All alone at last.
Years go by so fast.
Twisted and insane
The house you built, no longer the same
Once you're there,
Once you're there,
You can't come back.
In the Dead Meadow.
Months keep going by,
Live another day, then you die.
Ghosts inside your head,
We choose our paths, when all is done and said.
Once you're there,
Once you're there,
You can't come back.
In the Dead Meadow.
Once you're there,
Once you're there,
You can't come back.
In the Dead Meadow.
Written by Zakk Wylde
Performed by Black Label Society, from the album "The Blessed Hellride".
Xena stared at the old man with a mixture of wonder and revulsion. If this was indeed the Draco she was suddenly recalling, he was a mere shadow of his former self, all twisted and broken by the passing of time.
"So?" Draco asked, his trembling hand rising as if to touch her face. He paused suddenly and let the withered fingers drop back down. "What are you doing here? If you truly are here?" Again, he chuckled softly, the mad light in his eyes flaring suddenly before dimming back again to something more lucid.
"I don't know," Xena replied. "I was running and I just – found you, I guess?"
"Ah," Draco nodded and resumed his seat on the old stool. "Why were you always running, I wonder?"
"What do you mean?" Xena asked as she accepted his offer of a seat on a nearby rock.
"You were always running, my dear," Draco said in fatherly fashion. "I just could never figure out from what?" His smile returned. "And then, one day, I finally understood."
"Understood what?" Xena asked.
"Everything!" Draco replied triumphantly.
"Oh," Xena nodded. Yes this poor old man was indeed, mad.
The old warlord stared at her for a moment, knowing that she was patronizing him. He sighed and picked up his quill and resumed writing, indicating that the conversation was apparently concluded.
"What are you doing here?" Xena asked, not wanting the conversation to end.
Draco paused in his scribbling and then set the quill down.
"What should a sane man do when surrounded by lunatics?"
"Get out," Xena answered automatically.
"Yes," Draco replied. "Or become a lunatic in his own right."
"Is that what happened to you?" Xena asked.
"Me?" Draco replied, smiling again. "Oh, no, Xena. That wasn't what finally drove me mad. Your friend was what drove me mad. My love for her, was the loose thread that slowly unraveled my sanity."
Xena frowned. "My friend?"
Draco chuckled under his breath. "Love is a terrible curse, if it is never requited, Xena. You, above all, should understand that?"
Xena was about to respond when he looked at her impatiently and sighed. "What do you want here?"
"I guess I'm looking for something?" Xena replied. "Answers?"
Draco laughed. "We all seek answers, Xena. Even when we don't really want them."
His eyes searched her face for a long time, and then he nodded and rose to his feet, shambling off into the shadows towards another chamber of the cave.
"Where are you going?" Xena asked.
Draco paused and half turned his head in her direction. "You seek answers? Perhaps I have some? Come."
There was a spark and then orange light filled the next chamber as Xena stepped forward.
Within this second, smaller chamber were racks of old wood, all holding the implements of war. They had been lovingly, or obsessively preserved and shone silver red in the torchlight. Swords, shields, spears, bows, knives, maces, war hammers, and various pieces of armor, all lovingly oiled and maintained.
"These are the only answers I have for you, Xena," Draco chuckled. "I saved them, because I know that somewhere in my life, there was a reason for this? There is a reason for everything – even madness."
"These were my answers," Draco turned away and left her. "Find your own."
"I guess I'm looking for the truth about who I am," Xena said softly. At that, Draco turned back to her and laughed bitterly.
"No you aren't," he said knowingly. "You're looking for confirmation that what you already know is true. There's a difference."
Xena stared at the weapons, all shimmering in the light. As if she were no longer in control of her own body, she began to move about the room, inspecting the equipment with a keen knowledge that she knew she did not possess.
With a glance back over her shoulder, to make certain that the old man was gone, she let the tattered night shirt fall to the ground and began strapping on clothing and equipment.
When she emerged again, a few minutes later, Draco was once again focused on writing with the dead quill, his eyes bent close to the table as he wrote.
Xena stood in the entrance, the orange light shimmering like red sunset behind her.
