The following is a bit of alternative fiction based on certain characters from the Xenaverse. It is not meant to infringe on anyone else's rights. If you don't agree or disapprove, please go read something else.
This story is part of an Altaverse based on Bite Me and the Fonder Heart. It can be found, along with other such stories, at The Realms of the Xenaverse, under Blood and Roses
Would you believe there is Actually NO sex in this story? There is a bit of violence and icky kinds of details, but hey, that's the way the story wrote itself, who am I to argue.
Xex Alert: Nope, not even a little, but there is some smooching and they do love each other. . .
They laughed when they shoved him in the cage. They teased when he cried. He tried to crawl away from the feast. They knew he would succumb anyway, so they pushed him towards the woman with long arms and sticks. They knew the hunger would get to him. He was their fool. They planned it that way.
But his momma taught him better. She taught him right. She taught him not to use his great strength to push and to break, but to hold everything gentle in those huge paws that were called hands. The blood didn't change that. Thus it was that with tears flowing down wide cheeks and saying, "No No No," Ardan wrapped himself around the blonde who was to be his feast, whose tangy fear he could smell as deep as her blood, and with a will mightier than his intellect he went hungry.
This hugely disappointed the dark host. This was not the entertainment they expected. Though it was unusual enough. They decided to take the feast unto themselves, for she'd not uttered one cry of fear (though she reeked of it) and she didn't shirk when she saw the fool's bright white teeth. There was no way for them to know that she also saw his eyes and and theirs and knew where the danger really lay. Still her remarkable bravery led them to think her worthy and she was rewarded with unrequested immortality, once they could pry her loose from the fool's protective arms.
He knew they were wrong. Ardan remembered how they got him, piling on him like he was a dog and the bite had been so sweet, so unexpectedly good, but the feel after, the burn, that wasn't good. The hunger made him weak and strong. It drove his fists and his screams and he made some serious dents within the host, but they still outnumbered him.
They fell upon the fool again and cast him out into the twilight as sacrifice to the sun. He was, however, not so foolish as they thought. He might not be quick, but he remembered everything, including the stories his mother's mother told. His Nana would know what to do, and he knew he must live to tell. A child wept at the loss of their pet that night, but not as hard as he, and with a body no longer purely screaming with hunger, he made his way home.
This isn't the old country. Fiona was always telling that to her mother, but her mother, who was *from* the old country, saw little that was different here. She still left a bit of milk and cookies upon the porch for the house spirits and she collected herbs at certain phases of the moon (as if it were very important). She called the rich woman who lived three counties away, the laird. To the embarrassment of Fiona, when they had lived in the rich woman's county her mother had sent, in that old time manner of hers, cookies and sweetbreads to the manor.
Grandmother still complained bitterly about moving, claiming that the laird had respected those offerings and kept watch over all in her realm, paying special attention to their house. She claimed that the laird had acknowledge their house with the gifts of food that were sometimes laid at their doorsteps. Fiona knew it was just some do gooder who was too aware of their poverty and certainly that rich woman wouldn't have noticed them. Everyone, however, was impoverished in some way or another during this time of recession and they all tried to help each other out. She didn't reject the turkey or rabbit or the set of canned goods that were left at their doorstep, with the turning of the moon, but made sure to pass on her good fortune to others.
Grandmother didn't like this new county at all. She didn't know anyone here. She said she felt the stirrings of the dark here. She wouldn't let Ardan go out at night. She said they should go back, and Fiona wanted to, but they couldn't afford the house and keep themselves fed, what with a grown child to take care of. Grandmother had taken to salting the corners of the house and the entry way, daily, to prevent the dark from entering. The older woman had a vivid imagination.
This was America, Fiona would say, during one of their arguments. That was just a woman, a very rich woman, with a large wooded manor. It wasn't so unusual. Grandmother, would whisper, "a very very old rich woman," with a knowing glint in her eye and Fiona would shake her head in disbelief (for she had seen the woman in person and knew it was not so) and moan a little about her hard luck, a crazy woman and a simple child. Good thing she loved them both to pieces. They would always hug and make up, but Fiona did miss the gifts that had made their lives easier.
