An Unusual Grasp on Reality

by: Scheherazade

Let me know what you think! Email me at:

scheherazade@altavista.com

Oh! That Legal Stuff…

All the characters (Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Hercules, Iolaus, Morrigan, etc.) and their belongings and stuff belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. I only borrowed them for a while and I promise to return them in excellent condition (in their original plastic, too) when I’m done.

Violence: Not much

Subtext: yeah right

The Romance Factor: ahem! Past relationships are implied

Other Stuff: The characters of Zoe, Miklon, Aethan, and whoever else I failed to mention as well as those lovely towns are creations of my addled brain and (unfortunately) I have to take the credit for them.

This is my second (published) fanfic. I have others, but since I’m slow they might not get posted for a while (either that or they’re reeaally bad).

This is supposed to be a continuation of The Wedding of Xena: the Warrior Princess , which is also written by me. J It’s a continuation in the sense that some of the things that happened in Wedding are supposed to be common knowledge and stuff. It’s not necessary to read the other story, but I wish you would. J

Before we proceed, I should tell you that my Xenaverse doesn’t exactly match up with the one on the TV show. In my Xenaverse, Xena hasn’t had Eve, Solan and Caliapus are still very much alive (they make for good storylines), um…Hope died when Gabrielle tossed her off that cliff in the basket (but she might not stay that way), and Herc and Morrigan never had that ‘fling.’ It messes up my plot if they had. Herc and Morrigan are just good friends. Morrigan would like it to be otherwise, but I’m not telling you guys anymore..it will give away the story.

This story is mine…scary, huh…and it may not be copied or reproduced in any way, shape, or form..kay?
 

Prologue

I wasn’t always this way. That’s what Mama used to tell me before she left…before they all left. I got ‘this way’ when I was twelve. That’s when ‘the accident’ happened. It was always called ‘the accident.’ No one ever called it what it really was…murder. Oh, most people wouldn’t call dying in childbirth ‘murder’ per se.. but it was his fault. He put that child inside my sister. And delivering that child killed my sister…it killed my Sonora.

"Are you a warlord?"

"Nope."

"Are you…a man?"

"Huh-uh."

"A centaur?"

"Come on, Gabrielle! This has to be the easiest one yet!"

"I’m trying, Xena! It’s not easy remembering all the people that you’ve killed."

"Who said I killed her?"

Gabrielle sighed.

"All right, Xena. Who are you?"

"Valeska."

Gabrielle planted her hands on her hips.

"You killed Valeska, Xena." Xena looked puzzled.

"No, I didn’t. I just knocked her into the lava pit. She’s a goddess. Valeska is still very much alive."

"Xena, that’s not what I mean and you know it." The Warrior Princess smiled. "Remember the ropes? Valeska fell onto the spikes."

"But I didn’t cut the ropes, Gabrielle. You did."

"Yeah, but you were in my body at the time."

"So? Valeska didn’t die. She came into the village with the ambrosia, remember? She was only wounded."

"Technicality, Xena," Gabrielle said. Xena gave her a look. "All right, all right! You win!" Xena grinned.

"You can’t beat the champion, Gabrielle. Don’t even try."

"All right ‘champion,’" Gabrielle mocked. "How far is it to the next town?"

"About a half hour’s walk. If we ride…about fifteen minutes."

"I’ll walk, thank you," Gabrielle said. " You can ride as fast as you want. It doesn’t matter. You’ll have to wait for me in town anyway."

"Who says I’ll wait, Gabrielle?" Xena laughed. She mounted Argo and galloped away.

"Xena!" Gabrielle called. "Xena! This isn’t funny!" Muttering under her breath, the infuriated bard sprinted after her friend.

Miklon was a traveling man. The kind that would waltz into your life, make changes, and be gone before you know it. Only he didn’t go away.

