The following contains spoilers for "Who’s Gurkhan?".
A GOOD DAY'S VENGEANCEXena watched her family with a proud smile on her face. They beat the bad guy. They saved the maidens. Just like old times. But something was different. . . That ‘family’ element - something they didn’t have before.
Eve and Gabrielle looked so similar as they stared out across the water. Eve had Xena’s height and color but the way her eyes looked out on the horizon, the way she held her jaw was totally the bard.
Xena watched as Sarah walked up and took a spot next to the bard. She watched them converse for a bit before the bard turned to her giving a soft grin. Xena’s smile grew wider as a result. She had to go over.
As she approached, Xena ran her hand up Sarah’s back, stopping at her shouldering giving a light pat. "How you doing hon?" she asked the blonde girl.
Sarah gave the question serious thought. "I think I’m okay . . . Just a little worried about going home I guess. It’s been so long."
"Well don’t worry," Xena grinned. "Your mom was always a great gal. Very understanding. In fact she was the only one in Gabrielle’s family that supported Gabrielle’s decision to travel with me. I’m sure you’ll be just fine."
Sarah smiled a genuine smile. "I remember when my father tried to betroth me but mother wouldn’t hear of it. Needless to say I never had a ‘husband to be’," she said with a light chuckle. "Dad used to think he was king of the castle but mom always had the final say in the end."
"Not unlike your grandparents," Gabrielle interjected.
Sarah turned her smile toward her aunt as she nodded. "Yes . . . Very much like them . . . But they’re all gone now," she added, the sadness returning to her voice, as she played with her polished fingernails.
Gabrielle turned away. Gone. They’re all gone. In all of this I haven’t taken the time to realize that . . . And I never got to say goodbye. "I’m gonna get some herbs for my stomach," Gabrielle muttered as she headed below deck.
Xena could feel the heaviness that hung in Gabrielle’s heart but she said nothing and simply let her walk away to have some ‘private time’. Xena turned to Sarah. "You still have your mother," she told the young woman. "And she’ll love seeing you again. I know it."
"Even in light of everything?" Sarah answered, her voice cracking a bit.
"Yes," Xena answered honestly.
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I’m a mother and I know."
Xena smiled over at Eve and gave Sarah’s arm a light pat before going in search of her bard. Eve took the opening that was given to her and began to speak. Xena didn’t listen to their conversation. Instead her keen sense of hearing picked up on something else. Sobs. Sobs coming from inside the cabin.
"Did you find those herbs?" Xena asked, as she entered the doorway.
Gabrielle seemed a bit startled and kept her back turned to Xena as she spoke, "Yeah but I know not to use too much this time," she teased.
Gabrielle didn’t add more and Xena approached on careful footsteps. "Are you okay Gabrielle? Did you want to talk?"
Gabrielle cleared her throat. "I’m fine Xena," she answered finally turning around.Her eyes were swollen. Xena could tell she’d been crying and quite hard from the looks of it.
"Now don’t go being the stoic warrior Gabrielle," Xena grinned warmly. "You’ll put me out of a job."
Gabrielle grinned and opened her arms. Xena took the invitation and curled the bard into an embrace. They rocked for a few moments with the movement of the ship until Gabrielle broke down in tears. Xena just held her and smoothed her hair over repeatedly as she cried. She knew what the bard was feeling.
Her mother was burned at the stake. Gabrielle’s parents were beheaded. Both of them were now officially ‘orphans’.
"I’m not sure how I feel," Gabrielle answered, trying to cry and talk at the same time.
"That’s okay," Xena told her. "You don’t have to be sure of anything right now. It’s okay to feel sad and unsure Gabrielle."
Gabrielle composed herself a few moments later and pulled away wiping her eyes. "I keep thinking of all the towns we’ve saved. All the people. I mean . . . How many warlords have we defeated over the years? Tons right? . . . But when the time came for me to help my family I wasn’t there. MY OWN FAMILY . . . And I couldn’t do anything. They all died because I wasn’t there."
"Please don’t blame yourself Gabrielle," Xena answered, hoping to pull the bard back to her. Gabrielle however sidestepped the warrior.
"Then who can I blame? The Gods? Ares? Joxer for not finding us sooner?"
"It was beyond our control," Xena told her. "It was the only way to keep Eve safe from the gods."
Gabrielle flinched a bit and Xena scrunched her eyebrows in examination of what the shutter meant. She didn’t have the chance to respond to it though.
"Look Xena," the bard began. "Point is we travel the countryside, doing the greater good, helping those that can’t help themselves. When the time arrived and my family became those in need I was nowhere to be found . . . That’s a hard fact to live with."
"Yes - it is, " Xena replied. "Knowing you could have helped but weren’t able to. Knowing that they cried out for you even in the end. Yeah it’s tough."
Gabrielle stepped closer to the warrior. "I’m sorry Xena. I know you understand how this feels and I wasn’t trying to berate your feelings of losing Cyrene. It’s just -."
"It hurts," Xena answered for the bard.
Gabrielle gave a bittersweet smile. The facts were cold and harsh but Xena’s understanding had a warmth she needed now. "Yes - it hurts."
"But we’ll get through it together. And we do still have family we can love and who loves us. We have Eve, Sarah and even Virgil. Who knows maybe Minya is still around somewhere? Salmoneus? Heck Herc even said that Autolycus is still around - last time they saw him he’d gone straight . . . Of course that could have changed by now," Xena chuckled. "What I’m saying is we still have family out there. People we value and cherish and as long as you’re with me, I’ll always have a home. You’re more important to me than anything else Gabrielle . . . And you always will be."
"Always?" Gabrielle asked unsure.
Xena grinned but the tone of the bard’s question had her curious. Why does she doubt that? "Yeah," she answered firmly. "Of course . . . Look, are you sure you’re okay? Because I get the feeling that something is going on that-"
"I’m okay Xena," the bard grinned. "Maybe I could just use a little bit of a break in the action is all."
"Well Eve and Virgil did make a suggestion."
Gabrielle laughed heartily. "A vacation? I’m not sure I follow you."
"Well they said they would see Sarah home once we get to the next port. Eve thinks it would be nice for you and I to do some traveling on our own. Check out Northern Africa. I mean, except for Egypt, we really haven’t done any exploring here. It could be fun."
"Sun, sand and surf huh?" Gabrielle grinned. "It’s starting to have its appeal."
"Well that settles it," Xena grinned. "The ‘cousins’ can head back home and you and I could just ‘get away’ for a little bit. What do you say?"
Hmmm . .. .sun, sand, surf . . . and if we’re lucky maybe a little uninterrupted sex. This has potential.
"Okay warrior princess. You’re on."
CONTINUED IN PART V: AFTER THE STORM