up again, she met troubled green eyes, which prompted the warrior to try and comfort the bard with a soft caress on the cheek.

That expression of affection from the warrior proved to be the bard’s undoing.  She broke down and wept into Xena’s chest.

The surprised warrior hugged the weeping bard tightly. "Shhhh," she said as she rocked the young woman and stroked her hair. "You know, there are bound to be horrible stories about me. True stories . . . you know I wasn’t a good person, Gabrielle," Xena reminded her, guessing the cause of her bard’s distress.

"These stories aren’t about your past Xena, they are about our future!" Gabrielle spoke her preposterous fear aloud, surprising herself.

Xena laughed. "Gabrielle, we determine our future . . . not some god, and certainly not these scrolls," the warrior argued.

"But what if this Tau Pi Tau Beta temple is connected with the Fates and our destiny is written in those scrolls," Gabrielle countered, pointing at the perturbing parchment.

"What if this is a place that keeps scrolls of aspiring bards, who have mixed up some fact with healthy doses of fiction?" Xena argued. "Not that THAT ever happens," Xena blurted with sarcasm.

"Ok FINE, I’m being irrational," Gabrielle said. "These are simply poorly written fables by bards who do not understand us . . ." Gabrielle said trying to believe it.  She folded her arms across her chest uneasily as she watched Xena shake her head and finally read the offered scroll.

The color drained away from the warrior’s face as she read on about the mistakes, the anger, the hate, between the two best friends.

Who would write such a thing?  She wondered uneasily as she pulled another scroll from the third shelf and read through it. This would never happen! She thought as rage built up within.

Startling the bard, Xena angrily threw the scroll of the bard’s sacrifice to stop Dahak onto the floor. The warrior grabbed another scroll, this time from the fourth shelf. She skimmed through the scroll about the warrior’s desperate trip to Siberia and tossed it to the ground too as she picked another scroll.

"Xena. . ." Gabrielle said with trepidation, wondering what she was reading and what was running through Xena’s mind.

The warrior appeared to calm down . . . then she started to laugh, which did nothing to help settle Gabrielle’s nerves.

"What?" Gabrielle asked, hoping her warrior had not completely snapped.

"What am I doing? These are just STORIES Gabrielle!" Xena said with relief at that realization and picked another scroll to browse.

"But . . . "

"They have absolutely nothing to do with us . . . .don’t you see that?" Xena said convincingly. "Please, you tackling a look-alike daughter into a volcano to mysteriously return without any explanation?  Not well plotted or paced . . . even I can notice that!" The warrior critic mused.

Gabrielle smiled weakly, starting to feel a little better. "Yeah. . . I guess. . . but what about the ones that are true?"

"I can’t explain it,” Xena admitted wearily.  “But read some of this other stuff, Gabrielle, and tell me that it could possibly happen as written," Xena said with amusement, pulling another scroll out off of the shelf. "In Sickness and in Hell.  They probably meant Health . . . " Xena said with a smirk as she skimmed over the text.

Gabrielle pulled off another scroll, this time from the fifth shelf, trying to get into the spirit of things.

"Hey, we’re in India!" Gabrielle said with an amused smile. "I’ve always wondered what it was like."

"We could go there someday, if you want," Xena offered softly, not waiting for the green eyes to ask.

"Really?" Gabrielle asked as if she was given a gift.

Xena smiled warmly. "Really."

After reading a few more scrolls, quickly skimming over the disturbing and not very amusing ones, the two finally left the mysterious Tau Pi Tau Beta temple and headed for an inn.


Their dinner was a quiet affair, each woman thinking about the scrolls.  Gabrielle glanced up from her food and found an amused smirk on Xena’s face.

"What?" Gabrielle asked.

"Oh, just you, in that story, In Sickness and Health," Xena smiled and shook her head.

"Hell, Xena," Gabrielle corrected her. "It was HELL," she added with irritation.

"Whatever.  You were drooling . . . a lot . . . buckets in fact," Xena relayed with a chuckle.

"And you find that funny?" Gabrielle asked flatly.

"Very," Xena grinned.

"I suppose you also like pie in the face humor."

"Oh yeah," Xena smiled. "Splat! Right in the kisser. . . " Xena remarked, laughing.

Gabrielle shook her head. Warriors.

"Come on, Gabrielle. You must have found some of those stories pretty funny," Xena said to the less than amused bard.

"Oh, I did. I did. That story with Rafe, the rouge-yet-good-hearted con man, an absolute chuckle fest.  Oh and who could forget the mysterious Warrior Princess pregnancy stories? Now they were laugh riots." Gabrielle mentioned with a thin smile and sipped her water.

"Those stories actually bothered you . . . " Xena stated with a small smile. They bothered her, Xena silently repeated with joy.

A variety of emotions crossed Gabrielle’s face before she responded.

"Xena, most of those scrolls really bothered me.  Especially the ones where we were enemies," Gabrielle admitted as she poked her fork at her food. "Where would I be if that ever happened?" She whispered weakly.

"Dead," Xena dead-panned and immediately regretted causing the pained look on her bard’s face. "Gabrielle, I was just joking."

