The following tale contains spoilers for "The Abyss".
Xena grinned as she watched the skinny man - Romeo, Rommaro, Ro- whatever . . . eating everything he could get his hands on. Well maybe not EVERYTHING Xena considered with a silent chuckle when thinking back to the cannibal experience. He hadn’t stopped. He’d already gone through their rations and was now eating berries he had found. His face and hands were covered in juice and he looked up to find Xena watching him in amusement.
"Sorry," he apologized with an embarrassed grin.
"On no, eat up," Xena grinned as she rose to go sit closer to Virgil and Gabrielle. "You could use it," she added pointing to his small frame.
He did just that, diving back into his bowl.
"Are you sure you don’t want us to go back with you?" Xena heard Gabrielle ask Virgil as she took a spot behind the bard. Xena spread her legs around Gabrielle and the bard naturally leaned back into the warrior.
"I’ll be okay," Virgil grinned warmly. "I didn’t know him that long - a moon at the most. Still . . . I can’t help but wonder what could have been. Fate is a fickle one," he added as he stared off. After a deep sigh, he looked up and grinned after seeing the concern on Gabrielle’s face. "I’ll be okay," he reassured her. "But how about you? Is that fever still gone."
Xena put her hand over Gabrielle’s forehead, testing her temperature. "As hot as ever," Xena said in compliment to her sexy companion while giving a light kiss to her cheek. "But not too hot."
Gabby gave the warrior’s thigh a playful swat as she grinned. "I feel fine," she told Virgil.
"Too bad we couldn’t get that medicine or find out how they made it," Virgil commented. "Your recovery is quite impressive from when they first brought you to the hut."
"Would you like to go back and get some?" Xena teased.
"I think I’ll pass," Virgil grinned.
"That makes two of us," Gabrielle grinned. "Besides I think the warrior princess kicked enough asses in one day," Gabrielle chuckled.
"Yeah I’m over my limit," Xena sighed. "But today is another day. We could try then?"
"No!" Virgil and Gabrielle answered in harmony.
Xena chuckled and stood up, bringing Gabrielle with her. "Get some rest Virgil. We’ll head back to the main village at dawn. We should be there before the sun is high and set sail back home before nightfall," she told the young poet.
"Thanks again Xena. You saved my life," Virgil said sincerely. "I now see first hand why my father thought so highly of you. I’m indebted to you."
"Virgil," Xena began as she wrapped an arm around Gabrielle’s waist. "You took care of what I prize most at a time when she need someone to look after her and comfort her. You’re a good man like your father Virgil. I’d say we’re even."
They all shared a warm round of grins.
"Good night ladies," Virgil said before climbing into his bedroll.
"’Night," Xena and Gabrielle said in harmony.
They walked a short distance from the campsite until they reached a cliff over looking a valley.
"It really is quite beautiful here," Gabrielle replied look out toward the moonlit horizon.
"Yes it is," Xena agreed.
They took a spot on a fallen tree limb side by side. "C’mere," Xena said putting her arm around the bard. Gabrielle gently rested her head on Xena’s shoulder and sighed.
"Are you sure you’re feeling okay?" the warrior asked upon hearing the heavy sound come from the bard.
"Yeah," she answered without pause, "I had the chance to do some thinking and I realize that I do walk the path of the warrior. My judgement will improve with time. But first and foremost I have to take care of you . . . and myself. That’s what comes first above all else."
"Above the greater good?" Xena asked with a grin.
"Keeping you safe is for the greater good," Gabrielle answered honestly. "The fact that it’s the most important thing to me too is just an added bonus," she answered.
A small silence passed between them until Xena spoke. "I just don’t want you to have any regrets Gabrielle."
"Xena," the bard began, "We all have regrets about something. You haven’t led much of a life if you don’t have some regrets."
"What makes you say that?"
"Well I’d rather feel bad about the choices I might have made in my life than the ones I didn’t. I mean . . . to feel sorry for the things you SHOULD have done is far worse than feeling bad about the things you have done. At least you took action. At least you tried to make an outcome favorable. Some things work out. Some things don’t. But in the end if you took your fate in your own hands instead of letting it play out I think it’s easier to live with yourself . . . I’ll be just fine."
"Well you’ve been pretty upset lately . . . I just wish there was something I could do for you."
"Just love me Xena," Gabrielle grinned. "Warts and all."
Xena raised Gabrielle’s head with a stroke under the chin. She planted the most delicate of kisses on her lips. "I do my soulmate. I always will. No matter what fate have in store for us, we’ll make our own destiny."
Another silence passed between them and they went back to watching the horizon and listening to the night animals. "I feel so sad for Virgil. I know he said he didn’t know him long but still to lose someone you felt a connection with, someone that could have been his soulmate . . . I think it hurts him more than he’s saying," Gabrielle commented.
"Perhaps," Xena agreed. "But perhaps he wasn’t the right one. You and I both made lots of choices over the years. You married Perticus." As soon as the word left Xena’s lips she wished she could take them back.
"I know I shouldn’t have married him. If I sent him home without me he might still be alive today."
"I’m sorry Gabrielle. I didn’t mean anything derogatory by that. All I mean is we’ve both had our moments when we thought that perhaps we had found the ‘one’ but when it came down to it we really didn’t. I mourned over letting Hercules go. He wanted me to stay and a part of me wanted to stay. But I knew he’d pay for my past sins and that wasn’t fair so I let him go. And when I did it lead me to the ‘real one’," Xena grinned.
"You knew back then?" Gabrielle asked.
"I knew I was terribly attracted to you," Xena grinned. "But I also knew you were a young farmgirl. And I didn’t want you messin' with the likes of me," Xena chuckled.
"What changed?" Gabrielle asked.
"After the quest for the ambrosia I saw for the first time a confident, dedicated woman before me. Not a girl but a woman. A woman who loved me very much. A woman willing to take on a crazed amazon to bring me back here. I realized . . . I’d never find a love like that again in my life. You are rare Gabrielle and I know if not for you I wouldn’t have stayed on the right path the way I did. My life. My sword. My heart – they’re all for you. . . Someday Virgil WILL find that too - I have faith."
"So we’re stuck with each other huh?" Gabrielle teased as she slid over to straddle the warrior’s lap.
Xena licked her lips and looked her bard up and down, considering the ‘pinned’ fate she was in. "Looks that way," Xena replied with a raised eyebrow.
"Well then," Gabrielle said, nuzzling next to the warrior’s ear. "We better make the most of it."
And make the most of it that night they did.
CONTINUED IN PART VII: MOVING FORWARD