"Draco?" she said softly.
The old man looked up at her and a sigh of rapture escaped is lips as he smiled.
"There you are," he breathed. "Fresh out of Tartarus, and back in business."
She stood, dressed in a dark leather breastplate and platted skirt that hung down to the middle of her thighs. On her feet was a pair of sturdy leather boots, and thick bracers wrapped snugly about her forearms. At her hip hung a long, wicked looking curved sword and a circular shield rested against her back. Traceries of shimmering gold, or bronze decorated the exterior of the armor, in flowing patterns, accentuating her shape and shimmering inthe torchlight like fiery gold. On her right hand was an armored leather gauntlet.
Her expression was one of complete understanding and peace. For the first time in the past weeks, she felt comfortable. She felt good. She felt...normal.
That realization struck her as fascinating. Here she was, wearing the implements of war and carnage, and she felt at peace with herself. She smiled as she looked down at the shriveled old man before her.
Draco seemed taken back in time, and for a moment, his madness was replaced with fierce lucidity.
"Ah!" he laughed. "Now I know you of old!"
Xena looked down at him and felt pity in her heart for the poor wretch. At the same moment, she also remembered all the things that had happened to her in her current life, growing up in that house, with her parents. Feeling her father's arms around her in the night, when nightmares had threatened her. Hearing him laugh, or bellow, depending on what she and her brother had done. Seeing Gabrielle – her mother's – face, filled with joy, or anxiety.
Yes, she finally knew who she truly was.
"So?" she asked, arching an eyebrow. "Who am I?"
Draco cackled aloud, clapping his hands with manic glee. His laugh degenerated into a hacking cough that told her he was near the end of his long days. When he looked at her, he did not see the young teen aged girl she was, he saw the woman.
"That's easy," he said, panting like a hungry dog. "I've been able to find that out over the years! You are Xena, the Warrior Princess of Amphipolis. Daughter of Cyanne and Ares, the God of War."
Xena seemed to consider that for a moment and she moved to toward the exit, then she turned back to face him. From the entrance, she could hear the calling voices of wolves echoing through the hills and the thunder of an approaching storm.
She smiled coldly and shook her head.
"You're wrong," she countered easily, watching Draco's expression melt into one of confusion. "I am Xena of Poditea, Daughter of Gabrielle and David."
"Gabrielle?" Draco repeated in a whisper, his eyes suddenly going wide. "No. Gabrielle is dead. She's been dead for a long, long time now. I'm just waiting to join her."
Xena's hand twitched above her right hip, as if expecting to find something there. "Sorry to disappoint, Draco," She said calmly. "My mom is alive and well. I'm surprised you didn't find out about that? Living so close to the farm and all?" She looked about him and her smile softened. "Then again, I don't think you've been out for a very long time?"
"She's alive?" Draco repeated, his eyes becoming bright again with a combination of hope and madness. "My Gabrielle?"
"My Mother," Xena corrected him.
Again, the wolves howled. Draco smiled at that. "Well, Xena. I suppose that you think I'll never see her again, hm? But you've forgotten something. If your child ran off into the woods on a stormy night, what would you do?"
Dread settled upon her like a suffocating shroud. When she heard the wolves this time, her blood ran chill.
"Mom!" she breathed and she ran for the exit.
"I'll see my Gabrielle a lot sooner than you think, Xena! You can't stop it now!" Draco's maniacal laughter followed her through the woods.
She heard the baying wolves in the distance and ran towards the sound, her mind filled with images of what she might find.
"I'm sorry!" she kept repeating as she ran.
David rolled over, though the movement caused him pain. When he looked up, his eyes met those of the large wolf standing at the top of the ditch, leering down at him hungrily.
"Oh, man," he said, reaching for his sword. "What is it with me?"
Lightning flashed overhead, and thick drops of rain began pelting him from above.
David looked up through the pouring rain at the beast standing above him. The wolf seemed to consider the sword in David's hand for a moment.
"Not as dumb as you look, are ya?" David said grimly. "Don't even try it, Benji. Not unless you brought a lot of friends!"