My father was an innkeeper. Miklon came in one day, looking for work. He was of the golden-haired, blue-eyed breed. The kind that appealed to the idiotic romantic notions of my sister. He got her with child and my father was furious. Miklon did marry her though. He got that much right…

From the moment she and Gabrielle entered the town, Xena could sense something was wrong. The town seemed normal enough, but there were some strange undercurrents she just couldn’t place.

"Xena?" Gabrielle asked. "Is something wrong?"

"I don’t know, Gabrielle. It’s just something I picked up on. Strange…" She shook her head as if trying to clear her thoughts. "Forget it. It’s nothing. Come on, we’d better find a room for the night. It’s starting to get dark."

The next morning, when Gabrielle awoke, Xena wasn’t in their room. It really wasn’t surprising since Xena was an early riser. The bard spent the next few minutes debating whether to get up and find Xena or spend a few more hours luxuriating in the feel of a mattress instead of the cold, hard ground. Sighing, Gabrielle chose the former, figuring it would put her normally grouchy traveling companion in a better mood. She collected their meager belongings and headed downstairs. The normally bustling taproom was empty. Puzzled, Gabrielle made her way outside. Everyone was gathered around the magistrate in the marketplace. He seemed to finish speaking and with a gesture, the crowd dissipated and went about their business, albeit much more solemn and subdued than they had the day before. Gabrielle spotted Xena heading toward her and the bard went to meet her friend.

"Xena, what’s going on?" she asked.

"Gabrielle, a man died last night."

"Murdered?"

Xena nodded. "It looks that way. The magistrate claims to have found the killer."

"So there’s nothing we can do to help?"

" ‘Fraid not."

Gabrielle made a helpless gesture. "So what do we do now?"

"Now," Xena replied. "We move on."

Miklon was here! I saw him myself. It can’t be. I killed him! I killed him! I stabbed him myself—felt the blade go in! I felt his blood spill over my hands! If Miklon was here, it means I didn’t kill him good enough the last time. So I had to kill him again.

So I did.

I killed him good…

Xena and Gabrielle made their way down the worn path. Their progress was made steadily, but silently. The light banter they’d shared earlier seemed like eons ago. They made the continuation of their journey in silence. Only until they’d entered the small town, did Gabrielle break the silence.

"Ankara," she said, her voice emotionless. "Do you think it will be like those other towns, Xena?" She looked at her companion coldly. "Will it happen here, too?"

Xena stared ahead blankly. Her next words were as devoid as her face. "I don’t know," she said. They walked in silence a moment longer. "I’m going to stable Argo," Xena said abruptly. "Go and get something to eat. I’ll meet you at the tavern later." That said, the warrior turned and headed in the direction of the stables. Feeling a bit perturbed at being so bluntly dismissed, Gabrielle spun on her heel, only to collide with a broad chest.

"Oh gods! I’m so sorry!" she cried, raising her eyes to the face of the man before her.

"Now is that any way to greet an old friend?" he teased.

"Hercules!" Gabrielle laughed and threw her arms around the demigod. "It’s good to see you."

"It’s nice to see you too," he replied as he released her and stepped back. "Although your hair was a bit longer the last time we met." Gabrielle grinned.

"I’ll tell you about it later. Where’s Iolaus?"

"He’s in the tavern with someone I’d like for you to meet." Chatting pleasantly, the demigod and the bard disappeared into the tavern.

No one saw Xena again until the next morning.

Gabrielle rose early, long before anyone else in the inn had awakened. Or so it seemed. She heard a commotion outside and was about to investigate when she heard someone move behind her. She whipped out both her daggers and whirled around, blades in hand. there stood Hercules and Iolaus, along with their friend. Iolaus held his hands up in mock surrender.

"Easy," he said. "It’s just us." Gabrielle sheathed her weapons.

"What’s going on?" Hercules asked.

"I don’t know," Gabrielle replied. "I was just about to find out." The group went outside and a scene much like the ones in the previous towns greeted them. Gabrielle spotted Xena and made a beeline for the tall warrior as the villagers hurried off to their homes. The others weren’t far behind her. Xena turned to face the furious bard.

