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.
Other: Part Seventy-one in the series "Raising Melosa". Takes place about a month after "Observations."
The More Things Change
I cant help but smile as I watch her fidget, nearly fifty and she still fidgets.
"Xe you know this will go much faster if you hold still."
"Ri this is ridiculous. I do not want new clothes."
"Want them? No. Need them? Yes. Now let the seamstress work." I glance over at the woman who is trying to measure my consort for the new wardrobe I have ordered for her. She glances up at me and smiles her thanks.
I move to Xe and run my hand over the soft leather tunic that has been crafted. I brush my fingertips over the right shoulder. "I think this looks good sweetheart."
"Well," she glances down at the tunic, which has been crafted without a right sleeve. Her arm is held under it, close to her body in a special shirt. For all intensive purposes it looks as if she simply has no right arm. "It does keep it out of my way."
"Xe thats not the reason ."
"I know that Ri. Im just thinking tactically. A useless arm is a liability. This way its not."
"Actually I think this is a very interesting look. Somehow you look more dangerous."
"Ah you think so huh?"
"Yes I do. I mean this black leather really suits you and with that gold circlet." I could feel the flush rising to my cheeks. I cleared my throat as I tried to clear my thoughts. I still had work I had to do today.
"You were saying?" She grinned at me.
"Ill tell you later."
The seamstress got up from her knees, giving the outfit a few final tugs, to which Xe just rolled her eyes. "I think that does it Your Highness. You can go change now."
"Thank the Gods!" I watched her stalk off to change. I noticed her leg seemed to be bothering her a lot today.
"Your Majesty Ill have several of your Consorts new items ready in a few days."
"Thank you so much. I really appreciate you putting in the extra time and effort for this."
"We owe a great debt to her. She saved countless lives and made a great sacrifice to do it. It is my pleasure." She moved across the room picking up a pair of Xes new trousers. "She asked me to tailor the trouser legs so they will tuck in her boots. Is that all right?"
"Absolutely. Whatever she wants to make her comfortable."
"As you wish Your Majesty."
I smiled as I made my way to the back room. "Yes? You bellowed?"
She cocked her head at me with an annoyed look on her face. She held out the tunic she wanted to put on. "Can you give me a hand please?"
"Of course." I took the tunic and helped her slip it on. After a moment or two we had her settled as best we could. I watched as she carefully tucked her arm away under the fabric. I watched her eyes. I need to know. Her eyes would tell me, they always did. There was pain in those eyes. Pain that she kept well beneath the surface, well hidden from everyone who cared about her. She thought she kept it well hidden from me too. She was wrong.
She turned to me with a smile. "Ready?"
"Hmm? Oh yeah, lets go get something to eat. Watching you get poked and measured this morning made me hungry."
"Of course it did." She chuckled as she held out her hand. I placed her cane in it as I wrapped my arm around hers and we left the seamstresses hut.
She was healing just fine, but besides her arm, it seemed she had been left with a slight injury to her leg, which she was finding painful yet. The cane seemed to help and she had resigned herself to needing it for the time being. I knew her, she wouldnt have it for long.
Im sure we made quite the picture as we walked across the village. What the younger members of the tribe must think of us now. We must look truly ancient to them in their youthful vigor. Ill bet theyd find it hard to believe that we were once just like them. I chuckle softly as images of a very young bard with a staff and a young strong warrior with a sword float through my mind. I can hear every crack of the staff and clang of her sword as we continue our walk across the village.
"Whats so funny?"
I look up into her eyes and see every fight, every battle. I see my whole life, a life of adventure, respect and so much love. "Just thinking."
"Oh this and that. Mostly us and how far weve come."
"It has been a long road hasnt it?"
Yes it has, but you know what the beauty of it is?"
"Theres still so much more of it ahead of us."
"So there is my love. So there is." She agreed as we entered the food hut.
I heard her sigh as we entered. They were serving the morning meal and it was rather crowded. These were the kinds of things that seemed to bother her the most right now, any situation where someone might think her weak. I wasnt concerned with the members of my own tribe. They all loved and respected Xena. My anxiety came with the new members from the north. They seemed to have almost a wild herd mentality. The type of thinking that believes that weak and injured members should be weeded out to protect the strength of the herd. Right now, Xena was a prime target.
In order to give us some refuge from them, Ephiny had made some slight changes to the way things were done in the food hut. A table had been set aside for us. It had six chairs around it. Mine, Xenas, one for each of the girls and one for Eph. Instead of getting our food ourselves, now we simply took our seats and our meals were brought to us. I was a little uncomfortable with the apparent show of servitude, but as Eph pointed out it did serve a dual purpose. First it made it quite clear who was in charge in this village and it also gave Xe a reprieve from feeling like her injuries were taking center stage.
Eph was already there when we arrived. She grinned as we sat down. "Well good morning you two. How was the trip to the seamstress?"
Xe growled, shooting Eph a dirty look as she reached for a pitcher of tea. Then it happened. A slight miscalculation on her part while pouring tipped the mug spilling it on the table.