As he watched, six more heads peered down at him from above.
"Oh," David acknowledged. "You did bring a lot of friends."
The seven wolves looked down at him with hungry eyes. They snapped and growled, baring their teeth as if they were psyching themselves up for the assault.
The Alpha tensed, his ears flat against his skull, teeth dripping with saliva as he prepared to plunge down at him. David held his weapon out.
"Okay, Cujo," he growled back. "Bring it on!"
Suddenly, there was a terrified yelp from off to one side, and one of the other beasts vanished. Then all of them wheeled around and vanished in a cacophony of howls and barks. David heard the sounds of a vicious fight above him. The wolves growled and snapped, yammering madly until they finally ran off, yelping into the storm. Thunder rolled across the heavens. Rain and lightning blinded his sight.
David still held the sword up, his eyes blinking against the rain. In the flashes of lightning, he saw a figure materialize above him at the edge of the ditch, dressed in dark armor, with a curved sword in one hand and a shield on her other arm. She stood poised, almost like a beast herself, ready to spring down and finish him off.
"What the hell?" he muttered, blinking. "Who are you?"
The figure slung the shield across its back and sheathed the sword.
"Dad!" it cried.
David blinked in disbelief as the stranger scrambled down the ditch toward him.
"Dad!" it cried again. From the blinding rain, his daughter emerged, soaked through the skin, with her long dark hair hanging in draggled strings before her eyes.Her arms and weapons werecovered in blood that ran off her flesh in the downpour.
"Xena?" David replied in amazement. "What in the hell?"
She dropped in front of him and wrapped her arms about him in a desperate hug.
"I'm sorry!" she cried, hugging him desperately. "I'm so sorry!"
"It's alright, baby," David groaned, trying to ignore the pain in his leg.
When they parted, he looked her up and down and smiled. "Look at you, all gussied up and nowhere to go?"
Xena laughed in spite of the flood of emotions. She grabbed two long thick branches and began fashioning a splint for David's leg.
"So," David asked. "Where'd you find that get up?"
"I ran into a very old friend, sort of," Xena offered. She paused and stood up, pulling her father up with her andhooking his arm over her shoulders. "What do you think?"
David looked at her critically for a moment. The rain had caused the armor to soften enough for it to conform more to her shape. The outline of her figure was now more pronounced and a bit more provocative. He looked down at her boots and noted the bare skin of her thighs above the leather. "The skirt could be a bit longer." He finally said.
Xena frowned up at him. "Dad!"
David grimaced, though he tried to make it look like a smile. "What can I say? I'm your father. Besides, I know how seeing your mom in a skirt that high made me feel."
"Let's get back home," Xena said darkly. "Before you tell me more than I should know about you and mom."
"You really want to know?" David offered, trying to keep the tone light in spite of the pain. "It's going to be a long walk?"
"How about I just tell you everything that I've been doing, okay?" Xena offered, knowing that was what her father wanted anyway.
"Fair enough," David nodded. "I'll hobble and you jabber."
Gabrielle paced back and forth on the porch, her eyes scanning the darkness. She started with every bolt of lightning that shot across the sky, or every clap of thunder. Her hands rubbed at her shoulders as her eyes tried desperately to pierce the thick falling rain.
"David!" she cried out into the storm. "Xena!"
They had both been gone for hours, and the day was fast approaching, though the thick black clouds obscured the rising of the sun. As the pitch dark of night slowly gave way to the torrential gray of morning, she thought she spied two shapes moving slowly through the downpour towards her.
Her eyes went wide when she finally recognized them, half way across the yard. There was her husband, his leg bound by a splint. Holding him upright and assisting him across the yard towards their home was Xena, but not the Xena that had left mere hours before.
Gabrielle ran out into the storm and got up next to them, sliding underneath David's other arm.
"Mom!" Xena cried over the storm.
"Talk to me later!" Gabrielle replied angrily. "Let's get your father settled first!"
The break was set, her husband complaining from the relative comfort of his chair. There was only one thing left to do, but Gabrielle really wasn't up to it just yet.