Ardan had gone missing that evening, just as dusk settled. She had been frantic and the police most unhelpful, almost cruelly so. He hadn't been gone long enough, they said. She searched all the weary night, enlisting Nana's help. They didn't find him until that morning they opened the cellar door to smell flaked and burned flesh and to hear his throaty screams of pain.
Nana, despite her deep love for Ardan, had been set to take his head when she saw blood on his hands, but then she saw the jackrabbit and knew his kill had been innocent. "I did as the stories told Nana," he said, in that crusty weepy voice of pain, "I remembered." She said a prayer of thanks to every old god and saint she knew. Then she took the weeping young man into her arms. There was hope.
Fiona was set to deal with this on her own, that being her way. She was prepared even to give her own life so Ardan might live, but Nana was firm. They must take the boy to the laird and let the laird do the dealing with the dark ones. Fiona still wasn't sure what made her give in, save it was the faith that seemed to glow in Nana's eyes.
So it was that they found themselves at the doorstep of the woman's manor, almost right after sunset. There had been no guard at the gate, so they had opened it and let themselves in. Nana seemed not to mind that at all, it just made her trust grow stronger. Ardan mewed with hunger, but was obedient enough to be silent when his mother bade him so. The door opened slowly to their knock and they were greeted by a solemn faced man.
Nana, stood forth, "My name is Fiona Gael Kiernan, my mother's mother served your mistress in past times." Fiona, the younger, felt her eyebrows raised a notch. Ardan shifted his feet and pressed his stomach and moaned. It was unfortunate, but second by second, those he loved were seeming more and more like a meal. He trembled at the thought and prayed and prayed inside. The man eyed them a moment longer, then invited them in.
Her smile was gracious and plentiful, "I thought I remembered the recipe. You have a fine touch Fiona. Very much like Gael's." The strawberry blonde's gaze was forthright, a little seductive, and held a spark in them. The woman's gentle touch made Nana blush. There were stories about this one that *her* Grandmama had told her (when she thought Nana was old enough) that were well enough reason to cause a woman to flush with color.
Apparently they were all true.
But, that wasn't what she was here for. She pulled her grandson to the front and spoke, expressing her anger for the first time. "LOOK what *they* have done to my grandson!" She didn't have to tell the laird who *they* were. The laird either knew or would find out.
Gabrielle didn't respond with wrath or indignation. Her pleasant expression didn't change dramatically. She did, however, turn to look at the manchild.
Ardan was gaunt with hunger. Gabrielle could see that right off. She stepped forward and began a gentle exploration with her hands. He tried to pull away as if her touch burned, though there were no marks upon his skin. There wouldn't be, because it wasn't about her touching him. It was about his hunger. "Owwww," he complained when she didn't let him go.
She smiled gently and spoke soothingly, "I know it hurts, but I have to see. . ." Then, she began to make mental notes, as she examined his skin and fingernails, his eyes, his teeth, his hair. She parted his shirt, carefully unbuttoning so her fingers wouldn't brush against him, and she took in the markings that adorned his chest. She clicked her tongue. "When was the last time he ate?"
His mother spoke, "this morning. A jack rabbit." Her voice cracked a little.
Gabrielle raised her eyebrows, "Only a jackrabbit?" She looked up at the man's face, speculative, "You're a bit big to have lived off one rabbit."
Ardan's whole body seemed to collapse in. The tears began a slow drizzle down his cheeks. "Sparky," he spoke in barely a whisper, "I ate Sparky too." The memory of the kill shamed him like no other. He had loved the the retriever as much as his friend.
His mother was horrified, "You ate Michael's Dog!!!" A hand reached out and slapped Ardan's shoulder. He screamed in pain. Her voice raised a notch, "How am I going to explain that to the boy's parents?!! I ask you?!!"