"It’s happened again, hasn’t it?" Gabrielle asked coldly.

"Yeah."

Gabrielle sighed in frustration. "Great," she muttered. "How many more times?" she demanded. "How many more innocent people have to die?"

"I don’t know." Xena’s quiet words seemed to shatter in the tension between the two women.

"You don’t know," Gabrielle mocked. Xena was taken aback by the bard’s tone. "You mean you’re going to kill someone in every village we pass through? What did this one do, Xena? Look at you cross-eyed?"

Xena’s eyes widened in disbelief.

"You think I did it?"

"If the shoe fits." Xena drew herself up to her full height. Her appearance was still that of a proud warrior, but her eyes were filled with pain.

"I thought you knew me better than that," she said quietly.

"Yeah, well Xena what am I supposed to think? In all those other towns, the same thing happened: we would get a room for the night; I would go to sleep; an in the morning I would wake up to find you gone, your bed looking as if you hadn’t slept in it at all. Then I go outside and find that a man had been killed the night before. It does raise some questions."

"There’s an explanation for that."

"Do tell."

"I…I can’t."

Gabrielle made a sound of pure frustration. "Can’t or won’t?"

"A little of both."

"Well! That certainly clears things up," Gabrielle cried sarcastically. "Now life can go on. Xena has an explanation for her whereabouts.."

"Gabrielle…"

"…she won’t tell us what it is…"

"Gabrielle."

"…but she has one! Surely that’s enough…"

"Gabrielle! Gabrielle, leave it be!" With every ounce of control she possessed, Xena turned around and walked away.

Miklon is still alive! I saw him in the square today. They say the man I killed last night wasn’t Miklon. His name was Aethan. It’s not the first mistake I’ve made. the others in the other towns weren’t Miklon either. They looked like him, though. I don’t care…I’ll get Miklon. He won’t escape from me this time.

Gabrielle was sitting with the other three (minus Xena, of course) in the tavern. They sat around a table, listening as Gabrielle told one of her stories. This was a recent one. The story of Xena and Gabrielle’s crucifixion. When the tale came to an end, Iolaus spoke.

"I..I can’t believe it," he said. "You and Xena have died almost as many times as I have." His feeble attempt at humor fell flat and the others laughed uneasily.

"You never told us," Hercules remarked. "Who ordered you crucified?" Gabrielle looked down at her hands and cleared her throat. After a moment’s silence, she lifted her head to look Hercules in the eyes.

"Julius Caesar." The small redhead sitting beside the demigod cursed under her breath, while Hercules’ eyes widened in disbelief.

"Julius Caesar?!" he croaked. "Why did he want you dead?"

"We’ve had some run-ins with him in the past. He doesn’t like me much, but it’s Xena who he really hates." She chuckled humorlessly. "It’s weird…almost like he’s in love with her and hates her at the same time."

"Why does he hate Xena?" Iolaus inquired.

"I don’t really feel as though it’s my place to give you the details," Gabrielle said quietly. "I can only tell you that they’ve had a past history together."

"Your friend…this, Xena," the redheaded woman demanded in an Irish brogue. "Was she in league with Caesar?"

"If being used as his pawn, betrayed, and nearly killed by the ‘Great Caesar’ is considered being ‘in league’ with him, then I guess the answer’s yes," a third voice broke in. They turned toward the voice to see Xena leaning against the bar. She gestured to the redhead. "Who’s your friend?"

"Xena," Hercules began. "This is Morrigan. She’s from Errih, near Brittania." Morrigan inclined her head in greeting.

"Would you care to join us?" Iolaus offered with a grin. "There’s room for one more." Xena’s eyes briefly shifted to Gabrielle, back to Morrigan, and then lingered on Hercules.

"I think I’ll pass," she replied. "Besides, I’m supposed to be meeting someone here." The warrior paused uncertainly. "I guess I’ll see you around." She walked purposely to the back of the tavern and sat down at another table. The three watched as she exchanged a few words with the short blond man who was sitting there. Then the two went their separate ways.