She stood out on the porch watching the rain coming down and hearing it patter on the roof above. She closed her eyes and let her senses be absorbed by her surroundings. She smelled the scent of water in the air, heard the sound of the drumming on the roof above, and the splatter on the damp ground below.
Suddenly the wave of emotions crashed down upon her and she leaned against the railing and wept.
She felt the subtle shift in the floorboard beneath her feet, rather than heard the creak, and knew that her daughter was standing behind her. She turned, and there was her daughter, or was it her best friend? The entire prospect was more maddening than she had ever imagined. She turned away again.
"Mom?" Xena asked. She still wore the soaked armor, though she had left the implements of war in the house. Her hair hung in ragged strings around her face, and her eyes shone.
Gabrielle took a deep breath, composing herself, and turned back. She was surprised at how fast her anger flared up again.
"Why did you do that?" she blurted out. "You could have been killed out there tonight! Your father could have been killed!"
Xena could tell that her mother had been crying, in spite of her mildly waterlogged appearance. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
"Are you even still my daughter?" Gabrielle continued angrily. "Or is it all you in there now?"
At those words, she broke down again and sank to the floor.
Xena stood there, completely shocked by the question. Then she finally understood the whole reason why they had been holding back. It wasn't that they were afraid of what she might become. At least on her mother's side, she was afraid of losing her child – again.
"Mom," Xena said, but her own voice stuck in her throat as she tried to find a way to articulate what she was feeling. She knelt down in front of Gabrielle and put her hands on her mother's shoulders.
"Mom, look at me," she said. Gabrielle looked up at her and into her pale blue eyes. In the depths of those pale pools, she didn't see her best friend. Only shades of her best friend.
"I learned something tonight," Xena went on. "Something about who I am."
Gabrielle looked up at her.
"Someone said I was Xena of Amphipolis, daughter of Cyanne and Ares," Xena said, looking into her eyes.
Gabrielle winced as something suddenly gripped her heart, threatening to pull it from her chest.
"I told them they were wrong," Xena continued quickly. Gabrielle looked up at her, and Xena smiled. "They were wrong. I'm Xena of Poditea, daughter of Gabrielle and David, the two most important people in the world to me. That's who I am. That's all I ever want to be."
Gabrielle reached up and pulled her daughter to her with an almost desperate strength.
"I love you, baby," Gabrielle sobbed. "I love you so much!"
They looked up suddenly when they perceived another person on the porch with them. Alexander stood there, rubbing sleep out of his eyes and looking at them curiously.
"The storm woke me up," he said, then he saw his big sister's outfit and he frowned.
"Where did that come from?"
Gabrielle and Xena both laughed suddenly, as if they had both been trapped beneath water and just came to the surface.
"Come here, brat!" Xena said playfully and she grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him into their hug.
"Ugh!" Alexander protested. "You guys are all wet! Hey!"
From inside, David listened to the tussle going out on the front porch and smiled contentedly. Suddenly, the idea of being laid up for a few weeks didn't seem to matter much. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep.
Xena's eyes opened and she found herself in the dreamscape again, only this time, she was dressed in the equipment she had received from the elderly Draco. Smiling, she sheathed the weapon and adjusted the shield hanging at her back. Suddenly, this whole place seemed not to frighten her. She strolled casually through the misty tunnel, waiting.
She started slightly when that familiar, evil cackle echoed around her from the silence.
Taking a deep breath, she looked about her expectantly.
"Well," she said evenly. "You might as well show yourself?"
The dark image of her past life stepped into view, vacant orbs staring at her with amusement.
Xena looked at her, as if studying her. She felt her father's confidence, or arrogance, begin to assert itself and she smiled back. Suddenly, some of the more monotonous lessons in philosophy that she had been forced to learn made a world of sense.
She shook her head. "No. I meant the real you."
Dark Xena frowned. "This is the real me. And so, the real you."
Again, Xena shook her head. "You wish." An idea formed in her mind and she went with it. "You don't exist. Go pester someone else." She said, using the elderly hermits' words.
Dark Xena's frown deepened. "What do you mean, I don't exist? You can see me, standing before you! Of course I exist!"