"Ah . . . my feelings are funny to you too," Gabrielle said bitterly, wiping a tear from her face. "Well, what should I expect from someone who thinks buckets of drool and pie fights are funny," Gabrielle joked sadly.

"Gabrielle, your feelings are the most important thing in the world to me," Xena said, reaching for her friend’s hand on the small table. "You are the most important thing in the world to me.  I’m sorry I don’t show it well," she said sincerely with a warm squeeze of her hand.

Gabrielle looked at her friend’s strong hand and sighed.  "You are improving," Gabrielle offered, looking up with a small smile and squeezing back.

"Uh, I should go check on Argo before we settle in," Xena blurted and left abruptly, surprising the bard, who felt the breeze from the warrior’s wake.

"But you definitely need lots of work," Gabrielle sighed, glancing around the now empty room.

After changing into her night shift, Gabrielle started to wonder what was taking Xena so long when the warrior finally returned.

"Hi," Xena said softly, placing her saddlebag over the chair.

"Hi," Gabrielle responded, noticing the warrior looking a bit agitated as she checked on the contents and shoved it further in the bag. "Something wrong?"

"Hmm? Oh . . . no nothing now," Xena said, sitting on edge of the bed with a smile. Her eyes glanced down appreciatively over the bard, who looked at her curiously. "Uh . . . new shift?" The warrior asked.

"No . . . why?"

"No reason," Xena shrugged, and took off her boots. When she started to take off her armor, the helpful bard lent a hand. The content warrior sighed happily.

"You sure nothing’s wrong?"

"Everything is fine, Gabrielle. I had a good dinner, I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep in a very comfortable bed . . .," Xena mentioned as she pushed down on the mattress to confirm that. ". . . what could possibly be wrong?"

"FIRE!" A voice bellowed up from the street, drifting through the window along with the scent of smoke.  The bard quickly jumped out of bed.

"Oh Gods! Oh Gods. . .!" Gabrielle blurted nervously, scurrying around the room to grab her bag and boots as the amused warrior princess watched.  As Gabrielle collected her staff, she stopped and turned curiously towards the relaxed warrior.

"So, is there a reason you are not running around gathering your stuff?" Gabrielle mentioned, looking at the calm, smiling warrior.

"There’s no need, Gabrielle," Xena said, taking her bracers off. "It’s a small fire," she said nonchalantly, removing her leathers.

"A small fire . . . " Gabrielle repeated with surprise, moving to the window. "And you know this. . . how?"

"Ohhhh, nice mattress." Xena said lying back, with a long sigh and closed her eyes. "Very nice. . . "

Feeling the bard’s presence lurking over her at the side of the bed, Xena opened an eye. "Yes?" she asked, looking up at the very attractive young woman in a night shift, still holding her boots, staff, and bag in her arms.

"So, Argo kept you unusually busy tonight?" Gabrielle asked, not sure if she should be delighted or angry about what she suspected.

"Come to bed, Gabrielle.  It’s been a long day," Xena said with a sigh and closed her eyes again.

Gabrielle took a deep breath then finally placed her staff, boots and bag by her bedside. She glanced to the resting Warrior Princess as she climbed into bed, sighing as she lay down. Try as she might, her eyes wouldn’t remain shut.

Xena rolled over on her side and found Gabrielle staring at the ceiling. "What’s wrong?"

"I’m thinking," the bard responded.

"Oh. Don’t hurt yourself," Xena cautioned her with a small smile, getting a chuckle from the bard.

"Thanks for the concern," Gabrielle remarked with a smirk.

"No problem. Hey are you cold?  It’s cold in here, don’t you think?" Xena asked, looking expectantly at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle looked at her friend and sighed as she scooted into the arms of the tall warrior, whose body didn’t seem to be cold. "Better?"

"Yeah, thanks." Xena said. "You make a good blanket." Xena whispered against the bard’s forehead with a grin.

"Glad you approve.  I seem to be getting a lot of practice these days," Gabrielle muttered, then her head popped up when concern dawned on her. "You’re not getting sick, are you?"

"No. I’m fine." Xena responded, seeing skeptical eyes look her over.

After seeing no signs of illness, Gabrielle accepted that answer. “Good night, Xena,” she said and quickly pecked Xena on the lips.  The warrior’s eyebrows raised in surprise. "Uh . . . goodnight," Gabrielle muttered again with a sudden attack of embarrassment and shifted back into the warm embrace as she cleared her throat.

Xena smiled broadly.

Silent moments pleasantly passed as the two slowly drifted closer to slumber.

"Xena?"

"Hmmm?"

“Do you think we’re soul mates?”

“I don’t know.  But if I had one, I think it would be you,” Xena offered, feeling the bard smile on her chest.

A few more moments of silence passed as their minds drifted over waves of thought.

“Xena?”

The warrior smiled when the bard propped herself up to look at her.  “Hmm?”

"You saved ‘In Sickness and in Hell,’ didn’t you?"

The warrior’s smile faded.

"Oh Gods . . ."

“But it was really FUNNY. . . “

The End


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