Eph was up in an instant to grab a cloth. Xe took a deep breath and sat the pitcher down. I could tell by the clenching of her jaw that what she wanted to do was throw the thing across the room. As Eph made her way back to the table Xe stood up taking her cane in her hand, she turned to me. "Excuse me sweetheart. Im suddenly not very hungry."
I placed my hand on her arm. "Xe ."
She looked down at me. Her faced twitched as she licked her lips. "Please Ri. Please let me leave."
I moved my hand and nodded.
I watched her leave the hut and I sighed. This wasnt going to be easy. Eph finished wiping up the table. As she dropped the rag to the floor she took her seat then she took my hand. "Everything is going to be all right you know."
"I know. Its just that this is a lot harder for her than she is willing to admit."
"Oh and let me tell you she has enough for the entire country of Greece."
"Like this is news to anyone who has known her as long as I have?" She chuckled as she poured me a mug of tea. "She has to get use to it you know, the loss."
"I know, but she also has to admit it and she hasnt really done that yet." I sipped my tea as I considered this morning in our room. "It nearly killed me this morning when I went into our sleeping chamber and found her staring down at her boots."
"You lost me."
"Oh sorry. I went into our room. She was sitting on the bed staring down at her boots. She could get them on, but she couldnt get them laced up. I mean were having new boots made, but they arent done yet. So for the time being, I have to lace up her boots and she hates every moment of it. She tries to hide it Eph, but ."
"I know. I know." She gave my hand a reassuring pat as my meal was placed in front of me.
"Thank you." I smiled up at the young woman who brought me my meal.
"Your welcome Your Majesty." She started to turn away, then hesitated and turned back to me. "Would you like me to fix a plate for your Consort? You could take it with you."
I held the tears that came to my eyes from this kind, simple gesture. I nodded. "Yes thank you. That would be very nice."
She smiled as she walked away. Eph and I ate the rest of our meal in silence.
I found her sitting in our village house, in front of the fireplace, staring into the flames. I sat the plate on the table as I approached the couch slowly. "Xe?" She didnt move or acknowledge me. "Xe? Honey?" I moved around to the front and knelt down in front of her. "Come on sweetheart, talk to me."
Her eyes moved from the flames to my face as she focused on me. "I cant even pour a mug of tea."
"Oh Xe." I leaned forward and pulled her into my arms, moving up slowly I took a seat next to her and just held her there. "Its going to take time." I stroked my fingers through her hair as I gently rocked her. "You were nearly killed. Your recovery had been amazing for what your body has been through."
She sat up and looked at me. "Ri Im never going to recover. My arm is useless. Ill never get it back."
I cupped her face in my hands. "Im going to ask you a question. I want you to think about it and answer me honestly. Okay?"
"Think about who you are and the things youve done Xe. Do you really need the arm?"
I managed to coax her to eat, then to join me for a walk. I had a thousand other things I should be doing, but they could all go to Tartarus until I was sure Xe was all right. I allowed her to lead us and we ended up at the training grounds. She stood there for a moment watching. She cocked her head back and forth as she watched the drills taking place.
"Mel!" She called as she took a step forward.
Mel turned away from a group of young trainees that she was working with. She smiled as she sprinted over. I was still amazed at how fast she could move in her leathers and armor. "Yes maam?"
"They need to get those staffs up higher. Those blocks are totally worthless at that level."
Mel bit back a grin as her eyes darted to me, then back to her Mother. "Really? Hmm could have sworn I was doing it right."
"Sorry. I just ."
"Dont make excuses Mel." She grumbled as she stepped forward toward the group.
Mel turned to me with a wink and a grin. I gave her a wave, before moving to a nice shade tree to take a seat. I sat there under that tree and watched as she took a staff from Mel, finding a good balance on her injured leg, she proceeded the test the weight and the balance of the staff by performing a very intricate twirling routine. Even one handed it was one of the most amazing thing I had ever seen. Once she was content with it she called Mel forward as she ordered the group to take a seat and watch.
Mel took up a defensive position as Xe proceeded to use the staff to deliver a series of what I would almost consider vicious blows. Mel blocked them all as they started, she was quick and one of the best handlers of a staff I had ever seen. Unfortunately for Mel, Xe had far more experience in pacing herself and not wearing herself out as quickly, even as her speed with the blows increased. Mel finally found herself on her backside. She signaled her surrender as Xe placed the staff at her throat.
Xe was sweating and breathing hard, but that had been a very impressive display and she had worked for it. She dropped her staff, offering her hand to Mel to bring her to her feet. "Dont be sorry Mel, just improve." She told her as she hauled our daughter to her feet.
"Yes maam." Mel nodded her agreement as she brushed the dust from her clothes.
"Now have them do the drill again and have them do it right this time."
Xe returned to me, taking a seat next to me as we watched Mel run her class through the drill again.
"That was sneaky Ri."
"Why what do you mean?"
"Mel has been teaching this class for more that a season. She knows how to do that drill."
"Yeah, but you enjoyed thumping her."
"Well, if youre going to set it up to look like she needs to be disciplined, then by the Gods Im going to do it."
I leaned over to rest my head in her lap. "I counted on it."
I managed to doze off there, under that tree. With my head in her lap, feeling her fingers running through my hair as she shouted commands and corrections to Mel. I loved it when a plan came together.
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