Xena shook her head. "You existed, at one point," she said cooly. "But as far as I'm concerned, you don't really exist."
Dark Xena fumed. "How do you think you saved that pitiful excuse of a father last night?" she demanded. "It was me! I let you!"
Xena laughed. She actually laughed out loud at the thing. "Let me? Oh, come on! A heartless bitch like you would never have let me do that! You'd rather see me broken, kneeling over his remains than allow me to do anything constructive."
Dark Xena seemed to shake with fury. She drew her sword and stepped forward.
"Now, what are you going to do?' Xena asked, standing her ground. "Destroy me, and you destroy yourself. Not a very smart bluff, is it?"
Dark Xena stopped short in front of her, staring down at her with those dark, lifeless pits.
"Let me see the real you," Xena said trying to keep her calm. "The dark and the light. You can't have one without the other, we both know that."
Suddenly, Xena reached out and grasped the apparition's wrist.
"No!" Dark Xena cried out in dismay.
The entire dreamscape changed in a flash of white hot light, and Xena found herself in a vast green meadow. The sky overhead was a deep blue, touched here and there with wisps of cloud. The grass was soft under her feet and smelled of recent gentle rain.
She looked about and saw a small level patch nearby in the shape of a large circle, where the grass had been trimmed low to the earth. A small fire pit rested in the center, and three fallen logs sat at the outside of the pit. Seated on one of those logs, dressed in a flowing white or pale blue robe was a single, dark haired figure.
Xena adjusted the shield at her back again and walked forward, letting her hand come down to touch the hilt of her sword.
She stopped at the outer edge of the circle, behind the seated figure and waited.
"Hello," A soft, gentle voice said. The head turned and Xena saw the same face, but this time with her eyes. "You don't have to worry. Come on over here and sit down. We have a lot to discuss."
Xena stepped around the edge of the log and faced this new figure dubiously.
"Aunt Xena?" she asked.
The figure smiled warmly and nodded. "If you like."
Xena sat down opposite this latest specter and studied her for a long moment. "Aunt Xena", likewise, studied her right back.
"You're me," Xena said at last. "Aren't you?"
The other figure shrugged and smiled. "More like, you're me, Xena."
"See," Xena said, folding her hands in front of her, just like her father always did when in a deep conversation. "That might be a problem for us."
"I like who I am, this time around," Xena said. "I like having your Gabrielle as my mother. And having the dad I have?" She laughed softly.
"I can see where that has its moments."
"Exactly!" Xena agreed. "I've got more than most kids my age can ever hope for, and I'm not dumb enough to not see it, you know?"
"Besides," Xena continued. "Hasn't my mom been through enough already? I mean, come on! I know that my sister killed your son -"
"That's all in the past."
"That's my point," Xena said. "It's all in the past. I don't want to bring it all back to the present, just because I'm the new you!"
Xena thought for a moment. "At the same time, I don't want to lose the parts of you that I've come to understand. As much as some of it scares me, I like it! I like being in a position to help others, you know? If it wasn't for you, I couldn't have saved dad last night?"
"I think you're underestimating yourself, Xena." The specter replied. "What is it that you want of me?"
Xena thought for a moment, as if framing her words, while the specter of her former self watched with a touch of amusement at how this younger version sat, fingers tapping against one another, eyes locked, but focused inward, so unlike herself. Finally, her reincarnation looked up at her hopefully. "Is there enough room for both of us in here?" she asked, tapping a finger on her temple.
"Aunt Xena" smiled regretfully and shook her head. "I'm afraid not. That much knowledge would burn out your mind."
"What do you mean?" Xena asked.
"Because it wouldn't just be me," the other one replied. "It would be everything. Every lifetime, every moment, every experience. Basically, every me - or you, in this case.No one person could handle all that."
"Shit," Xena said.
"Aunt Xena" raised an eyebrow in amusement.
"It's something my dad says, whenever things don't go his way," Xena explained.
"I see a lot of him in you – in me, I suppose," the other replied with a smile. She considered for a moment. "I said that there's no way for everything that I was and everything that you will be to co-exist in this life."