" I wonder if he’s next," Gabrielle murmured.

Miklon! The little rat, he isn’t dead! I was so sure of it this time…so sure…

I’ll get you, Miklon. I’ll see you dead, if it means killing every last man in Greece!

Hercules found Xena in the stables tending Argo. Alone.

"You seem to be spending a lot of time in here," he said brightly. Xena turned her head slightly.

"It’s the only place I can find relief," she stated quietly and continued to brush Argo’s mane. Hercules came closer.

"Relief from what?"

Xena sighed. "Relief from everything." She paused. "From Gabrielle…the world…everything." She turned to face him, her face a jumble of emotions. "From the world, especially. All those pleading eyes, begging for help. But when they find out a little bit about your past..a mistake you’ve made.." She smiled bitterly. "How quickly they turn. Sometimes it makes me want to scream or climb a tree and hide like I used to when I was a child." Xena stopped and then laughed. "I’m not making much sense, am I?"

"Xena," Hercules said quietly. "Yesterday, you disappeared all night. No one saw you again until this morning. Gabrielle mentioned that when this happened in the other towns, a man was found murdered the next morning. I’m not saying you did it, but it does make you look..well…"

"Suspicious?"

"Yeah."

Xena sighed audibly. "There’s an explanation for that," she said.

"So tell me."

" I…can’t."

"Xena…"

"No, Hercules! I..I just…can’t." She began to turn away from him, but Hercules placed his hands on her shoulders, stopping her movements gently. He cupped her chin in the palm of his hand and lifted it until their eyes met.

"You can tell me anything," he murmured. "Surely you know that." When Xena said nothing, the demigod sighed and shook his head sadly. Then, breaking contact, he moved to walk away. He was about to leave when she spoke.

"The nightmares are back." Hercules faced her. "At first they were the same as they were before…but then they got worse."

"Xena, you don’t have to—"

"You wanted to know, Hercules," Xena interrupted. "So you might as well listen. I’ve awakened every night for the past month from some dream or another. Usually they’re repeated each night, with a little more of the dream developing as the week progresses. Just in these past few days, have the nightmares come straight away. I don’t think I’ve slept at all. So I go out to the stables, or into the woods until morning comes.

"They’re so vivid, Hercules," she continued. "And this time, you’re not there to—" Xena bit her lip and turned away. Hercules moved toward her, his eyes blazing with something more than desire. Xena turned to face him again as she sensed his approach. She watched, mesmerized as he bore down on her and having reached her side, halted. The demigod gazed deeply into her eyes as he leaned forward. Their lips were just brushing when a voice called from outside the stables.

"Xena? Are you in there?" The pair guiltily broke apart as Iolaus appeared in the doorway. "There you are. Xena, there’s someone out here looking for you. He said his name was Miklon."

"I’ll be right there," she stated. "And Iolaus?"

"Yeah?"

"Would you mind rounding up Gabrielle and Morrigan and meet me in the tavern? You too, Hercules. I need to talk to all of you."

"Okay," Iolaus replied. He looked at the two of them uncertainly. "Is there something wrong?"

"No," Xena replied. She looked at Hercules briefly with loathing in her eyes. "No. There are just a few things that need to be cleared up. That’s all."

Tonight’s the night, I can feel it! You’re mine, Miklon. You’ll be dead by morning. I’ll have your blood…or die trying.

Soon, they were all sitting around a table in the tavern with the exception of Xena, who was now approaching with the blond man she was speaking to earlier close behind. Gabrielle was the first to speak.

"Xena, what’s going on?" she demanded. "What’s this all about."

"Everybody," Xena announced, ignoring Gabrielle’s questions. "This is Miklon. He’s here to help straighten things out a bit." The pair sat down with the others at the table. "Miklon thinks he knows who’s behind all these killings."

"In fact, I’m positive I know who the killer is," Miklon confirmed.

"Who is it?" Morrigan asked.

"My sister," he replied. "Rather, my sister-in-law, Zoe."