The strawberry blonde looked sharply at Fiona and her voice cut to the quick, "You'd rather he ate the child?" The ranting came to a quick halt and Fiona sniffled.
"No. It's just. . "
Gabrielle returned to her examination, her face creased into a frown, "Well Fiona Gail," she nodded at the grandmother, then at the mother, "Fiona, I can tell you this. At this moment, he is of the brood. A sorry lot indeed." Her mind played out a tangential thought. They were some of the worst of the night folk. She rather detested them. They would have to be driven out, pushed as far back as possible. She grinned grimly.
It would be good to hunt again, give her a bit of purpose in life. Fill that missing something. . .No, there was nothing that could fill it, but she could forget for awhile. . .and remember.
Nana blinked back tears and her hands wound themselves with worry. That sounded bad. "Can ye fix 'im?"
Gabrielle sighed and turned from the big man, but not before grabbing his wrist (which made him cry out). She was stronger than he was, and she could see the hunger pressing, the way he was looking at those around him. Something would have to be done soon. One way or another. "That depends on what you mean by fixed." Her eyes told her meaning.
Fiona spoke up, "You mean he'll always be this way?"
Gabrielle shook her head sadly, "No, not this way." She could always kill him if she had to. She hoped not, but she could do it. She knew she couldn't keep him waiting much longer. She admired whatever it was in Ardan that was holding him together thus far. "I can help him some with that, but he'll always be a night child. I can make him one of mine if you like, or I can teach him how to hunt as a brood. You've given him good training Fiona Gael, obviously he is a strong one. It might be that he could reform as brood, but he'll always have the hunger with him. He might go through several cattle a night to make up for the lack of human blood." Nana felt the praise, but it did nothing to sooth her worry.
Fiona spoke up, her eyes wide, "Several cattle? Several a night?" She laughed at the sheer insanity of it. Either let her son become a murderer or go into a debt so fierce that they would never come from out of it. Her mind couldn't even conceive of the other possibility, though it had passed through Nana's.
"Or, as I said, I could make him one of mine. He would have to learn to hunt, but maybe a jack would be sufficient then," she looked at the big man assessingly, "or two. He could eat normal foods to fill up the rest. As he gets older the hunger will fade a bit, though he'll always have it."
She smiled at Fiona and Nana, "You would have community of a better sort than brood. My children are more likely to embrace you than kill you. You wouldn't go hungry or impoverished. There are several places in the states that you could move to and be surrounded by . . .family, who would help you take care of him. Help you take care of you." Fiona Gael nodded. Yes, that would be so, just as it had been in the old country. This would be better than living where they were, indeed.
Ardan groaned and bent a little. His face scrunched in pain. Gabrielle spoke softly, "Better make your decision quick. I need to know how to feed him." Fiona looked like it was all a bit much for her (and it was), but hers was the fierce heart of a mother. She made the right choice.
"Make him yours," she cried out, her own face scrunched at the agony of her child, "Please." Nana came and stood besides her daughter, and gently embraced her.
Gabrielle nodded, "As you wish. You will have to excuse us." She looked up at Arden and began to gently pull, "Come with me." Arden looked to his mother and saw her short nod. Then he followed silently behind.
The scream that rent the air a few moments later was horrible indeed and Fiona Gael had to hold her daughter back. It didn't last long and things fell to an even more terrifying silence, that wracked their bodies with fear. The doorman entered the room not too long a time later.
His voice was deep and as long as his body, "The lady bids you stay the night. I will show you your rooms. Follow me."
"Yeah, but what happened afterwards?" the blonde child asked. His blue eyes searched the faces in the kitchen. "What happened to that chick? The one in the cage. I mean she turned into one of them right. Did you. . ."
The grandmother, waved her spoon, "Now what did I tell you about interuptin' the story, Fergus." The boy mumbled unappreciatively, but eyed the spoon warily. Nana Eph wasn't against corporal punishment at all. He apologized to the storyteller and settled back in his chair.
