"Show me that thing you do," Xena said, her eyes intent on the bronze-skinned woman before her.
The dark beauty looked her in the eye, and extended her hand towards Xena's leg.
The warrior stopped her with a shake of her head. "Not on my leg." She gestured towards her throat. "Show me on my neck."
Black eyes fixed the warrior in an unspoken question. "Yeah, come on!" At Xena's slight nod, the other woman extended two fingers and jabbed a spot on the warrior's neck with blinding speed.
Xena's eyes widened as her spine went rigid, and she sank to her knees, a trickle of blood appearing at her nose. "That was too fast," she gasped. "Now, take it off and do it again, slower."
The young woman looked at her with a cold smile and did not move.
Something akin to panic grabbed the warrior. "Take it off! Come on!"
Another lightning quick movenemt, and Xena felt her circulation return. Rising and rubbing her arms, she glared at the woman, who looked smug.
"Very funny. Now, teach me how you did that." When the woman extended her hand again, the warrior gestured her away. "No, not on me. Teach me on yourself."
"...and so the mighty Warrior Princess first learned about cutting off the flow of blood to the brain," Gabby finished her story.
"Cool," Sina said. "Where'd ya learn about that, Gabby? Can Xena really do that?"
"Sure she can," Gabby said smugly. "I saw it on TV the other day. They showed people in the desert using it. You know, when they don't have doctors but are hurt, and have to take the pain away, so they can get to where there's water and stuff. Xena can do that too, and she can use it to make people tell her what she wants to know."
"And to kill," Sina mused, rubbing her chin.
"She would have," Gabby agreed, "but that was before she met Gabrielle, and turned good. Xena doesn't just kill people for the fun of it now."
They were snuggled comfortably in Gabby's broad bed, with the little smiley night light casting its faint yellow glow over the scene, to keep the monsters under the bed where they belonged.
Sina's mom was away for the weekend, and with her brother now at Summer Camp, Sina would have been home alone. So Gabby's partents had agreed that she could spend the weekend here. The thought of two nights spent together had had the girls in an excited chatter all day.
Truth be told, the adults had surely begun to have doubts about the wisdom of their decision after finding Gabby's little sister Lena tied to a tree in the back yard and wailing at the top of her lungs, even after Gabby assured her fuming mom that Xena the Warrior Princess was even now on her way to save the captive maiden from the tribe of cannibals that had abducted her.
Little Lena, none the worse for the experience, had nevertheless avoided the tall, dark-haired girl with the wild eyes for the rest of the day. She had not even protested when Gabby's mom had prepared her for bed.
Earlier on, Sina had left the mattress that had been set up for her, and taken her blankets and pillow with her to Gabby's bed. There was more than enough room there for the two of them, but they had fought screeching and laughing for the best spot anyway, until Gabby's mom had told them to cut out the giggling and go to sleep already. Which, of course, had had them giggling even harder for quite some time.
Now, though, as the night wore on, most of their energy had dissipated, and they just lay there next to each other with Gabby telling stories. Sina, for the most part, listened in rapturous silence as her friend weaved tale after tale about the Warrior Princess. This last one, from a time when their imaginary heroine had still been evil, seemed to grip Sina more than the rest.
"Gabby?" Sina propped herself up on one elbow to look over at her friend. The night light drew eerie reflexes onto her face as she spoke, making her blue eyes sparkle fiercely as if with a light of their own.
"Hmm?" The blonde girl replied. Sensing her friend's sudden serious mood, she sat up with her back against the headrest, and hugged her knees. She looked at Sina expectantly.
"Do you think we can be bad before we remember?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, my mom never says so, but I'm sure she thinks I'm bad. It's the way she looks at me sometimes. And sometimes she talks as if I had done something really really bad when I was little. But I don't know what it is. And then all I want is for her to stop looking at me that way. And Tom, he always calls me 'little witch'. Witches are evil, right? But I'm not sure he thinks I'm evil. Because he's always smiling when he calls me that. Maybe it's because I look like my dad. Mom says dad was bad." She fell silent.
Gabby was sucking on a strand of her honey-colored hair as she thought about what Sina had told her. "What was your dad like? Do you remember him at all?"
"The only thing I remember is when he took me on a ride on his motorcycle." A dreamy smile came to Sina's face. "I think my dad was very cool, and he was always smiling when he looked at me. I think I was four, or five. When we came back from the ride, my mom got really mad at him for putting me on the motorcycle. They were yelling at each other, and then I was crying. But the next day he was smiling at me again, and rocking me on his knee. And one day, he was just gone. Mom never talks about it. Tom says he doesn't know, that he just took his motorcycle and left."