Xena perked up at that. "But I don't necessarily need everything, do I?"
The other one shook her head.
"Okay!" Xena sat up. "Progress! How do we do this?"
"We can't," the other said slowly. "But you can."
"How?" Xena asked.
"Your mother has something that was passed down to her," the other said. "Something very special that belonged to us."
"Okay?" Xena asked.
"I think that will help you get what you're looking for," the other said evenly.
"What about you?" Xena asked. "What happens to you?"
The other smiled and laughed softly. "We'll both still be here, Xena. We are a part of you, and you are a part of us. That won't ever change. Maybe you'll dream a few things during your life. Maybe something will seem to jog your memory? Who knows how you'll perceive it? But I'll still be there, inside you."
"What about the other one?" Xena asked, suddenly nervous.
"Oh, she'll be there too." The other replied. "I learned a long time that she was the key to who I was. That still might be true for you, if this is the path you truly want to walk?"
"No other way, huh?" Xena asked hopefully.
The other shook her head. "Not unless you want to start from scratch?"
"I know I'm not that patient," Xena admitted.
"Then make her a part of you," Aunt Xena replied. "Just like I'm a part of you. You can't have one without the other?"
"Yeah," Xena sighed.
"Time for you to go now, Xena," Her other self said with a twinge of regret. "If you accomplish what you want, then we'll never see each other again, in this lifetime."
Xena rose and stood before her previous incarnation. Then, suddenly, she reached out and embraced the ghost tightly.
When they parted, tears stung Xena's eyes. She wiped them away and stepped back towards the edge of the circle. She looked back once, only to see the figure in robes rise, turn and raised a hand in farewell, then she seemed to fade from sight as the sunlight above increased to a brilliant white glow.
She was back in the darkness again, standing amidst the mists and shadows of her darker self, her hand still clutching the wrist of her other aspect in a vise like hold.
The black pits of her eyes were wide in surprise. "What are you doing?"
"Time to go, Auntie," Xena replied evenly. There was a burst of white light, and Xena sat up in bed, still wearing her armor. She could feel the darkness writhing within her, trying to rest control, but she managed to fight it back down somewhat. She got up and went into the living room.
Her mom lay on the couch, next to her dad, both sleeping blissfully.
Somewhere inside, her dark aspect cried out that she should dispose of them. Quickly and efficiently. A single thrust of her sword into each of them and they'd be gone before they knew what happened. Her hand strayed to the hilt of her sword. She fought the impulse back, her eyes wide with a mixture of revulsion and mania, then she looked above the hearth at the two daggers on either side of her mother's other weapons.
"You know what to do!" something cried to her. "You must destroy them to claim it! You must!"
She forced her legs to propel her to the hearth. Her hands, twitching, reached up to the two weapons. They seemed to hum in anticipation as she stretched out towards them. Her mind screamed in turmoil. She let a groan escape her lips.
Gabrielle's eyes snapped open and she saw her daughter reaching for the weapons.
"Xena!" she cried, but it was too late. Xena's fingers grasped the weapons and her entire body went suddenly rigid, as if electricity were flowing through her limbs. Her eyes shut in sudden pain as she yanked the weapons free of their mounts. They glowed white hot in her hands and she felt them pulling inexorably towards each other.
She saw the two halves as the two sides to her soul. The dark and the light, in balance, coming together to form a whole.
The two halves of the chakram met and Xena cried out in pain as the energy flowed over her and through her. Everything that she was seeking was there, at her fingertips. It flooded her mind like a wave, crashing upon a shore. She heard the howl of countless memories from lives past and future and then, blackness fell around her.
The next thing she knew, she heard a voice calling her name, as if from a great distance. When her eyes opened, the first thing she saw was her mother. She smiled, and the smile gave way to laughter.
"Are you alright?" Gabrielle asked. The concern was etched so deeply on her face that she looked as if she were in pain.
In her hand, the chakram lay, clutched tightly. She could still feel the power of the weapon tingling in her fingers.
"Mom?" she asked.
"What have you done?" Gabrielle asked nervously.