"Why would your sister want to kill all those people?" Gabrielle asked. "Did she know any of them?"

"Not a single one."

"It’s a random killing then," Iolaus stated.

"No," Miklon negated. " I believe we’ve found a pattern."

"We?" Hercules queried dangerously.

"Er…actually, Xena has. I just confirmed her suspicions."

"Gabrielle," Xena said, facing the bard. "Think. All the others who were killed, what did they have in common?"

"What are you getting at, Xena?"

"All those men looked like Miklon, Gabrielle. Granted, not exactly. But they had his characteristics: same height, blond hair, blue eyes."

"Does Zoe have some grudge against you?" Hercules asked of Miklon.

"In a way," the man replied. "I was married to her sister, Sonora. She died in childbirth, taking my son with her. Zoe was never the same after that. Sonora’s death must have warped her sense of reality. One night, she came after me…stabbed me with a knife and told me I was to blame for her sister’s death. Zoe must have thought I was dead, because she ran away. Then I heard about the string of murders whose victims looked like me. I put two and two together…" he finished with a shrug.

"So how are we going to stop her?" Iolaus asked.

"You," Xena replied.

"Me? What do you mean?"

"We’re going to set a trap for Zoe, using you as bait."

"Why Iolaus?" Hercules asked.

"He fits the description. So…are we agreed?" Iolaus nodded grimly. "Good. Okay, here’s what we’ll do…"

I’ve been watching you, Miklon. It’s nearly time. You may be close, but I’m closer….and I’m really going to enjoy hearing you scream.

Xena crouched in the darkness in front of the stables, her eyes on the partially open door. The others were spread out, completely surrounding the stables and ready to move when she gave the signal. Only Iolaus was inside. She prayed to whatever god was listening that she’d make it inside before Zoe gave the death blow. Iolaus was capable of handling himself, she knew that, but still…she couldn’t help worrying about her friend.

The warrior sensed someone moving behind her. Whipping around, she grabbed ahold of the person—a man—and threw him to the ground. She sat straddling his torso, pulled out a dagger, and pressed the blade to the intruder’s neck.

"Uh..hi?" Hercules said from underneath her.

"Hercules?" Xena whispered furiously. "What are you doing here?" She removed the dagger from his jugular and returned it to its proper place.

"Nice to see you too," he remarked sarcastically. "If I promise to be good, will you let me up?" Xena pretended to consider the matter. Hercules put on his best ‘puppy-dog face’ and Xena gave a short bark of laughter and clamped a hand over her mouth. When she’d calmed herself, she rose and helped her friend to his feet.

"You looked utterly ridiculous," she laughed. Then she remembered that she was angry with him and the reason why. She quickly sobered. "Why aren’t you around back?"

"Well, I went around back as you said, but I couldn’t find any way in. It’s solid wall back there. So I came up here to see if you needed any help." He looked at her wryly. "I guess you don’t." Xena rolled her eyes at the demigod and turned back to watch the stable door again. Hercules came up close behind her to peer through the opening she’d found in the bushes, lest he snap a twig and be detected. Unconsciously, he placed his hand on Xena’s waist to steady himself. His hips pressed against her rear as he leaned forward. The whole time, the woman in the warrior was keenly aware of the man who stood behind her.

"I don’t need this," she whispered as a surge of desire swept through her. "Not now."

"What did you say?" Hercules asked. Xena was spared from responding, for at that moment, a shadowy figure moved into the stables.

"There she is," Xena said. "Let’s go." The pair quickly and silently covered the distance between their hiding-place and the stables and ducked inside. Iolaus was grappling with a slight blonde girl for the possession of a dagger. Iolaus wrested the blade from the girl’s hand and it fell to the ground. Hercules lunged forward and snatched up the weapon before the young girl could reclaim it. Xena rushed outside and gave the signal—her battle cry—and returned to the dimly lit interior of the barn. Morrigan and Gabrielle burst in through the left side door, preventing the girl’s escape. Frantically, she turned toward the right door just as Miklon was passing through it. The girl froze.