Gabby rubbed her nose. "I think you have to know you're being bad for it to count. When you're very little, you never really want anything, except for mom to change your diapers and feed you. When Lena was a baby, all she ever did was sleep and stink and cry. I think we must have been the same, only we don't remember. So we really can't have been bad."
There was a silence. Presently Sina said. "But maybe some people are just bad inside when they're born."
"No," Gabby said firmly.
"I'm being bad all the time," Sina said quietly. "I went into Deathbringer's Ditch even though I wasn't allowed to; I did that thing with Mrs. Castor's waterhose..."
"But she deserved it," came Gabby's fervent reply. "She was being mean to you." She paused to pick her words. "I don't think you're bad inside. I don't know about your dad, but I don't think you can be bad just because your dad was bad, or your mom. You can learn to be bad, and you can learn to be good, but you can't be born bad. You do bad things sometimes, but that doesn't mean you have to be bad inside."
Sina nodded, seeing the logic of her friend's words. Then she sighed deeply. "But I still wish I knew why mom looks at me that way sometimes."
"Maybe it's because of something bad that happened way back, that wasn't your fault at all, only she thinks it was because you were there when it happened," Gabby surmised.
Sina shrugged. "Could be." She leaned across Gabby and flipped the light switch. Blinking a little to adjust her eyes to the light, she crawled over her friend and out of the bed.
"Where are you going?" Gabby asked, curious. She rubbed her eyes against the sudden brightness.
"Just getting something," Sina murmured as she crossed the room to the shelf where Gabby kept most of her Barbie toys, neatly arranged. She reverently picked up the Barbie doll with the black dyed hair and the little sword tied to her back, and carried it back with her to the bed. She crept back under the covers, turned off the light, and settled back down facing her friend.
With a rustle of covers, Gabby gave up her sitting position and snuggled into her own blanket, watching as Sina idly twisted Barbie-Xena in her hands.
"Do you think I could be as brave and strong as she is?" The black-haired girl asked wistfully.
"Sure I do. Just as brave and strong."
Sina looked at her and grinned, her somber mood finally dissipating.
Gabby giggled. "And just as mule-headed, too, I'll bet. And of course, without Gabrielle to-" she cut off with a yelp as a pillow hit her smack in the face.
"I'll give you mule-headed, smart-mouth," Sina said. "That pillow looks good on your face. Leave it there." Now it was Sina's turn to giggle wickedly as she pinned the smaller girl to the bed and started tickling her. Within moments, they were engaged in the most delightful pillow fight, with much tickling and wrestling and laughter thrown in.
The door opened, and the light went on. The girls froze where they were, Sina with one of Gabby's bare feet firmly wedged between her legs and wriggling fingers poised above it, Gabby with a pillow in her hands that she had been about to fling at her tormentor.
"Do you have any idea what time it is?" Gabby's mom said sternly from where she stood in the doorway. "Now I'm telling you for the last time, either you two behave yourself now, or Sina is sleeping in the guest room tomorrow."
The pillow dropped from suddenly limp hands, and Sina's firm hold went slack as the two children hastily disentangled themselves and put on their best angelic faces (though, truth be told, it didn't look quite right on Sina).
"I'm sorry, mom." Gabby looked up at her mom out of large, woeful eyes.
"Go to sleep now," was all her mom said before she turned off the light and left, shaking her head in exasperation.
Like the good little kids they were, Sina and Gabby straightened out their blankets and lay back down, determined now to behave. Sina sleeping in the guest room was unthinkable, after all!
"Gabby?" Sina rolled onto her back and looked up at the ceiling, where flashes of light from the occasional car passing by outside played in erratic patterns.
"Hmm?" Gabby murmured, already half-asleep.
"Do you think Xena is really good inside now, or is she just being good because Gabrielle is making her be good?"
Gabby thought about that for a long time before she answered. "Xena really wants to be good deep inside. She wanted to be good even back when she was still bad. But she doesn't know how because she was bad for so very long she doesn't know anything else. So she needs Gabrielle to show her how to be good again."
"Kinda like you, always trying to keep me out of trouble, huh?"
"That's pretty cool," Sina murmured, before she drifted off to sleep, clutching Barbie-Xena tightly to her chest.
Gabby soon joined her, a little smile playing around her lips.
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