I Don't Know You Anymore

by Lori Bush (lwbush@gw.total-web.net)

Disclaimer: The whole bunch of 'em belong to Renaissance Pictures and USA/Universal Studios, not me, so no one pays me to do this, so on and so forth. Please don't sue me.

Rating: G

Sex: None

Violence: Mentioned in passing.

Archive: If you wish, I guess. I was kinda thinking it might need some polishing first.

Summary: Gabrielle visits an old friend.

I was listening to a rather melancholy little song by Savage Garden titled "I Don't Know You Anymore". It struck me as a perfect outline for a story using my favorite characters, also a bit melancholy. Short, too. I'm sharing this with you guys just after writing it (something anyone who knows me well enough will know I never do), so if it sucks, let me know, and if it doesn't tell me how and why it works for you.

Gabrielle stood nervously outside the door, trying to get up her nerve to knock. Why had it taken her so long to do this? She had known all along where her friend was living now, but finally got up her nerve to send a note and propose a visit. Of course, the invitation had been immediate and enthusiastic. And now she was here.

Gritting her teeth with determination, the blonde warrior woman knocked. There was silence for a moment, then some scuffling, and then the door swung open to reveal that dear familiar face.

"Hi! I'm really glad you made it," the dark-haired warrior (ex-warrior, Gabrielle reminded herself) announced, almost breathlessly.

The bard peered around curiously. "Where's."

"She's at a friend's. I thought it would be easier for the two of us to talk."

Gabrielle nodded tightly. It probably would, but she might have welcomed the distraction. "That's the same reason I came alone." She was taken by surprise by the open arms before her.

"It's been too long." And she was enveloped in an awkward hug, which just did more to increase her uneasiness with the situation. Felt odd, resting her head gently against a spot that now wore simple homespun where once there had been armor. She pulled away, trying not to be rude about it. The discomfort was acknowledged, first silently and then with a rapid subject change. "Why don't you come in and sit down? Or would you like to sit on the porch? It's really nice outside."

"Sure. Whatever." Oh, there's Gabrielle, the brilliant wordsmith. This had been a mistake.

"So, how've you been?" the voice drifted back to her as she followed her dark-haired friend outside. "We hear stories here, but they can be a bit sketchy."

She settled onto a bench. "I'm fine. We both are. There's a lot of righting wrongs still to be done, although we don't sing a lot of songs."

The answering giggle surprised her. "Gods, I'd almost forgotten that stupid song."

"Well, it's one of those tunes that takes up residence in you brain."

Sadness eclipsed the amused expression. "I guess there isn't any 'Joxer the Mighty' anymore, is there?"

Gabrielle gave a lot of thought to her answer. "The foolish buffoon who claimed that name had been disappearing, a little at a time, for quite a while before you left us. You know that."

Sad eyes met hers. "And the man that replaced him?"

She felt the same sorrow in her own gaze. "Different." An affectionate smile came unbidden to her lips. "But still sweet, in his own special way."

After sharing another nervous smile, discomfort hung in the air once more. Finally the ex-warrior broke the silence. "So, you're still with."

"Of course," the bared jumped in, not entirely comfortable with either where the conversation had been or where it was going. "We work well together."

"So who plays the sidekick these days?"

She grinned. "We're fairly evenly matched anymore. Partners, more or less."

Another sad smile. "That's good, Gabrielle. It's what you always wanted."

Damn, the bard mused. Why do we keep getting maudlin here? She searched her brain for a subject that could stay light and effortless, but came up blank. She was about to make some lame excuse and just leave, when the door from the house burst open and a small bundle of arms and legs flew through it, followed by an apologetic tall blonde woman.

"She insisted on coming home, and I couldn't dissuade her."

"It's okay, Tilpah. I should have expected this." The ex-warrior smiled widely at the little girl in her lap. "Eve, do you remember your Aunt Gabrielle?"

The bard stood, going over to kneel down beside the child. "I bet she doesn' t, Xena. It's been almost a year." Hesitantly, she stroked the small dark head, and was rewarded with a shy smile. She stood up.

"I do need to be going. He's waiting for me, you know."

Xena rose, Eve on her hip. "I still don't understand why you didn't bring him, too."

"After he killed all those men, it took him a long time to come back out of his shell. He knew he'd saved Eve's life, but he still felt like somehow he was responsible for you deciding to leave us and settle down. I tried to tell him that if he hadn't ferreted them out, we'd probably all be dead now, but he still thought he had done something bad. You know how he struggled with guilt after he killed Kryton. This was ten times worse. I couldn't convince him you'd be glad to see him. He still feels like he came between us, too. He insisted I come alone."

"I knew how you were starting to feel about him before you did, Gabrielle. If I'd minded, he'd have known."

"He's a lot different now, you know. I miss the old silly guy sometimes. But I don't worry as much about him anymore." She caressed the small girl's hair unconsciously.

"So, you two planning any, um?" Xena bounced Eve slightly to illustrate.

The bard's gaze grew distant. "We've talked about it. Now just doesn't seem to be the time." Her expression hardened. "I need to go. We've been summoned by Queen Diana, like I told you when I wrote." She softened again slightly. "I miss you. I'm glad the road brought us through here this time."

The former Warrior Princess wrapped her free arm around Gabrielle's shoulders. "Please bring Joxer next time. And don't wait another whole year before you pass this way, okay?"

Reaching out, Gabrielle pulled both Xena and Eve into an embrace. "I love you. Both."

Her friend smiled. "We know."