The warm sweet scent of baking nutbread filled the kitchen. Gabrielle leaned back on the counter, stretching her back, and smiled. "It's okay Eph. I don't mind," She grinned and white teeth, with a couple of long ones showed. She turned and winked at young boy, "Much. Well, your grandda was pretty upset about that too, Fergus. He was determined that the woman should be rescued, because he felt like it was all his fault. If he hadn't been kissing her in the woods, the brood might have left them alone. He wasn't as smart then as he is now."
A deep voice rumbled from another room, "I heard that!" Fergus giggled and Nana Eph tried to look fierce and failed, so she kept on stirring the pot (which wafted up some really juicy scents that made Gabrielle's mouth water.)
"Anyway, a few of your kin, mortal and im," Fergus looked like he was about to say something, but a spoon was suddenly out of the pot. His mouth shut. "were gathered and we took care of that little brood problem."
"Yeah, but the woman. . ."
Gabrielle smirked. Some stories were hard not to interrupt, especially if you were hungry. She picked at one of the fingerrolls and got a finger smacked. She looked up in startlement at Nana Eph, who grinned evilly. The bard shrugged gracefully and retracted her hand. Well, it was her kitchen.
Gabrielle continued, "She fought fiercely against us, driven by the brood blood, but something happened when she saw Ardan. I guess she remembered a bit of herself. The part that loved. The part that hadn't been lost to blood. She turned on them. They totally didn't expect it. It turned the tide, because she was more lethal than any stake or sword stroke could be because she came from within them." Fergus' eyes were wide.
"She was injured though, quite severely. We all thought she might die, because we attacked before they could feed, so they were at their weakest. But Ardan wouldn't let that happen and instead offered himself up to her. Her's was a mighty thirst. It was a good thing Ardan was a mighty man." Fergus' eyes were even wider (and maybe they were glowing a bit).
He whispered, "She changed then."
Gabrielle smiled softly, her mind full of memories, "Yes, she changed."
"And now I'm here." He provided his own ending. He really was hungry. Gabrielle exchanged a look with a very spry, blonde, young looking Nana Eph. Nothing like skipping past generations, to make a story short. Eph's blue eyes twinkled back at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle reached forward and ruffled her mortal great grandson's hair. "And now you are here."
He grinned at her, "Great story aunt Gabrielle," he said as he scooted off the chair so he could go wash his hands. "I especially liked the Sparky part. But next time," (What *is* it with kids and gore? Made Gabrielle shiver sometimes.)
"Could you put a little more blood in it and more punching and stuff and less mushy stuff." Less mushy stuff? Where had there been mushy stuff? She was pretty sure there hadn't been. She knew her audience. She tried to be careful. He must have picked up on Eph's facial expression when she was talking about the "Ardan giving himself to her" part. It's mighty hard to disguise love.
Gabrielle blinked and grinned, "Oh, I guess I can try. Shall we do another tomorrow, more blood and adventure?" He didn't noticed that she skipped the no mushy stuff promise. She figured she'd show him that mushy had a place in adventure.
The young man smiled widely and nodded enthusiastically before he started off, "Yeah, that would be great! Thanks again, I really liked it!"
A smooth as silk voice floated across the kitchen, "Yeah, great story. I can't wait to hear the rest." Xena walked in, carrying the baby in one arm. She nodded friendlylike towards Nana Eph.
Gabrielle blinked innocently, "the rest?" "mmhmm." Xena smiled and cooed at the baby, then turned her smirk towards Gabrielle, "I've been doing some talking with Ardan. I believe there was something about a rumcake and a certain Fiona Gael?"
Gabrielle's expression took on many aspects, not the least of which was chagrin, "Heh, well, that'll have to wait a bit." She never could hold her liquor. She kissed her great grandbaby on the cheek at Xena's gentle proferring. Then looked up at her warrior and absorbed her presence until it filled her completely. Yeah, there was always room for a little mushy stuff. "When you have the time."
Xena smiled wickedly, "Oh, I have time." She kissed her lover on the mouth, in front of God and everybody, "I have all the time in the world."
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These pages were last updated: November 4, 1997