"I had to," Xena breathed as Gabrielle helped her sit upright. "Had to stop it."
"Stop what?" David asked, practically ready to vault out of the chair, despite his broken leg.
Xena sank heavily into the other chair, her eyes fell on the chakram in her hand and she smiled. "No more nightmares." She handed the weapon back to her mother and sighed, rubbing her temples. "I need a drink."
Gabrielle and David looked at each other in surprise and then back at their daughter.
"What would you like?" David laughed. "A martini?"
"Long Island, would be nice," Xena replied automatically. "Like the ones from Jerry's place."
"Long Island?" Gabrielle repeated.
"Jerry's?" David said at the same time. "What? Xena, what did you do?"
Xena continued to rub her head, trying to quell the sudden headache.
"I don't know," Xena replied. "I just – I took what I needed and let the rest go."
"The rest of what?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena looked up at her and grimaced. "Oh come on, mom. It's still me for crying out loud."
"Then how do you know about Jerry's place?" her father asked, leaning closer to her.
Xena looked up at him, confused. "I don't know? I just saw all these flashes of things and tried to hold on to all the stuff I needed. One of the things I saw – I saw a city. A huge city, with wide paved roads, and lights, and buildings that seemed to touch the sky?" Her eyes widened and she smiled suddenly. "And I saw you!"
"Me?" David laughed. "You saw me?"
Xena nodded. "But you were a lot younger."
"That again," David rolled his eyes.
"No", Xena said, her excitement building. "This was different! I was sitting in a corner booth or table with someone. The place was full of smoke, and the walls were pale, like maybe a light blue, if the lights were on. With dark wooden trim around the outer wall, and tables mounted in place. They had these high, straight backs. There was this guy – Jerry, I think – standing behind the bar. Real tall and skinny. The bar was made of real shiny wood, and there was this big mirror behind it, with shelves of different bottles on either side?"
David and Gabrielle exchanged surprised looks. She was describing the bar where they had both been in perfect detail. It was the place where David and the Zombie Squad had gathered during long summer nights, and where Gabrielle and the girls had gotten drawn into a fight.
"Wha-" David started, but Xena rambled on.
"You came in with a bunch of guys, all on your bikes! I remember cause the noise rattled the windows!" Xena continued. "You were all laughing and joking about someone or something burning down a booth?"
David sat back in shock. "Crazy Johnny's little flamethrower modification," he admitted. "He accidentally torched a concession stand the first time he fired it off."
His mind wandered back. "That was about a week before – " he looked at Gabrielle. "Before you wound up in the middle of the road!"
"I was there, dad!" Xena insisted.
David thought back through the years to the night they all went to the bar after the Midnight Tour. They were all laughing and drinking, lounging at their usual place near the end of the bar.
The memory seemed to play in his mind in slow motion as he turned and looked around the room, like he always did. A figure near the opposite corner caught his eye and he peered through the haze to see a woman, tall and beautiful, with long dark hair and pale blue eyes looking back at him. She was young, probably around twenty five, sipping on a tall drink and watching his little group with polite interest. She leaned forward and said something to the person across from her. That one leaned forward and he caught the shimmer of blonde hair and then her companion's deep green eyes also considered him for a moment. In retrospect, David immediately recognized them.
They sat together, in Jerry's place, of all places! Xena and Gabrielle, still together after nearly two millennia. His daughter - his wife – his future, and his past,staring at him with just a hint of silent wonder, or perhaps recognition.
He remembered that he had briefly considered going over to speak to them. He had never seen them there in the past, so they must have been new to the place. It was always polite to welcome newcomers to your home, after all. Point out potential trouble makers, like T Bone. Which people to be wary of, maybe invite them to join the group at the bar, but then a hand touched his shoulder, pulling him back into the conversation. They'd figure it out on their own. Everyone else did, in the end.He raised his glass in polite greeting, gave them a smile and a friendly nod, and turned away as they smiled in return.
David's eyes seemed to mist over as he looked at his wife and daughter, and he smiled. "Well, I'll be damned."
He took hold of Gabrielle's hand and drew him to her, then his daughter too, and held them in his arms.