"Miklon," she gasped.

"Zoe," Miklon soothed. "It’s all right."

"No," she whimpered. Zoe backed away from Miklon—right into Iolaus. The girl shrieked and scrambled backward, away from them. "How can there be two of you?" she cried. Whirling around, the frightened girl flung her arms around Xena and burst into tears. "Sonora!" she sobbed. "Sonora, help me!" Zoe lifted a tearstained face to peer at the startled warrior. "You won’t let him hurt me, will you?"

"Of course not," Xena murmured. She stroked the girl’s tangled hair. "But you’ll have to go home with Miklon now."

"Go home with Miklon!" she cried, gaping at the warrior in shock. "Oh, Sonora, how can you say that? Why must I go with him?"

"Because I can’t stay with you. Miklon loves you as though you were his own flesh and blood. He’ll take care of you."

"But he killed you!"

"You know Miklon didn’t kill your sister, Zoe. Nobody did. Things like this just happen."

"Oh…" Zoe wailed. "But I miss you so much!"

"I understand," Xena said quietly. " But you can’t go around blaming yourself and everybody else. You have to understand and accept that it happened." Hercules knew that Xena was speakin of her own brother, Lyceus and not of Sonora. " Seeking justice won’t help," the warrior continued. " It won’t be easy. You just have to take it one day at a time." Miklon moved forward and gathered the sobbing girl into his arms. She clung to him until all her tears were spent.

"Thank you," Miklon whispered with tears in his own eyes. Xena smiled in return.

"I can’t thank you enough," Miklon said to the group the next morning. "I finally have my little sister back. What you said really helped, Xena. It’s brought her back to reality." He smiled broadly. "We’d better head out. Mother will be so relieved." That said, he jumped in the wagon and took the seat beside Zoe. The brother and sister looked at each other uncertainly and Zoe gave a hesitant smile. Miklon grinned back and took up the reins. The horses moved forward eagerly, as though they too knew everything would be all right.

"Well," Gabrielle said. "I guess it’s our turn to say goodbye. Ready, Xena?" Xena looked up, startled.

"Uh, yeah…let me go saddle Argo." Still looking confused, Xena headed toward the stables.

"There’s something that I still don’t understand," Gabrielle said. "Why did Zoe follow us all that time? Was she using Xena as a cover-up?"

"Remember back in the stables when Miklon came?" Hercules asked. "Zoe ran to Xena. She called her Sonora." Gabrielle stared at him blankly. "Zoe thought Xena was her sister, so she followed you two—to protect Xena." Xena emerged from the stables, leading Argo.

"Well, I guess that’s my cue to leave," Gabrielle said. The bard enveloped Hercules in a big hug while Xena shook hands with the others. Gabrielle then hugged Iolaus warmly as well as a confused and startled Morrigan. Xena grasped forearms with Hercules, staring him levelly in the eyes.

"Goodbye Hercules," she murmured.

"’Bye Xena," he whispered back. Morrigan may have been surprised at the bard’s embrace and distracted by her lively chatter, but she wasn’t fool enough to miss the heated glance that passed between the warrior and who she considered her demigod. Xena’s look was akin to anger, but something else burned there brightly, while Hercules’ was a deep emotion that she preferred not to name.

"Come on, Gabrielle," Xena said. "Let’s go." Calling out a final good bye, the bard walked with Xena out of the town of Ankara. Once they’d passed the town’s limits, they settled into an uneasy silence. Gabrielle hesitantly looked at Xena as the warrior turned to peer at her in the same way. The bard smiled and raised her eyebrows in a silent question. Xena flashed her companion with a dazzling smile and gently nudged her with her elbow. The bard began telling a story and her best friend listened, each knowing that all angry words had been forgiven and forgotten. The pair walked on toward the next adventure.

==Fin==

Let me know what you think!

Email me at: scheherazade@india.com


Taiko's Scrolls of the Xenaverse